Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Does It All Mean?

This was my first trip for more than a night or two with a large-ish group, on motorcycles at least. As interesting as the stories from the journey itself are, those of human interaction are just as much a part of it. As I alluded to earlier about individual riding abilities, a toxic personality can ruin a road stew, and a unique ingredient can make it the best you've ever tasted. Especially when it simmers for 12 days. In close quarters like this, you find out more than you've ever wanted to know about someone, whether you've been acquainted for years or just met at breakfast. That's part of the fabric, and as long as it doesn't get real ugly, it's pretty neat to experience. We were quite an intersting group. I leave with more good friends than I had when I started.

I also have a new hero.

Donna is a spunky gal who honestly lives to ride. Despite the thousands of miles on her Sportster, she'd never been out of state when she heard about our trip. For the non-bikers reading, 95% of the Harleys you see on the road to an event are purpose-built touring bikes designed for long-haul comfort. And 20% of those are pulled behind a truck (which drives me insane and would be a felony if I were in charge.) The trade off is when you're navigating in town or bombing through the curvy backroads, you're working hard while I'm flicking around my "piglet" without even concentrating.

So when you show up 1,000 miles from home riding a little Sporty, you're always the topic of discussion. "You rode that how far?" I get that all the time. Well, Donna here not only rode a Sportster, but she did it without a windshield, which I would never even consider. Basically she was doing pull-ups and neck excercises for 10 hours, and was still ready for more when we parked. I don't think she's right in the head.

The bummer of leaving Milwaukee was not unanticipated. You get closer and closer to the site, and the bikes begin to multiply, all loaded down and dusty, tags from literally across the globe. It takes over the city, and there is a constant rumble, honestly like thunder in the distance, from bikes in all directions emitting the same frequencies. Bikes are parked everywhere they'll fit, on sidewalks, traffic islands, 4 to a spot. You can fit 10,000 motorcycles where you couldn't put 500 cars. At night, bars are overflowing out into the street where the bikes gleam in the streetlights as traffic streams by. Live music is everywhere, something like 30 acts just on the official card. Here in Milwaukee, people stand on overpasses to wave and hold "Welcome Home" signs. There is always something to do, someone to meet, stories to be shared.

For us and untold thousands more, it all ended at a huge outdoor stage on the lakefront. Sitting in the dirt and grass holding a $6 beer, a warm summer breeze blowing out over the lake, watching Bruce Springsteen pour out his soul while we all sang along. These are the best of times.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Well, here I am back in the white house looking at a pile of gear, a stack of bills, and a mound of laundry. Yay. At least the grass is cut; I wonder how much the kid earned on that.

My printed directions that on some days filled two pages were only 3 lines today: 76 E, 81 N, 78 E. 200 miles in about 4 hours with the mandatory Sportster gas stop. Weather was again ideal, and officially makes this a rain-free trip and winner of Best Weather Ever. We stopped at Yocco's to mark our return and left on our separate ways around 1:30. Total mileage was just under 2,400.

It's been quite the week and a half, and while it's always good to be home, I honestly wish I were just leaving tomorrow morning. Too much fun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Last Call

God, I love being on the road.

Tonight we are in Somerset, PA -our last night on the trail. Just when I thought the weather couldn't get any better, today was the most perfect day God ever created. Crystal blue skies, no humidity, and 82 degrees. Tell you what, if tomorrow is a monsoon from the minute we fire the bikes, this was still the best weather I've ever had on a trip. 10 days and 2,000 miles so far without a drop of rain; the only day that was even overcast was the day we needed to cover a lot of ground heading into the setting sun.

As did Joliet, IL, our awakening in Zanesville this morning marked a transition -this time from flatland back to the fertile hills and valleys we're accustomed to. We spent the morning on a great backroad, Ohio's "Triple Nickel," carving through the dips and dives, then followed the Ohio River back up to Wheeling, WV. Along the way, we stopped at a rest area on the riverbank and ran into some other riders headed hither and yon. From there even the interstate was gorgeous, and we checked in early, leaving us time to run up to the Flight 93 memorial.

Ya know, it's funny. I had my iPod clipped to me again today, and the same songs that were all so colorless on Sunday were hip-swayin' good times today. I'll describe the Milwaukee experience a little better before I close out the blog, but I guess it's just hard to say goodbye. A couple good days in the wind, and all is well again.

In the interest of conserving fuel and natural resources, Jay and I finished up the Jim Beam and did our best with the beer tonight so we wouldn't have to haul it home. I feel like Hemingway. Wish you were here.

"Sippin' whiskey out the bottle, not thinkin' bout tomorrow, singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long..."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Zanesville, OH

We're not much further down the road than we were this morning. Most of the day was spent at the Air Force museum there, which is, frankly, incredible. We rushed through it in 6 hours and missed 75% of it. It is truly amazing.

We rode another 125 miles of I-70 afterward, with Columbus about in the middle of that. Mom & Dad were at the hotel here when we pulled up, so we're back to 5 bikes at least for the time being. My mood is considerably improved today, and tomorrow we're off the interstate again so hopefully I'll be back in the swing. I was going to describe the Milwaukee experience in greater detail tonight, but we're out here in the parking lot looking at pictures and emptying out the community cooler so I think my work here is done for now.

We have about 1,800 miles in so far, and are closing in on the home stretch.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Headin' Home

This still sucks. Our 9-bike caravan on the way out has split up and gone separate ways, different plans having left only 4 of us heading home together. The fun has passed, and today was spent doing nothing more than gobbling up miles of interstate. Fuel the bike, get her up in high gear and just let it roll. Burn it all back off, and stop for more. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It's been a gorgeous day, but I just can't shake the grays. We made it all the way from Milwaukee to Dayton, Ohio - 380+ miles. Maybe tomorrow will be better. We're spending most of the day at the Air Force museum and will be out early enough to have a few beers and maybe kick the enjoyment factor back up a little.

Packing Up

This sucks.

It's Saturday night, and the party's over. Time to pack everything back up and set the alarm.

Not that you need a reason to ride, but to me a great road trip needs a great destination. Not only does it make a logical turning around point, it's a a diversion, a goal, and a few days to relax and not be so efficient. The windshield and T-Bags are off the bike and in the closet. Everything is unpacked and easy to get at, the little day bag carries necessities for the day's jaunt, and the living is free and easy.

When you get good at packing a bike, you can really do a lot with a little space, and everything goes down the road real nice. You have clean socks and drawers rolled in t-shirts so that you can grab a day's worth of clothes without digging. You have some extras of each, and you get what you can out of 3 pair of jeans. When it's all on the bike, the easiest thing to get at are the rainsuits and the flashlight. Tools are at the bottom.

But right now, my heart just isn't in it. We ended up leaving the festival before the Boss was finshed with his show, because I crippled Lisa earlier in the day. Apparently I'm not the communicator I think I am, and she left with me at the crack of dawn all set to ride in the parade wearing boots with heels that are not sutiable for 4 hours of walking the festival grounds, which I evidently didn't tell her we had to do. (The streets are shut down and the bikes can't get back out until they're all in and the streets are reopened.) I barely got her on the bike and down to the show, and we left early. It's probably for the better, but here I am facing reality, saying goodbye, and I don't like it.

I decided to take a picture during the process, and then put everything together on the bed to organize. Pretty much everything you see above except Lisa's helmet goes on the bike.

At left is a picture of Annie in party mode, followed by a picture from the road earlier in the week. Nine o'clock tomorrow morning, and we'll be heading down Wisconsin Ave. for the last time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Welcome Home

Surprised as I was about how much I liked Chicago, the appeal of our adopted home here has never left my mind from our first visit. Milwaukee doesn't quickly come to mind for most people as a prime vacation destination, but for those who know, this town boasts a wealth of culture, architecture, and ethnic diversity that rivals any. Best of all, though, is the hospitality shown by its people to guests. Milwaukeeans not only tolerate rowdy tourists lost in their city on their (often loud) Harleys, they genuinely embrace us and are proud to see the bikes that leave the factories here return home.

It's been nonstop since my last post, and as disappointed as I am that tonight is our last here, I'm kind of dragging my dead ass to the finish line. I don't know if I could last much longer! We watched the stunt riders and drill teams perform on Thursday, then caught Sugarland and Kid Rock. Crass though he is, he's a great talent and put on an awesome show. We had an authentic German dinner at Karl Ratsch's restuarant downtown, stayed up way too late drinking tequila, watched a Black Crowes show, took a ride to Greendale, flew the chapter flag in the parade this morning, and actually managed to get laundry done in there.

The parade was quite the experience and really demonstrates the hospitality shown by our hosts. An awesome moment we'll never forget. It was about 7,500 bike total and took nearly 3 hours.

I'm getting ready now to head back down and catch some more music, culminating with the Springsteen show at the "Roadhouse on the Lakefront." We haven't seen the "Racine gang" since Thursday and in fact our wagon train will be a lot smaller on the return trip as folks have different plans and arrival dates. I have not even thought about getting ready to leave tomorrow, and the room looks like a flea market. But that's details. For now, one last blast.

Welcome Home, indeed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Club HOG 25

The Thursday portion of the festivities is for the HOG (Harley Owners Group) 25th Anniversary over at Miller Park, where the Brewers play. There is a national rally annually, and every 5th year it is in Milwaukee in conjunction with the H-D anniversary celebrations.

We had an iffy forecast this morning and got a leisurely start today after some well-deserved rest. Eventually, we did make it over there and found the banner that our chapter made, checked out the bike and tattoo contests, and watched the stunt and drill teams for a while. It never did rain and the sun came out in force, so we took the short ride back to the hotel for some A/C and maybe even a party nap. There are about a million bikes over there, and the line coming off the freeway has been a mile long all day. Tonight will be Sugarland and Kid Rock on stage, and I'm very much looking forward to both. We found the super double-secret back way into the park and should hopefully ride right in.

Internet service is $10 a day here, so I'll probably save it and not bore you with the details of Harley's 105th celebration Friday. We'll walk over and spend the day enjoying the festivities, and then Saturday morning Lisa and I will ride in the parade carrying our HOG chapter's flag. I've never done that before, and I'm pretty excited about it. Here in Milwaukee, parade participation is VIPs, one flag bearer per chapter, and the other couple thousand by lottery. Should be pretty cool. The 105th festivities continue Saturday, concluding with the big Springsteen concert on the lakefront. I'm not a huge Boss fan, but I did like him and hear he puts on a great, great show. Plus, you gotta admit it's perfect match for this event (Better than their choice of Elton John for the 100th!) That will probably also include whatever closing ceremonies they are planning, so it should be a good night.

I may update Sunday morning before we leave, but you're more likely to see the next post from Dayton, Ohio on Monday morning.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Our final leg today was a short one into Chicago on the last 40 miles of old 66, then an hour up I-94 to Milwaukee. Our overnight in Joliet seemed to mark precisely the transition from corn belt to rust belt. This is where stuff gets made.

We came into Chicago on Ogden Ave. and down Jackson to Grant Park on the lakefront. Buckingham Fountain there marked the endpoint of the route. We went down to see Soldier Field then ran back uptown through the Loop on Michigan Ave. and up Lake Shore Drive. Katrina would have been jealous of my ride up the Magnificent Mile among all the luxury brand stores.

I was really impressed by the city and have to admit it seemed a lot nicer than New York. The only other time I was here was also on the bike, but it was in via the expressway and right back out. I'm kind of surprised by how much I liked it. Very cool indeed.

At the rest area outside of Chicago, it was a mob scene with bikes. From there it's been all bikes, all the time. We hooked back up with the others at the H-D Museum and checked ourselves in to the swank Hyatt Regency downtown. Quite the contrast to the $80 specials we've been sharing the last 4 nights. Lisa, and Jay's wife Scoop flew in today and we are making plans for tomorrow. Life is good...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gettin' My Kicks

Here we are in Joliet, IL, about 150 miles up Rt 66 from where we picked it up this morning in Lincoln, and about 40 miles from the end in Chicago. What a cool time today poking along leisurely and finding all sorts of remnants from the abandoned route. And the weather was even better than yesterday; crystal clear and barely 80 degrees.

Tell you what, this part of the world is F-L-A-T. Where there's no corn, you can see for what seems like 100 miles. I discovered that you can tell where the towns are by the water towers scattered around the horizon for miles. Even the power transmission lines look strange, strung together straight as an arrow and disappearing over the horizon. Just a strange perspective that I'm not used to.

We lost our three new riders before lunch today. Hopefully, we'll learn that they found their way home OK.

OK, actually we lost them because they have their rooms for the Milwaukee celebration tonight already. We'll catch up with them tomorrow, which is great because these guys are like a party on wheels and just a ton of fun. Great times on the road with good people. This is why we go to work the other 50 weeks.
Tomorrow is another short day, 40 miles into Chicago and another 80 or so to Milwaukee. I'm getting really stoked as we get closer. This is gonna be big...
Don't forget to use the link over there on the right and check out the pictures, which are up-to-date and tell the story so much better than my words.

Today's Word is "Agriculture"

Now, let's use it in a sentence: When you ride through Indiana and Illinois, the only thing you will ever see on either side of the pavement is agriculture.

If corn was, say, $1 an ear retail, we saw first hand about $870 billion worth of it today. We had a long day, 350 miles plus the museum, plus two dealer stops trying to find a kickstand spring to replace the one Jeff bent when he bottomed out on the curb leaving the hotel in Columbus in the morning. We got off the old pike route in Indianapolis after lunch and made a beeline for Rt 66 in Lincoln, and stopped about 45 mins short of it here in Decatur IL, where ADM rules and and has a huge, mysterious industrial facility where they produce, uh, something. We didn't get in until after 7, and our watches were showing 8 before we adjusted them. That and the need to drink beer and get know our new friends better means the post is a little tardy. Sue me.

I did find out that Fred, Jeff, and Donna are not only good riders but great people. The "good riders" part means a lot because if you set out for 2500 miles with unknown people who you find out scare the hell out of you on their bikes, it's a long week. It has happened, but they're great company all the way around. Such a warm, fuzzy family we are. A motley crew for sure, but we're all having a great ride. The weather even cooperated for our marathon day; overcast and cool just about the whole day.

Tuesday we will hunt down the remains of the Mother Road on our way toward Chicago. Not a lot of miles at all on tap for today, and my Dad did the legwork setting up this leg. He will lead, and I will be along for the ride.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday - Columbus, OH

Well, we're getting there... Today we knocked out a good chunk on a day that started out perfect, but turned out hot and ugly by afternoon. Which is par for the course for me on these trips, it seems. We did get checked into the hotel just before the rains came, and are sure glad to be high and dry.

One of our party awoke feeling sick, and when it got to 90 degrees by lunchtime we were all concerned that he wasn't going to make it through the afternoon. But Joe is a sturdy old fella and toughed it out like a champ. I was truly impressed, and here we all are right where we planned to be.

Our travels today brought us 250 miles further along the National Road, through the rest of Maryland, the southwest corner of PA, the 15 miles or so through West Virginia, and here just outside Columbus. Along the way, we saw some old toll houses, two of the Madonna of the Trail monuments honoring the spirit of the pioneer woman, and some crazy S-shaped stone bridges. We even made our way down a forgotten stretch of the road still paved with bricks. Very much a fascinating trip back through time.
Amazing when you think a wagoneer on this road would be thrilled to advance 10-12 miles in a day.

Finally, after something like 5 trips near Columbus on the bike, I'm going to see the National Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. Every time I've come through here it's either been closed for the day or I was too far behind schedule. That's actually the case again here, but the group decided to reprioritize it, put ourselves behind schedule right off the bat tomorrow, and deal with it later. Check back tomorrow to see how we fare. At least the weather is supposed to be clear and over 10 degrees cooler. So far, so good!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday - Cumberland, MD

Today we set out for the National Road and began our journey westward. This road was built in the early 1800's to facilitate westward expansion, running from Baltimore to St Louis on the frontier. Today an Interstate highway follows much the same route, although you can travel almost all of the 800+ miles on an older route. MUCH older, in some cases, as we hope to prove tomorrow.

We sped to the outskirts of Baltimore and picked up the trail in Catonsville, then meandered the old road through a dozen "pike towns" and into the Appalachains, where we rest tonight just outside Cumberland. On the way, we stopped to check out a stone bridge built in 1819 for the original road, a monument to an even older bridge, and an unplanned visit to a Harley dealership in Hagerstown. Fortunately, it was only a burned-out headlight, and we were far enough ahead of schedule that we still arrived when we expected. Hopefully, that was our "bike trouble" for the week, and now it's behind us. The weather today was perfect.

For the record, there are 9 bikes and 12 people total along for the ride. Tomorrow we are heading for Columbus, Ohio and planning on a lot of sightseeing along the way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Road Trip v.2008

Welcome to Kevin's 2008 road trip travelogue. This year's adventure will be a return to Milwaukee for the celebration of Harley-Davidson's 105th Anniversary, and the 25th of the Harley Owners Group. A handful of members from our local chapter (Lehigh Valley, PA - woohoo!!) will be riding along, while others read from home. A shout out also to my MetLife colleagues who may be reading as well.

First, for new visitors, a little background. This blog goes back to 2006, but does little more than document my travels. The origin of its name, "Speedy's World," is detailed in the very first post, but basically it's derived from my e-mail address.

There is a link to the right for photo albums, which will fill up as we go. The photos on this page can be clicked directly to view larger versions. Some days there may be no updates, but I'll try to cover each day sooner or later.

The outbound trip will reprise parts of several previous rides, with some time for new discovery on the way home. The westbound route will include the historic National Road to Indianapolis, and the ghost of Route 66 into Chicago. We were in Milwaukee for the 100th, and it was literally like Woodstock. Harley-Davidson knows how to do two things extremely well; the second is throwing a party. The slate for this year's entertainment is incredible, and I'm already buzzing with anticipation. Our return trip will feature the National Air Force Museum, a day zooming along a twisty hill and valley route, and a ride up the Ohio River.

We leave Saturday morning for the 9-day ride, interrupted by 4 nights in a posh Milwaukee hotel.

Happy trails!