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.