Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trip wrap-up

Sorry I let my blog laps after my stop in Key West.  I am filling in the remaining details now (February 2010) before they fade too far.  Leaving Key West I put on some epic miles and made it to central Florida in time for dinner.  From there I road clear through Georgia, dodging some biblical flooding in some parts of the region.  I made it to South Carolina that day.  I got myself a little too drunk that night and had a slow start the next morning.  I decided to skip "The Tail of the Dragon" due to wet roads and a hangover.  Not the best recipe for technical motorcycle riding.  I stopped in High Point, NC to visit the Red House Furniture store (look it up on youtube), and then starting putting the miles away.  I decided I was going to make it back to Northern Virginia that night even if it killed me.  Luckily, it did not kill me.

I ended up spending about two weeks in NoVA.  I needed to kill time before an obligation in Connecticut.  I used the time to visit with all of my friends in the area  I also did overnight trips to Pennsylvania and to North Carolina to visit some folks I missed on the trip.  It was great catching p with everybody and I slept on many a couch.

From NoVA I road to Long Island, NY and the spent the night with my cousins.  The next day my cousin David road out to Orient Point with me.  From there I boarded a ferry to New London, CT where I was scheduled to attend my 5-year homecoming at the Coast Guard Academy.  I figured it would be a good way to wrap up my time in the service.  Unfortunately there were not as many people in attendance as I was originally hoping, but I did have a good night at Mohegan Sun, despite the wet ride home.  I spent the night camping at our old Rugby Pitch (field) and hit the road after the rugby game on Saturday.  I was scheduled to ride North to meet my Dad, and our friends Randy and Bob.

We met in Sturbridge, MA.  The mercury was taking a nos-dive, and we woke up to find a nice frost on the motorcycle seats.  We road through back country roads to Vermont and watched a Patriots game in the hotel  room.  Or original plan was to spend a few more days on the road, but a looming early snowstorm led to cut the trip a little short.  The next morning we left on frosty bikes and headed towards the New Hampshire coast.  We took a brief detour through Kittery, ME before having lunch at one of my old haunts in Portsmouth, NH.  From there we made a quick highway run through Boston and back to my Parents' house on Cape Cod.  And thus ended my trip.  The total mileage was just over 18,000 miles.

Key West mini-vacation September 20th, 2009

Island time as delayed my blog entries.
Well, it's been a while, I suppose.  The two places I've been for a while are not the most conducive for keeping a rigid schedule.  Luckliy, I am not on a rigid schedule these days.  I really enjoyed walking around the French Quarter.  The food and music and oppressive heat and the old-world feel is just a really cool combination.  I'd definitely like to go back (in the winter, though) and spend a little more time.  I think I mentioned it before, but the hostel I stayed in was really nice and definitely reasonably priced.  I spent two nights in New Orleans and even got a late start the day I left.  I guess it is the curse of the French Quarter.  I didn't really have a plan, except to drive as far as I could toward Key West.  I moving slowly, however, and made it just past Tallahassee.
From Tallahassee I got an early start to assualt the 620 miles standing between me and Key West.  I drove by a number of thunderheads, but luckily they all held off from raining on me.  The thunderheads contributed to a gorgeous sunset the entire way down through the Keys.  I made it to Key West just before my friend and host, Jake, had to go to work (he was working night shift).  He dropped me off on Duval Street so I could walk around and took a cab ride back to his house. 
On Saturday we took his boat out.  A friend in D.C. had put me in touch with her friend that now lives in Key West and she joined us on the boat.  We cruised around the harbor in Key West and buzzed around a bunch of reefs and keys and atolls.  We've spent the rest of the time eating, sleeping, and partying on Duval Street.  Apparently it is also bike weekend in Key West, and it is estimated that 7,000 bikes from all over Florida come down for the weekend.  I think I'm the only one who rode 13,000 miles to get here, though.  I had no idea the bike weekend was going on, though.  On Friday and Saturday nights Duval Street was closed down for motorcycle parking.  There was some great people watching.  It's so easy to lose focus down here, and I'll be going on to my fourth night here.  I'm committed to leaving tomorrow morning, though. 
The last big news item is that today is my last day of active duty in the Coast Guard.  At midnight tonight I will officially be in the Coast Guard Reserve.  I also got my last paycheck today.  I guess it's the end of an era.  9 years, 2 months, and 15 days is the rough count of how long I was associated with the active duty Coast Guard. 
Tomorrow I embark on my run up the eastern seaboard and begin to wrap up my trip.  I'm pretty ready for that to happen.  Other than Hawaii, there are only two states left that I have not ridden through on previous trips; Georgia and Vermont.  My plan is to do them all on this trip, though I so I will be making some repeat visits. 
Anyway, enjoy the blog. Talk to you soon.

Let the Bon Temps Roulet September 14th, 2009

In New Orleans, of course
I've been a busy man since you last heard from me.  Many of you probably saw the pictures of the giant excavator, Big Brutus, in West Mineral, Kansas, on my facebook page.  It was pretty cool, and the ladies were nice enough to let me ride my bike up to it o some pictures, despite it being somewhat frowned upon.  From there I left and headed East.  I rode clear through Missouri and into Kentucky.  I crossed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers right above their delta.  Pretty uneventful day, except that the town I had planned on staying in turned out to not have a hotel.   Ihad to push on another 18 miles or so.
The next day I got an early start and made it to Memphis at a reasonable hour, just after lunch.  I had arranged for a Couch Surfing host, and ended up staying in the mid-town district, which is the hip, artsy, trendy place to live apparently.  Bumber stickers were abundant saying "Mid-Town is Memphis".  My host was very generous and played tour-guide.  We did Graceland, got some killer barbecue, and cruised Beale Street a little taking in some fabulous live music and having a few beers.  It was a nice experience.
The next morning I headed South with the intention of hitting Mississippi, Arkansas, and ending in New Orleans.  Turns out I didn't study the map hard enough and my route did not go into to Arkansas.  While sitting out some rain over a breakfast at Waffle House (thank god I'm back in the South East) I poured over the map and picked the nearest river crossing into Arkansas.  It added about 2.5 hours to my day's ride.  I literally drove over the Mississippi, passed the sign saying welcome to Arkansas, did a U-turn, and got back on track to New Orleans.  Some pretty heavy rains all morning, and as the sun broke through it got really really hot in all of my rain gear.  I ditched that and got back on the road.  The last 30 or 40 miles into New Orleans was really cool, riding over a long continuous causeway through the bayou.  Neat little homes lined the canal, and I can only guess that they are only accessible by boat. 
I'm now sitting at my Youth Hostel, about to take a shower and go look for some good Jambalaya.  I think I am going to spend two night here since the hostel is less than $20 a night.  From here I will head down to Key West, probably taking two days to do it. 

I'm not in Kansas anymore September 12th, 2009

Wait, yes I am.
Howdy from Columbus, Kansas, home of Big Brutus, the 2nd biggest excavator in the country (I will see it tomorrow). 
The dealership finished my bike at 3PM in Amarillo, and I didn't really like sticking around all afternoon.  I headed west briefly to check out Cadillac Ranch.  It is 10 old Cadillacs that have been planted nose-down in the ground in the middle of a field.  People are encourage to spray-paint graffiti on them and they are well preserved with decades of paint.
I then turned aorund and headed East towards Oklahoma.  I-40 follows a lot of the original Route 66, and it surprised me how much emotion that little stretch of old two-lane blacktop stirred in me.  I was pretty cavalier about it when I had crossed it earlier in my trip, but seeing such long stretches of it parallel to the relatively giant interstate really got me.  Elk City, Oklahoma was where I ended that night.  Met three guys riding out of Maryland and had a beer and chatted with them a while.
This morning I set out for Kansas, with a vague notion of making Missouri if I get through Kansas in time.  Turns out that some scattered rain storms and some neat road-side stores kept me longer than I planned and I only made it to Eastern Kansas.  Columbus was surprsingly fun, though.  Not for any inherent reasons, though.  I met some guys at the one hotel in town from Mobile, AL.  They are here on a 3-week contruction gig.  I had some beers with them and then grabbed some dinner.  After dinner I stopped at the VFW for a beer and to see what was going on.  Turns out that Columbus high was playing their rival in football tonight and won for  the first time since 1973.  I also played a few dollars in what might be the best country/western juke box I've ever played. 
Getting back to the hotel I saw my friends from Mobile were playing cards for spare change, so I bought in a few hands and played until my three dollars was lost.  I figured it was fair since I drank a bunch of their beer for free.  Better than Reno!  We also heard a mighty racket and got to watch as all four town police cars and three fire trucks escorted the football team back into town after their big win.  The parade was followed by nearly every citizen of town, except for the few I had met at the VFW.  I've only seen stuff like that in cheesy sports movies. 
Here is a snapshot of what I have accomplished so far, and a rough guide to my route for the last few weeks of the trip:
trip status
Tomorrow I will make the Western tip of Kentucky, and head to Memphis the next day.  That's about it for now, other than I assume you noticed all of my pictures are gone again.  I will no longer be adding new pictures.  For picture updates, please visit my facebook gallery.

Aliens: Illegal or extra-terrestrial September 10th, 2009

Rain in New Mexico.  No mas
Sitting outside my room at the Budget Motel in Roswell, New Mexico.  It's really the first breather I've had in several days.  I dropped Mycenea off in Phoenix on Tuesday and thought I'd make a run for Pie Town, New Mexico.  My dad reported that they had a Jalepeno-Apple Pie, and that sounded too good to pass up.  However, I bit off more than I could chew and didn't quite make it in time.  I rode through some rain storms, and just missed a hail storm (saw the hail still in the ground when I came through).  Turns out Pie Town isn't much of a town at all, and lacked even a gas station or a hotel.  I pushed on and stopped at the next town I came to.  I can't even remember the name.  Got in just in time to fill up on gas, grab dinner, and get a shitty hotel room before they closed at nine.  Today I woke up early so I could actually arrive somewhere in the daylight.  I went to white sands national monument and rented a sled.  It was so bright and sandy and hot.  Quite the place.  It is also right next to the white sands missile testing facility and apparently the whole highway is closed during missile tests.  From there it was 120 miles to Roswell.  I arrived in the daylight, driving through scattered rain showers.  I took some photos of the alien museum, got a room, and ordered some chinese food.  All-in-all it was a pretty nice day.  Tomorrow I am up early to get to Amarillo by noon to get my 35,000 mile service performed on the bike.  I am also replacing both tires.  This should be it for maintenance before getting home.

Bienvenido a Mexico September 7th, 2009

Riding galore and rain in the desert
So, where were we?  I met my friend Mycenea in Mesquite, NV, just over the border from Utah and Arizona.  We got to see her cousin's band play at the barbecue championship and lost some money at the craps tables.  The next day we set off for the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.  We spent a little too much time at the dam, though and didn't quite make the GC.  We actually rode all of the way to the entrance in the dark hoping to get a room and maybe catch sunrise at the canyon.  Turned out the holiday weekend resulted in ZERO vacancies, so it was 50 miles back to town where we got one of the few remaning rooms.  Apparently we were competing with labor day, the Shakespeare festival, and a livestock auction. 
So we caught the GC this morning and decided to head south to Mexico.  The cool morning gave way to cold rain showers, and got hot as we lost approximately 8000 feet of elevation in 4 hours of riding.  We breezed through mexican customs, though the american border guards suggested we surrender my pepper spray to them prior to attempting customs.  Turns out we were waved through with no more than a smile. 
Lots of cactus and lots of sand,  Lots of sweating.  A cheap and seedy motel had to suffice tonight since we got to town around 9PM.  Tomorrow we will look around and find a nicer place and hit the beach.  Tata for now.

Petroglyphs Schmetroglyphs September 4th, 2009

Long overdue, but brief
So I have been pretty delinquent in blogging.  I did post some new photos the other day, though.  I passed out before I could blog.  So, I'm on  sketchy WiFi network, so I will be brief, but since you last heard from me:
I rode almost the entire Oregon coast. 
Visited a friend in Vacaville (home of Jellybelly jelly beans).
Visited friends in Vallejo
Visited friends in San Fran
Visited a friend in Tahoe
Visited a friend in Reno
Thoughts and observations: The Oregon coast is gorgeous, but the coastal highway gets a bit tedious with all of the towns and traffic.  Took a hike over some cool sand dunes though.  Drove through a forest fire in Northern California (not the LA one).  Reno doesn't compare to Vegas.  Rode almost 500 miles of the "the loneliest highway in America" today.  Stopped or some petroglyphs (ancient stone carvings).  They weren't impressive.  Plus, the contemporary penis carving mixed in with the ancient native carvings kind of ruined it.  I stopped at Sand Mountain to watch the ATV riders race up and down a 600 foot sand dune.  Got a little too close and almost got myself in a precarious situation riding in the sand.  Dirt and gravel and mud I have conquered so far, so why not a little sand?  Stopped in a few old mining towns (Eureka, NV and Austin, NV).  Very cool little towns.  I'll post ome photos soon.
Sorry for the short update, but thanks for stopping in.