An American Tour
12,000 miles in 60 days on 2 wheels.
A Destined Adventure... This story began with a big wheel on a driveway in New Hampshire. Most of my toddler years were spent drifting pavement corners, and wearing holes through the plastic tires. Not long after, that passion evolved to riding on two wheels, and grew from a long driveway to an entire country. I come from a family of bikers. My father, uncle, and many aunts originated the trend. The concept was outlawed in my house during my teenage years. So I bought one. Surprisely, little objection came from that broken rule.
Motorcycles are, quite literally, the vehicles to adventure; a truth that all bikeriders live by. There is no more intimate and equally efficient form of traveling on the road. You smell the land around you, touch the road under your feet, and feel the sun on your face. Bikeriders are intune with nature; planning for fair weather and preparing for the worst. It is for this reason I began to ride, and through this medium chose to see the four corners of this nation and every mile between. Only two weeks were spent planning this trip. Pins stuck in places of interest, friends called for impromptu visits, and supplies packed for every imaginable circumstance. No arbitrary timeline was created, and, as I would soon discover, it proved to be one of the best decisions of the journey. May 2, 2011 Monday morning, 6:00AM: the the air on the Mass Pike was cold. Shockingly cold. Leaving the city was a familiar feeling, leaving me a bit numb to the gravity of the trip that lay ahead.
That reality first hit crossing the George Washington Bridge. Humbling is an understatement for the experience of being boxed in by four huge semi-trucks in a claustrophobic tunnel littered with craters of potholes. It was about 1:00pm and nearly $40 in tolls when I made it to Philadelphia. The sun had finally warmed up enough to shed the cold-weather gear. I parked on a sidewalk in a residential part of downtown, and locked my motorcycle cover over my gear. A necessary gamble if I was to tour the city. I was on a sole mission: find John’s Roast Beef for a braised pork sandwich with fresh Parmesan and broccoli rabe. I found it. Closed.
By that evening I had made it to my Uncle Ed’s home in Bethesda, MD. I was actually quite worried my bike would be unwelcomed in this upscale neighborhood. As I rode past a men’s only golf course, prestiguous middle school, and perfectly manicured yards, the Screaming Eagles announced my presence. Though some heads turned, it didn’t receive the disapproval I expected, and I was suprised to see how excited my uncle was to see the machine. As soon as I arrived, my uncle mentioned my appearance reminded him of the character Jim Bronson from his past favorite series “Then Came Bronson.” The series ran only one year from 196970. While the reference wasn’t immediately recognized, I soon found the plot
closely resembled my own exploration. The plan was to stay the evening, and resume my way onto SC. When I started to make my way from MD, I was met with heavy road construction. The highway was more of a beach with all the loose gravel and sand left from road work. Only an hour and a half into the trip south, and my eyes were filled with dirt. At a quick rest stop break I received a message from my uncle insisting that I stay a few more days to tour the capital. Upon their invitation I extended my stay, and explored the city. As usual, I took to my exploration by walking the entire city. Vibrant colored, historic homes lined most residential roads. They would stand consecutively
in bright constrast to the next. A very refreshing approach to the comparison of Boston’s identical brownstones. My uncle brought me to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a perfect comfort food destination in Adams Morgan. A clear sign reads behind the counter that the only people who eat free are the Cosby’s and Obama’s. I had to go with the signature Cosby chili half-smoke, and would recommend the choice. In a center of an evolving, eclectic neighborhood, Ben’s is a staple of culinary comfort. One of the last great impressions of the visit was the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden which can be found along the National Mall. A small deviation from the broken patches of grass
and benches of the Mall, this oasis is filled with scultuptures, art, and a small cafe. The particular piece that drew me to this park gallery was a metallic chrome tree that extended up towards the clouds. The day was starkly overcast and provided a perfect background for this enchanting structure. As much as I enjoyed this tourism, the highlight was reconnecting with family. After four days in DC, I was finally back on the road. I made a quick stop shortly on 95 to a hunting supply store to pick up a single person tent. Never buy a single person tent. My logic for the smallest possible addition to my gear didnâ€™t account for the experience of sleeping in such a small space along with other luggage to ensure itâ€™s not stolen. A word to the wise: buy a two person tent, and carry the extra weight. If you have the means, there are even tents out there with space for your bike as well.
Following my misguided purchase, I entered Virginia. A quick stop into a diner for breakfast included my first taste of southern hospitality. When traveling, I make a point to try the daily specials or just the craziest thing on the menu. This morning was an example of the latter. The waitress welcomed me with a recommendation for their five meat omelette. Between her insistence and the carnal variety, I obliged. It was clear I was traveling, and was the only patron dressed in biker gear. At the end of the meal, I asked for the check, and the waitress said I was all set. It was the first generous act I received purely from being a traveler, yet far from the last.
Back Roads & Low Country May 5th, 2011 The adventure started on the next leg to South Carolina. Like many, I prefer back roads to the highway, so I left 95 to take 87>131>130>17. The two lane roads ran right along the front yards of country homes, yet you could easily cruise at 60. Farms, bridges, and abandoned gas stations decorated the way. I could witness the transition into the deep south as I traveled. Tractors rode over fields sending picturesque billows of dust into the afternoon sun. Old storefronts in small towns were left vacant, standing monument to another time. I crossed into SC at a stop sign and a left-turn at a picket fence. Apart from a small worn sign, there was no distinction. Time wasn’t on my side as I came to Myrtle Beach, so I sprinted back to the interstate, and met up with the 17 farther south. Entering the long circular on-ramp, I experienced the highlight of my day. As the dusk light hit the concrete on my lean around the bend, it reflected like stars off millions of stones within the gravel. I felt like I was riding on the Milky Way. Perhaps exhaustion was catching up to me.
Racing the sunset into Francis Marion National Park, I rode through smoke clouding the road. A large forest fire had spread, and, little to my knowledge, the area was in alert. Apart from the lack of gas stations along this stretch of the 17, one trend became abundantly clear: businesses don’t close, they just turn into churches. They were everywhere, in every type of repurposed building. Many, unfortunately, being former gas stations. Folly Beach, 30 minutes south of Charleston, was the destination. It’s a locals’ town with its own arsenal of unique traditions. My timing was impeccable as the weekend of my arrival hosted a Beerbaque at the Smoky Oak Taproom. At midnight, after cheap drinks and great live music at the Drop-In, it’s practice to go to Tokyo Crepes for a sweet night cap. If you happen to be in the area, it’s mandatory to catch a Riverdogs’ Triple A baseball game. With sponsored fireworks in the 7th inning, “Mystery Beer” pulled from a bucket of ice by the can for only a $1 each, and yours truly “Pony-Hopping” across the field for between inning entertainment,
it’s a winning decision. Also making the stop in Folly perhaps the greatest of the journey: late-night drinks on the roof of the tallest hotel in town, the 500 year-old Angel Oak Tree, Awendaw Green music venue in the woods, joining the Sand Dollar Biker Bar, vibrant hidden graffiti art, and the Charleston Market. As my fantastic weekend in Folly Beach ended, I looked forward to Key West. That anticipation was quickly diverted as I broke down only 30 minutes north of Savannah. I had tried another back road adventure intending to cut through Port Royal. Instead I got myself lost in Hunting Island State Park. The engine light came on as screws securing my stator broke loose, and destroyed my charging system. I lost all power as I coasted off the highway into a hotel parking lot. Harley Davidson of Savannah proved to be my guardian angel. They picked me up,
gave me priority repair as a “traveler”, and got me back on the road in the same day. After $700 and an awkward first experience at the adjacent Hooters, I was again on my way to Key West. May 9, 2011 To save money, the trip was planned with many nights camping. Strapped to my sissy bar was a single person tent for the occasion. The first night after my breakdown it struck me that it wasn’t the best plan. The campground in FL wasn’t campground as much as it was a backyard. The office was in the owner’s living room. Add the bugs, heat, and zero space in a one-person tent: not ideal. The ride down Florida’s Route 1 the next day started in Daytona. I can’t recommend it when it’s not bike week if you’re looking for anything special. It’s a long stretch dotted with commercial shops and no
scenery. However, there are a few hidden treasure biker shops, and plenty of biker bars as a saving grace. Arriving at Homestead at dusk, I decided to end the day with a night in a hotel. I was so exhausted and dehydrated from the heat that I was reconsidering the rest of the trip. I thought there was no way I could make it to the Pacific and back feeling so poorly just from the ride to FL. I put it out of my mind, and told myself to make that decision in Texas; knowing full well that would be too far to turn back. After plenty of Gatorade and watermelon the next morning, my energy returned. May 11, 2011 The next 24 hours held the longest ride
of the tour, a full 1,000 miles. I continued towards Key West passing over bridges in the sea with crystal blue waters beneath. A lobster Rueben sandwich and conch salad from Keys Fisheries served as lunch just before I decided to turn around. The road had been monotonous, and seemed to continue on with much of the same. Little did I know I turned around 30 minutes before the actual Highway in the Sea. Having stayed extra days in DC and experienced a breakdown, I had to make up some time. My route from Marathon cut straight through Florida on the 75. Iâ€™ve never seen more bugs in my life. For half an hour or so I thought it was raining, and was wondering why I wasnâ€™t getting wet. At the next stop for gas I found my helmet stained with bug guts.
By the time I connected with the 10, I was in serious backcountry. As I progressed towards New Orleans, my eyes were getting heavy, and my focus waning. I decided to stop twice at rest areas for an hour nap. To accomplish this, I put my backpack on the handlebar risers to use as a pillow, and laid with my back on the tank. The practice of sleeping at rest areas is far more common than you would think. Most stops actually have overnight security to ensure the safety of visitors. This was also the stretch where I dodged the first of three truck tires that blew out in front of me during the ride. I was riding behind a compact car with the truck ahead of us in the left lane. An explosion sent rubber and smoke in every direction. The belt came shooting
into our lane at 70 mph. It crushed the front of the car ahead of me, and flew up from its undercarriage. I switched over to the break-down lane as soon as the tire burst, and safely watched the belt pass. The sun was up as I rode to Mobile, Alabama. If Gotham City was a real place, on looks alone it would be Mobile. Long eerie bridges over murky water stem towards the city from the east while the skyline seemed out of a comic book. Much of this might have been to my exhaustion and the lighting of the day, but I still can’t move past it. What I haven’t been able to comprehend, however, was one advertisement I saw in the window of a nut store. It read, “We Sell to Everyone!” I still struggle to understand, on so many levels.
May 12, 2011 21, 2011 New Orleans was a brief stop. After a straight 1,000 mile ride from the Keys, an Econo Lodge in Kenner provided a required rest. The same evening was spent exploring the French Quarter. Before the familiar images of Bourbon street, you pass the weathered homes of less fortunate neighborhoods. They’re powerful images representing the history of the city, and don’t leave your mind as you explore the rest of the Quarter. At the heart of it all is Jackson Square. Daylight provides a nice tour of heritage and family offerings the city offers, but the true face of the square awakes past sunset. Wait until the magicians collect their tricks, merchants pack their tables, and gypsies stack their cards. These great characters from the square congregate at tables infront of the St Louis Cathedral, play cards, and trade stories. For those who might be curious to hear, there are many tales to be told. A great characteristic of the area is that it appears to be make-your-own parking for motorcycles. I found a side street with a
vacant sidewalk, and parked the bike to walk the streets. I was on a mission to find alligators and crawfish, yet all the reviews I could find weren’t pointing to a decisive venue. A crawfish pasta at the Chartres House solved that craving. After one short evening in New Orleans, Texas was beckoning. Riding bridges over murky water and marsh where trees lay broken from hurricanes past, I sped towards Route 49. A quick stop at Chicken on the Bayou for an alligator burger, provided a great breakfast and energy for the day. Back on the road waited the darkest torrential fury. Miles in the distance, right of the highway shone sunny while the largest, darkest span of thundercloads crept from the left. Never have I raced a thunderstorm, but I throttled hard away from New Orleans. Ten miles later I stared into the heart of the storm. Even though the clouds above were clear, heavy drops of rain started to pelt my face. I managed to slip past with just the lightest taste of the storm, and watched it envelope the road in my mirror as I left New Orleans.
Red Rock & Green Chile May 21, 2011 Before entry into Texas, Louisianna brought a fight. The entire 49 highway seems to be a 45 degree incline. Add the fact that there is a casino at every exit, and you have a route that won’t be missed. Texas turned into one of the longest stays of the trip, a week in fact, with the least pictures. As custom with the Hutchings family, trouble is to be had when we get together, and this time was no exception. Perhaps my greatest regret from the whole journey was failing to stop and take pictures of Route 20 as I rode towards Dallas in the dusk light. It was beautiful. The sun would pierce through the large wroughtiron gates adorning each ranch, and catch the dusk kicked up by cattle lazily grazing on the land. Tall grass would blow in warm gusts of wind like waves of golden straw. Towards the end of the 20, I hit a small town with an old movie theater and small saloon. It was as though time had spared these few buildings. As I raced to meet
a timely arrival, I swore I would revisit for photos. Texas had other plans in store. My favorite new friends from the road were made in Texas. When I finally did leave the Lone Star, it wasn’t without a new found love of southern belles, ice in my beer, and a satirical nickname due to the large knife I carried. When they say, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” it includes the thunderstorms. Torrential downpours made it impossible to see even 30 yards ahead while I was only riding 30 mph on my exit. Within minutes everywhere was flooded with inches of rain, and after a near hydroplaning accident, I committed to one more night in the state. May 22, 2011 Exiting Texas was mostly uneventful, apart from blistering winds that were the hardest locals have seen in years. I had to lean my
bike into the wind just to keep straight. The wind and trucks blew painful gusts of sand. A taste of the best peach I’ve ever had from one of the few peach stands on the 40, and it was worth it. That same day I broke into New Mexico. As the sun fell, the state’s enchanted beauty shone. On the opposite horizon of the setting sun, the mountains glow the brightest blue I’ve seen. A surprise that was mesmerizing, and unable to be captured in photos. There was one detour in NM, and that was to Santa Fe to get a breakfast burrito with red and green chile. Coming recommended from my roommate, I couldn’t pass up the four hour excursion. Arriving in the city at 1AM, I found a dirt runoff above the city skyline to try
to sleep the night. After a few relocations, I slept the cold evening on the bike. The landscape from Santa Fe into Arizona looks quite uniform until the approach to Flagstaff. There is one hill you break that reveals the mountains ahead of you, and everthing slowly starts to change. Trees begin to rise, green reclaims the ground, and the temperature cools. The anticipation is exhilarating chasing the road toward the mountains as they grow larger in front of your eyes. After a quick break in Flagstaff to charge my phone on a highjacked gas station outlet, an acquired habit on the road, I was headed to the Grand Canyon. Route 180 cuts from Flagstaff through national forest. There is nothing out
there, but trees and a small two way road. Hours later, you break from the silent calm of the forest into a chaotic scene of gas stations and helicopters with tourists scrambling to the canyon rim. Just short of the destination appears a tourist oasis of lodges and restaurants with terrible puns for names. Be warned. Friendly animals and unskilled German bikers on rented Harleys decorate the rest of the journey. The Grand Canyon itself is one of those wonders that canâ€™t be aptly described or conveyed in pictures. Itâ€™s truly overwhelming; a crevice that you can stare into and never see the bottom. I found my own space on a secluded cliff, and just sat on the edge of the rim for hours. After a cold, dark ride to Kingman, AZ
for the evening, I was back in the sun traveling through red rock. The red cliffs were gorgeous, yet riding through the poverished Indian towns was sobering. The favorite stretch of the southwest was the ride over the mountains of California. Each peak climbed signaled my closing approach to the Pacific. It was on this stretch I connected and rode many miles with another eccentric biker, Dave, pictured in the green shirt two spreads prior. A true character. A family friend in Manhattan Beach hosted me for the better part of a week. The hospitality allowed me to indulge in my love for LA food trucks, biker bars, and Venice Beach. The final venue in that list is home to perhaps the greatest performer in the journey. Peter Demian, pictured above, can be found on the
Venice Beach strip, as he has been for the past 31 years. As I met my best friend, Kim, for lunch, Demian turned the sidewalk into a dance party with “Butter up, Butter Down.” Those are nearly the entire lyrics. Great time. Apart from new tires, an introduction to San Diego was the last mandatory activity. Downtown was underwhelming, yet a ride over the Coronado Bridge at dusk felt like a ride in the sky. The sun pierced through the clouds, and made Coronado glow as I climbed up the peak of the bridge. Imperial Beach was the target, as I had been told people have been known to applaud the sunset. Once the sun dipped into the sea, the San Diego journey was nearly complete. Though I was approaching 8pm with a return ride ahead, one
recommendation from my cousin for a dive bar offered promise. Postponing my trip home, I arrived at Garnett Avenue around nine o’clock. This is the northern beach part of town that’s built for nightlife. The venue I was looking for was the Tiki Bar, a small bar of regular locals that my cousin had introduced to Stone Brewery. There were only a handful of other patrons, yet I was just in time for the live music to begin. The atmosphere was precisely what I had been searching for in San Diego, yet hadn’t discovered downtown. This was also the first time I had the chance to look in the mirror, and my red face signaled I forgot to apply sunscreen again. Due to my rugged appearance the patrons and bartender actually inquired if I was a Rolling Stones writer, authoring a review. While I had to disappoint them, their bar saved my night.
Vineyard Detours, Big Sur, and the PCH May 28, 2011 The heat exhaustion, torrential downpours, and freezing nights slept on the bike were all dues paid for this day of riding. The playground of the Pacific Coast Highway was the prize of the journey, and one I certainly indulged. While dirt turnouts with the most vehicles provide the signs for the best places to explore, you can stop and hike nearly anywhere on the PCH. Or at least I did. I discovered buried railroad tracks, hidden beaches, caves carved by waves, and a waterfall dropping into the ocean. My trip up the PCH from LA stopped at Cambria, as a portion of the road had washed into the ocean. Doubling back I was forced to take Route 46 to the 101, which served as the greatest detour of my life. The most scenic mountain scapes and endless vineyards make this hour stretch the most visually striking of the trip.
Thank God the highway fell into the sea. Hustling up the 101, I had no intention of leaving any part of the PCH untraveled. I hit Salinas, and made a considerable Uturn down the PCH towards Big Sur. Let me be clear: the only part of the PCH you really need to ride is the strip cutting through Big Sur and Phieffer State Park. Hairpin turns, accessible coast, and gorgeous forests make this a haven for campers and bikeriders alike. Bixby Canyon bridge and its predecessor were breathtaking. There are plenty of turnouts that offer parking to explore the wild coast. Make a habit of stopping at the ones with most people. It proved a successful strategy. Walking through shrubs and flowers of every color, I found a manageable cliff down to the beach. A small waterfall fed a stream to the ocean, and round rocks of all
sizes composed the beach. The smaller rocks would roll in with the waves and recede back, creating this natural thunder which was unlike any sound I’ve heard. I spent a great deal of time just absorbing these elements.
was to wear a big knife, and look sketchier than everyone else. It was successful. That morning I woke up to realize I was outside a dogcare boutique, and surrounded by plenty of canines getting their morning stroll.
The sun set as I reached the north end of the road closure, and I was left with the snaking PCH to myself. I twisted the throttle, lit the high beams, and leaned that bike sideways racing the 1 back up to Carmel. It was just before midnight when I finally made it. I had planned to make it to San Francisco to spend the night with a friend, yet the timeline didn’t agree. Due to Memorial Day weekend, there wasn’t an open hotel room to be found. This provided the exact scenario for packing a wool military blacket. Down it came from the handlebars as I found a secluded space in a strip mall parking lot and curled up on the concrete for a night’s rest.
I rode in the morning light to Monterey Bay. Fathers were loading kids into kayaks to go seal watching, gulls yelled, and salt was in the air; a warm reception by any standards. After breakfast I passed Red’s donut shop to see a bunch of old people dunking confections in coffee. A great sign, and one I couldn’t pass up. The visit provided the best donut of my life. It practically melts in your mouth. Make it your breakfast destination when in Monterey.
Nights sleeping on parking lots or the bike were always paired with early mornings. Heat left with the sun, and frigid temperatures combined with the precaution of keeping an eye out does some damage on your REM cycle. My strategy to stay safe
Funds started winding pretty low at this point in the trip. While I had some checks coming in from various sources, I hadn’t planned the budget specific as possible. If I had, I’m certain I would have decided against taking the journey out of “financial responsibility.” In hindsight, that would have been the gravest missed opportunity of my life. Instead, I saddled up, and figured it out along the way.
The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash May 31, 2011 The title of this chapter actually comes from the name of the band playing the Tiki Bar in San Diego, but seems more apt for the brazen spirit felt during the visit to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. I owe my successful explorations to one Rachel Duarte who provided me with all the hidden treasures to visit. As I battled rain and filled my veins with Anchor Steam, I fell in love with Dolores Park and the view from Twin Peaks. Haight and Valencia offered the perfect venues for friends’ souveniers. The atmosphere in each of these places was astonishly social and familiar. Sitting on a bench in Dolores Park, two guys sat on either side of me and began chatting. I thought they were old friends until they reached across to introduce themselves, and included me in the conversation. The entire city shared the same friendly interaction, which would baffle any New England native. When traveling, I make it custom to try the local special or the most unique thing on the menu. San Fran is the perfect city to push those boundaries. Chinatown provided cheap yet delicious culinary op-
tions, and the best Mexican joint on 24th and Mission served a proper cow brain taco. While my walking travels provided a variety of cuisines to keep me fed, lodging was a different situation. Since my plans with a friend fell through, I spent the first night in a motel. My budget wouldn’t allow another. Fortunately, a friend of my host in Manhattan Beach offered to have me stay in Pleasant Hill. He was a fellow biker from Australia. Not only one of the most generous individuals I’ve met, he was full of interesting tales from his own past. Without his hospitality, I would have been stuck outside in the week of rain that welcomed me in San Fran. Following the tradition of watching sunsets in each city, a quick trip to the beach in the aptly named Outer Sunset district provided a picturesque view. Upon another recommendation, I stopped into the Java Beach Cafe for a drink. I was on my way out when my eye caught the homemade Arnold Palmer listed on the chalkboard. Doubling back for the order served me the best half-n-half in my history.
June 2, 2011 My Texan Cousin Mark, had insisted on one location to visit: Lake Tahoe. Early into my stay in San Fran, I scheduled a day to take the ride. A very cold day. The route approached the south rim of Lake Tahoe, winding through the El Dorado Forest alongside a rapid creek. The temperature drops, and the terrain starts ascending as you progress towards the Lake. A bright, almost neon, green moss begins to form on the trees, existing in colorful contrast to the high snowbanks. Finally, at the top of your ascent, you wrap around the mountain to see the Lake in its entirety. It was the most powerful sight of the day. I was actually intimidated by the height, with only a small guardrail containing any slips on the snow. My hands and arms freezing, I welcomed lower altitudes. The water was crystal clear and calm with no boats on a cold overcast afternoon. Most of the beachfront is restricted by private property, yet there are a few natural outlets where you can venture to the shore. The road along the lakefront if quite residential, dotted with quaint homes and cottages. A stop at a country store for some beef jerky, my quick energy
supplement for the majority of the trip, concluded my trip north as I felt like I was just seeing much of the same. From what I did find, the greatest adventures can be found around the south east corner of the Lake. Eagle Falls was incredible. Wearing my cold gear, military boots, and my backpack, to avoid having my computer and camera stolen, I scaled the rock wall down to the base of the falls. Technically, I donâ€™t believe this is allowed, but the old log I found covered with signatures attests that itâ€™s not uncommon. Coming from the south, thereâ€™s a dirt turnout just before DL Bliss Park. Across from this turnout is a steep hill, on top of which I found the best view of the Lake. After a dangerous hike, I stood on the highest boulder in a world that seemed almost alien. Among a clashing blend of desert and forest, mammoth pine cones and snow, I found the destination I was looking for. Every cove of the Lake could be seen above the treetops. I felt as though I was standing above the world. Cold gear on, I promptly slid back down the hillside covered in snow, with full intent to return to properly camp that unworldly site.
Giant Forests, Needles, and Steel Pigs June 11, 2011 Let’s be honest, the second you watched Return of the Jedi you wanted to be in the forest with the Ewoks. You’re not alone. Discovering that place actually existed put a pin in the map for me on northern California. While I didn’t make it to the precise location of Endor, the Humboldt State Park provided the same fantasy. Nearly as many mammoth trees stretch towards the clouds, lay across the forest floor creating a natural playground. The ground is carpeted by clovers with narrow trodden paths. Slightly north of Humboldt, the Avenue of the Giants was truly surreal. It’s humbling to pass through such massive living things. This was one of the few times when I felt an image couldn’t translate the nature of this experience, and kept my camera packed away. On this stretch of the journey I connected with two souls that shared the bond of rid-
ing. The first was part of a Christian bike chapter, that came up to me at a stop to recommend taking route 199 into Oregon. A great suggestion. The second meeting stuck with me for awhile. At a rest area miles from any town, was an old veteran collecting change in a tin mug. He had a full white beard, walking stick, and sense of solemn pride that was almost tangible. The rest of the stop was filled with minivans and families passing by this man and moving on to their destination without a second thought. We were two outliers to the present crowd, yet the only ones that seemed to be in their element. On my way out, I stopped to hand him the few bills I had in my pocket. He looked at me, nodded to my bike, and said,”That’s the best sounding machine I’ve heard in days.” A brother of the road. The Redwood Highway, Route 199, is a narrow road that weaves through the mountains and redwoods up to Oregon.
Crossing into Oregon, the green forest is replaced by gorgeous rock canyons. That evening was spent at a rest stop sleeping on my bike. I had to start the engine a few times during the night just to stay warm. The next morning was a quick sprint up to Portland. I only spent five hours walking the city, and having lunch with a former Bostonian friend. Seattle welcomed me the same evening. I stayed with my stepbrother for the better part of a week. He introduced me to the Cha Cha Lounge, Gasworks Park, and the Space Needle, yet the most interesting discovery was found driving around the city. As we stopped at an intersection, I watched a steel snout protrude from around the corner. In a second, this giant metal pig appeared. It was Maximus Minimus, the greatest food truck in the nation. Of course,
getting our hands on some of the meat from this beast was mandatory, so I tracked down its destination on Twitter. Following Maximus Minimus led us to the second best discovery, the Fremont Market. Open on Sundays, this market has the most unique selection of vintage goods, homemade crafts, and food. I would go so far as to say itâ€™s the best market Iâ€™ve been to, and was exactly what I was hoping Pikeâ€™s Place Market to be. A few blocks up from the market is 36th street. I found this strip quite striking as the small homes on the south side of the street were converted into a variety of retail shops. It seemed that anyone with an idea for a unique product was able to bring that dream to life on this street. Leaving Seattle for Montana included
some terribly cold wet weather. It was an ugly ride. Cell phone service was lost switching from the 90 to 135 to make my way to Whitefish, and about the same time my bank card inexplicably stopped working. I had to count the change in my possesion, and pray it paid for enough gas for the next few hundred miles. One thing rings true riding through Montana. It’s the biggest sky you’ve ever seen. Approaching the vast purple body of Flathead Lake against its green surroundings at dusk, is an image that is forever branded into your memory. Time was too short to enjoy the scenery, and it was past midnight when I made it to my friend Leah’s farm, my face covered in bugs. Whitefish’s prized gem is Glacier Na-
tional Park. From thick forests, raging rivers, and wildlife within reach, there are endless natural elements to explore. The town itself offers everything you would imagine for Montana, with saloons serving as proper wateringholes, and a legendary farmers market to entertain culinary and craft interests. I raced my second thunderstorm when I was riding through southern Montana on my way to Salt Lake City. The roads wind over hills, and can be seen connecting towns spread in the distance. As I decended into a wide valley, I could see the dark clouds and wall of rain leaving one town, and aiming for my route. I opened the bike up on the narrow but vacant road, and just skirted by in time to watch the clouds pass over in my mirror.
The image directly above is one of the most gorgeous sunsets witnessed on the road. Where coastal cities might be assumed to have the greatest horizon displays, this Idaho view found on Route 15 was stunning. I found myself in Pocatello when I became too tired to go further. As luck would have it, a wrestling tournament had every motel room booked. A few phone calls between
motel managers, and the last room in the city was found in a Thunderbird Lodge. Salt Lake City was a great time. My former college roommate hosted me, yet Iâ€™m certain he didnâ€™t recognize me when I first pulled up on a dirty hog with long hair and unshaven for weeks. He secured passes for the weekendâ€™s
Damn These Heels! film festival. There I found my favorite movie “The Beginners”, and had an awesome weekend of cinematography. Peaches Christ was also a staple at this festival, and we had the fun opportunity of getting brunch with him the following afternoon at the Garage. If a solid dive bar is ever to exist, it
would be the Garage. While having catered to refinery workers, it now serves a modern mix of artists, professionals, and musicians. There are two bars, a deck, fireplace, epic brunch menu, cornhole, and they light up the refinery out back to provide an industrial background. It’s perfection. The weekend went too fast, but Salt Lake City certainly left an incredible impression.
Big Skies & Purple Mountain Majesties June 20, 2011 The back road route following the 189 from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, is dotted with small towns. A common trend begins to surface, as it did in lower MT. Passing through, the increasing frequency of antidrug billboards point out which communities struggle most. Stopping for food and gas, I would overhear stories of working four part-time jobs, and still struggling to pay bills. As beautiful as the country is, these somber trips throughout the midwest remind you how fortunate you are. There is a spectacle at the center of Yellowstone that can be found surrounding Old Faithful. Clustered on the decking and swarming benches are crowds from all across the globe. Every one of them clutched, with white knuckles, a digital camera, beeping with any bubble from the geyser. Everyone was there simply to capture an image for their scrap book and move on. I didnâ€™t even take my camera out of my bag due to principle. The only
photo I took in Yellowstone is the one above. This was my first close encounter with a bison, in this classic Yellowstone scene. The garden of hot springs next to Old Faithful is gorgeous, and filled with its own small geysers. While hot springs littered the area, the park was freezing. Even in the middle of June, snowbanks followed every road. Since I hadnâ€™t made reservations to stay the evening, I had to leave the park at night. Racing down mountains marked with avalanche warnings, my arms were freezing up. Pushing on to lower altitudes and hoping for warmer temperatures, I finally left the park in a sprint to spend the night in Cody. The plan was to follow Route 20 to the 14 and connect with the 90, yet when I made it to Greybull, I discovered the 14 was closed. A deviation south to Worland provided the alternative Route 16 to begin my long journey back home.
June 21, 2011 The image above was taken exiting Worland, WY. The town is a strikingly energetic working class oasis compared to the bordering rural towns. If you look it up on Google Maps, you’ll see it’s quite literally an oasis, surrounded by barren land. I had assumed there would be several instances on the ride where I would be staring a road down into the sunset. While a few Texas strips and California stretches came close, this Wyoming road ran straight off the edge of the world. This is also the precise point when my journey transformed from exploration to my trip home. Two thousand miles away, and I felt as homeward bound as though I was returning from a trip to the Cape. I put AC/DC on my iPod, and hit the throttle. The towns that followed were prefaced by signs that read, “Population 5, 8, or 10.” To call them rural is generous. While socializing proved daunting, enjoying the peaceful landscapes while passing through was simple. The stretch through South Dakota was neither simple or short. Torrential downpours plagued the travel from Sturgis to Sioux
Falls. A mandatory stop at Wall Drug provided an unimpressive buffalo burger, and a chance to clean all of bugs off my headlight. Iowa to Ohio was painfully dull, apart from the sun occasionally splitting the clouds, and making rainbows across the road. What was constant was construction. In Pennsylvania it was debilitating. At some point on the 90 a pothole stole my Screaming Eagle pipes straight off the bike. I didn’t even notice until I decelerated, and heard a cough. Heads turned as I thundered in and out of every following gas station. After battling lightning storms through the rest of PA, a stop into Pepe’s Pizza on Worcester Street, CT provided a familiar comfort. Boston didn’t provide such a warm welcome. It poured so hard for the final stretch home I could barely see the car ahead of me. Ducking behind a semi truck provided some shelter for the trade of safety. Finally roaring into Boston late into the night, I felt home. It was bittersweet to retire my nomadic behavior that had become my identity, but I had gained such perspective from the journey. It was time to start planning for the next.
Lessons From The Road: 12-hour days of riding are an acquired habit. Once you get in the rhythm after a few thousand miles, it seems like nothing. Take advantage of rest stops! Half-an-hour rests every few hours makes the trip far more manageable, and will greatly improve your spirits. Drink a lot of water. Being dehydrated not only robs your energy, but, more importantly, it cripples your attitude. Don’t lose your ambition to continue; eat lots of fruit and drink more than you think necessary. There’s another world of travelers out there. The Brotherhood of the Road. Other riders will recognize you’re traveling, and offer their advice/help. Take advantage of their experience. Repeatedly older riders suggested routes which turned out to be perfect substitutes.
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