For the first time in three weeks, I retired to my own bed, in my own apartment, again last night. I enjoy taking these types of trips, but nothing’s better than finally finishing up, unloading, unpacking and getting back to a regular life.
Given how I arrived back home, I’ve already had one person ask if the trip was worth it and do I really think I’ll bother to do it again. The answer to both of those questions is yes. I’ve been doing road trips almost since I could drive – and before that, riding along with others. When I was a teenager living south of Baltimore, my family would trek to Maine every summer. When we lived in Massachusetts, we were all gear hungry and would trek to Maine every summer. I remember a road trip when I was very small with my mom and my grandmother that was multiple days in gram’s old Pontiac. I don’t remember where we were going, but I do remember stopping in (I think…) Tennessee to pick up raw copper ore shedding off a hillside next to the road. My mom still makes the semi-annual Snowbird journey from Florida to Maine and from Maine to Florida, by road, every spring and fall.
Since moving out west, I’ve been doing road trips by car and for the last many years by motorcycle. To me, a multi-hundred or multi-thousand mile trip over several days or even weeks is a normal way to spend a vacation. I was talking to one of the tow drivers who picked up my bike and me near English, Indiana earlier this week and he made an off handed comment that made me think. He said, “well, at least you’ve seen it.” What he meant, what we were talking about, is getting out and about around North America. He’d never traveled much beyond the thousand miles or so around where he was born there in western Kentucky. He had taken one vacation to see his wife’s family in San Francisco 20 years or so ago, but that was about it.
At least you’ve seen it.
Yeah, I guess I have. No, I’ve never been overseas. I’ve never traveled off the North American continent – the USA lower 48 and Canada have been the limits of my travel for my entire life so far. But I’ve been in every one of those lower 48 on one trip or another – even if some visits have been for a very short period of time. My time spend in the far southeast has been a little scarce, especially by Motorcycle (there are several southeast states I’ve never even touched on a bike) but I have logged road miles in all of them for one purpose or another – not all vacations, some was work.
Regardless of how you see it, it’s an amazing place. You could – and some do – spend literally a lifetime exploring all the sites and features and cities and towns and empty places in these 48 states and 10 provinces. The great big picture at the top of this post is somewhere in Nebraska
Yeah, sure, I rolled back in to town this weekend in a fairly ignominious and embarrassing way for a motorcyclist, with my ride following along behind me in a trailer with nothing more wrong with it than a flat tire. Because of this fall back plan, I ended up spending more money in the last four days of the trip than I had in the first two weeks (each gas fill up – about 3 each day for the truck – cost more than each night’s lodging…) The lesson learned here (I always try to bring home at least one) was that when you commit to “easy” 300+/- mile days, you actually have to be able to complete the minimum each day, or you fall behind VERY quickly. The error I made on this trip is not considering lost time due to unforeseen factors. In the midwest alone, I lost the better part of one day to lightning and tornado warnings. If I hadn’t flattened my (perfect, brand new, expensive…. grrrr) rear tire while dashing out from under one of those storms, I would have lost the better part of the next day as well anyway, because it turned out to be just as bad as the previous day once noontime rolled around – more lightning, more tornado warnings on the radio, more torrential, biblical rain and more extremely gusty winds. Frankly, it was better to experience it all from the driver’s seat of the truck rather than on the saddle.
If I’d given myself more time, it wouldn’t have been an issue. I’d have holed up for a day or two somewhere near Louisville and started out again once the dangerous weather had passed by, or cut each day short when the first weather warning popped on the radio. But on this trip, that would have meant that those easy 300 +/- mile days would have to eventually turn in to 600, 700 and 800 mile days in order to get back home on time. One of the things we teach our students at TEAM OREGON is that fatigue and weather extremes are two really serious impairment factors when riding. It was bad enough driving the one very long day I did this past week – I never would have been able to do it on the bike.
And honestly, as I wrote in a post on Monday evening, after Orlando last weekend, I kind of lost the mood to ride for a bit anyway.
But, on Saturday morning, I finally saw the Columbia River Gorge again and smiled …
So I’m home. Tomorrow I head back to work and what’s going to be a very busy summer. The bike is at the repair shop, the U-Haul is back at U-Haul and I’ve just finished the last of my laundry and gotten that put away. This morning I restocked the very empty pantry and refrigerator with groceries. Not sure when or where the next long trip will be. I’ll certainly be taking regular local and regional rides around the northwest and northern California. That’s one of the terrific things about living here in Oregon – we have some of the best riding in the world located within a day or two of home. I haven’t done a California Coast ride in a while and I haven’t been back up to Vancouver Island in a while – not to mention central and eastern Oregon and Washington, Idaho and northern Nevada. I’m overdue for a brief ride to Monument Valley, the Four Corners region, Bryce, Red Rocks and other southwest locations as well.
Plenty of riding ahead. For the moment though, it’s back to work and paying off the debt from this trip… 😉
Total Mileage – 6,403 (4,064 by bike, 2,339 by truck)
Riding Days – 12
Driving Days – 4
States / Provinces visited:
- Idaho (x2)
- North Dakota
- Illinois (x2)
- Indiana (x2)
- Ohio (x2)
- West Virginia (multiple)
- Virginia (multiple)