And So It Went, Part 1: on a bike

And so, I finally get around to posting about this trip.  It was as epic as I had hoped, spanning several months, most of the country, and all of my money. Worth it.

For starters, to have a true “coast-to-coast” experience, I’d need to head to the coast. That is why I accepted a last minute invite, and caught a Lucky Dub show at Seacrets in Ocean City, MD.

Then, back to DC for the actual start of the trip.

Packed the bike,

and left.

The start of the trip was the most planned part of it, as I left DC and got on the northernmost entrance of Skyline Drive in VA.

No plans on where I was going to stop, but when it got dark I pitched my tent, cooked some ramen, and was back on the bike before it got light again.

For a few hundred miles my only plan was to stop at every overlook, but that was quickly scrapped when I encountered the most insane downpour I have ever seen.  I couldn’t see more than 20 yards ahead, and my pace slowed to a crawl, and finally a stop. I took shelter under a rest stop bathroom roof with a couple on a Goldwing who had the same idea, but were shocked to see anyone else riding in that weather.  When the rain let up a bit, I tore ass straight to Asheville, and parked my bike in a hotel for the remaining two nights of the storm.

But, I got cabin fever incredibly quickly, so I left my bags in the hotel and went for a cruise in the rain.

I ended up destroying my boots in the rain (lost a sole!), and had to get a new pair. From Asheville, I jumped on I-40 West, which would lead me directly to Barstow, CA in a few days time.  I crossed Tennessee in a single shot, and put up for the night on the other side of the state line at a KOA in Arkansas. Having never been to a KOA before, I was somewhat surprised to see so many RV’s and even an outlet next to my tent space, and took full advantage.

What I did not see (somehow) were the millions of bumblebee-sized mosquitoes who had made this spot their home. As I settled in for the night, and checked on my bike once more before sleeping, the biters found their way into my tent, lying in wait for me to let my guard down.

What ensued can be called no less than a battle for dominance. Both sides took heavy casualties, but the bugs won in the end. I didn’t stop itching for days. The inside of my tent looked like I had unleashed a blood-filled paintball gun all over it.

The bugs were the least of my problems that day. I shot through Arkansas that morning, barely slowing down for anything. However, somewhere along the line up to this point, I had lost an exhaust bolt. One of two. I was in the middle of the plains of Oklahoma when my bike sputtered and stalled,  just as it had every other time I had run out of gas. I flipped the reserve switch, and nothing happened. Coasting to a stop on the side of the highway, I checked my thermometer. 104 degrees in the open, barely less in the shade. Popped the gas cap… full tank. Fuck. It was in the ensuing frantic search of my bike for issues that I noticed the missing bolt, and giant exhaust leak.

A police officer slowed down as he drove by, but when I tried to flag him down, he sped off. Lovely.

After phone-tagging people all over the state and country trying to figure out what to do, I finally got a tow truck. Not just any tow truck, but a tow truck driven by a man who happened to know the only bike shop in town, because it was his next-door neighbor, and sure he was closed, but we loaded up my bike and headed there anyhow.

We found the trusty mechanic Larry posted up in his yard with a beer in his hand and his feet in a kiddie pool, and I was stricken with instant jealousy of the most extreme kind. He opened up the shop, marked by a decrepit sign, and we pulled my oil drain plug.

I immediately knew my bike wasn’t leaving any time soon. Here’s all the oil that came out:

Tangential story: He had an old Honda CB350 sitting in the back covered in dust, and it turns out he got two sequentially numbered CB350s as payment for a job, and ended up selling one. Check out the mileage:

Anyhow, I got a lift from the tow driver to one of the two motels in town, and put up for the night, still trying to figure out how I was going to get out of Henryetta, Oklahoma.

Eventually I was put in contact with a Mennonite preacher from Oklahoma City who volunteered to drive three hours one way to pick me up and drive me three hours back to OKC. Amazing. Along the way, he tried to find me a place to stay for the night before my flight out in the morning, and finally called another Mennonite preacher in town, and asked if he could put me up. Apparently there had been a split in the OKC Mennonite church, and this was the first time the two preachers had spoken in nearly a year. I was more than happy to be an olive branch between them.

What I was not happy about, was flying. I love flying, but this was supposed to be a fucking bike trip. I have never been as angry and frustrated as I was flying over the Rockies, knowing that I was not going to ride through them on this trip.

But, I knew that my trip had barely started, so my mood was easily reversed upon reaching my crash spot for the next few days, a friendly couch in Santa Monica.

To be continued…

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~ by horizonmanifest on January 2012.

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