New X-Country Ride page…

I have added a new page that shares the highlights of my cross-country ride from this summer here:

Update from Sandpoint, ID

Got a late start this morning after it took almost a half hour wait to get my order of breakfast at Catalyst Espresso where I had eaten at yesterday. They were nice about it though and didn’t charge me so I couldn’t be too upset.

I managed to get out on the road at 10:30AM which I didn’t mind very much because I didn’t have very far to go today – just north 200 miles to Sandpoint, ID.

I got on 93N instead of I90W and within 15 miles, I wished I hadn’t as I ploughed straight into a heavy construction zone. I had reminiscences of Alaska as we followed a pace car through about 10 miles of the worst bits. There was plenty of non-pavement, gravel and some muddy sections. It wasn’t too bad though and could keep a good pace through it all. When it was finally over, I pulled over into a vacant parking lot to unpack my tailbag and bring out my fleece lined winter gloves.

It hadn’t been to cold when I got out of the hotel but now it as freezing. It had started to rain as soon as I had left Missoula. I plugged in my heated vest and put on the gloves. For some reason the gloves kept feeling bulky and clumsy and I didn’t very much like wearing them even though I’ve worn them in the past without any problem.

I rode about 50 more miles before swapping them back with my Helds. My vest was keeping my core warm enough that I didn’t mind my hands getting a bit cold.

By this time I was on MT-200 and about 110 miles from Sandpoint. I figured I’d break it up into two parts and stop once along the way for lunch. The route turned out to mostly connect multiple fishing towns though and I didn’t see any interesting places to stop at. When I saw that I was only about 30 miles away from my destination, I decided to keep going even though it was getting past lunchtime and I could feel a bad headache coming on.

I made it to Sandpoint by 3 and stopped in the downtown area to get lunch – a blackened catfish po’ boy sandwich with a creamy broccoli soup and some decaf cappuchino.

I spent a good part of an hour agonizing over whether I should stop there for the night as I had planned or keep going. After having taken a day off from riding I wanted to keep going and not just stop. The 200 miles seemed like a teaser and I needed more. Also, if I stopped there, it would bring me to Seattle on Monday morning whereas if I kept going I might be able to make it there on Sunday night.

On the other hand, I had agreed to meet up with Jake in Sandpoint and there was no way he could catch up with me if I went another 150 miles further. I had my doubts whether he would catch up with me anyway seeing as he was in Big Timber, MT that morning and headed up to Glacier before turning west to Idaho, but it was the principle of the thing. I also didn’t want to rush through the last two day of my ride and see nothing but interstate. I’ve ridden through almost all of Washington except for the northeast part and now was an excellent chance to see it.

It was a really hard decision to make. Seattle was so close by I could almost smell the coffee. If I just got on I90 and kept going for 6 hours, I could make it home by midnight, see my cat again and spend Sunday with my boyfriend. Of course I knew that he would never let me live it down if I did this and besides it would go against the spirit of this ride, so with a heavy heart I decided to stick to plan and find a place to spend the night.

I was starting to feel really tired too so it seemed like the best thing to do even though I wasn’t happy about it.

After Missoula I got a sticker shock when I started calling around to find a place to stay. This being a resort town nothing was under $150. I finally found a Motel 6 for $57 although it was 2.5 miles away from downtown. When I got there they gave me a room for $45 because the airconditioning was broken, which I didn’t mind at all. Score!

It was also one of the nicest Motel 6 locations I have stayed at. I flopped down on the bed and slept for 2 straight hours.

When I woke up, it was about 6:30PM – I had crossed back over into Pacific Standard Time. I got on the bike and started towards downtown. To my disappointment, everything was closed and the place was a ghost town. I managed to find a cool 1920s mobster themed tapas bar that also served sushi. I got some very good decaf french press coffee and gyoza and a Black Widow roll.

After dinner, I rode back to the motel, stopping on the way to get gas. I pondered over what else to do but there weren’t very many options. Everything was closed except for the nightclubs. I could go to one of those but I wouldn’t be able to drink because I had to ride back. There was a big music festival in the park but it was outdoors and cold and rainy, not to mention sold out.

My evening appeared to have come to an abrupt end and I’m pretty sure that I’ll get the hell out of here tomorrow morning and start heading home.

Day 2 in Missoula, MT

Missoula has proven just the kind of town I have wanted to stop at to take my rest day. It is small, artistic and dwarfed by mountains on all sides. There are coffee shops and art galleries on every block in downtown. And the one thing I cannot get over is how friendly everyone is – I have barely passed a person who hasn’t smiled and said hello.

After breakfast this morning, I went back to the inn and lay in bed for a little bit. I couldn’t fall asleep though, so I took a shower, put on some clean clothes and went walking downtown. South of where the inn is lies a bridge that you can cross over and get to the “Hip Strip”. There were some cool little shops there, little boutiques and cool restaurants. I spent a lot of time in this one toy store that had the most delightful toys like I have never seen. They actually had an action figure of Enid from Ghost World, which made me very happy. I was right in guessing that the store was owned by a woman because there were a lot of cool toys for girls which weren’t pink.

I ate lunch at an Asian restaurant that had a really nice interior. There were some Japanese style tables and seating in the inner room, but I picked a booth instead. I got jasmine tea and a bento box that had grilled chicken with miso paste, brown rice, a spring salad, a salad made with cucumber slices and sprouts and some ripe cherries. It was delicious! I resolved to make my own bento box lunches when I got back to Seattle. :)

I strolled through the shops some more and bought a silver tunic like coat which will look excellent with black leggings and boots, a bottle of purple Butter nailpolish and some sterling silver heart shaped earrings.

I put the earrings on in the shop and as I walked outside I realized that I hadn’t worn earrings for almost a year. The last time I had earrings on was when I had been brought in to the hospital in Seattle last year and they had taken all my piercings out before the surgery. When I went home, they gave me a sealed pill box with the jewelry in it which I had tossed into the back of drawer. I’d occsasionally look at them with mixed feelings of quiet anger and bitterness. For some reason that I cannot put in words, I had never put them back in nor did I buy earrings to replace the ones that had been taken out. Putting on pretty heart shaped earrings today felt like a small victory, like maybe it was time to move on. I don’t know if I’ll get the other piercings done again. I don’t know if I am that person anymore.

I spent the next couple of hours wandering through the museum and little art shops. The Missoula Art Museum had some interesting pieces, as did some of the local artists.

I am now slouched on a big brown leather couch in a coffee shop called Liquid Planet, which in addition to coffee, sells all kinds of liquid beverages like tea, beer, root beer and wine. I even saw an entire display of mead. I felt tempted to buy some and ship it home, but I think I will just wait until I get to Seattle and find a local supplier for the sake of my pocketbook.

I talked to Jake when I woke up this morning and apparently he climbed Devil’s Tower successfully (good for him!) and was heading west. Apparently my strong feelings about Yellowstone resonated with him because he decided against going that way and is heading north towards Glacier NP instead. We are planning on meeting in Sandpoint, ID tommorrow night, from where we will ride to Seattle together. I hadn’t quite planned on riding with anybody on this ride, but I think I am quite happy to ride with him on the very last stretch of my ride through washington. If I were by myself, I’d probably be tempted to take the shortest path home, but with him I might just meander and take the nicer roads.

That’s all for now. I have some rather cool dinner plans. When I came down to the front desk to extend my stay by a night this morning, the guy who worked there turned out to be Indian and he asked me if I’d to join him and his wife and another family for a special dinner they were cooking to celebrate Janmasthami, an Indian festival to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birth. I’ve never done anything special for this holiday before but the thought of good, homecooked Indian food was tempting. He even said that he could bring some food over for me if I didn’t feel comfortable joining them. I was touched at this gesture and gratefully accepted and said that I’d be happy to come eat with them. So off I go to dinner now! :)

Update from Missoula, MT…

Woke up at the abyssmal hour of 5AM this morning when my alarm went off at 6AM Central Time. You would think I would be entitled to sleep in every time I change a time zone, but noooo…

Anyway, I did turn the alarm off and roll over and wake up two hours later. I was still really tired and worn out though. Got breakfast at a shop around the corner and scarfed down some eggs, sausages and toast, the last made with white bread which I haven’t tasted in years.

Got out on the road at 9:30AM today, still feeling tired and groggy but just wanting to make it to Missoula, a whopping 300 miles away. Into the first 10 miles of the ride, I think I was in Alpine heaven as I went through the Galladin National Forest. I was immersed in a landscape that for the first time on this ride reminded me of the vast splendour of Alaska. Huge mountains, frothing rivers, little idyllic lakes, big blue sky and white puffy clouds with the sun shining down through the cold, crisp air. This here was a slice of heaven and unlike anything I had imagined I would see in Montana. I couldn’t stop pulling over to take pictures. One lake in particular was arrestingly striking in that it had thin spiny trees growing right out of it. It was like nothing I had seen before. I couldn’t stop grinning with disbelief as I each corner revealed another new landscape.

Forty glorious miles later, the forest came to an end and I descended into a flat plateau of more desert which continued for another hundred miles. I think that by this time I had had just about enough of the big sky and longed for a break in the scenery. The forest and mountains I had passed through seemed like a distant memory. It was getting hot and dry and arid again and I could feel myself tiring. My bike wasn’t handling that well either and I felt like I had to really work hard to accelerate and maintain a good pace. The wind was back too, whipping my helmet around and making me feel like I was fighting the road, just trying to get through.

There were occassional breaks with unusual colored mountains in the distance, but these were few and far between. At one such spot, I thought of pulling over to get a good picture, and as I slowed down on the side of the road, I felt the bike wash out from under me in some loose gravel and down I went, this time with the bike on me and myleft leg trapped underneath it. That made TWICE in as many days. I was not amused as I lay there fuming and trying to get out from under it. It had fallen good and proper this time, with the rear wheel sticking up in the air as it rested on the right saddlebag.

A truck that had been following me and had passed me as I had slowed down pulled over and the driver came over to help. He managed to get the bike off of my leg, but we were unable to get the it off the ground and upright. We flagged down another car and with the help of that driver managed to get it upright. It started right up and there seemed to be no damage. For some reason, both the convex mirrors that I had stuck on my main mirrors had fallen off and the right mirror was tweaked out of shape which I straightened. I felt okay too except for a spot on my left leg that felt like it was going to have a beauty of a bruise on it soon and my left hand and right shoulder felt a bit sore. Nothing serious though and I pushed on.

I didn’t feel too bad about the incident. These things happen and that gravel was most unexpected. Added on top of my already weary feeling though, that’s when I decided that I was heading straight home now
with no detours.

After this I got on I90 for a little bit and stopped briefly for lunch at a McDonalds. The prices this time were normal – they actually doubled their prices at the location in Yellowstone (can they do that?). I ate my sandwich and ignored the fries and then just lay with my head on the table feeling weary and worn out and wanting to curl up in a cosy bed more than anything else in the world.

After that bout of patheticness, I scrutinized a map and decided to take a little detour to the towns of Philipsburg and Drummond just to avoid I90. When I got on it, I saw a sign that proclaimed it to be a Scenic Route, which made me happy. For all of 10 minutes.

I hadn’t thought to check the weather before I left because I rode right into the eye of a thunderstorm. The road itself was pretty and winding and had some great views but about 20 miles in I started shivering with cold as the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and big angry clouds gathered in the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. It was too late to turn around. I made it to Philipsburg, stopped at a gas station and took out my liners from my dry bag to zip them into my suit. A trucker who was passing by said that the worst was over because it had hailed there a few minutes ago. I doubted it though and just wanted to make it to Drummond safely.

As soon as I hit the road, I saw lightning fill up the sky and I fervently hoped that I wouldn’t be a target. It would have satisfied my need for the dramatic, but it would be a rather ignominous way to go. Rain started pouring down and pretty soon I was unable to see very much except a beautiful, blurred landscape. Situations like this seem to bring something out in me though because I rode like my tail was on fire, bike not handling well be damned. It was a mere 25 miles to Drummond and I must have made it in 15 minutes.

I have often heard my friends from the south long for the thunderstorms they had grown up with and thought them quite mad, but now I know fully exactly what it was that they missed and empathize.

In spite of the tension and the need to get to shelter and find warmth and safety, I couldn’t help but marvel at the gloriousness of the country and how much more spectacular it looked in inclement weather. While on a normal day, you might pass through it without comment, when the storm was raging down, the pastoral idyllicness of the country demanded that you took notice and appreciate the splendour of nature at its most raw and primal form. Tired as I had been for most of the day, I should have been full of frustration at having to deal with the weather on top of everything else. Instead, I couldn’t stop smiling and biting my lip in glee as I sliced through the roads full of marvel and gratitude at being privileged to have experienced this. I felt vulnerable and powerful at the same time. Vulnerable in that the storm could chew me up and spew me across the landscape at any time, and powerful in that my human made machine allowed me to laugh at the danger and go my way secure in the thought that the weather posed no real tangible threat as long as I kept my wits about me. How powerful nature is and how equally powerful us humans are with our strange and myriad technological creations!

At Drummond I stopped at a gas station and went inside to get a coffee. The rain had decreased now and I thought of just waiting it out. It was another 50 miles to Missoula and I felt tempted to just keep going but I decided to be prudent instead.

As I sipped my coffee, my eyes wandered across the gas pumps to the other side of the street where stood a Used Cow Lot with a cow head mounted on the gate. I decided that this was too David Lynch even for me and knew that I had to get back on the road soon.

I checked Weather Underground on my phone and the radar map and a weather advisory revealed my folly of riding into the bad weather, a little too late. I would be fine as soon as I headed a little northwest though.

The rain subsided shortly as I had guessed it would and I set off again on I90. As far as freeways go, this part of the ride was not dreary at all and went through some rather scenic territory. I was once again riding like a madman and made it to Missoula in record time.

I pulled over and started consulting my GPS to find the closest coffeeshop when a guy that worked in the garage next to where I was, walked over and asked me what I was looking for. He told me where the downtown area was and to find the Days Inn close it it which would have covered parking for my bike. I asked him if he was a biker too and he confirmed it. What a nice way to get into a city. The way people treat outsiders really does a lot to make or break its image. I was happy to have had a good first encounter with someone. He had guided me well because the inn really was walking distance to the downtown area.

The lady at the inn was also remarkably friendly and gave me a killer rate for the room because I was a biker. Again with the niceness! This feeling of being welcomed and wanted would continue through my stay in
Missoula as I encountered nothing but cheerful smiles and nods from perfect strangers wherever I went.

I parked, unpacked and walked into downtown to find food. I was a little intrigued to find that all the coffeeshops closed at 4PM and I wondered if there was some kind of curfew that I didn’t know about. Perhaps vampires roamed the town after it got dark or something. I also saw a lot of vagrants and curiously enough they all had dogs. Curiouser and curiouser, one might say.

I ended up at a sushi bar called Sushi Hana, making me nostalgic for Hana Sushi on Capitol Hill. :) It was delightful to find some real food after day upon unending day of eating sandwiches or burgers for lunch and dinner. I polished off a dish of sauteed calamari and a Punk Rocker roll – eel, tuna and crab – which didn’t taste like any punk rocker I’ve known. Ha! All washed down with some plum sake and I was a happy camper.

Back to the hotel for a long talk with my sweetie whom I miss more than ever, and then some blissful sleep.

I woke up the next morning, felt the exhaustion in my bones and knew that I wasn’t riding anywhere today. I staggered out of bed when I felt able to, asked the hotel manager to extend my stay by another night, then wandered around looking for breakfast. I managed to walk all the way down the street for 6 blocks and back before finally finding a place that served breakfast – almost across the street from the inn. *sigh*

Breakfast was coffee – my first morning coffee in weeks since it dehydrates me and I don’t drink it in the days when I’m riding – and a three egg omelette with spinach, mushrooms and sausage, and a potato casserole and toast. They didn’t have wireless internet, so I read my book instead – “The Devil and Miss Prym” by Paulo Coelho which is a very rivetting read so far. I’ve wanted a relaxing morning like this for a long time and I was surprised that I wasn’t in the least bit guilty about not getting on the road at the crack of dawn to add on the miles. I’m close enough to home now that I don’t feel the pressure to just keep going anymore and am fnally able to relax and ramble again.

Back at the inn now. I climbed straight into bed and am probably going to try and take another nap. I feel like I could use one even though I just woke up a few hours ago. Then I’ll go get lunch and wander the streets to see what Missoula has to offer. It’s certainly a town with character and one that I’m going to enjoy exploring.

C’est la vie?

Might have helped a bit if I had checked this before taking a detour via the scenic route:

… Significant weather advisory for southern Powell… southeastern Granite… Deer Lodge and northern Silver Bow counties until 445 PM MDT…

At 402 PM MDT… National Weather Service Doppler radar was tracking a strong thunderstorm 16 miles southwest of West Valley… or 18 miles southwest of Anaconda… moving northeast at 20 mph.

Hail up to one-half inch in diameter is expected with this storm.

Locations near the path of this storm include… Anaconda… WestValley… Warm Springs… Galen… Georgetown… Lost Creek… opportunity and racetrack.

Precautionary/preparedness actions…

If threatening weather approaches your area… go indoors and stay away from windows. If you are caught outside… move to a well protected area.

Quick update from West Yellowstone…

Woke up feeling tired and worn out. If a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix it, I really do think I need a rest day. I got to a cafe down the road and saw that the time was 8:30AM rather than 9:30AM as I had assumed, and realized that I was now in Mountain Time. I could have slept in!

Ah well, time to keep pushing. Today I head towards Missoula. I’ll try to take mostly backroads and some highways as per usual. Still trying to figure out if my rest day will be in Missoula or elsewhere, but it needs to be soon.

Update from West Yellowstone, MT

I am tired and bleary eyed. I should probably have taken off my contacts before I left the motel to go find coffee and dinner, but I didn’t think of it.

Today has been quite some day. I woke up in Ten Sleep, got breakfast at the Crazy Woman Cafe and headed out. My plan was to ride the 200 something miles to Yellowstone National Park, find a place to stay, unload all my luggage, rest a bit and then go do the loop around the park. The day turned out very differently from what I had planned though.

First off, I am glad I decided to stop at Ten Sleep because heading west, there was nothing but desert. I made good time until I pulled over at a view point to look at some unusual colored rocks in the distance. Unfortunately it was full of loose gravel and when I braked to stop, I felt the bike slip away from me and fall on its side. I cursed and got off, took my gear off and tried to heave it up. No luck. I took all the luggage off and tried again. It came up about 6 inches off the ground before slipping downhill on the gravel. This wasn’t looking good. The sun was beating down and I was getting tired and hot. I hadn’t seen a soul on the road for the past half hour and I
could see miles of emptiness in front of me. I had no cellphone reception either. I envisioned a long, thirsty wait before someone came by.

Thankfully, after about 15 minutes of waiting, I heard a car far off in the distance and ran out into the road and waved like a creature possessed. The car slowed down and the couple inside it got out and helped me pick the bike up. It wouldn’t start because the carbs had probably gotten flooded. I waited for a few minutes and tried again, hoping the gas had evaporated, and it started this time. I was soon on my way although feeling extremely stupid about the incident. Of course, I had anticipated that something like this would happen sooner or later, and it was a good thing that both the bike and I were unscathed, but it really diminished my feeling of self-sufficiency and independence. I thought of how Lois Pryce picked an XT225 for her journey across the Americas even though it was a small, slow bike without much power for the sole reason that she could pick it up if
she dropped it. There was much wisdom in that but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to do the trade off on power and comfort for a long ride like she did.

My bike hadn’t been handling very well and I was getting a bit concerned about my rear tire being worn down. The shop that did my pre-ride service had said that I had about 8000 miles on it left, and I had done maybe 4000-5000 miles so far, but I didn’t want to cut it too close. I found a Suzuki motorcycle shop in Cody and asked the guys there what they thought of the tire. The tread was still visible but it was badly squared off. One of them said that I should be able to do the 1500 miles I needed to get home, while the other one said that I had only about 100-500 miles left on it. Hmmm… I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and asked them if they had a tire that would work and if they could replace it. They didn’t have the right size tire. I needed a 160, but they had a 170 which they said would work and even handle better because it was wider. The tire was a bit
expensive at $217, but the labor was only $60/hr. I decided to do it and, left the bike with them and walked down the street to get lunch.

As I walked to the diner, I called Jake to see if he had found a place to replace his tire and recommend this place to him and found out that co-incidentally his tire was getting replaced that very minute at a place he had found in Sturgis. :)

When I got back from lunch, the bike was ready and done and waiting outside the shop for me. Just like that! Earlier in the day I had envisioned a nightmarish scenario of hunting down a shop with the tire worn to the cords, being told that they needed to order one, waiting for an appointment, and all kinds of delays that would be typical in a Seattle shop. Instead, it was all done while I ate lunch! I was delighted and grateful that it had been so quick and painless.

On to Yellowstone! I was excited about finally hitting mountains and getting cool. About 20 miles within the east entrance though, it started getting really windy, something I have real issues with while riding and I slowed down. Pretty soon I started feeling really tired and harassed what with dealing with the cross winds that whipped my helmet around and made the front tire wobble. I don’t know if this is the aftermath of the crash in Alaska on a terribly windy day, but my brain and body seems to go into panic mode whenever I encounter winds while out riding.

I got into Yellowstone and showed the ranger my annual pass. It’s a good thing I bought it after all because the entry fee for motorcycles was $20 and I’ve paid well over $45 in total at various National Parks so far. Here I  found out that all lodgings and campsites were completely booked up. So much for my well laid plans. I kicked myself for not calling ahead and making reservations. I decided to ride west through the park and see Old Faithful, then head north through Mammoth Springs, out the park and to some small town to find lodgings.

It was already 4:00PM though and I was starting to get very tired. The distances in the loop didn’t look too long so I decided to go ride them. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. While the distances between each major stop were small, traffic crawled along at 30mph in 45mph zones with people acting like they were on a safari and acting excited and coming to a complete stop at the sight of a bison or elk. My brain all but exploded as I stood there sweltering in the heat. Not to mention, I’ve always found it completely distasteful to see humans standing and gawking at animals, whether in a zoo or in a park.

Old Faithful was yet another disappointment. After nearly 60 miles of crawling in traffic, I expected something just a little bit more spectacular. What was more fascinating than the geyser were the crowds of hundreds of people standing around and gaping, no doubt people who had spent a lot of time and money to get to see it. I said as much to the girl who sold me ice cream at the lodge and she said that it was probably a sociologist’s dream or their worst nightmare.

While stopped there, I made some calls to motels around the place. Most of them were completely booked for the night, but I got lucky and found a place in West Yellowstone for $68. All I had to do was head north to Madison and then to the west entrance of the park. Of course, it took me nearly an hour to get what would have been a 20 minute ride in the absence of traffic. The wind was back too which made the stretches where I could go fast not very much fun. :|

I guess I got Yellowstone completely wrong. I’m sure it’s the kind of place that is incredible to see if you got off the beaten path into the back country and went to where the tourists didn’t. I did see some cool vistas and rivers and lakes from the road, but the experience was completely ruined by the crowds of tourists milling all over. Also, I must be spoiled by my experience in Alaska last year, but it takes a lot to come even close to what I saw out there.

Maybe someday I’ll return to Yellowstone and do it the right way – whatever the right way might be, but riding through it on a motorcycle in full protective gear is definitely not it.

Tonight I spend the night in the town of West Yellowstone – mostly an outpost that thrives on tourist dollars. Tomorrow I have the choice to either head back into the park and go north through the Mammoth springs, or bypass it completely and take highways to Missoula. I’ll decide tomorrow but I rather think I will pick the latter.

In other news, I am in MONTANA!

Getting to Minneapolis…

I left Rhinelander early Saturday morning and got on the road to Minneapolis, thinking of getting on the freeway and doing the 200 or so miles in a couple of hours so I could have the entire day to explore the city. After about 15 miles of riding on the freeway though, I realized that I was no longer interested in doing the freeway slab even if it saved me time. I got off at the nearest exit and onto a county road. I set my GPS to avoid freeways so that it routed me through smaller backroads.

I spent the rest of the morning riding some beautiful Wisconsin backroads that wound through remote farmlands. It was easy to see why Wisconsin is called “America’s dairyland”. County roads in Wisconsin are named by letters of the alphabet, which seems confusing but perhaps it is less so if you lived there.

I rode three brilliant hours of riding through the backroads before I started feeling impatient and wanting to get back on track to Minneapolis. Since I thought that I had been heading west most of the time, I figured I was pretty close anyway, but I was surprised to see that I was almost 120 miles away! I guess my ramblings must have added about a hundred extra miles to the route. Ah well, no regrets. I needed those roads after the really dull stretches on 2 and 8 the previous day.

This time I got on I-94 and made it to Minneapolis in one shot. As expected, the freeway slabbing was boring, but at least it got me there. (And yes, I did think of you when I crossed the Mississipi, you now who you are). :P

Rolled into Minneapolis to Stephen’s place who was waiting for me with his girlfriend Ruth. They proceeded to spoil me rotten for the rest of the day. :) We had some locally made root beer (I forget the brand) and then drove to get lunch. The streets in the neighborhood we stopped in reminded me a lot of Seattle and Portland, which made me very happy. Here’s a city that I might consider living in if I were ever forced to move to the mid-West.

We spent the afternoon checking out the sculpture park (took a picture with the cherry and spoon), the Basilica and a local arts fair. It had gotten extremely humid, even more than any of the east coast cities had been, which I find makes me really tired and hungry. I had a wonderful time though and there was never a dull moment. :)

Dinner was at Noodles & Company, after which we went back to Stephen’s place to do an oil change on the SV – my first ever! I felt very proud and accomplished when we were done. ;) The chain on the bike felt fine and didn’t look like it needed adjusting, so I just lubed it and left it at that. The tires are beginning to look a little squared off, which worries me, but I think I’ll be able to make it to Seattle on them.

I had intended to get to bed early to be able to wake up early and take off, but we ended up talking late into the night. I finally climbed into bed (a very comfy one!) around 1AM.

Photos from Michigan posted…

Click here:

Update from Rhinelander, WI

Woke up to the sun shining into my tent and my shoulders freezing as I tried crawling out of my sleeping bag. Brrr… it was a cold morning. My first reaction was to crawl back in and sleep for two more hours, especially as I’d had trouble falling asleep the previous night, but I forced myself to get up so I could get an early start.

I ate a banana and some strawberries as I broke down camp. There was no dew on the tent this time, but the ground tarp was coated in mud. *sigh*

I was out of there and on the road at 8:30AM. I’ve been feeling a lot better over the past couple of days, except that I still feel sick when I wake up and stay that way until lunchtime. :|

Anyway, the plan for today was to just keep going for as long as I could. I knew I couldn’t realistically make Minneapolis tonight as it was almost 400+ miles away. I would mostly be on Hwy 2 and Hwy 8 today. Hwy 2 going west had quite a bit of construction going on with more than two miles of grooved pavement (no “motorcycles use extreme caution” warning) and a detour for a few miles.

I made it to Manistique by 10:00AM. It turned out to be a no-name town with nothing much to see. I had breakfast at a Burger King with a couple of Harley riders from Chicago who were doing the loop around Lake Michigan.

90 more miles and I was in Norway, MI where I stopped for lunch. There was a slight misunderstanding with the server and I ended up getting a plateful of deep fried fish. Yuk.

When I walked out of the deli, I saw two bikes parked next to mine and the riders standing next to them. I was amazed to see that one of the bikes was an exact replica of mine except much newer. In the past 3 years of owning my bike I have never seen another curvy red naked SV, so I was pretty delighted to see another one. Co-incidentally, the other bike was a V-star 250 – my first bike was a Virago 250 which was an earlier version of this bike. We chatted for a little while before exchanging contact info and then I was on my way again.

The ride along Hwy 8 was long and monotonous. I made it as far as Rhinelander, a town I decided to stop at purely because I liked the name. :P I searched for a coffee shop and found a really nice one. Yay! I thought I’d stop and get a coffee and rest before I rode another 50-60 miles. But when I got online, I saw that they predicted thunderstorms all along that way. I had no desire to get caught out in one just to make time, so I decided to get a motel for the night and ride the 200 something miles to Minneapolis the next day.

I got a room at the Best Western, relieved to be able to shower after two days of camping. Later in the evening, I walked out to explore the downtown which took almost five minutes. Apparently folks here retire early.

I probably should do that too. I am in a different time zone now, so even though it says 10:30PM, my body thinks it is 11:30. *yawn*

Update from St. Ignace

Had a late start this morning. I expected that I’d get up at 7ish as usual, but woke up at 8:30AM. Took me a while to break down camp. My tent was soaking wet with dew. I didn’t have the time to let it dry so I just packed it up the way it was.

I took some time to sort out and set aside a bunch of things that I wanted to ship back home as I wasn’t using them at all.

Someone had vandalized the bathrooms in the night (WTF?) so I couldn’t brush my teeth or anything. Ugh…

I set off for the closest town Arcadia to find a gas station to freshen up and a post office to mail my packages back to Seattle. That done, I hit route M22 that Andy had recommended so highly.

It did no fail to deliver and I had a blast. After almost week of nothing but interstates, this gorgeous twisty route that wound by the waters of Lake Michigan through scores of little towns was a brilliant motorcycling road.

I wanted to ride up to where M22N ended and stop for lunch before heading back south. About 10 miles before though, after I had passed yet another aggravating slow car, I came over the crest of a hill to see a police car parked to the left. I tried to slow down but it was too late. He did a u turn behind me with his lights blazing. My heart sank as I pulled over, remembering my last encounter with the police in Alaska. I took my helmet off and got off the bike and waited for him to come over.

Surprisingly enough he didn’t do the Smug Policeman Walk. Indeed he was grinning pleasantly and even wished me a good morning. And as far as sheriffs go, he was quite easy on the eyes. :P I felt a faint gleam  of hope. He asked me for my license and registration, the first of which I produced before looking in dismay at my rear seat and realizing that I would have to unload everything to get at the registration. I was relieved when he said not to bother and just took the license and went back to his car.

He came back a few minutes later and asked me if I knew why I had been stopped.

“I was doing 66, wasn’t I?”

“I clocked you at 69 in a 55, but I’m going to let you off with a warning. Sorry it’s probably not fun on a motorcycle but try to keep the speed down.”

YES! :P I had seen it coming but was relieved to have it confrmed. It didn’t hurt that he was super nice about it too. :)

I *was* careful after this and kept it legal for the next 100 miles or so. (Not 3 miles after this incident, I totally blew a turn and went into the oncoming lane, something I have never done even when I was a rookie and that I used to sneer at when I heard of n00bs doing it. I must have been distracted. Or possibly very hungry and tired.)

At Northport, I pulled up at the beach, got a gyro and went to a park to lay down and eat and look at the water.

After lunch, I refueled and headed south on M22 and then north on 31. The traffic was hell after Traverse City and at Petroskey.

At least 2 people had told me to do 119 so I turned onto it reluctantly. I really just wanted to keep going and make time because it was almost 5:30PM by now. After about 5 miles of riding in very bad traffic, I decided to turn around and get back on 31. I stoppedat a picturesque looking town for a capucchino with chocolate chips kid sized ice cream first though. :)

I thought I’d retrace my route back to 31 but my GPS routed me to some brilliant roads to the bridge – one of them was Pleasantview Rd. Which was a motorcycling dream come true. It was long and narrow and completely remote with occasional farms and barns on the way. Next to the roads in Vermont, this was my favorite little backroad on this entire ride and I found it quite by accident!

Pretty soon I was at the 5 mile long suspension bridge that separates Michigan from the Upper Peninsula. It was a little bit windy and traffic was slow, but a pretty easy crossing. There was a $3 toll at the end of it.

By this time I had a really bad headache and I was really tired and hungry, so I decided to call it a day and find a campground. I had been dreaming all day of finding a beautiful campsite on the lake like the one on Lake Champlain in New York and I pulled in at the Straits SP with high expectations.

They only had 3 spots left which were $26! I had no energy left by now so I took one. After he had charged my card he said that I needeed an $8 permit to go into the park in addition to the campsite fee. $34 for a shitty little spot in a crowded state park! It was too late to change my mind but I was really pissed off by now. For a little more money I could have found a cheap motel room and not have to deal with setting up and breaking down camp. To make things worse, there was no beach, just a little path swarming with insects that led to the lake with a view of the bridge.

I guess not everything works out just as one imagines. I had built this up too much in my head.

I set up camp, rode to McDonalds (yuk!), got some food, ate and turned in early. I hope to wake up early and get the hell out of here.

I want to make it to Minneapolis tomorrow but it is a long way off. I only got in 200 or so miles today, so I’m guessing I’ll be stopping somewhere in Wisconsin tomorrow night.

I also realize that I have ridden a litte over 2000 miles so far. Whee!

Update from Lake Michigan …

Woke up early this morning, almost at 7 AM in spite of falling asleep very late. Felt well and truly sick but forced myself to pack up and load the bike. Fortunately Katherine’s boyfriend was up too and he drove us to a diner to get breakfast. I got pancakes as I have been doing for most every breakfast (I am out of control!) with eggs and sausages. No coffee as I never drink coffee before a ride. Coffee is usually my reward at th end of a long ride instead.

Was ready to hit the road about 8:30ish. Said bye to Katherine, who seemed to have fallen sick too. :( I had a horrified vision of me riding across America spreading my germ to al who crossed my path.

Got out onto 23N and 96W. I really didn’t care to ride slab yet again, but apparently there weren’t very many cool backroads on this route anyway.

As with yesterday, the sick feeling started to fade away after the first 20 miles or so. It was quite cool out – a welcome relief from the incessant heat of the previous day. The ride was boring but quick. I tried to stop every 50 miles this time to guard against fatigue.

I was headed to Fruitport, close to Grand Rapids, to meet Andy, Sterling’s cousin who was back home. I made it there by noon, got off the bike and gave him a big hug. I was so delighted to see him again. :)

He took me out to lunch and then drove me around the town and then over to Grand Haven and pointed out all the places they used to hang out at when they were younger. I couldn’t stp grinning the entire time and took lots of photos to bring home to Seattle. The entire situation semed so surreal – here I was in Michigan hanging out with Andy getting a glimpse of their lives from days past. This wasn’t something I had planned for this ride but I feel happy and privileged to have experienced it.

Andy also had a lot of input on my ride to te Upper Peninsula, possibly one of his favorite places in the world. I had already decided that I wasn’t taking the $140 ferry to Milwaukee from Muscagon but was heading north and over instead. I was craving the water and greenery after all the freeway slabbing of the past few days.

I left Fruitport at around 3PM, sad to say goodbye so soon. Part of me wanted to just stay there sprawled on their lawn by the lake, but I wanted to cover some more ground, so I declined their offer to stay the night and left

Photo Update…

The photos so far:

Vermont and New Hampshire –
Canada (Montreal) –
Maine –
Massachusetts (Boston) –
New Jersey –
New York –
Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) –
Pennsylvania and Maryland –
Ohio –


I feel sick. I don’t know if it is just a combination of stress, dehydration and exhaustion from 400 miles of hard, boring riding yesterday or if I am coming down with something, but I don’t feel well enough to walk today, let alone ride.

I do hope I feel better by tomorrow so I can move on. :(

I’m in Columbus, OH!

I made a marathon effort and rode from Gettysburg, PA to Columbus, OH going through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio in 400 miles. I also went through a bad rainstorm where I got totally drenched.  Then proceeded to dry out completely in the next 200 miles. The traffic at least kept moving and I could keep going a steady 70-70mph to make time. My Zumo 550 chose this moment to freeze up on me, adding another dimension to my stress level. I did a hard reboot by taking out the battery after which it worked, but it happened again. This worries me and I wonder how much of a recurring issue it is going to be for the rest of the ride. Riding slab for 200+ miles without music was not pleasant, and I still have the Great Plains to go through. :|,+PA&daddr=hagerstown,+MD+to:Cumberland,+MD+to:Wheeling,+WV+to:Columbus,+OH&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&sll=39.88423,-78.96725&sspn=2.183258,4.603271&ie=UTF8&z=6

I didn’t realize how far I was riding and no wonder I feel so exhausted today. The thought of getting back on the bike and riding the freeway again is not very appealing. :| I have to make it to Ypsilanti, Michigan today which is about half the distance I rode today.


I spend a total of three nights in Philadelphia, the longest than at any place, and certainly much longer than I had expected. Here is how it came about.

I left New Jersey early Monday morning. Felicia and Justin needed to leave for Maine and I didn’t have a place to spend the night. I guess I could have gotten a motel, but there had been a really bad thunderstorm the previous night – bad enough that they were thinking of classifying it as a tornado – and more rains were predicted for the next day. My enthusiasm for braving a new city in this dismal weatherI waned considerably. Seeing that Philadelphia was a mere 80 miles away, I decided to ride down to see my friend Janie.

while I have mostly been on freeways after getting off of the coast of Maine, the ride down the New Jersey turnpike towards Philly was a horror unto itself. Before I left, Felicia had mentioned that the section of highway for cars and trucks was sometimes less crowded than the one for cars only. This stuck in my mind and when they hghway forked two ways, I got onto the section for trucks.

I’m not sure if it was less crowded than the cars only section, but I do know that this highway is a Bad. Idea. for motorcyclists. I spend the entire time trying not to breathe the noxious fumes the trucks belched out and trying to overtake the various trucks and semis. I can honestly say that not in all my life have I seen so many semis on the road at the same time, nor passed so many in the space of an hour. Passing one semi going 70mph is harrowing in itself, doing it repeatedly got very tiresome very quickly, and I was relieved when the highways merged again.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, except for the One. Asshole. Truck. who passed me at 75mph and I could see him trying to weave through traffic in the distance. He got stuck in some traffic eventually and I was able to pass him on the left. I was just getting off at my exit when he passed me again, even though he wasn’t getting off, as if just to prove a point. I pondered flipping him off, but considering that I was only as big as one of his tires, it didn’t seem like a good idea.

I made it to Drexel Hill before noon and spend the afernoon talking to Janie and getting caught up. I think we were meeting after almost 2 years and there was so much to talk about. I adored her two dogs who were delightful and well behaved.

She took me for a drive around the city but for some reason I was completely exhausted. It could have been just the stress of being in so many cities, riding on just interstates for most of the previous week, or just the terrible heat and humidity. My right eye also felt very irritable and I couldn’t stop rubbing it. I got some eye drops for it which helped a lot. It was all I could do to eat something and go to bed that night.

The next day, I spend most of the morning in bed sleeping in, then went to do some touristy things later afternoon. (Strike the Liberty Bell off the list).

While we were walking around, Janie suggested that I take the Bolt Bus up to NYC the next day. I was really regretting not being able to see the city after I had come so close, so this suggestion was quite appealing.

As I noted in other blog posts, I did just that and I’m glad I got the chance to see New York.

First impressions…

The bus reached New York at 8:36AM practically on schedule, which amazes me. I tried to sleep but was unable to. In the last half hour I started chatting with the boy sitting next to me, who looked amazingly like Anthony right down to his long, curly hair, facial structure and height. :P He said that he might very well be related because he was adopted and his origins were mysterious and they suspected that he might well have Japanese origins.

He was reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and not liking it very much. :P We talked a little bit about literature and have to say that he has to be the most erudite 17 year old I’ve met. The kind of person I wish the world was full of. Ah well.

I got off the bus and went to the Tick Tock diner to get breafast. The place was overwhelmingly full for this time of day. It is cheerful and bustling and people are talking earnestly around their diner coffees. A couple of policemen are sitting in the booth next to mine.

It’s a little like being in a movie. I’m glad I came to New York.

Taking the bus to NYC…

I know that I need to add updates for the past few days and I will try to do so as soon as I can. I am currently camped put in Philadelphia for slightly longer than I had planned. I saw a lot of the city yesterday. It’s mostly a lot of historical monuments and artifacts like the Liberty Bell. The architecture is very colonial and reminded me of the buildings in London.

Today I am taking the Bolt Bus north to NYC to spend some time in the city. I had felt really bad about leaving New York without actually getting to see anything besides the State of Liberty (combination of bad weather, being really exhausted and not having a place to sleep). Janie suggested that I take the bus which takes 2 hours up and back and go see the city.

I had t wake up at the absurdly early hour of 5:30 to catch the 6:30 bus and here I am. They predict rain so I don’t know how the day will pan out. I am just hoping to walk through Central Park, the Metropolitan, maybe Chelsea and Greenwich Village and generally just get a feel for the city.

Now I will try to get some sleep.

Getting to Montreal…

The ride to Montreal was short and uneventful. I officer at the border crossing asked me a lot of questions about my visas (US and Canadian), seemed satisfied with the answers and let me pass.

Here is where a minor annoyance came up. My GPS seemed to be routing me through scores of little backroads, which normally would have been pleasant, but I just wanted to get the most direct route to Montreal. The route appeared to be almost 40 miles, but I was certain that Montreal was only 20 miles away. What was worse, the road was narrow with no shoulders and the only place to stop was people’s driveways, which I didn’t like doing, so I couldn’t stop to futz with the GPS for a long while. I finally hit a long red light, where I checked the settings and found that I had set “Interstate highways” as an obstacle to avoid. Problem solved! I unchecked the box and was immediately routed to the closest freeway and was in Montreal in a little over ten miles.

I found parking outside the hostel – taking a good few minutes to decipher the French No Parking signs – and went in. Checkin time wasn’t until another hour and they asked me to come back later. I chained up my gear to my bike but there was no way to leave my boots so I was forced to wear them. I walked a couple of blocks north to St. Catherine St., the main downtown street. It was hot, very hot and I felt overdressed in my long sleeve moisture wicking base shirt, pants and riding boots. I found a place to eat at – yet another creperie – where I was able to use the first of my Canadian currency.

After lunch, I went in search of a battery charger on St. Catherine St. I found a universal charger for the whopping price of CDN $56. :( I could have found one for half as much online, but that is a luxury I cannot afford right now seeing as my battery has been steadily depleting. I call this Phileas Fogg way of travelling — throwing money at obstacles to make them go away. Let’s hope I won’t have to take recourse to it too many times on this journey.

Missions accomplished and time to check in. I was handed two sheets and a card key. Thankfully I got the lower bunk bed. The bathroom looked clean and overall the place was bustling and cheerful and well-maintained, like most Hostelling International locations. I took a much needed shower and felt human again.

Then spent some time on the computers in the basement to upload the first batch of photos. After this, I set out to explore Vieux Montreal. It was a 15-20 minute walk up to there and I got to see some part of the old city. It was pretty crowded and tourists were everywhere, as can be expected it such a city. In that respect, it reminded me a lot of Vancouver, BC. More thoughts on Montreal in a later post.

I stopped for dinner in the Quartier Chinois under the misguided assumption that I would find genuine Chinese food there. To my horror, all the food I tried at the buffet was either luke warm or inedible and the chocolate eclair I tried for dessert had just been taken out of the freezer. Yuk.

Headed back to the hostel and ended up chatting with two cute boys. I might go see the city with them tomorrow. Montreal really does seem like the kind of place you should be in with someone else. That’s a feeling I don’t get very often.

Camping and Canadians…

I haven’t camped at very many state parks – or at all really – but I did think that the camp sites at the Cumberland Bay State Park were huge. It helped that the spot to my left was open and the lake was right in front of me.

An RV with an awning was parked to my right. One of the occupants came over to introduce himself after I smiled and nodded at him. His name was Serge and he was there with his wife Ghislan. It turned out that they were from Montreal and they drove down there every summer. They stayed for two weeks at a time, which was the maximum amount of time you could stay at that State Park, then go back home to Montreal for a week before returning again. They did this four times for the entire summer. I was a little surprised that they would come to the exact same spot if they had the freedom to move or go anywhere they pleased, but they appeared to like it a lot. I could see why – it was quiet and calm compared to Montreal.

Serge and Ghilsan were both French Quebecois. Serge’s English was pretty good while Ghilsan was a little slower – although not as slow as when I tried to talk to them in French. When I spoke to them, I had the same feeling as I had while I was in Beijing the year before. People made such an attempt to talk in English even if it wasn’t their native language, to the extent that they would whip out their phones and use the Chinese to English translation to communicate and make themselves understood. I felt guilty about not making enough of an effort to speak in French. I did try but they spoke too fast and I was only able to understand every other word. Likewise my French appeared to be very different from Quebecois French especially with the pronunciations of certain words. So we settled for communicating in a mix of English and French, each of us speaking very slowly. They seemed pleased that I even made the effort so I was glad I tried. Their accented English and the very French expressions sounded really delightful. :) I especially smiled when he told me about a nephew who
had ridden from Vancouver to Labrador on his B.M. double-vey. :)

I talked to them for a little bit before I went on my ride, and spent an hour with them around the fire they had built later at night. We toasted marshmallows and talked about our respective lives. I asked them how they had met and Serge told me that Ghislan lived in Joliet – a little north of Montreal – and they lived above a restaurant that he was at. “I saw her standing in the window and I knew she was the one.” They had been 17 then and were married in three years and still together almost 40 years later.

They were very curious to hear all about my family and details about my life. In their turn, they told me about their own lives and their children and grandchildren. It struck me that the reticence around volunteering personal information and inquiring about others’ lives was a quality that was very American and people of other nationalities do not have such inhibitions. In fact, I rather think that it is their way of being friendly and expressing goodwill.

This thought stayed in my mind the next morning when I was on my way out and saying my goodbyes. They introduced me to their friend Andre who was camped in another lot and had dropped by to say hello. Andre had worked as a photographer for a leading Canadian newspaper in another life and was also retired now. When he heard that I was going to Montreal that day, he gave me his card and told me to camp in his backyard next to the pool. “There’s nobody at home, but you can just push the main gate open and go in!”

While I have met many kind, helpful people on the roads in America, I could not readily imagine anyone being kindhearted enough to trust a complete stranger with their property while they weren’t even around. I politely declined his offer, saying that I was going to stay at a hostel close to Vieux Montreal. I did take his card though, and gave him mine. As I rode out of the campground, I thought that if most people in Quebec would be as kindhearted and generous as these worthy folks, I should possibly consider changing my route to ride through more of the region instead of heading directly back into the US from Montreal.