Friday, August 30, 2013

Long Trip Home - Part 3

If you were expecting Flashback Friday, then you might be disappointed.  This seemed like a great day to wrap up the Great Trip North Adventure 2013.  Flashback will return next Friday. 


Up early in Tifton, Georgia along Interstate 75.  My usual routine is to get the bike packed and ride in the dark for a while for a change of pace.  My luggage affixed, my antler well secured, it is time to get out of long-ass Georgia and into Florida.  I begin thinking about all kinds of things:  I wonder where Norah is this morning?  Can I stop by and see her?  It will be nice to sleep in my own bed.  What did I miss?  Can I turn around and do it again?

Then it happens.  I had not been on the road long, but long enough to want to end the trip and rest.  About 2-5 miles north of the I-75/I-10 interchange I begin getting a little vibration from the front tire.  Kind of like when you are on grooved or rough pavement.  I slow up a bit, and think, this is odd.  It's not going away.  Then I begin to smell rubber and just like that a pop and the bike is wobbling back and forth and keeping it steady as I slow is pretty hard.  

Like a guy riding a wild bronco, I luckily was able to keep the bike upright as we rolled to a clumsy stop.  The handlebars were wobbling something fierce and my main objective was to keep the bike upright and manhandling the bars to remain in a fairly straight trajectory.  I didn't fall down and kept that rocket fairly straight, but my arms are sore and exhausted from the strength necessary to glide it to a stop.  But stop I did, and safely.

Well, here we are.  Three hours from home and I am stranded on the side of the road.  The engine off, it becomes quiet, except for the occasional car and truck whizzing by.  It's still early, so there's not too much on the road.  As I get off I lean forward to confirm what I already know. 

Getting off and wrestling with that sinking feeling that happens when one is in a situation like this I examine the tire and see that it is not only blown but off the rim as well.  Having already gone through the Denial stage I move on the Guilt phase.  I'm pretty sure the tire was up to snuff, I just got it last year, and the 26 point safety inspection by the Yamaha place should have spotted it, right?  Well, after approximately 2200 miles, probably not.  That's my job.

I now begin the Anger phase and start thinking, why of course,  It could only happen to me.  Blah blah.  This is where I would spend the next hour or so.  Bucolic and solitary, it looks peaceful, right?  Problem is, there are gnats here from Illinois that start making my life a lot uncomfortable.  

 Along the side of the Interstate, my bike, which has done a superb job of taking care of me, sits alone and broken.   It is strange to no longer hear the drummmmm of an engine and riding along; the hum now displaced by sounds of nature and quiet and the occasional vehicle whizzing by.

A butterfly sits perched on a flower having breakfast, unaware and uncaring that I am a stranded traveller now dependent on the kindness of strangers.

This spider was also having breakfast and while I was on the phone almost ran into his gigantic web that stretched from some shrubbery to a fence post.  When I think of how close I came to walking into...eewwwoooowwww.

This is where I would normally write a sad essay on breaking down and having to shell out an ungodly amount for towing let alone a tire.  This is where I would normally say I have to spend the night in Lake City because they can't get to me until late in the afternoon.  But no.  I was back on the road in 4 hours.  And this is why:

I have been a regular member of the Motorcycle Towing Service out of Denver Iowa for many years.  For a nominal yearly fee they will arrange for towing and direct that tow to the nearest mechanic/dealership to fix your machine.  I called and woke up a sleepy Casey who for some reason was in New Mexico.  After confirming my membership and trying to ascertain where I was (Mile Marker 440), he dispatched Daniels Towing out to rescue.  Within an hour of his magic a guy named Tim came and we loaded up the bike.      

It wasn't too long of a drive to Interstate Cycles in Lake City where my bike was the first repair they made for the day.  It was a small dealership but they had a tire for me and it wasn't long before they had one on, and I would be back on the road.   

Tim from Daniels Towing.  Tim has a new baby girl, 9 weeks old and although this was his first cycle tow, he did pretty gosh darn good.  He was a nice guy and earned a tip for his good work.  The tow was free because of MTS, and the tire was, well, it was expensive, but I guess I needed a new one anyway.

Back on the road and feeling great after being dead in the water, here I was back flying.  I didn't want to hassle with the Tampa  traffic so I stayed on I-75 instead of I-275 to St. Pete.  I decided a ride to the South and drive up north over the Skyway bridge was reasonable.  I wanted to have lunch so I picked McDonald's on 34th Street as my first stop in town before home.  

Funny, I knew I was home when as I turn the engine off and dismount a lady standing in the parking lot asks me if I had any money so she could get some food.  Since sidewalk panhandling was outlawed a couple years ago, the denizens of the streets have found another way to ply their trade.  It is called "aggressive panhandling" and what they do is mark out a territory around businesses.  When cars pull up they ask for money.  I read just this week that the Council is debating that issue and may ban it as well, since the business owners have been raising a ruckus over it.  

Lunch over, it was time to check in at Shawshank and when I arrived everything seemed the same.  So much so that I wanted to hop back on the bike for another long trip.  But before I can do that I have to have certain nether regions heal, or I need a gel foam pad for the seat. 

My thoughts race attempting to process the trip, the experience, the anxiety of roadside trouble and the sandwich of waiting to begin the adventure, the adventure itself and the end.  I want re-do's.  I want to stop at that foggy bridge and take the best picture I have ever snapped.  I want to ride more with my buddies up North, I want to slow down and erase the destination part of my brain.  Just like my travels of 9 years ago, I press to hard, too fast and miss out on things.  I understand now it is me...simply part of the way I operate.  Only with someone with me to slow me down could I change.  But like the oft-quoted and now overused idiocy phrase, "it is what it is."  Another trip someday, I sure hope so.  Another chance to slow down, I sure hope so.  Another ride and another adventure, I sure hope so.

My adventure was over.




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Long Trip Home - Part 2

Day Two saw me arise early and re-load the bike for our next leg of the journey.  On Jeff's Harley-Davidson atlas he let me borrow, I noticed a pretty scenic road from South of Chattanooga that wound all the way down through Georgia that would allow me to sidetrack Atlanta, the Wicked Mother of all traffic miseries.  I just had to get through Nashville, the Wicked Aunt of all Traffic Miseries.  I was up just as the sun was starting to filter in the sky and since I was just a short jaunt to Nashville, I assumed that traffic would be light.  I assumed somewhat wrongly.  Who are all these people running around at 5:30 in the morning?  Cars, trucks, campers, I guess they all had the same plan I did.   It was somewhat harrowing, and my pit juice had failed to hold back the waters, but I survived and now headed down interstate 57 to Chattanooga and then, off to Route 23 over the Smokies.  

Once again, it was travel day and I did precious little sightseeing.  I was a man with a mission.  Besides, I had learned that picture taking had to be of great necessity to stop the bike, finagle its return to the spot of interest, then get it turned around again to resume.  I often simply decided the reward was not worth the risk.  

Inside Chattanooga I felt sorry for travellers north bound on I-24.  They were backed up for miles due to a semi accident.  The truck slammed into a guardrail after his load of 47,000 pounds of rolled steel buckled the trailer.  

When I went by it looked nasty, but was happy to learn no one was hurt.
Pictures compliments of News Channel 9, Chattanooga.

Route 27 through Georgia took me through Chickamauga battlefield which I visited last year.  I went through Cedartown, Rome, Bremen and Carrollton.  I probably should have swung over to Newnan at this point, but since the road was good adn I was racking up the miles I stayed on 27.  Nice scenery, back roads and now through LaGrange.  It was here I noticed an Interstate 185 through Columbus.  My plan here was to stay South and eventually hit Interstate 10 north of Tallahassee.  But I got lost in Columbus and ended up in Fort Benning.  Holy Smokes.  My destination then changed to Valdosta where I would end the day.  However, I got sidetracked to Route 280 which, happily took me through some interesting places I hadn't counted on.  One was Plains, home of President Jimmy Carter.   

This peanut guy was at both ends of the Rt. 280 in Plains.

I went through Americus, Leslie, Cobb and my goal now was to get to Cordele, and then south on I-75 to Valdosta.  Unfortunately, my ass ran out of pucker-power, my wrist was practically numb, my head hurt and my eyes were tired, so I made it as far as Tifton, and called it a day.

Typical Georgia back roads and view.  I think this was near Cobb. 

Although I ran out of figurative gas and didn't make it to my scheduled 2nd day stop, it was a good one anyway.  Closer to my own bed, closer to Norah and closer to anything other than McDonald's, I stopped at another Days Inn (without a pool) and had but a scant 4 hours to go to St. Pete.  In keeping with my usual schedule, I'd get to bed early and rise when it was dark to hit the road during the cool before the sun came up.  

I would like to mention a tip Mr. Sutor gave me which will come in handy next trip.  He said that when he takes long trips on his bike that he boxes up his dirty clothes and that makes travelling lighter and easier.  Good tip.  The amount I have to take off and re-attached in the morning is a bit cumbersome.

Anyway, the day is done. and I am thirsty, so I get a couple Diet Cokes and put on ice.  There is a Chic-Fil-A across the parking lot, and political considerations aside, I decide to have a couple chicken strips.  First time I've had anything there besides a shake and its pretty tasty.  Sleep comes early and easy tonight.

DAY 2 - 527 MILES

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Long Trip Home - Part 1

I had allotted plenty of time for the trip.  My only guide was that I wanted to be back in Florida by the 4th of July.  No particular reason, but maybe a nagging need to see Miss Norah, again.  The day comes when you have spent all your money, and done everything on your list, or almost everything, and it seems as good a time as any to take off.  

Mr. Sutor had wanted to meet up on my trip up but the logistics didn't work out, so he wanted to escort me for a few hours down the long state of Illinois.  We had originally picked a route (67) that would take us down past St. Louis and to Chester, Missouri.  from there, it is a scenic drive through Cairo and then on to Paducah.  Never having been to Cairo I was looking forward to it and that scenic stretch along the Mississippi.  But, alas, the threat of rain propelled me to change our plans and Jeff recommended Route 51 which would take us through Decatur, Pana and a bunch of other towns I'd never heard of.  Like Clinton, Mowequa, Assumption, Oconee, and Ramsey. It was an amazingly good stretch of road where you could see the sights but also get a few miles under your butt.  It was a combination of 2 and 4 lane roads.    

Our cycles outside of McDonald's in Knoxville.  

Somewhere outside Decatur is a restoration shop for old cars and trucks.  We stopped there just to get a breather, gas up and see Elvis.

I love big cars.  This may have been about the biggest that came out of Detroit.  Mid-70's huge Cadillac.  

Here's Elvis in his earlier years.  I appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of people with metal, but frankly, besides just a cursory glance, this kind of thing just doesn't interest me.  I like the stock stuff, the cars that teams worked on and decided this was "it".  And yes, a lot like Miss Frump.

Did I ever tell you my parents got my older brother a Camaro convertible like this one while the Wombie and I had to share.  I'm not bitter.  I've never figured out why they liked Phil better.  Just shows you parents make mistakes, and golly, the twins were just so cute.

I got to drive Phil's car once or twice when he wasn't looking.  The interior and dash arrangement was as good any I've ever seen.  Except for Miss Frump. 

Jeff and I parted around Centralia so Jeff could be home for supper while I was going to try and reach Clarksville, Tennessee.  I moved over to Interstate travel around Vienna, and from there it was just humping it along to get to a place.  No stops other than for gas.  

My destination was a fondly remembered Days Inn we used a lot when Brendan was stationed here with the Screaming Eagles.  It represented truly fun times for the family.  Kenzie would join us and we often had little Michael or met him since for a time he lived here.  We had a lot of fun here.

This was the pool we used for a get-together with Brendan and his family.  Michael and I were inseparable (Two Hearts Beating as One) and we always enjoyed the pools wherever we were.  As a reminder of past good times, I decided to take a dip in the pool again.  It was a long day and I had to get up early, so i wanted to cool off and get tired so I'd have a good nights sleep for tomorrow. My plan since I was only 32 miles from Nashville, was to arise early and tackle this bastard of a traffic snarl early, before anyone else woke up.  It was a good plan.  

As the sun sets, my swim over.  I look at my trusty bike and wonder what awaits us tomorrow.  

RETURN TRIP DAY ONE -  471 miles.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Midwest Skies

Midwest Skies

People talk about how nice Florida sunsets are, and it's pretty well true.  But for spectacular colors any time of cloudy day, there's nothing quite like the Midwest.  Down here if a bag forms in the West you may get 4 or 5 minutes of rain, then sweltering heat and humidity.  But up North, a bag could mean an all-day rain, a gullywasher complete with anything.  Florida just has squeaks for storms.  Just like that they are over.   

Here are some random pics I took of the North and its skies.  

Beautiful skies if not artfully photographed.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Railroad Days Car Show

It has been a long time since I have participated in my Club's annual car show at the end of June.  I wanted to go to Sturgis on the River and, because I bought an old classic, to attend Railroad Days Car Show.   The previous Tuesday I went out to Burgess to caress, pet, and otherwise be intimate with my new metal love.  I think she is gorgeous and has all the right curves.     

I went over to pick her up and naturally I was a bit apprehensive since this was our first date, so to speak.  She had already proven to be difficult to start without Marvin's $100 dollar can of starter juice.  He told me to take it just in case.  I rather thought that after a trip over to G-Burg that might keep gas in the carb so I wouldn't be embarrassed by having to use ether.  

I'm kind of crazy about Imperials.  I had a '61 for a few years and loved it and certainly bought into their advertising that stated they were America's Best Made Car.  This '65 was in very good shape and I like the stock-type cars of the '60's, not the more popular muscle variety.  

Here is Miss Frump positioned between two trucks.  Owners are voyeurs who get their thrills when people walk by to look and ogle.  Sadly, more people were interested in the trucks instead of Miss Frump.  The poor idiots were not aware that the gaudy artwork on the new truck to her right was that:  gaudy and hideous.  And they were also making tracks to the '63 truck to Miss Frumps left which was found in a barn somewhere in Colorado.  Sorry, but these trucks are a dime a dozen, like Mustangs, and Camaros.  They were not aware that the bone-white colored car in the middle was something rare that they may never ever see again.  How many 1963 Dodges are they ever going be able to touch and admire?  But I'm not bitter.

No classes this year so Miss Frump ended up between two trucks, who, for some damn reason, seemed to draw more attention.

I get all choked up everytime I see Miss Frump's rear end.  Word on the street was Dodge put more artistry into the rear instead of the front because the rear was what most drivers would see. 

At over 18 feet long, Dodge needed to get back into the big car game after the downsizing disaster of 1962.  Loyal Dodge owners hated the small cars so the execs came up with the 880 to satisfy longtime Dodge owners and dealerships.  

This beauty, also a Dodge,  of the 1956 variety, belonged to Club member Kenny Lumberry.  Kenny died a couple months ago after a short illness.  Kenny was instrumental in my joining the WIAAC and was the leader of my favorite Club activity, the Lumberry Tour.  The Lumberry Tour was an annual Fall drive through backroads Knox County, up to Henry and then down to Sparland and Tanner's Orchard.  We'd have lunch in Henry and I always took Rice Krispy treats for other members.  (I didn't make the treats, so they were always scrumptious. Thanks NM)  RIP Kenny. 

A nice stock Chevy.

A nice stock Lincoln.  I always liked this version of he Continental because they designed the car to look like a streaking star.  

Distinctive dash area.

A nice stock Mercury.

A kind of gross motorcycle that I'm sure garnered way more attention than Miss Frump.  

Miss Frump again, now with her hood popped.  

A nice 1906 Gale which was manufactured in Galesburg.  Imagine G-Burg being the modern day Detroit.  OK it kind of is, but I'm talking about when Detroit was the center of car manufacturing.  It  almost happened.  The Gale never made more than a handful of cars but if it had, it could have been something else for this area. 

Tim and Carrie Stage joined me for a while today and enjoyed the cars, and ugh, trucks.

My first date with this beauty and wouldn't you know it?  We had to suffer through some rain,  something old cars shouldn't have to endure.  Too many places that can get moist and start rust.  Some old cars never even get washed with water, they use, instead, a waterless wash.  But Miss Frump handles it well and the windshield wipers worked great.  It was a harrowing and defeating trip back to Burgess to see her get wet and have to use her wipers but she handled it like the classy old dame she is.   First date went well.  I think I'll ask her out again.

The car show was fun and saw quite a few old friends and acquaintances.  No trophy, but then again, she doesn't draw too much a crowd, either.  They just don't know what to make of her.