Saturday, April 17, 2010


Day 26

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 5,202

We slept in until 10 or 11 today - that was a pretty taxing day
yesterday. I think we spend about 11 hours travelling door to door. We
went out to brunch this morning with Sam and Sean and two other
friends who had flown in fir the weekend, Mik and Kyle, and had some
delicious trendy sausage and french toast. I started to notice last
night that thus city is very similar to San Francisco. Pretty hilly
streets, a lot of . . . um, different people. The difference is that
in San Francisco, there are some areas of town that tend to attract
these people of alternative lifestyles, while in Seattle, they're just
everywhere. There's the guy wearing a kilt at the yuppie bar, the guy
with the tie-dye overalls at the trendy brunch place, and the couple
dressed in all leather and trench coats at the Indian restaurant. I
can tell that I'm from the east coast because this all strikes me as
strange, while it's just business as usual for the people who live here.

We really lucked out with the weather this weekend. It's usually
pretty wet and cold in April, but it's sunny and in the mid 60's
today, so Sam, Sharon and I decided to go on a little hike. Climbing
1,500 feet in 2 miles up switchbacks is a little hike in the west. The
drive out was really nice, with cool views of Mt. Ranier in the
distance and other smaller peaks closer in. I did the hike in my
motorcycle boots because the second package I sent here from SF hasn't
arrived yet. I knew it was going to be a little painful in my $25
boots, but man did I have some huge blisters when we got back. The
hike was great, though, and we had a really cool view of the
surrounding peaks.

We sprinted down the mountain to see if we could make it to the Red
Hook Brewery by 5 for the tour. Missed it by about 10 minutes, but it
was sold out earlier that day anyway. But no worries! They also have a
bar for those of you who missed the tour! I've never really tried Red
Hook's beer, but their ESB was great.

Everyone was dragging at that point so we headed for the espresso.
Seattle is the only place I've been where coffee is significantly
different than the rest of the country. Most people drink espresso and
it is some of the strongest I've ever had. It tastes like they use
half as much water as a normal shot. It's probably an acquired taste,
because I like most espressos and didn't like this style.

Also, a note about Starbucks, according to Sam: it's really not
popular in the city of Seattle. There's only one location, but there
are others like 15th street coffee that are actually Starbucks, but
have been disguised to appear independent.

We went out to dinner to a great Indian place, and then went out to a
Belgian beer place to meet Walter, Sam's boyfriend. It's been really
fun meeting people in big cities and swing how they live, and it was
really cool to meet Walter and see the life Sam and he had carved out
for themselves. Sam lives in downtown Seattle, but reverse commutes to
Microsoft's campus. I'd never heard of this type of arrangement
before, but it makes perfect sense. The company doesn't need to locate
downtown to attract talent or be closer to any companies that it works
closely with, and the young people who work for the company want to
live in the city where it's more exciting.

After some stout at the first bar, we went out to Purr, where I got to
have my first experience with a gay bar. It was pretty interesting,
and no, I didn't get any digits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"This Isn't Fun Anymore"

Day 25:

Miles today: 192   Total miles: 5,202

By cutting our day short yesterday, we left ourselves an ambitious day of riding to make Seattle by tonight. We also had a few stretches where we had to go on divided highways and freeways for a few miles. It's not a fun feeling to be doing 45 or so when the traffic behind you is doing 60 or 65. I kept a close eye on what was approaching behind us, but there were a few cars that cut it pretty close when passing us. I always leave myself room to bail out to the shoulder if the car behind me isn't looking like they're going to go around, and I had to use that a few times today, which isn't a good feeling. When you ride, or drive, for that matter, you always want to leave yourself some "outs" which is what that shoulder is for me. So when I have to use that to avoid oncoming traffic, i don't leave myself anywhere else to go. I really don't like that feeling and that's why we've been doing all we can to avoid highways.

We got off the bike after one particularly hairy stretch, and Sharon said that quote above. We decided to take a nice, long break at the gas station and get some coffee/hot chocolate. We spent a little while just not thinking about the bike, and then we got out the map to look for a better way to get to Seattle. We found some county roads and cobbled together a new route that would take us a little out of our way, but would give us some kinder speed limits and less traffic. The good news for her was that she only had a few miles to go before she could get off the bike for good. When we got back on, the ride was much nicer. This turned out to be a really good decision, and we saw some great views of a few rivers. The huge plus was that we only saw a few cars in 2 hours or so before we got back on more primary roads near Puget Sound.

The route we took put us on a ferry into Seattle, which is one of the coolest ways I have ever entered a city. We came in around 10 at night, and the whole city was lit up. It was pretty cold, but we stood on the bow for a little bit to take in the view. I had also never been on a ferry before that carried cars, and it was pretty cool to just ride my bike onto a boat.

One of the first things I noticed about Seattle is that it's nearly as hilly as San Francisco in some spots. Not fun with 2 riders on a bike. We made it in fine to Sam and Sean's place (Sharon's friends from school - seriously this girl knows someone in every city in the US) and then we walked a few blocks to the bar where they were, called Canterbury Ales (insert groan). We had a couple drinks and then crashed at Sam/Sean's place. It's good to be in one place for a while and I'm glad we made it in today.

Guest Post: Some Perspective From the Back of the Bike

Greetings fair readers of Brian goes west! I'm here to offer some perspective from the passenger seat. 

First of all, California is a really really long state. Especially at 25 mph. I was pretty glad to finally leave it behind, because it felt like we weren't making that much progress when we couldn't get out. As a mid-Atlantic native, I'm used to hitting a new state every few hours. Or minutes if you're going through Delaware. 

Advantages of being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions or pay too much attention to the road. Brian alluded to the fact that there is some active participation required from a passenger so that you're not shifting your weight too much, you're leaning into the turns correctly, and you brace yourself properly for acceleration and deceleration so that you don't hit helmets every time you change gears (i guess one good thing about only having four gears is that aforementioned gear changing is necessarily limited? Too soon?). Brian's "So today was a little uncomfortable as we both worked things out" means "Today was a little uncomfortable as Sharon kept not paying attention and ramming her helmet into mine every time we changed gears and I almost threw her off the bike."

Disadvantages to being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions. Since there's not a lot of communication possible even at the turtle-like 35 mph, my contributions to decision making were limited to being able to request a stop. That kinda gets frustrating. Especially since I may or may not be known for talking a lot. Loudly. Also, after trying both seats, I can say with confidence that the passenger seat is much less comfortable. 

We'd been lucky enough to mostly avoid rain until this day, but less than an hour after leaving Coos Bay, we felt and saw a little bit of rain, so decided to pull off and "rain suit up!" We both looked really really ridiculous. I'm pretty sure there's pictures on Brian's camera somewhere, but let's just say it's a good thing we weren't trying to impress any young, good-looking Oregon-ers. We did stop at a delicious pizza place to warm up and watch a lot of the Masters. Needless to say, this cut down on our ability to make a lot of miles this day, but I'm pretty sure we both thought it was worth it. After getting back on the road (and, for the record, I called Lefty's victory from Day 1), we put down some miles but then hit some heavier rain. 

As we got to the early evening hours, it started coming down pretty hard. Once you get to a certain amount of wetness, it doesn't bother you as much (at least for me), and since I didn't really have great rain gear (athletic pants over jeans? Oops?), I hit that point pretty quickly. It does make the drive much much colder and we decided to call it a day pretty early in Tillamook, OR. Land of cheese making. Their cows smelled pretty bad (and this is coming from a girl who grew up next to a dairy farm and normally isn't that bothered by our bovine brethren), but the high school was the Tillamook Cheese Makers. So that was exciting. 

We stopped at a local gas station to evaluate our motel options and had a nice little chat with the gas station attendant (you can't pump your own gas in OR. Reminds me of my college years in fair New Jersey!). Once thing I really enjoyed about this trip is how readily people approach you to chat you up when your all motorcycle-geared up. It's an easy way to start a conversation -- where you guys coming from? -- and people were a) very impressed with Brian's lengthy trip and b) always willing to share a bit about the local area, politics, or whatever else came to their mind. It really was a cool way to travel and see the people in small towns across the West Coast and get a little insight into the various regions. And, as a professed lover of talking, it pretty much warmed my heart every time. 

We ended up staying a the Red Apple Inn, which had a very nice little innkeeper. We got some more cheese and sausage (breakfast/lunch/dinner of champions!), but supplemented with some red apples. Seemed appropriate. And some delicious Northwest Pale Ale. Or NWPA for those in the know. We had to cut Portland (land of the microbrew) out of our trip to save time (heartbreak), so I was glad to get some local brews. The heater didn't really work, so that was a little bit of downside, but other than that, it was pretty nice for a cheap motel. I called my friends in Seattle to let them know we would in fact arrive on Friday. We'll be staying with two of my very good friends from college, whom I hadn't seen in about a year, so I was very excited. 

Last thing -- Since I didn't get to post on the SF side of the trip, I'd like to take the time now to thank Stephen and Stacey profusely for hosting us. They are really awesome people and it was great to meet them, hang out, and offer my expert advice on furniture selection. Thanks guys! 

Into Oregon

Day 23

Miles today: 234   Total miles: 4,830

Over the past few days, Sharon and I have stuck to a strict diet of cheese, summer sausage and crackers. This is the perfect meal for the road because all the ingredients require minimal refrigeration and it can be eaten anywhere. I usually keep some of each of these foods in my lunchbox in the tankbag with a little ice. This way I don't have to stop at so many restaurants for lunch/dinner. This is a great short term solution for how to eat well and cheap, but after a little while, your body starts yelling at you, demanding something green. So we woke up this morning and I was feeling this way, craving a salad or some veggies. We talked about our options for lunch in town, which were pretty slim, and finally settled on Mike's Burger Joint. It has lettuce and tomato, right? Whatever, we had fruit last night. That should ward off the scurvy for at least another few days. Mike's was a pretty excellent choice, and reminded me just how much better burgers are with chili on them.

We crossed into Oregon today and left California behind. I guess I spent about 10 days in the state, and man was it a good time.

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Highway 1 ended and we've been continuing on 101 since then. So I rode pretty much the whole thing, except for the stretch between LA and San Diego. Probably my favorite road in the country, unless I find one better on the way back.

We've now gotten gas in Oregon, and I'd like to comment on the state law that requires full service at gas stations (an attendant must pump your gas). This is the law, as far as I know, in Jersy and Oregon, but nowhere else. I can't think of a reason for this law beyond  job protection. There is no reason to require this attendant to pump your gas - I think the other 48 have pretty much proven that the average consumer can be trusted to fill a gas tank without blowing themselves up. So all you really do is increase the price of gas to everyone in the state so that some guy can keep his job which adds no value to the product he sells.

We put in a lot of good miles today, and made it to Coos Bay, OR. I think the big story is that Sharon made it that many miles without seriously injuring me or her backside. I'm starting to settle into a groove riding the bike with her on it; I'm starting to get pretty comfortable. Not sure if I can say the same for her, but at least we made good progress today.

Coos Bay is a pretty cool town with some nice views of the bay, nothing too spectacular though. More northward riding tomorrow.


Day 22

Miles today: 194 Total miles: 4,596

Today was a good day on the road. We slept pretty late and got going
around 11 or so. I guess we still pretty tired from thre weekend.
Today was just a great day of riding along the PCH and checking out
the awesome views.

The bike is doing ok, but the low speeds are getting s little
frustrating. On the way out here, I ususally averaged about 45 mph
with stops, but now we're only doing about 25. With a top speed of 40
and all the curves and hills of the highway we're on, we're generally
going pretty slow. It's ok on this road for the most part. There's so
much to see that I'm almost happy to slow down and take it all in, but
it's getting frustrating and feeling a little uncomfortable at times.
During some of the straightaways, some cars/trucks tend to come right
up to your fender while they wait to pass. There are some turnouts
that I've been using, but sometimes there's just nowhere to go for a
while. We haven't been in any dangerous spots yet, but like I said,
it's been a little uncomfortable in a few instances. We had to go on a
freeway for a while today, which wasn't fun, but we did find a scenic
alternate route: Avenue of the Giants, which snakes through a redwood
forest. We hit a patch of irony when we got stuck behind a BMW that we
couldn't pass for about 5 miles until I got impatient and honked at
him to use one of the turnouts.

As cool as the PCH was between LA and SF, I think it might be even
cooler north of SF. There are a lot more boulders in the ocean up
here, and the cliffs overlooking the water are a lot more dramatic.

I don't think Sharon's seat is quite as pillowy soft as mine. It
probably doesn't help that her butt is much smaller than mine. She's
also wearing a backpack that's weighing her down more than me. Stay
tuned to see if she kicks me in the butt to even things up.

Staying in Eureka, CA tonight, which apparently used to be a town
based on fishing and timber, but now has moved on to motels and bail
bonds. That's the surest sign that a city has taken a downward turn,
when you have 3 offices competing for the bail bond market on the same

The Journey Continues

Day 21

Miles today: 156 Total Miles: 4,402

When we last heard from our hero, his noble steed had been injured,
but he had found his fair lady. With renewed vigor and courage, he
sets out once again to traverse the hostile countryside, o'er the
cliffs of the mighty pacific, dangerously close to the water's edge,
through driving winds and constant rains, in search of the mythic town
of Seattle, land of strange music, exotic coffees and strong ales.
Will his crippled steed be up to the task? Will his fair lady leave
his side in search of a more capable but far less attractive traveling
companion? Stay tuned as our hero confronts the many challenges set
before him . . .

After a few preparations in the morning and a delicious lunch stop for
some burritos, we hopped on the bike and took off across the Golden
Gate Bridge. They only charge a toll southbound, so we got out of town
for free! That bridge is much cooler to look at than drive on in my
opinion. Still, it was pretty cool to be able to look down and see
Alcatraz and some sailboats on the pacific as you rode over it.

We didn't make too much progress today, but we did get out of town and
on our way. Sharon and I have gone for a couple rides around Chapel
Hill, but never for longer than 20 miles or so. It takes a little
learning from both riders to figure out how to ride the bike together.
Little shifts here and there throw the driver off, and gear changes
and sudden braking can throw the rider into the driver. So today was a
little uncomfortable as we both worked things out.

We made it to Point Arena, which was apparently famous for having one
of the first lifesaving boats. We walked into a seafood restaurant
with memorabilia from the boat covering the wall, and then just as I
was about to sit down, I glanced up and saw that there were about 4
seconds left in the NCAA championship. It was much more painful to
watch that live than it would have been to see the highlights.
Seriously though, this year should have an asterisk next to it. Thy
beat Butler in the championship and won by 2. That's all you need to
know right there.

We were both pretty tired and went to bed early. We're looking to get
an earlier start tomorrow so we can put more miles in.

Stephen and Stacey, it was great to see you guys this weekend. It was
so cool to see the lives you guys have made for yourselves, and I'm
happy I was able to help you guys get settled in your new place. That
way, when I'm out there again, I can say, "See that wall over there?
Yeah, I painted most of that. Except for that spot there, and that one
there, which I missed and Stephen had to fill in. But the rest? All
me." I can't wait until August to see you guys again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday and a Very Unique Dinner

Day 20

Miles today: 0 Total Miles: 4,246

We were out pretty late last night, so not too much happened this morning. Sharon and I got up to go to Easter Mass, but the Direct TV guy what supposed to come that morning, so we decided to go that night instead. We had a Mario Soccer rematch so that I could affirm Waluigi's dominance, and didn't really leave the house until around 3 or 4.

We met Stacey's parents at one of the most unique restaurants that I've ever experienced. This was a combination Irish pub, Indian restaurant, and souvenier shop. I'm not sure what images are coming to mind right now, but I can tell you that this place was surreal. As the story goes, there were 2 friends in Brooklyn who each wanted to open up their own business: one wanted and Irish Pub, the other and Indian restaurant, and the third a souvenier shop. You walk in, and it looks like a pub - dark paint, dark carpet, lots of wood, and a few pool tables, but then there are tables with white tablecloths and the smell of curry wafting through the air. So I had Saag Paneer and a Fat Tire for dinner while an old Metallica concert played on one TV and cartoons played on another.

We walked back to Stacey's parents' place and caught the end of the Golden State game, which gave me the opportunity to sing the praises of Charlotte native Stephen Curry as he rained 3's down all over the Raptors. We met their dog, who I'm pretty sure would be more accurately described as a small horse. We chatted for a while and then it was time to go get ready for church.

It turns out that most churches don't have a Sunday evening mass on Easter, so I'm guessing that it's sort of a liturgical no-no. We went to a Taize mass, which was all we could find. It's sort of a contemplative style mass, with lots of repetitive chants and candles, based on the practices of some French monks (I think., Not too sure about that). It was a little strange going to Easter mass that late in the day, but I had been to the Easter Vigil so many years in a row that I was just happy to go to mass on Sunday.

When we got back, Stacey had bought us a big bag of Easter candy to celebrate (She's Jewish, by the way). I think she'll make a great mom - my parents used to hide our candy all around the house in these plasitc eggs and make us kids go look for it.

Touring San Francisco and Other Misadventures

Day 19

Miles today: 0 Total Miles: 4,246

I'm feeling much better now. We went out briefly last night, but called it an early night because Sharon was pretty jet lagged. We got up this morning and lounged around for a bit, played some Mario Soccer, and then it was time to go buy a couch. Stephen and Stacey are moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one, so they have some purchases to make, one of which was the bed that was delivered Thursday, and another is a couch. We went to Room and Board to go check out a brand that they carried that Stacey liked (which is made in NC!). I think Sharon and I did well in our role as consultants, offering our expert opinions on such qualities as napability and TV-watchability. We also drank excessive amounts of free coffee and tea, telling ourselves that it was ok because our friends were going to spend money, so we were covered. My dad said many times that you know you've made a big purchase when you spend a lot of money and walk out of the store with a piece of paper.

After we'd covered our furniture needs, Stephen took us on a driving tour of the city. Stephen drove us all around San Francisco and showed us all the neighborhoods. We went up to Twin Peaks, which overlooks the city and is an amazing view, but we had a little trouble getting up there. Stephen's brand new, awesome car fell victim to a pothole. The road going up there was in pretty bad condition, and he had to deal with about 12 potholes in 100 yards or so. On the bright side, he missed 11 of them. That "thud-hisssss" sound is pretty awful. We got out and put the spare on, and then we got to continue the tour at Big-O Tires, where Stephen found out that his car's excellent handling is reflected in the price of its tires.

We went out to Hobson's Choice that night, which serves multi-gallon punch bowls to patrons that contain indeterminate amounts of alcohol (I think they erred on the high side in this particular case). We met a bunch of Sharon's friends who live out here and also Stacey's brother and some other friends. It was great to meet everyone and to dream up epic bachelor party plans for Stephen this fall.

We're thinking that we'll stay in SF through Monday morning and try to leave around noon. Stephen is changing his work schedule and doesn't start til around 3.

Bad News, Ladies and Gentlemen

Day 18

Miles today: 25 Total miles: 4,246

Today was the day to deal with that noise I've been hearing in 5th gear. Stephen tried to set up his internet last week, but got the run-around from AT&T (whose coverage has been pretty terrible out west by the way, even in big cities). End result is that I borrowed Stephen's computer and went down to Cole Valley Coffee to use their wireless and do some research on the bike and mechanics in SF.

I started out by using the power of the interweb to figure out what was likely wrong with the bike. This is one of the magical things that the internet has done. Getting info from other people who owned my bike and had a similar problem would have been pretty much impossible a few years ago, but in an hour or so, I had searched a few message boards, a couple of Yahoo! Answers-type sites, and I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at. I described the noise I was hearing to myself as a "rattle," but I think I was trying to talk myself into the noise being more benign than was actually the case. It was/is probably more of a grinding noise coming from the bottom of the bike. Other owners who had heard a similar noise had found out that it was from the gear itself breaking down. When I read that, I figured that I definitely needed to see a mechanic about it.

Yelp is also awesome. Finding a good mechanic in a given city usually involves talking to someone who lives there. Stephen did give me a recommendation, but I also got to go on Yelp and find out that everyone else who had gone to the shop had a very good experience. I called O'Hanlon Motorcycles and set it up to take the bike down for them to do a test drive and see what they heard. Dave took it out and confirmed that it was in fact the gear that had gone. The noise was coming from a grinding of the teeth of the gear. He told me that it was likely the 600 mile sprint from Santa Fe to Vegas that did it.

I had read and been told that this bike was not a good highway bike, which I understood to mean that it did not perform particularly well in the 70-80 mph range. I had no idea that running it at 70-75 mph for that long would actually do severe damage to the bike. It also has to do with the way the engine is set up. I'm not very familiar with the physics/mechanics of what forces are at work here, but this is my understanding: Bikes have either 2 or 4 cylinders for the most part, and mine is a 2 cylinder (V-Twin). 2 cylinder bikes tend to perform better at low rpms, where torque is high, while 4 cylinder bikes do better at higher rpms, where horsepower is high. When I was researching what bike to get last year, one of the negative reviews that this one received was that it needed a 6th gear because it was running at higher rpms at 60 mph or so than felt comfortable. When I read this, I understood it to mean that there would be less acceleration available at these higher speeds on this bike as compared to others in the same class, and that gas mileage would be relatively poorer at these high speeds. I had no idea that running the bike at these speeds would actually be harmful.

So I when I was researching what was wrong, I also looked into what replacing 5th gear would cost. I saw that the part was $90, but I couldn't get any info on what the labor would be to rebuild the transmission. I talked about it with Dave and he gave me the damage report: The genius engineers at Yamaha, in their infinite wisdom, designed this bike in such a way that getting to the transmission required completely removing the engine, taking off the carbs, valves, etc, and splitting the engine just to get to the transmission. Dave estimated that this would take 15-20 hours of labor at the shop to do. Shop time is usually $80-$100 an hour, so that's a total price tag of around $1,500, conservatively. I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but I paid $2,900 for the bike and had estimated that it would be worth about $2,000 after the mileage I would put on it this trip.

Dave told me up front that it didn't make much sense to fix the bike, at least not at his shop. I was very lucky to take the bike to him. I'd like to put in a big plug here for O'Hanlon Motorcycles in San Francisco. Dave is a great guy and was very honest an up-front with me about what I was facing and how to best deal with it. He even told me that if I were to fix it, I shouldn't do it at his shop, but at a dealer, because it would work out being cheaper for me. He also gave me his number and offered to put me in touch with someone if I needed to find a shop. He didn't even charge me for the time he spent diagnosing the problem and talking to me about it. He said something to the effect of, "You've got enough problems here - I'm not going to give you another one and make you pay for this."

So we started talking about my options. One was to sell the bike, buy a plane ticket, and come home. That one didn't sit too well with me. Getting it fixed didn't sound too palatable either. So I'm left with just riding it in 4th gear then rest of the way. Because I had such trouble with 5th at high rpm's, Dave's advice was that I try to keep my speed at 40 mph or below. Yeah, you read that right. So getting back will be a little more challenging now, and it looks like the route might be altered a bit. More on that as I get going and figure out what kind of time I can make.

I also asked about the safety of riding this bike with this damage. The worst cast scenario is that the transmission seizes up and locks the rear wheel. The chances of this happening are very low, but just in case, I'm going to be riding the rest of the way with two fingers covering the clutch. That way, if the rear wheel does lock, I can grab the clutch more quickly and let the wheel spin freely again.

So with bad news comes good news . . . Sharon gets in tonight and will be with me for 10 days as we make the now much more challenging journey from SF to Seattle.We'll be in SF through Sunday and will try to make Seattle by Friday. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walking around SF

Day 17

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 4,221

I spent a long time getting out of bed today, and got all caught up on
Lost. It's a good morning when you shower at noon.

I decided to get out and just go walking around town. Partly to see
the city and partly because I really needed some exercise. Stephen is
moving to Cole Valley, which is near Haight Ashbury. I walked from
there down market street to the Embarcadero and then to AT&T park. I
got hungry and found a place called Red's which had apparently been
featured on the food network. What can I say? I have good taste. I had
my welcome to San Francisco moment there when I gave my order to a
transvestite waitress. She was very classy, though, and professional.
The burger was great, and after I finished, Stephen picked me up in
his brand new Mazda 3. Really sweet car, with a lot of pickup and
really good handling. When you start work that early, you get off
early too. We went to Stacey's parents' apartment and switched cars so
that we could move some stuff from the old apartment to the new one.
After we took a couple loads over, we headed back to AT&T park to
watch the Giants play a spring training game against Oakland. They got
rolled, but the garlic fries at the park were amazing.

Made it to SF

Day 16

Miles today: 225 Total miles: 4,221

Made it to San Francisco today. I decided to scrap the idea of going
to Yosemite today because I wanted to make it here to see Stephen and
Stacey. I've know Stephen since we were about 3 years old, and Stacey
is his fiancée seeing them was most of the reason for this trip, and
I'm really happy I made it here.

Today was a nice day for riding until a storm moved in this afternoon,
so I rode through rain for the last 3 or 4 hours of the trip. Constant
rain lowers my tolerance of temperatures I can ride through, because
all the moisture combined with the wind really saps your heat. I
pulled off a fee times to warm up, and the last time I pulled off was
on the penninsula just south of the city. I told the guy behind the
counter that I was just going to stand in the corner and warm up a
litte bit if he didn't mind. He was a great guy and brought me an
electric heater to dry my gloves with. We got to talking and he said
his uncle spent $85,000 on a custom built chopper, which blew my mind.
He also mentioned that he was related to Troy Polamalu, the Steelers
safety. It's pretty hard to fake being Samoan, and this guy was about
6' 2" and pushing 3 bills, so I belive him.

I've been hearing a rattle in 5th gear since LA or so, but it's so
minor that I can't tell if it's serious. It seemed like it was getting
worse when I was riding today, so I decided to just ride in 4th for
the rest of the day. Sometimes there's an inner monologue running
through my head, and in this one, I was the coach, talking to my
pitcher, 5th gear: "Great effort out there today, kid. That was really
some performance. We're gonna shut it down early for you, though. Doc
says he's worried about your health. It's a long season, son, and you
know we need you for the long haul. Go grab a shower and we'll have to
doc take a look at you tomorrow."

I got in pretty late, and Stephen had to get up for work around 4
(that's o' dark 30 eastern), so we're all just going to bed.

More PCH and Camping

Day 15

Miles today: 195 Total miles: 3,996

One thing about riding on slow, winding roads is that you can spend a
full day riding and only cover 200 miles.

I had a great breakfast this morning at an oceanfront cafe. I met two
Aussies there who had rented Harleys in LA and were riding them up and
down the coast for a week. If any of you are looking for vacation
ideas, that's one of the best that I can think of.

I kept going north and figured that this time, I would start looking
for campsites earlier in the day so I had more time to find a good
(cheap) one. I was hoping that the campsites were so expensive last
night because I was so close to Santa Barbara, and that prices would
become more reasonable as I went north. Like most of my optimistic
theories, this one was also wrong.

I checked out Pismo Beach, which allows driving on the beach and
camping on the beach for 10 bucks, but you had to drive your vehicle
out to mark your campsite, which I wasn't about to do in a motorcycle.
I walked down the beach a little ways and got to talking with a guy
who was packing up his kite surfing gear. He was a professional
motocross racer for a long time, and apparently did pretty well. He
just bought a horse ranch about 30 miles inland from Pismo and was
working on opening it to the public. "My real name is Jeff, but my
friends call me Moto, like motocross."

I did luck out and find a secondary campsite at a park near San Simeon
for only $20, and that seemed like an ok deal to me. When I was
checking in, I got to talking with the guy next to me, and it turns
out he grew up in Chapel Hill! I forget his name, but he said he was
in the inagural class at East Chapel Hill High. He moved out to
Sacramento to work at a hospital and was down doing some camping this

These campsites in California are administered by camp hosts instead
of rangers. They're like professional campers who bring their RV to
the park for a few weeks, sell firewood and generally make sure nobody
burns the place down. I decided it was a great night for a fire and
went to see the host about some wood. He said "these bundles here are
a rip off. Why don't you go unload the gear on your bike, come back
here and I'll just load you down with the loose pieces I find, you
give me 5 bucks and we don't tell nobody nothin." Sounded like a good
plan to me, so I used my bungee net to strap a bunch of firewood to
the back of the bike and hauled it back up to the campsite.

Building fires is fun. You're basically playing with fire, which is
really what everyone wants to do deep down. And once you get it going
you feel very accomplished. Everyone look - I make fire! I wound up
just looking into the fire for about an hour before I realized what I
was doing. It's supposed to start raining right about now, so I'll
head in and get some sleep.


Day 14

Miles today: 154 Total miles: 3,801

I made it out of LA today and am going North up CA-1, the Pacific
Coast Highway. I am officially living the dream. This road is just as
incredible as I remember it - winding curves and amazing views of the
pacific. This is such dramatic country out here - this road is
basically on the side of a mountain that is slowly falling into the
ocean. The beaches here are so much younger than in the east. There
are large boulders just off the coast that haven't been eroded yet by
the ocean. Waves will break around them and send spray 100 feet in the

I've given myself plenty of time to enjoy this road. Sharon flies in
to San Francisco Friday night, so that gives me 5 days to get up
there, with only a few hundred miles to cover. If the timing works
out, I might cut over to Yosemite before I go to SF.

I tried to get a campsite tonight, but it seems that the People's
Republic of California is trying to close the budget gap at the state
parks. $35 for a campsite. If I'm going to rent a square of earth for
one night and pay that much money, it had better have 4 walls and a
roof built on it. So with that line of reasoning, I went to the next
town and got a $40 motel. Buellton is a great little town by the way.
A cool little inn and some great restaurants located in the vally
north of Santa Barbara. I went to one motel and talked to the owner,
who said she doesn't rent rooms by the night (anyone ever heard of
that?) so she sent me down the road to her friend Julie. One of those
"tell her I sent you" kind of things. Julie gave me the super secret
discount and it was a very nice room. I'll keep heading north tomorrow
and I'll see how far I get.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Day 13

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 3,647

Today was a day off from riding. I actually triple-checked that total
mileage number becuase I couldn't believe I had gone that far in a
single trip. I was feeling a little burnt out and needed a break from
being on the road.

I met up with Chris Walthers, a friend and old roommate of mine from
college. Chris has his Master's degree in biomechanical engineering
from UCLA and is pursuing a PhD there now. I hadn't seen him in a long
time and it was great to catch up.

I tried to go to a Spanish mass that morning, but I guess the church's
website was wrong about that. I also thought I was arriving 15 minutes
early, it being Palm Sunday and all, but I actually was 15 minutes
late. There weren't too many people at that service, so no problem.

I went to lunch with Chris and his roommate to an awesome Brazilian
place and then watched some basketball. Side note: if freaking Dook
wins the title I might not be coming back to NC until next season. Go

Chris also had a PS3 with FIFA 2010, so I figured that I had better do
some research on the teams Sharon and I will be seeing in South
Africa, and played a few games with the teams we'll be seeing.

Chris then made an awesome dinner for me and his girlfriend, and then
we watched an episode of The Pacific, which is a really good show.

Thanks again, Chris for letting me crash at your place. I would insert
a plug here for what a great and attractive guy Chris is for any
single ladies in LA, but He already landed himself a pretty awesome
person, so he's already covered there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Is the Best Memory Lane I've Ever Been Down

Day 12

Miles today 132 Total miles: 3,647

Dippin through hoods

This was just a cool day. We slept in, got going around noon and just
spent the whole day riding around LA. We swung by the La Brea tar pits
first, but couldn't see much. Then we went to Hollywood, checking out
the walk of fame and being tourists. After that we rode through
Beverly Hills, a place where owning a Lexus makes you a second class
citizen. That place was amazing. It was just one gorgeous house after
another with amazing cars in front of each.

Next we rode on Mulholland Drive which was a really cool road. It runs
through the hills (mountains?) over Beverly Hills. It was miles of
curves with amazing views of the San Fernando valley.

After that we rode the sunset strip to the beach, then took 1 south
all the way down to Rancho Palos Verdes where my parents usedto live
in the 80's before I was born. This is an amazing place for someone to
live. Houses perched on cliffs overlooking the pacific, perfect
weather and some of the coolest scenery in America. My mom's dad came
out to visit once and decided that my parents were never leaving once
he saw the place. When they lived out here, my dad worked at a park
called Marine Land, similar to Sea World. My dad hadn't been out here
in about 15 years, so we rode down to see the park. Turns out trump
had bought it and turned it into a resort hotel. Dad just about fell
off the bike when he saw that. It was pretty depressing to find out
that a place where you worked so hard and committed so much was just
gone. We also went down to the shopping center to try to find the
jewelry store that my mom worked at, and it was gone too.

We had to deal with all this heartbreak, so we went to Admiral
Risty's, the bar where the Marine Land staff would go to unwind. This
was a really cool bar, with a great view of the pacific sunset. They
would call this "the show." everyone would go to the bar to watch the
show, and when the sun went down, the show was over and everyone went
home. I told him that his memory lane is much prettier than most
people's It's really pretty terrible how much hardship my parents had
to endure in their early years.

We rode back to the hotel, and we were pretty tired again. Also my
dad's had to get up at 5 to catch his flight, so we crashed again.

Being alone on the road for so long, it was great to spend time with a
fellow traveller. It was great to see you, dad, and I hope you had as
much fun as I did.

Two up

Day 11

Miles today: 353 Total miles: 3,515

I picked up a passenger in Las Vegas - my dad hopped on the back of
the bike today and we rode to Los Angeles. I mentioned that there were
times on the way out here that the bike topped out at around 65 going
up hills with a headwind. Well, we decided to add another challenge on
o that by adding a passenger (riding with two people on the bike is
called riding "two up"). Now, I should mention that the two genlemen
in question here are of svelte build and thereby do not pose a great
problem for the bike in terms of weight; nonetheless, the distribution
of this weight was slightly different than usual. The good news was
that we went downhill most of the way, but the bad news was that the
winds were still strong. The bike did really well - only a couple of
times did I max out the throttle, and we were able to do 70 and keep
up with traffic. We took the freeway again because there's really no
other way to get between those 2 cities without going almost a day out
of the way.

We got off the freeway at Victorville and came in through the valley
to the north of the city. This was a great drive and made up for the
boring stretches on I-15. Then we got back on the 405 (note: in
California, this is how people refer to major roads - the 405, the
101, etc. Just another one of those little reminders that you're in
another country. Still not sure why I haven't been asked for my
passport even though Ive gone through Texas and into California.)

It was also fun hearing my dad's reactions to getting used to the
bike. He loved how open everything was around him. Especially as a
passenger, he was able to look all around and have an unrestricted
view of the scenery. He was also battleing the cold, even when it was
65 degrees out. Without a windbreaker he was shivering. We switched
around some clothes, and he was much happier. We also spent a lot of
time figuring out how to ride with two people. The passenger has to be
sort of a co-pilot, leaning into turns, working with the driver in
tight spots. Because a passenger's weight is so high above the center
of gravity on a motorcycle, his movements can tip the bike more easily
than the driver.

We were both pretty wiped after the trip. Riding two up seems to be a
lot more tiring than riding single. We went to ralph's for a 6 pack
and got some pizza, then crashed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I made it out of Vegas alive and with most of my finances remaining. I know a lot of you were worried. I had grand plans of writing tomes for the blog, but should have know that it's impossible to get anything productive done in that town. So days late and (many) dollars short, here it is:

I don't think I mentioned before that my dad was meeting me out here in Vegas. The plan was to hang out for a day in Las Vegas, then he hops on the back of the bike and we go to LA. It was also nice that he had a few Marriott points stored up, so we got some free rooms in 2 very expensive cities.

So we got going around 10 on Thursday morning and got a few chores out of the way. Dad did laundry while I went to the UPS store to ship my camping gear to LA. There wasn't enough room on the bike for a passenger and all that gear, so we worked out that we could just send it to the hotel.

We got some lunch and then walked/rode around the strip for a while just to look around. We ducked into Casino Royale and played some very cheap roulette, craps and blackjack. We played for an hour or so and both finished up slightly. I think this might be the only time in my life when I will be up lifetime vs. the Vegas casinos.

Our family went out here about 10 years ago, so we went back to all the places we went when we were out here. We checked out the Luxor, where we stayed last time, and Mandalay Bay. I had some sports wagers to make, and I did those at the Mandalay Bay Sportsbook, which was really cool. Lots of flatscreens and huge LED boards listing odds on various games/sports. It was also Sweet 16 Thursday, so it was a great place to just hang out for an hour and watch the games with everyone. All the bets seemed to be on the underdogs, judging by the cheers of everyone watching. Watching random sports games is a lot of fun with people who have bet heavily on one team or the other. I went up to the desk to place my bets: I put 10 on the Bobcats to win the title at 100/1, so basically Vegas owes me $1,000 in June. I also put a bet in for Russell, my roommate on the Pirates to win the Pennant at 150/1. The guy who booked that one for me said, "Make sure he doesn't spend that one before it hits." I was also very excited to be able to bet against Dook in the tournament. So I said, "I'd like $10 on bet number 808 against the spread." Dook was favored by 8.5 against Purdue. As it turns out, I'm not used to the way that I had to place my bets at the counter, and I might have accidentally bet on Dook instead of against them. I went up to the counter thinking, "Ok I want to bet against Dook, so I should say the bet number next to Dook." Which I did. Which placed a bet against Purdue. I just want to say that I am very happy for this opportunity to represent the University of North Carolina and the fine education I received there. Mom and Dad, if you want me to pay you back for all that tuition you spent, I understand. (Also, Duke won and covered, but on General Principles, I will not be cashing that bet in. At least I can be an idiot with principles.)

We walked around the Bellagio for a while and came across some $10 blackjack tables, which are very cheap for the kind of place that the Bellagio is. We decided we had to play for a little bit, just to say that we played at the Bellagio. The tables had cream colored felt and you placed your bet on a script "B" instead of in a circle. To make a short story shorter, we both lost $40 in about 6 minutes. Totally worth it.

We went to see David Spade do stand-up that night, and it was a great show. We also purchased some of the cheaper tickets, so we sat right in front of the drunk idiots in the last row. They started yelling stuff at the opening act, and he did such a great job of shutting them up while making the rest of the audience howl. Spade did a great show, and yes he did do the "Housekeeping" bit from Tommy Boy.

After the show we hit the cheap tables at the Sahara. We played some craps, which was not going well and getting expensive quickly. Then we sat down at a dollar blackjack table and spent the rest of the night there. We had two dealers who rotated through our table: Natalya, a very nice Russian woman, and Frankie, an older guy from New York who said he went to Vegas to visit some friends about 15 years ago and never left. It was two different worlds when these two dealers would switch. Natalya was just throwing out blackjacks for everyone and when she was dealing, the whole table was up. Then Frankie would come around and we all cowered in fear. It was uncanny how you just couldn't beat Frankie. You could turn a 15 into a 20, and Frankie would somehow get 21. Every time you got blackjack, it was a push. But the great news was that we were playing dollar blackjack. We sat at that table for almost 4 hours and only lost $40 each, while drinking enough beers to seriously impair our addition skills. Natalya eventually gave up and just told us how much we had after each card.

It was just an awesome day. Technically I walked out down about $70 on the day, but you have to take that Bobcats wager into consideration, so I'm actually up $930. Pretty good for a first time in Vegas if you ask me.

Our Hero Journeys to Las Vegas, Land of Virtue

When we last heard from our hero, he had sought shelter from a raging blizzard under the friendly overhang of a Texaco. His goal for the day, to reach the promised land of Las Vegas, Nevada, seemed to be in great peril. Anxiously waiting for the storm to pass, he thought about the task that lay before him. 600 miles from Albuquerque to Las Vegas. Can it be done in one day? Can the task be completed, even in the face of such insurmountable odds as were remaining after the devastation wrought by the fury of Mother Nature? Follow him on his journey as he tears across the American Southwest, land of freedom and promise, with only his wits (those being in perpetual short supply) and his trusty steed.

Day 10

Miles Today: 645 Total Miles: 3,162

The day started in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I left the motel about 9:00 am, hoping to put in some good miles ahead of a storm that was supposed to be coming in around 11 to Albuquerque. I got within about 15 miles of Albuquerque and it hit: terrible cold front, driving winds and snow. I tried to keep going for a few miles, but then the snow got too heavy and I was worried about ice on the roads, so I pulled off. I just wanted a place with covered parking, and a gas station looked pretty good. I was figuring the storm would pass quickly, because there was only light snow forecasted, and it was supposed to warm up quickly after the system moved through. Turns out this one was here to stay a while. I pulled in to the gas station around 10 and couldn't leave until noon.

I had started the day thinking that if everything went just right, I might be able to make it to Vegas (640 miles) in a day. When I got sidetracked by that storm, I knew that was out the window. I got back on the road and made a quick stop into and REI to look for some hand warmers or something that would keep my hands warm. Riding into Santa Fe, the low temperatures combined with the altitude made for temperatures in the high 30's or so. At that point, my hands weren't working very well and I had to do something. I walked out with a pair of insulating glove liners and a package of hand warmers, which you just shake for a few seconds and they emit heat for 6-8 hours. So putting those two together made a big difference in how far I could go in cold weather.

I decided to just take 40 in the interest of speed, because there was just no way I could make it that fast if I didn't. The road was a little intimidating because the speed limit was 75 for almost the whole way. The bike doesn't do really high speeds all that well to begin with, and when you combine that with 20 mph sustained winds and hills, it can be tough to keep up with traffic in spots. There were times when I was holding the throttle wide open going up hills just to make 65 mph.

So I left at 9 am and arrived at midnight, with 13 hours of actual road time and did 645 miles on Thursday. I'm pretty sure I've never done that much in a car before. I got in to the hotel, and half of me wanted to just run to the nearest casino and start losing money, and the other half wanted to crash. Of course, the latter half won out, which was probably a good thing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Can't Talk Now . . . Good Stuff's Hap'nin

Ok sorry for the lack of updates recently, but after my battle with
the snowstorm, I made it 640 miles to Vegas on Wednesday. I'll post
more soon but I can't right now because . . . well, Vegas is
happening. You understand.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Midday Update (Because I've been stuck at this gas station for 2 hours)

So I was all pumped to get going today, fight through the cold and
make it to the warmer weather that was expected in Arizona. Well, all
was going to plan - I put on every piece of clothing I had: two pairs
of jeans, chaps, wool socks two fleeces, jacket, ski mask, 2 pairs of
gloves and my rain suit for a windbreaker. I left around 9 when the
sun had warmed Santa Fe up into the 30's and headed south toward
Albuquerque. It was cold, but the sun was mostly out and I was
confident I could do the 60 miles to Albuquerque in one stretch.
Things were looking good until the snow started. Apparently there was
another system brewing behind the one that hit last night. It was
light to start but got a little heavier and I had to pull off. If that
snow starts to stick even a little bit when I'm doing 70 mph, I'm in
big trouble.

I've been following the radar on my phone and it looks like once this
stuff passes, it should be pretty smooth between here and Vegas. It
just doesn't look like this system is going anywhere soon.

A couple of things that I meant to mention last time but didn't:

So the reason that it's so cold and snowy in Santa Fe is that the city
is at a much higher elevation that I originally thought. The city is
over 7,000 feet above sea level. The climb also really snuck up on me.
It wasn't like climbing mountains in the east where you see s big hill
and then you climb up it. It was very gradual and I didn't realize I
was so high up until the engine started backfiring. It surprised me at
first, but then I put 2 and 2 together and realized what was going on.
Backfiring happens often in carbureted engines when the ratio of air
to fuel is thrown off by high altitude. Adjusting the carb to
compensate can be tricky and I was getting nervous that I would have
to adjust them if it got any worse, but it calmed down after I
descended a bit.

When I hit New Mexico, I mentioned that it felt like frontier country
- attracting the kind of people who wanted to go west to explore and
see what they could find for themselves. That got me thinking about
Lewis and Clark and the absolute lunacy of thier expedition. I had
this scene running through my head of the two of them at a bar, and
Lewis says to Clark, "Dude, I'm bored. Let's just go west and see hoe
farthe land goes." Clark: "Awesome idea bro. Let me just run home and
grab a few things. Oh and grab that Indian chick you met last week -
she said she knew some of the country out there, right?" (read up on
this if your're not familiar with it - pretty fascinating story,
although I like my version better) Anyways, I got thinking about all
the support I have on my trip - a motorized vehicle, roads, motels,
grocery stores and restaurants, maps, AAA - can you imagine doing this
if all you had was some guns, salt, and wagons? Not to mention that
there were supposed to be some hostile natives that you had to make
peace with.

So it looks like things are clearing up, so after a delicious and
nutritious gas station lunch, I think I'll venture out in a bit to see
how the roads are

Double Feature

Days 7&8

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have for you a very special double
feature! Because I was too wiped to write a post last night and too
rushed to write one this morning, we will be recapping both day 7 and
day 8 in one big post. Enjoy!

Day 7

Miles today: 467 Total miles: 2,136

So I mentioned that I did an oil change on the bike yesterday morning,
which took a couple hours, so I got out of Austin around 11 or 11:30.
I headed up through Abeline and then towards Lubbock. The really cool
thing about crossing Texas is the dramatic change in scenery that you
get to see as you move across the state. East Texas is pretty similar
to Mississippi and Louisiana, bu as you move west, the land flattens
out and the trees go away - drier land and more desertlike conditions.
Farmland needs more irrigation and the winds pick up also.

I made a stop along the way to get out the map and plan the rest of my
route for the day, and a man walks in, sees me with all my maps laid
out and says, "I like your style, son. Got all them maps spread out
just lookin for somewhere to go." Made my day.

I got towards Lubbock and found a campsite in the AAA guidebook that I
brought, and headed that way. It took me a little longer than I
thought and I got there well after dark. Well, this turned out to be
one of those campgrounds where they set horror movies, so after I rode
around for longer than I should have, I gave up and got a motel room.

All in all a pretty good day, but the frustration from not finding
that campsite and having to shell out for a room left me with a bad
taste in my mouth.

Day 8

Miles today: 381 Total miles: 2,517

I've been sleeping more than normal on this trip. I think riding makes
me more tired than I realize. So I got in late that night and woke up
late the next morning - around 9 or so. Also, it turns out that the
clock in my room hadn't been updated for DST, so it was actually 10:00
am. After getting ready and packing up, I didn't get going until 11.

I rode through Lubbock to start, which was a bigger city than I
thought - around 250,000 people. Roy Lee - I just saw your comment
giving me directions to BBQ and I really regret not seeing that
earlier. Thanks for the recommendation but it looks like I'm out of
range now. Looks like I'll have to come back again.

I kept going northwest into New Mexico, aiming for Santa Fe. I saw a
marked difference between the two states just in crossing the border.
It feels like frontier country out here - people seem a like more
"individualistic" for lack of a better word. Houses and zoning are a
little more irregular and the land is even drier. Much less good
farmland and only a few cattle here and there.

The wind has picked up a lot, but I'm hoping that's just from the cold
front moving in. If you're hearing about the snow in Denver, northern
New Mexico is catching the southern portion of that. Temps were down
around 40 or high 30's when I rode the last 40 miles or so, and I
thought my fingers were going to fall off, they were so cold. It's
supposed to be worse tomorrow morning, temperatures around 30 in Santa
Fe and 40 around Albuquerque.

Also - another "made my day" moment: I saw TUMBLEWEEDS! I have only
ever seen those in movies and in movies/tv that spoof westerns. It was
surreal to watch the wind carry them across the road in front of me.

Got a room in Santa Fe because it's supposed to snow tonight. I'm
looking to get to the Sports Authority tomorrow morning for some hand
warmers so that I can go for longer without stopping as much

So Vegas by tonight is out - I have over 600 miles to go. I'm hopingto
do about 400 today to make Flagstaff and leave myself a shorter trip

*Morning note : There is snow on the motorcycle. Today migt not be
very awesome.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Day 6

Miles today: 330 Total miles: 1,669

Made it to Austin! Yesterday was a battle for most of the way against
wind and cold. Temps were in the low 40's when I started out around
noon after a really nice mass at St. Theresa parish in Sulfer, LA. I
don't think I've given a detailed description of temperatures and
their relationship to motorcycle riding, so I think I'll do that here.
From hot to cold, omitting temps above 80 or so because I've only
ridden in those conditions briefly when I first got the bike and I
just remember that anything over 80 was awesome. I'll also preface
this by saying that I probably hate the cold more than the next guy -
I'll take temps around 100 over temps in the 40's any day.

70's: Very comfortable. Summer (thinner) gloves and vents on the
jacket open. Maybe one thin sweater if travelling at high speeds for
long periods.

60's: Nice. Probably winter gloves in this range, definitely so in the
lower 60's. Vents on the jacket closed and at least one sweater type

High 50's: Cool but comfortable. Winter gloves, leg coverings (chaps
or leather pants) probably a couple layers under the jacket.

Low 50's: getting cold. With all the gear mentioned above, your hands
are still going to be cold after 30 or 40 miles unless your gloves are
much better than mine or electrically heated.

High 40's: Ok, it's cold. All the above gear and if you can go for
more than 40 miles in one stretch, you're a better man/woman than I.

Low 40's: I would rather not be out riding right now, thank you very
much. My hands freeze after 10 or 15 miles in this weather, so I have
to stop every 15-20 miles to warm them up if I'm not able to do so at
traffic lights. Otherwise it's a little dangerous to be on the bike
and not have your hands able to function.

30's: I can go a couple miles, tops, but that's it. And I'm only going
anywhere if absolutely necessary.

So now that you've got an idea of what I'm talking about, it was in
the upper 30's when I got up around 8 and warmed to about 42 by noon.
So I was hopping from town to town, stopping at most of them to get a
coffee to put my hands around. Around 2 or so it got up to the 50's
and I was able to get going pretty well, but then the coffee caught up
to me and I had to stop a few more times. Around this time, I looked
out west at the horizon and saw a break in the clouds maybe 50 miles
away and did a little fist pump that the weather was going to warm.
Well for the rest of the day I chased that break in the clouds like a
carrot on a stick, and finally caught it after the sun went down. It
did get more comfortable later on, when I got closer to Austin, temps
in the high 50's.

Ok on to the wind. Ever get bounced around on a freeway in a car?
Imagine what that wind would do if you took away 3/4 of the weight of
your car. It's also a heck of an experence to go 70 mph down the
freeway and have a 20 mph headwind. I was very happy to get off the
freeway once I got into Texas.

When I got into Texas, there was a sign that said "Beaumont 26 miles,
El Paso 872 miles." I think somebody at the DOT has a sense of humor.

I made it into Austin around 9:30 last night and stayed with sharon's
uncle in downtown Austin. I got a shower and went to sleep right after.

I changed the oil on the bike this morning in the parking lot of a Wal-
Mart and had some lunch. Now I'm ready to set out for what I've heard
is one of the most monotonous terrain on earth. Wish me luck.

The plan is now to get to Vegas by Wednesday night, which I'm pretty
sure I can do. I'll probably be camping somewhere in west Texas

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Southern Louisiana; Highs and Lows

Day 5

Miles today: 255 Total miles: 1,339

First something I meant to post yesterday but forgot until mike
reminded me. When we were in New Orleans, he introduced us to the
North Carolina state toast. I feel like a better north carolinian now
that I have participated in this fine ode to the Old North State. You
can find the toast
for your next party or social gathering here:

Yesterday was a bit of a challenge. I got a late start kit of the city
and was feeling pretty tired after not sleeping much the night before.
I took US-90 across the southern part of the state, which was nice for
most of the way, but the road was in pretty rough shape and was pretty
tough on me and the bike. Mike filled me in on why this is - he said
that Louisiana would not raise its drining age to 21 for a long time
after all other states had done so. Becuase the federal government
couldn't do anything about this directly, they decided to simply
withold funds for road construction and repair until the state
capitulated in the mid 90's. I thought this was a great story until I
had to ride 5 hours on said roads. I also saw a few drive-thru daqueri
shops, which got my mind spinning about the logistics of a daqueri on
a motorcycle. I have seen some Honda goldwings with cupholders, so
maybe something like that with a camelbak straw might work. One of the
fun parts about this trip is that I get to thunk these scenarios all
the way out and come up with solutions to pressing social and
political concerns like how to drink a piña colada on a bike.

When I got close to lafayette, I took LA-14 to avoid the city, and it
was one of the nicest roads I've taken yet. The land is now extretmely
flat with farmland for miles. Thus means that I can now see large
storm systems on the horizon, which is one of the coolest things about
being in the central US. Living in the east, your view is always
obstructed by hills and trees, but out here you can sometimes see the
horizon for 360 degrees around you. It really makes me feel small when
I can see a huge storm system bearing down on me.

Today was full of highs and lows. Leaving New Orleans and dealing with
those roads was not a fun experience, but the chance to ride LA-14 was
just awesome and more than made up for the rough start to the day.

I had visions of getting to Texas in my mind this morning, but it was
not to be. Mother nature decided that 40 degrees, 30 mph wind gusts
and rain would be just perfect for a Saturday night. So I'm at a motel
in Sulfer, LA. The plan is go get to Austin today, and the weather
looks cold and windy. Hopefully the afternoon will be nice to make up
for it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Status Update

My butt hurts.

That is all.

New Orleans is Sweet

Day 4

Miles today: 312 Total miles: 1,084

I'm finding it very difficult to leave this place. New Orleans is a pretty amazing city. I came here for a few days in 2006 to do hurricane cleanup, but it really feels like the mood of the city is better now. When I was here last, I went out on Bourbon Street, but it felt a little more muted than what I saw last night. The ride in last night was awesome - there are Louisiana Oaks overhanging every street and there is just such an energy to this city. I saw lots of houses that had colored flood lights outside - yellow and green and purple, which would look really tacky in any other city, but somehow looks perfect here. We went to see Drive By Truckers last night at Tipitina's and had a really great time. Mike lives really close to the bar and it's pretty crazy that one of the more famous music clubs in the city is just a neighborhood bar for him. One of the crazy/really cool things about this city is that if you go out to any bar on any night, you'll find people in their 50's, 60's and even 70's sometimes who are keeping pace with the 20 year olds. I'm going to start today off by just riding around the city for a little while to see more of what it looks like. If I don't get to Houston today, it's because I'm still in New Orleans.

I took US-90 pretty much the whole way from Pensacola, FL to here, except for one part when I had to get on I-10 coming into NO because Katrina knocked out the bridge I was going to take, and it was too dark to read my map and figure out another way.

A couple of notes from the road:

Last year at work, I was applying to renew the state registrations for our products in Florida, and I noticed that the commissioner of their agricultural regulatory authority was named Charles Bronson, he of the "Death Wish I-V" series fame. So I had visions of Charles Bronson mowing down farmers in an effort to restore compliance to Florida's agricultural industry. Well, apparently he also regulates "consumer services" which includes gas stations, where I saw his name again. So now I had even cooler visions of him blowing up gas tankers all along the Florida coast, all in the name of regulatory justice. Once again, it's the little things that keep me entertained.

Riding across the Mobile Bay into Mobile, AL was really cool. There are parts of US-90 that run right along the water, and there is only a foot or two of difference in elevation between the road and the water, so it feels like you could just turn right and keep right on riding over the water. The USS Alabama is also docked there and it is HUGE. So I swung in to go take a look at that and then headed on to Mississippi.

I may have mentioned this in my previous post, but did you know you can gamble in Mississippi? I really had fun playing the penny slots and winning big. That's probably the last time in my life that I'll walk out of a casino having won money and kept it.

Alright, time to pack up and get back on the road. I'm trying to get to Houston today, but I'm not sure if I'll make it. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 19, 2010

...And the Debauchery Begins!!!

Much warmer this morning. That was a great decision I made in Georgia to turn instead of heading east across the state. I headed further south into Florida, mostly because I wanted to add Florida to the list of states that I had visited on this trip. I went to Pensacola and then on to Mobile, Biloxi/Gulfport and then New Orleans. It was all in all a really nice day of riding, with really good weather. I even shed a few layers and brought out the warm weather gloves.

Did you know that you can gamble in Mississippi? I don't think I did. As I passed the casinos of the gulf coast, I realized that I needed to get a warm-up in before I went to Vegas - you don't want to go into the big game cold, after all. So I strolled into one of the houses of entertainment in Gulfport and laid down big money (one whole dollar!) and won HUGE at the slots! I left the Island View casino with 2 extra dollars in my pocket, which I promptly used to tip the guy who drove the shuttle. But a good sign nonetheless!

So I'm staying with my friend Mike Florack from high school in New Orleans tonight, and I've been informed that it's time to go experience NOLA. I'll fill in some details tomorrow.

Lots of Riding

Day 3

Miles today: 382 Total miles: 772

Editor's note: Looks like this is going to be an NBC sports blog entry
- coming to you live via tape delay! I'm at a campsite in southern
Alabama which is really nice and scenic. Unfortunately, it's so scenic
that I don't have cell phone service. So I'm writing this thusday
night, posting Friday morning. We now go live to Bob Costas!

Really great day today with a lot of riding as you can tell from the
mileage. It was a little cold this morning - low 40's when I got out
of the tent around 8 - but it warmed up quickly once I got going on
packing up. I mentioned last time that it was raining last night, so I
had a wet tent to deal with in the morning. I got everything packed up
and wiped the tent down with a backpacker's towel that Sandy gave me
(dries out really quickly) and packed the tent up too.

I rode about 25 miles to the next town and got a coffee at McDonald's
to plan the route for today. I was just outside of Greensboro this
morning and decided to take ga-44 south to Eatonton the take ga-16
west across the state. That was nice until I decided I wanted to be
warmer, so I decided to head south on US- 27alt/41 south from where 16
hits I-85 to Columbus, GA. I crosses over into Alabama there.
Apparently a "Welcome to Alabama" sign wasn't in the budget, so I took
a picture of the "Welcome to Phenix (sic) City" sign instead. I took
US-80 west for 20 miles or so and the AL-51 south. Alabama's state
highway signs kind of squish the shape of the state of Alabama down so
that it's square instead of tall so they can fit the road numbers
inside - it makes the state look like Massachussets, only reversed.
Mass backwards, if you will. (It's the little things that keep me
laughing on this trip.) So I took 51 to Union Springs and then US-29
south to Andalusia. The one in Alabama, not Spain. I know, I get those
mixed up too. Tonight I'm in Conecuh national forest at a campsite
next to a lake. Which is awesome.

A couple of things that ran through my mind today:

Saw a logging operation in GA this morning that made me think ofthe
deforestation I saw in Haiti. I really hope reforestation is part of
the long term recovery plan for that country, because they can rebuild
Port-au-Prince all they want, but once they do, I'm not sure what
industry they'll have to sustain it once it's back.

I rode for a while today with a Harley guy and it got me thinking
about a few things on motorcycle riding that I've learned over the
past year or so and thought I would share. When 2 riders get near
each other on a road, they like to join up and ride together - partly
because it's safer (easier to see two bikes than one) and mostly
because it's more fun. Riders will also wave at each other, just like
boaters. Very important to do this with your left hand so you don't
let go of the throttle/brake and wreck your bike. Harley riders can be
uppity about this and only wave to other Harley riders, which I've
seen firsthand and don't really understand. What's wrong with waving
to someone on the road? Shoot, I waved at a guy on a lawnmower today.

To the team at MEY: I've been doing some scouting in the southeastern
states and have a report. I haven't seen any planting in the states
I've ridden through. Most of the weeds I saw lookd like they hadn't
been sprayed yet. There are lots of weeds that need killing, but no
spraying yet that I've seen. I did overhear some talk of getting
sprayers fixed, so hopefully that means that a few have started. I'll
have another report when I get to Texas.

A guy pulled out in front of me today and cut me off, (not close
enough to hit me, but close enough to get me pretty mad) and then I
noticed his bumper sticker that said "my bad" and I just laughed and
waved at him.

Editor's note 2: It looks like my earlier posts have been a little
garbled and have been cut off at certain points. Because i dont have a
computer with me, I'm writing these posts on my phone and then
emailing them to the blog, so I guess something's getting lost in that
process. I'm hoping to get to a computer tonight so I can fix that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Real Start of the Trip

Day 2: about 30 miles south of Athens, GA

Miles today: 263 Total miles: 400

Today really felt like the start of the trip across the country. After
getting everything packed and ready to go yesterday, I rode from
Chapel Hill to Charlotte, which I've done before, so that just felt
like continued trip prep. Today I woke up, got out a map, picked a
road that looked nice, and went there. This is the kind of travel that
I wanted to do and it feels great to not be tied to a route or
specific timetable each day. I just pick a road in the morning and see
where I wind up at the end of the day. Today I took state highway 72
from Rock Hill, SC to Athens, GA and then state highway 15 south to
the campground I'm at now. Tomorrow I'll get up, pack up camp, get the
map out and decide where I'm going. This is sweet.

I hung around Charlotte for a while this morning. Sandy made me a
huge, delicious breakfast and then I spent an hour trying to figure
out how to fit all the new stuff she gave me on the bike. I got to run
over to the Butler's house also to see Anne and also my cousin
Christy, who's been checking out Charlotte for the week. I also swung
by my old high school to see how it was holding up on the way out of
town. Fear not, Charlotte Catholic alumni, no major changes that I
could see, although they did paint some of the football stadium, and
it looks pretty nice.

I got my food for the day at Bi-Lo: (I was hoping for a piggly wiggly,
but my stomach couldn't hold out) cheese, summer sausage and crackers.
$9 and I'll probably get 3 or 4 meals out of it.

I'm also camping tonight in a state park and no ranger has shown up
yet so it looks like I'm not paying to camp either. Here's what the
campsite looks like:

I Can't Believe I'm Actually Doing This

Day 1
Miles today: 137 Total miles: 137

It really didn't hit me that I was actually going to take a motorcycle
across the country until the minute before I got on the bike. I spent
today running all over town getting everything together before I left,
getting new tires put on the bike, picking up more maps from AAA,
filing tax returns (thanks again, Rob) and tying everthing up so I
could leave. So I didn't really give myself a chance for it to sink in
that I'm actually doing this. When I first sat on the bike, it kept
running through my head that some of the best experiences that I've
had have begun with me thinking "this could be the coolest or dumbest
thing that I've ever done." And this trip certainly fits that

So the bike is all packed and ready to go (picture below). I was
actually surprised at how much room I actually have to store stuff.
All my clothes fit in one sadllebag, shoes, jackets and socks in the
other one, books, first aid, toiletries, maps and food in the tank
bag, tools under the seat and camping gear and rainsuit under a bungee
net on the passenger seat.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins With a Credit Card

So I'm leaving tomorrow and have spent the last few days trying to get everything together. I saw the above quote on the internet somewhere and after all the money I've spent on gear in the past few weeks, it feels appropriate. I'll be taking the bike in to the shop tomorrow to get new tires put on and a new battery put in. Tires for the bike, by the way, are muy expensive - got a pretty good deal on them and they were still about $300 for a set of 2 high mileage Metzelers. There's also been the leather jacket, awesome looking chaps, rain gear, tools, extra storage for the bike . . . I feel like my credit card is like JT's paddle at the end of this commercial:


It'll all be worth it when I'm able to get the bike packed up and I can just get out on the road without having to think about what I'm forgetting and what I still need to get. And the good news is that wherever you are in America, there's always a Wal-Mart close by. 

It's been great hearing from everyone, and thanks again to all of you who have offered me a place to stay. I'm really looking forward to seeing all of you. 

So tomorrow I'll leave Chapel Hill late and go to Charlotte where I'll be staying with my "second family," the Farrelly's. Pictures of the bike all packed up coming tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Plan

So I'll be leaving my job in mid-March of this year to do a year or two of service work starting around August, and in the meantime I'll be riding my motorcycle across the country! Welcome to my blog where I'll be documenting the trip, my experiences, thoughts, musings, etc. for the next few months.

So, stealing from the opening scene of The Motorcycle Diaries, here's the idea:

The Rider:

Brian Becker. 24 years old, recent college grad, and ready to get out on the road.

I took this picture in the store because I was laughing at how ridiculous I looked in those leather chaps.

The Equipment:

A 2001 Yamaha V Star 650 Classic. I got this bike last fall after fantasizing over owning a motorcycle for as long as I can remember. I bought her with about 18,000 miles and have added on another 2,000 since then. She's in great shape; the previous owners were very good about maintenance and cleaning.

 The Plan:

I guessing at least 10,000 miles in about 6 weeks. I'm planning to avoid highways as much as possible. While I am extremely  thankful for Mr. Eisenhower's interstate system, getting from point A to B quickly is not important on this trip. "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything," said Charles Kuralt.

One of the reasons I'm doing this trip is to see and spend some time with friends who have moved in the last couple years, but most places, I don't know anyone. So if you have a couch or floor I could borrow for a night along the way, or if you know someone that you could put me in touch with, I would be very grateful.

Here is the first draft of the route:

View Larger Map

Some notes: I'm very up in the air about the national parks out west. If you have recommendations for where to go, I would love to hear them. Basically this whole route is very flexible. I just wanted to map out where I want to go but I'm sure it won't turn out the way I've drawn it up.

Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear from you. You can either comment on this page or send me an email at Thanks!