Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Post 555 -- the Descent

So, the 555 came to a scattered end in the far reaches of Portland, Maine.  
We pulled in as a unified crew and left in a scattered blur of fuzzy headaches and mechanical and structural breakdowns.  Finding the inside, underground track to the lobsters and local bars where a shot of whiskey was 5 ounces in a glass, we laughed into the cool, triumphant evening.  

Waking up to out-of-place zombie strolls through a continental breakfast and indecisive confusion, everyone slurred into action of some sort or another.  With not much thought, almost like in a fit of habit, everyone started packing up their bikes.  Broken bits and pieces presented themselves in the morning sunshine after the hard push to cross the finish line over the array of the endless frost-heaved pavement of the north.  It seemed far too early to have to start thinking about another visit to a welding shop.  Thank god it wasn't me. 

I had two things on my mind...food and coffee.  With the sun shining, we packed our bags as if we were never coming back--just like how we left.  The team scattered with little communication.  Slim and I found ourselves at the dock squinting into the bright wait of an opening oyster shack that is a secret delicacy of Portland (J's).  Some others straggled in, and some meandered to a coffee shop, others to the welding shop.  One could hear the ruffled choppers roaming their ways to some spot in town.  

My decision was made.  I was going to California.  I was going one way or another...so i figured I should just ride.     

 Slim, a man of no hesitation, came with me to Syracuse, NY to visit his family and then ride back to TN solo.  The boys headed out on the long road south to Connecticut, then to Tennessee.  Two were to fly from Philly.  Along the way, the problems increased for them.  Electrical shorts, mysteries, and eventually 7 spokes broke off of Oly's bike, and that's what took the cake.  Oly had to be back in 2 days for his flight back to Australia.  So the inevitable had to occur...7 smelly dudes in 1 little minivan-- soccer moms from hell!

 Meanwhile, Slim and I bounced our hardtails down the road for a day and a half till reaching Syracuse, and I departed to hit the long road West, solo.  Luckily, from Knoxville to Maine, I had had no problems with my bike, now named "SUERTE" (Lucky), so I had some confidence that I could make it.

 I pulled the throttle on my CB500 like I had not on the entire trip to Maine since I was no longer surrounded by 350's.  I gobbled up miles and camped out in random fields, fairgrounds, farms, state parks, and anywhere I ended up.

 The corn harvest of Iowa in the fall was surprisingly beautiful, as were the people that I encountered.  Following advice from locals I spent a good night on the banks of a gorgeous reservoir where fall colors exploded, deer and elk roamed, and pelicans flocked in waves across the lake.

 I didn't get very far the next day before I broke down in some sort of field and had to go through some things.   After cleaning the carbs, I limped to a gas station where a neighboring moto mechanic said I needed to completely dismantle the engine and rebuild it spending god knows what.  So, I walked out from that little pep talk a little discouraged when all I wanted was to borrow a points file.  Not being a great or intuitive mechanic, I went a round-about way of finding out that I needed to file and re-time the electrical points.  Luckily an old-timer swooped to the rescue with his lovely wife and gave me a fingernail file that did the trick.  I noted that one, and spent another night in the park.

 Wriggling into Nebraska, I found my way to another reservoir that blew my mind.  I was expecting nothing when I stumbled onto a white sand beach for a night of star-filled peace, well, till I woke up with the tent laying on my face from a severe wind storm.  The only other person anywhere around was a retired aerospace engineer that had a truckfull of beer and food from his garden.  I woke to a beautiful morning and hit the road.

Crossing into Wyoming and into the immense sage field deserts, I at once felt at home as I reminisced of the days of desert living around the Grand Canyon.  The subtle ease of life and weather in the desert floored me as I leaned on my steed, ate food, rolled a cigarette, drank coffee, and watched the flickering fire dance with the steady light of the full moon.  There wasn't a soul around for miles except the antelope that meandered around camp in the early morning.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

555 -- the TRIP (Part 5)

 So we left Jimmy to his fate and hit the road, and what a day.  The road dipped in and out of tight forested valleys as we slipped along the spine of the Appalachians.  We didn't have any problems on this day, and we crushed miles.

 We rolled into a quaint little town, the kind you look for when you're not looking for anything but small town America.  Most posted up to the bar for an afternoon toast, and a couple of us grabbed the last coffees at the cafe before they closed.

 After a guest appearance from a backcountry transvestite, we finally found a a campsite.  Well, some of us.  We set up ahead, build a huge fire, and left a marker to let the others know where to turn.  There was some confusion leading some to camp somewhere else, also building a fire.  The group was split.  It was an awkward feeling.  Settling into the thought of only a few of us, a bunch of beer, and a huge fire in the middle of the forest, we heard a growing rumble.  There was no mistaking the sound... the boys were coming.  They bounced into camp in a glorious chaos and the fire escalated to a new height as night slid passed us.

 The next day, we made it a good way til the Outlaw's bike decided to take a dump.  He had to hold onto Slim's leather jacket and get a tow up the hill to a pull off where we assumed the position--laying down, throwing rocks at trash, and tellin stories. We were close enough to call for a lift from Seth, the friend whose house was our next destination.  This was in West Virginia.

 It was amazing.  He had a shop, a house to take our first showers, and a town close by for parts and coffee.  He cooked us up a huge pot of spaghetti and brought cases of beer to the hungry wolves.

 There was a lot of laughter.

 Poor Outlaw had to tear down and rebuild his engine again while most of us sat back telling jokes.
The outlaw held steady and tightened up his ship.  Meanwhile, Jimmy was back in Knoxville doing his own rebuild and driving back up to meet us.  He made it, and we were all on the road after a needed layover day.

 Seth.  He's a character to say the least.  Thanks for the hospitality.

 Everyone signed the hand-made flag that was now beginning to fray.  It made it the whole way, carried proudly.

 There may or may not have been some burnouts.

 Seth had gone to bed, so we signed it to let him know.
 The stop at Seth's was perfect in another regard.  It had rained the entire time we were stopped.  The day we left it looked like this.


 Not always what you are ready for in your rearview.

 We passed through Punxatawny, PA, where the famous groundhog tells us the future of the seasons.
Bill Murray was nowhere to be found.

 Eventually, we made it to the Outlaw's Mom's house.  It was a warm woodfire stove and homecooked chicken noodle soup and fresh-baked bread welcome.

 Aaron, the Outlaw's brother was a good help for some places to crash and a hangover for a few.

 The homemade dinner was fabulous, only to be followed by a spectical of enormous proportions.

 Amish breakfast.  Backstory:  I had to hear about this fabled breakfast every single time I was hungry on a trip of over a year and a half as Mike and I traveled south to Bolivia...everytime.  The thought would make me salivate as I tried to imagine a breakfast for the gods cooked by little singing and giggling girls.


 Everything was true!!!  It was amazing.  Sausage the size of hamburgers, fresh baked bread, homefries, eggs, and endless coffee.

 Horses grazed, wagons rolled by, and laundry hung in the breeze.

 Outlaw, a.k.a. Papaw, was a happy man.  The amish girls giggled as we arrived, we giggled as we left.

 Battling hard tails with food comas, we rolled on.

 And the funny people just kept on talking.

 Down the road, Jimmy had another surprise.  His spark plug blew out.  On the side of the road again, the wrenches got dug out.  A crew ran to the store and a new set of threads were cut.  A crew went to find a campsite, others on a beer run, and others laid around and enjoyed the sunset.  Upon warning the neighbor why we were there, we were informed that she had a gun, twice.  Her husband later let us in on the fact that we stood a chance cause she "starts low and raises up as she shoots".  The son stopped by on his 4 wheeler and invited us to camp in his back yard just next door.  We shared some drinks, saw a bobcat, schemed about crashing the Brooklyn Invitational, and then fell asleep.

 The next morning, we decided it was a terrible idea to chance all of us and our "flawless" machines riding into NYC.

 We stuck to the back roads and worked our way towards Slappy's mom's house.

 The only time you will not hear Slappy talking.

 the Stalker

 Mamma Slappy
Another soft landing of barbecue, hot drinks, late night dessert, warm house, good breakfast, and another shop to fix up some other issues.  Another good stop.

 Hot rod mamma.


 Getting closer, but the zombies still lurk.

 Another pit stop was Pistol's friend, Trippe.  Meeting the friends and families of the guys starts to unveil the mysteries of their personalities.

 We were kindly told by a silly man that we should beware cause "the hammer might be dropped" by the local Hell's Angels. So we got a coffee.  Most bikers like us, cause we're not out to prove anything except that riding bikes is fun, whether they work or not.

 All of our gas was bought by Pistol's buddy at the historic Hemmings service station and museum, yet another act of kindness.

 That was a special night far from home.  We were close to Portland, Maine.  The realization rested quietly in the back of everyone's minds.

 I woke in the morning trying to decide if I was going to ride back with the guys or turn left and head to California.  Not giving too much real thought, I pulled out the maps to a bit of a grueling immensity, for I did have a bit of a time limitation.  It was going to be a push, but so far, my bike really hadn't had any real problems.  We packed up and rode on.

 For some reason, Jimmy and the Stalker's bike like to copy each other and KC's spark plug also blew out, or something, I can't even remember anymore.

 But low and behold....WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!
Portland, Maine.
Bunker Brewery.


 After a couple victory beers, we went for more.  We posted up in our first hotel of the trip, took showers, and chased some tail..the lobster tail, what else do you do in Maine???!!!

 All a bit hurt, we rose to figure out something we hadn't put any thought into...getting home.  It had taken 11 days, longer than we had expected.  Upon inspection, we found some more broken bikes, some headaches, and some hunger.  A few of us headed for coffee, others to the welder, and some others to the locals' favorite seafood place, J's for a meal we had missed for having too many people the night before.

 We ate like kings.  Then Slim and I, Tank, saddled up and hit the road.

 Knoxville, Tennessee to Portland, Maine