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Old 02-23-2008, 04:34 PM   #1
islemann
Re Tired Not Dead
 
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mercer Island, WA
Motorcycles: '01 Triumph Tiger 955i '00 Honda VFR 800fi
Name: Michael
A ride story (LONG!)

I thought I'd channel Mehran. The following is a little something I wrote over the last couple of days. It's a work in progress and I thought I'd toss it in the sink to see if it sloshed out or not.

The people are composites, hell the trip itself is a composite. Time and calendar dates are suspended by me, using my editorial super powers. I hope you enjoy it. Offlist commentary and suggestions gratefully accepted.

A Ride Story (Part 1)

A few years ago I decided to take a motorcycle ride. No plans, no Ďdestinationí, no time limit.

It had been a tough winter and a tougher spring. My marriage officially ended in April. The reality is; it had been over long before. Divorce is such an ugly thing. Divorce is even uglier when someone you loved turns on you with a vindictive rage.

I needed to get my head together. I needed to travel and I needed to think. Thereís no better place for both than on the seat of a motorcycle.

It was a chilly thirty degrees at 6 am as I walked from my apartment to the ganged garages across the parking lot. It ws cold enough to be wearing my gloves along with a poly-fleece pull-over, but the sky was clear and the local weather forecast called for a sunny day. Today was as good a day as any for starting this ride.

Ducking under the corner of the stairs, I walked up to the garage door. I fumble in my pocket for the remote opener and cursed silently under my breath as my gloves made it nearly impossible to pull the remote from the recesses of my pants pocket. Ah, success. With a grinding noise the door opened and my old traveling companion came into view.

Pulling my gloves back off, I stood next to my motorcycle and with a glance took in silver paint that had dulled after nearly 20 years of exposure to the sun. Thereís formerly polished alloy that doesnít glimmer on the wheels. A set of scuffed black luggage hangs off the sides of the seat. The luggage mounts are just slightly askew. Iíll want to fix that some day. The windscreen has yellowed a bit and carries a slight haze of scratches from hundreds of cleanings. The long black seat has a polished look from thousands of hours of my butt sitting on it. This old bike is getting, wellÖold.

None of that cosmetic stuff matters, as I flick the key to Ďoní, check that the neutral light is shining at me and pull the choke lever to that familiar sweet spot. My thumb presses the starter button, thereís a brief whirring of the starter quickly drowned out by a bark from the exhaust as 1000cc of inline four lights off. A guttural rumble fills the confines of the garage while the bike settles into a slightly loping idle.


Once when I was messing around in the garage, I pulled the mufflers off and started the bike. The walls shook with what sounded like a big-block V8. My neighbors were less than impressed.

My reluctantly old bike runs like new. I trust its mechanical condition with my life, because Iím the mechanic. I trust the handling, because Iíve ridden this motorcycle almost a hundred thousand miles. I know how hard I can corner, I know how hard I can brake and perhaps most importantly, I know just how fast this aged sport-touring bike can run. Weíve bonded, this old Kawasaki and I.

These are the final preparations for a trip with no plans. While the bike warms, I pull the camping gear off the shelf and strap it across the seat and luggage rack. I packed my clothing into the side cases last night. I clip the garage remote onto the tank-bag so that I can reach it. After a quick check of the tire pressures, do a walk around to make sure all the lights are functional. I spy no leaks, nothing hangs loose. Iím good to go.

Pausing for the briefest of moments, I wonder when Iíll need to use the remote again.

Itís time to gear up and hit the road. I pull my riding pants on over my jeans, and shrug into my warm textile jacket. I do the earplug dance to screw a pair of earplugs into my head and tug my helmet over my ears. Throwing a leg over the bike I remember too late that my gloves are over on the bench. I un-throw the leg, and stomp, slightly disgusted with myself over to the bench to grab the gloves, stomp back, and remount.

I pull my gloves on, settle into the seat, and nowÖIím ready.

With a familiar Ďclunkí I push the bike off the center-stand then heave back on the bars to paddle backwards out of the garage.

The garage door closes but I canít hear it due to my ear protection. I double check that it stays closed. Months ago, Iíd come home from a week long ride to find the garage door wide open. Nothing was missing, but my neighbor said it was open all week. He told me heíd wondered if I meant to leave it open. I wondered why he hadnít closed it.

The first few miles of a ride always seem to take the longest. I pull up to the first major intersection from my residential area and Iím confronted with a decision. The main road goes two ways. One way takes you to the coast, one takes you inland. Which way? It doesnít matter.

I turn right and Iím surrounded by commuters in their cages, busily sipping on their lattes and talking on their cell phones. My senses are buzzing with danger signals from the hazards surrounding me. I do some deep breathing, and regain my familiarity with the task at hand aas I begin to settle in. I remain aware of the flock, but now Iím the wolf, not the lamb.


An hour goes by along with fifty or so miles. Iím away from the city with fewer cars and trucks around. Those that I do encounter are quickly dispatched with a twist of the wrist. Iím not quite out of civilization but I can see the edge. The road narrows, and now I casually toss my bike through sweeping curves along the river. Sunlight flickers through the branches and splatters across my faceshield. This is good. This is very good.

I donít eat right. Iíve been told that numerous times. I skip breakfast, I skip lunch. I drink too much coffee and I love foods that are loaded with fat and sugar and all those other nasty yummy contents. I think as I ride, ďIíll have barbeque for dinnerĒ. The trick will be to see if I can find a BBQ joint along this road. After a moment, I realize that it doesnít matter. Iíll eat what I can find, when I find it.

Two hundred miles have gone beneath my rolling wheels. Iím starting to get into the rhythm of riding. Iím comfortable, the bike beneath me responds exactly as I expect. Mechanical noises are normal all systems nominal on the instruments, thereís nothing to disturb my thoughts.

I simply think. I think about what I could have done differently in my relationship. What I could have done differently in all of my relationships. My thoughts arenít distracted by a radio, a ringing cell phone or the jabbering of a passenger. Iím completely alone inside my helmet. Just me, and my thoughts. I realize with a flash of inspiration that, what has passed has past, and the future is all that lies ahead. Heavy man. I think some more.

I never did find that BBQ joint. Three tanks of gas and itís starting to get dark. Iíve ridden almost a thousand miles so far today. Iím not home anymore. Iím not even in my home state. Iíve traversed Oregon from north to south and Iíve not set a wheel on the interstate except for the last seventy five miles.




Itís dark now. Riding motorcycles in the dark is two things. First, itís incredibly challenging. Second, itís terribly dangerous. Deer and motorcycles donít mix. Evening brings the deer out along the road to graze on the nice fresh grass that tends to grow there. A wise motorcyclist finds safe shelter when darkness falls.

Nobody ever said I was wise. I decide to press on down CA3 from Yreka for one more tank of gas. That will see me three hundred miles further down the road. Iíll be another three hundred miles from home. Iíll have another five or six hours of thinking time. To me, on this day, the risk is worth the reward. I press on, tossing this rumbling friend of mine through the corners and accelerating hard down the straights. The rhythm of riding continues long into the night.


To be continued...
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Old 02-23-2008, 04:35 PM   #2
islemann
Re Tired Not Dead
 
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mercer Island, WA
Motorcycles: '01 Triumph Tiger 955i '00 Honda VFR 800fi
Name: Michael
A Ride Story (Part 2)


Early morning sun streams into my tent. The air is sweet smelling, and ripe with the scents of trees and dirt. Genuine ĎFresh Mountain Airí surrounds me but itís cool, not cold. Iím awakening in a campground along a river in the mountains of Northern California. The Trinity River burbles past just a few feet from my head.

Yesterday was a long day. By the time I found this campground and had my tent set up, it was well after midnight. Earlier in the dark, Iíd rolled through a couple of campgrounds looking for an empty tent site. No luck on the first two attempts, I was feeling pretty darn discouraged before I found this one. As I rode through this campground late last night I felt guilty about the noise my motorcycle made, but I was too tired to go any further. ďI was as quiet as possibleĒ, I silently apologize to my fellow campers.

Iím up and dressed before long. I pull my boots on and take a walk around the campground to stretch my legs and get a little of the crimp out of my style. Forty-five minutes later, the bike is packed and Iím geared up again. It isnít until Iíve already hit the starter button that I realize itís only five thirty in the morning. No wonder nobody else is up.

I roll out of the campground and back onto the road. A black ribbon of asphalt is beckoning and my mocha craving adds to the siren call of the road. Weaverville is about an hour or so away. I can handle that long of a wait, before I suffer from a caffeine crash.

An old high school friend runs the only internet cafť between Redding and Eureka. Sheís delighted to see me and with a smile and wave gestures me over into a corner. Moments later a gorgeous quad mocha has appeared at my elbow. Seemingly seconds pass and with a flourish, a plate mounded with scrambled eggs, toast and hash browns joins it. As I said before, Iím not normally a morning person and I rarely eat breakfast, but this is good eats.

Mary earns a hug as she pushes me out the door with a smile and a promise from me to ďvisit her again the next time I come through townĒ.
I wave as I pull away. It isnít long before Iím blasting through the corners again. The road requires my full attention as it rips and tears across ridges and plummets through valleys. Darting along I encounter random travelers. Some I pass with a wave, other I simply pass and donít look back.

Without thinking beyond the moment, I head east at Weaverville, then turn south continuing on CA3 at Douglas City. This route brings me down to what I believe is the all time greatest motorcycle road in California.

CA36 runs from Red Bluff to Eureka. Thereís a famous sign at the Red Bluff end that reads ďCurves next 140 milesĒ. That alone qualifies it as great. The condition of the pavement and the lack of traffic are icing on this asphalt cake.

I turn right and head for Eureka.

The road lives up to its reputation. Iím so stoked that I ride it end to endÖtwice. Once back to Eureka for the second time in the same day, I find a motel, grab a shower and stretch out on the bed. Sleep slams me between the eyes and I surrender fully.

Thereís no sunlight streaming in the windows today. Itís raining and gray. The clock reads 8 am but the sky is so burdened with clouds that the street lights are still on. This day would qualify for recognition as one of those Ďperfect weather for a motorcycle rideí days.

Twelve hours later I ring the doorbell of my friend Robertís house in Cupertino, while dripping quietly on his stoop. Robert isnít home. This is bad.

My day has been plagued by random problems. My gear has decided to leak, leaving my crotch totally soaked. I had a flat tire, I lost my spare key and my tent poles decided to go missing somewhere between here, and there.

I sit on the step and wait. Iím doing my best unwind impression; the problem is Iím not finding myself able to actually unwind. Maybe three quad mochas in a single day are indeed Ďtoo manyí.

Itís nearing 7 pm and Robert finally pulls into his driveway nearly hitting my parked motorcycle. That would have been just about freaking perfect.

A couple cold beers, some pizza and a shower later and I begin to feel human. I sit down on the couch and begin to spew, to vent, nay, to rant. Robert, as usual simply listens.

After listening to my tales of woe, Robert scrounges in his garage for a few minutes and comes up with a brand new, still in the original bag, tent which he quietly hands me. My offers to pay for it are rebuked. I tell him I love him, he tells me heís locking his bedroom door.

In the morning, I sneak a twenty dollar bill into the box of Cheerios. Two weeks later Iíll find a twenty dollar bill tucked away under the seat of my motorcycle.

Morning comes and Iím off again. This time itís not raining, though the skies remain a leaden gray. My gear has dried overnight with the exception of my gloves. My hands immediately feel the chill, so I crank the heated grips up to max power. It feels warmer to my brain - but my fingers canít really tell. I ride on and think warm thoughts.

By late afternoon, Iím two quad mochas down the road and Iím at the southern end of CA49. Iíve ridden to and past the ĎJames Dean Death Spotí, near Cholame. Iíve had a so-so CalMex lunch in the middle of nowhere and now, no matter how hard I try to ignore my body - Iím tired.

I shouldnít be this tired. So far today Iíve only covered about five hundred miles, but my bones are weary and my brain feels furry. I opt for an early stop and pray for a dry night, as I set my new tent up before dark in a completely vacant campground. I donít even bother with a campfire. At about 6 pm, I roll the sleeping bag out, lay down and before I know it Iím checked out for the duration.

The sound of birds chortling wakens me while itís still partly dark. I look out and I can barely make out the silhouette of my Kawasaki against the shadows of the darker forest. Itís very early. Early enough that I opt to lay back down and try for some more sleep.


When I wake the tent is stifling hot and Iím drenched in sweat. I look at my watch and canít believe my eyes. Itís 2 pm. Iíve slept for nearly twenty hours with one brief interruption. I feel better. After getting up and walking around a bit I decide that I can take the rest of the day off. Iíll stay here tonight and hit the road tomorrow.

Not having to pack and unpack leaves me with little to do but hop on the bike for a ride to find some food. Two hours later Iíve had a burger and fries washed down with a fantastic chocolate milk-shake. All capped off with a decent sporting ride to and from the burger joint. I grab a book from my tank-bag and read until itís too dark to read any more. I climb into the tent, lay down on the sleeping bag. I sleep another Ďnight of the sleeping deadí.

Again, I waken to the sound of birds. This time, I get up rested and ready to ride. Late morning finds me across CA108, I return via CA4 and Iím back to CA49 at Angels Camp. I have a light lunch; I cap it off with a quad mocha before I hit the road once again.

CA49 gets busier the further north I go. Finally Iíve had enough and I head east again at Placerville. US50 is busy but itís still one of my favorite cross Sierra routes. Rock and roll time, I sing to myself in my helmet because I can. Iím soon riding along the shores of a sparkling Lake Tahoe.

In South Lake Tahoe, I have a favorite camping spot. Itís a campground just across the road from the beach. Thereís a great little cafť on the NW corner of the campground. That makes it convenient to walk to dinner, and with a full belly, walk back to camp.

Tonight, on my way back to my new little tent Iím invited to join the campfire of a group of folks who are riding cross-country on Gold Wings with their wives, from New York to San Francisco. We share a couple of bottles of wine and swap outrageous road stories. I stumble back to my tent and fall asleep listening to laughter.

The Sierra Mountain roads are calling to me when I awake. Packing the bike has become second nature, the new little tent has found a favorite spot and the rest of my camping gear seems to be riding along quite companionably. I rumble out of the campground with a honk and a wave in the direction of my new friends loading their Gold Wings.



Breakfast along the river in Markleeville is perfect. My table is graced by a bagel and a quad mocha. Not a great mocha, but a good one. I admire how it sits there in a tall glass, loaded with caffeine and sweet dark chocolate. The bagel waits on my plate, formally dressed in a layer of crŤme cheese over a light crisp toasting. Light breakfast foods, just the way I like them.

I ride across Ebbetts Pass. The sun is over my shoulder lighting my way through the tight and twisting single lane section. Sunlight glimmers off water caught in ditches along the roadway. Bright blue skies are skewered by tall spires and rich green trees turn the canyon to a near black against the bright granite walls.

Iím in a special place now. My mind is clearing, the pain and sorrow falling away. The natural healing is tangible and I feel rewarded. I ride with a newfound joy in my heart and soul.

Dinner comes and goes as I ride through Hollister. As my bike and I burble through the heart of town it dawns on me that Iím not one of the ĎWild Onesí. At least, Iím Ďnot too wildí in the opinions of the kind and funny folks at the taco stand. Sated with a belly full of a fantastic Carne Asada burrito, I ride on. The ghosts of Brando, posed Ďbad-boy bikerí photos and memories of beer bottles tossed in the gutter, recede into the distance behind me. More twisting roads call out, I answer with my right hand as I ride deep into the corners and lay my bike onto the edges of its tires.

Itís approaching midnight when I ride onto Cannery Row, that famous strip of coastal roadway in Monterey, made so by the writings of John Steinbeck. The curbs are lined with colorful shining motorcycles of every description; the sidewalks are crowded with laughing motorcyclists mingling with wide eyed tourists. Itís a visual and audible circus of motorcycles and the people who love them.

This weekend is one of the big events of the year at Laguna Seca Raceway. World Super Bike is making an appearance and racing fans from all over the west have made a pilgrimage to be here. Thousands of them are here now on this spot. There are some who consider Cannery Row to be Ďhallowed motorcycle groundí. Iím not quite prepared to go that far. It certainly qualifies as a fun place though.

I find a slot to back my dirty, unkempt motorcycle into. Pulling my helmet off, I look around and Iím dumbfounded to find myself looking into my friend Mattís face, as he shines that big loopy grin of his at me. Hugs, manly thumping of backs and more hugs along with a few ďgee, what a strange surpriseĒ phrases pass between the two of us.

Matt invites me to hang out with him at the racetrack. He has a campsite that heís sharing with a large group and Iím welcome to set up my tent and join them. Thereís only one little problem. I donít have a ticket for the races. Worse yet, I donít have any extra money to spend on a ticket for the races. Matt assures me that he can bluff me through the gate and I, somewhat warily, go along just to see if he can pull it off.

We arrive at the gate shortly after leaving the cacophony of Cannery Row and Matt whips his ticket out and flashes it at the gate keeper. She waves him through and he disappears into the distance. Leaving me abandoned, sitting on the other side of the gate like a lost puppy. Figuring I have nothing to lose, I plead a Ďlost ticketí and the wonderfully accommodating gate keeper smiles and winks as she waves me through the gate. That was way too easy. I find Matt and his cronies a few minutes later and after some campfire shenanigans, Iím lulled to a fitful sleep in my tent by the sounds of motorcycle engines, crackling fires and laughter.

The race weekend passes quickly. The highlights are: great racing, large crowds of people and thousands of photo-ops. By the time three days of moto-party have slid past, Iím feeling sunburned, crusted with dirt and Iím suffering from a severe lack of sleep.

Monday morning arrives and Iím one of the last to leave the campground area. Itís so very quiet and still, now that the rest of the crowds have gone, that Iím tempted to stay. When I ask the park ranger Iím told that isnít an option. Matt is long gone, I decide to follow his general trail but we donít see each other again. Iím back on the road, riding and feeling the sweetness of motorcycle travel.

To be continued...
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Old 02-24-2008, 10:19 AM   #3
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Name: Budman


That is one hell of a story...

So it has been flushed from the sink!

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Old 02-24-2008, 12:20 PM   #4
cbrf3
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Wow, thats a really great story, I would love to do a trip like that, great writing!!
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Old 02-24-2008, 06:59 PM   #5
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You are REALLY hardcore!!! I could not do the # of miles that you click off each day. Thanks for sharing!!! What model Kawi do you ride?
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Old 02-25-2008, 12:30 PM   #6
islemann
Re Tired Not Dead
 
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mercer Island, WA
Motorcycles: '01 Triumph Tiger 955i '00 Honda VFR 800fi
Name: Michael
Thanks for the comments! When I made the ride(s) that comprise the guts of the story I was riding an ancient 1986 Kawasaki Concours. I have more stories to tell, and I obviously have to finish the one I've started here. Bear with me, I'm writin' as fast as I can.

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Old 02-25-2008, 11:55 PM   #7
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Re Tired Not Dead
 
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mercer Island, WA
Motorcycles: '01 Triumph Tiger 955i '00 Honda VFR 800fi
Name: Michael
Part 3

Since I was left like a drunken bride by Matt on Monday, three more days have passed with a flash. Between staying with friends along my route and camping at random State Park campgrounds, I've been alternating between companionship and solitude. Each time I stay with friends Iím emotionally and spiritually rewarded by the kindness of people who care about me. Each time I spend a night alone in the woods, I come away stronger and more at peace with myself. The longer this trip continues, the more the burden of the decisions Iíve made in the past lightens. Iím feeling deeply introspective and I want to wallow in it for a while. I decide to keep riding. It simply seems like the right thing to do.

The weather has been (for the most part) cooperating nicely on this trip. I stay at higher elevations to avoid the heat of summer in the central valley. Most days are cloudless with temperatures in the high seventy degree range and overnight temperatures are dropping to the low sixties. I find these temperatures and weather conditions perfect for extended motorcycle sport-touring adventures.

The last three days were filled with hundreds of miles worth of two-lane blacktop. All of it infested with a severe case of curves. Iíve been wailing, ripping, romping and generally being a backroads terror. All of that fun comes at a price and Iím about to pay the piper for my entertainment.

Itís Thursday. Since early this morning, Iíve been riding the fantastic roads west of Lassen Park. Now, Iím heading to Chico for gas, dinner and coffee. Thereís no intended order to that sequence, but thatís pretty much how it goes down. I fill the tank at the Chevron on the south end of downtown, grab a mega-wrap on Broadway and settle in for a much needed mocha and some people watching on Main across from the downtown park.

Itís a wonderful evening. Iím sitting outside, enjoying my mocha while minding my own business and enjoying the company of strangers caught up in their own worlds of conversation and intimacy, when I notice something looking Ďwrongí with my rear tire.

Thereís a bright spot in the middle of the tire tread and itís catching the reflected early evening sunlight off the plate glass windows of the coffee shop. A dime sized bright spot where there shouldnít be one. My heart sinks as I look closer and realize itís the head of a large bolt. The rest of the bolt is obviously stuck deep into the meat of my tire. Damn, damn and more damn. I have a brand new set of tires waiting for me at home. Home, is something on the far side of eight hundred miles away. The tire is (strangely enough) still holding air; I have no idea how much longer that will continue to do so.

Itís almost 8 pm, the motorcycle shops are all long closed, so I opt for the nearest cheap motel instead of returning back to the mountain campsite that had caught my eye earlier in the day. The advantage of a motel is how a hot shower and a beer help me feel a little better about my circumstance. Sleep comes eventually but itís a restless night as I worry about this unexpected problem.

In the morning I spend an hour on the phone with various motorcycle shops in and around Chico. Finally I locate a shop up the hill in Paradise that can repair the tire, instead of rape me of every dollar in my pockets, for a replacement. Before I leave the motel parking lot I check the tire pressure and find that itís not lost any air at all. The Ďmiracle of the boltí! No matter, Iím cautious as I ride the ten or so miles up the Skyway to find Hill On Wheels. Pulling up to the open garage door Iím greeted with a smile and a handshake. Moments later my bike is up on the lift and my rear tire is being pulled for repair. I try not to make a pest of myself but the owner of the shop keeps asking me questions about my travels and we enjoy a pleasant hour or so of banter before the bike is fixed and back on the ground. A measly fifteen bucks later and Iím on the road.

Or so I think.

Let the gremlins free! I feel the sputter rather than hear it. It goes away in an instant. Wait! What was that? Another sputter, this time itís not only felt but itís heard and it doesnít go away. Iím an hour east of Chico in the Feather River Canyon. That makes me roughly halfway to my friendís house outside Quincy. The bike is running on three cylinders with stretches where itís popping and banging along on two. This for a motorcycle traveler, is bad news.

I nurse the bike along with a hundred different mechanical scenarios going through my head. It could be a dropped valve (expensive), or it could be water in the gas (cheap). It could be a crack or damage to one or more of the coils (expensive) or it could be a bad plug wire (cheap). For the next hour my brain plays through all the various scenarios and options. Abandon the trip? Fix the bike. Abandon the bike and walk away from it? Buy a new bike and continue on the trip. The human mind can be agile when faced with the unknown. Iím worried and at this moment, even though Iím climbing into the high Sierras, my trip is going rapidly down hill.

Itís dark as I wind my way up the steep dirt driveway of my friendís house. Sheís home, her husband who has the key to the work shop is not. We visit and I continue to fret. In fact, my anxiety is so palpable that Patty opts to go out and feed her horses rather than listen to me whine and complain. Eventually I give up on getting anything done with the bike and stretch out on the guest bed in the company of their wonderful dog and fall sound asleep.

I find myself wide awake at 4 am. The house is stone silent. I hear nothing but the sound of a soft breeze sighing through the trees outside my window. I get up as quietly as possible and find the shop key on the rack of keys by the back door. I start the coffee maker as I head out to tear into my broken motorcycle.

I look up from my work to the sound of laughter as a huge shadow blocks the early morning sunlight coming through the doorway. John is home for a three day break from his duties as a CHP officer, and heís in a great mood. I wish I were in the same condition. A mug of fresh coffee is pressed into my hand and a friendly slap on the back is given me in encouragement. With fewer than a dozen words having passed between us, Iím left to my repairing. Sometimes working on a motorcycle is a solitary pursuit. This is one of those times. Iím grateful for the use of the space and the tools, and Iím intent on getting the problem identified and repaired.

I have the valve cover off and itís become obvious that this isnít a true mechanical problem. All of the valves are in perfect adjustment, thereís nothing cracked, worn or broken in the ignition system and the carburetors are clean and in adjustment. There isnít a darn thing wrong with the exception of the carburetor float bowls being filled with reddish watery crap. Bingo! I drain the remainder of the gas purchased in Chico from my tank into a clear container, and confirm my suspicions immediately.

Water in gas is bad. Lots of water is worse. Out of the four gallons of gas I pour from the tank, thereís easily a quart of water in the bottom of the jug. By the time it settles fully I calculate nearly two quarts of water from that one fill up. When I show John what Iíve found he shrugs, grabs a clean gas can and heads toward his truck. Weíre on our way to the gas station in Quincy within minutes. My mood is lifting and I enjoy an hour of chatting with the husband of one of my best friends. Sheís in good hands.

Lunch interrupts my reassembly of the bike for an hour, yet by 2 pm I have everything back together and the bike is running perfectly once again. When I come into the house I find my friends have conspired to wash all of my dirty laundry and have laid it out on the bed neatly folded, and ready to be repacked into those droopy side cases. I love having good friends.

Iím up before dawn. Once more, the house is silent. The dog doesnít even stir from his spot. I write a thank-you note and leave it in a prominent place on the counter. Rolling down the dirt driveway with the motor off, my headlight catches a glimmer of reflection from the eyes of a raccoon as he galumphs across the dirt track. Iím far enough from the house now; engine noise wonít be a problem. I ease the clutch out and the bike starts instantly. At the end of the dirt road I turn onto asphalt and my ride is back underway.

To be continued...
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Old 02-27-2008, 11:30 AM   #8
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Re Tired Not Dead
 
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Mercer Island, WA
Motorcycles: '01 Triumph Tiger 955i '00 Honda VFR 800fi
Name: Michael
PART 4


I left Quincy in my mirrors as the sky started to lighten into a gorgeous orange sunrise. Riding a motorcycle in the pre-dawn hours is a lot like riding a motorcycle in the evening. It is a dangerous past-time. Deer and other forest animals are out and about seeking vegetation and water. Theyíll blithely wander into the road without a care in the world. ďDum-dee-dumĒ.

Iím not five miles outside of Quincy when I see a flash out of the corner of my eye. Instinct takes over and I swerve away from the source of the flash. Thereís a sharp thwack and the bike bobbles. ďCheese!Ē Iím still upright but my direction of travel is now directly into oncoming traffic. ďSon of a BÖ.!Ē escapes my lips and I consciously look where I want to go as I steer the bike back into my lane. Iím braking heavily when my right side case passes me in my own lane. Scccrrrriitttch, then whap! The case makes a semi-graceful arc off the shoulder of the road before it explodes into a festival of color. ďFwoop! Fluffa fluffaĒ my nice clean laundry flutters into the muddy ditch. Well, that was way too exciting.

Now that Iím stopped, I look back and see a small deer staggering to his feet. Apparently he ran right into the side of my bike and removed my side case with his head. Iím not hurt, and he doesnít seem to be either since he bounds off into the woods a few moments later. I gather up my clothing, pick up the side case and re-pack the contents. Amazingly, the case clips right back into place and Iím good to go. Once my nerves settle that is.

Using back roads as much as possible, I ride around the east side of Mt. Lassen and back across the summit of the volcano from north to south. A few picture opportunities later and itís time to point the front wheel at the coast. Redding works as a stop for lunch, the technical turns and twists of highway 299 entertain me all the way to the shore of the Pacific.

Rolling into Eureka for the third time on this trip feels like coming home. I snag the same hotel room I was in just a few weeks ago, unload the bike and walk across the street for a steak and a single malt. Iím acutely aware that today was the first day of this trip when I didnít have a single thought about my failed marriage. Well, until now that is.

The cool breeze off the Pacific is refreshing in the morning. Itís actually cool enough that I turn up the heated grips to regain some feeling in my fingers. This cool temperature is so different from the last several days Iíve spent riding in the Sierras that I spend a few moments mentally marveling at the diversity of northern California.

Itís deep into vacation season and Iím not the only person taking one. Iím riding the coast highway among a herd of gigantic bison like mega motor homes. Flocks of Subaru station wagons bearing mountain bike laden racks are plodding along like obedient sheep. Seemingly every vehicle out today has an ulterior motive. I ascribe to the philosophy of the ďAnti-destination LeagueĒ. I swear the people driving near me today are charter members of the ADL. ďItís time to head inlandĒ I say to myself, so I do.

At Orick I turn up the hill onto one of my favorite Ďsecret roadsí. I climb from sea-level in just a few miles to Schoolhouse Ridge, and then ride along the ridge through the coastal redwoods until I reach a vast sea of wild grass. Iíve found Schoolhouse Peak. I ride to the fire watch tower and climb to the deck, taking almost an hour at mid-morning to absorb the beauty of this lightly visited area.

Itís a steep drop down the east side of the park on the switch-back filled, twisting, loose gravel cornered Bald Hill Road. Iím on edge, riding cautiously on a motorcycle completely unsuited to this task, until I reach the Hoopa Rancheria at the Klamath River.

The reward for the hour of clenched teeth is a two hundred plus mile loop of empty, twisted asphalt. For the next five hours, Iím intent on exploring the limits of my riding skills. I fly from Weitchpec to Somes Bar. From there itís a giggle over ultra narrow Salmon River Road and narrower yet Sawyers Bar Road to Etna. A break from the assault of the twisties to catch my breath occurs as I ride the nearly straight road from Etna to Fort Jones and then, with a vengeance, I throw myself back into the corners as I ride Scott River Road from Fort Jones to Scott Bar. Catching CA96 at Scott Bar I turn west and south on this E-ticket road to finish the loop back at Weitchpec.

Iím elated, Iím physically tired and so is my bike. Thereís a Ďtinkingí sound coming from beneath the bike as the exhaust system cools. I note with a sense of satisfaction that Iíve been using all of the tread available. This set of tires is worn clear to the edges. I unzip my jacket to catch the cooling breeze off the river and lean back against a low stone to stretch my legs. Behind my closed eyelids, I replay the highlights of the roads Iíve just been playing on. I nap in the sun for almost an hour.

A short break for a soda at the Weitchpec General Store and itís time to fire the bike back up and turn north. CA96 is a continuous roller-coaster ride all of the way to Happy Camp, where I intend to head to Oregon on Indian Creek Road.

Following Indian Creek Road, eventually Iíll come out at OíBrien. Iíve been assured of this by my map. This is serious back woods country. Crashing in these woods could be fatal. Even if I were to survive a gentle biff, if Iím injured the lack of services and nearly non-existent traffic could mean the end of me. Iím highly aware of this as I decelerate and turn onto the National Forest Road. I have two hours of daylight remaining. I think I can make it to OíBrien before dark, I mean; itís not even thirty miles! Of course I can make it.

I donít. Instead of being in OíBrien as the sun sets Iím sullenly standing over my sleeping motorcycle as it lays prone, sighing like a lazy donkey, in the middle of a dirt road. ďSon of a BÖ!Ē I say for the second time on this trip. I heave, I pull; I squat and lift with my legs. All my sweat is to no avail. Throwing a seven hundred and fifty pound motorcycle down on the dirt is a lot easier than lifting it back up.

Why am I in this predicament? I lose traction climbing this rutted damned gravel strewn dirt road in the middle of God Knows Where in Sam Hill, when the front wheel hits a large rock. I am pitched to the ground. The beast follows me and lays down with the sound of breaking bodywork, his wheels pointing up the hill. ďSon of a BÖ!Ē I say again, as I start un-strapping my camping gear and doing my best to offload as much luggage from the bike as I can.

This is just not working out well at all. I set up my campsite right there in the road and fall asleep with one ear to the ground. Maybe Iíll get lucky and a stagecoach will come.

Salvation arrives in the form not of a stagecoach rather it appears in the form of a CDF/California Prisons fire fighting team. At 3 am the lads from the state prison work camp are on their way from camp to a fresh conflagration in the woods, when they come down the road in their crew bus.

I come awake to the sound of squeaking brakes and an idling diesel motor. Iím greeted with smiles and a hearty ďCan we help you?Ē ďOh yes, yes indeedĒ say I. Minutes later the battered bike is back upright and Iím left behind in the early morning darkness. There is indeed a use for axe murderers and Daddy rapists. That purpose is rescuing my sorry butt. Thank you, good bad guys and your keepers who stopped to help.

I climb back into my tent and sleep until dawn. Iím barely awake when it becomes obvious that I need to remove myself from the dirt road, to enable a fleet of fire fighting trucks and vans to pass. Apparently itís a big conflagration in the woods. I follow their trail through the dust for a few miles until our paths diverge. As I pop out onto the highway, I find the wee town of OíBrien wide awake and filled with smoke from the fire on the Oregon / California border. I was less than ten miles from my destination when my motorcycle dirt napped.

I spend an hour with a roll of duct tape patching and reinforcing the cracked plastic bodywork. When Iím done, Iím satisfied that nothing is going to come adrift while I ride but, the old bike is way on the far side of handsome. Instead, it looks like the bike went a round or two with a prize fighter and lost. Itís a lucky thing that I have a complete spare Concours at home with near new bodywork. I think Iíve just given myself an excuse for yet another project.

I ride until late in the afternoon and luck finally smiles on me. I find a fantastic camp site in the Cascade Mountains outside of Sisters. With my tent set up and my sleeping bag waiting patiently to coddle me, I heat a can of beans and franks over a low fire, then settle back to watch the stars for a couple of hours after sunset. I climb into that inviting sleeping bag and sleep the sleep of the crashed. I hate days like this. I hate them especially when theyíre a day and a half long.



The conclusion to this story is coming soon...please stand by.
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Old 02-27-2008, 07:58 PM   #9
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Very good read......Thanks for taking the time to share this story.
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Old 02-28-2008, 08:05 AM   #10
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I am enjoying this story immensely! I've ridden a lot of the same roads and it's been a pleasureable reminder of how much fun and adventure I myself have had in the past. Thanks for taking me on your journey!


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Old 02-28-2008, 07:28 PM   #11
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The story is about to wrap. Look for the final installment by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thanks all for your kind remarks. I had a blast riding these roads, I'm having a blast writing about it.

Cheers!
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:57 PM   #12
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i too reconise some of those roads.
.
i am thoroughly enjoying reading this...
.
thank you for sharing!
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Old 03-04-2008, 06:58 PM   #13
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This is the last part of my ride story. If you've managed to make it this far, I thank you.

PART 5


I yawn and roll over. Thereís a burr, somewhere near my ankle, that has been pestering the hell out of me for most of the night. I struggle to locate the little aggravation and finally succeed. Thereís a definite downside to these little camping aggravations. I canít get back to sleep darn it. After laying in the dark for an hour, listening to the night critters thereís no more sleep to be found. I have to admit the truth. Iím wide awake.

I poke my head out of my tent to find that it is indeed still as dark as the inside of any large animal youíd care to ruminate about. A firm press on the side of my trusty Timex ďIndiGlowĒ ($12.95 at Target) wristwatch reveals the worst. Iím not surprised to find the big hand pointing to 1 and the little hand pointing toÖuhÖI need to put my glasses on for thisÖohÖcrud the little hand is pointing to that odious gap between 3 and 4. With a sigh, I launch myself into the now routine packing up camp dance. Thankfully thereís nobody else utilizing this wee campground. I donít have to feel guilty about waking anyone, so I donít. Both my bike and I grumble our way onto the road.

Twenty minutes ago I was sleeping. Now, Iím boring a hole through the inky blackness of a twisted gem of a highway. I head to Eugene on Oregon Highway 242. The Old McKenzie Pass Highway is narrow, and twirls through volcanic outflows and old growth timber, like a demented hippy-dancer at a Grateful Dead concert. It may be dark but the super bright headlamp I fitted to the nose of my beloved Kawasaki shreds the night while I play a funky beat with my right hand.

This sense of unity with the road, and with the motorcycle brings certain clarity to my head. No longer do I have feelings of failure. I am successfully living once again.

With clear skies and a warm morning sun playing through the trees along the highway, I follow the McKenzie River the last few miles to my favorite town in all of Oregon. Iím about to ride into ďThe World Headquarters of All Things Tie-diedĒ. Some Hippy Haters call Eugene Ė ďBlue GeneĒ. I shrug that silliness off and admire how Eugene celebrates the free spirit in all of us. Heck, Iíve worn tie-died t-shirts most of my life. I just havenít told anyone about my hidden Hippy.

Besides, the growling from my belly reminds me Iím hungry, and the pounding in my head from lack of caffeine increases my craving for a quad mocha. A stop at a long established cafť in the heart of town lets me soak up some Hippy Funk. I sit in on groovy little bentwood chair at a groovy little glass topped table and my waitress is a groovy college chick with dreadlocks. Soaking up all this Hippy ambiance, I listen to a cd of primitive World Music and savor some fresh free range chicken fried steak and a couple of certified organic eggs on eleventy-billion grain fresh baked bread. Hand sliced of course.

Eugene is a special kind of place. Yes it sure is. Oh! Look! I think I just rode past the largest collection of VW Micro busses on earth! Cool! With a glance skyward to thank Jerry Garcia and all the Merry Pranksters, I turn onto Territorial Highway and head for Corvallis. My meandering route today will take me off the beaten track and onto some amazing one lane paved forest service roads. Itís possible to ride from end to end in Oregon and do so without spending more than a few miles at a time on a road with a centerline. I wonít be pulling that feat off today or tomorrow. But Iíll enjoy a sampling of some of the best roads in the USofA.

Northern California has some famous roads. In fact Highway 1 is one of the Ten Best Roads in North America. Iíve ridden the coast route between Los Angeles and Crescent City a bunch of times. Iíd never argue that itís not a great road. Riding in Oregon though causes my opinion of Ďthe bestí to waver. What Iím currently experiencing passing under my wheels is a revelation. In all my years of driving and riding in the Northwest and California; nobody told me that Oregon has so many hidden gem roads that rival the fantastic roads of California.

Iím throwing my bike through corners on yet another unknown road that gallops, falls, swirls and swoops through a dense forest. Iíve been doing this moto-dance for hours and I havenít passed a single car or truck. Focus man! Thereís no cell phone service out here and youíre still fifty miles from civilization! Plunge, bark, scritch, wail and flog. Iím working up a sweat with an outside temperature in the low 60s. I love it.

As the sun heads towards the horizon, Iím sitting in yet another great coastal restaurant. Panko breading coated line caught Halibut dressed with a spicy wasabi based sauce, and accompanied by a fresh spinach salad used to hold a place on my plate. Now, itís a pleasant memory in my belly.

I could get used to this kind of traveling. I head back up the hill from the tourist heavy Old Town area of Newport. A snug and simple motel room makes a nice break from the last week of camping. A hot shower, a book and a beer results in a solid night of sleep. As I fade away, I realize - thereís no burr bugging my ankle.

Morning means I continue north along the coast.

Today I dawdle, I delay, I drag my feet like a five year old being told to go to bed. Iím very much aware that my trip is winding down. Iíve been on the road for almost a full month. Iíve grown used to riding nearly every day. I donít fumble into my gear or waver in my riding. Iím as tuned to being a motorcyclist as Iíve ever been. My riding is sure, confident and smooth. Yet, I take extra time to pack my luggage. I stretch out the pre-ride walk around. I take extra time when I really shouldnít be doing so.

Iíve become accustomed to setting my own schedule, planning (or not) my day by a whim rather than a need. Today, I have a goal. I look at the map this day, not with a sense of Ďwhere to?í but with a sense of ĎI need to be at that point by this timeí. Already I note the subtle change in my mindset.

By this time tomorrow my trip will be a memory. I donít want to be riding today. I donít want this road trip to end. I ride north the slate water of the Pacific comforting me.

Afternoon is marked by crossing the Columbia River into my home state. The closer I get to home, the more I notice the frantic pace of humanity surrounding me. By late afternoon Iím at the southern edges of Puget Sound. The towns are closer together. My world begins to morph from a world of one into a world of suburbs, towns and cities. Finally with a knot of congestion it all congeals into one huge stewpot of people, where all those metropolitan zones merge.

Iím on the freeway this afternoon for the first time in weeks. Iím threatened again by people in their cages. They blissfully sip on their lattes as if Iím not there. The always busy cell phones are pressed to their ears with more fervor than ever. I dodge the lane changers who canít be bothered to use their turn signals. I hover ahead of devil spawned tail-gaters in a self created safe zone as huge trucks and mini-van driving soccer moms do everything they can to squash me.

Stopping in front of a familiar door I reach down, and with a gloved finger I reluctantly press on the button of the garage door opener that has hung on my tank bag, unused for a month. I canít hear the door open, even though I know thereís a rumble and a couple of clunks from the electric garage lift. I add an adjustment of the opener hardware to my list of things to do, as I pull into the comforting space of my garage.

This ride is over. Iíve covered more than eight thousand miles of roads. Iíve shared meals with friends. Iíve healed, Iíve learned and Iíve had a ball doing it.

With one last reach for the key, my journey ends. The garage is swallowed by silence.
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Old 03-04-2008, 11:49 PM   #14
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that was a very vivid, well written account. thank you for sharing the pleasure.
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Old 03-05-2008, 03:31 PM   #15
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Once again.......Nice read Islemann

I've only ridden through Oregon a few times but you are right......there are a crap load of truly great roads there.
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