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Old 03-12-2016, 09:11 AM   #1
mlm
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Big Trip 2015: 15 days, 23 states, and 6900 miles

Better late than never huh? Put together a quick photo album a few months ago, but just recently started writing up the details (before I forget)
https://flic.kr/s/aHskifJUq4

Started planning this back in February or March but up until 2 weeks prior didn’t think this was going to happen. The simplest plan was head east, stay off interstates, and make sure I was home in two weeks. Route wise I’d made rough plots of heading east, stopping in IA to see my folks, then south through MO and east through Kentucky coal country (Appalachians were the key draw for this trip). Concern for the coast was getting stuck in traffic, but the area around Cape Hattaras, NC looked like it could be a pretty clean shot.

First challenge was getting service done on my bike. I debated taking the Multistrada, but settled on the F4i since it was ready for new tires and already had some touring farkles.. Can’t say enough good about Evolution Suspension who managed to squeeze me in with no notice on a Tuesday and have me out the door with a major service and new tires by Friday

Packing really wasn’t really that hard as I’ve done some long trips before. Basically my tri-bag setup with a tent rock-strapped to the back. The big refinement I discovered last trip was using a couple bungee nets to cover the top giving me a really easy way to pack stuff on the back. Looking at the Weather Channel the forecast looked perfect, so I debated taking much more than simple rain gear, but decided I’d take the electric “bib” JIC.

Since I suck at route planning and keeping track of where I was, some sort of tracking app was a must. I like my Garmin for on the fly routing, but it’s too hard to get the plots off it. In the past I used a SPOT tracker, but I never liked it much either, and it’s sitting lost and broken somewhere in Scotland. Heard about SpotWalla and signed up for the account and loaded the SWconnect app on my phone.
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Old 03-12-2016, 09:15 AM   #2
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Day 0 - Friday 9/18 - Packing & Prep
Picked up my bike on Friday and started packing it up that evening. Going off memory, but the packing list was pretty light:

- 3 days worth of clothes, almost exclusively the synthetic stuff that washes up easily in a hotel sink. All fit rolled up into a medium size waterproof stuff sack. This along with a pair of flip flops occupied one of the side bags without having to expand it

- Chose my mesh jacket and pants, with waterproof liners and a few other rain/cold accessories. All packed up in a stuff sack and fit comfortably in the other side bag along with a fuel bottle

- Top bag was mostly camping gear. Sleeping bag, mattress, pillow were all the ultra-light backpacking stuff. Additional stuff included a small toilety bag, small bag for chargers, and my iPad. All in Ziplocks or some sort of waterproof bag

- Tools were pretty light: WD-40, some Plexus, and folding side lift stand, and an air compressor. Have a Scott Oiler on the bike, so didn’t need a lot of chain maintenance stuff.

- For ‘electrics’ I spent Friday night fixing a broken connection on my heated grips. Then had a USB charger port in my tank bag wired to my battery tender and a switched outlet for my GPS mounted on the stem.

Think I finally made it to bed around 1am
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Old 03-12-2016, 09:17 AM   #3
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Day 1 - Saturday 9/19 - 330 miles to Hawthorn, NV
Had a good breakfast with the family, and was on the road by noon. Pretty simple trip plan, taking the route through Yosemite, and got to the El Cap with time to grab a beer and say hi to a few folks by the pool. Got cleaned up and then headed over to Joe's for a few more beers and some BBQ. Stayed till the tricycle races were over and then headed back to the room before I let bad decisions make my first day miserable. Saw Gwen next door and she hooked me up with some maps for UT and gave me some good recommendations.
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Old 03-12-2016, 09:19 AM   #4
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Old 03-12-2016, 09:34 AM   #5
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Day 2 - Sunday 9/20 - 680 miles to Green River, UT
Had always planned on starting the day at a fairly early 7-8am, but didn't leave the El Cap till closer to 9am…sleeping in would be a trend. Took a few photos before I left and then headed towards Tonopah, where it started to sink in that this was going to be a LOT of miles .. Took highway 375 (aka the Extraterrestrial Highway) and kept speed ‘reasonable’ as its about 180 miles between gas stations.






Once I got to Cedar City I went through Grand Staircase National Monument via Brice and Escalante. Amazing scenery and traffic was thankfully light and the roads entertaining.



This would be my first night camping and one of the few time I’d use any of the camping gear I packed. I really like motorcycle camping, but the biggest problem is always finding a place to camp. This would be one of those times, because by the time I was ready to stop it was dark and I had no idea where I could camp. I’d passed some good campgrounds earlier, but they were either too far back (I had miles to lay down) or full. Settled in at the KOA in Green River UT, and wasn’t too happy to find a tent site just next to the Comfort Inn. The site was fine, but not much of a camping experience, and definitely not worth the $20 I saved over just getting a room.
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Old 03-12-2016, 09:49 AM   #6
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Old 03-12-2016, 10:06 AM   #7
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Day 3 - Monday 9/21 - 600 miles to Kimball, NE
The smart people next door at the hotel woke me up so I got a decent start. First plan of the day was to check out Arches National Park, but the massive line of cars stacked up at the entrance changed my mind. Instead I found highway 128 going northwest through an amazing canyon, and had no regrets about missing the park.





Once got out of the canyon things were decidedly flatter…and bumpier. My insistence for staying off the interstate had me on some parallel roads it was clear others had abandoned. Eventually I got to some better roads again as I started picking up altitude



Once I got near Craig, CO I was near familiar roads from when I lived in WY. I stopped taking pictures and started dialing it up as I passed through Baggs on my way to Riverside. I had a giant grin on my face as I slowed up to pass through town and then a surprising :o as the Sheriff lit me up
No reports from my recent speed violations, jut turned out I’d gone a few mph over the 20mph school zone (didn’t realize they even had a school in a town of population 30). A quick chat and a not even stern warning and I was back on my way


It was starting to get late and after a phone call I headed off to Cheyenne to grab dinner with my old roommate Dan. From there I decided to take I80 in the dark to Kimball just to get a few extra miles out of the way. Found a decent motel and called it a day
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Old 03-12-2016, 10:26 AM   #8
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Day 4 - Tuesday 9/22 - 620 miles to Fort Dodge, IA
I’d originally planned on heading up through Alliance to check out CarHenge, but the closer I got lamer it sounded, So now I can say I’ve ridden a motorcycle near Stonehenge and Car Henge roughly a year apart without stopping at either. I've driven across Nebraska many times, but always on I80. Northern NE was still pretty bland, but a different bland, and one thing above all others stood out. COAL. Living in WY I knew they had the country’s largest coal mines, but the scale didn’t strike me until I saw the miles and miles of coal loaded trains.

Not much more to report. No pictures. Lots of drizzly rain, and the only real excitement was a detour through the sand hills on a muddy two track where I almost ran over a reasonably good size turtle. Made it to my parents house where I had dinner and hung out for the next day doing a bunch of household stuff for them and visiting with my nephew.
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Old 03-12-2016, 11:51 AM   #9
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Awesome! Great report so far!
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Old 03-12-2016, 12:01 PM   #10
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Great pictures and trip report.
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Old 03-12-2016, 12:51 PM   #11
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Old 03-12-2016, 05:50 PM   #12
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Day 6 - Thursday 9/24 - 540 miles to Kentland, IN
About time for something to go wrong!

Watching the news yesterday and a Tropical Storm has decided to descend on the East Coast. And not just anywhere, but predictions have it hitting my planned destination at Cape Hatteras No big deal, but I’m starting to wonder where to go and how to adjust. Also hoping that weather will change and it’ll be fine by the time I get there. I’d originally considered the northern route and it’d be cool to go through Canada…just one problem. I didn’t think to bring a passport

All is not lost, so I quickly decide to head south and go through the little town where I grew up. From there I’ll just head east and stay a bit farther north than I’d planned. The first part is ho hum. None of the grand geographical features of the West, but the little towns were interesting. This place stuck out like a sore thumb, looking noticeably newer and more California like than the town around it.


And finally I stop by the lake we used to go to and the house I grew up in until we moved to the “big city” in 6th grade



And that’s where it ends…or at least I wish it had. Well, not really end, but maybe go somewhere else? The little road I found crossing from IA to MO was actually fun. And I didn’t get rained on. And I even passed a few historical markers about John Smith I looked up later that were interesting. One thing for sure though, the Mormons were smart when they left this shithole and moved to Utah. Pretty much everything from IL to IN was crap. I avoided traffic which was nice, but if there were any good roads it wash;t my luck to find them. I kept going as far as a could until it was dark and I just had to stop.

And there it was. The nastiest, yuckiest motel I have ever stayed in, and ever care to again. I don’t have pictures, but the walls were bleeding rust and I spent the first 15-20 minutes tearing the bed apart and goggling “bed bug inspection”. Seems I lucked out on that part and at least managed to get a bit of sleep.
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Old 03-12-2016, 07:25 PM   #13
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Old 03-13-2016, 11:06 AM   #14
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Day 7 - Friday 9/25 - 470 miles to Charleston, WV
Survived the night without bug bites or an electrical fire (forgot to mention the scary loose outlets). The bright point was that I was able to leave most of my stuff on the bike which was sitting right next to the front door and window (with a proximity alarm). Weather wise this morning was a bit gloomy, but still mostly dry. I’d been looking at the weather and any hopes for the coast clearing up seemed dim. I was also starting to question the northern route, primarily because it looks like I’d have to rush through it. Considering I still had Indiana to clear I decided to decide whether to go North when I got to Ohio.

The riding remained pretty boring, and as much as I wanted to make it to ocean, the dominant thought was getting stuck on more shitty roads AND no guarantee the storm wouldn’t make its war farther north. In the end, the decision to stay North and leave my options open was a bad one as I probably managed to take the worst possible motorcycle route available.

Things started to improve after I turned south and got near Columbus. It actually wasn’t bad at all, and I started feeling a LOT better as I made it to Athens OH. Of course thats also when the rain started to pick back up. Eventually I let the GPS guide me to the nearest Hampton Inn where I could use points and stay somewhere nice. With the rain picking up I jumped on the interstate and slabbed it to Charleston, WV. Hotel was a nice break and I took a nice hot bath before taking the shuttle downtown for some food.
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Old 03-13-2016, 11:08 AM   #15
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Day 8 - Saturday 9/26 - 350 miles to Wise, VA
The Hotel’s shuttle driver who took me downtown last night recommended I ride old highway 60. So that was my plan. Weather was still on the wet side, but just drizzly for the most part. Didn’t take long to get out of town and highway 60 was a good set of sweepers, but I kept seeing little road winding their way up the hill so I decided it was time to explore. Spent pretty much the whole morning just going wherever and wasn’t disappointed, although it did have me wondering how out of date my GPS map was since there was supposed to be a bridge here.




It was wet, but just drizzle, and not very cold so after wandering around till around noon I decided to head east, weather be damned!

That lasted about 30 minutes until I got south of Summersville and then the rain just unloaded to the point I could barely stay on the road. With the clouds looking much darker to the East I officially gave up plans for the coast. Luckily the rain subsided when I turned off, and I had some more fun exploring as I went opposite of where the dark clouds loomed. I stopped for gas a bit south of Charleston and discovered that the tracker had frozen up when my phone died the other night. The SpotWalla / SW connect package performed flawless till now…just sucked that it had to cut out when I was wandering around in clueless mode. I managed to loop in where I could find on the map, but it’s still missing some interesting “wrong” turns

Set “Appalachia” on my GPS and wandered my way down, taking more side roads at will. Lots of cool coal mining apparatus, but for the most part it was still drizzly enough to keep the glove covers on and the camera stashed away dry. Eventually I settled into a Best Western in Wise...repeating my ritual of hauling camping gear to my hotel room.
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