Days 21 & 22 – End Log

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Alright, so I need to close this out, there was a slight difficulty when I got home which has prevented me from doing so till now. Actually, technically speaking, haven’t solved that yet – but in a short time I’ll have to go to mom’s to charge my computer and borrow her wifi and when I do that I’ll post this. Probably.

The ride home from Great Barrington yesterday (29 Aug) was relatively uneventful. It was chilly outside when I left the hotel, 58 degrees, and I waited as long as I could. I know that doesn’t seem chilly, but you have to factor in windchill – and on a cloudy day – it just feels colder than it is. It being August and I not having done a big trip in five years, I didn’t pack perfectly, I had clothes for a cold camp night and I had a solid number of lightweight long sleeved shirts on the idea of being able to change clothes while visiting people and stuff like that – but I hadn’t really packed for having to ride in temps below about 65. As such I was a bit chilly on the ride yesterday – put on four long sleeve shirts under the leather jacket topped off by what I lovingly refer to as my hippy-dippy sweatshirt which is my only hoodie. For my hands, because I left my gloves somewhere in the Virginias (or possibly at Gettysburg) I had the heated grips turned on to 2/5 which kept my fingers from getting cold, but for my legs I only had the cotton jeans and long underwear thats meant to be worn in the summer time which is really like just another layer of cotton even though it’s not cotton – so my legs were cold for most of the ride home.

There was a bit of confusion at the very end of the day. I’d been riding for what felt like hours upon hours but what I knew was very likely only about three or four. I’d left Great Barrington at about noon and I’d rolled into the McDonalds parking lot on 9 in Spencer near the gas station that Roland used to own & run from which I have childhood memories of washing windshields while dad hung out with Roland. I’d pulled in for a bite to eat thinking about what marvelous time I’d made and then I pulled out my cell phone and was shocked to see that it was telling me it was 7:03PM. It didn’t make sense but the cellphone has never in my experience gotten the time wrong before. Suddenly everything changed. I’d made worse time than I’d imagined, it really had been hours upon hours, and it didn’t make sense. I decided to text mom and see if the timestamp was the actual time, but that came up as 7:10pm. Working on this new understanding of the time I realized that I couldn’t go to Barnstorm (they were probably closed anyway) and that I had to get home before it started to get dark and cold (but it seemed so bright for 7pm even with the clouds) and so climbed on the bike and motored home taking 31 rather than following 9. On my way down Airport Hill on 122 traffic stopped a number of times for a school bus which again didn’t jive with what the phone was telling me so while traffic was coasting I took the chance to unzip my side pocket and fish out the mechanical pocket watch and find that it was in fact 3:30pm which made a hellova lot more sense.

Got home not too long after that. The house is in a much nicer state than the one I left it in – in all regards except for the complete lack of electricity – which was entirely my own doing. There is now 3% left on this computer’s battery, not sure when it’s just going to shut off. This is fun though, a bit like running a motorcycle out of gas just to know about when that happens, I’ve never run the computer battery to it’s death before – will the battery % count down to 0 before it shuts off? Time will tell.

I did have a bit of an adventure the day before yesterday on the ride from Newburgh to Great Barrington. I got pulled over in some tiny town in rural New York for going 74mph around a country corner. This wasn’t possible. When the cop asked me if I knew why he’d pulled me over I responded with an honest “I’ve no idea” and when he told me why he’d pulled me over I actually had to catch myself from laughing in his face. I very civilly told him that wasn’t possible, he responded that the radar gun doesn’t lie – and in that moment in my mind the options were that either he somehow messed up with the radar gun or else he pulled me over because he was bored and just made up the reason why and now was his entertainment. I civilly explained in great detail why what he was saying wasn’t possible – I explained that the bike is an antiquated design making about 50HP at the rear wheel, explained how much the bike weighed and how much I expected the sidecar weighed, I explained the knobby tires which were both probably about 3-4 pounds low on tire pressure which gives a bit of a rolling/sideways slipping sensation in even sweeping corners at anything over 30mph, I explained the fact that one of the reasons I wasn’t on Interstates is the fact that on interstates right now my bike has trouble hitting 60mph at full throttle in 4th gear and on these country roads I keep it in 3rd gear or else the engine lugs – which is how you break a crank. I explained all of this civilly – which was a bit of a trick because I was starting to feel a bit passionate in my argument but in the back of my head I was remembering all those news stories about cops shooting disabled people and people with ptsd (which I have) and so was making a real effort to remain calm as opposed to passionate.

After hearing all that I had to say on why 74mph was simply not possible and that as such he must be mistaken he again responded that the radar gun doesn’t lie.
It was not terribly long after that that I sort of technically called him a motherfucker and so wound up sitting on the cargo box sidecar in handcuffs. But I felt like I still had some amount of wiggle room because I wasn’t yet in the back of his car. He wasn’t arresting me. This made me suspect further that he was full of shit and we both knew it and that if I’d not called him a motherfucker and maybe had just accepted I was getting a bullshit ticket this wouldn’t have escalated into a situation where he was now trapped figuretively and I wouldn’t have been trapped literally. So I asked him if on their police force they had a guy who was either a motorcycle cop or else a cop who rides motorcycles – and he responded that there was – and so I asked him to invite that person here so that I could make my case to him. He agreed and then we sat together in a most uncomfortable silence for about thirty minutes during which I did apologize for using the word motherfucker and did point out that I do have ptsd and that probably got the better of me in that moment but that I was quite calm now. He nodded and left the cuffs on.

So the other fellow got there and I asked him what he rides and he responded a Ducati 749 which was both delightful to hear and a bit of a let down because he wasn’t going to have any real concept of what I was describing if that’s his sole experience base (forgetting at the time that he likely has had several bikes over the years) but so went back into my whole thing about all the reasons why this wasn’t possible and at the end of it I offered him the one thing that you never want to offer anyone when you’re on a motorcycle trip which is to let him take my bike for a spin and get a feel for it as it is currently setup. I then explained to him the differences of driving a sidecar rig verses a regular motorcycle and having actually ridden a Ducati 620 Multistrada for a bit early on I was also able to give him the differences between the flat twin with 4 speed gearbox verses the peaky V twin and 6 speed box he was used to. I then advised him not to attempt what I was accused of doing because he’d die and stepped back for the agony of watching someone who has less of an idea of what he’s doing than I did the first time I rode a Ural (I had some weeks of research and time on an old 650cc BMW) ride off on my bike.

He was gone for about fifteen minutes which were the most uncomfortable for me and I mean that in the literal sense as in my body was really beginning to hurt by that point. During that time I was turning over the gamble I’d made. There’s a real communal sense in motorcycling, people wave at one another when they pass on the road, and when we see other riders at rest stops we generally go over and have a bit of a chat with them – regardless of what sort of machine they’re riding. We’ll often stop by another rider on the side of the road to see if they need a hand or if they’re just having a break. The gamble was that this other cop was going to take my bike for a ride and see that there was no possible way that I had gone 74mph round that last corner and then come back and put this thing to rest. There was also the possibility that he would side with the other cop and say that it was totally possible – at which point I’d be fucked and at which point I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop myself from panicking because at that point I’d be getting arrested and the only way that’s not frightening is if you can believe that the cops arresting you are 100% on the level and given I was being accused of complete bullshit that belief was already firmly shaken in one of the two. It all depended on this other guy being a good guy. Which he was – obviously – cause I’m here rather than in some rural jail in NY.

When the other fellow came back, after he’d struggled to find neutral, he told the other cop to take the cuffs off me and he tore up the ticket. There were no apologies or anything, no staying to chat bikes, they went back to their cars and they drove away. I also, I mean I didn’t exactly call the guy a motherfucker, I just said motherfucker! at some point when I saw the guy wasn’t going to give into reason which is something I do when I get frustrated and he clearly thought I meant him and I wasn’t in the mood to backpeddle it.

I don’t know how much of that line of thinking was the ptsd and how much of it was rational.

And so not to leave it on that note, cause that’s a bit low for this, it was a fantastic trip. I camped about half of it, the boil in bag food and new stove worked quite well, and the bike held up perfectly. It wasn’t the trip I imagined and I’m not giving up on the idea of that trip. I will see the Pacific Ocean by motorcycle. That being said, the Ural isn’t the bike for it – not with the sidecar anyway. I think the Norton when it’s engine has been rebuilt & balanced would actually be the better bike for the trip that it would need to be. She’ll be lighter and has a better suspension that’s both more modern and better set up for solo road riding. She’ll also have a carb that’s significantly easier to rejet at high altitudes (like in the Rockies) than the Ural’s super complicated modern carbs. The trick is for that trip to work I’m going to have to take the Interstates. Once I rebuild the Norton engine it’ll do those speeds all day long without issue and with a balanced crank it won’t vibrate so badly that I’d be wrecked. This is one of those things where if you told someone you were taking a ’67 Norton on the trip they’d think you were nuts – but if you explained everything I’ll have done to the bike by that point – and they understood it – they’d shrug and say “fair enough”.

On this trip I managed to ride through parts of Massachusetts, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. On time spent almost entirely on US & State Highways I managed to cover almost exactly 2,000 miles – which ain’t bad. I got to see spectacular views, I got to test my skill at driving a sidecar rig as I spent a solid portion of time on roads that sportbike riders dream about, and most importantly I got to spend a few weeks outside.

Day 20

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I spend a fair amount of time either singing American Pie or Plastic Jesus (learned from watching Cool Hand Luke as a kid) as they’re the only two songs I know in full that are alright being repeated. I think back to those early trips cross country in the 240 Volvos listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland on cassette on loop and that trip dad and I took to Mexico together when I was seventeen when he allowed me to pick some of the music. Probably helped a great deal that at that time I was mostly into The Who, the Stones, CCR, and the Velvet Underground. Aha, I’ll never forget how excited dad was when he discovered that I had Heroin on vinyl, made me bring it down so he could play it on his stereo.

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a ramble, it’s easy for that to happen on trips such as this. It’s almost over, if I beat the hell out of myself I could be home tomorrow, but I think I’ll roll into Worcester in the early afternoon on Tuesday. Depending on the direction I come in from I’ll probably make a stop at Barnstorm Cycles on the way home, I owe them money for the Norton wheels – I’d planned to pay half as I left town but ended up going past because I’d gotten on the road late and didn’t want to lose any more time.

Today’s ride was pretty good all things considered. I took:
PA-502-E
PA-690-E
PA-590-E
PA-191-N
US-6-E

At which point I pulled off into a grocery store parking lot and gave Brent a call as he was apparently quite close to where I’d been this morning (Scranton) and we talked for a while which was nice. He pointed out the fact that if I could have got on the interstate I could have been home in four hours, which is quite true, but although I’m starting to burn out – I’m still enjoying the rambling and don’t mind rambling home.

Leaving the grocery store behind I followed 6 for a short bit and then continued onto PA-652-E which eventually turned into NY-52-E after crossing a bridge and I followed 52 for pretty much the rest of the day. There had been a plan to follow two other roads but I realized this morning that after following them for some period they’d drop me back onto 52 so I figured I might as well stick with it.

There was this mountain that 52 wound through towards the end of the day that guys were rocketing around on sports bikes and there I was going round these twisty ups and steep downs on this weighted sidecar rig running knobby tires and trying not to get distracted by the breathtaking views.





I eventually hit my limit for forward movement as I was passing through Walden NY and began looking for a hotel. I didn’t find one. Hopped on 84 East for a couple exits and saw signs for hotels and got off – didn’t find any hotels. Found a Pizza Hut and went in to ask the delivery folks to direct me to a hotel and was told to get on 84 W for 2 exits – which I did – and now I’m right next to an airport. As I was unpacking the bike a BIG Air Force cargo prop plane came down on final approach and when it passed over the parking lot it was low enough to see the rivets – I let out a loud (and totally muted by the engines) HOLY SHIT! – and watched it drop out of view as it touched down on the strip running perpendicular to this hotel.

Day 19

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I’m posting from Scranton PA where I ended at about 6pm after a solid day’s ride and a bit of heaven. I was a ways back, this was around 3pm, at a burger joint off PA-11-N when a fellow named Lance turned up on a Harley for a bit of a chat – at the end of which he asked if I’d seen Bill’s down the road about 3 miles from which I’d come. Turns out there’s a pretty impressive motorcycle museum on Rt 11 which had more than a couple examples of machines that I’ve loved & lusted after much of my life that I before today had never seen outside of a book. Admission was $5 – and I could have killed 2-3 days in there – they also had a Rolls Royce pickup truck which was lovely.

At any rate, here (out of order) are the pictures I took, and then one of me behind a bike I was so happy to see I damn near cried (seriously):












1914 Triumph


1939 350cc Velocette










Rolls










Zundapp


Moto Guzzi Single War Department Machine:





Moto Guzzi 850





BSA War Department (M20 I think)




The bike that damn near made me cry – a 1909 Peugeot – never expected to see one in person:


The other treat of the day was this war department BMW – which is one of the bikes Ural & Dnepr were founded on (by reverse engineering & copying) – though this machine was not reproduced by the Russians after the end of the war. Ignoring the fact that this was ridden by a fucking nazi, this is actually a brilliant bike, the gearbox is a two in one type with a set of gears for marching pace and then another set for road speed, the airbox is under that helmet looking thing on top of the tank allowing for river crossings, overhead valves, the same sidecar tub design that comes with Urals (still), high exhaust (also for river crossings), hinged rear fender for pulling the wheel, magdyno ignition, rigid frame with sprung saddle. This was one of the finest machines to be given to soldiers (on any side) during WWII. It’s also another bike that I never expected to see outside of a book.




Day 16 – Eastward Bound

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There’s not much to report for today. Made my way out of Ohio and up into northern Pennsylvania following 304 to 62 to 6. I couldn’t tell you exactly where I am at this moment, it’s a very small town and this inn has very slow internet, and rotary phones in the rooms.

I did see some wicked clouds,

and a tank

Hopefully this posts, this will be my third try.

Youngstown

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Made it to Youngstown in time to see the eclipse, almost perfect timing there, came up through the city on US-62 till I hit 304 – which is the street my grandmother lived on. The ride from Saint Clairesville to here was lovely, for a brief stretch I was in something akin to prairie country – just surrounded by green fields and little hills for as far as the eye could see in all directions. I was extremely happy to hit that bit of country, I’d been missing that, haven’t made it this far west since 2008 – so to see, even briefly, was glorious.

I feel a bit bad, I’m not going to be able to see the Benson’s, I’m planning to get back on the road tomorrow and the skies are getting ready to open up in the next hour or so – listening to thunder as I sit out on George’s back deck and write. There’s this beautiful batch of trees dead across from where I’m sitting and I’ve got the sun coming down from my right keeping me warm. I’m really loving just being outside, there’s even a dog out here keeping me company, though the cat is still afraid of me – don’t think that’ll change before I leave here. But if you remember, being outside as much as possible for a few weeks is a very big part of this trip, and so this – right now – is perfection.

One of the things I love about visiting George & Cindy is the fact that we all go off an do our own things, then visit for a bit, then go off again. The last several years I’ve gotten incredibly used to long stretches of being by myself – and on this trip because I’m riding alone – I’m not used to being around people.

The rain has started, coming down extremely hard now, but this is supposed to be done with by tomorrow – tomorrow it’s supposed to be beautiful – thus why I’m going to get back on the road. Also, starting to run low on some of the meds that I can’t run out of, that’s because of the delays I hit with other meds before I could leave. I’d had it set up so that the pain meds would be filled on the 1st as I intended to leave that day – and thus be good for the full length, but then I got delayed by the refill of the testosterone for a solid week, and as such I only have a weeks supply of my pain meds left. I can make it home in that stretch – and should even be good if I have to take an extra day. Otherwise I think I would stay here an extra couple days, and would have got to see the Bensons, but it is what it is.

Aside from the obvious reasons why I’m happy to be here at George & Cindy’s – I also love this house. In the living room where I’m sitting now there’s a beautiful brick fireplace that’s built up aside the stairs leading into the upstairs, wood paneling running down the one wall with a wooden beam cutting across the ceiling and sort of built in wood bookcases along one of the paneled walls. Across from me down at the opposite end of the house are five tall rectangular windows running across the far wall creating this large picture window (maybe 5’x9′) that looks out across that beautiful yard and the wall of trees. The artwork is great, the architecture is great, the choice of colors is great, the abundant trim & woodwork is great. I really love this house – its in the top five for houses I’ve been in in my lifetime – and more than that, while I’m here I feel like I’m home. That’s exceptionally rare, in my experience, when staying with anyone who’s not immediate family.

During the ride up here yesterday I had a small stretch where I was being rained on while at the same time any direction I looked all I could see was blue skies. The storm cloud above me so small that I couldn’t see it with my helmet on – of course I was riding so I wasn’t trying super hard to look straight upwards – cause that would have been an error in judgement. Reminded me of that time while we were living on Kensington when it rained on my car in the courtyard while the house wasn’t getting wet at all.

The eclipse wasn’t exactly what I expected, I thought it was going to get dark, I would have missed it entirely had I not gotten here when I did and been told by George, Cindy, and Nancy (all out in the back watching it) that it was going on right then. Jon called after it happened to find out where I was and if I’d had better luck seeing it than people back in Massachusetts – and while we were talking we both were relieved to hear that the other remembered seeing one while we were in grade school – everyone is saying that the last time this happened was 38 years ago and Jon & I are 33 and we do remember going out on the front lawn of our respective grade schools and putting on the silly glasses and watching an eclipse. I thought my memory might be faulty, given the number of drugs I’ve been on through the years, but Jon – Jon’s memory is solid. I’m guessing that it’s something like the last time a full eclipse was visible in the US was 38 years ago.

Ridning through Youngstown yesterday on US-62 was eery in places because there was the feeling of being in a city but also being completely alone – which isn’t what being in a city is supposed to feel like. Being on that stretch of 40 the other day when I’d not taken the detour and so was completely by myself – that felt normal because I was in the middle of nowhere – but not in a city, in a city there should be people and traffic. I’d forgotten to some extent what sections of Youngstown are like, I don’t think I’ve been through it by myself since 2005(ish). That being said – there are towns around the outskirts (in one now) that are positively lovely and seem to be doing just fine. I don’t think I can properly describe what I’m trying to describe, the people who have been here or are here reading this know exactly what I’m talking about, folks who are in or near cities that weren’t so dependent on US industry probably can’t imagine what I’m talking about even if they tried. I often hear people from Worcester talk about it like it’s a ghost town or something and I nod and I smile but Worcester is the second largest city in New England – Worcester has tons of beautiful neighborhoods and areas that are always filled with people, downtown isn’t what it used to be, but aside from cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc I wonder if any downtown is what it was – if for no other reason than the fact that we as a people have changed how we buy things and where we work from – those are two large impacts that the internet has had besides connections and this (blogs vs journals) sort of thing. Mom & Dad always thought that Worcester was a lot like Youngstown – they’re about the same size, laid out about the same way, both were a big deal during this country’s industrial age, both had about the same populations when they were a going concern – both grew and expanded about the same time so a lot of the architecture & buildings are comparable. The difference is that Worcester has about 5 colleges & 3-4 decent sized hospitals and Youngstown has just the 1 college and maybe 2 hospitals – so when industry began going over seas Worcester still had things to keep it alive where as Youngstown had something like 70,000 people leave between the 70s & 80s as things just began to fall apart. From what I understand (from folks who live here) things are leveling back out – most of the abandoned houses are gone, the abandoned factories are gone, and things are stable again – but you still have a downtown area that was built for three times as many people as there currently are.

Anyway, the rain stopped, so I’m going to step out and poison myself again.

Day 13

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Alright, so today wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, I rode a total of 350kms and I’m about 150kms from where I started – and 150kms from where I wanted to wind up – which was only 240kms from where I began. I’d made it up to just south of Pittsburg when the road I was on ended at a closed bridge without any detour signs. Changed my route and hit a detour which I took and then due to a lack of signs showing out-of-towners where to turn to keep following said detour I got pretty lost. That happened again about an hour later with another detour. At one point I was on the historic US-40-W and everyone was turning off it to follow yet another detour and I said “screw it” and just kept going and never ran into whatever it was that caused them to put up the detour signs and had the road entirely to myself for almost an hour – not another soul in either direction – it was glorious.

At this moment I’m in Saint Clairsville Ohio and there’s apparently a pretty decent steakhouse about 2kms from where I sit. Also this hotel has an indoor pool and possibly a hot-tub, so the game plan is to go smoke my pipe, get a steak, then come back here and spend an hour or so soaking in the hot-tub if they have one – something not recommended for people on morphine but fuckit, I haven’t drowned yet.

Tomorrow I’ll try again for Youngstown and should be able to get there by early/mid afternoon. I’m looking forward to seeing my uncle George & aunt Cindy immensely and I also want to visit the Bensons while I’m there – because though they aren’t blood relatives, they might as well be.

Right, time to go get a steak!

Day 12

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Woke up early this morning as planned and set about trying to nail down a new rear tube, the shop within walking distance put me on hold for 30 minutes so I called the other shop, upon hearing my plight the folks at the 40+ year old family owned Leeson Motors offered to come pick up me and my wheel. Decided to go with a new tire as well, the new one is almost identical to the old one, and the price (and ride back) was all excellent. Remounting the wheel was a bit of a hassle, turns out the spot the bike is on the center stand in relation to the curb was fine for a balding flat tire, but too close for a brand new fully inflated knobby. Couldn’t move the bike because rocking it off the stand without the rear wheel mounted would drop the tail of the bike and both mufflers on the concrete – so I opted for deflating the tire and then mongering it into the space and back over the drum shoes – luckily without knocking them off their cams. After the wheel was in everything went back together quickly and happily. I’ll be able to get back on the road tomorrow morning, and as such, I’m going to bed now.

Days 10 & 11

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Made it into West Virginia yesterday morning and hit upon some spectacular views – I’d forgotten how beautiful this state really is. Here’s a set from early in the day:





and a nice shot of the bike with the country in the background,

I followed Rt 7 West for a solid portion of the day and then after a pretty violent lightning storm I grabbed 20 South because there was a sign noting a decent sized city about 40 miles south, by that point I’d done twice the distance as any other day so far. The thing was that Rt 20 had some pretty rough roads and there were a number of times when the Ural was launched into the air for brief thrilling moments. I think the last time it happened the weight of the bike landing on the pavement blew the rear tube.

Lost the ability to make forward progress in a tiny town called Folsom – which would be here:


The yellow X is where the bike stopped and the circled building which was right behind where I was temporarily stranded (just 2 hours or so) which I think was either a railroad depot or a school – but honestly I have no idea. Looked like a neat building, thought about exploring but couldn’t leave the bike unattended and had to wait for the tow truck.

That would be Evans Towing & Recovery – 24/7 service and strongly recommended to anyone who winds up broken down near Lexington W Virginia. Also, for the sake of tradition, the views from my stranded bike:


and on the flatbed where I ended up:

The options were this one or a Super 8 – and I’ve had bad luck with Super 8s.

Couldn’t get the tire/tube taken care of today but I did get it off the bike, fun work in 80 degree sun. The hardest part was getting the bike on the center stand with the flat rear tire – propped the rear wheel up on the toolkit to get some inches under the stand and then put everything I had into rocking it onto the stand.

As is my tradition I’m carrying enough tools to pull the bike completely apart – including a not so small set of Craftsman wrenches, two of each size of course.


The tires getting a bit worn down the center, not 100% sure that the motorcycle shop will be willing to replace just the tube, I think the wear is pretty close to where they’ll say no – but could let it pass. Worst case, I’ll get a new duel sport tire, that way I won’t need to replace the front tire too.

and one of my favorite views of the bike,

One of the bike shop’s is apparently just a 16 minute walk from here, so I’m thinking I might make a couple shoulder straps from Gorilla tape and carry the wheel to the shop like a backpack in the morning when they open. The theory is that if I come in on foot with an out of state license and a wheel strapped to my back they might just be motivated enough to help me get things taken care of straight away – which would be excellent because its supposed to rain again around 3pm tomorrow and I want to have the bike back together before that happens!

Then I’ll kill one more night here and head out on Sunday – going to start working my way north and head for Youngstown.

I’ll post more tomorrow after I’ve (hopefully) gotten the bike back together. Right now I’m going to go outside and smoke a mixture of pipe tobacco & pot rather than take a couple oxy and then I’m going to come back up here and pass out. Gotta be up early tomorrow, want to be at that bike shop when they open at 9am.

Days 07 & 08 – and pics from Day 6

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Day 07

I found the hotel I was looking for, I’ve now been in this town more times than some of the towns surrounding my area in Massachusetts, and as such I’m starting to get a feel for the place. Like knowing I had to take a left on Baltimore Street to follow 116 despite there not being any signs there to tell you that – which is one of those unfortunate happenings that makes this kind of a trip both more fun as well as why planning is generally just a guideline – cause you get lost (or further lost) frequently when you continue down a road not knowing the state highway you think you’re following cut off to the left five miles back and they just forgot to warn you that that would happen.

Picked up three motorcyclists in the center of Gettysburg – two from New Jersey and I think the other guy was the same who’s bike I took a photo of yesterday as mine which looks like an old BMW was behind his modern BMW and I liked the look of them together. We all rode together for a few minutes, shared brief explanations of our own trips at red lights, before exchanging handshakes and waves and then parting ways – first the guy on the BMW and then me. One of them though, on a cruiser, kept forgetting to shut off his turn signal and I wonder at either his luck or how long he’s been riding (if this is a mid-life “lets go cross on bikes” thing – which is fine btw, I plan on having one of those too) because that’s one of the surefire ways to get dead on a bike. I’m in the habit of randomly hitting the kill button for the signals usually a few minutes after I’ve already killed the signal just in case I didn’t – that’s one of those things dad drilled into Al & I when we were just starting out – and for years before we started, cause in all reality dad started teaching Al & I how to ride motorcycles as soon as we were old enough to carry on a conversation, because we talk to those closest to us about what we love and dad loved riding motorcycles.

Killed an hour in the parking lot after I got here because it’s well before check-in time and while I was out there a fellow began asking questions about the bike and the toolbox and at the end of the exchange he asked again about the name of the bike – and then said “oh like the Ural Mountains?” and I said “Yes, exactly, that’s where they’re made” and he grinned and told me that his wife wanted to know because she’s from Russia and she smiled and waived and then he said goodbye again but this time in Russian and off they went. It was a perfect sort of exchange, my favorite sort, and I was pretty happy with things and so I went in to check-in with that high spirit.

Coming back out I saw a woman behind the car that was parked in front of my bike looking very concerned and bending over to look at her rear bumper and thought “shit” and then went over to see what happened. She just didn’t see it. The big red bike with a sidecar directly behind her (parked about 4 feet back) that’s the same width as her tiny silver car. I said “well which part did you hit” looking at both the front end and the box for signs of damage because depending on what she did she could have hit either “and how hard did you hit it?” – “just a tap” “barely” – I said I had to take it around the lot and check the front end to which she responded “I barely hit it”

What she doesn’t have is one of my favorite of dad’s crash stories when he laid down the Honda Dream in Texas in the summer at over 70mph without a helmet on wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt because he was trying to look like Steve McQueen from The Great Escape. That someone had had a front end woops with the Honda a few days earlier and hadn’t told anyone about it and so when dad’s passing 70mph the front end began to go into a tank-slapper for which there’s nothing you can do at that speed and down he went. Made a deal with God while he was sliding that if his head didn’t touch he’d never not wear a helmet again. The meds at the Air Force base made an example out of him – cause you weren’t allowed to ride without a helmet so everyone just left their helmets at the front gate because off the base the AF couldn’t do shit – and so they cleaned the gravel out of his leg in a wirlpool with brushes and disinfectant and apparently you could hear his screams throughout the building. That’s exactly as he told it so many times and I think of it often mostly because it keeps me safe on the bike.

Happily there are a ton of huge parking lots scattered out like islands in this plaza thing so I took the bike out into those and put her through the paces a bit – 2nd, 3rd, 4th gaining speed and cornering in both directions at each stage 10mph, 20mph, 30mph, 40mph, 50mph – getting dirty looks from people in the parking lot who didn’t understand why some guy was doing such things at such speeds in a lot marked for 20mph – but they didn’t understand what happened and the need to be sure that everything was alright, because things can be fine at 30mph and deadly at 50 or 70. But if anything were wrong with those forks I’d have felts something in the cornering and she’s fine. So I went back to the woman and told her it was all alright and went to put the bike under the side covering where there’s no traffic.

Mind you there was a bit of an honor system thing going on with that lady because if the forks had been damaged there were two likely scenarios as I saw it – either I’d feel a wobble right away and have to go back and tell her that we had to exchange information and figure things out because I’d have been stranded with a damaged bike or else I was going to crash at speed in the parking lot which would have hurt like hell but if you’re going to crash this would be the best place (outside of a hospital parking lot) to do it because there wouldn’t be the chance of then being run-over or going into the trees or a guardrail or anything. It would just be a tumble on some nice flat concrete with nothing to tumble into. But if that were to happen I was trusting the lady not to look at what she did and drive away. All of that said, I was quite relieved to find the bike was fine. When I park I put the bike in reverse which acts like a parking break (which when released puts you right into Neutral) but the point is that reverse is essentially first gear – there’s not a ton of resistance – so I’m guessing that the fork springs absorbed most of it because the axle height on that wheel was above the bumper on her little car – and whatever the shocks didn’t absorb just cause the bike to roll back a couple inches. If I used the bike’s actual parking break (cause it has one), which locks the rear drum and the sidecar drum, I think she would have bent the fork stanchions (tubes).

Day 08

I really do love being here. I can’t explain why it is that it matters as much to me that we had family at the Battle of Gettysburg. Though he fought for the Union I don’t know what his views were on slavery, if that’s why he signed up or if he signed up because it seemed the right thing to do to preserve the Union and his being on the side that he was maybe just because he lived in the north. So it’s not that exactly. It’s more because I know that I had family that was here in June of 1863. I was trying to explain this to mom last night and I’m not sure how well I did it, but it’s a bit rare to be able to visit specific places that people from the family tree have been too – more than two generations back. I like the fact that my bloodline was HERE 154 years ago and I am here now. I like that this is one of maybe a few dozen places in the world where some number of people visit for the same basic reason.

I’ve sort of mixed and hypocritical views on preservation. The town of Gettysburg is very much like it was then and the battlefields remain fields and the wooded hills where the South tried to flank the North on the first day remain wooded hills. I appreciate that what happened here was so horrific that the country and the town felt the need to preserve it and perhaps also because no one really wants to build on a spot where nearly 50,000 people died in a matter of days. I’ve no service in the military and have never seen war but from the accounts I have read from people who fought in the Civil War, the First & Second World Wars, and in the jungles of Vietnam – to some solid extent, not dying is luck, that accepting that you could die at any moment is one of the challenges to adjusting to being in one big battle after another or to be in a semi-constant battle that goes on the whole time you’re there. I can’t imagine – nor do I really try to. But I had a variation of the thought of how lucky I am to be alive a bit earlier because of how many wars our families have fought in on both sides going back a very long ways (mom’s family invaded England with William the Conqueror in 1066 for example). How many people in our families went off to war and didn’t die so that this generation could be born?

Anyway, I’m going to go boil some lunch and then I’m going to go off and wander around the town for a bit and maybe find some ice cream.

Pics from Day 06:
These first four are from the same spot – just turning on my own axis from left to right – then I lay down on the Ural and just soaked up the sun for about 30 minutes before hitting the road once more. The last is a terrible quality pic of the Ural with a new BMW which I liked the look of and did a poor job documenting it.




I was just about to close out when I realized I didn’t finish the thought about my hypocritical views on preservation. I love old buildings and whatnot so that part of me deeply wants things to be preserved and I take some joy & pride in the fact that my brother joined the preservation society and fights to save some of the more beautiful buildings in my city that for various reasons have fallen into disrepair or been outright abandoned. But another part of me loves it when I see nature taking back buildings, I’ve seen five so far on this trip – houses over 150 years old for sure with vines and trees wrapping round them and growing inside them. Then there’s the fact that we know things now that we didn’t know when we first began to colonize these continents – we’ve built cities & towns on wonderful farmland and farms on lesser land. Then there are cities like Youngstown, Detroit, Flint, that thrived during our industrial age and then didn’t which expanded and then shrank back in devastating ways of which there are still struggles going on. I’ve passed towns that are barely alive and places where there were probably really neat old houses & factories that have completely been retaken by the earth. I’m for all of it. I’m for preserving old structures so long as they can serve a viable purpose in the current or future needs of the area but if the land under them can be better used for something else then I’m for raising them and replacing them. I love history and feel like it needs to be known and I think if a neat old building needs to go then someone should take pictures of as much of it as possible and then go through and save bits of it – some examples of lovely trim & moldings, door hardware, stained glass windows, the hardwood doors & frames, even some of the casement windows – and then ideally those parts would be incorporated into the structure that replaces it.

There, that’s the completion of the thought. Alright, let’s try the beef, biscuits, and potatoes today.

Day 06

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No pictures today, I took them but for some reason I can’t send them to my computer here, that particular service is not available. I’ll post them along with whatever I take tomorrow when I next have that service.

Here’s what I wrote up for today:

I overshot Gettysburg and wound up in Maryland. Did good today, rode well, made it the furthest so far. My plan for tomorrow is to find my way from here (Hagerstown) to Gettysburg, should be there by early afternoon, if I don’t get too lost. I mean, technically speaking, I’m lost all the time – I almost never know where I am at any given time. I can always find the general area on the road atlas of course – just find the highway number I’m on on the map and then locate the last town I rode through – so only lost by design. But the point is that tomorrow I want to make it to Gettysburg with time left in the day.

It’s my intention to spend a couple days there. There’s a KOA either in or on the outskirts of the town which I’ll stay at for one or two nights, though there’s a hotel I stayed at on the 2012 trip that not only had a cannon in the foyer and room service – but made one of the best burgers I’ve had in years – I aim to see if their food is still that good.

We had family at Gettysburg. I remember in the 90s when the film came out dad sat us down and we all watched it together and every so often he’d point out where our great-great-somebody fought and talk about the regimental battle flag that one of the women in our family had sewn which got donated along with a few of the other artifacts to some museum somewhere I can’t remember because this was 20 years ago at least. We still have his fife and watch, I have the watch, I gave my brother the fife.

While riding route 16 south through PA today I spent a solid amount of time thinking about how folks on solo bikes would absolutely love this road – well maintained, average speed limit of 55mph, and lots of twisty roads weaving in and out of forests and up & down the mountain side. It was decently hard work mongering the sidecar rig through the roads and so I was averaging speeds of 30-40 through the bits that made me wish I was on a solo bike. I had just looked at the odometer which read 10,498 and I was kind of looking forward to it rolling over to 500 when I hit three hairpin turns that were in a solid row – the road leading out of the first lead right into the second and the road out of that right into the third – and the corners were banked the opposite of how you’d want to do that. I had to go through them at 15mph in second gear and I do not think you could make it through those turns on a solo bike. I actually passed a rider heading in the opposite direction a little while later and was legit worried about him for the rest of the day – I’m still a bit worried about him. But we passed each other at the first place I was able to relax since the hairpins as the roads were all over the place after the hairpins and I had to go around more than a few turns at about 20mph while thanking the stars that it was Sunday and so no one was about except myself and that other guy on a bike. The odometer was at 10,528 when I’d finally hit that stretch where I could safely take my eyes off the road for an instant to check the clock.