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.