Part 2: Trip ’12 (April)

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1 April
So technically speaking I should be asleep right now, but I needed to do this first, been putting it off all day. The trip has begun, while this is technically the end of my second day, I have traveled only 1/3 of the distance I’d thought I would the first day – which goes to show why its a good thing I scrapped my plan. I also holed up in an Econo Lodge that was right next to me when rush hour kicked in and it was a simple glance to the right – look back at traffic stopping directly ahead – mutter “Fuck this” and swing into the lot. $67 a night with taxes. I stayed an extra night to avoid snow & slush.

All I can really say for the first day as far as interest goes is that I sidetracked talking to a lot of people, all of which knew what they were talking about. In the past 2 days actually I have talked to a Triumph riding racist plumber, a couple of really cool Harley guys – meaning guys on bikes from the 40s that they bought in their teens, an 80 year old man on a Harley sidecar rig, and staying in this motel right now is a motocross team, and the father/manager fellow and I talked bikes for a bit after he’d gone over to take pictures of my bike. Lots of pictures have been taken.

Now I promised pictures before, so let me deliver those, these were taken 10 minutes before I got on the road:

So the bike handles like a car with a bent frame, and for a while there I was really thinking about aborting the plan and having the bike shipped, but I pushed on because I both think I can do this and really want to see if I can do this. Not just me physically, I mean get the GS down there with a 650 Ural.

I basically had to learn to ride the bike again. Its different, handles different, steers different, speeds up and stops different. So the first day was a lot of 30 miles an hour, a few stops, started at 11:40AM and ended around 5:30PM. Didn’t get far, embarrassingly short actually. But I don’t have the stamina I had when I went across in 2008. I have to build that back up, and THIS is the way to do it!

So true to my word I am mapping out the next day of riding the night before. I just want to give a show one reason why I prefer maps to computers that try to give you a route to go.
lol @ google maps

So tomorrow the basics are 202/10 to 20 to 23 to 41/22/41 which will take me to Port Jervis, it says 4 hours, so I’m betting it takes me 6. Be interesting to see if I can do 6 hours on a bike. On the bright side each day I go it’s going to get a little warmer.

My head’s been spinning since I left, thinking and trying to figure things out more. Thinking about the past and trying to work out how to get past it. This is a sort of vacation in a sense as everyone I meet assumes I’m a regular guy with a job who is on vacation. Sometimes I love strangers for the fact that they know nothing. Its kind of like hiding, but I like to think of it as a vacation from reality.

One of those bits that haunt me, is the last couple lines of an email I got from my mate Sam a few years ago. He and I went way back and as a result were running from the same demons.

Running might help for a little while, but sooner or later the pain catches up with you. The only way to beat it is stand your ground and face it.

He wrote that email on Feb 2. I guess he couldn’t handle what ever he did because he killed himself on Feb 3. That might have delayed my recovery ever so slightly. But now I’m getting better, I know I am, I mean there are all sorts of things I can handle now that I couldn’t back then.

So this is some of that, this is me sitting in a chair and talking to my father. I was even joking with him, granted the conversation was a bit one sided. I like to think he’s riding along with me, I had the same feeling when I went to Phoenix. That trip I imagined him riding a Vincent, the one machine he always lusted for and never got. This time I picture him on the Norton 750 Atlas
Dad at Nelson's Ledges in 1970s with his Norton 750 Atlas
I told him “well on the bright side now that you’re dead the vibrations won’t murder your innards”

If I do visit family members I think I’m going to stay at a motel. I smoke my pipe, I keep odd hours, I tend to be (especially on trips) somewhat of a scrub), I get anxious when I’m a “guest”. So I am going to avoid that a bit.

Something else, it took me a while to figure out. Walking into this $65 motel room I had this feeling like I was home. It just felt right. This is a sketch run down motel from the 70s. But in Phoenix my apartment was in what had been a motel for years. It was furnished the same as this. I basically lived in a motel for 7 months, so when I walk into a cheap one I just feel at home now haha, go figure.

I’ll write more tomorrow, I have to get my gear together and get ready for the road, then go to sleep. So I can wake up, shower, get dressed pack the bike and be on the road before 10am.

2 April
Another late night update, I am now pretty much where I thought I’d be at the end of the first day. I find it slightly embarrassing but then I remind myself the last time I did one of these tricks I’d been up and about for months. This time I’d only been up and about for about a week. There were also the handling issues, and all of the damned twistys.

So yesterday (I mean Sunday)

When I packed up the bike in the morning I decided to change it up and put the water proof bag in between the bikes close to my spare fuel because its heavier and I strapped the barracks bag down flat behind the rear wheel, with the little bag containing my pills and such in between them and between the wheel of the GS and the gas can. First set of bends showed the handling was much improved.

I headed out trying to get here and hit lot of road that went up and down steep hills and maybe small winding mountainish roads. Which meant I spent a few hours going 30-35 miles per hour, and then it began to get colder, it was supposed to be in the 50s but it was in the 40s and that and the wind chill were destroying me. So I pulled over and unstrapped the waterproof bag – from here on out to be known as the black duffle – and dug some clothes out of it, heavier clothes. Being shirtless when its 42 degrees and the sun is behind clouds is unpleasant, I do not recommend it.

The next thing I did, which was proceeded by glancing across the street and seeing a guy in the driveway of the only house I’d seen in ages talking on a cell, was to go across the street and wait for the fellow to hang up. As I did so I noticed he had a bike under a cover in the driveway. I asked him where the nearest town was as I was getting hungry. We talked bikes, and about his wife and him, they have collectively worked at the Price Chopper in Lee for 27 years. Nice guy, he even brought me out a cup of coffee while I was waiting for my fingers to work again.

As I was polishing off the coffee it began to dribble rain. The town was about 10 miles off and I was thanking god because I was getting punchy from lack of food so I headed for the town of Lee as the rain got going. I ate lunch at a Friendly’s which was rather busy so the wait was a good 30 minutes. By the time I ate and headed back out to the bike it was pouring.

Riding for another hour in heavy rain I apparently missed the turnoff of 20 that I was looking for, and so 20W lead me not south but north. I continued to ride as the gloves, carhartt coveralls and ski mask were keeping me dry, but then the water began to soak through my suit, then it began to soak through my clothes, and damp clothes plus a windchill in the 20s I started paying attention for a place to sleep.

I happened on a Best Western and parked myself there for the night. My room was $100 and had a jacuzzi in a room the size of my bedroom on Morningside Road, which I didn’t know was there for 2 hours I thought the door lead to a closet. There was also a working gas fireplace. The room was the same size as my apartment in Phoenix, and better furnished. The hotel was refurbished 3 months ago and all the furniture was new, also I think I pretty much owned the place.

I used the fire to dry out my flannel lined jeans & coveralls and the room heater to dry out my gloves and shirt.

Today’s riding has far fewer tricky corners and I was able to travel most of it at 40-45 miles per hour, sidecar loaded the same as the day before. I made it twice as far today as I had the other two days. I was making good time and thought I might be able to pass my intended goal and maybe get ahead of things. But then I stopped in for a late lunch at a Diner and it was packed. Good food though, and cheap.

The next thing that happened was as I was running down a highway that was a true highway like 146 with a speed limit of 55. Straight roads too. It was nice until I was stopped at one of the rare traffic lights and the bike would not stop revving so I pulled off to the side of the road and shut the bike off.

At first I thought she was just over heated, then I noticed she was leaking oil from the left base gasket under the barrel. So I sat down to let her cool off as there was nothing I could do with a hot engine. After about 20 minutes I went back and crawled under and had a hard look at the gasket and noticed one of the nuts holding the barrel on had come undone. That explained the leak, so I got my tools and set to work. Had to remove the head pipe but managed to do so while leaving the carb & muffler attached as normal. Tightened the nut and was happy for a moment before I thought about it and realized that couldn’t be my over revving. So I set to checking the carbs and the cables. I discovered the cable adjuster on the left carb had unthreaded from vibes and in doing so had locked the carb at full throttle no matter what. Quick fix and I was back on the road.

30 minutes later the traffic began to slow, for what I assumed was another traffic light, so I stayed in the left hand lane where I was. As it turns out it wasn’t a light, about a mile up the road a guy in a Saab had apparently thought cutting off a Mac Tractor Trailer truck was a good idea, the Mac ran over the Saab, literally – I saw the hood and the remains of the passenger cabin 3 hours later when I rode past. Thats right, 3 hours. Standstill traffic. Walked away from the bike and lay in the grass for over 30 minutes. Shut the bike off for 2 hours.

10 minutes after passing the accident I saw a Motel 8 off to the right. The rest is history, and its time to plug my cell & ipod into the laptop and then go to sleep.

3 April
This trip is just different than any other I’ve ever been on. It’s independent of anything I’ve done before. I actually got scared yesterday when I crossed the Hudson, the bridge was so big and I’ve never been on a platform above something so massive before, not outside a car. It was wild, like I got to the point where I had to stare straight ahead because this river was just massive compared to me on my motorcycle. It was breathtaking and beautiful and frightening.

Never before have I set out on a journey, on a road trip with no clear idea of how long it was going to take, not really knowing where I was going each day, not knowing where I was going to sleep that night.

Will’s good, he gets it, he knows I don’t know when I’ll get there and he’s not concerned about the fact that he doesn’t know. I don’t know if that makes sense outside my head. But what I mean is most people need to know.

Time wise my life has become completely unpredictable. I used to always do the things I said I was going to do, I’d get to places I had to be at least 15 minutes early because I’m more comfortable being early, I like being early. Now it all depends on my body, and my body doesn’t listen to me. Today for example I woke up and wanted to get back on the road because there is still a lingering sense of urgency to getting to the next place. But I had the shakes, I felt light headed, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and I decided to not ride today.

I’m starting to get used to the idea that I won’t be able to be early anymore. I’m getting used to the idea that I don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I both love and hate the fact that every person I talk to just assumes I’m on vacation from work. I love it because it makes me feel normal again, but I hate it because the question “what do you do?” always comes up, and I’ve been replying that I work on bikes, and do other stuff here and there – which is just barely not lying. Just barely. I hate the that question. There’s no way to answer it without getting personal, and I don’t like being personal with people I don’t know. My health is none of their business, and yet there is that question.

What do you do?

There is no answer to it. I try to give the answer that would be the truth if I was healthier.

Aside from that, I have had some excellent conversations, it seems I have two or three of them a day – usually at gas stations or diners. My bike just seems to attract good conversations. Its almost 8pm, I’m going to make it a point to go to bed before 11pm tonight. I want to be up and about by 8. I want to eat the free breakfast and have time for a shower before I leave tomorrow morning. I think all the way around it’ll much improve my ride. It’s hard though, I have spent the last 3 years keeping pretty much whatever hours I want, which is usually awake at night, sleep during the day. That doesn’t work for this.

That’s good. This is a reason to get up in the morning. I haven’t had one of those since I left school that last time. Its a wonderful thing, having a reason to get up in the morning. Having a reason to go to sleep at night. I haven’t figured one out yet, but I’m going to try to find something to do in the mornings, which won’t be hard if I get a lathe, because I’ll be doing my work when mom is at school. Thats when I can play music loud and so forth. I don’t know.

This, this trip is really helping, its forcing my mind and body to remember how to do things. Be sociable. Get my own food. Wash my own clothes. I haven’t had to climb any stairs since Friday. Everything is on one floor. First floor motel rooms, first floor diners, the motorcycle climbs all the hills. Life is so much easier without stairs.

6 April
A couple days missing, I have been neglecting this which isn’t a good thing. So what to say?
I spent 2 days in Orange County NY, thats where I ended up after Highland. The motel was this erie looking Econo Lodge. But it turned out to be an excellent motel. I ended up there because I was feeling faint while riding and stopped at the first place I saw, it was one of those times when my blood pressure tanks. The next day I wasn’t feeling all that great and was running low on the Gabapentin so I decided to stay in town another day, and get my script refilled.

I rediscovered how awesome it is to live in MA as Masshealth doesn’t cover out of state, so my 360 pills cost $1 a pill. Ouch. Reminded me of Phoenix when I was paying $679 a month for Androgel (which it later turned out I didn’t even need, but learning that from the Mayo Clinic cost me $5,000).

I went to the Orange County Chopper place yesterday an was not impressed. They have a lot of bikes they built in the showroom with clothing and accessories and all that. Its just too commercial. Like their bikes look kind of cool but they aren’t built to be ridden, they all have the same engine, and the place had the feel of a toy store, or better yet a Abercrombie & Fitch store. Just as A&F started out selling really excellent high quality stuff, then they became what they are now, which is kind of a joke. The OCC has that feel to it. There was one bike in the shop that I really fell for and that was a 1920s Indian racer. But it was – you could only see one side of it which was rather sad as I reallllly wanted to see the left side of the bike.

Today was pleasant, I’m in the Apalachan Mountains (which I apparently can’t spell) and at a lovely Quality Inn that looks out over the mountains. I was lost for a while, but I finally figured it out.

Another interesting thing that has come out of all of this is that in every motel room there are at least 2 mirrors. So before, the last few years I’ve let myself go to hell appearance wise because I never saw myself and really didn’t care. Now I’m shaving daily and slowly starting to take better care of everything. Eating better, don’t look as much like a refugee. Tonight I WILL go to bed by ten. I have been staying up too late, its habit. Then I sleep too late. If I go to bed at 10 I can get up around 6:30 and get some free breakfast and get on the road at a decent hour.

It’s been 1 week on the road and I haven’t exactly made miles, and I don’t have the funding to keep going at the rate I’m going. But at the same time my body is getting used to movement again, so tomorrow I am going to try to get to Harrisburg PA, which is about 179 miles from here, which should take me 4-5 hours of riding at 35-45mph. If I can do 200ish miles a day for the next 4-5 days I will be in Savannah before this time next week. I really want to get to Savannah, and Georgia in general.

I want to visit my friend Cam who gave me both my tattoos and who apparently still has the KZ1000 I rode cross country in ’08

Which now looks like this:

I find that the 6 years of Catholic school seem to kick some things together while I’m riding, I’ll end up saying a prayer while going down steep hills with bends at the end, and I have several times now taken refuge in church parking lots just to think and rest.

When you’re on a bike on state roads just moving through the land, its.. you develop a real sense of how small you are and how vast the world is. So much beauty, its astounding, breath taking.

My friend Steve asked if I could describe the spiritual transformation, and he’s right there’s something going on, but beyond a feeling of.. it’s really hard to put any of this in words, but as I’m continuing it feels like I’ve been plugged into something. Energy, joy, peace in mind and soul. Like, its not like someone flipped a switch and my worries went away, its more like a sliding scale. I don’t know how to describe it. I do know, and can say that I have not felt so alive in a very long time. Sure my body hurts but being out here, it just blows me away.

I’m waiting on something to finish downloading and then I can post a few pictures I took today when I stopped here. Don’t know if they are any good, used the Ipod because my camera was in my room.

Sitting here listening to Baba O’Reilly and missing my record player, and my cat. I also have to write down the “directions” for tomorrow, which means I write down the highway numbers to look for – NJ-94-S to PA-512-S to PA-248-S – so you get the idea, I write them down on the postcards I bought but haven’t used yet and then tape the card to my gastank so I can glance down and know which road to take next. Decent system.

Here is the Indian engine:

Again no camera, only had my cell phone on me. Oh well. And here is the bike at the Inn here in the mountains.

I wish I could go explore, there are a lot of old dirt roads and what not, but thats more for if I had the tub, can’t do that with the GS strapped to my bike!

Right right, I am done for now.

8 April
Lack of recent updates can be blamed mostly on lack of sleep. I’ve been having a slight problem with nightmares the last few nights, its ok, this happens sometimes. So I got here on Saturday, here is Allentown PA by the way, and I spent Easter here, and ended up here again Monday.

Today I’m going to make a break for it anyways, not too far, but this motel sucks, the local pizza joint sucks, and I just got to get back on the bike. I figure any headway is better than sitting still, so I’ll leave mid afternoon and ride for a few hours and then hole up in the next motel.

I really really really want to get to Savannah sooner than later, haha, I’d like to be there now, but I’ll just keep working my way south at my own pace. Something I forgot about is the fact that the trip back north will be much easier – without the GS on the rig I could take 95 home. Straight line.

Anyways, I have to go raid the vending machines for something with sugar in it. Also don’t worry about me riding, if I get tired I’ll just pull off the side of the road, sit down and take a nap. Used to do it in my various cars all the time, hell I kept a blanket and a pillow in the back seat at all times. Exactly the same circumstances. I tend to sleep better during the day, god knows why, so I do what I have to when I have to keep myself going during days.

At any rate, I’m done for now, next time will be something more trip oriented, haha when I can think better.

12 April – Broken Down in Myerstown
Hi guys, this is Will posting on Jack’s behalf. He has asked me to relay that his bike broke down in Myerstown, PA, and that he won’t have internet access for around a week. The splines on the drive shaft stripped. He is waiting on a replacement part to come in (probably on Tuesday), and expects to be on the road again by next Thursday (the 19th.)

19 April – Allentown PA – Leesburg VA
Right, so it’s been a little while since I last updated this. Its almost been 3 weeks since I left Worcester and I am starting to get a good distance away. Its also getting nicer the farther I go.

About a week ago I had my first major failure on the Ural, which stranded me in Myerstown PA for 5 days in a motel with no internet. The folks running the place were incredibly nice, a true mom & pop hotel, and Arden loaned me some tools when it came time to fix the bike.

What happened is I stripped the splines on the driveshaft pretty bad. This was after I had spent a couple hours going up and down steep hills in 2nd gear. Got to the end of a street and went to put it back in first and it was like I was in neutral. For a day I was terrified that I’d killed the gearbox – as that’d have been a $1200 repair and would have required a lot of work to fix. Granted as it turns out changing out the driveshaft took a lot of work too.

Myerstown is a true farm town, but god damn the pizza joint made the BEST meatball subs I’ve ever had, and on actual homemade bread.

So I got the parts to fix the bike from Raceway which is an awesome shop out on the west coast. New driveshaft, coupler, universal joint, wedge bolt.

Took 2 days to get it all apart and back together again. Had to remove the rear shocks, the swingarm, pretty much everything behind the gearbox came off the bike.

This is the coupler coming out of the gearbox

And this is the new rubber coupler installed with the second part attached that the driveshaft slides into. This is where the failure took place

The only thing I couldn’t do myself was the wedge bolt which went through the rear part of the shaft holding in the bevel gear that drives the rear wheel. You can see the wedge bolt here:

Had to walk 5 miles to a auto shop so they could press it out – which they did for free.

And here are the two parts that failed, the lighter shading is where the splines stripped

I have to say that I was pleased with how my body held up, that was a hell of a walk, and it was 90 degrees and I was in jeans. My legs were killing me the next day and my right leg is still a little tender, but it worked. I’m also starting to put on weight, I think I now weigh more than I ever have before, still underweight but no longer look like a refugee. The muscles in my arms seem to be making a recovery as well – not visibly but I can feel them – its from having to lug in my gear every night.

This part of the country is absolutely stunning. I’m in Virginia now, came down from Gettysburg where I stayed the last two nights. There was an issue with my bank card, the bank to protect me from fraud cancelled it while I was in Gettysburg. So I had to stay an extra day while mom overnighted me the new one. Stayed at the Gettysburg Hotel which opened in 1797. Was quite nice, lovely area.

Today while sitting in the parking lot of a gas station I heard a buzzing sound from up above that sounded like an old hit and miss engine, looked up and a fucking Fokker Dr1 Triplane flew overhead. My Favorite plane EVER. Wish I’d been able to get my camera out in time. It was black and yellow, but here is a picture of another one so you know what I am talking about:

This is all so incredibly peaceful. Its almost impossible to describe it, just the sense of movement and the stunning landscapes. Passing a lot of farms, almost looks like this constant flowing painting. Every so often I’ll end up in a nerve racking situation – tight corners, steep hills – but I’m managing pretty well. Today’s journey was planned to avoid mountains.

I really liked the roads today, speed limit of 40 most of the time which is great because thats about as fast as I can go without worrying about the engine, also can’t really emergency stop at anything over 40 mph. They also had really wide shoulders which I would pull into and continue to go 40mph while waving the people behind me to pass me. Much better than MA and PA where I’d have to pull over and all but stop when I’d let people pass.

Tomorrow I’m going to be able to just ride Rt 15 all day, no worries about watching for junctions.

One weird thing happened in Gettysburg. During the two days I was there I met people from Boston, Mendon, New Braintree, and Cape Cod. It was like people from MA just invaded the place.

I’ve finally been able to stow the carhartt coveralls and switch to the Vanson leather jacket, couple more states and I’ll have to switch to the Belstaff.

20 April
Watching “The World’s Fastest Indian” which is one of my favorite movies, there was a documentary I saw about Burt Monroe when I was in my early teens. It really made an impression on me. In the end it comes down to you can do just about anything as long as you push yourself. That hasn’t always worked out for me, college for example – tried 4 colleges over 7 years, some of them a few times. It’d be easier if my health was predictable. Haven’t given up, just taking some time off.

But this trip, this adventure is driven a bit by some of my hero worship for Burt. All motorcyclists really, anyone who’s got a love for two wheeled machines. The old timers – Steve McQueen, Malcom Smith, Gary Nixon, Mert Lawell, Bud Ekins, and so on. Anyone who turns the wrench, who works at improving, modifying, riding in any and all sets of conditions.

When my doctors suggested that maybe I shouldn’t ride bikes anymore because if I crash my bones won’t heal quite as quick as the average guy in his 20s, I got the Ural sidecar rig so that I can’t lay her down. But to make up for the third wheel I sold my car and started riding 4 seasons. Its my little fuck you to my health. So is this trip.

I couldn’t ride today, couldn’t sleep last night, couldn’t really walk this morning so I figured it’d be best if I wasn’t on a motorcycle. Tomorrow will be better I’m sure.

When I left the bike handled like a car with a bent frame, but I’ve shifted the bags around and it now handles and corners pretty good. That’s relative I think, like that Triumph I had that didn’t have any brakes for a while, or that bike I had with tires so old that they didn’t grip pavement in the rain. You can get used to anything on a bike, just takes some practice. No matter what you do, how it handles, take a week and you relearn how to ride, its like something totally new.

So the Ural with the GS strapped to the side of it – it handles totally different than it does with the regular tub, and with just the boards on the frame again its totally different. Just gotta adapt.

One big difference between Burt and I is speed. I’ve never been driven by horsepower, I like about 50, I like being able to go up to about 100 on an old twin or single, but beyond that I just don’t care. The Ural tops out right now at about 45, but it’ll do 60 with the Suzuki off the frame.

I want to improve the engine some more this summer. I’m going to get pop’s Logan lathe back from my friend Jon, its got a large enough swing where I should be able to machine alloy barrels. Especially with the turret on the tail stock. There’s a performance kit available in the Ukraine that has a longer stroke, its a new crank with slightly longer con rods, and thicker base gaskets. Also going to upgrade the alternator to 50amp but I’ll have to replace the timing gears with new ones as the modern alternator with its new gear will destroy the old russian gears, can’t have that.

Someday I want to play with the idea of making a bevel drive for the valves to replace the pushrods. I have seen it done on old Triumphs and Nortons. It’d take a lot of playing with, but I think I can do it. But not until I get a lot better at machining things. Also want to learn to cast my own pistons, which will be useful for the Ural in the future since Ural doesn’t make my engine anymore.

Tomorrow is going to be fun, wet, but fun. I’m trying to decide between the coveralls or the leather jacket. Going to have thunderstorms tomorrow. Going to be close to 80 though so I think I might just do the jeans and the leather jacket. Going to try to make it out of Virginia down into North Carolina. But then again there is a town in southern Virginia called South Boston, which is kind of tempting you know.

Anyways gotta have a shower, cook some food, and go back to sleep. I’ll wear the oil stained jeans tomorrow, the rain will be the next best thing to a washing machine.

Oh and a quick video I made last week showing the broken driveshaft.

21 April – Interesting Day
Today was interesting, ended up working on the bike almost as much as I spent riding it. Started out that way too, walked out to find an oil & gas slick under the bike in the morning. The gas was a loose hose clamp on a fuel line. The oil was a bolt that had vanished from the gearbox as well as just some loosening up of rather important bolts. As I was sorting this out it was getting warmer and warmer, which felt great when moving, but was less pleasant sitting on the blacktop finding and correcting faults. That said it was a refreshing change in morning weather, and I’d managed to have the free motel breakfast, a shower, and all that and had walked out to leave 2 hours before checkout time, so as far as I was concerned I was ahead of the game.

Sorted that all out after about 35 minutes and headed south on 15. Made it about 40 miles when the engine started to sound funny, really loud, but a different loud than the last time I lost my exhaust, this is because the mufflers held, this time the right head pipe worked its way out of the head and the exhaust was bypassing the exhaust pipe completely on that side. Pulled off the road and had to wait for the bike to cool down before I crawled under it to sort her out. Lucky thing too, because one of the nuts holding the front left eyebolt to the sidecar platform had fallen off god knows when (these are they eyebolts the GS is tied down to) and so it was better to notice that before the tie down did =P Then I noticed a steak house across the street and went there for lunch, quick service & decent food. Back on the road again.

Another hour and then the bike died which was one of the carbs coming loose. Easy enough fix once I figured out that was what it was. All simple enough fixes, but they kept me in Virginia. But it really was lovely riding weather and the scenery is absolutely brilliant.


23 April – Still in Virginia, PS: I hate Rain
The last couple days I’ve made halting progress that has kept me in Virginia. It’s been raining and cold, which I generally don’t mind all that much, but the Ural/GS rig doesn’t really like slick roads all that much, not in the corners, especially not in corners on hills.

So yesterday morning I went out for a test drive at 5:30am and almost high-sided it, which I believe takes talent on a sidecar rig. When I say almost, I mean the rear wheel did come off the ground as I was going round a left hand corner, which was rather disconcerting. I decided it wasn’t worth dying for and went back to the motel I was at, the “Motel 15″ which gave seedy a whole new name, but had the internet and a clean bed for $26 a night. Not quite sure how then managed that to be honest.

This morning I decided that it was time to push on one way or another so I went out to load the bike and discovered a gas slick encompassing the whole parking spot around my bike and my tank half empty. To make it even more fun it took (I counted) 47 kicks to get the bike to start, and they were awkward kicks because my boots were slick from the gassy water underfoot.

As I was loading the bike I ended up having two separate conversations, one with the 82 year old owner of the motel who had a deep love for all things BMW and had txt’d his older brother a picture of my bike and had been told it was a Ural. The second was a fellow who had had a ’69 R50/2 from new and had done a lot of touring with it. He also answered a question I’ve had for some time. When I took the sidecar off the Ural and tried it as a solo bike – the steering with the leading link forks scared the shit out of me. But I’ve seen riders ride BMW’s with the same front end solo no problem, and was confused and thought that maybe I was just being a wuss. Turns out the BMW has an adjustable leading link fork – with two settings, one for sidecar use and one for solo use! NEAT!

So I got the bike packed up with the gas slick growing as I did so and I made a little foil shield that kept the gas flowing off the bottom of my carb from landing on the exhaust pipe and headed for a gas station figuring it’d be better to sort this problem with a full tank than to sort it with what I had left and risk having fixed it and then have an empty tank.

As I was getting gas the rain started back up again and so I pulled on the carhartt coveralls, put dish gloves over my regular gloves and dug out the waterproof socks. Filled the tank, shut the valve off and went over to the side of the parking lot and set to work sorting out the leak. I couldn’t figure it out at first, the fuel hose was clamped right and had no obvious tears in it. So I pulled it off and discovered that the hose was all torn up inside, as in in-between the inner and outer walls of the hose it was all torn up. I didn’t have any new hose, but I did have new inline filters which are longer than the ones on the bike. So I removed the filter on the left side (where the leak was) and then installing the new filter was able to cut away the bad 3/4″ section of hose and re-clamp everything. Solved that problem.

Got on the road and was feeling pretty good, thought I’d go for as long as I could, and at the time thought that I might just ride all the way to Savannah, warm as I was almost completely insulated from the outside in my suit. Now remember, the thermal lined carhartt suit is warm in almost any temp, but it’s not exactly waterproof. I was also limited to about 30 miles per hour so as not to end up in a ditch, so after about an hour and a half the rain had soaked through the suit and was starting in on my flannel jeans and flannel lined LL Bean shirt, it should be noted that the temp was/is high 40s not including the wind chill. So I made it another 40 minutes or so before everything I had on was soaked through except my socks (waterproof) and gloves (waterproofed) but my hands were going numb and I was starting to have trouble steering straight because I was starting to shake.

I stopped at a gas station just to get out of the cold, and for the first time ever met people who actually call people “Hoss” however you spell that. I told them I was at this point going to just ride until I found a motel and then I was done – it wasn’t even 1pm yet. Out of the 4 guys I was talking to the only one not wearing camo hunting clothes pointed like half a block up the road and told me there was a motel by that white sign. What luck!

This place was built in the 50s and has never been updated. The bathroom is pink. Pink tile floor, pink tile walls, pink bathtub, and pink toilet. Kind of reminds me of the house on Morningside Road with it’s pink toilet in the half bath downstairs. Also has a Diner attached to the side, got a can of pepsi, steak & cheese sub, and fries for six dollars and thirty cents. Open 8 to 8 every day but friday when it’s open 8 to 9. On another interesting not the motel is actually considered part of the Military Academy that is apparently somewhere back in the trees, a boarding school for kids 5th grade to 12th grade. Seems kind of mean to ship a 5th grader off to a fucking military academy, but whatever.

Didn’t expect to find internet here, but there is, its not wifi though, its compliments of ethernet cables available in the office. I won’t be on the web much today though, the cables available in the office are 3 feet long, and the plug in the room is in a far corner by a table with the most uncomfortable chair I have sat in since I graduated high school.

Going to be in the high 60s tomorrow so I’ll make my push south to North Carolina (again) in the morning.

Just glanced out the window and saw a reallllly big bird swoop out of nowhere and grab a robin off the lawn and fly off. My reaction ranges somewhere between awesome and horror. Looked like a bloody eagle. On the bright side the robin’s chirping was annoying the hell out of me, and now no more robin. This is the second time I’ve had a striking feeling I’m really out in the sticks. The first if you remember was in Myerstown when I saw that spider outside my motel room that was HUGE. Not as weirded out this time though. In Myerstown I’d been leaving my motel room door open during the day while I worked on my bike, so after seeing that spider I got the sense that now there could be one that big in my room. No eagles in my room =P Also don’t leave doors open anymore hahaha.

Hopefully the next update will be from North Carolina.

25 April

Yesterday was a 7 hour ride, shifting between 30-45mph. Sometimes I briefly caught sight of 50, which is the fastest I have gone in some time. All in third gear, the majority of this trip has been in third gear. There isn’t much to report on the ride, it was long, chilly, and required quite a bit of concentration, although I am getting good enough at handling this rig that I can now go around bends without raising my pulse.

I’m in Durham, apparently the home of Duke University, something I didn’t know – if you knew my grades in high school then you know that I never had any reason to figure out where Duke was.

Instead of getting back on the road today I decided to stay at least another day. I have a couple prescriptions that need refilled and I saw a Walgreens while I was looking for a motel. So I’ll call those in in a couple of minutes.

There are things on the bike that need a little bit of time, one is the rubber hose that connects the right carb to the airbox keeps slipping off the carb intake, so I have to fiddle with that. Perhaps more important though is the oil that is leaking out of the gearbox. I don’t know where exactly its coming from. That bolt is still missing which probably isn’t helping too much. I plan to find a hardware store and get a new bolt, I’ll wrap it with pipe wrap (like plumber’s use) before I run it back into the hole. I think some seals might have blown. Oil is just sort of bleeding out of everywhere on the gearbox. I’ve had plans for some time to buy a new gearbox – the new ones have German made gears, better bearings, better oil seals, and of course it won’t be 15 years old. I’ll do that when I get home. For now I’m just going to do everything in my power to keep the current one happy.

For now though what I need more than anything else is a nap, so I’m going to call in my scripts and then lay down for a few hours.

My chest has locked a couple of times in the last few weeks, so I know I’m not quite 100% yet, but this trip is evidence that I am in what I’ve come to think of as remissions. While I don’t at all link it to cancer, because its not, not at all, I get good stretches where I feel almost my age, and I’ve been in one for about a month and a half now. But I digress, I really do need that nap.

More later, I promise.

26 April

So I spent yesterday in Durham, and I haven’t been able to grab much sleep tonight because my body aches a bit, I’d kill for a few vicodin right now, but that’d not help all that much because then I wouldn’t be able to ride later. But I’m almost done for a while, in a week I’ll be at my main destination and then I won’t have to do anything for a few days, just hang out with Will and relax and what not. Then there are family visits mixed in before and after – so that’ll be some down time too. It’ll be needed, this has been a lot of work and I really haven’t been good for long, I mean what, couple months maybe I’ve been up and about, and before that I spent most of the last few years stuck in a bed. So.. yeah.

Anyways not sure exactly where I’m going today nor how far I’ll get. But what matters is that I get back on the road and do some miles today, I have to keep going, because if I stop for more than a day or two I wonder if I’d have the willpower to keep going, and man, oh God do I want to keep going. Physical discomforts aside I’m having a ball.

Anyways, binging on Pete Seeger at the moment, love it.

So its my general way of doing things to tape the directions for the day (that I won’t remember) to the gas tank, except there is a lightning storm going on as I type, strikes so often and so close that you could probably sit outside and read a book by the light its providing. Going to storm on and off all day. So well, my directions which are pretty simple but also pretty important because they are how to get from here to the state highway I want to take without having to go over any interstate! But rain + paper and my fountain pen ink which is water based and doesn’t hold up when wet, well I had to get slightly creative in waterproofing my directions because its not like I can just go down to the kitchen and grab what I need. The only tape I have with me is electrical tape and no clear plastic to speak of. So this is how I ended up doing it:

So, going to close my eyes for an hour or two, then go downstairs and get my free breakfast and hit the road! Haha if I was in a car I could be to Rob & Mary-Anne’s or John & Alice, or Will’s place in a matter of hours, hell if I had the Moto Guzzi or any of my other old solo bikes. But I don’t, I have my 38hp overburdened sidecar rig (which I LOVE) so 4 hours via any other mode of transportation becomes a couple day’s journey at least hahaha God damn I really do love this!

Ok, going to shut this laptop off now and pack it and everything else up ‘cept my cell phone & ipod.


27 April – Bad Luck Combined with Good Luck

So to start my creative waterproofed directions failed horrifically. Turns out that the one thing I didn’t count on was that the directions taped below them were somewhat damp, so as soon as I taped down my painstakingly waterproofed directions they got wet and blurred >.< Not my finest moment right there. I didn't get any sleep Wed night so I had it in my head I'd ride for about 50 miles and then find some place to sleep. Following this plan seemed fairly foolproof. After an hour on the road I was feeling pretty good and fairly awake so I pushed on, passing a few motels as I did so. Stopped at this gas station and ended up talking to a couple of people for over an hour. Got back on the road.. Then the rain came, thunder & lightning and driving rain. Usually this doesn't slow me down too much, but in my daze that morning I'd packed my ski mask in the waterproof bag with my laptop figuring who needs it? Its like 75 and muggy outside. I'd forgotten how much rain hurts when you're going about 50mph. I'd also packed away my waterproof socks and was wearing pants left over from my days at Saint John's so I got quite soaked and hahaha my boots literally filled with water. So I stopped at another gas station to just be out of it, to wait it out. The upside of this was there was a barber shop in the little plaza, so I got a crew cut, which has always done a lovely job of hiding bald spots when my hair does its thing. Soon as the sun came back out I got back on the road. Got maybe 10 miles and then I heard a decent backfire come from the right hand side of the engine, looked down and saw that the hose going from the carb to the airbox was gone. Just... gone. Thats one of those "I'm fucked" moments as the Ural has never really enjoyed running without air filters, combined with the awkward angles on that side - the right carb is almost farther back than the feed on the air filter it's supposed to connect to. I managed to walk back and find part of the hose that I'd lost, but not all of it. I txt'd a couple friends pictures of the failure and was really not seeing much hope on this one. Then right in front of me, coming up this dirt road, a fucking Lowes truck pulled out. A bit of investigation proved that I had in fact broken down almost right next to a Lowes that was back in the trees a bit. Got the bike running, rough, and turned around and went to the Lowes. Once inside I set about finding all the PVC bits I'd bought last year when I'd made one of my several attempts at a better airbox. Also bought a roll of Gorilla tape, and a hacksaw, and a 14 x 14 x 1 Airconditioning filter. Took a bit over an hour, but I managed to build myself a new airbox, came out looking decent and fitting quite well:

By this point the lack of sleep from the night before combined with the heat, and the amount of effort the day had required were beginning to take a toll. Literally when standing still it felt like I was riding the subway and I decided it was probably good if I found a motel soon. I asked around and was told there were a bunch about 20 miles down the road, so content with that news I headed back down the road with my new air filter.

20 miles down the road I entered Sanford North Carolina and was excited to find a motel as I was really getting very punchy. Except I didn’t find any. Spent another 15 minutes or so looking around and asking random people and getting even more random directions to where I might find this bunch of motels I’d been promised. Instead though I began to hear a horrific noise that sounded like… it sounded like my engine was coming apart. A rattling pinging metal on metal vibration that seemed to be coming from both heads. Terrified the first thing I did was make sure the bolt on the oil sump hadn’t departed company. It was still there, I still had oil, the heads were still tight, and revving the engine didn’t seem to make the sound any worse. I was somewhat stumped, and by that point not thinking all that clearly at all. I’d passed the point where riding from lack of sleep was dangerous and so I pulled into yet another gas station and began to poke about the engine trying to figure out what the hell was wrong.

Turns out it wasn’t anything shattering, the dust cover on my alternator was no longer really attached to the alternator.

Those cooling fins actually cover what I like to call a death fan.

On either side of the alternator there are 2 little metal clips that hold this cover on with a small set screw locking them in place. This I know from having tightened them before. They and the clips were gone. Just.. gone. The rattling I was hearing was the cover spinning and banging up against the death fan. I promptly removed it and the terrible noise went away.

I asked a fellow and his family if they knew where I could find a hotel after they stopped to look at my bike, the fellow being the rider of a Triumph Sprint just like my uncle Barmack’s, which pleased the hell out of me – though he was in a rotted out Jeep at the time – one of those where you could see through the closed passenger side door and see the seat on the other side through the rolled down window which you could see in the door through the rust… Glorious. I am getting the feeling NC doesn’t have safety inspection, and if they do its Very different than what we have back home. Got very good directions to this mythical collection of hotels and was even given a single serve applesauce cup to get my strength up! What nice people!

Now as I hit the road again, I began to notice a LOT of people wandering around with fake birds and leather gun cases, like the type that look like little suitcases you’d keep a trumpet in. I was growing confused. Seems there is a week long Clay shooting thing going on, which I discovered at the first hotel I stopped in – when I was told that my chances of finding a room in that town that night were about as good a my meeting Jesus in a chinese restaurant (thats a direct quote by the way).

Got the last room in the town (or so I’m told) at a Comfort Suites, which was the 4th place I stopped at, and I got it for 2 nights, as I was beyond tired by then. Good thing too, because I was asleep for 19 hours and am still exhausted. Also hungry, very very very hungry. Waiting on Dominos which is probably the worst place for me but the only place that delivers.

On a less good note when I wandered out to smoke upon waking up I looked at my air filter and discovered that most of the filter is gone… which means three things.
1. I sucked it into my engine.
2. I no longer really have an air filter.
3. I don’t as of right now know how easily my bike is going to start.

I’ll investigate this further after food arrives, and cut the failed filter off and cut up some of a t-shirt and tape that on instead. I am assuming that if sucking filter through the carbs and engine were going to be a HUGE issue I’d have both heard it and felt it yesterday. I’m well aware of how not good it is, but this bike… this engine has so far astounded me at every opprotunity as to just how much abuse it can/will take.

Also planning to basically rebuild the engine when I get home, and have already (4 days ago) ordered a new airbox set up to go with the new gearbox I’m putting on when I get home. So all I have to do is keep it all together for the next month or so, which all things being as they are I suspect I will be able to do.

– 9 O’Clock Wrenching, My Favorite Sport

So its dark out and 70 degrees, something that I quite miss from my days in Phoenix, its the best time to wrench a motorcycle, so out I went to do a bit of work on the old girl. I think she might be oil tight again. The bolts holding the oil sump itself in place were a bit loose so I did those up tight, also re-tightened one of the exhaust nuts, and I replaced the filter on my new airbox.

As I said before the AC vent filter failed miserably, the engine sucked the filter off and into the bike… Oops. Hahaha so now the filter is a chunk of my “The Who” t-shirt and its taped on quite tight with Gorilla tape. Won’t do much for dust, but it’ll stop rocks, pebbles, some water, and the usual grit from being sucked in. Bike starts and idles first kick so that pleases me.

Talked a bit with a nice gentleman who’s been a teacher in a college outside Columbus for 37 years. We talked quite a bit about the 60s and motorcycling of that time. I may have been born 2 decades late for that conversation, but compliments of dad and my general interests I can keep pace with just about anyone talking European bikes of that time, and without bullshitting – which I am rather proud of.

I have more or less decided not to re-fit the death fan cover to my alternator,

which would more or less require sending mom out to the garage with a flat head screw driver to get the bits I’d need off my spare 424 alternator thats sitting in a box out there. Its not really worth the effort, its not oil tight, I’ve looked at the connections in there and nothing is terribly scary if it comes in contact with water or oil, since the sucker bleeds a bit of oil anyways. Also in a month the whole unit will be gone and a more modern 50amp (the 424 is a 14amp) alternator in it’s place.

In this picture you can see that new alternator:

You can ALSO see a couple key things that will be going into effect on my bike in the next couple months, one in the next couple of weeks. That “new” airbox I was talking about – the parts for it are on their way to my house from the Ukraine as we speak – its a coin toss which will arrive in Worcester first, me or the airbox.

Brent has informed me that the hose used on that guys bike for the airbox is called Scat hose and is used for aviation stuffs. So I’m going to get me some of that, I’ve been searching for it for over a year, but never knew what it was, I thought it was some sort of hose off a dryer.

The OTHER thing on that bike which is WICKED is an idea that I had all by myself, but that fellow seems to have had all by himself too (I love when that happens) and that is to scrap the Russian fuel tap and instead to use the two pipes out the back of the tank which are designed as a balance pipe – with a hose between them under the backbone of the frame. I rather hate them in that setup because if you are working by yourself and want to remove the tank, unless you drain it first you end up covering yourself and everything around you with gas.

But the idea is to turn them into individual fuel taps one to each carb. Both ’73 Triumphs I had, and that old ’76 Yamaha XS500C had this from the factory. It hadn’t occurred to me to run a hose between them after the taps to keep the balance pipe, so I am thrilled to have seen that picture. I’ve ordered all the bits to do this and they are being shipped to Will’s address down in Savannah. The one thing we’ll have to do down there is to drain the tank and figure out what the threads are on the bung for the original petcock and then go down to Home Depot and buy a cap for it.

The gearbox in that picture is off a Dnepr and has the electric start motor. My new gearbox (a new Ural gearbox) will be identical to that design, but I have no interest in adding an electric start to my bike. The kick only is both simple, elegant, and what keeps me from riding when I am too fucked up to be riding – if I had a push button start it’d be too tempting to go out on the bike when I am either too medicated or just not healthy enough. The kick start only keeps me safe. So I will just make a metal plate to cover up the exposed section of the clutch flywheel that the motor would sync up to (also I won’t have a gear on my flywheel and don’t feel like replacing mine with one that does).

One thing that I have that I haven’t seen on any other Ural and you can see it quite well (the Ural/Dnepr version) in the above picture – the rubber on the kickstart lever is not adequate for use in the rain and wears out pretty quick and will chew up your shin if it kicks back on you. For some reason no one ever seems to improve on that. But I did! I got a kick rubber from Domiracer for a Norton gearbox (AMC gearbox) that you’d find on a Norton Dominator, 650SS, Atlas, Mercury, Commando, etc. Nice big thick rubber good for 25 years, costs $3. Silly people have no imagination =P

This is the other side of that guy’s bike:

Better view of the 50amp alternator, and also shows where on the Dnepr airbox the crank vent goes.

Last thing before I check my mail, watch House, and go to sleep. When I DO do some serious engine work this summer, I am going to pull the barrels off my bike and paint them BLACK. Remember, for me everything goes back to a Norton Atlas as far as style goes (and I know damn near every company did this, but for me its always the Atlas for examples)

^ For me a proper engine should have black barrels, not a rusty brown like mine currently are =P

Right right, done for now, don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow night, but I’ll write more when I am there!

30 April – Bennettsville, SC

Every so often while I’m riding I see something so beautiful that I want to take a picture, but I don’t because there is just no way that any of the cameras I have on me can possibly capture what I am looking at as well as the eye.

Some of them, you look and you can see why someone would want to paint it, to capture it.. its just breath taking, all of it, for miles upon miles.

Bike wise its been an interesting collection of of days. I replaced the AC vent with a bit of t-shirt which worked great until I got up to about 40 and then the bike bogged down like no else. So I spent several hours in a parking lot in Carthage North Carolina trying to build an air filter that would work out of sponges.

Seemed like a good idea but it wasn’t going, the intake couldn’t suck air through the sponge. Then a couple of nice church going ladies took me to Advanced Auto Parts and bought me a better sponge. That DID work at idle, but failed at 10 miles per hour.

Dyslexia might be an excuse. For some reason I thought I was getting too much air, but in reality I wasn’t getting enough. I am now running with no filter, and she moves. This is Not the ideal solution as its bad for the carbs and the engine, but the engine is getting work done this summer that includes new pistons, new rings, a new crank, and all sorts of other interesting bits, so I’m not as concerned by this as I would be otherwise. Also its not like I’m doing this in the desert with all that sand.

I have realized my error in the design on my PVC airbox. It won’t do enough volume with a filter. So the two carbs feed into a tunnel with a T connector – the two carbs feed into either side and then I have an open end for air. What I’d need to do is put two T connections in there, then I could pull the volume.

I don’t know what math class that was at Saint John’s, but I’m pretty sure I failed it, so this is the math teacher’s revenge when the student asks “How is this possibly going to help me in real life?”

So besides that, today’s ride was cut short by another minor woops which actually happened close enough to a second Lowes to end up fixing it there. I’d just finished eating gut rot (taco bell) and was back out to the bike to kick her over and the right barrel was making a ton of noise again, this always alerts me that the head pipe is loose. I brought my head down to have a look to see if it was still rideable or if I had to fix it right there and glance over and the Alternator which is made up of several different pieces is pulsing – like every time the piston made its cycle all 3 bits would push apart and then drop back together, kinda picture an accordien (I can’t spell that).

That was definitely an “Oh fuck…” moment. I made a quick video at the Lowes parking lot – which was one block down from the Taco Bell. What Luck!

So it took 2 trips into the Lowes to get the screw to fix that. The first time I tried eyeballing it and didn’t get it right. The second time I pulled out the one remaining screw, which I didn’t want to do because I was afraid the alternator would just fall apart.

I replaced both with new ones, the originals were flathead, but Lowes only had philips, so I bought a stubby philips screwdriver too.

I think I’ve fixed the head pipe for sure this time. Had to basically pull the whole exhaust loose on that side and work it back together.

On the people front, I have been meeting some awesome folks. At a hotel one or two days ago? I met a couple really awesome guys who were in town for a gun thing. But one of them was a skater/surfer/motorcyclist/bum/rich/landrover/gun nut. The other was just a gun nut, but from South Africa (near Cape Town) who spent 1992 with 4 other South African’s roaming the US in a Ford Econoline van from the 60s living like bums and working just enough to eat and buy gas. To a guy like me, and several of my friends (I think Will and Liam for sure) that kind of trip sounds a bit like heaven.

Yesterday I met a really cool black guy by the name of Wardell, and he and I talked for quite a while, including a bit about his moving south from NJ 15 years ago and how that was for a black man. Really amazing conversation, one that I am grateful for because I wanted to know but didn’t know how to ask that question. It was really slick that it evolved into that.

I love New England, but the people down here are just so nice. I have seen people up north look at me with sort of a silent disapproval when I’m in a parking lot doing something greasy with the bike. Around here no one gives it a second thought. They just want to talk about the bike hauling a bike.

That said as a bisexual invalid I feel quite a bit safer up north. Up there I know there is a better chance of people not caring. Well, for sexuality. The being disabled thing, no one would understand how someone of disability could be making a trip like this. That only works in the context of people who have known me. Especially the people who have known me from high school and got to watch my various declines in health.

Even on this adventure, when ever my chest begins to do its thing I get a feeling like this could be the end of the trip. There is also that knowledge that it is perfectly possible for me to wake up and not be able to move my legs, because that’s happened before, more than once. So that sort of stuff, it sort of haunts the back of my mind.

But I have not felt this much like a human being since before Phoenix fell apart. Knowing that I can do THIS is so huge, its so important to me. I can do the months in bed as long as I know that at some point I can do this again.

Anyways, no one in this town delivers pizza but there is a Burger King (rat burgers as dad would say) across 4 lanes if state highway, so I’m going to make that trip and then watch some tv, and go to bed so I can go farther tomorrow!

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