Friday, October 7, 2011
Yesterday I drove from Rockford back to Peoria and met some friends for lunch at Flat Top Grill - it's like a Mongolian Barbecue place where you put a bunch of uncooked vegetables and meat from a buffet into a bowl and give it to them, and they cook it for you. $10, and I can usually pack my bowl high enough to get three or four meals out of it. It's one of the cheaper ways to eat if you have a place to store leftovers and reheat them, and it's pretty good too.
When I got back out to my bike, I sat down, popped it into neutral, and noticed that even though I was on a bit of a slope, the bike wasn't trying to roll backward at all, which was a little strange. As I pulled away, I noticed it felt very sluggish - the bike didn't want to coast at all. Before getting out of the parking lot, I did a quick look-over of the bike... and noticed a completely flat back tire.
Monday, September 19, 2011
So the trip is over. Saturday night I arrived back in Peoria around 9pm, after one hundred days of traveling and 21,198 miles. (Average distance traveled per day: 212 miles.)
Before Vegas: 48 days, 12,200 miles, 17 states.
After Vegas: 52 days, 9,000 miles, 31 states.
Friday, September 16, 2011
We were sitting around in Toronto, having slept in after a late (but fun) night. Suddenly, I realized everyone else seemed to have stopped getting ready and was just sitting around. I glanced around, and sure enough they all looked ready to go.
"Give me a second. I'm finishing up a blog post."
"You write a blog?" Alex said. "I thought about doing that, but I'm not any good at writing."
"Then start writing a blog. That's how you get better."
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I feel like I'm already done. I took a picture in front of the 48th state sign for the trip. I'm back in Chicago - a place that I've possibly spent more weekends than I have in Peoria. The next four days feel almost like a formality - I'm just visiting friends, waiting out the days until I get to 100.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I have with one backpack, two saddlebags, and a luggage rack with a few things on it. That doesn't leave me much room for packing, but I've made do with what I have. Now that I'm almost done with the trip, I'm finally getting around to listing what I packed for this trip (I actually started this post in Portland, OR, and I've worked on it multiple times over the trip). Here's what I put in the backpack - I'll cover the other stuff later.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I feel a little bit guilty sitting in a Starbucks while I'm on Mackinac Island... but the bike rental place was closed, I already got fudge, and this might be the only chance I have to write a blog post for the next few days. I'm doing it for you guys.
So while I was in Jackson, MI, I had yet another example of how my "go with it" philosophy has worked out pretty darn well.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
One of the things about this trip is that in a lot of the cities, even big ones, I've often ended up doing things that I really could do just about anywhere. Whether it's going out to a bar, or a restaurant or brewery, or some store - the things I'm doing aren't specific to the city I'm in. I'm not going to restaurant chains or shopping malls or anything. But I'm also not seeing monuments or going to famous local restaurants a lot of the time. I've started thinking of these types of visits as "location-independent" experiences. And in Dayton, I had one of the best location-independent experiences of the trip.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The last few days have been miserable weather-wise, but I've had a blast when I'm not riding. On Labour Day (spelled that way because I was in Canada for it), I went with my couchsurfing host and his two other surfers on a walking tour of Toronto. You'd think, after my 12-mile tour of New York, I'd have learned my lesson about hiking around on concrete in my sandals, but no - I did it again.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I finally got a few days of "normal" riding in again - after going around 500 miles in eleven days, I've done about 750 in the last few days, including a little over 400 the day before yesterday. Today and tomorrow combined will be around 500 miles, so right on track for my usual 250 miles a day.
After Toronto it's back to one city a day until I get to Chicago. The end of the trip has really snuck up on me. It doesn't seem like that long ago - in fact, it wasn't that long ago - that I wasn't even three quarters done with the trip.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Sitting at Starbucks last night, waiting (and hoping) to hear back from someone who could find a place for me to stay, it felt like I had failed. I hadn't been able to find a place to stay in Boston, and I was going to have to find a hostel, a hotel, or camp out. And I was so averse to doing any of those, that I sat at Starbucks until they closed, hoping someone would get back to me.
Two hours later, I was sitting in my tent at a state park outside Boston, wondering why it had seemed so bad.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Looks like I might be finding a hotel or camping, as none of my prospects for couchsurfing in Boston have worked out. One even changed their couch availability to "Not available" after I requested - but didn't send me back a response telling me they weren't able to host.
Nine days ago, I was only 440 miles away from where I am now - at most, two days of riding at my normal pace. It feels weird to have traveled so little, yet done so much. Two days in D.C. turned into three, two days in Philadelphia, two days in NYC turned into three, a day in Connecticut, and now two days in Boston before I get back to a semi-normal traveling pace.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Well, that was rather anticlimactic. I mean, there were some winds, and the rain hitting the window was pretty loud last night, but there's hardly any branches down in the neighborhood I'm in. It looks basically like a normal storm came through and just blew some leaves off the trees. The power didn't even go out - all the clocks were still on the right time when we woke up in the morning. But man were we prepared.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
It seems weird to think that a hurricane is supposed to come through. It's cloudy outside, and it's been raining on and off, but it's otherwise relatively nice. A bit humid, but not too hot. And in fact, we're about to go out and do some barhopping before we have to close up shop and wait out the storm. In other words, everything seems pretty normal.
Friday, August 26, 2011
I tend to shy away from making generalizations about the places I've visited on this trip. I know I'm only spending a few days in each place, and my experiences are not likely to be representative. When people ask me my favorite place I've visited, I usually say Seattle, but I'm quick to point out that my enjoyment was mainly based on a series of happy accidents, and really could have happened in almost any city. I only see a small slice of each place I go, and even that slice is highly dependent on who I'm staying with - whether it's a friend or a couchsurfer, or no one if I'm camping.
But having spent some time in the South, and having covered almost the entire rest of the country, I think I'm comfortable in making the generalization that drivers in the South suck at driving around motorcycles.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
When I couch surf, usually at some point in the night the person hosting me asks my opinion on what we should do - "Do you want to go out or stay in?" is the usual question. And my response, at least after the first week or so of the trip, has been the same every time.
"My philosophy on this trip is to just go with whatever happens, so you do what you want and I'll go along."
And let me tell you, that has paid off like I couldn't believe. It paid off in a big way in Seattle (twice), and it's worked out well in small ways in tons of other places, from the first night I ever couchsurfed to getting good food and seeing a random jam band in Minneapolis to having a chill day in Louisville. I can't say that every time I left my plans open, something awesome came up. But I can say that many of the really awesome times I've had wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't been as willing to adapt my schedule.
And that worked out to my advantage again yesterday.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
So apparently I just experienced an earthquake.
I first noticed something while sitting at a stoplight at Thomas circle. At first I thought something was wrong with my bike, because it felt like the engine was causing the whole bike to shake. I revved the engine to see if that would fix it, but the shaking continued exactly the same.
I stayed last night at a friend's place in Washington D.C. I spent a decent amount of time last night looking around at parking signs in the area to decide where I could/should park, and finally settled on this place:
|(Picture taken in the morning)|
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I went a little out of my way to get to Louisville. Lexington would have been more on my way, but there didn't seem to be as many couchsurfers there, so I decided to make it up to Louisville instead. It was also partly influenced by the fact that I had been thinking about making a quick trip back to Rockford, and I would have stopped in Louisville on the way back from that trip - so Louisville had been on the schedule from that plan, and I just decided to go with it.
That turned out to be an awesome decision, as this weekend was one of the cooler couch-surfing experiences I've had.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Yesterday I had a long day on the bike - started riding at 8:30am, got into Knoxville around 7pm. There were a couple reasons for the long ride, but the primary reason was that I was riding through the mountains, and it's slow going (though extremely fun). Add in some bad rain that I had to stop for, a lack of gas stations that mandated a detour to get to one, and some really slow, annoying cars in front of me, and the day turned pretty long.
In fact, the last few days have been pretty taxing as far as riding goes. Since leaving Tallahassee, I've had three days of at least six hours on the bike. Each one has been almost exclusively on back-roads, which means lots of little towns, lowered speed limits, stoplights, and curvy roads. It's definitely more fun on the back-roads, but it takes a toll, especially so many days in a row. And it doesn't help that the people I stayed with each night had to be out of the house early, so I woke up at 5:30 two of them, and 8 the other one.
Yesterday, after coming out of the Smoky Mountains, I went through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg is right on the edge of the Smoky Mountain National Park, and Pigeon Forge is a little ways away, but they have one thing in common: they're both seemed to be giant tourist traps. And they were my least favorite parts of the entire ride yesterday.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Dear Greenville Panera,
This isn't the post I was originally writing. The post I was originally writing got lost when you cut off my internet, thanks a bunch.
Look, I understand that you're probably worried about people sitting around taking up tables and not buying anything. Not that I've ever walked into a Panera and decided not to order because it seemed full, but maybe it happens. Having a bunch of free-riders who didn't buy anything but sit around on their laptops for hours is probably a pain for you guys - though I would argue that's the price you pay for offering (and advertising) free Wi-Fi.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Wow. New Orleans kicked our butts last night.
We were pretty lazy yesterday - after I posted, we walked around the city, got some food, checked out smoke shops looking for a pipe for Mark, and then went back to the hotel around 4. It was interesting because yesterday was the "Red Dress Run" - a fundraising event where everyone, guys included, dons a red dress and goes running through the streets. Many cities do this event, but none like New Orleans. I'm told people start drinking around 9:30am, and the race isn't until 4:00pm. It's quite a spectacle, and people come up with some interesting outfits. I'm pretty sure there's a large group of people who don't actually run, they just show up to drink in a red dress. (We overheard two people talking - "Are you going to run?" "Nah, I'm too drunk.")
Mark ended up sleeping for a couple hours in the evening and I sat around and relaxed, and we finally headed out on the town at about 10. Just before we headed out though, I got an email from the Couchsurfing website, and it was from the New Orleans "Last Minute Request" group, which I joined to try to find someplace to stay. It was from a girl who was road tripping across the country and hadn't found anything, and was just driving around town hoping someone responded, which resonated with me. I've done that in a few cities, and usually just ended up camping (Salt Lake City, Fargo, Rapid City). So I figured I'd offer the floor in our hotel room - it isn't much, but slightly better than sleeping in a car on the streets of New Orleans.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
So I'm in New Orleans right now... in a hotel room. NOLA couchsurfing community, I am disappoint. I sent out 10 requests to different people, asking if I could stay at least one of the two nights I'd be in town, and a few days before arriving I posted on the "Last minute request" board asking for the same thing. Three of the people I requested said no, and no one else responded, and from the last minute board I got one response from a guy who lived 45 minutes away. If past experience serves as any indicator, I'll get a bunch of "no" responses the day after I asked to stay, so they can keep their response rate at 100%.
Nonetheless, here I am in New Orleans. And I'm staying in the same hotel that I stayed in the last two times I came to New Orleans - but at least I've got someone to split it with, because Mark has joined me on the trip now.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
In light of yesterday's horrible, horrible driving I had to deal with, here's a post on how to drive when there's a motorcycle around. A few helpful hints.
Leave more room than you would for a car
Regardless of where you are in relation to it, but especially if you're behind them. On dry pavement, a motorcycle can usually stop faster than a car - depending on the car, the bike, and how they're each loaded down, of course. But the bike is light and has good brakes, so if the tires have a large contact area with the ground - like a crotch rocket or cruiser with fat tires - it can stop pretty quickly. (On wet pavement, ABS wins out pretty handily, but some bikes to have ABS too.)
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
When you're riding a motorcycle, you don't get the luxury of just keeping track of yourself. If there's anyone else around, you can't zone out or coast along thinking about something else. I occasionally listen to music while I'm riding, but I turn it off anytime I'm in a place with crossroads or more than two lanes each direction, because you can't afford to lose that amount of focus and attention.
When you're riding a motorcycle you have to drive for you, and for everyone else. You have to expect that the car on the side road is going to try to shoot the gap between you and the car in front of you, or worse, pull out in front of you like you're not there. You have to expect that the car in front of you in the left turn lane is going to turn just as you're getting to the intersection. You have to expect that the guy in the pickup truck is going to change lanes right on top of you, even when there's empty space in front of you and behind you. You have to expect that the girl blasting through traffic at 25 over the speed limit isn't going to notice that you started to change lanes and is going to cruise right through you.
Every single one of those things has happened to me on this trip. And today, that expectation saved... well, at least the bike. Maybe more.
Monday, August 8, 2011
See also: Crazy, Part 1 and Crazy, Part 2
Many of you have probably already heard this story - I've told it at least 20 times in the past few weeks, and it's usually the first one I tell people if they ask about interesting people I've met.
As I pulled into Ft. Bragg, CA I spotted North Coast brewery on the side of the road. I'd stopped at a brewery for lunch, but North Coast makes a few beers that I'm a pretty big fan of, so it's probably worth stopping, even if that means I'm not making it any farther tonight.
After dinner and a sampler of beers, I decided to head to Starbucks to charge my phone for a bit since it was almost dead, and I needed to find a place to camp. I got there at 8:30 - the sign said they closed at 9, but that should be long enough to look up a few places to go, and hopefully keep it going until I make it to a place to camp. I grabbed a hot chocolate, sat down, and started looking up places to camp.
While I was sitting there, a woman walked in. She had blond, greasy hair that didn't reach her shoulders, slicked back over her head. There wasn't much else of note about her, other than the fact that after she got her drink, she did a sort of half-nod at me - you know, the kind where your head just goes up, a sign of acknowledgment or greeting. I did the same back, and went back to my phone.
Apparently she took that as a signal to come talk to me.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
The other night, I surfed with some people in Katy, TX just west of Houston. It was a family - Mom, two brothers and a sister, and the girlfriend of one of the brothers - all in the house for the summer (there were two other brothers who were off other places). They were hosting three other surfers that night, and the mom had one of her friends over, so we had a straight up party going on.
I gave rides on my motorcycle to five different people, we sat around and talked about various things, we sat on the porch and smoked pipes together, we played ping pong, we learned to salsa dance (Thanks Holly!), we shared youtube videos... it was a complete blast. Definitely up there as one of my favorite couchsurfing experiences.
One of the guys I was hanging out with was talking about his travels - he's been to Australia, lived in France for a while, traveled through Southeast Asia, and quite a bit of other travels as well. In fact, the trip to Australia was when he was 16, and he's only 24 now.
I have to admit, I was pretty jealous.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
It has been absolutely miserable riding weather these past few days. Once the outside air temp gets above body temp, it barely helps at all to be on the bike - rather than cooling me off, it feels more like if you drove down the road in your car with the windows down but the heat on full blast pointed at your face.
It's not like there's much I can do about it either. I can't really ride at night, because if I want to camp, there's no way I'll be able to do that during the day - it's hot enough camping at night. And if I'm couchsurfing, the chances of me finding someone who's willing to let me stay at their place and sleep all day while they're at work is pretty low. Mainly I've been spending a lot of time in coffee shops - probably more than I should, but it's really hard to get myself to go back outside and get on the bike when it's so cool and comfortable inside.
And despite all that time spent in coffeeshops... I'm not posting as much as I was before. I've noticed my priorities shift as various parts of the trip have passed. I've gone through different phases in the trip (like I mentioned here), but one thing that has not cycled back the other direction (yet?) is my posting rate. So far, it's only declined.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Earlier today, I was the first person on the scene of the accident. And I almost didn't realize it.
After I left Austin this morning around 11, I headed down towards Shiner, TX to check out the Spoetzl brewery, which is where Shiner Bock and other beers are made. I got there just before 2:00, and they had a tour starting at 2:30, so I decided to wait around. It was pretty crowded in their gift shop, especially after the 1:30 tour got done and they all came in to get their beer samples, so I sat in the side room where they were showing a 10-minute video on Shiner that was produced in 1998. I know it was 10 minutes, because after it got back to where I started watching it, I looked at my phone and was bummed that I still had 20 minutes to kill until the tour. And then my phone died, so I couldn't even use that to distract me.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
So today I had dinner on Facebook.
At Facebook, sorry. I was at Facebook. Like, their offices. And I ate dinner there, which I also did yesterday. For free, too. And honestly? Some of the best food I've had on the trip. Like, today I had a Guinness Steak shepherd's pie and an apple/endive salad with blue cheese, pecans, and a honey dijon dressing. And they had a vegetarian Thai pie available, and brussel sprouts (which at least two people at my table said was amazing), and steamed cauliflower - basically, some healthy, delicious options. And did I mention it was free? For anyone who works there (and their guests, apparently).
On an unrelated note, I'm thinking about applying for a job at Facebook.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Made the trip a little out of the way to check out Carlsbad caverns today. I'm tired from not sleeping well the last few nights and riding a decent amount (I've done 1500 miles in the past five days), so today is just a picture dump of the cavern.
Carlsbad caverns + my camera's low light setting = awesome.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
See also: Crazy, Part 1
Imagine a parking lot at the end of a small town. The town's called Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. The parking lot is in front of a theater, and there's an empty grass lot next to it. I set up the tent on the edge of the empty lot, with the motorcycle parked in the corner of the theater parking lot. Because it was next to a theater, and it was Saturday night, I figured no one would be getting to the theater too early in the morning, so I set my alarm a little later than I usually do when I'm camping in... less reliable places.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
CRRRAAACK! The thunder rumbled through the nearby valleys for many seconds after the initial burst of sound that woke me up. It must be pretty late in the night, I thought.
I glanced at my phone - 9:30pm. Maybe not so late after all. I guess it was still three hours since I'd fallen asleep.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
And if you want to see my current progress, you can check out this map for a general route of where I've been, but the only way I could get it to show the whole trip all at once is by turning off "snap to roads." I'm working on a way to show the entire map all at once and also show which roads I actually took, but for now this will have to do.
After a weekend back in the Midwest, I'm now back in Vegas, back with the bike (with everything still in one piece), and ready to get back on the road. I'm stopping at Starbucks down the road from where the bike was parked to figure out my next few weeks, and figure out where I'm going today. And honestly, to just relax for a bit before getting back on the road after a busy weekend.
I spent some time this weekend thinking about home, and what it means. I went back and visited family in Rockford where I grew up, I went to a waterpark that I'd been to every year as a kid, and I visited friends in Peoria and slept at my old apartment. And they all, in their own way, felt like home.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Sorry about the delay in posting. Some of you knew why ahead of time, some probably didn't, but I probably should have tossed something up in between to let people know what I was up to and why I hadn't posted for a while. Be warned: long break in posting means a lot happened, which means this post will be rather long.
Since Thursday, I've been back in the Midwest visiting family and friends. This trip back was a planned break at about the midway point, in large part because of a family vacation that my mom's family was planning on taking. So while the last week and a half before getting to Vegas was rough, part of what made it tolerable was knowing that I had a break on the way. Granted, that break has so far included 700 miles of driving with another about 200 on the way - but 900 miles in five days is still less than what I usually do on the bike in that period (by about 100 miles).
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
It has been a hectic last week or so. Heading down the California coast was extremely tiring, because most of the riding - while not many more miles than I'd been doing in a day - was slow-going, and therefore took a long time. I've had a number of days recently where I was riding for 8 hours with only a few breaks, but the riding has been some of the best of the trip so far.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
McDonald's in Fort Bragg, CA, early - about 6am. The employees bustle around behind the counter preparing for the day, but the restaurant is mostly empy. Our hero waits near the counter for his order, and a lone Old Man waits at a nearby table with a cup of coffee, staring out the window. He has thinning white hair, glassy eyes, and a dirty white mustache that hangs down his chin. The hairs just above his lip are stained yellow.
Old Man: (With a nod towards the parking lot) Is that your bike out there?
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Today was a looooong day. Despite only being 294 miles, it was a lot of riding, on top of a lot of hours awake. But I'm going to bet that if anyone asks me about riding my motorcycle down the west coast, today is the day I think of.
Today I decided that CA-1 has surpassed SD-16A as my favorite motorcycle road of the trip. Black Hills, you're now second place.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Some days, I spend the whole day in a city meeting friends, seeing the sights, and traveling between different parts of the city. Other days, I spend half the day traveling and half seeing a place - either a morning traveling and an afternoon with friends, or a lazy morning followed by traveling til I sleep, or (most often) an hour of traveling followed by an hour of resting, repeated for an entire day. And some days, like yesterday, I spend the entire day on the bike. And the thing is, I need all three types of days.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
One of the defining features of most of the travel I've taken in the last few years has been the limitations on it. I worked at Caterpillar, and they allowed me two weeks of paid vacation per year - and the few times I requested unpaid vacation (or a pay cut in return for two more weeks of vacation) it was denied. So that meant that I had to fit whatever I wanted to do in a given year into 10 days off or less. And honestly, I think that's part of what made the travel I did as awesome as it was.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Edit: Apparently blogger ate half this post when I posted it originally. Fixed it 10amPST 7/9/11
I'm camping out tonight for the first time in almost a week - I've been spoiled recently by having friends and family to stay with, and using a hostel while up in Vancouver. Potlatch Saturday night was the last time I camped, and even that didn't feel much like camping (5 beers probably helped that). When I was driving to find a campsite tonight, I almost stopped at a motel advertising rooms for $35, because I really didn't feel like camping. Yet here I am, camping, and enjoying it.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
It's a little difficult to type on the computer right now, because my left shoulder doesn't seem to want to be comfortable no matter what position I put it in. It's sore from when I wiped out on the third turn of the day when I went mountain biking at Whistler yesterday.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Last night I jumped 25 feet down off the roof of a boat into Lake Washington. The boat had about 30 other people on it, four of whom I'd met the night before and the rest I'd met an hour or so before when I got to the boat.
My life can get pretty surreal at times.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Yesterday I took another road that google maps said was yellow, and which ended up being dirt and gravel, had obviously been hit recently with rockslides and snow avalanches (but cleaned up), was one lane, and had parts where almost half the road had fallen off the cliff. Why would that road possibly look the same on the map as a road which is two lanes, paved, with painted lines, and not falling apart? And they never start out that bad - they always start out paved and turn to dirt 20 miles in, when it's not worth going back anymore.
Friday, July 1, 2011
And I'm back on track.
Yesterday I was a little out of it. I hadn't really talked to much of anyone for a couple days, I'd been camping and hadn't showered in two days, and at the time I was feeling rather fatigued from a few days of long rides. I was wondering at some points in the day if I was going to be able to do this for another two months, and certain that even if I could, it wouldn't be easy.
And then last night, the trip got back to how it was when I left.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
I've been camping the last few days, and it's been kind of weird. I probably could have couch surfed in Missoula or Spokane on the way, but I decided to just camp my way to Seattle, where I'll stay for a little while visiting friends, watching frisbee, and seeing the city. But since leaving Gallatin Gateway, I've just been roughing it. And it's been... isolating, I suppose.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Edited: Talked to him some more, so I updated parts of this to be more accurate.
And today, I relax.
I'm currently sitting outside in a hammock a little ways south of Bozeman Montana, listening to a small stream. I just spent an hour in a hot tub 10 feet away, watching TV. I cannot express how completely and utterly relaxing this is. I was going to go to Bozeman tonight, but I think that's going to wait until tomorrow. Tonight, I do nothing.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I was all ready to write a post about Salt Lake City, and what happens when I visit a city with no particular plans just to say I've been there. It was going to be about how I wander and see the usual tourist sites and am disappointed with what I end up doing. And then this morning I ended up stumbling across a really good time, so that post is going to have to wait.
After I woke up, packed up my tent, and hiked down the gigantic hill I camped on top of last night, I went to a brewpub called Squatters this morning to get some food and try their beer.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
"So... why did you decide to come to Idaho Falls? Because you asked if there was anything interesting to do here, and there really isn't."
I've been pleasantly surprised with the last week or so, and I'm looking forward to the next week. I did not expect that I would enjoy this portion of the trip as much as I have, and it's making me sad that I have deadlines to make and can't spend as much time as I want here. Here's why.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
You'd think I'd have learned my lesson about altitude. Then again, I didn't really know I was heading into high altitude until I started seeing some snow on the ground. Then there was a lot of snow. Then there were no patches of ground without snow.. It got cold pretty quick. Driving down a road with 8 ft of snow on either side, the sun going down, not sure if I'll make it to lower elevation before it gets dark, no phone signal.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
So my detour through Colorado has come to an end, and I'm back in Casper. My motorcycle is currently in the shop getting an oil change that might take until the end of the day, so I'm going to be good friends with the employees at the Starbucks down the street by the end of the day.
After I left Denver Sunday morning, I headed into the mountains. It was raining on and off, but when it wasn't, blue skies and sunshine made the day pretty nice and kept it from getting too cold (even if I did have to wear my rainsuit most of the time I was riding). I rode highway 34 through Rocky Mountain National Park which goes through the mountains and Estes Park. At one point I stopped at a parking lot with an overlook to take some pictures, and I was at an elevation of around 12,000 ft above sea level.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I'm glad I made the side trip to Colorado. I wasn't planning on it originally, as my original plan had me staying pretty far north of Colorado when heading out west. Then again, my original map was optimized for (a) shorter distances, and (b) fewer "destinations" while still getting the general idea, since Google Maps only lets you do 25 destinations.
But since I was going to be in Casper, and it's not too far from there to get to the Denver area, I decided to make a side trip. And it has definitely been worth it.
Friday, June 17, 2011
If you ask Google Maps how long it takes to get from Casper, WY to Denver, CO, it will give you a time somewhere around four and a half hours. I'm currently sitting in Denver - 9 hours after I left the coffeeshop in Casper this morning. So why did it take me twice as long?
Thursday, June 16, 2011
A friend said to me the other day, "I like reading your blog because you do interesting things. If I wrote a blog, it wouldn't be interesting. Maybe later my life will be more interesting and be worth blogging about."
The thing is... my life is interesting by design. I made it this way - I made it something that other people would want to hear about.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
So I was planning on leaving South Dakota tonight and heading towards Wyoming. I was going to camp in the Black Hills tonight, after grabbing dinner at a place recommended by the food network. Instead... I'm sitting in the same place as I was last night. Which happens to be about a foot from where I left my phone charger when I tried to leave earlier tonight.
But before that story, a little about the last 24 hours.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
So a buffalo herd walked around me while I was riding the motorcycle through Custer park today. I didn't have the guts to get off the bike and get out my real camera, so I took a few with the Droid (they're at the end of the post). In the last picture, I was actually in front of the car at first, but backed up to get behind him when one of the buffalo started walking straight at me down the middle of the road. It was absolutely frightening to be in that situation, but kinda awesome in retrospect.
There were probably about 40 buffalo near the road, and another 20 or 30 out in a field that I saw a little farther down. Quite a few of them were pretty young too - maybe 12 of the 40 I saw on the road.
But I got the last laugh anyway. I had buffalo steak for dinner.
Monday, June 13, 2011
There are no Panera's in this part of the country. Seriously. Denver is the only place with one west of Sioux Falls and east of Vegas. That means my extra time has not been spent at a computer writing blog posts, sorry.
I did spend quite a bit of time doing other stuff today. Most of my day was spent hiking around the badlands. For some of the hiking I stuck to the trails, but a few times I also went off them to climb up different features or hike over to a place that looked like it had a good view. At one point after I had been climbing up to a ridge just off the trail, a family started heading up that way too. I sort of guided the kids on which way was best to get up easiest, and gave one of them a hand up as well.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I'm currently sitting in a truck stop lounge watching the NBA finals, which is being periodically interrupted by extreme weather warnings. A pretty huge storm is blowing through, with 30 mph winds, dark skies, and a lot of lightning and thunder. We'll see what things look like when it finishes blowing through, but I'm not really going to want to camp I think, so I may see if I can crash in this lounge for the night.
It wouldn't have been ideal, but I would have taken the 90+ degree weather I had last week while I was camping, in exchange for rain when I had houses to stay in. Oh well, you take what you get.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Sometimes when I talk about big things in the future, I don't really grasp them. It's not that I don't have the information about it - I knew, when I went to the Philippines last year, that on the way back I'd have one flight leaving 16 hours after my previous one arrived. I had all the information, I had the itinerary, I knew the gates, I had the map of the airport. But I hadn't accurately imagined what sitting in an airport for 16 hours would feel like... what it would be like to arrive outside the Manila airport and find a single line of chairs bolted to the concrete wall, full of people sleeping, with a line of people waiting for anyone to leave an unclaimed chair so they could take their turn. As much information as I actually had, I still hadn't really understood on a gut level what the situation would be.
I think it's a type of scope insensitivity:
Thursday, June 9, 2011
I'd been trying to keep up with posting every day, and until I opened up the blog to write a new one, thought I'd been keeping up. I've been busy enough that I didn't even notice that I didn't post yesterday.
I've spent the last few days in the greater Twin Cities area visiting friends. While I don't know anyone at all in most of the cities I'm stopping in, here Minnesota, I know too many - even staying for 3 days I still didn't get time to see everyone. After staying at Luke and Laura's Tuesday night, I got up in the morning and got breakfast with Luke and a tiny little place called Al's Breakfast. It's in a space that used to be an alley, so it's just barely wider than a car, with a counter down the middle. On one side of the counter is the servers and a few cooking tools, and on the other is about 12 stools, and just behind the stools is a line of people waiting for an open stool.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I've been trying to find time to post, but it's been a busy couple of days. Last time I posted was Sunday morning, having just had an awesome couch surfing experience. I'm glad to report that while it might not be possible to top that experience, it is at least possible to match it.
Monday, June 6, 2011
- Do you know of an awesome place that I should definitely see that (hopefully) isn't too far off my planned path? An awesome state park, a cool microbrewery (definitely let me know about these), a monument, or just the coolest thing in one of the cities I'm visiting? Let me know. The first two links go to a "my maps" page which should allow you to edit the maps and add placemarks of places you think I should go. Put your name, what it is, and why I should stop there, etc.
- Do you have a place I can crash for a few nights? I'll mostly be couch-surfing for the trip, but I'd much rather stay with friends or acquaintance if possible. All I need is a couch and a place to park a motorcycle, and maybe a shower. Actually, let's make that shower a requirement, as I'll be coming in from a few hours on the bike. If you can house me for a while, put a placemark on the map, let me know for how long and if there's any restrictions on it (weekends only, have to get up early, have to share the couch with your pet goat, etc.).
Here's a map that I'm updating as I can to record where I've actually gone. (Note: there's multiple pages, so you need to scroll down in the left pane and click "next" to see later parts.)
48 States Actual: http://bit.ly/ldDQeL
TO EDIT THE MAPS:
Note: Apparently you need a google (gmail) account to edit the maps. I'd recommend getting one anyway, since they have a lot of good services, but if you don't have one then the "edit" button doesn't show up. I'll try to add locations for people who can't.
Click on one of the two links above - first one is from Peoria out to the west coast to Las Vegas, second one is Las Vegas through the South, up the east coast and then back to Peoria. Then follow these directions:
Edit the map by clicking here:
Add a title, a description of why I should go there (or when you can offer me a couch), and your name, and click "Ok"
Sunday, June 5, 2011
If I had to picture my ideal couchsurfing experience, it would probably be something like this:
Cool guy in a nice apartment. Go out for some craft beers and a meal, ideally brewed at the restaurant. Get some kind of tour of the city from someone who knows it. Hang out with his group of friends, maybe see a concert or local show. Go to a low-key bar and talk.
Anybody want to guess how my night was last night? I'll give you a hint: I did all of those.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
One of my favorite stops so far happened yesterday on the way from St. Louis to Lake of the Ozarks. I was driving through a small town called Rosebud. It was getting to be about dinner time, and I saw a place called M.Clancy's Irish Pub and Grill. "Awesome!" I thought. "I can get a Guinness and some Irish food." Well, apparently in Rosebud, they're pretty liberal with the definition of Irish - they didn't have Guinness, and their special of the day was Catfish. I didn't check out the rest of the menu because catfish sounded pretty good, but I'm not sure how Irish they actually were.
I spent the first half of my meal just sitting and listening to the conversations around me... apparently one of the guys had just gotten back from someplace near China, or as his friend called it, "that commie country." "I wasn't actually in the commie country, just nearby."
Friday, June 3, 2011
Holy cow it's hot today. 91 degrees, feels like 98. I believe it, and let me tell you, when I'm getting ready to get on the motorcycle in a black helmet, black jacket, and long pants, it's not pleasant.
I'm currently sitting at St. Louis Bread Co. (also known as Panera outside of St. Louis), enjoying the people watching and the use of an outlet. I'm not sure how things will work out if/when I get to areas where outlets aren't available, but my laptop tells me it has between 12 and 18 hours of charge on it, and I can charge my phone off of it, so I should be able to make it through those areas without too much trouble.
I think it finally hit me that I'm going on this trip about halfway to St. Louis yesterday.
I will say one thing though - this is probably the most comfortable bed I'll sleep in this entire trip.
I took some pictures today, I'll post them tomorrow.
Here's a thought: I saw some random people while going through small towns today, and was curious what their lives are like. What do people think about me doing interviews of random people as I travel through towns, and posting videos? Worth it, or just creepy and I should avoid it? What kind of questions should I ask if I did it? I'd have to get some video editing software to make that work, but I think it'd be doable.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
It's become pretty regular for me that at some point on Friday of summer camp, usually during one of the later shows in the evening, I start wondering if I really want to do this for two more days. It's pretty rough, especially if it's sunny the whole time - which (I suppose I can be grateful for the weather somehow) it was not this time. You get tired quickly, you have to work pretty hard to stay hydrated, and you're standing for really long periods of time. As enjoyable as the concerts are, it's hard to go to that many. (I assume it's easier if you are, like most of the people there, not 100% sober, whether from legal or illegal substances.)
Monday, May 30, 2011
For those who don't know what Summer Camp is, it's a 3-day music/camping festival in Chillicothe, just north of Peoria. Five (or more) stages with bands switching in and out from 11am until 1am Friday until Sunday, and sometimes more concerts after that until 3am or later. You camp out in a field (or if you get there early enough, in the woods), wake up in the morning, go to concerts all day, and then crash in the tent whenever you decide sleep becomes a high enough priority to override whatever concerts are left.
This year was pretty amazing, even though going in I wasn't too excited for many of the bands. Bela Fleck, the Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, and a few others were on my radar, as were the usual suspects like moe. and Umphrey's McGee. This year was certainly notable, however, for the weather.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
For those who haven't seen it, here's the map of the rough route I'm planning on taking:
This is a rough route - I won't be taking the highways for most of the trip, I'll be taking back roads. But for the most part, I will be in the cities in the order they're on the map, with a few deviations. I'll try to keep it updated as I go, or I may find another way to keep track of where I've been. Anyone know any good Android apps for doing that?