With this blog site I intend over time to cover a wide variety of topics, and as the description of the blog site suggests, it is about the good and the bad, the adventures and misadventures. Every long motorcycle trip will inevitably encounter the unexpected, the unpleasant, or even the potentially dangerous. They are as much part of the trip (true whether on 2 wheels or 4) as the memorable and enjoyable facets.
The last day of my route 66 trip began in Kansas City on Tuesday (July 21), where the rain forced an early stop the evening before. Awake at 5:00 a.m. I watched the weather channel and local news shows that were already on the air. They reported that the storm had passed NW to SE through KC and was now mainly south and east of the city. That settled it for me. I was pondering whether to go east to St. Louis then head northeast, or go north from KC to Des Moines and then east on I-80. Based on what the weather prognosticators said I decided on north. Wrong!
I encountered rain almost immediately and it rained for the next 400 miles, to just southwest of Chicago! This was certainly the lowest point of the trip, but it was all part of the story just the same. Take the good with the inevitable bad - it's bound to happen when you expose yourself in this manner to the wide open world out there. To further irritate and delay, that 400 miles had more than its share of detours, road construction delays, and closures. When it rains it really does pour!
Things improved on I-80 near Chicago (never thought I'd be in a position to say that!) and I confirmed in my mind that I would make it a long day and head home rather than spend another night on the road so relatively close to home. So I did just that, having decent, if not sunny weather, for all but the last 15 miles when I once again ran into some rain. But as of Tuesday 9:00 p.m. I was home, and this grand adventure had come to an end.
I find it very difficult to end adventures such as this. I really don't want to point the bike toward home and park it in the garage, as much as at the same time I very much want to be home to see family and friends. I really do just love being on the bike, running down the road, experiencing all the visceral feelings and emotions that come with riding. Motorcycling is both physical and mental. The sound of the engine, the feel of unrestrained power, the sensations that accompany leans, turns, acceleration, and so on, the feel of speed without a wall separating one from the reality and sensations of that speed. And the emotional feelings of freedom and adventure. Of being part of something unique and immensely enjoyable and important to oneself - even if most around you want no part of it. Like a well kept secret only a few can share. All the fun and excitement that comes with the twist of a wrist; if only all of life had such immediate and joyful feedback from our actions.
The trip was grand and I saw and experienced some wonderful and powerful things. The trip total was 3,928 miles, with the last day's long blitz home totalling 727 miles.
The trip had its share of the good and bad. The heat in OK and TX was quite astounding, and the rain in MO and Iowa, Kansas and Illinois was unwelcome. But there were very enjoyable days riding on fabulous roads, seeing things I'd never seen before and may never see again. I'm quite certain that I will never be back to many of the places I visited. I had also waited many years to see some of these places and the realization of these dreams and plans was very fulfilling. And I definitely was not disappointed in any of what I saw.
I never had any mechanical problems, and the one possible scare with a nail and other object in the rear tire didn't turn out to be a problem. After pulling the two objects out of the tire treads I had close to 2,000 more trouble free and worry free miles. I had two potential danger events that I saw developing and avoided. They both involved inattentive drivers talking on cell phones and the dangerous situations they created were very similar.
The first involved a woman in a suburban area of Oklahoma City. Doing my usual non-stop scan from left front to right front, looking for anything or anybody that might pose a danger, I saw her ready to pull out of a store driveway to my right front. As I got closer I could see that she was talking on the cell phone, laughing and obviously enjoying the conversation, which also suggested to me that she was focusing on the phone conversation, and not on driving. I saw her glance quickly to the right, then to her left toward me, and then quickly look ahead again. I knew she hadn't seen me, she showed no indication of having seen me, so I started slowing down immediately from about 35 or 40. Sure enough she pulled out right in front of me, still laughing while holding the phone to her ear, causing me to brake fairly hard. I purposely laid on the horn to shock her back to reality when she was right in front of me in my lane. She snapped her head my way and for a fraction of a second had a look of total surprise. Then, amazingly, she gave me a big smile and waved down at me from her big SUV. 'Look at that cute little motorcycle, now where did he come from' I could hear her thinking. She doesn't want to know what I said nor what I was thinking of her! She pulled away and that ended what could have been a bad situation if I had been just riding along oblivious to that sort of situation. It happened a second time with similar circumstances. The situations were never life-threatening, because of my awareness, not to any credit of the cell phone talking drivers. PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND DRIVE THE CAR!
As I noted above, a similar event occurred a couple days later with another cell phone talking woman (I'm not picking on women, men are equally likely to do the same thing). That same evening I heard that the national highway safety administration admitted that talking on a cell phone while driving is much more dangerous than they had been reporting, having concealed a report with the true data, with the reasons for such concealment being unclear to me.
Motorcycle riding is like that. If the operator is smart and prepared, then problems can be avoided and even riding 400 miles in heavy rain is doable. Proper attitude and proper equipment are the basics, throw in a good dose of common sense, experience, and just a little luck, and every ride can be an adventure.
But rest assured, every ride will also have its misadventures! Know that right up front if you're going to participate in this activity!