Monday, August 9, 2021

Shark Week & the Journey Home

Shark Week is mainly an event wherein riders from all across the country gather to ride the iconic routes in and around the host area all day and then hang out talking about it all night.  With beer.  But what do you kill time if you're not riding?  If you're a social butterfly like me, you sidle up to other attendees who are grounded.  For me, this was the aforementioned Joe and Susan.  Joe had recently had surgery but didn't want to miss the party, so he and Susan drove in.  Joe is also a multiyear Shark Week sponsor who ponies up a generous donation of AMSOIL products for our raffle and his donation usually draws the highest amount of raffle bids.  A portion of the raffle proceeds go to a local charity, which this year was the local Boys and Girls Club to whom we gave a $3,000 check.  But I digress.

The Three Amigos

Fortunately for the three amigos, the Lake Tahoe area offers a great deal to see and experience; even in a car.  The scenery and twisty roads leading into and out of Lake Tahoe were matched only by the conversation and laughs with Joe and Susan.  The breathtaking views alone were worth the trip.  Adding interesting stops and the peculiar local people to the mix completed the experience.

If memory serves, We drove around the lake a few times over a couple of days.  My memory is fuzzy because I was loaded up on pain killers in a vain attempt at not looking injured in front of my Shark Week peeps.  I am extremely grateful for the time Joe and Susan spent with me.  I know that a little of me goes a long way, but they did not  appear to get tired of me hanging around.

The Temptress in Red

Thursday was group photo day at the local Harley dealership that sponsored us.  We are fortunate that dealers always pony up free food, drinks and discounts on parts and apparel at each year's event.  The reality is they probably make a fortune on shirt sales alone and just about every year, somebody trades up to a new bike.  I cast my eyes on a bright red 2020 Road Glide temptress that was calling out my name.  Maybe the pain was making me delusional, but I haven't looked seriously at another bike since buying Hester eleven years ago.  My crowd was encouraging me to buy it and for a brief instant, I could actually see myself signing the papers.  Then multiple realities set in.  I had a wrecked and ugly bike that wouldn't have brought squat for trade and I had a trailer full of camping gear to haul home.  Hester and I have history together that I can't just cast aside.  But foremost, I have a very clear goal of retiring (or at least having the financial option to) in 2025 and dropping $30,000 on a motorcycle just doesn't fit into that financial equation.  Someone remarked that if just $30,000 stands between me and retirement four years from now, I won't be financially ready to retire anyway.  Perhaps, but it's more a matter of exercising financial discipline to me.  Retirement changes one's spending habits and since habits are formed over time, there's no sense in not starting to practice them now.  In the end, common sense had overridden my friends' encouragement and I walked (limped, actually) away.

Photo by Run Cushing
The group photo is always a challenge.  Just getting all the riders to the dealership is a task and then once they arrive, lining them up for the photo is the ultimate cat herding exercise.  It's a start-stop-start-stop process as the bikes line up and slowly file in.  It's typically not a physical ordeal, but my starting and stopping and holding the bike up with a broken leg while steering to navigate the tight spaces with a broken collarbone and pulling the clutch with a broken hand proved to be a grueling task. The last thing I wanted was to drop the bike and earn another Shark Tooth, so I concentrated and plowed through it to my parking space.  One of our Shark Week Board members (Ron) is an accomplished and talented photographer.  Getting the URL to Ron's photo archive is always an anticipated moment for the attendees after Shark Week.  His art checks all the boxes in terms of composition, depth of field, and juxtaposition.  Along with random candid shots throughout the week, Ron always captures the procession of riders filing in for the photo and (mostly) following directions from the cat herders pointing the way for each bike to line up.  The photo above is one of Ron's captures.  He caught my expression of pain with the crystal clear reflection from my glasses, the thousands of miles of bug splatter on my mirror, and surrounded me with a blurred background.  It's a great pic; not because I'm in it.  He's just a great photographer.  The photos were taken, hotdogs were eaten, backs were slapped, and hands were shook.  Foremost, the temptress in red remained on the showroom floor.  I felt really uneasy as I rode Hester back to the hotel from the Harley dealership.  Something didn't feel right and I couldn't be certain if it was Hester or just in my head.

Ron Gets the Shot
My Drone "Icarus" Got His Shot"
Shark Week continued with the usual events; the raffle, Thursday night's banquet, and voting for the Shark Week XIII host location in 2023.  For the record, next year's Shark Week XII was voted on last year and will be held in Appleton, Wisconsin.  Thursday night is the last official Shark Week evening with most of the attendees riding out before sunrise on Friday.  That was my plan.  Was.  Thursday night is also the "goodbye" night.  I hate goodbye night.  I hate saying goodbye to the people to whom I've awaited a year to see and I get genuinely bummed out, so I just don't do it.  I mingled around, talking with friends new and old and then quietly slipped away to my room to finish packing for my own predawn departure.  The exception to this habit was a heartfelt goodbye to Joe and Susan without whom, I would have just ridden home on Monday.
The Look of Pain Mixed with Aggravation
Friday came early; 4:00am to be exact. I had packed Hester and Pearl Thursday, thus had very little besides my riding gear left in my room.  I backed Hester and Pearl into position, attached the hitch, secured the safety chains, and connected the lights.  I had performed an oil change on Hester in the parking lot on Wednesday and she was good to go.  I fired up my mighty 110 cubic inch motor and headed for the hotel parking lot exit.  I made a U-turn in the parking lot and damn near dropped the bike.  It occurred to me that if I had dropped the bike, I most likely would not have been able to lift her and if it happened hundreds of miles away, I would really be screwed. I rode about five miles and then pulled over to weigh my options.  My rear tire had developed a slow leak and while I knew I could plug it with the kit I kept in my saddle bag, I decided that with a 1,000 mile ride ahead of me to Albuquerque, it would be wise to get it looked at.  I remembered passing a small independent motorcycle repair shop on the main drag in Carson City and decided I could stop there and wait for them to open.  I pulled in, dismounted, and leaned back against their front door to catch a nap before they opened at 8:30; about three hours away.  While I didn't sleep, the unscheduled slack time gave me a chance to replay the events and experiences of the previous three weeks in my mind.  Most of them were pleasant, but honestly, I cold live with forgetting a few of them. As the sun began to rise, I looked up and noticed something taped to the door above my head.  After slowly getting to my feet, I was simultaneously shocked and pissed at myself for not looking closer before my "nap".  My initial thought was "well shit. I just wasted three hours."  I slid back down the wall onto my butt and started trying to determine my next move.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be capable of riding home.  Now I had to figure out some other means of getting there.

 As the sun continued to rise, I noticed a U-Haul sign in the distance and it struck me that this might be an option.  I slowly rolled over from my concrete couch and got back to my feet, mounted and started Hester, and rode to the gas station that housed the U-Haul trucks. I was encouraged when I saw that there was a panel van in the parking lot.  I wandered in and the guy who ran the rental operation (Jimmy) looked at me as if I were a zombie extra in The Walking Dead"Maaaan, you look rough, dude!"  I feigned a smile and asked if the van I saw was available.  He responded that it was, but added that the previous renter reported that the air conditioning was "intermittent".  He checked the U-Haul system for a better option, but said there was nothing available within 100 miles.  I explained that I was a thin-blooded Texan and I could take the heat.  He said he could help me out on the price if I could wait thirty to sixty minutes so he could make it a reservation as opposed to a walk-in.  Knowing I was going to be screwed fees for 1,700 one-way miles, I was up for any discount.  I had already lost five hours, so one more would be inconsequential. While he was entering my information into the rental system, it occurred to me that I would need help loading Hester and Pearl into the rig.  I decided to swallow my pride and ride back to the host hotel and raise the distress flag.  I headed into the parking lot and was shocked to see it was almost devoid of motorcycles.  I then slow-rolled over to the registration area and found a few bikes and riders basking in the shade under the overhang.  I approached them; some I knew; some I didn't, and did something I rarely do.  I asked for help.  I hate asking for help.  I'm the guy who rallies the troops to help others, but I was beaten, both physically and mentally and I was out of options.  My facial expression must have been really grim because my friends Curtis and Lisa both sprung into action, saying not to worry, that they would find all the muscle we need.  I told them where the U-Haul location was about one mile away and headed to a nearby auto parts store to purchase some tie down straps.

U-Haul Jimmy
I returned to the U-Haul yard and Jimmy had my contract ready for me to sign.  We were doing our walk-around when the sound of several Harleys in the distance grew louder.  The Cavalry had arrived.  There were at least ten people hopping off their bikes to lend a hand.  I was happily surprised, but I suppose I shouldn't have been.  Shark week is more a family reunion than a bike rally and attendees are more like family who look out for each other than just bikers.  I knew this; I just had never had the occasion to leverage it.

We aligned Hester behind the truck and extended the loading ramp, which was not steep, but it was narrow.  As such, there was insufficient width to walk up an 850 pound motorcycle with your feet on each side of the ramp for balance.  Pushing the bike up with people on each side was also too risky.  There was only one way Hester was getting in that van and that was to ride her in.  As I saddled up, Curtis' wife Lisa spoke up and said "Wouldn't it be better to have someone without a broken leg and hand ride it up?"  At that point, every guy there looked away...any way other than at me or Hester.  I totally understood their hesitation.  Nobody would want to risk crashing someone else's Harley off the side of that narrow loading ramp.  I started Hester's motor and yelled for Lisa to start her camera because this could be an epic fail.  If it was epic enough, maybe the YouTube revenue would buy me that shiny new red bike in the dealership.

The reality was this was simple physics.  All I needed to do was maintain sufficient speed and momentum to ascend the ramp without balancing aid from my legs and feet, yet not ride so fast as to crash into the forward wall whilst trying to brake and slow down on the slick metal floor.  Piece of cake.  We positioned a couple of guys inside the van to help me keep upright and stop once I cleared the ramp and was inside the truck.

The Cavalry
Before I knew it, I was in the van and still upright.  Curtis' son and another rider "caught" me, preventing a collision with the front wall, and then helped me ratchet strap Hester securely into place.  The video made it look easy and perhaps it was, but I have to admit to experiencing serious butt-pucker for a few seconds.  With Hester secured, the guys manhandled Pearl into the rear of the van and we ratcheted her down.  That was it.  In about an hour, I had gone from near despair and uncertainty to arriving at the cusp of the final leg of this three week journey.  I know what it's like to plan a schedule and the importance of sticking to it.  I know firsthand how frustrating it can become when my schedule is interrupted.  It was not then - and still is not lost on me that the Cavalry shared the same mindset, yet they interrupted their plans to come to my aid.  I admit that I had thrown a nice pity party for myself when all the while, the answers were never really far from me.  All I had to do was ask.  I remain humble and grateful.  It was 11:30am and I was finally ready to hit the road.  I hugged it out with the guys and then did something I never do.  I said goodbye to my friends at Shark Week.
U-Haul Sleeping Accommodations
With a tank full of gas, a passenger seat full of snacks and drinks, and an air conditioner that I would soon learn was devoid of freon, I headed south towards Las Vegas.  By now the midday summer sun was blazing and the temperature inside the cab was not much cooler.  I rode with the windows rolled down, which was like riding a Harley across Death Valley in the summer with no windscreen.  I had actually ridden Hester across Death Valley in 2010 and the temperature reached 130°.  For the record, I did have a windscreen.  But I digress.

I felt like I was driving a convection oven and I was the meat.  To add to the fun, the van had no cruise control, meaning I would have to use my broken leg for the next thirty hours.  The AM radio didn't have a USB port, but I had headphones and plenty of audio books to keep me entertained.  All I had to do was focus on getting home and I knew I could complete the1,700 mile trip and get there the next evening.  The van was about as fuel efficient as a Sherman tank and it seemed I was stopping for gas more than I was driving.  I suppose the breaks did me good though as they allowed me to shake off the monotony of staring at a double yellow line for hours on end.  Once I passed the Las Vegas rush hour traffic, the sun was setting behind me and the cab cooled off to a chilly 95 degrees.  It had been 108° outside while crossing Nevada and Arizona and I was really missing air conditioning.  I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was saving gas and probably losing water weight with every mile I drove.  I managed to drive about 900 miles before succumbing to the exhaustion that accumulated from the stress of my pre-dawn epiphany, the heat, and driving with broken bones.  It was midnight and I had finally crossed into New Mexico on I-40.  I was never as thankful to enter New Mexico as I was then.  I could write an entire article about the shithole of a road they call a highway that is I-40 in Arizona.  Again I digress.

I pulled the van off the highway into an area where several big rig trucks were parked, set my phone alarm for 4:00am, and settled in for a nap.  If I got back on the road by then, I could make it home before dark.  Time zones were working against me as I was losing two hours driving west to east.  With the windows rolled down, a cool desert night breeze blew through the cab. I was actually relaxed and getting quite comfortable...except for that smell.  Something stunk.  It was a musty, damp odor that
seemed to hang in the air like a stale fart, the gas from which was so thin that the wind blew right through it.  After a few minutes, I realized it was me.  I was ripe from hours and miles sitting in my own sweat.  I was helpless against my own odor, so I loaded an OMD playlist to help me relax and as I sat listening to the 80's pop-synth tunes, I figured there was little chance I would actually get any sleep.  Still, I closed my eyes and tried.  Seconds later, the alarm went off.  In a flash it was 4:00am.  I must not have moved an inch because every bone in my body snapped, crackled, and popped like a bowl of Rice Krispies in a bowl of putrid spoiled milk as I climbed out of the cab to pee. By 4:02am I was on the road heading for Albuquerque, which had been my goal destination for the previous day's drive.  My five hour departure delay has spoiled that plan, but I was on the road and over halfway home.  I rolled through Albuquerque before dawn and before I knew it, was back in the great State of Texas.  I still had a twelve-hour drive ahead of me, but just seeing the sign motivated me to press on. Highway traffic was heavy and law enforcement was thick because the next day was Independence Day.  Law enforcement presence didn't affect my driving as the van barely ran the speed limit, but it caused other drivers to be very reactive and jumpy.  The miles clicked off and at what I determined to be my last gas stop, I actually had a spring in my step.  An odorous spring, but a spring nonetheless.  I imagined that I looked like the character Pigpen in the old Peanuts comics.
As I rolled through my gate, I began to wonder just how I was going to get Hester and Pearl out of that van.  Actually, Pearl would be easy.  I could extend the loading ramp, center Pearl over and in front of it in the van, and then gingerly push her backwards allowing the wheels to slowly roll off the edge.  Pearl would balance on the ramp and gravity would do the rest.  It worked like a charm. 9.8m/s2 isn't just  a good idea; it's the law. Hester would be a different story.  I would need help as there was insufficient room to turn her around inside the van and ride her out and down the ramp.  That would have made a great video.  Fortunately, I had guests coming for Independence Day, so I left Hester in the van for the night.  We managed to slowly roll Hester backwards down the ramp without incident.  I was finally home.  It was finally over.
I'll have some final post mortem thoughts to post soon.


P.S.  I could have been this guy...

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Shark Week & Shark Teeth

I hung out in my hotel room and could hear Harleys rumbling as the new arrivals rode by and parked near their hotel rooms.  While in isolation, I secretly worked up a plan in my head to roll out of Carson City early Monday morning and ride to Albuquerque where I could spend the night and then make it home the next day.  I like attention as much as the next guy, but I don't like sympathy and I didn't want to have to tell my story over and over despite knowing people would be genuinely concerned.  The way I saw it, I could slip out unnoticed and be home before anyone figured out I was gone.

I was about to call the hotel front desk to request an early check-out when I heard from my friends Joe and Susan.  Joe had recently had a hip replacement, so he and Susan drove to Shark Week.  They are two of the most intelligent and compassionate people I know - in or out of the motorcycle world.  The three of us really hit it off at Shark Week X in Gettysburg and we had kept in touch all year.  As such, I had been looking forward to seeing them this year.  Shortly after hearing from Joe and Susan, a few other Shark Week regulars called and messaged me and I started to feel like I was among my people again and I put off the call to the front desk.  By this time there were dozens of Road Glides rumbling around the hotel and it was killing me.  I decided to head back over to the main building where a crowd was gathering.

Monday is the official Shark Week arrival day, although old farts like me who have extra vacation with our jobs usually show up early and make it a point to greet the new arrivals.  We typically have already greeted and hugged-it-out with each other by then, so we can focus on the others.  By the afternoon, I was gad I decided to stay.

So why didn't I leave? Honestly, it was Joe & Susan.  Although I have many acquaintances, I have very few true friends.  This is probably attributed to my own standards, but the fewer friends one has, the more valuable those friends are.  I'll elaborate on Joe and Susan more in a bit.  I had decided to stay, but I resolved to leave Hester parked so I could continue to recuperate from my accident and be in the best possible shape to start the 1,700 mile trip home on Friday.  I would need to find a way to fill my free time while everyone else was out riding and figured I could work from my hotel room to recoup a few vacation days.  I also volunteered at the Shark Week registration desk so the others could go ride.  I actually enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to meet the newbies and hug-it-out with those I already knew.  One example is Paul & Ruthie. They live in Texas and he and I keep in touch online, yet it seems we only see each other at Shark Week.  Paul is an accomplished rider and popular video blogger  who recently successfully completed his first 1,000-mile Iron Butt Ride.  Check Paul out and subscribe to his YouTube channel.
I completed my shift at the registration desk and hobbled over to the beer tent to hang out with my people at the Shark Week opening ceremony.   The term "Ceremony" is used loosely here, but it was the official kickoff for the week where we acknowledge the repeat offenders, welcome the newbies, discuss event schedules, and just generally hang out.  Another important (and greatly anticipated) event during the opening ceremony is the presentation of shark teeth.
First-Ever Shark Tooth of Shame - SWII, 2012
The Shark Tooth of Shame is presented to riders who drop their bike on the way to or during Shark Week.  News of drop events usually arrives from someone ratting out someone else who thought their incident would go unnoticed.  Wrong.  As long as no one is seriously injured, we love tattling on each other.  It's a dubious honor that started at Shark Week II in 2012 and the honor is bestowed in a manner that allows recipients to tell their story in front of the entire assembly of Shark Week attendees.  No pressure.  Shark tooth recipients range from new riders on their first long distance outing to hard core riders who are legendary among our crowd for their stamina and riding prowess.  If you receive a shark took necklace, you're in good company and as such, it's a club everyone secretly wants to be a member of, but they don't want to pay the price of membership.  The first Shark Tooth of Shame was presented to your humble author.  Yep, Shrug was the very first Shark Tooth of Shame recipient in 2012 at SWII.

Shark Week XI had a bumper crop of Shark Tooth recipients...and it was only Monday.  The hosts and Board members called up each recipient to tell their story and have their necklaces fastened around their necks and there were so many that I thought I might actually slip under the fence.  After all, I already had one.  I was old news.  I was wrong.  Eventually, my number was up and I was called up to tell my story.  The buffalo incident was commonly known, but my crash in the Redwoods was not.  I had been sitting (uncharacteristically) quietly in the back and as such, had to limp past the crowd to explain myself.  I did my best to put a humorous spin on it and honestly, the buffalo stampede was ironic, if not humorous.  I decided at the last minute to describe the crash in the Redwoods and use it as an opportunity to briefly promote my ATGATT mindset.

I felt it was important to acknowledge the actions - MY actions - that led to the crash.  Not wanting to bring the jovial crowd down, I was brief and literally choked back tears as I followed up my account with an appeal to my fellow Shark Week attendees to please wear their gear - All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT)  when riding.  As a few in the crowd rolled their eyes, I ended by commenting that I was the luckiest guy at Shark Week and Hester was the luckiest bike.  Neither of us should have been road worthy after that spill.  I would learn in a few days that one of of us actually wasn't.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Finally, Shark Week

The rest did me good and on Sunday, I checked out and settled in for what would be an uneventful short 2.5-hour ride south to Carson City, Nevada to the Shark Week XI host hotel.  I pulled in as quietly as possible, disconnected and backed Pearl into a covered parking spot, parked Hester next to her in the same spot, and then covered them both.  My plan was to lay low and continue to recover in hopes that I could ride home on Friday.  Two days prior, I had spoken with the front desk manager during my unsuccessful attempt at checking in early and she was aware of my physical predicament.  Much to my surprise, a ground floor room was available for me at 11:00am and the thermostat was an old-school panel that didn't require hacking.  Things were looking up for Shrug.

Shark Week XI is in the books.  Even after attending nine of the eleven events. I find it amazing that a ragtag group of riders spread across the continent have managed to carry on the Shark Week tradition for eleven years.  It's a strictly volunteer-run event and the locations and hosts for the next two years are already determined.  We will be in Appleton, Wisconsin next July and in Virginia the year after.  The fact that I typed "We" has significance.  Read on.

I suppose I should pick up where I left off after my crash in Cloverdale, California.  In a rare display of patience perhaps rooted in self preservation, I actually took a day off to convalesce and recover.  I must admit that getting into my hotel room was almost as challenging as riding there after the crash. I rolled into the hotel parking lot and squeezed Hester and Pearl into one of the precious few available parking spots and of course, it was as far from the hotel lobby as I could possibly get.  I had booked my room online using the Hilton Honors app, but did not check in online like I usually do.  Looking back, I suspect my subconscious mind was telling me to wait till I actually got there...just in case.  I hobbled into the lobby as the desk clerk was chatting it up with a guest and the topic was apparently fingernails.  The desk clerk looked my way as I limped in and looked up at me again while I patiently waited.  Still, that guest's nails were apparently of paramount importance because I was otherwise completely ignored.  I pondered the possibility that my crash was more serious than I initially thought as visions of "The Sixth Sense" wandered through my head. Finally, I opened the Hilton app on my phone, checked in online, selected the digital key, hobbled up to my room, and let myself in.  Of course, the room was on the far opposite end of the hall from the elevator.

As mentioned above, I spent the entire day Saturday hanging out by the pool and in my room.  Having an entire day to do nothing would normally make my skin peel clean off my back, but not on this day.  I sat beside the pool under an umbrella and watched the families with kids frolic and splash.  I remembered how when I was a child, I would get so excited over the mere existence of a hotel swimming pool.  It didn't take long before I was overheating in the California sun, despite the occasional splash from various kids' cannonballs falling my way.  I headed back to my room and when I opened the door, an arctic blast of cold air hit me head on.  It was perfect.

In my role as a wireless network architect, I've designed and deployed hundreds of hospitality wireless networks.  This experience comes in handy because I like my hotel rooms really cold. These days, many hotels use smart thermostats that sense movement (or lack of therein) and will switch the fan and air conditioning off when the guest leaves the room.  The problem is these "smart" sensors don't know the difference between an empty room and a room with someone sleeping (and therefore not moving) and will switch the system off.  They will tell you it's about "going green", but in reality it's all about reducing utility costs for the hospitality industry.  I tend to be a light sleeper on the road and with the fan off, I can hear cell phones ringing, toilets flushing, people stomping in the hallway and in the room above mine, and every other sound one might expect to be present in a hotel room on a Friday or Saturday night.  Fortunately, my previous hospitality network experience includes knowledge of the various wireless climate control systems and more importantly, how to hack them.  The first thing I do when I check into a room with an automated thermostat is hack it or override it using a hidden switch in the in-room AC unit.  The result is my room feels like a meat locker and while this typically suits me, I wasn't prepared for the chilling blast that greeted me after I left the swimming pool and the 100°+ temperature.  My nipples instantly looked like oversized Hershey's Kisses and I'm pretty sure other parts didn't reappear until the next day.  But I digress.  With my air conditioner blasting nonstop throughout the night, I slept-in (to the extent that I slept at all) the next day, which was Sunday.  My 36-hour self-imposed introspection exile complete, I limped the length of the hotel to the elevator, across the parking lot, saddled up Hester, and pointed her south towards Carson City and the Shark Week host hotel.  The ride down was uneventful and relatively flat and straight until I got to the Eldorado National Forest, which is when the elevation changes and switchbacks started.  Honestly, seeing the curves that awaited me ahead on my GPS made me a bit nervous and I began second guessing my plans for the week.  Actuating the clutch with my broken hand to negotiate the curves and to accommodate the increasing traffic was excruciating.  My confidence was shaken and my body was broken.  I am not accustomed to this and it was an epiphanic experience.  My thoughts drifted to a plan to check in for the night, greet my friends, and then quietly disappear and ride home to lick my wounds in private.

The official arrival day for Shark Week is on Monday, but people have been arriving earlier and earlier over the past few years.  Some arrived at this year's event on Friday.  So when I hobbled into the lobby on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted by several riders like the character Norm was whenever he walked into the bar on TV's Cheers.  Everyone seemed to know about the buffalo incident, but I had laid low and only disclosed my California crash to two people.  So when they saw my limping and favoring my left hand, they were surprised.  Then some saw Hester's damage when I was unloading and knew something was up.

Despite the fact that most of us only see each other annually, Shark Week attendees are a close group of people  who genuinely care for one another.  As such, Shark Week is more like a family reunion than a rally. When people found out about the more serious crash, they instantly asked if I was alright and what they could do to help.  As little as I like that kind of attention, I welcomed their genuine compassion and found it heartwarming. Once they knew I was OK, it was on and the hazing started.  I expected nothing less.  These are my people.  One rider, Garvin, was among the first to approach me.  Raymond and I aren't close as I'm much older than he and I tend to hang among the older crowd. But he rides hard and is always a staple character at Shark Week.  In fact, he's co-hosting Shark Week XII in Wisconsin next year.  If Garvin is around, people are laughing - either with him or at him, both of which are fine with him.  Raymond presented me with a stuffed buffalo as a remembrance of the Father's Day wildlife incident in Yellowstone National Park.  That event seemed so long ago.  Ray's girlfriend Kim bought me a frozen margarita (my favorite) and the two disappeared into the casino.  Physically, I felt like shit and even though my spirits were picking up, heading home the next day was seeming increasingly likely.  I stopped by my trailer to unpack.  It was parked next to Hester and both were covered to hide their battle scars.  I unpacked a day's clothes, my toothbrush, and some pain killers and then limped across the parking lot to my room.  I had a decision to make.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Quick Update

I have plenty of stories to tell, but by popular demand, am only updating on my condition today.  Thanks to everyone who sent notes and messages wishing me the best.

My injuries are neither catastrophic nor seriously debilitating.  The left hand is better.  Palpated by two Nurse Practitioners, both of whom confirmed the metacarpal breaks, the bones have been reset and the swelling has subsided somewhat.  I'm keeping the last two fingers taped together to minimize mobility and hopefully speed up the healing.  Truth is, with a 1,700 mile ride ahead of me, I suspect any real healing will be delayed until I get home.

My right tibia, turned out to be the fibula, which is a far more favorable injury (if there is such a thing) than the tibia.  I can support my weight standing solely on my right leg and I can saddle up to Hester from the left side.  The pain has not really subsided, but has traveled south from my knee where it was initially, to mid-calf, and now at my ankle.  I'm hoping it will just continue south and trickle out my pinky toe...which is also broken, swollen, and purple.  There isn't much medical science to back up this hope, but nonetheless, I continue to do so.

My right collarbone feels the most serious.  There is no comfortable sleeping position and any stress or exertion with/from my right arm is...unpleasant.  The only treatment for a collarbone is wearing a yoke that restricts movement and keeps bones together. Wearing one would not only make me look weak, it would preclude my wearing my leather jacket when I ride; a condition I cannot tolerate.  That jacket literally saved my skin and I will be wearing it on my ride home irrespective of the temperature.  It  somewhat restricts movement, so I'll consider it a biker's collarbone yoke.

The 1,700-mile return trip home will be taxing, but I put in about thirty miles yesterday and now feel confident that both Hester and myself are fully capable of completing this journey.  My plan is to ride south  from my Shark Week hotel in Minden, Nevada past Las Vegas and catch the long boring stretch of I-40 to Albuquerque, New Mexico and stop for the night.  That will yield a shorter 700-mile day to my home on Saturday.

Saturday, June 26, 2021



I've had a few hours to reflect on the events that unfolded Friday.  At the instant I went down, my thought was my trip is finished and Shark Week hasn't even started yet. I was fortunate to realize quickly that that is not the case.  As I rode to the hotel wherein I'm convalescing, my thoughts ran the gamut from Screw it. I'm done riding and I'll sell Hester to Ya know, she'll fix and I need to have it done before my October Blue Knights chapter camp trip. After attempting to sleep Friday night, I woke up Saturday stiff and sore, but with no new previously undiscovered injuries.

When I got bum rushed by the bison in Yellowstone, I was doing nothing wrong beyond simply looking the other way.  Sometimes shit happens and last Sunday was one just of those days.  This accident is different. I had been on the road for ten days and have been pushing myself each and every one of them.  I've been riding Hester for eleven years and I know her limits.  Likewise, I'm 58 years old and I (should) know my limits.  The reality is I pushed both Hester and myself too far and as a result, instead of carving up the roads in Yosemite National Park as planed for today, I'm laying here in pain fighting the urge to feel sorry for myself. 

This could have been much worse.  I could be dealing with the logistics of getting a severely broken bike home from 1,700 miles away. I could be dealing with severe bodily injuries.  My family could be dealing with the logistics of getting my corpse home.  Hester will be repaired.  I will heal.  I'd like t think I'm a little wiser today than I was on Friday.  Lemon.

Heaven on Earth & Hell on Wheels

I peeled out of Redding at 8am and made a beeline for the twisties...anything but the slab has been my mantra for the last nine days of riding.  My goal for the day was to make it south of San Francisco and maybe get some drone footage at the Golden Gate Bridge. It would be a tall order given the distance and the significantly slower pace if I followed my mantra.

The first stop (gas notwithstanding) would be the Drive-Thru Tree near Leggett, California. My route would take me east to west across SR-36, about 215 miles with four hours of intense climbs, dives, wide-sweeping, and super-tight horseshoe turns.  Hester's clutch and brakes were working overtime and the bike ran spectacularly.  There were a few construction stops along the way.  At the first one, I wanted to see the extent of the line as all I could see was a seemingly endless line of transport trucks and all I could think of was how long it would take me to pick them off one at a time as they crept through the curves ahead.  I decided to launch Icarus, my drone and fly up to get a peek.  Turns out, the line was not that long beyond what I could see from ground level and the pilot truck leading the oncoming traffic towards our line was still a few miles away.  There were also two motorcycles in front of the first transport truck.  I recovered and stowed Icarus, started Hester, and rode in the left lane past all the tucks to the front of the line next to the other bikes.  When the pilot truck arrived, the driver just waved us bikes on by him, but he led the trucks.  The two sport bikes in front of me disappeared like rockets, leaving Heater and I in their dust.  I crept up to a respectable pace, especially given that I was towing a 320 pound trailer.  In fact, I marveled at how well Hester and Pearl handled as I glanced in the rearview mirror for a spot check. 


Flash back to last week. I hadn't intended to disclose the following because at the time, it didn't appear to be terribly consequential. Somewhere in Wyoming on a stretch of very rough road that had sharp transitions between pavement sections that jolted me, Hester, and Pearl every few hundred feet, the stress became more than Pearl's clamshell top could bear with the 13-pound solar panel affixed to it.  When I stopped for the night, I noticed some cracks in the clamshell where the solar panel attached.  It occurred to me that I would soon be presented with opportunities to overcome engineering challenges.  I decided to add a layer of security and ratchet-strapped the panel in place.  This was the day after I lost Pearl's license plate.  I shrugged it off and motored on through the much nicer roads of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and finally into California last night - with the panel securely in place.  Then today, while on the next segment of SR-36 after the first construction stop, I glanced back just in time to see what appeared to be a giant black domino flipping end-over-end in the air high above the road. For an instant, I thought the Monolith from 2001, A Apace Odyssey had come to earth from Jupiter's moon IO and was chasing me.  It seemed to be flying, and then in a gust of wind, my solar panel took a dive off the edge of the road and disappeared in the canyon below.  I thought to myself, "well, shit", grabbed a handful of throttle, and motored on.  I assessed the situation at my next gas stop; not that there was much to assess.  My power generation source was gone.  The panel only cost me $85 shipped, so the loss wasn't financially monumental.  But, I had been proud of my design and it was a topic of conversation with other motorists anytime I stopped.  I already have ideas for improvements, but honestly, I was starting to feel like Clark Griswold as my carefully thought-out vacation plans were unraveling.






















I know the tree is a cliche tourist spot, but Hester needed her picture taken there.  I would soon learn that she (and I) will both need reminders of the good times we've had together over the last eleven years.  I paid the $5 motorcycle entry fee and waited patiently for the vehicles in front of me to do the obligatory stop in the tunnel for photos.  The park was full of people, cars, trucks, campers, and motorcycles.  At $10 per car and $15 per RV, plus the gift shop intake, this place is making a fortune every day.  The other guests were friendly, taking photos for each other, smiling, and appeared generally happy.  Kids were going crazy running among the tree sculptures and burning energy stored up from their long ride in.  It was good to see people out and about again and enjoying life. Many saw the Texas flag affixed to my luggage rack and asked if I rode all the way from Texas. I just smiled and nodded thinking to myself, how else would I have gotten here?

I saddled up and rode out of the tree park with an aim on finally getting to the Pacific Coast Highway (PC1).  This is a leg of the trip which I had been looking forward to, second only to the Shark Week event itself.  The ride from the park to the coast was a short burst of curves in deep woods among insanely tall redwood trees that eventually dumped me out of darkness and into the bright light of the wide open coast. I found myself staring down at the pacific ocean along jagged cliffs at the beach far below.  I thought to myself, this measured up.  As I rode along PC1, my enthusiasm waned in the constant traffic pile-ups and among the endless line of campers and RVs.  I wouldn't reach San Francisco until midnight at this pace.  I decided to peel off PC1 and glancing at my maps, found a great-looking stretch of twisty road that would take me inland, but continue southward.  SR-128 would prove to be every bit as extensive and challenging as was SR-36.  The difference was I had behind the bars for hundreds of miles already today.


Hester & Shrug on the PC1

A mile or two off of PC1 and about five miles south of Mendocino, SR-128 gave way to the thick redwood and pine trees of the Jackson State Forest.  The canopy was so tall, it seemed you could build a skyscraper in the forest and despite it being mid day, it was almost dark.  The canopy towering above was so dense that I actually had to raise the tinted goggles in my helmet.  Then at times, just for a flash, there would be a break in the canopy wherein the road was suddenly awash with bright sunshine beams, revealing stark contrasts between the road, its striping, the trees, and other foliage.  And then in an instant, it would be blackened out again. This sequence repeated itself numerous times in such rapid succession that my eyes and my brain were having a difficult time keeping up.  It was like a great strobe light had been deployed and I was convinced that an epileptic would have gone into a seizure on the spot.  Like SR-36 earlier in the day, SR-128 did not disappoint. I was constantly reminding myself to loosen the grip on my handlebars and to breathe.  I had changed all of my brake pads and flushed/refilled my brake lines prior to leaving Texas, but seven-hours of constantly pounding the brakes, plus the previous nine days' travel had a real effect on their responsiveness and I found that I was increasingly relying on motor compression to manage my speed in the tight corners.  I decided that I would peel off the road at the next town to give Hester and myself a much needed respite from a full day of battling curves.  The GPS indicated that the town of Cloverdale was less than a mile away.

Clark Griswold to Evel Knievel

Suddenly as I climbed out of a tight right corner, I reached for the rear brake so I could upright the bike, decelerate, and prepare to dive into the next corner.  My foot went all the way to the floorboard.  I feathered the clutch and tried to gingerly apply some front brake as Hester's front wheel augured into some loose dirt and over the bars I went head first into the blacktop road.  I actually saw Hester's headlights in front of me, albeit upside down. I don't think I was moving that fast, but the amount of time it took me to stop rolling seemed infinite.  My vision was a cacophony light dark light dark light dark as my body repeatedly rolled, completely out of control. It's strange the things that come to mind in situations like these.  I remember clearly thinking to myself am I ever going to stop?  In a flash, I saw Hester continuing along the road, weaving side to side as the handlebars slapped to the left and to the right.  She finally slammed down hard on her right side and miraculously bounced back up and u-turned into the trailer before stopping in an almost upright position.  As I laid face down in the road I began to take stock of myself.  Fingers, arms, feet, legs, and neck...everything seemed to function.  I crawled to my knees and finally stood upright as other drivers ran up to me.  An Indian man (dot, not feather) was the first to reach me and exclaimed "You're alive!"  "Yeah, I think so", I responded.  I began retrieving my phone, backpack, and other items that had been thrown off of in the crash and then approached the bike.  With the help of others, I righted Hester and she started right up.  That was a good sign.  Then, I detached the trailer, pointed it and Hester down the road, and then reattached.  As I mounted up, one of the drivers said "Dude! What are you doing? Do you even know what just happened to you?"  I told him that I needed to see if the bike was rideable and I would find out as I made my way to the next gas station.  I was fueled by adrenaline and a seemingly inane sense of urgency to make it!  This is a mode I get into whenever I find myself in the midst of trauma. I've been this way as long as I remember.  Solve the problem now. Emote later.  But I digress.  I rounded the next corner and limped into a gas station.  The irony was not lost on me that I was less than a mile away from the straight, flat CA-101 highway when I crashed.

Hester at Rest After the Crash

At the gas station, I gingerly dismounted and tried my best to not look like an invalid.  This was apparently the first gas station for miles and as such, was full of vehicles refilling after a long drive or perhaps topping off before one.  With the make it right mindset being primary, secondary is look normal.  Normal. You know, like a guy wearing deeply scratched leather head to toe in 100 degree heat on a bright red Harley pulling a trailer with holes torn through its roof.  I was miserable and as I filled Hester's tank, I pondered where I should go next and how I was going to make it there.  By this point, my left hand looked like a surgeon's glove that had been inflated and tied into a knot.  I'm pretty sure I've broken the left two metacarpal bones.  I can articulate my fingers, but actuating Hester's clutch is excruciating.  As I removed my helmet, I realized I may have broken my right collarbone.  It hurts like hell, there's a bump that wasn't there before, and there isn't a matching one on the other side.  My right knee at the tibia is really swollen and stiff, but I can support myself and walk.  Other than that, I was golden.

I decided to forego the trip to San Francisco and Yosemite and instead try to make it to Lake Tahoe; a 250 mile, 4.5 hour ride.  My GPS indicated I could be there by 10:00pm, which was doable - even in my condition.  However, my GPS failed to account for California rush hour traffic.  I was boiling in my seat as I struggled to keep Hester vertical while crawling along the freeway at 2mph.  The heat rising up from the road combined with the heat from Hester's 110 cubic inch motor and with the sun itself formed a perfect caloric synergy and I found myself wishing I was back in the cool fog of PC1.  Hester's temperature gauge was pegged at 120 degrees F. I don't think the actual temperature was that hot, but when combined with the road reflection and engine heat, it could have been.  The truth is, Harley temperature gauges are about as accurate as Dr. Fauchi's mood ring.  But hot is hot and a Shrug sandwich was cooking...and I was the meat.

The traffic finally broke and I was riding at speed.  I opted to not use the cruise control in favor of forcing myself think and participate in my speed control...anything to remain alert.  I rolled into Placerville for gas and decided I should try to find a room in Lake Tahoe.  I called and confirmed my suspicion that the Shark Week host hotel was booked solid and rather than manually try every property,  called the IBM travel desk and convinced an agent to do an instant city-wide availability search for me. I instantly learned there wasn't an empty room in the city.  I am of the mindset that bad news is always best delivered fast and I was in no mood to continue to search aimlessly. My ace in the hole was my Diamond status with Hilton hotels.  I fired up the Hilton app on my phone and found a room for points only thirty miles away (albeit in the opposite direction I had been traveling) in Sacramento.  I left the station, backtracked to a Hampton Inn, checked in, unloaded as little as possible from the trailer, and limped to my room to lick my wounds and assess my options.  I'll spend Saturday and Saturday night at the Hampton and make my way to Lake Tahoe on Sunday, as planned.  My plan is to park the bike and just enjoy the company of my friends as they come and go.  If I feel up to it, I'll ride. If not, I'll convalesce and try to heal up for the 1,700 mile ride on Friday with a plan to arrive home Saturday evening.

ATG ATT - All The Gear All The Time!
This is why you wear it!


Friday, June 25, 2021

Day 8 - Old Friends & the Ferry

It's been a whirlwind couple of days with long hours on the bike.  On Tuesday, I rode across the Deception Pass bridge into Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.  The bridge holds significant sentiment for me.  My mama used to have a place on Whidbey and it was her respite from the drama and rush associated with the business she ran in Dallas.  I was last there ten years ago when I returned from Alaska and the year before that when we threw mama from the bridgeI decided to go back and reminisce a bit.  It was a considerable deviation from my route to Shark Week in Lake Tahoe, but I knew I had made the right decision when my eyes swelled up as I rode across the bridge.  The memory of the events from eleven years ago came rushing back starting as butterflies in my stomach and ended as tears in my eyes.  I exited the bridge with a feeling of content.

The day before I reached out to the Whidbey Island Animal Shelter.  One of Mama's close friends (Maryanna) ran the shelter and lived on Whidbey ten tears ago. In my note to them, I mentioned that Maryanna and my mom had been close and my mom had a place there and asked them to please pass along my contact info.  Mama would be 83 years old next month and I wasn't sure if Maryanna was still living, much less still living on the island.  I was hitting the island regardless and it was worth a shot.  About an hour from the island, my phone rang and I was happily surprised to see the caller ID was Maryanna's!  I pulled over to return the call and Maryanna insisted I come by and she offered her spare room for the night.  A reunion and a real bed after six nights in a tent!

It was heartwarming to hear the stories of the antics mama, Maryanna, and their friends pulled off over the years.  We grabbed sandwiches to-go as nothing in Washington seems to be open for dine-in because restaurants are severely understaffed because nobody wants to work.  But I digress.

Maryanna drove me to the Rocky Point beach spot where she and mama used to go drink coffee in the mornings.  We ate our sandwiches as we watched the sun set on the pacific while families with kids and dogs played on the beach and in the surf.  Maryanna said she was the last one left from the old gang and mused about how that was a bittersweet feeling.  I listened intently as she seemed to have a genuine need to express how she felt to someone who would understand firsthand and as I took it all in, I gathered that there's a fine line dividing the pleasure of the heartwarming memories and the sadness from contemplating those who are gone and are missed.  As the sun dipped into the pacific, Maryanna commented that that's the last time anyone will ever see that sunset, adding that they are all unique.  It occurred to me that this would likely be the last time I see Maryanna and it made me think. I told her that I would consider my life a success after I'm gone if there is just one person on the planet who misses me as much as I miss mama.

Maryanna - 2010 & 2021

The ride out of Whidbey Island began early as I didn't have to break camp and pack the trailer.  I headed south to catch the Port Townsend ferry to the mainland and begin my trek southward towards California.  Motorcycles get to go the front of the ferry line so they're the first to exit.  I found myself in the company of four other bikes, but they were all locals.  We spent the short 30-minute crossing discussing Hester, my trailer, where I've been, and where I was going.  The locals offered some insight for my ride to La Push and before I knew it, we were riding off the ferry.


I made my way through the winding roads that comprise just about the entire northwestern Washington landscape.  Hester chewed up the curves like a tiger with  fresh kill.  Like most northwest Washington mornings, the sky was gray and it was cool out with temperatures in the 40's.  I was wrapped in leather from head to toe with a full face helmet and even wore the winter riding gloves that I purchased in 2006.  As I slid them on, it occurred to me that I've gotten more than my money's worth from them.  I rolled into the Rialto Beach park at Forks, Washington and dismounted to get a glimpse of the surf.  Forks and La Push were made famous in the Twilight movie series, with the iconic giant rocks just offshore reaching up from the surf as if they were the land's last grasp at remaining above surface before being swallowed by the pacific.  The beach was awash (pun intended) with driftwood and smooth round stones, each as unique the sand dollars and shells one would typically find on other shores.  There were delicately placed stacks of rocks here and there and a few sculptures carved into the larger chunks of driftwood, each of which likely held some degree of significance for those who  stacked or carved them.  I snapped a few photos and then kicked the rock stacks over and set the sculptures afire.  OK, not really, but I did snap a few photos.

My plan after leaving Forks was to ride to La Push.  I rode up to an open barricade and suddenly the gate dropped right in front of me.  The morbidly obese Indian (feather; not dot) pulled the just-stepped-off-the-surface-of-the-sun sized drink cup from his lips and said "La Push is closed."  I asked about the three vehicles that had passed uninterrupted right before I arrived and was told they were tribal people and La Push was tribal land.  I shrugged it off and asked if I could ride past his booth and make a U-turn to which he replied "No".  I pointed at my trailer and asked him how I was supposed to exit his tribal turf, to which he replied "Not my problem."  I saw in my mirrors that vehicles were beginning to stack up behind me and I could see that the occupants in the truck directly behind my trailer were Indians.  So, I killed Hester's motor, extended the kickstand and dismounted. Then I slowly and meticulously unlatched my helmet strap, removed my gloves and proceeded to disconnect the trailer from the bike.  I detached one of the safety chains and then walked around the back of the trailer (on non tribal land) and detached the other.  Then I walked back around again and disconnected the wiring harness plugs.  Of course all of these tasks could have been accomplished at once, but I was making a point.  I noticed that the short line of vehicles awaiting access to La Push had grown considerably.  Then, I unlatched the trailer tongue and rotated the trailer ninety degrees to the left, but essentially leaving it in the way.  I then mounted up, raised the kickstand and proceeded to inch Hester back and forth repeatedly until she was parallel with the trailer and perpendicular to the guard shack and barricade.  I then dismounted and pushed the trailer behind Hester and repeated the above sequence in reverse as horns began honking.  The natives were growing restless.  Chief Big Gulp stepped out of his box of authority and said "You're holding up my people."  I pointed at the ground on which I was standing and asked him if it was tribal land, to which he replied "No."  Then I pointed at the now very long line of cars, looked back at hm and said "Not my problem".  I started up Hester and slowly rode past the line of cars that now stretched several hundred feet.




While the rest of the day's ride was uneventful, it was not without amazing scenery and hours of twisty roads.  I stopped to take photos of landmarks I found interesting as I made my way to Cape Meares to check out the lighthouse.  The trip there added about an hour to my ride time, but I had no agenda and I kinda like lighthouses.  While at Cape Meares, I noticed I was feeling cold and realized much of the day had slipped away.  Granted, I had no real agenda, but I was running out of daylight and I had no idea where I would be camping.   I was stricken by how much earlier the sun sets having only ridden about 400 miles south from Whidbey Island where nightfall wasn't until 9:10pm.  I stumbled across a campground that appeared to be closed, but there were workers and construction vehicles present, so I rode in and asked if I could camp for the night.  My heart sunk as the guy there said "we're closed for remodeling" and then it surfaced again when he said, "we own the grounds across the street too, just go pick a spot."  I was relieved to say the least.  I rolled into the area to which he pointed and found an excellent tent spot just above a creek with a small waterfall that would provide constant sounds to lull me to sleep.  My next planned stop would be Bend, Oregon.  I tried to think about the route and possible alternatives, but my eyes shut as fast as my head hit my pillow and I was out like a light.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Day 7 - Short & Sweet Ride

Night number six in the tent was the first night I was able to fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow.  I had happened upon a campground as I was riding by Soap Lake in Washington and stopped in on a whim and found a great little spot near the edge of the lake.  The miles I rode after leaving Lolo Pass were for the most part pretty flat and straight and they reminded me of Euclid's first postulate.  That's how these rides go.  You ride for hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to get to legendary riding routes that are often only twenty or thirty miles long.  US129 - the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina is one such route.  Its claim to fame is 118 turns in eleven miles.  It's a great run, but it's over in thirty minutes.  I spent a day running the Tail back and forth before learning that there many other routes in the area that are just as exciting.  I suppose one could view life in the same way,  We work months, sometimes years on end, only to take a short vacation if we're fortunate.  Parallels can be easily drawn.  But I digress. 

I was hanging out next to my tent last night writing on this blog when the people from the campsite closest to me walked into their camp with a stringer of fish they had just caught.  I overheard them passionately discussing something in a foreign language and gesturing as if they were discussing the weight of their catch.  I decided to be the friendly Texan and grabbed the luggage weight from my trailer that I use to measure its tongue weight and offered it to them.  For the record, the average weight was around three pounds.  They appeared very grateful and although their English was poor, they told me they were from Kazakhstan.  They pointed at my Texas t-shirt and the man said "love Texas". The woman started cleaning their catch and I departed through the trees back to my camp.  A while later, they both appeared through the trees at my table and the man said "Texas!" I looked up and they had brought me dinner...a fish filet.  Many know I am not a fish guy, but I graciously accepted it with a smile.  It was a kind gesture for which I was genuinely appreciative.  Then they just stood there, clearly waiting for me to eat it. It was excellent.  I have no idea what kind of fish it was, but it was a flaky white meat and I actually ate the entire filet.  We talked to the extent we could before she grabbed his arm and led him back through the trees to their camp.

I packed up camp this morning and while performing a cursory inspection on Hester, discovered that Pearl's license plate was missing.  The mounting bracket apparently had snapped somewhere on the previous day's ride.  I have no idea what to do about it and I just hope I can explain it to any law enforcement officer who might see it and pull me over.  I have the tax receipt and a photograph of the plate (all of my vehicles' plates, actually) that I could show an LEO if asked.  I'll just do my best to not draw attention to myself on the road and hope for the best.  Because, you know, a bright red Harley pulling a trailer adorned with a solar panel is a common site these days.



Today's ride would take me into northwest Washington via WA17, WA97, and finally a hundred or so miles across the mountainous WA20, and across the Deception Pass bridge into Oak Harbor.  It was a great day with cool temperatures and routes that took me passed apple and cherry orchards, through tunnels, over mountain passes, and around many high altitude lakes and waterfalls.  It was only a little over 300 miles and it raced by.






Crossing the Deception Pass bridge was bittersweet.  It's a place that holds special memories for me. What's also special is I get to sleep in a real bed tonight!  My mother had a place up here and one of her close friends still lives in the home across the street from what was my mom's place.  It was strange to park the bike so early at 2:30, but it was nice to not have to unpack the trailer and it's been a great afternoon reminiscing and looking at pictures of mama and her friends here.  Did I mention that I get to sleep in a real bed?

I'm seven days and 3,115 miles into this trip with another eleven days and 4,000 miles to go by the time I get home. I've ridden north from Texas to Montana and west to Washington   On Wednesday, I'll turn south and begin making my way along the coast to California.  I'm on track to camp somewhere near Yosemite National Park and hit Lake Tahoe.