August 18, 2005 GMT
Wandering in Wyoming

I need a shirt, a sticker, a hat, SOMETHING, that says, ďNo, I didnít go to Sturgis. No, I donít care what the rest of the lemmings did. Iím too busy riding my bike to stand around and compare bolt on factory-authorized accessories with a bunch of people in brand new leathers.Ē Hmm, might be a little long for a sticker. Look, I appreciate the thought - itís a conversation starter. People see a long-haired tattooed guy on a black HD out in the American west in August, he must be on the way to or from Sturgis. Well, Iím not. I donít care. Iíll talk to you about bikes, riding, or any number of things for hours, but Iíve never been to Sturgis and donít plan to.

Hoback Canyon out of Jackson, WY was stunning first thing in the morning. A crisp 40 degrees, it was downright chilly in the shade from the hills. The morning light had a low, flat quality that seemed to highlight the edges of every tree along the river. I could live somewhere along this canyon - anyone want to pony up a buncha money so I can? Seems like the rich folks have bought everything in Jackson and nearby.

More wildlife today - another bald eagle, pronghorn antelope, and prarie dogs. And ravens - macho supersized versions of the common crow.

Rolling hills once we were out of the canyon down to Rock Springs. We hit the interstate for a short jaunt then took a right turn into the nowhere on WY 789. 50 miles of nothing but natural gas pumping stations and sagebrush. And suicidal jackrabbits turned into road kill jerky by the heat and the 18 wheelers.

Being out in the all alone, whether it be the cornfields of Kansas, the nowhere of Nevada, or the forested mountains of California, if youíre going to make it, youíve got to be smarter (and tougher) than average. Or you just wonít last. Thereís no Urgent Care down the street, thereís no WalMart across town, and the nearest firestation hasnít even been put up yet. Whatever comes up, is what you HAVE to deal with. This makes for some pretty gritty folks out there in the middle.

The question is, how do you end up out there in the middle? If you werenít born there, then how? I want to stop and ask people in the tiny towns what their story is. Iím worried that theyíll ask me about Sturgis, though. Happens at every gas station.

We fueled up in Baggs and continued into CO where the road turned into CO 13 to Craig, CO, where we picked up US 40 into Steamboat Springs, CO, our stop for the night.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at 02:51 AM GMT
Rocky Mountain High and Homeward?

Getting up in Steamboat Springs, we rode through the Routt National Forest on US 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft). The road up to and down from the pass was gorgeous, alpine meadows, forested mountains, the whole Colorado kick.

Stopping for gas in Granby before heading up 34 into Rocky Mountain National Park, I found a nail in Dad's rear tire. I stopped him before he could pick it out! We needed it to keep the air in there over the mountain and into Loveland, the nearest dealer I knew of.

We paid our fees and headed into the park. As we started to ascend the Trail Ridge road, elk and deer both caused traffic stoppages. Elk are as big as horses and you sure don't want to hit one on a motorcycle. Deer either, of course. And the males tend to have sharp pointy things on their heads for extra bodily damage in case of impact...

Heading up past the tree line...

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Somewhere along the way there's a sign as you pass through 10,500 ft elevation - "Two miles from sea level". That's a loooong way up.

Top of the world, ma....

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We stopped at the visitor center and had some coffee and hot chocolate to warm up. Took a few pics from the overlook also.

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And the road heads up from the visitor center. I'm not sure of the highest elevation on the road, but I'm sure it's over 12,000 ft. The speed limit along the way is 35 mph, and the traffic wasn't bad, so once we crested the high point, I put it in 3rd and one handed my way down, taking pics along the way. I hope regular readers aren't tired of mountain pictures because here we go again....


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I'm not sure what the fascination with mountains is, but I've sure got it bad. And the American West is full of them. I get excited with 6000 ft peaks in the East and here I am riding at 12,000 feet taking pictures of 14,000 ft peaks.

34 drops you into Estes Park and then takes you out a canyon along the Big Thompson river.

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There are signs all along the route stating, "Slow vehicles use turnouts", to allow faster traffic to move along. There was a guy in a Mini Cooper ahead of me that could not read. He'd futz along, braking to 20 in the corners, almost getting to 40 in the straights, and would not pull over (speed limit was 45 if I recall). Finally passed him on a long straight and he sped up to try and keep me from getting by. Jerk. And I wasn't riding his bumper prior to passing, either...just close enough to let him know that the "Slow Vehicle" signs applied to him.

We got to the dealer in Loveland and got the tire replaced. I hope Dad's HOG roadside assistance covers road hazards, because it was a fairly new tire and the replacement was not cheap. They did get us in and out in a hurry.

We wanted to clear Denver before stopping so we wouldn't get the morning rush hour when we left. Of course, it started raining. Hard. We put on the rain gear, over already wet clothes, and soldiered on. Dad said, " I think it's going to blow over."

Cue the Bill Murray character from Caddyshack: "I don't think the heavy stuff is going to come for a while". (paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact quote).
It poured rain, big fat drops the size of golfballs, water 3 inches deep on the road, lightning in every direction. Great.

We made it as far as Colorado Springs and quit for the night.

The next morning we headed south out of CO on I-25 into New Mexico, where we picked up 87 down into Texas. In Amarillo we hit I-40 and made the turn eastward. We're in Weatherford, OK as I write (I love a high speed internet connection in my hotel room) contemplating Memphis for tomorrow.

The turn eastward brings the question of "home". What defines home? I've gotten the "Where are you from?" question quite a bit on this trip (not as much as the Sturgis question, though) and it's a bit hard to answer. From? Well, I was born in North Dakota and haven't been back in over 30 years. I live in Kentucky, but I'm not from there. It's where my stuff is, and where I live and work currently, but is it really home?

I guess most people have a familial connection associated with a location, defining home, but my parents have moved more than I have. They currently live in Georgia, in a town I've never lived in, so it's sure not home. Most of my formative years were spent in Michigan, but there's no family there - some friends close enough to be family, though. Ten years in Georgia made me awfully fond of it, and a bunch of people there, but again...

What brings the question is, Dad and I will be back in Georgia by the weekend, and I have another week off. And no real desire or need to go back to KY until I have to be back to work - well, maybe a day or two to decompress. So I think once I drop Dad off, I'll go visiting. Grandpa Chub in Little Falls, NY isn't getting any younger - and I've got all next week. And friends to see in Athens and Asheville. Pile up the miles while I've got the time.

I'll pop back with any interesting updates from the road, and a wrap up once I get home. The Art of the Motorcycle is in Memphis, and it should be interesting.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at 03:50 AM GMT
August 22, 2005 GMT
Art of the Barber and Beyond

We got to Memphis in the early, very hot, afternoon. I'd heard that the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit was in town at a place called the Pyramid. When I asked where the Pyramid was, they just said, go downtown and you can't miss it.

Well, no kidding. As we were rolling across the bridge from Arkansas, a huge pyramidal structure came into view on the opposite bank. This, obviously, was the Pyramid.

We paid our $15 admittance fees and a $2 photo fee and went on in. We had parked on the wrong side of the building and by the time we walked to the correct side we were dripping in sweat. So we were very happy, in fact nearly ecstatic, that the Pyramid and the exhibit were air conditioned.

The Art of the Motorcycle is an exhibit that originally displayed at the Guggenheim museum in New York quite a few years ago. A somewhat reduced number of bikes make up the traveling exhibit, which is still amazing. It traces the development of motorcycles from bicycles with motors strapped on to the plastic wrapped carbon fibered multi-valved monsters of today. The exhibits are laid out in chronological order.

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My personal favorites run from about 1930 to 1973 and there were plenty of representatives.

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A nice feature of the exhibit is the fact that the bikes are on stands you can completely circle, so the motorcycles can be examined from all angles and views.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit, even though we cruised through fairly quickly.

After meandering our way out of Memphs via side streets to avoid the interstate rush hour crush, we headed down 78 into Mississippi where we spent one more night in a hotel. 78 intersects I-20 in Birmingham and we headed east towards Georgia, Dad's destination.

Just outside of Birmingham we pulled off to fill up with gas. Coming down the off ramp, I saw a sign for Barber Motorsports. I knew the complex was in Alabama but didn't know it was right here. I told Dad we were taking a little side trip.

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This place is amazing. The building housing the museum is a 5 level multimillion dollar glass steel and concrete construction with motorcycles everywhere....

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The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit was no slouch but this place had at least 4 times as many motorcycles.

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There was a definite racing focus, with many pedigreed race winning bikes.

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Like the other exhibit, there was everything from motorized bicycles to modern bikes, with plenty of vintage British iron for me to drool on.

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Specials weren't neglected either - here's a nice NorVin (Vincent motor in a Norton frame).

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I don't know where the Barber money came from but they sure spent a ton of it amassing this amazing collection. If you're anywhere near, I strongly suggest touring the facility.

After burning up the batteries in my digital camera and tiring myself out from jumping up and down going "Ooh! Ooh! Look!", we continued our journey into Georgia.

Dad and I split in Athens with plans to meet at the house in Hartwell for dinner. After a brief expedition in downtown Athens, I headed up 29 towards Hartwell. This was a major trip on memory lane for me - I went past my old machine shop, the road towards my old house, the hospital where my friend Ray worked, etc. Seems like I used to know the stories and who lived where for half the houses on this stretch of road.

Another amazing coincidence - as I rolled up 29, Driving and Crying's "Straight to Hell" came on the radio. If there was a soundtrack for me in Athens in the early to mid nineties, that was it. Hearing it while tripping down memory lane gave me the shivers.

I stopped in Royston at The Bike Shop and visited with my friend Johnny, telling him about our trip. Eventually I made it to Hartwell for dinner and later back to Athens for drinks.

The next day, after I had my traditional Taco Stand lunch with my friend Neal, I headed up 441. In Maggie Valley I again visited the Wheels Through Time museum since I had a free pass from my previous visit. I spent the night in Hot Springs after a refreshing midnight swim in the river and multiple adult malted beverages at the Paddler's Pub.

Leaving the next morning I headed up 208 towards Greenville, TN, with the intent of catching I-81 northwards. I stopped in Virginia to gas up and consider my options. Getting in touch with a friend in DC, I made plans to spend the night there.

Immediately after getting back on the interstate, I could tell that something was wrong...the back end of the bike wanted to steer itself. What the heck. I pulled over to the side and took a look.

Flat tire.

On Sunday.

Oh no.

I rode on the flat for a mile to the next exit and made it to a gas station where I grabbed the phone book and my cell phone. Once again, HD to the rescue. There was a dealership 10 miles back on the interstate. Normally their service department wasn't open on Sundays but there happened to be a tech there doing some work. We loaded my bike into the trailer and took it back to the shop where I had new rear rubber installed. I was out of there and back on the road in a couple of hours.

Made it to DC only a few hours behind schedule and stayed up late drinking beer, playing guitar, and telling stories. This morning I'm taking advantage of the high speed internet connection for this update and then I believe I'll head down town and look around. I've always wanted to visit the Smithsonian. Eventually I'll end up in upstate New York to visit my grandparents.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at 01:09 PM GMT
August 23, 2005 GMT
Washington DC

Warning - strong patriotic content. May not be suitable for some audiences.

Remember this?

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It stands for

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which, if you recall, has a price.

Each one of these names

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all along this wall

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was a mother's baby, with hopes, dreams and possibilities, who paid the ultimate price for our country.

You may not agree with the man who lives here

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and you might not agree with the decisions coming out of this building

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but you had better support and respect those who are doing, and have done, the job that our country has asked them to do.

Thank a veteran. Every chance you get.

I parked the bike and walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capital Building, taking pictures along the way.

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I covered a loop several miles long and wore a blister on my heel.

But I couldn't walk down the Vietnam Veterans Wall. I didn't lose anyone personally in that war but seeing the names and the size of the wall hit me hard.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at 01:43 AM GMT
August 25, 2005 GMT
Wrap it Up

26 days.

10,343 miles.

28 states and the District of Columbia.

2 tires and 2 oil changes.

Longest day - Little Falls, NY to Bowling Green, KY - 857 miles, 13 1/2 hours.
Shortest day - 2nd Day in Seattle, no miles. Only day off the bike in a month.

What did I learn?

That I have more questions than answers.

That I like mountains, water, trees, and motorcycles. Guess I actually knew that ahead of time but the trip sure confirmed it.

That I don't like deserts, cities, construction, and traffic, the last three of which have formed an unholy alliance aimed at driving me insane.

That certain people, places, and cultural icons have a much stronger effect on me that I would have ever imagined.

"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life." Henry James

Thanks for riding along with; I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed the ride and the writing.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at 02:15 PM GMT
 



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