Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back on the Road: Two Days Ride to Iowa City

Alright!! Thanks to Jason and the good folks at Bentley's in Murraysville, PA, my bike got fixed up with a new speedometer rotor and back tire (albeit a week into my two-day stay in Pittsburgh) and I got back on the road as far out of Western Pennsylvania as I could stand to make it. Of course, that first day back on the road I hit crazy rain, got soaked to the bone and one of my cylinders went out on a highway! That means no power, no acceleration, struggling to top out at about 50 mph with the throttle all the way open. I pulled off at a gas station, soaking wet and cold at about 5:00pm, figuring I'd probably be getting a hotel room in this middle of nowhere town in Ohio. I asked at the gas station if there was a motorcycle repair shop in town, thinking it was a long shot they'd be open. Well. I was 1.2 miles away from a Suzuki dealership who was totally wide open with the lights on and the garage door up. They got me in immediately, blew some air through a little drain hole, thus freeing my spark plug from drowning and getting the engine back running and I was back on the road in less than a half hour. I guess the motorcycle repair gods had their laugh at me in Pittsburgh and decided to help me out this day.

This is why there are no other landscape/road shots from Western PA pretty much all the way to Iowa. because this is what they would all look like. No disrespect meant to Ohio, Indiana or Illinois, of course.

A sad motorcycle with no back tire.

A happy motorcycle that just crossed the Mighty Mississippi River for the first time.

Tomorrow it's on to South Dakota, then through the Badlands to Wyoming, Then through Yellowstone, into Idaho, through to Oregon. I'm almost there, only two-thousand-five-hundred miles to go. Is all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At this rate, I'll retire in Pittsburgh

On the first day of my trip, the speedometer started acting up, on the second day, it died entirely. not wanting to go all the way across the country without being able to see how fast I'm going or how far I'm going, a safety consideration and not-getting-stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-with-an-empty-tank consideration, I decided to see if I could get it fixed up quick. A shop in Pittsburgh full of awesome guys got me up on a lift the day I called them, found what the problem was, ordered a part overnight and also cut me a hell of a deal on a new back tire, which I need, and the labor charge.

The part didn't arrive the next day. Friday. And wouldn't get here until Tuesday. Thanks, memorial day observed. jerk. So I made a tough decision to wait for it, totally putting my trip schedule way way off.

So Tuesday rolls around, after being in pittsburgh for five nights instead of the scheduled 2. And the part I'd been waiting for arrived at the shop. right on time, just as we'd expected. but. BUT. . . it had been destroyed during shipping. crushed to bits, the guy told me.

And they're closed on wednesdays.

SO they overnighted a replacement, hopefully with special instructions to pack it with extra care, and I'm going to get it put in tomorrow, unless something else happens, and after a week in Pennsylvania, I ride as far west as I can in a day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Three days in: Pittsburgh, PA

Day 1:

I met Scott and Mike at the Chelsea Royal Diner for my last breakfast in Brattleboro. Couldn't decide between eggs and a Belgian waffle, so I got both.

We started out route 9 toward Bennington, and stopped at one of my favorite spots, Hogback Mountain.

Then on to NY 7, to 87, to rt. 20 West. 20 is a beautiful, wide, long, straight empty old divided 4 lane highway that should have a 90mph speed limit. We stopped here in Skaneateles, NY, where I was told the Clintons lived while Hillary was Senator. how exciting.

We stopped because my speedometer and odometer stopped working. we gave it a few whacks and when we started up again it worked a-ok. Alright.

We stayed the first night in mecklenburg, NY, in the finger lakes region near Ithaca. It was pretty.

I'd been sick the past couple days and after this ride I was a total zombie. My throat was killing me, my head hurt, I was disoriented and exhausted. which was weird because on the ride I felt pretty focused but as soon as I was off the bike, bam, dude, you're sick, remember?

Day 2:

Felt much better waking up, went to breakfast with Mike and Scott and then continued onward solo as they both had to turn back toward Vermont today. Took some very scenic roads toward route 17 west. The speedometer/odometer started acting up again, coming on and off. Very frustrating, as I'm a total geek about logging trip data on road trips. Miles and hours and gallons and MPGs and such. Also, it's nice to know how fast you're going on the highway. Also, the odometer helps keep track of when to fill the gas tank. Also, I had just paid a bunch of money to get the bike checked out. Then the speedometer died entirely.

On these roads, though, it was hard to care about anything. 949 S from Ridgeway, PA toward pittsburgh was by far the best road I've ever ridden. Boy howdy. long sweeping curves around river bends under a forest canopy? Then opening up into enormous farmlands with barns and silos off into the horizons? then back into the woods? I'll take it.

I pulled into Pittsburgh after ten hours of riding, including stops for lunch and messing with the speedometer.

Day 3: Pittsburgh.

I like this town, and my friends in it. There's lots of fun things to do here, so I guess it's not all bad that I'm stuck here for four days.

I brought my bike into a shop. These guys are awesome, and if you're ever in the Pittsburgh area and need some help with your motorcycle, go to Bentleys in muraysville. for real. they got me in on no notice and checked the speedometer out. At the front hub there's a unit called the wheel speed sensor that has something in it called a speedometer rotor. The speedometer rotor is like a little cylinder that latches onto a part inside the hub by a couple grooved teethy type things, spins around, and measures your speed and distance. The guy showed me what was wrong by pulling the speedometer rotor out and it pretty much crumbled to pieces in his hand. They ordered me a part, had it shipped overnight and I was supposed to get fixed up and on the road today, but the whole overnight shipping thing apparently means "it'll be there on tuesday" to the people at the parts distributor.

So, with a choice to hang with friends in Pittsburgh for the weekend or continue my trip without knowing how fast or far I'm going, I decided to hang around, get the bike all buttoned up and continue on early next week. Sure, it definitely throws a wrench into my timing and trip planning, but I'll make it out to portland in time, no sweat.

Until next time....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leaving Brattleboro. Again.

The Idea is that this 2002 Suzuki SV 650 with clip-on handlebars will get me from Brattleboro, Vermont to Portland, Oregon. I've added an Airhawk seat cushion and something called the Crampbuster Cruise Assist to help make the ride more comfortable. A pair of saddle bags, my camping backpack and a new magnetic tank bag will carry everything that I'll have with me for the trip of more than 3,000 miles in just over three weeks.

Phase one of the trip takes me to Ithaca, NY tomorrow with two friends riding along. Then one friend turns back to Vermont and two of us continue on to Pittsburgh, then Ohio. Then he starts heading back toward home and from Ohio onward, all the way to Oregon, it'll be me, my bike, and the road.

I'll do my best to keep updates here as regularly as possible. Wish me luck.