Monday 6/24 – After months and months of preparations, it finally comes down to the final week before the start. There’s no longer any time to add that last minute farkle, or get that package delivered over night. No that’s all done. And while there’s still a full week to go before the start there is lots to do.
For starters, I have to get there. Seeing as I’m in Texas and the start of the rally is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that alone takes time. Rookies were told to arrive on Thursday but I’ll be arriving on Friday. I’ll leave tomorrow and take a leisurely ride up to the start. Stopping in Roanoke, Va. on Thursday for a complete service on the bike and then staying just east of D.C. with some friends.
Today, I ran some last minute errands and then went through every bit of storage on the motorcycle. With the bike cleaned out, I then packed everything I needed (except the stuff that would be shipped). The bike was ready to go.
I decided to drop off the package at FedEx a day early to make sure my stuff for Leg 1 arrived before I did. Basically I shipped all of my food and clothing for Legs 1 and 2 so I wouldn’t have to carry it on the bike.
Tuesday 6/25 – This morning was a really weird feeling. When I woke up I wasn’t in a hurry and really had very little to do in order to leave. I fixed breakfast for Reagan. Then I gathered up a few last minute things, kissed her and got ready to leave. I was pulling out of the driveway around 9am just as I had planned.
The ride through Houston was easy going as I utilized the HOV lane to avoid the traffic, and when I headed east on I-10 there was clear sailing as well. I stopped for gas in Winne, TX and then resumed the slog east on I-10. Not much to say about I-10 that I haven’t said before. But there was some excitement when I got onto the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.
I was getting hungry and needed to get some food out of my top case. I exited at the rest area and instead of going into the rest area I pulled over on the shoulder of the exit/entrance. I noticed the shoulder was sloped some but as it turned out the slope was enough that the bike really didn’t lean over on it’s side stand. After getting off the bike it nearly tipped over. So much for saving time. I wrestled with the bike and backed it down the hill before I could finally get it into a position where the side stand would work as needed. But now I was on a steep incline. So I applied the front brake, raised the side stand as I stood next to the bike and drove the bike up the incline and back on the road as I walked along side. That certainly got my heart pumping.
After going through Baton Rouge, I opted to go up I-55 instead of I-59 as I did last month. Traffic was fine but the scenery looked about the same. Interstate is Interstate after all. Before getting to Jackson, MS. I noticed a nasty thunderstorm ahead so I detoured through the country and cut over to I-59 and followed it into Meridian, MS and the Best Western Inn.
I was off the bike early today, stopping just after 5pm. Tomorrow will likely be similar although I’m going to stretch out the mileage to get closer to the dealership for my Thursday appointment.
There was one farkle that I added over the weekend. A 7” Google Nexus Tablet. I had planned on it being my backup backup GPS as well as electronic rally book. Well after running the GPS for 5.5 hours the unit shutdown with a dead battery. Interestingly the whole time it showed it was charging. I guess the 1amp USB port just isn’t enough to run the tablet non-stop. I’ll play with it some more tomorrow to see if I can tweak the battery consumption. It should still work for my electronic rally book though,
Wednesday 6/26 – This morning I awoke to the sound of the Screaming Meanie. It was set on low as to not wake all the guests in the immediate vicinity. I tried to work through my routine for getting out of the hotel quickly and efficiently. Next week when I’m on the clock I’ll have to be a little more careful about wasting time when I get up. As it was, I was out of the room and on the road in 30 minutes, next week’s goal is 15 minutes.
The basic route had me going the same way I did last month for the Mason Dixon 20-20. So I started playing with alternate routes in the 7” tablet using CoPilot. I found a route that would take me further east on I-20 to Atlanta and then up to Charlotte, NC. I started along the route but after passing through Atlanta I saw a sign for Hwy 129. Squirrel!!!!!
The idea hit me to follow 129 from Georgia all the way to Tennessee. I could then ride the Tail of Dragon which I hadn’t done for a couple of years. So I turned west on Hwy 129 and followed the signs. Along the way I went through Blairsville, Ga which was the start of the Butt Lite 6IX last year. I’m glad I took this detour today as it helped to get me out of Interstate mode. I did find it a little frustrating when I made it to the Dragon as there was a slow couple in front of me, and then a very large truck. I did manage to ride a few of the 318 curves without any obstructions but with the road wet from the rain shower that happened just before I arrived I decided to take it easy. The foot pegs only scraped twice, honest!
I made my way up to Knoxville, TN and picked up I-40E. The road split to I-81N and I kicked back and watched the miles of Tennessee roll on by. Almost like clock work, the temperature dropped as I reached Bristol and crossed into Virginia. This time it wasn’t cold enough to put on a liner, but it sure felt nice to ride along in the upper 60’s.
The Best Western in Wytheville, Va. isn’t close to a restaurant so I stopped on the other side of the freeway at the country kitchen in the TA truck stop. It seemed like the easiest and closest place to get a Chicken Fried Steak. I could have enjoyed a Subway but figured I’ll probably eat enough of those in the coming days.
Tomorrow I’ll stop in Roanoke, VA to get the bike serviced and then head up to the D.C. area to stay with friends for the evening. I have 2 possible routes to take depending on what time the dealership gets done with me. If I’m done by noon, I’ll head through the country to Richmond and then cut up to cross the Potomac River on Hwy 301.
Today’s mileage was 712 miles in 11 hours, 46 minutes. I never felt like I was in a hurry because it didn’t matter what time I actually got to the hotel. This was a nice warm up for what starts next week.
Thursday 6/27 – This morning I had just an hour’s ride up to Salem, VA for my scheduled appointment at the BMW dealership. As they didn’t open until 9am I didn’t feel like I was in a hurry to get there. Plus my appointment wasn’t until 10am. Traffic was light and the weather was favorable as I rolled into town. I arrived at the shop just as they opened at 9am.
After visiting with the service manager, Andrew, for a little bit we had settled on what all would be done and reviewed it with Bob the mechanic. Van from parts pulled out the Michelin PR3’s he had waiting for me and work got under way around 9:30. By 11:30 they had completed the service to my bike. I paid the bill and proceeded to get out of town. A big thanks to Andrew, Bob & Van at Frontline Eurosports for a job well done. And I also have to give an honorable mention to Nate the sales guy. He is full of so much information, I just don’t know how he keeps it’s all straight in his head. It’s clear that he’s really into motorcycles and riding.
It was almost noon when my wheels started turning again. I thought it was going to take forever to get out of town as I seemed to find every red light in the county. But finally I made it out of town and headed east on Hwy 221. In Bedford I picked up Hwy 460 continuing east. It was difficult to make any time but that’s what I expect in this part of the country. While I was hoping to find some fun twisty Virginia roads like I did last month on the Mason Dixon rally, that’s not what I found. Instead I found divided multilane highways and lots of pine trees. It was like riding through east Texas on Hwy 59.
Eventually I get to Richmond and pickup I-95 for a short distance. I decide to stop for a bio break at the Mc Donald’s. When I leave the Zumo 665 has a senior moment and routes me past the I-95N on ramp and takes me on a scenic tour of an industrial park. WTF???? I think the 665 is going loco. Once I get back to I-95 I resume my route north to Hwy 207 and head east. The plan was to cross the Potomac River on Hwy 301 into Maryland. What I learned is there are too many darn traffic lights on the Maryland side of the river. It was like a parking lot for the last 30 miles of my trip. Grrrrr.
I finally make it to my friends’ home, strip the bike and get into plain clothes. Natalie prepared an outrageous dinner and the kids were in prime form. It was great to visit with friends who I don’t get to see very often any more. Too bad Reagan didn’t get to come as she would have enjoyed the dinner and the time with the kids.
Today’s ride was only 362 miles, but that was by design. I wasn’t sure how long my service would take and I didn’t want to arrive in Maryland late. So I kept the route short while still getting to explore a bit of the US I hadn’t been to before.
Friday 6/28 – Today is the day. I would finally get to the start location. Over night I had offered to take my hosts to breakfast before I left. We enjoyed breakfast around the corner at the IHOP. A little after 9am, I said my good byes, thumbed the starter and pulled out of the driveway. I stopped at the Office Depot on the way out of town to get some page covers as I had decided I didn’t have enough with the possibility of rain that we have coming. Once again, getting out of town seemed like a chore as I hit 1 red light after another. I was running 3 GPS units and none of them seemed to have a quick route out. But the 550 had the quickest time so I followed it until the others fell in line. Fortunately I was routed around Washington D.C. and eventually found my way onto I-70 just west of Baltimore.
As I headed west I saw signs for places I had visited last month and eventually I found myself on the I-70 PA Turnpike. I just had to follow the signs for Pittsburgh, it really wasn’t a routing challenge of any sort. As lunch time approached I stopped in at one of the turnpike service centers to get some fuel and popped inside to get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Yummmmmmm! Enough said.
Shortly after leaving the stop I happened upon some fellow LD riders headed to the hotel. I didn’t know it at the time but 2 of the guys were from down under, a.k.a. Australia mate! As I was following a white Cadillac my pace was slightly faster than theirs and I soon found myself in the front. Their lead rider pulled off a few exits before the hotel, I thought he might know a secret back way in but opted to follow my GPS and kept going. It turns out he was stopping at the BMW dealership to get a new tire. Good thing I didn’t follow him.
As I got to within 3 miles of the hotel I switched my music over to a rockin’ playlist. When I exited the freeway though, traffic just stopped. The last 1.5 miles took 10 minutes because of stop lights and traffic. Looking at the map though, I figured out I could take the exit for Hwy 26 E a.k.a Cranberry Connector over to I-79N and then up to Hwy 228. It eliminates all but 1 traffic light with very little room for traffic delay. Depending on how I return to the hotel at the end of Leg 1 and 3 this may be good information to know. Surface street traffic is definitely a factor for this rally and something I don’t want to cause a DNF.
I immediately saw friends as I pulled up. I secured the bike and made my way inside to get checked in. I had made it! Months of preparation and planning had culminated in my arrival at the start hotel for the IBR. Time to chill out, visit with old friends and make new ones. Tomorrow things will get serious and Sunday should be more so. This is the big show in the long distance community and I'm here.