Monday, October 18, 2010



Bam. And there it is.

Or. perhaps, was. Like a sailor still reeling from the sea, I'm trying to accept that this little hejiera is over with.

I left the hoary old Adirondacks early last week and headed down through my favorite old motorcycling haunt, the Catskill mountains, for one last blast..trying to savour that one last Fix, as it were, before the dreaded cold turkey comes looming into view... in this case, stasis. Non-movement. The wheels having completed their cycle. After that I pulled into Downstate New York and began the strange process of unpacking my duffel bag, (it sits on the chair, half empty, just in case I need to load it up again real fast).

I'm certainly not the first person to take this sort of motorcycle trip... it's the second time I've gone Coast-to-Coast, and the vast improvements in motorcycle technology have made it ever easier to do this sort of thing. The last time I rode a 1979 motorcycle with shakey carburetion, wood-blocks for brakes, old-school points ignition that let me down repeatedly. Now the new bikes are glossy-smooth computer-controlled spark advancmenent silky fuel-injection radial tire'd effortless. Many touring bikes have adjustable power seats, full cruise-control, built-in stereos, Bluetooth capable intercoms and heated coffee-cup holders.

Not mine, but it doesn't matter. I took a budget sportbike, simple and minimalist, freshly re-built from the transmission up; packed it with a single duffel bag and launched forth into the American Void. And survived. 12,500 miles. 26 states and two solid months on the Road, almost to the day. Back in one piece, with the bike ready to start right out again after an oil change and a fresh set of tires. (Not so sure my hands and neck would agree).

Those of you out there who have sat on a motorcycle for any real distance can understand what I accomplished. It was hard work. You're out there in the elements, come baking sun or drenching water, snow or dust, locusts or rockslides. Although sitting on the highway is relatively simple, your brain has to continue to balance this bloody contraption, and there's many a moment during a long run when you think, What's actually keeping me UP?

It's a very Zen experience. Pirsig had it partially correct, but he was a essentially big pussy riding a clanky old BMW twin at at speeds of 40-60 mph over a few states. Get a real bike, Alan. When you're on a modern bike with a high power-to-weight ratio, you get to play these incredible G-force games; when the road begins to undulate for example you can twist the throttle at the right moments and the raw acceleration will float you smoothly over the hilltops like some jet-propelled marshmallow. Whee, indeed. Smoothly in control at speeds that would make car drivers shrivel in terror. When the bike is running hot and true, you can pull out onto heavy Interstate routes with utter confidence and aplomb, throttle pinned to the stop while leaned over sharply on the entrance ramp. The rear wheel begins sliding just perceptably and completely within your control, (as you've been at this for quite a while and understand the Physics quite deeply). There's no need to look around to see what semi truck maybe be coming down the pike on your left, because you're pulling so much G acceleration and speed that no one could possibly catch you from behind. Just keep that handgrip pegged and you'll only need to watch what not to run into up ahead of you.

This stuff gets very addictive, and you get very good at it after a month or two non-stop riding. Day after Day... hour after hour... week after week. The Big Road... and although like the Sea you can't take it for granted, you learn to live with it's rythyms and rules. It becomes a friend of sorts, and many times I sighed comfortably after leaving some sordid urban jam-up or sketchy hillbilly burb behind, by launching up onto the open-lane asphalt and escaping down the road into the brilliant sunset.

I stayed off the Interstates as much as possible, but in the end you really can't avoid them on a trip so expansive. It's a huge country, and try as you may to stick to the red-line state highways, (far more rewarding), there's just too many times when it's getting dark or you're running exhausted from the endless thrill of swooping Appalachian switch-backs. Or it starts raining, and you simply can't fart around when there's thousands of miles to be done. There's always the blue-line, familiar old Interstate waiting, winking at you with it's tawdry glare of Arby's, Walmart, McDonalds, Motel 8, and yellow-stained Waffle Houses.

This was, after all, a very spiritual adventure for me. I told Ken Babbs out in Oregon that I was on a Mission, but that halfway through the trip I still didn't know exactly what that WAS yet. I think I still feel that way, but I sure did a lot of expanding and learning on this trip. Because I stayed off the Interstates I got to see a lot of what's going on in American in the year 2010... met a ton of odd people and because I was on a motorcycle, smelled a lot of horse manure. (how can shit have such a wonderful bouqet at times..?) I pushed my limits quite hard on this trip, venturing down tiny forboding lanes into the deep Montana countryside and sacheying into scary redneck bar-rooms, (some of which I departed from very quickly).
That, of course, is where the real Magic is found, out there on the teeth-chattering edge of your Limits.

From the, Credit where Credit is Due Department, please: I profess to be a follower of that... carpenter dude from Galilee guy... I had loads of time and circumstance over 12,000 miles to explore prayer and Road Communion.. and by pushing my limits in such utter solitary states I found nyself often in contact with... well, let's just call it my Higher Power, (if that makes you feel any more comfortable). Without any doubt, God was with my on this trip, in a very Big Way, and as I crossed the landscapes day after day I found myself Surfing the Coincidences... lots of stuff that would bore you if I told you and you'd say, AW that means nuthin', but you know, I WAS THERE during hundreds of special moments when wildly improbable things happened within my personal perceptions, and there was no one else there to share it with. God is ultra Subtle in my experience... and when you're truly alone and open to "It", it's amazing how much you feel A Presence. Not much more to be said on that note... except THANK YOU.

...for the miracles I encountered in getting the bike fixed after months of teeth gnashing. For opening the window for me to pull this off at all... for keeping me safe during many, MANY dangerous moments (that orange construction barrel rolled right into me outside of Vegas at a full 60mph, I hit it squarely, and I'm still here to write this)... onset of heat stroke in heavy traffic, local sheriffs in Texas tailing me for miles, frighteningly dark rain clouds gathering overhead in Montana, bad street corners in darkened city slums, and the long, long days and nights spent utterly alone.. except for this nameless, mysterious Presence...
I'll only bore you with one example, (and I reckon it's a good one):

In two months and 12,500 miles, I only hit rain twice.
Do the Math. That's simply incredible.. I dodged storms to the left and right and forward and back of me... and when I did get wet it was very mild, compared to the howling storms I've endured many times on shorter trips.
Lots of stuff like that; things far more personal and inspiring than I could adequately describe here. I've sort of asked that these Memories will be ..saved for a ... well, future moment, so to speak, and somehow I think I received an affirmitive of sorts, on that one.
 'Nuff said there.

I fell in love on this trip... with the Open Road and with my Life. I am so bloody fortunate to have this, and many other travel adventures, happen to me.. It's been positively Grand. I don't know what happens next.. t's a challenging moment now to return to "Normal Life", and I'm sort of in a bit of a ditch currently back here in the New York suburbs. But I'll carry the lessons I learned Out There: Against the Odds I'm confident that it'll all lead to another large adventure in the not-too-distant future.

Too much to blather on about at this point... so I'll put a cap on it here and just leave it with,
Suzuki Bandits RULE!

THANK YOU DEEPLY  to all the great friends and family who graciously extended their homes and hearts to me during this jaunt:

Ken and Eileen
Jena and Victor
Brendan and Shauna
Bear and GloJoe
Travis and the Navajo friends
"Coogey" Coyne, Ted, and the Lost Boy Denizens of Hilton Head
Al(pocalyptic) Plotkin
Bill and Arlene and the Kids
Pete Leroy & Family
Al Gilman and his new Mountain Squeeze, Anne
.... all my buddies and pals around the NY area who goaded me on and gave me due New Yawk ribbing when I took this trip (myself) too seriously.

See ya'z out on the road come Springtime!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Left Pete's house mid-morning and tooled around my old college town of Newark, (that's new. ARK for you Jersey-ites out there) Delaware for an hour.. reminiscing and getting numerous flashbacks. It's amazing what a strong mental Imprint that dinky place has left me with. Between 18 and 22 I suppose I was very open to Impression. Newark was an interesting place for a Newe York suburbanite; it is technically south of the Mason Dixon Line, and has this odd sort of.. southern country feel to it.. or used to.... train tracks, loneseome whistles... Virginia-styled brick architecture... a Black side of town.. and of course I was swimming in Grateful Dead mythology back then.. full of plenty of Depression era vibes and country-istic imagery.
Couple shots of important places at the old Alma Mater... Howard and a couple of you may appreciate these.


Romantic tears done with, I headed out onto I-95 and north, for Jersey and New York. As many of you know, there's not a lot o fun to be had on old 95... but the Trip wasn't over just yet.

 Like the Space-shuttle skimming into the Earth's atmosphere, I missed by a degree or two and pushed past my home base in southern New York State... up the New York State Thruway to the majestic and ancient Adirondack Mountains, 100 miles north of Albany. Like an Intergalactic Star Cruiser coming back into the Solar System, I needed to check my speed at the Outer Planets first.. and buddy Al Gilman's lake house at Schroon was just the ticket for jet cool-down.
Al's a great old pal... a highly erudite mountain-man dude who lives half the year as a Key West Grouper and the other half as a Adirondack Woodchuck. He's recently hooked-up with a lovely gal who is making his heart (and presumably other things) throb.



It was getting cold up there... low Thirties at night.. and I knew the Trip was coming to an end. "As autumn closes in..." . I went out with Al to do some winterization over at his friend's crumbling motel... and just to be out in that crisp Adirondack air was a sooper treat. The Adirondacks are a very special place... Mother Nature takes no prisoners up there... and those that stay the Winter have to be hardened and well prepared for it. But the Weather Channel predicted rain moving in by Weddnesday late, and I knew enough not to press my luck... riding a bike five to six hours south out of the New York mountains in a bitterly cold rain.... no thanks.
I have been incredibly fortunate on this trip in terms of weather (and many other things). I got wet TWICE in 12,500 miles. That's it.. twice. Do the Math... that is simply unbelieveable. Anyway, I knew the journety had to come to and end... and started back south towards.... home.... although I am techically homeless.
Anne cooked us a great chicken dinner at her beautiful house up the mountain road from Schroon Lake. The house is something like 200 years old... and is very "Adirondack-y". Practical... creaky..... efficient.... awesome views from the weathered front porch and immense starshine at night under the incredibly clear mountain skies smelling of snappy hard-wood smoke. We played pool and drank Jaegermeister to strains of high-end Bluegrass as well as Gypsy Punk while Cooper the Whippet happily chased her tail at our feet.

Next day I glumly packed my gear into the duffel... one last time. Al bid adieu for the season and left to do some copper business over in Wevertown... just after he left I realized I'd lost my bike key and dug around for an hour... finally giving up and tearing the spare key off the frame where it had been taped for emergency. When I returned back outside with my luggage, I saw to my dismay that the bike was lying on it's side in the grass. This is not good; a 550-pound streetbike is not supposed to be laying on it's side for ANY reason... and I pulled a muscle in my arm trying violently to wrench it back up. Minimal damage, fortunately.. just a bent mirror stalk, but I had to do some mechanics to straighten all out reasonably.  Finally I warmed her up one more time and headed south for the Catskills.
(UP-state, that is)

Monday, October 11, 2010


Up in the Howard Johnson's morning and out, bidding a last adieu to what will probably be my final motel-stay on this expedition. Looking at my tattered atlas map I reckoned I could afford to head west into the Appalachians... at least for a little while, before swinging north and east towards my buddy's place in Delaware.
A bright, crisp morning, slightly cooler every day now with the changes in season and latitude... and I have been VERY fortunate with the weather across the nation, only catching rain in two or three places.. and nothing over-whelming. That's quite amazing for 12,000 miles and two months out.

So I pointed 'er out along state highway 311 towards Paint Bank... and very quickly I was in rural conditions. But surprisingly, nothing in the way of Rural Poverty that I'd seen farther south. With the exception of a few rusty mobile homes and an occasional decrepit barn, most of the housing and farms appeared quite tidy and well-kept. Not to say affluent; I was seeing a lot of Jimmy Joe Bob characters in high-waist trousers and pre-formed hunting caps perched on their domes.
Up into the mountains and the road became more and more windey... really great for motorcycle cornering except for the decaying condition of my tires and little sprays of gravel at the apexes that twice had me recovering automatically from sudden loss of traction while heeled-over. I had to slow down a bit.

Into the tiny mountain town of Paint Bank and I stopped at a general store for coffee and to see what is what. Cool little place with hunters and locals coming in to chatter in a very deep Virginia accent. While pouring my coffee I was confronted by a staggeringly beautiful woman aboiut 30 years old... tall, thin, blue eyes, and straight hair so blonde it was near to white. She was chatting to one of the store clerks and although I tried hard to get my coffee fixed up and over to the register where she was, she left before I could sidle up to her. Perhaps the most beautiful woman I've seen on this trip..(although some of the San Fran girls in Golden Gate Park were breath-taking).
Back on the road... lots of ground to cover today.
Up and over ... made a right and headed north on beautiful Rt 18 to the little town of Covington, near the George Washington National Forest, one of the best places I have ever ridden a motorcycle. Near perfect roads, clean, small, well-designed, and running through the gorgeous autumn Appalachians. Makes "The Dragon" at Deal's Gap look pastry by comparison.
Running through small towns... VERY AMERICAN feeling to me for some reason.. this is George Washington Country... not that eastern Virginia stuff, but the area in the 1750's where Washingon lead bands of militia out along the forts to fend off Shawnee Indian attacks. He spent a lot of time here... a true woodsman.. people forget.

Finally around Warm Springs Virginia I had to carve off of beautiful Rt 220... head towards the (yuck) Interstate and East. The afternoon was drawing on.. and I had to reach Delaware.

I cut across at Front Royal onto I-66 for Washington DC.. and soon encountered traffic as I neared the 495 Beltway. Up towards Baltimore now.. and I got lucky staying on 95 right through the city and the Tunnel... coming out the otherside near Chevy Chase, heading north, now in the darkness, and for the first time felt an Autumn chill.
Pulled off at Elkton Maryland and headed over to my old Alma Mater, U Delaware. Man, this town has changed in the years since I was here... as with the rest of America, much more Corporate/monolithic building and structures.. and a lot of the gritty "townie" nature of the place have gone. There's a MARRIOTT right in front of the old Pencader Towers(for my U of D pals out there).
Made my way out of town to the edge of Maryland and to old pal Pete Leroy's farm/house. He's got a great pad on a farm of sorts where his brother and father each have theie own lovely homes. There's a horse pasture and a beautiful state park, (donated by the DuPonts) just across the road. Very idyllic and comfortable place. Upon arrival Pete and I jawed endlessly about my trip, (THANK YOU Pete... I sincerely appreciate the "de-briefing" after such a monumental experience). Pete is one of my old Bohemian Comrades from the old Rodney Dormitories; we shared some important growth moments when in school.. and have remained fast friends. A good egg... we can talk of Cosmic Matters easily, still.
Pete's son Max was over for the weekend, and the next day Pete threw a beautiful, high-tech mountain bike at me and said, "LET'S GO" and the three of us romped off through the state park across the road... 2600 acres of Delaware/Maryland natural exquisite countryside.. and it gave me huge flashbacks to the old days when I first arrived in Delaware and was impressed by the rolling woodlands areound White Clay Creek State Park.

Later in the day I rode my motorcycle around the college town and did a lot of sweet reminiscing; it's amazing how all the street details were still tucked in my brain... where certain sewer covers were and how the corners were angled. I did a lot of motorcycling there back in the late Seventies.

Later at night I was invited next door to Pete's dad's home (his father is a retired Neurosurgeon... extremely experienced and respected.. a sitting leader of the Mid Atlantic Board of Nerosurgeons or something)... just an incredible man, born in France, with a wide range of experiences and knowledge. His lovely wife Roseanne cooked us a fantastic pot-roast dinner .. the best home-cooking I'd had in two months. Very nice folks.. a high-end experience for me.. and their welcome to me was awesome.

Back on the Road.... briefly... trying to prepare myself for the abrupt end of this grand trip...

... but one more stop...