The Russ & Donnie Road Trip - Part 2

Thursday - June 2’ 2011

As with most of life’s changes they comes at you when you least expect them and many times when you don’t want them too ... the foul weather ... injuring my foot and now medical issues with Russ’ father-in-law who had emergency hip surgery today is all working against our 1 week on the road together riding in California. So we were going to try and do the best we could given the circumstances. We did depart today from Tracy for an overnight ride and here is a picture of us leaving Russ’ house this a.m. Believe it or not it started to rain a little even as we were taking this picture.img_2506
Fortunately, that was the only rain we felt today but it remained cloudy and cool most of the day with only partial breaks of sun here and there.

Russ knows many great roads around the San Francisco Bay Area as he rides them monthly with his Triumph Bonneville Club so we decided to head South and then West some today and take in some of those roads. First stop was Mount Hamilton and the Lick Observatory. Great winding roads all the way up and down. Almost too curvy to really enjoy in some areas but the view was great and the clouds made the view interesting
Skirting around the Southern part of the bay we made it over to Highway 9 and then along Highway 236 and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. I had driven all around this area when I lived out here but never made it along this ridge that runs between the Pacific Ocean to the West and the South bay to the East. Since we weren’t going to make it up to the Avenue of the Giants in Northern California to see the giant redwoods these redwoods would have to do. It was very pretty and the road and the wooded areas did not disappoint
Heading further Norht along Big Basin Way Road and Skyline Ridge, Highway 35 we eventually could see some view of San Francisco in the distance.
Even passing by Alice’s Restaurant
Before dropping down into Half Moon Bay, just north of which, we are resting tonight
Real rain moves back into the forecast for the next 3 to 4 days

Friday - 90% Light Rain
Saturday - 100% Showers
Sunday - 100% Rain
Monday - Scattered Showers

With Russ’ family responsibilities and no way to really escape the rain we felt it best to head back to Tracy tomorrow, hopefully before all the rain sets in. My foot is not doing well either and although the shifting isn’t bad getting on and off the bike is an experience in pain and I should probably rest it before leaving next Tuesday for my return ride back to Tennessee. We hope to try our trip again next year and do it during the summer months for better weather.

We are both disappointed but are thankful nonetheless for the short time we did have to ride together. Maybe circumstances will be better next year.

Friday - June 3’ 2011

With rain moving in to the coastal areas in the a.m. we headed back east towards Russ’s house in Tracy and took the longest way there we could possibly find staying ahead of the rain that was chasing us. With Russ’s father-in-law’s surgery out of the way he is beginning the recovery phase. However, with the convergence of all the obstacles working against our 1 week road trip riding together we finally acquiesce. Based on events I’ve made some adjustments to my schedule and now plan to remain here only another day and will then be heading back to Tennessee starting out on Sunday although it will probably still be raining then.

I’ve decided that before I leave California I need a tweak on my Russell Day Long seat to adjust the backrest position some. I called them today and talked to Chris who worked on my original seat build and discussed my comfort level. I’ve put about 600 miles on the new seat so far so I’m confident now that I want this slight adjustment to make it perfect and he agreed he could fit me in on Monday.

My plans are now to head back north to Shasta Lake on Sunday so I can get into their shop first thing Monday morning for the tweak. After that I plan to slowly start heading back east on the northerly route I had wanted to take on the way out. I’m so much hoping the weather will be better for my return leg as I have been sorely disappointed with the weather out west since I have been here. It has just been unbelievable unseasonable. Think I deserve a break. At any rate I would like to head northeast some and go through Rapid City, South Dakota on the way back and see my daughter and son-in-law that just set up a household up there just last month when they PCS (Permanent Change of Station) there. They are both serving in the U.S. Air Force. My grandson just turned 1 year old and I certainly want to see him since I haven’t seen him in quite awhile. From there I will be dropping down into the Kansas City area and then on home to Dover, Tennessee.

With the new tires broke in now there should be no worries about tires for the remainder of this trip and with the new seat the longer days should now be much more comfortable on my rear.

Almost 4,000 miles so far logged on this trip with a couple of more thousand to go before my head hits a familiar pillow.

Sunday - June 5’ 2011

The way I saw it I had two choices or let’s say ... windows of opportunity ... to get into northern California with the least possibility of catching rain. 4 hour run from Tracy to Shasta City, California and that low pressure system was still pinging off the coast of California. It was either a morning go or and afternoon go and I chose morning and appears to have been a good choice. With storms popping up here and there I was in gear, covered and ready for the worst. That’s always the time when you get the best ... and the best was strawberry and peaches crepes and bacon for breakfast that Chef Russ and Linda fixed as my send off meal ... most excellent!

Even better ... Dry roads, moderate winds and rain only within 50 miles of Redding greeted me and the ride was much better than expected or prepared for ... which I might add is always a good thing.

Also found out today one of the nice things about the Wee is that when it rains all you have to do to clear your helmet visor is to slightly move your head left or right and catch the wind stream and immediately it clears your visor. Couldn’t do this on the wing with the faring ... had to stand up to get into wind stream. Nice ... I’m really starting to appreciate this bike the more I ride it. It has performed so well ... it’s me that could use some schooling .. but as someone pointed out we both have our bumps and bruises from this road trip so we learn as we go.

Feeling sore but better and better. When the ankles hurts while riding now I think of it as a good kind of hurt.

Resting in Redding, California tonight ... Tweak on the seat at RDL tomorrow and then points east later in the day. Something tells me to “Go West Young Man” no wait that’s “Go East Old Man”

Monday - June 6’ 2011

Here I am enjoying another rainy day in Shasta Lake, California at RCP. It was raining just like this back on May 27th when I came in for my seat build. It’s been a mostly soggy time in California since I’ve been here.
Nevertheless Chris was able to get the backrest adjusted back just a smidge for me and it seemed fine when I tried it out in the parking lot but conditions were less than ideal and I really won’t know for sure until I can ride it some so I hope it’s ok.

So I thanked Chris and said good bye again to RCP. Went back to the motel and packed the bike ... in the rain ... and prepared to depart. Very depressing. I just wasn’t sure where I was going. Rain was everywhere I wanted to be and ride. In the Sierra’s to my east where I wanted to go were winter warnings and areas of spotted snow ... yes I know it’s June. This is the same system that has been cramping my riding style for the last week out here and is now moving in the same direction I want to go .... northeast.

With all the weather to deal with it’s getting harder and harder to enjoy the ride. Seems like I’m spending all my time finding alternate safe routes for the direction I want to go that avoids the brunt of the storms/rain rather than exploring new roads and routes along the way. I miss those days that I could do that.

This is what I was forced to do again today. I headed back south and then over east towards the mountains thinking it may be easier to get safely over the Sierra Mountain passes on a major freeway like 80 but the weather was iffy there as well the closer I got so .... I pulled up earlier in Auburn, California ... if for no other reason than I was just sick of riding in this stuff. It had been raining, drizzling, cool and windy all day and I’d had enough already. I know the rest of the country is suffering under a heat wave but that’s sounding pretty good to me after being out west for the last couple of weeks cursing the rain and unseasonable cool weather. I’m hoping by stopping early and laying up that I can put a little more distance between me and that storm system that is tracking off to the Northeast. However, as is always the case ... once I’m off the bike early I always seem to regret it and wish I had rode more. Tonight is no exception.

Still debating in my mind tomorrows direction once I pass over the Sierra Mountains ... unless there’s a freak blizzard tonight and I’m snowed in. ... nothing would surprise me :-)

Tuesday - June 7’ 2011

If rain and cold can sour a soul then surely the sun and warmth could make it whole ... and .... low and behold the sun and blue skies greeted the grouch of yesterday as he awoke this morning.
Yes ... I was Donnie Downer yesterday but today was looking to be a much better day of riding. Off with the rain suit, off with the rain seat cover, off with the tank bag rain cover. Hello Sunshine. My exuberance was short lived however as I still had to climb several thousand feet across the Sierra Mt. pass but all went good and the road, while under construction in some parts, was fine otherwise.img_2565
The day turned into a great ride as I was able to ride free of the elements. Even the wind was mild. I decided to stay south and take 50 east. You know the one. It’s “The Loneliest Road in America ...
and here’s why
The tune “The Long Lonesome Highway” (Theme from the show Then Came Bronson) should be dedicated to Nevada Highway 50

Check out the Pony Express Trail that runs through these parts ...
Very cool. I’m betting if I had lived back in the 1860’s I too may have been a Pony Express rider. Sounds like and exciting job and you get paid to ride. Of course there’s always a stray arrow or two.

Made it over to Ely, Nevada and resting there tonight. Weather and ankle pain have negated any further thoughts of heading northeast to South Dakota to see my daughter. Instead will continue east through southern Utah and Colorado. Looking forward to the riding in those two states. Been through there several other times on other bikes and it’s always spectacular.

Today was an easy 440 miles. The Seat feels great and so does that part that sits in it all day. No pain in the rear and each time I shifted positions it just felt like sitting back down on a nice soft cushion each time. Backrest feels better as well with the adjustment. This was the best weather day I’ve had in a while and hoping the pattern continues .... We don’t want Donnie Downer to come back and file another “bleak” and “depressing” journal entry like yesterdays now do we?

Wednesday - June 8’ 2011

Today was a gorgeous day that saw some great riding and some wonderful scenery right from the start.
Looks like this cloud provided the perfect crown to that peak.

I was also able to take a slightly different route on occasion throughout the day so that I got a chance to go on some roads I had not travelled on before from previous trips. I also passed by some familiar sites that the wife and I had visited on previous trips ... here’s one ... Capitol Reef National Park
Had gotten my lunch sandwich the same time I got breakfast this morning so it was just a matter of finding the perfect spot to stop at to have my sandwich. This nice little site was only a mile off the beaten path and made a good stop for lunch.
Continuing on east there were many more beautiful sights ...

I decided I would head toward Moab, Utah for tonight. It’s a great central location with many beautiful parks all around it. Unfortunately, I did not make reservations and all of the hotels/motels were pretty much booked up for the night. Since the weather was good I found a KOA camp grounds just south of town and got a tent site there and set up camp. First time camping on this trip.

I wanted to stay a second night here in Moab and do a full days riding around this area but the ankle is not doing to good so I’ve decided tomorrow I’m going to press directly on east with the goal of getting home as soon as possible. Probably one more stop tomorrow night before getting in to Kansas City Friday night and then home sometime late in the weekend. I’m just having to much trouble handling the bike in slow maneuvers and getting on and off is difficult at best. Ankle is never going to get better unless I get off of it.

Time to wind down this trip ... I guess.

Thursday - June 9’ 2011

Post camping experience reflections ... (now that I’m in a motel room again)

I’m not a camper and last night at the KOA campgrounds was maybe my third time camping from a bike ever. In fact, I wouldn’t even call what I did last night camping. Certainly to a purist it could not possibly be consider such. My first clue was when I was waiting my turn to check in and the kid of the couple ahead of me kept badgering the clerk as to the where a-bouts of the Hot Tub. There wasn’t one at this location but apparently KOA tries to appeal to a wide pampered segment of the population. I decided on KOA, like a lot of people, for my first time because of the price, showers, wifi accessible among other amenities it offered and I didn’t want to leave behind. The price you pay for this is you get the mass quantities of people and none of the solitude and beauty of nature which is at the heart of camping ... least that was what I was looking forward to the most. This is why this will probably be my first and last stay with KOA.

The real campers appeared along the Colorado River on highway 128 east out of Moab that I was cruising down early am heading out of town wondering what I hadn’t camped there... here’s a couple of shots
Beautiful scenery and these campers were right on the river there. Probably $ 8.00 bucks a night but less amenities but what a location.

I should note .... I didn’t want to camp tonight because of my ankle and all the setting up involved and moving around I would have to do. Didn’t want to hurt my ankle any more. With that said all the motels were book .... you know ... and I ended up camping out of necessity. Of course it only seems fair that I did in fact hit my ankle, hurting it again, stumbling over a rock while setting up the tent there by confirming I’m psychic. Even if I was healthy I’d still have a lot to learn about camping so don’t laugh to hard.

First, one should make sure you can fully assembly the tent and all the accessories. I couldn’t get the hang of how to secure the tent cover that goes over the tent itself so I left it off. I can’t even remember what’s it called. Fortunately no rain last night. My ground cover was the incorrect size to match the footprint of the tent. I brought the right stuff but in too many quantities that I never used. Finally ... I didn’t pay close of enough attention to where I pitched my tent and it wasn’t level and in fact had and ever so slight bulge in the ground that just happen to manufacture itself right in my back as I tried to lay flat. Difficult to get comfortable and too late to change. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much at all and was eager to leave at the crack of dawn. Not a good experience so it’s like everything else will take some practice to do it right and I didn’t even try to fix anything to eat or cook.

I’m sure camping is a breeze to others but I’m going to have to work at it more. The hardest thing I’m going to have to get used to after I straighten out the mechanics of what went wrong above is how do you get around being so tired when you get there. After doing what I love all day ... riding ... it’s hard to get motivated enough to camp after 500 or so miles on the road all day. I’m sure once I get better at doing it ... it will become easier and less of a hassle and a natural part of the riding day. That’s my goal. Motels aren’t getting any cheaper.

So I just followed along I-70 east all day and I’m now over to Limon, Colorado where I’m resting tonight. I expect to make Kansas City by end of day tomorrow. Some weather between here and there ... hoping nothing turns severe.

Oh yeah ... Kansas pancake land coming up tomorrow .... someone cue the “Da Wind”

Friday - June 10’ 2011

Was going to be a long ride into Kansas City today so was up early to get a jump start on the long day. Some weather was trying to develop but fortunately it had developed ahead of me and was moving away towards the Northeast so I never really saw any rain but many clouds did look threating from time to time. Just to make sure it didn’t rain I put my rain gear on and that put a hex on any rain occurring. The wind was there as is normal for Kansas but was fairly constant and didn’t become a big issue although it’s so tiring riding against the wind all day. Funny thing about it is that it always seems whether or not I’m heading east or west in Kansas there always seems to be a head wind. Maybe it was just the weather pattern that makes that happen like that. At any rate got into Kansas City later afternoon and hooked up with a few friends for dinner. Here’s a shot of the partial gang ...
Spent the evening at Robert’s house again and it even looks like now the weather in KC and Tennessee areas might be good for the final leg home tomorrow.

Saturday - June 11’ 2011

I’m not even sure where to begin to describe this day on the road. My heart is still racing some from the events of the last few hours. I have been through many a storm while riding out on the open road over the many years and thousands of miles but today’s weather event ranks as number two on my all time scared to death list. You know you’re in big trouble when things get so bad and out of control you start to pray for your life. I did that today. Let me start at the beginning.

Cloudy skies in K.C. Missouri as I departed for what I had thought would be the easy last leg of this road trip before reaching my home in Tennessee. I have been on the road since May 19th and covered approx. 6,600 miles so far and this road trip. More than any other road trip this one has been the most plagued by severe and unseasonable bad weather where ever I’ve been. It’s almost like I’m a magnet for bad weather. Well, the magnet was working overtime this afternoon. I had dropped straight south to Springfield, Missouri and then onto 60 east along the bottom of Missouri. Weather appeared pretty good but as the day heated up so did the thundershowers. I rode through a few along 60 just prior to getting into Poplar Bluff. These aren’t fun to ride through and sometimes it rained so hard you can barely see the road in front of you but usually they are short lived and it lets up just down the road some and before you know it the sky is clear again. This was the pattern until I got just on the other side of Poplar Bluff when things really got nasty. It was all I could do to hold the bike on the road from the winds and I could see the squall line of clouds bearing down and forming to the Southwest of my position. Fortunately, this was about the time I enter a little town called Qulin and I pulled into a gas station and got the bike as close to the store as I could.
The bike doesn’t lean over much as the kickstand is a little too long since I lowered the bike but at least I was next to a wall and under a very small overhang ... and then it hit. Rain and wind was starting to whip through that station sideways with such force the likes of which I had never seen or experienced before. I grabbed one hand behind me and latched on to the building as best I could and the other hand I had gripped the handlebar trying to keep the bike from being blow away by pulling it towards me. Trash cans went flying the gas hoses were pulled out of their secured position and were wailing around and I swear I thought we were all going to be sucked away at any second as loose pieces of plastic from fixtures started to peal away. Yes ... I was scared silly and this is when I started to pray. What seemed like an eternity but was probably only a couple of minutes the wind stopped very briefly and then picked right back up with the same intensity coming now from the exact opposite direction. It was like something just passed over as and now we were getting hit from the other direction. Another eternity passed, another couple of minutes, and things calmed down some at our location. Here are some pics I took just prior to the event


After the worst was over for us I was able to get into the store and talk to some of the locals. News was that a Church Steeple had blown clear off the church that was only about 100 yards down the road from where we were at. In addition, about another 200 yards away and across the road some of the roof of the Elementary school was blow off as well. I don’t have pictures of those but alarms, sirens were going off everywhere and police were racing up and down the highway.
You can also see from this picture above how much rain came out of the sky in a hurry filling up this depression next to the road in a matter of minutes.
More pics from inside the gas station, after I had moved inside looking out the window.
As the skies finally clear a little at the station I ventured outside for a few more shots of what looked like more storms forming.img_2718
Clouds were so low it felt like you could reach out and touch them.

I don’t know if it was a mini tornado, straight line winds or a microburst ... what ever it was I never want to be that close to one again. Very scary stuff. I stayed at the gas station until I calmed down and could make a rational decision on which way to head. I pretty much gave up on getting home tonight although I was only about 200 miles away. My best bet was to backtrack up the road north to Poplar Bluff where I could get a motel room for the night. It was getting there that had me worried as it was about 25 miles back up the road and no direction looked good as storms were all around. I waited as long as I could and then I went for it. Fortunately, it was only light rain between that stretch and I made it to a motel and am resting tonight in Poplar Bluff. Will once again try to make it home in the morning. Hope it’s calm by then.

As I reflect back on this experience I can’t help but wonder what I would have done if I had not been where I was at when, what ever it was, hit and I was able to pull into that gas station. I could have easily been between these towns and the outcome would not have been good as there is no place to hide when that happens which brings me to reflect on my Number 1 worst weather experience while riding on a road trip.

Several years back I was on my Valkyrie by myself riding just East of Yosemite near the California/Nevada border when I was caught in the middle of no where and it started to hail big time. I had no where to go and even though about stopping right there on the road and getting under the bike to protect myself but instead decided to ride it out. Riding in hail is exactly what I would envision riding on marbles is like. As I hunched over the bike and wobbled forward my only exposure was my right hand that I had to keep on the throttle. The hail broke many blood vessels in my hand but I rode out of it ok. That was the number 1 scariest time I’ve ever had on the road on a motorcycle.

What ever that was today it makes me question my sanity sometimes to risk doing what I love so much. Guess I would rather go crazy out here and take my chances on the road on my bike rather than sitting at home staring at 4 walls.

I thank God I’m safe tonight and can recount and share this experience.

Home is sounding so good .... I’ve never been this ready before to see a road trip come to an end. That’s a little sad for me and a very unnatural thought but this time ... I’m going to be quite happy to pull in to my driveway tomorrow.

Sunday - June 12’ 2011

Rode by the same area this morning on the way out and took these pictures of the Elementary school in Qulin, Missouri. This was about 2 - 3 hundred yards and across the street from where I was hunkered down the road at the gas station. Here’s a link about the story ... thanks Jim ...

I stopped in front of the school and met David Silverberg, a reporter for the Daily American Republic out of Poplar Bluff, as he was surveying the damage. Our timing was such that we were able to share a few minutes discussing the event. I told him that I was close by yesterday when this happened. I also gave him my web page for the full story. We chatted for a few minutes and then parted ways. My pleasure, David, to meet you. Let’s be thankful this didn’t happen on a school day.
As I hit the road and literally raced towards home the skies were already ominous in their appearance. Even though it was early morning you could already see them beginning to form. Fortunately, I made it home without further incident a few hours later around midday and what a welcome it was ....

I had just completed my longest motorcycle Road Trip ever !!! ... even surpassing my longest Goldwing journey of over 6K several times over. The new record is now held by my little new Suzuki V-Strom 650A WEE.

7,153 miles spanning 24 days.

As I rode over the Kentucky Lake Bridge and towards Dover I couldn’t help but wonder where are all the people. Why aren’t the streets lined with little kids waving flags and cheering my great accomplishment? Where’s the confetti ???

There was none of that ... only a simple hot meal lunch at Cindy’s Catfish Kitchen awaited me. I pulled in ... nourished my body ... and then did the victory lap home the last few miles to my house ... savoring every moment of it. I don’t need no stinken parade I feel good about doing and experiencing what I just did. Yes ... maybe it was no moon shot ... deserving of a parade and adulation.

However ... it was how I spent my last 24 waking days and nights ... living ... on the road, visiting friends and family and traveling by motorcycle. I have no greater pursuit than to live each remaining day to it’s fullest and wish the same for all of you.


As I put the Wee away back in to the garage and parked it next to the Wing I noticed that it seemed to sit more upright than before ... almost kind of proud like. As I turned off the light I heard the Wee lean over and say to the Wing

“What do you think of those miles?”

The Wing bristled and said “Get away from me rookie”

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