Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 11 - The End of the Road

September 2, 2009.

My last day on the road...

I hadn't plotted out much past Nebraska, since, initially, my trip would have taken me down to Kentucky and home on a Southern route. When I plotted out a time line it looked like I'd have to race home from Nebraska in order to make it home for my next day of work, so I'd not looked at alternatives. Since then I'd managed to tack on two days to the end of the trip, so the last two days didn't turn into another Iron Butt run. I'd been choosing my route on the fly from what I knew of the parks from the rest of my research. Still, I hadn't made a plan from here to home as I had for the rest of the trip and had passively decided on a straight ride home for the day.

I got up at about the same time I had been the rest of the week, but took my time getting out of bed. Two plus weeks on the road and this was the first day I was sore. Not keep-me-down sore, but some muscles were making themselves known and I was moving a bit like the rusted Tin Man. Sunday and Monday I'd had a small twinge in my back that I also suspected was from the colder weather, but wasn't really bothersome and hadn't lingered. Yesterday had been a long ride in the cold, dark, cold and I was gonna need more than a night to unwind the knots this time.

The extra 10 minutes stretching and brushing my teeth took the edge off the morning and I felt a little more ready to face people. Hoagy's mom's 80th birthday party was happening that night and his sisters were already there unloading a full car of groceries and party paraphernalia.

Since the day's plan was just to get home, I stayed for a couple hours to chop fruits and vegetables and chat for a bit. Around 10 I headed out with HOME in my gps.

It wasn't looking good for any of my local riding friends to meet me out this way for the ride back together. It was going to be a short ride today and an early end. I would be home by 4 including all the usual nonsense that sucks up time while you're not looking. Like, for example, oh, say...construction?

Fifteen minutes into the ride I pulled over wondering why that was the plan. I pulled out the Passport book. I pulled out the map. There are bunches of parks in Western Pennsylvania that I haven't been to! Friendship Hill, Ft. Necessity and Antietam are all on my way. Looks like I'll have a full day! Now all felt right with the universe as I crossed into Pennsylvania.

Sorry, new state? Let's have some road work.

I have to admit, for all the construction that I rode through in the last 18 days, there were very few that actually caused a delay. Of course, when there were delays I had at least enough time to floss and do the New York Times crossword puzzle and the delays generally happened in 90+ degree weather, but all in all, for as many as there were, I think I lucked out.

Friendship Hill National Historic Site was beautiful. Save one picnicing pair, the grounds were deserted and the house, empty. Ranger McFadden gave me a private tour and encouraged me to look into becoming a ranger because 'some people just have that look about them'.

1215 and 71 degrees. I thought it was going to be warm enough for my mesh, but it never was. And, in case anyone thought things had changed, leaving the park I was stopped for, yes, you guessed it: construction.

Back roads from Friendship Hill to Ft. Necessity were winding and green. 76 degrees at 130pm. As I walked into the visitor center, I noticed their bulletin board and prominently featured was, oh, look at that, a notice about the resident bears. Unfortunately, the warning was for Black bears and not Grizzlies. I will forever wonder about the special rules Yellowstone refused to share.

I enjoyed another film, checked out some very nice displays and walked the grounds for a couple minutes.

The current wildflowers were a definite sign of how long I'd been gone. I rolled around in the grass with my camera like a big dork enjoying the late August blooms. Queen Anne's Lace and Joe-Pye Weed were going strong and the Goldenrod was just starting to show it's color. It was a lovely place and a beautiful day for a picnic, but with no sandwiches, drinks, watermelon, tablecloth or basket I guess I wasn't really prepared for that. So, I broke out the map and gps to see what I was doing next.

I called Denise and Jon from the parking lot and was disappointed that none of the girls would be able to ride today. Jon and I talked about riding to Antietam another day and Lefty/Denise and I fabricated fantastic plans for impossible trips before hanging up. So, I would finish the trip alone and stop for dinner at Jon and Paul's just a half hour ride from home. Antietam was off my plate for the afternoon, but so close I could taste it... I contemplated whether it would really hurt to see it twice...

Heading home from Ft. Necessity, I spotted mountain signs on the roadway: Negro Mountain 3000+ ft, Big Savage Mountain (rwAWRr!!) 2900+ ft, Polish Mountain at about 1800 ft, the Eastern Continental Divide at 2610 feet. I smirked. I chided myself for belittling the East Coast's big mountains, but recalled the 6000 to 10000 foot passes I'd been through just days before. I know it was wrong of me to giggle at the proudly displayed road signs, but I'm sure there's some Swiss guy on vacation in the Rockies smirking behind his hand, too.

I took some pictures of a colorfully striated exposed mountain called Sideling Mountain and as I rounded it I recognized the pull off I'd stopped at on the first day going West. I'd stopped to take pictures of the dawn fog over the trees early on in the Saddle Sore 1000. Home was feeling much closer and the feeling that the end was near was, sadly, taking hold.

At my last gas stop I checked my messages and Lefty had called. She no longer had to go back to work that night and would be able to meet me at Jon's for dinner. When I got there I saw her Moto Guzzi parked at the curb and she came out to meet me with Jon and Paul. We had a magnificent steak and potato dinner with the meatiest corn on the cob I've ever had and bs'd about the trip and fantasized about the next one.

Maine featured prominently in the discussions, but no one's schedule coincided, so I'll be trying to get there on my own in October. After dinner, Lefty and I headed out on now familiar roads going North. It was nice to have company and at a red light she raised her shield and said 'This is how it should be.' I believe we agreed to a major trip in 2 years. We'll have to get cracking on those plans!

We went our respective ways on 695. I watched the full moon and noted how far Mars had moved across the sky in the last 4 or 5 days. I pulled in to the alley behind my house and unpacked the bike. My roommate and the cats greeted me in the overgrown yard. When I went in the back door, Darrick pointed me to the living room where my mother had decorated to celebrate my homecoming. Balloons and banners welcomed be back and the only photo from the trip of me with the bike was on the wall. A fine homecoming! After checking my messages and chatting some with Darrick in front of the TV, I headed to bed so I could get up for my 8am job the next day.

Nineteen days away from home: 1000 miles in 21.75 hours, 4 days of a great conference and 15 days flattening my butt in the saddle. 100 degree weather, 4 pairs of gloves, 2 roadside latrine stops, 23 states and 26 Parks/Monuments. Needed the gas can 4 times, 7500+ miles, 1 accident, 3 hail storms, 1 visit by the police. Innumerable constructions stops, 1 moose, tons of bison, and a handful of Red Bull.

Would I do it again?

Does a biker pee in the woods? ;)


Anonymous said...

Joanne, what an awesome trip and mamories you will have! Gosh....glad to see you got the end of the trip posted, I had been checking daily until I was back on the road. Saw it last night but the darn computer.....but congrats on your trip! ? how the heck did you remember all the details? Did you record it or write down things as you went? The detail is amazing and I am sure many enjoyed it as me. Love ya and see ya in a couple of weeks....I'll dream of making that trip your planning in 2 years!

jwesterman said...

Two years is potentially austrailia/new zealand, so get crackin! I just made a 19 hour run with Jon to South Carolina and back to pick up a new-to-her bike for AM in Canada. She's picking it up this weekend and I'll be talking to her about a transCanada trip for 2010. We shall see! :)

Anonymous said...

When you gettin' a sidecar so I can go too? A heated sidecar, naturally! bjelwp

Gary France said...

I read your blog today - nearly all of it. I enjoyed it a great deal, especially about riding on your long trip in August. The highlights for me were....the bison within a few feet....your best motorcycle accessory - a gas can!....cool vest....hammer to change the oil....163 miles....putting HOME in my gps.

At about 500 miles I day, that was some long ride. Hats off to you.