American Skid Marks
Setting out on a great American motorcycle roadtrip.

Aug
10

A quick update on the bike:

The folks at Santa Fe Motorsports have been back and forth on determining the cause of my electrical issues. Their lead tech came in on his day off to double check the issue and now believes that it is not the stator after all, but something called the “regulator rectifier”. My worst fear is that both the “reg-rec” and the stator are bad and I’ll have to replace the lot. Worse yet, is the fear that I won’t definitively know that the stator is bad until I’m a hundred miles from the nearest motorcycle shop and my bike breaks down again. 😦

By the way let me emphasize this point: Their lead tech came in on his day off to double check the diagnostics they had run. If you’re a motorcyclist in the Santa Fe area, I want to tell you that the service department at Santa Fe Motorsports has done nothing but right by me so far. They have answered all of my questions and gone above and beyond to get me rolling again.

A quick update on me:

Sadly, I’ve been battling what I’m assuming is the flu the last few days. I’ve been sporting a fever between 99.0 and 100.5 and running to the bathroom every hour to purge the few morsels of bread that I’ve been able to consume. So, rather than taking the last few days to really see Santa Fe, I’ve been laying in bed trying to stay hydrated and feeling sorry for myself.

It’s Tuesday now and I’m feeling much better than I have the past two days. I’m still a bit woozy and I’m going to take it easy today, bum around the hostel I’m staying in and try to update this blog with some long overdue back posts. Hopefully, I’ll be back on the road by Thursday morning; heck, if my luck changes and the stars line up, I may be in Taos tomorrow night.

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Aug
07

The bike is sitting at a Santa Fe motorcycle shop waiting on an new stator (alternator) to arrive from Suzuki. Looks like I’ll be stranded in Santa Fe for about a week waiting for this to get fixed. Keep your fingers crossed, I’ll get rolling again by Friday the 14th. I’ll also have to trim part of my trip if I want to make it to Burning Man. I’m looking at the California coast right now. So, after Zion National Park I’ll head straight to the Bay Area in a couple long days and skip most of Cali. Bummer. Bummer. Bummer.

Aug
06

After a long haul last night I slept in a bit and had a long breakfast in Albuquerque. The morning ride north to Santa Fe followed highway 14. 14 winds through country that gradually becomes more and more rocky, filled with small canyons of an almost pink porous rock. The ride is winding but not twisty, you can let the soft easy curves of the road entrance you even at high speeds.

The only place I could think to go in Santa Fe was downtown. Downtown is devoted to peddling New Mexican crafts and souvenirs; in summary, it is a giant mall. If you need a T-shirt, some ice cream or a turquoise trinket that you can brag to your friends about having bought in Santa Fe, this is your place. Despite the overwhelming “Disneyfication” of downtown, the area is architecturally and historically significant. Some of the buildings downtown have been there since the time of the city’s founding and it may be worth a visit if only for that reason.

St. Francis Cathedral

St. Francis Cathedral

Loretto Chapel

Loretto Chapel

However, I quickly grew weary of the commercial bent of the place and decided to head out for Taos.

Road Outside Santa Fe

Headed to Chimayo from Santa Fe

On the way I decided to stop in the small town of Chimayo. Chimayo is home to a small church that purportedly is the site of numerous curings of the sick and healings of the infirm. In the early 1800s a rancher caught site of a beam of light emanating from the earth here. Just like most people who see ghostly lights shining up out of the earth in cow pastures normally do, he began to dig. Lo and behold, he unearthed a four-foot crucifix adorned with the figure of a man. A crucified man. A crucified man with a beard and dressed in a loincloth looking remarkably like the anglicised vision of Jesus splattered all over Renaissance paintings. Clearly unaware of the future possibilities of radiocarbon dating the wooden relic, he proceeded to spread the word of his miraculous find and eventually convinced the local clerical authorities to help him build a chapel on the site. The earth from within the hole where the crucifix originated is rumored to have holy properties and pilgrims make their way here in hopes of being healed and cured. I figured, “couldn’t hurt” and rubbed some of the magic dust on my riding jacket and pants.

Santuario de Chimayo Gates

Santuario de Chimayo Entry Gate

Santuario de Chimayo Cross

Santuario de Chimayo

Perhaps there is a god. And perhaps he foresaw my sarcastic description of his fancy chapel in Chimayo and decided a mild smiting was in order, for about 5 miles out of town, my bike stopped going. The gauges went dead and the bike sputtered and died; the symptoms indicative of an electrical problem. I checked my battery connections and stripped all of the after market electrical connections I had made. A bump start of the bike got me rolling again. For a about a mile I rode confidently, then the same thing happened; the gauges died and the bike shook to a halt on the side of the road. The second stall conveniently stranded me along a stretch of road where I could get no cell service. I had to leave my bike and hike to the top of a hill where I reached out to my lifeline back home, The Pidge. While I dejectedly watched the sun set and listened to the coyotes howl, she promptly signed me up for a AAA membership and arranged for them to contact me. To make a long story short, as the light of the day faded I spotted a tow truck on the horizon and made my way down the hill to greet the driver.

I had the bike towed to a powersports shop in Santa Fe where I locked it to the side of their building overnight; hopefully, they will not take offense. Vick, the tow truck driver, and I chatted on the 40 or so mile drive into Santa Fe and discovered that we both lived in a small Orange County town called Placentia at the exact same time as kids and may have even attended the same elementary school together. Small world. Tomorrow I’ll make my way down to the shop and get the bike looked at. I’m hopeful that it’s not the alternator; alternators are not supposed to break, and when they do, they are expensive to replace.

Aug
02

I spent the whole day wandering around Carlsbad Caverns. Between the hike down to the bottom through the natural entrance, a thorough walk around “The Big Room”, a ranger guided tour of “The Kings Palace”, coffee and a sandwich at the bottom of the cavern and the evening bat flight, you can easily occupy yourself for an entire day here.

Entry Gate to Carsbad Caverns National Park

Arrival

Strangely, the caverns are at once overwhelming and mundane. The natural beauty of the place is stupefying. As I walked through them I kept trying to imagine explaining what I was seeing to someone. Perhaps I lack the gift of description, but I repeatedly found myself without the words to describe the wondrous cave formations, winding passages and haunting atmosphere. They also do a great job of introducing the history of the caverns and their exploration. Stunning and beautiful as the caverns are, I wrestled the whole time with a sense that what I was seeing was somehow common; in the back of my mind I could not help but see something sadly boring about them.

I took some crappy photos. Unfortunately, I lack the proper photographic tools to do these scenes justice. The longer you spend down here, the more detail you start to notice and the more even the smallest of cave formations captivate you.

Natural Cave Entrance

Natural Entrance

Cave Room on Natural Entrance Route

Natural Entrance Route

Carsbad Speleothems

Cave Formations

Carsbad Cave Formations (Draperies)

Draperies over Flowstone

Carlsbad Caverns Columns

Columns with Draperies

Hall of Giants Speleothems

Hall of Giants

Jabba The Hutt Rock

Jabba The Hutt Rock

Crystal Springs Dome

Crystal Springs Dome

Cavern Crappers

Cavern Crappers

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

The auxiliary “Kings Palace Tour” takes you to a part of the cave system usually closed off to visitors. There are definitely some cool things to see on this tour including some historic graffiti  dating back to the cave’s discovery and the largest draperies I saw in the caverns.

Kings Palace

The Kings Palace (royal family to lower right 🙂 )

Queens Draperies

The Queens new Draperies

Veiled Statue

The Veiled Statue

Only now, looking back on my experience can I grasp why I felt so conflicted throughout the day. I was feeling the melancholy that accompanies the realization that some challenging and mysterious place has been conquered and made safe for the masses. The once treacherous and dark decent into Carlsbad’s depths has been paved. Heck, you can even take the elevator down to the bottom if you’re in a hurry. The pathways are lit and there are hand railings everywhere to keep you from falling into the abyss. The fomations (known generically as speleothems) have long ago been lit by a Hollywood lighting effects consultant in order to make them look more … dramatic. I understand progress and I think its great that folks in wheelchairs get a chance to see this awe inspiring place, it just makes me feel a little sad thinking about how it must have been to be one of the first spelunkers to brave the depths, armed only with a couple torches and balls the size of grapefruit. I would feel the same sadness if they put in a gondola to the top of Mt. Everest.

The evening bat flight is incredible. If you aren’t in too much of a hurry to get to the all you can eat dinner buffet back in town, you should definitely take the time to watch it. The caves are home to a colony of migrating Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Apparently, they birth their young at Carlsbad and wait for their offspring to mature before migrating South for Winter. Once the young are flying, the population can get well above half a million bats. On the evening I was there, the ranger estimated that 300,000 bats exited the cave. As the sun sets, they make their way to the cave entrance, fly in a counterclockwise circle a few times and then make their way south to feed for the night. When massed they look like a grayish ghost, constantly shifting shape and direction. I’ve never seen anything like it. Wondrous.

I’m camping at Brantley Lake State Park. The night sky in the desert is not like anything I’ve seen on this trip. It’s strange that I’ve camped so much, but until now haven’t seen dramatic night skies. I laid down on the driveway around the campsite and just stared up for half and hour tonight. It was good for my soul.

Tomorrow I’m headed to Roswell to get the scoop on the alien invasion. I’ll get to the bottom of what these little green men are up to. Are they truly the “Pro bono proctologisst from other star systems” that some folks claim?

Jul
27

Chicago flew by in a blur. I barely had time to realize where I was before it was time to hit the road again. This is of course due to the fact that for the past few days, Chicago has really just been a backdrop for my baby. Pidge flew into town for a couple beautiful days before being cruelly whisked back to Seattle. This is a grand and amazing road trip, but two months on the road without my tribe, my people, is a long time; the weight of loneliness doesn’t seem to plateau, rather it just slowly builds up in my heart ever heavier. I’ve missed Seattle and my girl terribly, so it is no surprise that we could have been anywhere and I would have barely noticed.

As expected, we ate and drank and fucked and partied and shopped and explored like we always do. There was perhaps a minor sense of urgency, but mostly, we just enjoyed each other the way we do in Seattle.

We ate an antipasto brunch, took the train to Wrigleyville, shopped for vintage costume wear (burner wear 🙂 ), drank cocktails, cabbed it down to Lincoln Park, drank beer and stumbled into a fantastic tapas joint for dinner. We traveled to find good breakfast. We walked to Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain, the waterfront, Millennium Park and Wrigley Square. We explored Wicker Park, found me a ten dollar fur coat, drank tequila and beer, ate Argentinian food in Little Ukraine, drank more beer and took the train back to the hotel to pass out. We woke up at 5:30 and got in a cab bound for O’Hare. We hugged goodbye and I rubbed my nose on her neck while the cab driver idled impatiently. I got back in the cab alone. Alone, he drove me back to my motorcycle while I still smelled Pidge on my clothes. Alone, I mounted up all of my gear while picking strands of her hair out of my jacket. Alone, I hit the road again.

I want to show you pictures, but there are none. I want to give you recommendations on things to see and do in Chicago, but I have forgotten them. I want to tell you about the soul of Chicago, but I did not notice if I felt it. I was in love in Chicago, and the thing I remember most is being with my baby.

A little dose of Pidge is almost worse than not having seen her at all; such a fresh memory of where I most want to be is a stark reminder of where I actually am. And where I am is still far from home, my friends and loved ones. I smile now every time I see the word “West” next to a highway number; I’m riding always toward my home. I’m relishing every moment of this journey, but a little part of my brain is always calculating the days until I get back to Seattle.

Jun
30

Today the road was righteous. For the first time in weeks the temperatures dipped below 80. I had to tuck myself into my riding jacket, zippers all the way up, in order to keep from shivering; I had forgotten what it was like to get cold on the back of my bike. The air was clean and the clouds stayed high and loose, no threat of rain today.

I traversed the width of Delaware from Lewes on the coast crossing into Maryland near Denton. I stopped for lunch there, taking in the small townedness of the place. On through Maryland I crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and took a short detour through Annapolis. I just rode through though, I love D.C. and I was anxious to just get there and wander around.

Maryland WW2 Memorial

Maryland WWII Memorial, Annapolis in The Background

About 50 miles from D.C., highway 50 smells like flowers; it’s surprising and lovely to smell flowers on a road that feels like the interstate. The traffic in D.C. was as bad as I had been told it would be, but the mild temperatures made it totally bearable. I checked in to the Hostelling International downtown and walked down to The National Mall.

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Me in front of the washingon monument

... Now With Rabbits

World War 2 memorial

World War 2 Memorial

World War 2 Memorial

More Memorial Love

The 4th of July celebration preparations are in full swing, and the big grassy mall is covered in festival tents, chain link fencing and porta-potties. I walked past the Washington monument, White House, WW-II memorial, Vietnam and Korean war memorials, the Lincoln memorial and finally down to The Potomac River. From there I made my way out to Georgetown for dinner.

Watergate Hotel

Watergate Hotel

I’ve never wandered through the neighborhoods north of M street in Georgetown, so as the sun set I strolled among the historic houses and churches in this beautiful area. Heading out East I wandered down embassy row on Massachusetts Ave.. Finally, on a recommendation from a local I ended up at The Brickskeller Inn for a couple of pints.

Georgetown

Georgetown House

I never thought I’d like it in D.C.. When I first came here a few years ago, I expected that I’d only want to see the monuments and museums and then be done with the place. Like most Americans, I’m distrustful of politicians. I see most of them as choking on wads of cash shoved in their throats by greasy would be world puppeteers. Many of them are like bad commercial actors, selling the American public buckets of shit and telling them that they are pint glasses full of the American Dream. Seriously, politicians strike me as rich kids who were juuuust slightly too ugly to go to Hollywood to become soap opera actors. Sell outs.

Tonight, over a pint of beer, I shared a conversation with a Congresswoman from California who tried to change my opinion of politicians. I’ll tell you this, members of Congress work very hard doing an almost impossible job. Politics is the socialization of conflict, and the best you can hope for is to have your entire constituency only mildly irritated with you. They are trying to distribute a very small amount of water across too many cups. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not the politicians that I despise so much; rather, a political system where the citizenry, rather than trying to find common ground with their adversary, spend their time and money trying to claw out their own piece of the pie. Why, ultimately, do we leave it to politicians to socialize our conflicts? Are we children who don’t know how to share toys?

It’s no wonder that politicians come off looking sleazy, they spend their days surrounded by influence jockeys who represent their own little special interest pony and use every dirty trick in their repertoire to out-position the other riders. When you work in a sludge factory, I guess you’re bound to end up splattered. But those same lobbyists are an outgrowth of every one of us; we are all not only a part of the system, we create the system. When we complain about what politicians are doing, maybe we should take a closer look at our own narrow minded and childish selfishness. Maybe we should look at the conflict we’re creating and see our adversaries as ourselves. We are our adversaries. I’m digressing; this is a topic for another blog.

A woman I met tonight said, “You can live in D.C. and never even know that politics is happening.” She was referring to all of the culture and beauty that exists here. It is these things that I love about D.C.. The museums, the architecture, the history, the bars and restaurants. I have no experience with the music scene here though, maybe tomorrow I’ll head up to U street and see what is happening.

I’m sunburned, dehydrated and a bit drunk. I don’t have to ride tomorrow, so I think I’ll sleep in. I’ve done the tourist thing in D.C. a few times before, so I think tomorrow I’ll stay away from the mall and head north into the neighborhoods.

Jun
08

I rolled out of St. Louis and on into Illinois, following highway 3 South. This was my first border crossing that I wasn’t able to photograph for posterity. “The Man” frowns on stopping in the middle of a busy bridge to snap photos. Whatever, Man. After some suburbs of absolutely no interest whatsoever, highway 3 becomes green and pastoral very quickly; there is a great stretch that was reminiscent of the previous day’s ride through Missouri. Further south the trees give way to more fields and farmland.

Road Allong Highway 3

Green, Green Road

Do you know what this country produces by the metric fuckload? Corn. I somehow expected fields and fields of corn in Kansas, but in Missouri and especially Illinois, it would seem like they grow nothing but corn. Every once in a while I’d come across a field of some kind of crop other than corn. Guess what was still growing in little patches in that field? Chances are good, that if you’re eating processed food that was grown in these fields, it’s got corn in it. It’s no wonder that just about every state out here puts ethanol in their gas.

Cornfield

1.25 Metric Assloads Just in This Field!

Most of this day was thoroughly enjoyable, but the scenery doesn’t really change around here. Its just a consistent “nice”. Green patch of trees. Corn Field. Town. River Sighting. Corn Field.

Rail Bridge Over The Mississippi

Rail Bridge Over The Mississippi

There is a point outside of Cairo, IL where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi. It’s here that the Mississippi truly becomes mighty. It’s called simply “The Convergence” and I’ve heard that it is an amazing sight. However, I think I might just rename this blog to “Sorry Rabbit, America Is Closed For The Season”. The convergence was closed for cleaning. Cleaning? Fuuuck! You have to close the whole fucking park in order to pick up some god damned garbage? Whoever made that decision sucks. I hope they end up waking up with some unsolicited genitals in their mouth.

I rode into Cairo dejected and wanting to just sit and bitch. Instead I found this great little coffee/art/chill/community center space. Seriously, this was a most unexpected and fantastic place. It was just what I needed to lift my spirits. They, host events, sell good cheap coffee, showcase local art, have live bands and provide a place for local kids to hang out. I ran into a couple guys from New Orleans there and got some great advice on where to go to hear live music. I felt better when I left, good enough to un-hope the whole “unsolicited genitals” thing …

Ace of Cups

Ace of Cups

Rather than ride straight into Kentucky, I chose to ride north east following the 37, 169 and the 45, crossing the border near Metropolis. This was supposed to be my stopping point today, but I decided to push down toward the Land Between The Lakes State Park. A fairly short ride on the I-24 turned out to be pretty bearable, but I still couldn’t wait to pull off onto 453 near Grand Rivers. The Land Between the Lakes is a beautiful spot. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this place surpassed my expectations.

Kentucky Welcome Sign

Kentucky Crossing

The 453 is a narrow feeling road that runs through the thick teaming woods. I had my first near collision with a dear here. A young buck was standing in my lane as I came around a bend, he startled and ran toward the left to get into the woods. Just as he crossed the center-line, a big red truck came into view in the opposite direction. It was the classic panicked deer response you always hear about. First he froze. Actually, what most people believe is a deer freezing with panic is actually a purposeful deliberative process on the part of the deer. Deer don’t actually “freeze”, they just stop to ponder the situation and make an informed decision. Unfortunately, while deer may be known for their depth of thought, the speed at which they cogitate leaves something to be desired. I suspect that the deer’s internal calculus went as follows, “Crap. Stop. Let’s figure this out. OK, there’s that quick little red thing that I was just running from. But now there is big mean looking red thing coming from the other direction. Hmmmm, I think I should run away from the big thing. OK, aaaaand GO!” The second I saw the deer freeze I rolled off the throttle a bit, knowing that a frozen deer isn’t really frozen, he’s just very, very slowly trying to decide what to do, and at any moment could finally arrive at his decision. Sure enough, he turned around and darted back into my lane as I closed on him; I slowed down even more and he scampered off the road and back into the woods on my side of the road. See, most deer strikes happen because the driver or rider hasn’t studied the psychology of the deer in as much depth as I.

Forest in the Land Between The Lakes

Forest in The Land Between The Lakes

I also saw wild turkeys for the first time. No really, they have these turkeys that wander by the side of the road out here. I tried to snap a photo, but they are skittish like deer and far, far more decisive. They promised me at the Kansas visitor’s center that I’d see lots of these things in Kansas, but it took all the way to Kentucky before I got my first sighting. I decided that I would celebrate by drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey later that night. The roads through the park are the most perfect I’ve ridden on this trip. The surface is smooth, the curves are consistent and the camber is sweet. However, the speed limit is very low (35 in the twisty north end of the park if I remember correctly) making it extremely easy to speed. There were points where I wanted to be going 90 through the curves in the north end of the park.

About half way through the park, you cross from Kentucky into Tennessee and the road straightens out.

Welcome to Tennessee Sign

Entering Tennessee

I made camp on the shore of one of the Tennessee River’s fingerling projections and set out to find some grub. On a recommendation from a local I ended up at Cindy’s Catfish Kitchen, where they serve a nightly buffet of deep fried catfish and hushpuppies amidst an assortment of other salad bar fare. This was my first taste of hushpuppies, which are little balls of cornmeal with onions and spices, cooked like falafel. Is it strange that I’ve eaten pounds and pounds of falafel, but never tasted hushpuppies before now? When I pointed at the big bin of hushpuppies and asked the guy in the kitchen what they were, he looked at me like I was fucking retarded. “Those are hushpuppies” is what he said blankly. “Those are hushpuppies, you moron, ” is what he thought. He’s clearly never had to explain to anyone what a hushpuppy is. In any case, I stuffed myself with catfish and hushpuppies until I could no longer button my riding pants.

As I was departing I asked the waitress where I could score some Wild Turkey. “I have celebrating to do, ” I explained. Now it was her turn to look at me like I was a retard as she explained to me what a “dry county” was. As morally important as it was to celebrate my first wild turkey sighting, 25 miles for a pint of whiskey was a bit more than I was willing to ride tonight.

There is a slow rain falling and the wind is coming up, the heat is abating a bit and hopefully I’ll sleep easy tonight. Tomorrow I ride the rest of the way to Nashville and my first couchsurf.

Jun
07

No riding today. I was on foot all day, wandering around St. Louis. This city is small, but I loved the downtown area, the arch and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. First, if you’re like me, you don’t look for places that are clean and tidy. Clean and tidy is the whore’s mask the government bureaucrats and corporate interest whitewash a city neighborhood with. Real folks don’t live in places like Rodeo Drive. I had the good fortune to have crashed in at a hostel in the Soulard neighborhood here in St. Louis. This is one of those neighborhoods that is experiencing a revival. If you come here now you’ll find the early stages of a gentrifying neighborhood; a neighborhood that has moved out of grit and seed but hasn’t yet been been inundated by yuppie scum like me. Soulard residents seem to live here because they love it, not because either it’s all they can afford nor because it’s the new trendy place to be. There is a heartbeat here that you can feel on the street.

Church in Soulard

Church in Soulard

Nearby is the Lafayette Square neighborhood. Here you can definitely smell the yuppies, but it’s still in the early stages of losing it’s soul. Who knows, if the residents here are careful, they might just be able to hang on to the guts of this place. Probably not though. I found a great little brewery here called Square One and enjoyed a sampler of local brew. If I were to speak plainly, I got drunk; I stumbled into this place after wandering around downtown and the arch. I was dehydrated, hungry and tired, and 20 oz of beer hit me harder than I expected. Before hitting the street for a nighttime tour of the city, I crashed out for a while at the hostel; the hostel manager looked askance at what surely looked like carelessly drunken behavior on my part.

Crumbling Building

We Demand Condos!

What of downtown and the St. Louis Arch. Both awesome. After breakfast in Soulard, I wandered downtown to the sculpture and water park. This is a great little mid-city green space with some cool art and fountains to cool off in.

Pinocchio Sculpture

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me Geppetto?

Ring Sculpture

Downtown Sculpture

Head Sculpture

...

Kid playing in fountain

Kid Playing Downtown

Picture of self next to fountain

Cooling Off ...

Down toward the river, past the courthouse is ‘The Arch’. Reflective steel plated arms reach up overhead; this thing is so large that it turned out to be difficult to photograph in a single piece.

St. Louis Arch

St. Louis Arch

Artsy  Arch Photo

Oooooh ... Artsy

The ride to the top was definitely worth the $10 admission fee. The view toward the city is dramatic and expansive.

View From the Arch

Downtown View From The Arch

On the ride down, I started chatting with a woman who was crammed into the tiny cylinder of an elevator car with me. Kayla and her husband Kevin turned out to be bikers as well. They were riding through the Midwest and to see Kayla’s daughter graduate from … lemme see if I get this right … Military Police School. They also invited me to stay with them in near Tampa Bay, Florida. Fifteen minutes spent chatting and they invite me to crash at their house? That’s very cool.

Kayla and Kevin

Kayla and Kevin

After my beer nap, I headed out to see some music. A number of bars between Soulard and The Arch were hosting live music tonight. I headed straight for the first loud outdoor music I could hear. The Broadway Oyster Bar was hosting a blues band. I ate deep fried fish, drank more beer and listened to some great music. I walked down to The Arch to get a look at it at night, I tried making shadow puppets with the floodlights that illuminate it at night and I laid in the grass underneath it, staring up until a park ranger kicked me out. I walked down 2nd street back to Soulard, along what felt like the sketchiest part of St. Louis at that time of night.

I’m back on the bike tomorrow, riding what will be the first of a two day ride to Nashville. I had planned to stop about half way between St. Louis and Nashville, but I think I’ll push a bit further tomorrow so that I can arrive early the next day and see the town a bit. I’m finding that if I pull into a place at six or seven in the evening, I don’t really have time to explore.

Jun
06
Entering Kansas City Sign

Crossing Into Missouri

I gotta tell you, either I didn’t spend enough time in KC, or I didn’t go to the right places, but Kansas City completely failed to make an impression on me. It’s not that the place is bad, it’s just kinda missing. You know, I gripe about the soullessness of suburbs a lot. KC had the same kind of malign innocuousness to it. The one exception is the area surrounding and directly north of University of Missouri Kansas City. There is a cool sculpture park and numerous water features sprinkled on a giant green lawn. It’s here that the famous giant shuttlecock sculptures live.

View From Museum of Art

View From Museum of Art Steps

Giant Shuttlecock

Huge Cock

Fountain in KC

Fountain in KC

Sculpture and Skyline

Skyline Looking East From Sculpture Park

Wanting to avoid the interstate, I left town on highway 24. An unfortunate mistake that took me through an hour of stoplight studded sprawl heading east. The road eventually turned pastoral and green, and far more enjoyable. At some point, I don’t even remember where, I cut over to I-75 and followed it as far as Columbia. There, I diverted south toward Jefferson City. Just outside Jefferson I headed east on the 94 along the Missouri River.

Farmland Off Highway 24

Corn Field Off Highway 24

This was a long but gorgeous road. You’re almost never within sight of the river itself, but the road is flanked on one side by big green trees and floodplain farms on the other.  It was along this stretch of road that I hit a bird … with my shoulder … at about 70. This was no tiny sparrow either, I would estimate that it was about the size of a pigeon, but I didn’t get a good look at it in the split second before impact, nor did I go back to try to find the assailants corpse. It didn’t hurt so much as it startled the fuck out of me. Had I had the bad fortune of making contact with the bird With. My. Face. things could have been much worse. As it was, I found myself giggling, somewhat hysterically, about the whole thing a few minutes later. I did, however, ride with my visor down for the next hour or so.

Farmland Off Highway 94

Floodplain Farmland Off Highway94

Every once in a while a single event can capture the cultural divide between you and the locals in a microsecond. As I was breathing in the air through this stretch of road, happily following the curves in the road I saw a young kid walking down the side of the road. He was wearing cut-off jeans, a white tank-top shirt and a knit beanie. I’m notoriously bad at estimating the age of children, but I’d guess he was eleven or twelve, skinny, darkly tanned, with deep blue eyes and his furrowed brows gave him an angry faced look. Slung across his arms, held the way you’d carry a pile of firewood, was a large hunting rifle with a scope. If you had stood the gun on end, it would have rivaled him in height. Granted, I don’t have allot of exposure to firearms and so I’m a bit skittish around them anyway. However, as I watched a 6th grader in flip flops awkwardly toting what may have been a loaded rifle with the barrel swinging carelessly out into traffic made me utter an uncontrolled “What The Fuck”? into my helmet. This is a big and varied country indeed.

Nearing St. Louis the hills became taller and windier. There are bends in the road there that sharply crest a hill while curving. I slowed down and took it slow. There is a saying among motorcyclists, “Ride the road you see.” Stated in somewhat stuffier terms you could say, “Ride within your sight distance.” Really, what it means is that you should never, ever, make assumptions about the road ahead of you. What does the road do after that curve? Does it straighten out, like all of the other times up until now? Or does the curve tighten up, forcing you to lean your bike down hard to keep from rolling into the trees? Along the eastern portion of this ride, I kept having to repeat to myself, “Ride the road you see dude”. Some of these roads crest tall pointy hills and make it impossible to see more than twenty feet ahead. And sure enough, over a couple of these crests I found that what I expected to be a straight road, would suddenly curve sharply to the left or right sending my sphincter into fear induced spasms. Had I not been riding conservatively I would have drifted wide more than once.

I rode into St. Louis late, near 9 pm. I checked into a hostel in the Soulard neighborhood and went in search of a drink and a bite. As luck would have it, I stumbled into a local bar and was invited to join a group of revelers who were celebrating the birthday of, Mike, one of the local bartenders. On an empty stomach the beers I was drinking were knocking me out and “Mexican Mike” insisted that I go get some food around the corner at his place. Mike fed me, Angie kept buying me beers and the whole group provided great company late into the night. I lacked the fortitude to keep going when they departed for yet another bar, opting instead to crash and get started early the next day. I wish a hearty hello to Mike, Angie, Janice, The Dude Who Hopefully Slept With Janice That Night, The Dude With Grey Cruiser Motorcycle, Cute Girl, Cute Girl’s Boyfriend and Mike’s Neighbor.  Hopefully, I haven’t left anyone out ;). Truly though, you all made my first night in St. Louis wonderful and memorable. And, contrary to expectations, I did not wake up with any stranger’s genitals in my mouth. Cheers and I hope to see you on my way back though later in the summer!

As silly as it seems, when I saw fireflies here I squealed on the inside like a little girl. Perhaps I squealed out loud. I’ve not seen fireflies in years, they always captivate me set my mind silent for a few minutes. I’m glad we don’t have them where I live, I’d hate for that wonder to wear off.

I’m off my bike tomorrow, I’ll be wandering around St. Louis and taking in the sights. It’s about time, my ass needs a break.

Jun
05

Kansas has it’s charms, yes; however, after miles and miles of rolling plains I was ready for some civilization. Sadly, there is nothing much to say about Eastern Kansas that my previous post does not capture. Its more rolling plains, more fields of crops stretching out forever and more dust and heat on the road.

Kansas Plains

Kansas Plains ... Now With Flowers!

Poor Kansas, their trying so hard to seem interesting. It is telling though, that the highlight for me today was the worlds largest ball of twine.

World's Largest Ball of Twine

World's Largest Ball of Twine

The trek was long and meditative; I had plenty of time in my helmet to just be inside my head. You know what? I spend most of my time thinking about absolute shit. Man do I burn allot of brain sugar on nothing. I have imaginary conversations with friends. The last song that I heard before I got rolling typically loops itself over and over in my head; and not the whole song, just the most catchy hook … over … and over … and over. I think about places I’ve been before and people I’ve met. I realized today how little time I’m actually spending being in the moment. I guess that’s why I made a point of trying to be present on this trip; if it came naturally, I wouldn’t have to think about it.

I arrived in KC late, too late to sight see. I committed to eating nothing but barbecue in KC and so tonight I went to a fancy sit down place. Ribs are not fancy. They are meant to be eaten, eatery style over red and white plastic tablecloths. I’m pretty confident that ribs don’t need to be legitimized with cloth napkins and candlelight. The food tonight at Fiorella’s Jack Stack was good, but not great.

So there it is. Leg #1 is complete. By one form of reckoning, I’m a sixth of the way through this thing. I still have a ways to go, but I’m officially in it now.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend part of the day sight seeing in KC before I head out to St. Louis.