Have you ever looked back through photos or Facebook memories and thought, “Damn, I’ve done some living?” Well, I just had one of those moments while looking back over this past summer. Now, I’m going to share it all with you lucky people. No worries, I’ll add pictures to keep your attention in case you begin to drift off in boredom.
My summer fun begins Memorial Weekend every year. I pack up my bike and head in some direction, usually in search of famed motorcycle roads and rides. This year I had a plan to head to Kentucky and take a spin around the loop from Louisville to Pikeville running the Country Music HWY among others. I took a peak at the map a time or two and decided it was a great route and definitely doable in three days.
As it turned out, this route was so doable that I had already done it five years ago. Yep, there I stood in my living room packing my bags to roll out on Friday morning scrolling my Facebook memories. And, there it was in full color pictures, Kentucky, West virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee 2013. Hmmph, now where shall I go?
Roll Out And Decide On The Way
Having a plan can be super overrated, so, I didn’t make one. Once I finished loading my bike, I headed down the interstate to get the holiday weekend traffic behind me. Somewhere along the interstate, I discovered the Lincoln Highway. This turned out to be the first route traveled from New York all the way to San Francisco.
I decided to head east and follow it as far as I could get before Monday. When I made this decision, I was unaware the neighborhoods around the south side of Chicago that I would find myself in. Ooops! After three hours of city traffic and 30 MPH zones through places not fit for humans, I crossed into Indiana. I’ve never been so happy to see a state line in my life!
The night had moved on far further than I had liked and it was creeping up on midnight. Now, where am I going to find a room? Not to mention, where in the hell am I? Soon, I began to see motel and hotel signs up ahead. Most were local mom and pop type places and looked a bit shady. So, I kept rolling until finding my way to the Schererville Hometown Inn and Suites.
I settled into my small outdated and roughed up motel room for the night. After a hot shower and some fresh clothes, I took a peak inside the nightstand drawer and found the hotel bible. I’m far from religious and do not attend church, but for some reason I decided to open up the book.
As I was flipping through the pages I came across a post-it note and a dollar bill. The post-it had a note that said, “Seek God’s Treasures.” I left the note and the dollar for the next hotel guest. Before closing the book, I scribbled my own little note on the back, “Pay it forward.” Unfortunately, I did not have cash on me to leave an extra dollar between the pages.
Early Morning Decisions
As I was packing up my room, Travis messaged that he would be landing in Pinehurst NC for the afternoon and staying through the morning. Being a huge fan of NC, I immediately mapped that location from my own. Eleven hours and forty minutes, 786 miles. Hmmm, I could be there shortly after dinner time if I wanted to.
I was mowing over this idea when T messaged that his hotel was about nine hours from Fort wayne IN. Of course, we were on the same brain wave about this opportunity. What T didn’t realize was that I was still a few hours from Fort wayne.
I informed him I had already mapped a route and could definitely make the ride. He assured me that his itinerary was basically set in stone and should not change. Next thing I knew I was on my bike and headed southeast slightly above posted speeds.
My time frame was a tad off because I had forgotten about the time change between the two places. However, I made the ride in twelve hours and fifteen minutes. Rather impressive considering a car was expected to do the drive in eleven hours and forty minutes. (The bike needs gas and requires stops more often.)
I came rolling up to T’s hotel right at 8 PM eastern time to find him standing by the side of the road awaiting my arrival. My bike was rolling on fumes with 32 miles on the fuel light, I had been in the saddle playing speed racer for 12 hours, and boy was it hot outside!
What an incredible travel day followed by a lovely evening out for dinner and drinks by the pool. Amazing how fast plans changed from riding the Lincoln Highway to rolling down to Pinehurst NC. I’m generally up for any destination that requires a challenge and choosing to take my new bike fo a 786 mile ride and make it before sundown was a challenge.
Next Stop, Gas Station
Morning came after a great nights sleep. I ate breakfast with Travis and his copilot before seeing them off to work. Then, I needed to figure out whether to go uphill 2 miles to a fuel station or down hill four miles. I chose downhill just in case it came down to me having to push the bike. I had no idea how far I could ride on this bike on the fuel light and my throttle hand had been heavy.
I made the gas station and discovered that even with over 3 mile son my fuel light I still had a half gallon of fuel in my tank. This was lovely news for future travel planning. Now, I could start my day. I hit up some back roads out of Pinehurst and ended up in a cute little town with a magnificent family restaurant. Breakfast was ok at the hotel but I had worked up quite an appetite and an omelet with hash browns and grits hit the spot! I wish we could have grits up north but they are just not a thing.
When in this part of the country there are a few “must ride” roads. Highway 421, The Snake, is one of these roads, 388 curves in 22 miles. I had accidentally ridden part of this road in 2013 and was anxious to get back and ride the rest. Now was my chance! Let’s just say that NineT was built to lean. Man what a ride.
The Shady Valley General Store is the only stop on the route and worth a visit. I had some lunch and admired several other motorcycles as they rolled in and out. And, I made the decision to put travel stickers on the bike, a HWY 421 sticker being the 1st.
I made an executive decision that from the Snake there was not any places I needed to stop and see. I would just roll on until I found a hotel within a days ride of home. It was creeping up on mid afternoon and the weather couldn’t be better.
Several miles up the road I began to see clouds rolling in. This sight can be deceiving in the mountains so I didn’t get too excited about things. Until I began to see strands of rain falling out of clouds up ahead. Of course, there were no good places to pull over right away. I managed to make it to a gas station just in time for the rain to pummel the earth while I struggled to get into my rain gear.
The temperature dropped and the storms continued to roll through all the way to Louisville. By this time, it was dark I was wet and rather tired. I tried googling hotels and there were too many to sift through at highway speeds so I opted to take an exit with hotels listed on the sign. This plan would have been great if I had turned the correct direction off of the ramp. But, I did not and soon found myself searching for a “No U-turn” spot on the divided highway to make a U-turn.
I finally got turned around and headed back into civilization just in time for my fuel light to come on. there were no gas stations in sight and I wound up in suberbia hell finding fuel. Then, tried to follow google maps to a hotel which took me through more concrete jungle only to end up in a giant mall complex at a Hilton. What a night this had turned out to be.
It was 10:30 PM and luckily there was a Burger, Bar, and Sushi joint across the mall parking lot that served food until midnight. Excellent place with great food and some live entertainment. Not a bad way to end my day.
Morning arrived entirely to early and I was not looking forward to the ride home. Indiana and Illinois are not my favs when it comes to riding and the fastest route home is generally through Indianapolis or Chicago.
I made Chicago in record time thanks to my “pace car” which was a lady from Florida in a red Mustang GT. I like to find people on the interstates that are going entirely too fast and then stick behind them. I call them my pace cars because I have no cruise control and they set a good pace for me to follow…AND… they are easier to spot than my motorcycle when the long arm of the law is waiting for speeders on the highway. Unfortunately, for two of my pace cars on the way to NC, the long arm of the law actually found them and I did feel a twinge of guilt that they were pulled over as I sailed by undetected at the same speeds.
Anyways, I made the O’hare Oasis in Chicago just in time to watch a massive tornado producing thunderstorm roll in. I had talked to Travis and he said he would jump in the van and come pick me up. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to have that happen of not and by the time I made up my mind T was no longer by his phone.
Rain Rain Go Away
I headed for Rockford and witnessed several cars pulled over or hydroplaning off the highway. Meanwhile my raingerar was leaking from everywhere and the zip lock glad bag I had my phone in was no match for the freak monsoon I was riding through. By the time I hit Rockford I pulled over in a break between clouds to check my phone and discover that T was in the van headed my way.
I decided to aim for Janesville and pull over to wait for him to rescue me. I pulled into a truck stop absolutely soaked to the bone and shredded everybit of gear and most of my clothing there in the parking lot. I went inside to change into my last pair of dry clothes I had tucked away in my duffle bag. When I walked out of the restroom I witnessed an incredible and unbelievable amount of water falling from the sky onto everything I had laying out on my bike.
In a bit of a ZFG mood, I simply turned to my left and decided to take a seat at the Hardeez and eat my sorrows away. As I was chewing and stewing over the situation, my knight in shining armor in a white van pulled up and proceeded to load my bike and soaking wet gear as I sat inside staying dry and freezing my butt off in the AC. What a wonderful man.
That was one memorable Memorial Day 2000 mile weekend adventure.
Then There Was June
Suddenly, it was June and Travis and I had full itineraries. T worked the first week of the month and I drove Logan, (My kiddo) to Colorado to visit my dad. Logan was going to spend a few weeks out there hanging out with grandpa and I was just the taxi driver.
Travis had his motorcycle all packed up and ready to roll out east for an adventure on the back roads. The Mid-Atlantic BDR, to be exact. This was a trip he was hoping to take with his nephew and possibly myself. But, when the time arrived Travis ended up riding solo. He headed out for a route through all of my favorite eastern states’ backcountry, ready to camp and ride his way along the mountain ranges. At my advice, T rode the Tail of the Dragon and then turned north to follow his BDR roads.
By day 5, T had put on some serious miles and seen some incredible countryside but was ready to hit the highway home. I was just beginning a three day weekend and decided I had nothing better to do than hop on my bike again as well. T was heading northwest and I told him I’d head southeast and meet him in the middle. You know, typical Friday morning last-minute decisions.
The middle turned out to be Fort Wayne, Indiana. I hesitated to ride through Chicago but decided it really was my fastest route. Or, it would have been, if traffic was not backed up for hours on end. I spent three hours in four to six lanes of traffic overheating my bike and myself. I would ride the shoulder around the long never-ending lines of cars as often as I could get away with. Oh my, what a day in the city!
I arrived at the hotel downtown Fort Wayne to find T outside chatting with a fellow bike rider. He was happy to see me and I him and we were both half-starved. I threw on a hat left my bike where it was and we strolled down to the corner bistro for some dinner. Somewhere around the appetizers, we decided that Michigan looked like a better route home than Illinois.
I had been wanting to ride through the tunnel of trees then go over the Mackinac bridge and it just so happened T wanted to look at a jet boat in the U.P. Well, that settled that, northward we would go. My weekend certainly went from nothing to do to a tristate adventure in no time.
Morning showed up with a sky full of clouds and not the warmest weather. When I had left the house, it was in the 90’s and I was only riding to Fort Wayne and back. So, I broke my own rule of, “pack for anything just in case,” and left the house with only one change of clothes and nothing warm. Michigan was not warm.
The day started out as a casual ride up some back roads checking out covered bridges and small towns. Then, the rain set in. And, next, it hailed a bit. Meanwhile, I’m riding a bike with zero weather protection, minimal riding gear, leaking rain gear, and freezing my non-existent balls off. Michigan and I were not making friends.
I had been bound and determined to make the tunnel of trees before nightfall. Mother Nature broke my determination and we ended up in a lovely historic inn for the night in the tiny town of Harbor Springs. We walked the streets and ate an incredible seven-course meal while being waited on by a fantastic waiter. Ok Mother Nature 1, Jessie 0, she definitely knew what was best.
The next day did not show any promise of warmth. I left the hotel and rode all day in an outfit suited best for a clown and had zero fucks to give, I would rather be warm than fashionable. The tunnel of trees and the Macinack bridge were splendid. On the way across I noticed that if you look down through the metal woven structure below, you could see the water. I pointed this out to T and I don’t think he was as excited about the sight as I was. After crossing into the U.P., T traded me bikes for a bit so that I could warm up a little and enjoy the wind blockage of the GS.
We found the jet boat and did all but find a way to haul it home behind the bikes! What a magnificent find. A 1975 Sanger boat with a 560 HP 455 engine and twisted chrome headers! Oh my were we in love. The next weeks were filled with jet boat talk until it was finally time to go bring her home. There were two more motorcycle adventures planned in between.
The Summer Rolls On
The last week of June I rode the GS to North Carolina for a girls’ weekend with T’s family at Lake Norman. What a fun time! Dinners on the deck, paddle boarding, swimming, girls night out, and a tour of the Biltmore estate. It is amazing how much you can pack into one long weekend.
I rode 450 miles through Illinois in the rain on the way down and narrowly escaped a tornado by a few miles. But, had fabulous weather through TN and NC all weekend. I made a run up the Blue Ridge Parkway for an afternoon and on to my favorite little “Colorado town” in the corner of NC, Boone. And, you can’t visit Boone without stopping for food or coffee, I had both.
The ride home threatened rain several times before actually soaking me for a few of my 865 miles. I made the Wisconsin border just as the sun was setting over a wicked awesome cloud-filled sky. Home by ten PM and ready for bed with an early morning alarm.
While I was away, T had loaded up the Nine-T in the van and headed to Colorado. The Pikes Peak Hillclimb race was going on and he was playing pit crew for one of the race teams. I had to work part of the week and then catch a flight to Colorado Springs.
The mid-west weather was less than ideal Friday morning. I drove to the airport in a wicked thunderstorm with tornado warnings throughout the area. Of course, my flight was delayed. So, I would now take a flight to Dallas and arrive in Colorado at 5:30 instead of noon.
T picked me up on the bike at the airport and we hit the downtown for the big pre-race festivities. What a crazy place full of amazing machines! After some dinner and drinks at a brew pub we were ready to wind down for the night. It was lovely van camping weather.
Colorado Day 2
Day two was mostly filled with race car stuff. And, I got to take a spin in a brand new Porsche at a very high rate of speed! Then, it was off to the mountain to set up the pit area and drive to the summit. Incredible road with magnificent views.
Race day arrived with an early morning drive up to the pits and we watched all of the machines roll around getting ready for their shot at the top. We were watching the giant stats screen as the Ducati racer walked by suited up for his run.
Several minutes later we heard news that he had shot off a curve towards the top and was not in good condition. What a stunning feeling, we had just watched him walk by and now he would never walk or breathe again. Heartbreaking.
The afternoon set in and it was time for me to make my exit to the airport. T rode bitch down to the van and said our goodbyes and I rolled my way off the mountain. Traffic was not ideal through town but I made the airport in plenty of time to grab lunch and catch my flight.
As it turned out, I had enough time for a lot of things because once again, my flight had been delayed. The next best bet for me was to grab a new flight to Dallas and then connect on a flight to Madison.
I now had four hours before my boarding time. The race was only a thirty minute drive and I figured I may as well go back and hangout with T for a few more hours. I arrived at the gates to Pikes Peak about the same time I realized my ticket was in our van. Our van was parked on the road up the mountain near the pits.
The lady at the gate was totally fine just letting me roll up there and go about my day. The man at the gate was not having any part of this plan. I was informed that the only way I would be passing through was if Travis or someone from the crew came down to get me. There was no cell service on the mountain so this would not be possible.
I turned around and rode myself back to the airport. I sat down at the bar just in time to get a text from T asking where I was and what was happening. I filled him in on my afternoon and he said he was already on his way to the airport to grab the Nine-T and head east.
Our thoughts crossed paths again as we both had half an idea that I should just hop in the van and ride back to Wisconsin. But, adulting took priority and we both knew there was no way I’d make it to the office in the morning if I took the van home instead of a plane. So, I sat and enjoyed my beer as T loaded the bike and eventually I boarded a plane as he drove home.
The Big Easy
Our Colorado trip was immediately followed by Travis and I taking off for New Orleans over the 4th of July. T met me at work on the 3rd and we rolled out of Pardeeville WI around 2:30 PM. The plan was to make it as far as possible so that we could arrive in the Big Easy early the next evening. We made it a good ways passed St. Louis and stopped for the night just as it was getting dark.
The next day could not have been better for a ride other than the heat index creeping up to triple digits. However, we made New Orleans by 5 PM, checked in to the hotel, showered, and hit the town. No plan and no real direction we wandered aimlessly in and out of restaurants and bars eating ourselves silly! Shrimp Etouffee over grits, (which T had never had before and now would be one of is favorites) crab stuffed deviled eggs, char grilled oysters, raw oysters, crab cakes, butternut squash soup, tap beer, bottled beer, wine, and a long night at the dueling pianos bar. What a whirl wind of an evening! I don’t think we hit the pillows until 2 AM.
After sleeping in a bit and almost missing the hotel breakfast, we rallied ourselves together and made a plan to visit the garden district and tour a cemetery. The air was a humid and hot 101 degrees and the sweat was rolling as soon as we hit the sidewalk. No matter what, we were set to have an adventure! After a bit of confusion figuring out where to board the trolly car, we discovered, as it poulled up in front of us, that we had picked the right spot to stop. We hopped on and rode through the streets to the Lafayette Cemetery.
What an incredible place to see, the graves are small buildings/shrines and very well decorated. Each grave holds many remains and not just single bodies. Most are entire families or in one case, a mass grave for the bodies from the orphanage. Sad and interesting all at the same time.
From the cemetery, we made our way down the streets of the garden district lined with huge homes and fancy yards. Definitley like a scene from a movie more than someone’s real life neighborhood. Soon it was time for a break from the heat, first stop, Bloody Mary’s and beer with a side of tennis on TV. We are not sports fans but it was impressive to see the Wimbledon match with the 15-year-old player, Coco Gauff smashing the ball across the court. We stayed a drink longer than planned and watched the match.
Several blocks later we decided it was time for some food. There happened to be a brewpub directly across the street. The pub was a nifty little joint that was definitely built in the previous century and specialized in rare whiskys. It wasnt quite noon but we opted to begin lunch with a sampler flight of whiskeys and tap beers. Why not. And, they had the remainder of the tennis match on to boot!
With full bellies and a bit of a buzz, we meandered our way down to the WWII museum. What an incredible display of American history. It took a few hours to make it through the exibits and I’m not even sure we saw everything. We moved on to an afternoon snack at the local BBQ place and were not disappointed with our choice. This was restaurant number 6 or 7 and we still hadn’t found a thing we didn’t like.
It had been a long eventful and hot day, we decided a late afternoon nap was in order. A couple of women at breakfast had told us we needed to try Mother’s for dinner. After a few hours of nap time, we mustered up just enough energy to take a few blocks walk to the restaurant. The line outside stretched on about 20 people long but the ladies had promised us it was worth the wait. They did not lie.
Once inside the line continued around the counter and it was a “no wasting time” type situation. Signs on the walls clearly stated, “absolutely no cell phone use in line” “there are no substitutions” and “order here.” The signage along with the security guard on staff shuffling people where they needed to be kept things moving right along. We found a table next to the kitchen and watched the chaos/magic happen.
The food came to our table in heaping bowls full and we had no idea where to even begin. It was evident from the get-go that our eyes had been much larger than our stomachs. The grits were perfect, the beans and rice were bold, the shrimp was plump and juicy, and we proceeded to eat entirely too much.
Dinner was done and it was all we could do to stagger our way around the block to try and compensate for gorging ourselves. Then, our loop around the block turned into an hour-long walk around several blocks because we had somehow missed our turn. It did us good to be up and moving but our hotel was sure a sight for sore eyes!
Two days is exactly enough time to experience New Orleans while eating and drinking your way around. We packed up and hit the road around 9 AM heading for the Natchez Trace Trail. This is a 400-mile road from Natchez MS to Nashville TN. No commercial traffic and not much of anything other than forests and historical sites.
We made a lunch stop just before rolling up onto the trail and discovered that “fresh seafood” was not so fresh. As a matter of fact, everything on the menu was deep-fried. Yuck. Lesson learned we will not be stopping there next time.
The temp was rising once again and we were actually hoping for some rain. Someone was listening because shortly after shedding some layers, we got dumped on. Perfect, we kept rolling and felt refreshed in our wet clothes as the air blew by. The shower only lasted a few minutes and then the sun came back to visit.
We attempted to do a bit of off-road riding but found a dead end instead. Then, as we made our way back to civilization, a traffic jam on the interstate diverted us up onto a back road somewhere in Kentucky or Illinois, I really am not sure. T made a last-minute turn onto an off-ramp and I was not about to argue. The Interstate did not look appealing with the holiday weekend traffic.
Thanks to the Rever app, we made our way down the backroads all the way up to northern Illinois. Saturday night was spent at a cheap motel along the way and Sunday afternoon we rolled into our driveway. Another successful two-wheeled adventure in the books! Summer flew by as fast as the miles on the highway, and it was one hell of a ride!
September was coming and our epic off/on road western tour was getting closer. I’ll be writing about that one next, hang on and enjoy the ride! Thanks for following along.