Tag Archives: motorcycle

Home Sweet Home

I have been home for just over a week now but haven’t posted about my last day of riding yet because I’ve been busy trying to wrap things up, settle back down, and just get myself back together.

That last day of riding was a breeze. My mom had warned me that it might rain, but I was prepared for the worst, just to get home.

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A funny sign in Idaho city.

I left Idaho city right around 10:30, which was about an hour from the time zone change, so I gained an hour before right away.  It was, for the most part, a nice day.  It was cloudy, but dry and not too much wind, even through the flat lands.   The closer I got to Oregon, the more giddy I got, and – don’t laugh – I actually cried when I saw the “Welcome to Oregon” sign.  Oddly, the time change sign didn’t appear for quite a few miles after the Oregon sign.  Time zones are weird, I tell you.

In Eastern Oregon, there were some mountains just West of Baker City that had a good covering of snow on the tips – this is good news for people in Portland because Mount Hood is significantly higher and must be getting dumped on.  If only I could get one snowboarding run in before shipping out… bad idea, I’d probably break another bone doing that, and then where would I be?

I stopped in Baker city for gas and actually forgot that there are gas pump attendants at gas stations here, something I thought I would never forget.  Too bad they don’t help much with motorcycles, anyway!

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Big ol’ thunderhead in the distance. Fortunately it turned out to be on the Washington side.

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I pulled over at a viewpoint near Arlington, Oregon for a minute to take a picture of the Columbia and the clouds I was riding toward.

Continuing on, I stopped for gas a couple more times, making sure to text my mom at each stop letting her know I hadn’t encountered rain yet.  I intentionally gassed up when I got to the Dalles because I wanted to just push through Hood River without the temptation or excuse to stop, and get home.  From the Dalles Portland is just over 100 miles, so I knew I’d be fine.

Then the rain hit, but only between the Dalles and Hood River.  And I wouldn’t even call it rain, more like sprinkles, or 6 inch rain, as my mom’s brother-in-law, Keith, has apparently dubbed it.

Though I was eager to get home as soon as possible, I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick picture of Multnomah Falls.  Had I been super motivated, I would have taken highway 30 and enjoyed a nice scenic back road view, but I’ve done that and didn’t want to spend an extra hour doing so again.

One of the most majestic aspects of the Columbia River Gorge is the amount of scattered waterfalls throughout the topography.  Some you can see from Interstate 84, but not most.  I still want to see the Oneota Gorge that lies somewhere near Multnomah falls and is said to be visible only by walking through a knee-deep stream.  Multnomah Falls itself is the highest waterfall in Oregon, and arguably the second highest waterfall in the country, depending on the time of year when comparing the competitors.  Regardless of where it ranks, it is awesome to see in person.  My favorite hiking trails reside very close to the falls.

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When coming from the East, passing Multnomah Falls is when you know you’re practically home.

As I got closer to Portland, the threat of rain was beginning to look imminent.  Right about the time I crossed into Portland from Troutdale, I began to notice sprinkles on my visor.  By the time I was through the city and coming out of the Vista Tunnel, it was coming down hard.  Of course, typical Oregonian drivers, traffic slowed down while I managed to get soaked in the course of only a couple of miles.  I told you, God has a great sense of humor!

Needless to say, I got home in one soggy piece, happy as could be.  The mileage on my bike read 8,996.8 miles from the moment I left home in the first place.  Despite thinking about it and having many people suggest it since, I neglected to ride around the block a few times just to get it up to 9k.  It’s 9k anyway you look at it, to me.

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My total trip mileage was 8,996.8 miles; we’ll call it an even 9k.

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After riding through a quick downpour, a rainbow was visible when looking back toward Portland.

I unpacked all my soggy gear and headed to my parents for dinner.  It was so good to see my roommate and my parents.  To be able to hug them and just be in my space was a great relief.

The next day, I started back into training with the Army and at the gym myself.  Everyday I do some sort of workout which typically includes yoga and weightlifting, or running too much and an insanity workout for PT.

At the recruiting station, I brought all the recruiters their Big Sky Brewery special edition Battle of Mogadishu beer labels, which are not for sale and never will be.  These are the labels for beers that are only sent oversees to active duty, deployed troops.  However, the owner of Big Sky was kind enough to send these home with me and I managed to keep them all in one piece!

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The Battle of Mogadishu beer labels given to me by the owner of Big Sky Brewery for my recruiters. I framed the labels before giving them away.

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All the Sergeants at the recruiting station with their Battle of Mogadishu beer labels. (From Left: SGT Borror, SFC Curtis, SGT Baker, SGT Bobian, and SGT Gandia)

Expect to get a couple more updates before I take off in 19 days to basic training.  After that, I won’t be on here for at least three months.  If you’re interested in getting my address to send me letters during basic, please send me your email and address to wendthr@gmail.com and I will add it to a list of people my mom will contact when she gets my address.

Thanks again for reading and God Bless,

Heather

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Backwoods Living

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was the first full day of adventures with my grandfather here in Idaho.  I woke up bright and early in hopes of going hunting and possibly shooting a doe or an elk, as it would be the last day of the hunting season for either in this area.

When I first came downstairs, I noticed a giant flock of wild turkeys running in the front yard.  For the last couple of years, I had listened to my grandfather telling me that he sometimes shot turkeys from his front porch, and he definitely wasn’t kidding.

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Turkeys in the front yard.

Before long, my grandfather whipped up an enormous breakfast consisting of turkey bacon (store bought, not front yard shot), eggs, and toast.  For not being a breakfast guy, he sure makes one heck of a morning meal.  It was still sprinkling rain outside, but we were determined to at least go look for things to shoot.  Since I have never been hunting before, this is as close as I’d get.  My undergraduate degree was in animal sciences, so I am well versed in the growth and harvest of animals for human consumption and am not at all sensitive about the subject; I apologize in advance if I offend any vegetarians out there, but it’s just the way things have to be if you want to try to live off the land and feed your body the nourishment it requires.

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Grandpa telling me stories. I think storytelling runs in the family, but I’m sure his visual aids (like sitting on the floor) are better than mine often are.  Also, can you believe this guy is almost 70?  I think there is fountain of youth out here 😛

We wandered around the local forest area for almost two hours, I think, but without any luck.  The only animal I saw was a tiny (well, normal-sized) chipmunk and some birds.  We came back to the house to warm up a bit before moving on to other things.

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The literary collection of a mountain man, that’s for sure. These are Grandpa’s coffee table books along with a pair of binoculars.

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Searching the back roads for game, without success.

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Fog between the many rolling hills over Idaho City.

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A woodpecker’s nest out in the woods. My niece calls them “woodpackers,” haha.

After warming up a bit, the sun decided to come out and I thought I’d go outside and attempt to rinse off my bike.  Poor Annie was covered in gunk, but it was fortunately easy to wash off.  I took a few before and after pictures.

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Sand, silt, and mud dried on the back and underside of my Kawasaki.

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The front wheel and muffler pipes of the Kawi before washing her. The bottom black pan for catching oil had at least 1/2 an inch of dirt and sand (see picture after next).

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She doesn’t look so bad from a distance, but it was sad to see her this bad.

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All the crud stuck in the bottom fairing before I got to washing it out.

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Clean after a quick rinse!!

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Fortunately, the silt, sand, and mud was very easy to rinse out.

After cleaning my bike, Grandpa wanted to show me some of the toys in his garage.  The main toy was a big tool to facilitate the homemaking of ammunition.  He has all the supplies and just reuses the casings constantly.  The tool in the following picture removes the primer from old casing, inserts a new primer into the casing, reshapes the casing to make sure it isn’t warped, prepares the casing for the lead projectile, the person then adds the appropriately measured gunpowder, and the tool securely installs the projectile into the top of the casing.  The entire process can take less than a minute if you have already weighed out the gunpowder.

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Grandpa showing me how to make ammunition by hand.

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A finished 9mm bullet that grandpa made right then and there.

After seeing how the bullets were made, I had the idea of creating a necklace using a casing and projectile.  Of course I didn’t add gunpowder and left the primer out to have a hold for the necklace chord.  The necklace turned out to be very cool and it took us less than ten minutes to figure it all out.  I have a picture of it at the end of this post.

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Grandpa in his ‘coon hat and camouflage ensemble in front of his gorgeous house.

After getting crafty, we decided it was time for a late lunch.  We went down to a little restaurant in Idaho City called Donna’s placed and gorged ourselves on chili hamburgers and chili dogs.  I picked up a few Idaho postcards and we ordered two heavenly milkshakes to take outside.  Since the sun was finally out, it was nice to get to soak in it for a bit.

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I’m definitely going back on my diet when I get home on Wednesday.  

Our next stop was to the Idaho City Trading Post across the street.  My grandpa says he buys quite a few great things at this shop and figured I’d enjoy it.  I did.  The store had many handmade crafts such as earrings, necklaces, hats, scarves, bracelets, woodcarvings, and more.  I attempted to talk the shop owner into selling her beautiful earrings and necklaces on Etsy, like I do my dog collars; she said she’d look into it.  I left there only buying a cute pair of silver owl earrings and a cool leather bracelet with a metal hibiscus flower pendant tied onto it.

Shortly after, we headed to the post office to pick up some more stamps, then it was back home for the evening.  Well, almost.  On our way back, grandpa thought it would be cool to take me up to the town’s pioneer cemetery.  Supposedly, 3,000 people are buried there, though only about 300 graves are marked.  Creepy!

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Umphrey P. Sept. 1889 to Feb. 1892. Young kid just after the gold rush days.

It was amazing how old some of the graves were, yet they were in decent condition.  After wandering around the cemetery for a bit, we decided to call it a day.  Back at the house, grandpa was trying to figure out his muzzle-loader after having shot it this morning with one misfire and one successful shot.  Apparently, these guns can be loaded and stored that way, but if they sit too long, the shot doesn’t work.  It certainly is a laborious task to load one of these bad boys, a whole lot different than just throwing in a bullet or snapping in a magazine.  I would explain the process, but I’m sure I would give you incorrect information.  Just think about guns around the time of the civil war and how they had to reload and shoot them.  That’s how this bad boy works.

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I think at this point, he was actually reloading the muzzle-loader rather than cleaning it, though it all looks the same, I think.

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My 9mm necklace (along with the two of the three other necklaces I’ve acquired during this trip and my Aries necklace).

I’m off to bed for the night, but I’ll add today’s adventures tomorrow with another round of photos.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading home.  I’m sure I’ll hit rain, but I’m positive it’s worth the effort.  I’m very excited to have dinner with my parent’s and to get to see all the fuzzy animals again.  I miss my kitty that lives with them and I’m sure their golden retriever puppy has tripled in size since he was twelve weeks old when I left and is now around eighteen weeks old.

-H

Dodging Tumbleweeds

Yesterday, I had intended to leave Salt Lake City at 9am, but, per usual, took my time taking off and left just before 10am.  Leaving the valley was as beautiful as it was coming in.  I had never realized how large the whole of Salt Lake City was until I had gone sixty miles north on interstate 15 and still wasn’t out of it.  The sun was trying to come through, but I had checked the forecast several times in the morning and knew it wouldn’t last for me the further north I went.

For the most part, I didn’t get in trouble with weather as I thought I would.  I had some sprinkles of rain, but not enough to chill me.  The most intense weather we the high gusts of wind between the Idaho border and Mountain Home, Idaho.  Gusts would blow me clear across my lane, even if I was bracing for them.  It was raining a bit, but I was more concerned about the tumbleweeds that kept popping out of the ditch and racing across the interstate.  Deer are much easier to predict than these things; at least with deer you can somewhat read their scatter brained fight or flight decisions.  With tumbleweeds, you can’t read the wind, not in the middle of a flat interstate, anyway.  I only hit a very tiny weed, and I was behind a car when it his a decent-sized weed, though it shattered into a million pieces and didn’t bother me; other than that, the ride went without incident.

The way that interstate 84 is set up running through the middle of many mountains and hills, it seems like it funnels win a little too well.  I guess Idaho and Oregon have learned to take advantage of this because both states have put up hundreds of wind turbines to generate power in the last ten years or more.

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Looking back toward Idaho City to see the fog creeping up the valley.

When I took my exit for Idaho City, just before Boise, I got gas and called my grandpa.  Where he lives there is very little chance any cell phone provider will have decent service.  From interstate 84 I was about 39 miles from his house.  Taking Idaho highway 21 North was beautiful, even in the light rain.  The roads are well maintained, the curves are wide, and the scenic view was amazing.  The first part of the road is even with the water of a river running along side of it.  The water is on the lower side of the damn and there is a sufficient barrier between the road and river, so it’s not dangerous, but definitely something to look at.  As I got deeper into the mountains, fog and clouds were hanging around, making everything look so majestic.  All of it really took my breath away.

I got into Idaho City then followed my grandpa’s instructions to take a dirt road a couple miles to his house; I didn’t follow the instructions very well because I couldn’t find his place and had to ride around in the mud for a while.  My new tires are awesome for rain, but a little iffy in the mud and sand.  Fortunately, I’ve got the balance thing down – Annie (my bike) and I are on our own wavelength these days, and we had no incidents.

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All mucked up after about 5 miles in the sandy mud. The front is even worse.

My grandpa lives in an awesome cabin-type home.  I’d say it’s the closest thing anyone lives in these days to a real log cabin, but with all the great amenities and luxuries of a modern home.  I’ll take a picture of it for the next post.

After settling in, we headed back into town for some dinner.  My grandpa’s favorite dinner spot is called Diamond Lil’s.  They served a delicious open-faced prime rib with mashed potatoes, corn, and a spicy horseradish that I loved.  It was a home-cooked meal without all the clean up.  The restaurant, as my grandpa said, is like a museum.  All over, different denominations of various currencies are either hanging from the rafters, framed, or taped to the walls.  I found a rack of old beer cans, funny old war posters, and historical maps.  Holly, the woman running the place, gave us a grand tour and told us that the building was built in the 1800’s and the few brick walls in the place contained brick that was created not far away.  Idaho City was birthed during the age of the Gold Rush and at one point had the largest population in the northwest, even bigger than Portland.  Of course, that was only 7,000 people in 1864 (thank you Wikipedia), but that was huge back then, and certainly bigger than the current population of 500 or so.  I like the town.  The old buildings have character and exude history.  Grandpa and Holly said that many of the bricks in the building and rocks in the area still have gold in them.

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Can you spot the little snow ball?

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Canned beer, in real cans.

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View of the Diamond Lil’s Bar.

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Let’s have another war because it’ll be cheaper than the first…

imageAfter dinner, we grabbed some ice cream and beer from the small store on the corner and headed home.  We called it a night pretty early.

Today, we may go try to hunt some deer or elk because it is the last day of the season.  Yesterday I saw a nice doe from the side of the road, but we were occupied with going to dinner.  Maybe I’ll bring some luck today.  It is pouring buckets outside, which will make it fun to try to stay dry, but it’s supposed to clear up tomorrow and Wednesday.

We will make the best of the day 🙂

H

The Great Salt Lake

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Snow coming down over my family’s back yard in Salt Lake City.

For not planning a stop in Salt Lake City in the first place, I sure have stayed longer than I planned.  When I showed up to Salt Lake City on Thursday, I met my aunt and uncle at the local high school gym where my cousin, Kiera, was playing on the varsity volleyball team and my uncle Steve was helping coach.  Eventually my youngest cousins in this family, Alek and Austin, showed up after their football practices.

Uncle Steve is my mom’s brother and in total him and aunt April have six children.  Josh, Aaron, and Mandie are the three oldest.  I haven’t seen most of them for ten years, and I think it’s been longer since I saw Josh; I was 16, Aaron was 22 I think, Mandie was 20, Kiera was 6, Alek was 3, and Austin was 1, so the youngest three didn’t remember me.  I enjoyed spending time with these guys so much that I stayed an extra day, all of Saturday, to see Alek and Austin play, and win, each of their football games.

The funny part about me showing up on Thursday was that uncle Steve forgot to tell everyone that I was coming to visit until that morning.  Kiera’s volleyball team didn’t win, but the community around the team was still friendly and cheerful.  The people surrounding my family in their sports life is very supportive and encouraging; it is a welcoming environment to anyone.

Friday, the kids had the day off and I had to scramble to find a motorcycle place to get me a replacement front tire.  I found a parts dealer that would install the tire for me for a little extra, which was no big deal.  I followed my uncle in the rain to the shop and dropped it off, just before the snow started to fall.  While my bike was at the shop, we all went off to a funeral, the grandmother of my cousin Aaron’s wife, whom the couple had been living with to help her as much as possible.  While it was weird for me to go, no one seemed to mind, and I was happy to get to see Aaron and meet his wife.  I figured the funeral would be dull and sad, but the family did a great job telling the story of the woman’s life and her commitment to her family and personal values – something everyone should strive for.

After the funeral, we visited a friend of the family that just had her gall bladder removed.  What a tough girl!  During this time, the shop called to tell me that my back tire was worse than my front and that I should probably replace both.  I agreed, thinking I could spare no expense to keep me safe during my last legs home.  I know I’ll be hitting rain most of the time, so safety is necessary.

After grabbing dinner to go, the family dropped me off and I followed them home.  The new tires look sweet (see photos below).  I opted for Pilot Road 3s (“PR3s”) By Michelin because of the extra siping on the tires (small cuts), that help to wick away as much rain as possible and improve the traction of the bike in all conditions.  My friend Brian says these tires made him fall in love with his bike all over again.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Friday night, the high school football team had a home game just around the corner, which none of the kids play on, but is still a good community event to attend.  I hardly watched the first quarter of the game because my aunt and uncle introduced me to homemade scones, not like the kind you buy at the donut shop, with this stuff called honey butter on them.  They were delicious and my fat kid side totally thanked them.  The other big distraction for me was the sun setting on the eastern mountains of the valley.  From the stands, we could see the mountains in all their glory.  Actually, there is hardly a place in Kearns, UT, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where you don’t have a good view of a few of the many mountains.

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Pink skies provide a heavenly backdrop for the mountains east of SLC.

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Another beautiful glimpse of the mountains… and high school football.

The football game was a dramatic game, from being down by three touchdowns, to up by one point with 12 minutes left in the last quarter, then down by six with 3 minutes to go, then up by one again with one minute to go.  It was intense, but so fun to watch!  The temperature in the stands was around 50 degrees and we were all huddled in heavy blankets to keep warm.

Saturday, the forecast was 70 degrees at midday, completely opposite of the night before.  I was planning on watching both boys play each of their football games, then heading out around noon.  The games ran long due to injuries, but both boys won their games by quite a few points.   By 1pm the games were over, but my uncle and I discussed the different options and he said they would be happy to host me for another night.  For me, staying was the easy choice because I love hanging out with these guys and seeing all the kids grown up, it’s an opportunity no one else in my family back home has gotten to enjoy.

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The day time view of the mountains west of SLC from my family’s back yard.

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My new rear tire, siped and ready to go!

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My new front tire. I get to break these babies in today!

Another thing the Perry’s (my family in Salt Lake City) said I needed to do before I left was go to a restaurant called Leatherby’s.  They had wonderful homemade food and enormous dessert orders.  I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and shared a banana split with Mandie – which, even together, we could not finish.

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Bacon cheeseburgers and cheese fries at Leatherby’s, banana split in the background.

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The most intense banana split I’ve ever seen.

Today, the high temperature in Salt Lake City will be 80 degrees, but it’s been raining all night and morning at my destination of Idaho City, Idaho.  I will go there to see my mom’s father, Grandpa Richard, and possibly go hunting with him.  I’m not excited for more rain, but I am excited to break these tires in, finally visit my grandpa after years of telling him I would, and get a little closer to home!

H

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The Perry’s from left: Mandie, Alek, Uncle Steve, Aunt April, Kiera, and Austin. Yes, they’re all taller than me… even Austin, barely. No, they didn’t dress up just for the picture.

Nebraska on Interstate 80

Interstate 80 runs, as far as I know, across the entire country.  I rode on it in Ohio and Indiana and got back on it in Des Moines, Iowa.  I will continue to ride it to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I will switch over to Interstate 84 all the way home.  Home.  I have never missed it so much.  I think this version of homesickness comes from missing the solid relationships I’ve nurtured over the past few months with my friends Brian, Josh, and all my Army future soldiers, and also that I miss my family a great deal – which includes my roommate, Chris.  I don’t miss my material things or even my bed, of all those things.  I miss the strength of the relationships at home, the companionship I have when I’m there. I miss the idea of home, something I’ve felt without since I left for college; the last few years have seemed like me fitting comfortably in homes of others, but never really bein able to claim a place as my own until this year.  I have never met so many friendly strangers as I have out here on the road, but there is very little to continue relating to others and the short conversations only slightly crack the surface of my character and theirs.  I am endlessly grateful for the people I have been able to visit on this trip, though I still have a few more to catch up to.  Without this journey, who knows when the next time would be that I’d get to see these people.  I can’t tell you how many people have wept at my departure, and I do, too, out of joy for having had such experiences.  I don’t feel like people are crying because they’re sad, I feel like it’s a mix of pride, happiness, and gratefulness to have me in their lives.  I know I’m a pretty great person, but I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for all these wonderful people.  And I wouldn’t be great if it weren’t for them.

Nebraska.  Oh flat, windy, Nebraska.  As I was approaching the eastern border of the state from Des Moines, I was staring at a cloud that went North to South for as far as I could see.  It was a visible border between Iowa and Nebraska that looked like rain.  I saw a magnificent bald eagle soaring over the interstate at one point – so amazing.

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Looking back east into Iowa, preparing to cross into Nebraska.

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Looking west to Nebraska, praying to avoid rain. I did, thank God.

The sun was setting between 6 and 7pm and made for a magnificent sunset between the clouds.  As I entered Omaha, I knew I was extremely blessed to not be under rain; as I looked North, I saw it coming down, and as I looked South, it was the same view.   Somehow, I was riding in the only place it wasn’t raining, so I kept going.  I rode until long after dark.  Chip and Roxanne had provided me with a pair of leather chaps that both of them had grown out of, and they kept me more than warm.  The road was nice, decently lit, and I wasn’t yet tired.  I rode until 9pm, when I started to notice a sprinkling of rain and the wind picking up.

I found a quaint little campsite off of the interstate that allowed night time check-ins and only cost $16 for a campsite.  No one would have been the wiser if I paid or not, as the office would be unoccupied until 1pm the next day.  However, I’m an honest traveler and would not like any sort of negativity to come back and bite me in the butt later.

Setting up my tent in the wind was entertaining, but not difficult.  For the first time during my camping adventures on my trip I had to use all of the stakes provided with the tent kit in order to keep all the various flaps from making a major commotion all night.  The stakes were a pain to attempt to shove into the one inch of dirt and successive gravel, but whatever.  I’m not sure why most tent sites have gravel under the dirt, it never works to drive the stakes into it.  Most of the stakes held up over night, and the flapping was kept to a minimum, considering the constant gusts of wind.  Sometime in the middle of the night, I was awoken by the sound of cats fighting and it sounded like they were in the grass right next to my tent.  After a few seconds, I heard one scamper away and the other scurry up the tree above my tent.  This made me reconsider the notion that they were cats, but probably raccoons instead.  I remember hearing raccoons fight during the summer of 2008 when I lived with my sister in Seattle.  The pair then was in the top of a tall pine tree and we watched the great pine sway with the commotion of the psycho rodents.  I didn’t hear anything else from the two creeps for the rest of the night there in Nebraska, though I did hear the tree monger jump down and go his own way a couple hours later; the loud thud and crunching of leaves gave him away.

I’d still take bratty raccoons over a bear any day.

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Another sunrise view from my tent, probably my last camping adventure of the trip. I liked the look of the backhoe tractor in the shadows.

In the morning, I laid in my tent as long as possible.  The blowing wind and cloudy skies were not a welcome sight, but I did what I could to muster up some motivation to change clothes, eat a breakfast of Snickers and Blisscuits, brush my teeth, pack up, and move on.  Checkout for the campground was 11am, but I left before ten.

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My Blisscuit breakfast, thanks to Matt and Jennilee for giving me a supply of them to survive with. They are filling little gluten-free morsels.

The ride was pretty uneventful during the morning.  I stopped for gas a couple of times, needing more frequent breaks than usual due to the gusts of wind hitting me constantly.  Usually wind just breezes past me, since my body is not very big, but the wind came from all sides and was worsened by the semi-trucks.  It was easy to counter them and not stressful or scary, but it was exhausting.  It also greatly reduced my fuel efficiency.

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I stopped at a tiny gas station about halfway through Nebraska. The counter consisted of this year’s NASCAR schedule. Yee-haw!

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I managed to capture a shot of the “Welcome to Wyoming” sign.

Right as I was getting into Wyoming, it seemed that all the boring parts had been exclusively written into the state boundaries of Nebraska.  Wyoming was immediately more hilly, had more trees, and had a lot more to look at in terms of topographical geography and landscape.

About 60 miles east of my destination of Laramie, Wyoming, I lifted my visor to scratch an itch on my face and a bug flew in my nose!  It was amusing attempting to get the bug out of my nose while going 80mph, at least until I hit a bump and gave myself a nosebleed, which made the situation even more amusing.  The only thing I could grab to stifle the blood flow was the rag I use to wipe bugs off of my visor every night.  Ironic that, while attempting to remove a bug, I had to resort to putting a bug-covered rag in my nose.  Within a mile was an exit and I managed to pull off and get to a gas station to clean myself up.  Oh the joys of adventuring!

The bloody rag from my the fiasco of having a bug in my nose.

The bloody rag from the fiasco of having a bug in my nose.

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Finally, Wyoming offers some landscape I could appreciate, other than the flat, corny fields of Nebraska.

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Arriving in Laramie, the Snowies mountains in the distance were a welcoming site.

I arrived in Laramie around 5:30pm and met with my long time friend, Tucker.  I was able to get my stuff settled, shower, and then we took off for dinner.  The local hot spot is a place called Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, which had one of the best IPAs I’ve ever tasted.  The food was very good, too.  I had a Thai-spiced salmon burger with waffle fries.

The night ended with some catching up and crashing around 11pm.

Today, I have spent the entire morning finishing up my masters program; I have officially completed all the schoolwork necessary to earn my degree, save for one discussion board posting I’ll submit tomorrow.  I’m very ecstatic about the completion of this endeavor, since I’ll have nothing but riding home, blog posting, and sending postcards to worry about for the next week.

Since Tucker is working until at least 4pm, I am going to attempt some more of this Geocaching business, we’ll see if I encounter an success this time around.

Until next time,

Heather

From the Land of Lincoln Back to the Hawkeye State

 

 

 

 

 

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A true Chicago-style pizza… it was amazing and one piece was a meal in itself.

After the last time I signed off, I decided to stay another night in the suburbs of Chicago in order to spend a bit more time with Jennilee and Matt.  It was worth it.  In the morning they headed off to run errands, giving me time to get the remainder of my travel plans for the way home completed and to finish up some homework.  For lunch, they ordered a Chicago-style pizza, which was to die for, if you were that intense about food.  The flaky, buttery crust is not something people make on the west coast, so it was new and delicious.  Before long, Matt had to go do some personal things so Jennilee and I decided we would walk the dogs while she introduced me to Geocacheing.  I already knew what the premise of the hobby was, but had never found a good enough app for my phone to get started.  She had some great insight and we attempted to find a cache that she had gone searching for a couple of times, without success.  Needless to say, the help of my beginner skills were of little assistance and we walked away empty-handed.  Attempting not to leave the venture unfruitful, we looked for another cache hidden by another user, but again failed at that.  Maybe we need to work on our scavenger hunting skills…  I’m thankful for the adventure, though because I have been checking in on the app regularly and notice that there are caches even in the most remote of places.

For dinner we had leftover pizza and prepared to tag along with Matt for his first indoor soccer game.

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The painted sunset in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Matt really did not want us to watch him play, but what else were we going to do?  Plus, we knew it would be good entertainment after watching him try to put his shin guards on the outside of his soccer socks; he hadn’t played soccer at all since 5th grade.

 

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Matt’s team, in black, vs. the red jerseys.

Despite his nerves, Matt actually did really well.  Jennilee and I were able to spectate up in the bar overlooking the field.

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My gracious hosts, Matt, Hex, Jennilee, and Cocoa.  Thanks for agreeing to the impromptu photo-op!

We had planned to stay out later, but exhaustion hit fast and we all went to bed fairly early.  The next morning, Jennilee was off to work and I left as soon as I could.  When Matt was seeing me off, he mentioned that one of my headlights was out, but I figured that was just because I didn’t have my high beams on.  Unless my high beams are on, only one bulb is lit.  Unfortunately, he was right.  One of my headlights had gone out.

I took highway 20 all the way from Schaumburg to the Iowa border, crossing the Mississippi at midday.  I was able to appreciate the mighty river much more in the rural setting than I had been when I crossed it heading east through Memphis on an interstate.

Saturday’s journey was shorter than most as I had under 300 miles to go.  I ended my ride with a stop at the Waukon, IA Powersports/Harley Davidson dealership to see if I could replace my burnt out light bulb.  I showed up at 4:40pm when they closed at 5pm, so I had all the help I could need there – literally four guys were attempting to simultaneously find a replacement bulb, or one that could at least be a temporary fix until I got back home to replace some parts.  It turns out my bulb wasn’t the problem; instead, the relay that the power to the bulb routes to was rusted, probably from the rainy day in Indiana.

Before I was finished at the shop, my host for the next two days, Chip had flagged me down.  I had forgotten that he worked there, so it was pretty decent timing after all.  Once the shop was closed, I followed him home to meet up with Roxanne and Jay for dinner and just winding down for the evening.  We spent a bit of time walking a large chunk of land Jay had just signed for the day before.  It was pretty cool to get to see the land undeveloped and imagine possibly coming back to visit one day to see what all he has been able to make of the property.  Right now he has plans for a house, a shop, and maybe something near a small pond.  This piece of property is a gem because it has a bit of open space and quite a bit more of forest land to do with what he wants.  If I had land like this, I think I would get enjoy the seclusion and would probably personalize every corner of it for me to enjoy the nature of it.

Sunday morning the four of us had planned a day ride, every destination within an hour of their home.  I had opted to ride on the back of a borrowed bike driven by Jay, so that I could take in the scenery more than if I were driving.  It was amazing, though the little passenger seat was rough.  I found myself telling Jay it made me very grateful for the comfort of my own seat, even if my butt gets numb occasionally. Throughout the day we ventured to heights overlooking the Mississippi, at one point we crossed the river via ferry just like people have done for the last couple hundred years, we rode through Wisconsin, briefly crossed into Minnesota, and back to Iowa.

While in Wisconsin, we took a break to go to Cabela’s, we stopped at an Army surplus store and purchased parachord rope so that I could make everyone bracelets, and we stopped in LaCrosse to run some errands and eat an early dinner.  Jay and Chip had to return some tools at Sears and Roxanne and I “had” to get our nails done.  If I have one aspect that is girly through and through, it’s my nails.  If I don’t keep up on the manicures, gel polish specifically, my nails get brittle and look like manhands.  I don’t want manhands.  It’ll be interesting trying to keep up with the manicures while in the Army… I guess I’ll have to opt for clear polish and hope it works the same, though it won’t compare to my typical neon colors.

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Our first view from Pike’s Peak, Iowa. Here, I was able to complete a geocache of taking a picture, even though the view was all fog in the morning.

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A sign in Guttenburg, Iowa listing several interesting city names and their distances, all over the country.

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A peek at the Mississippi from a viewpoint on the Iowa side.

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Here comes the Cassville Ferry!

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The Cassville Ferry preparing to release vehicles.

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The only vehicles onboard.

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Looking south down the Mississippi from the ferry.

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Crossing back to Iowa over the Mississippi via a blue bridge from Wisconsin.

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We revisited Pike’s Peak to get a fogless view. Well worth it. In the distance, the Wisconsin River is meeting the Mississippi River (bottom).

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OSU pride… right in the middle of Cabela’s 🙂

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The entry sign to LaCrosse, Wisconsin. True #laxonlaxonlax.

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Artistic shot of a train as we waited to proceed.

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Chip, Roxanne, and Jay. I love candid photos 🙂

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The view from Granddad’s Bluff in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. We estimated that at least 15 miles are visible here.

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Heading into Minnesota on another blue bridge.

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Farm barns and silos at sunset in Iowa.

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A beautiful church that is in Minnesota, but its parking lot is in Iowa.

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The first “welcome to” sign I have captured on this whole journey. Welcome to Iowa, at sunset.

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Another sunset picture. Burning sky over cornfields.

Sunday night was laid back.  I had went to bed before working on more homework but was able to take a nice, hot bath to relax.  Monday morning was a typical packing-up-and-leaving start with much mapping involved.  I ended up making it to Nebraska last night, but I’ll save that for another post.

Until then, thank you for reading!  I am learning more and more how many quiet readers are out there following my journey, mostly because I started to get texts last night asking if I was still alive and okay since I hadn’t posted in a couple days.  Sorry to keep you waiting – I’m doing my best to be prompt 🙂

Heather

Storms Always Pass

September 19, 2013

Tonight I arrived safely in Chicago after riding 500 miles across two major turnpikes in four states, coming from Pittsburgh this morning.

When I set out from DC yesterday afternoon, I was thinking I wouldn’t have much to write about, as the ride was pretty uneventful. I didn’t leave Washington until 3pm because I was still recovering from staying up so late the night before, which was well worth it.  Had I been hungover from a night of drunken debauchery, I would not be able to say the same.

Riding through the state of Virginia was peaceful and serene – the kind of perfect ride any motorcyclist would pray for in the winter or spring.  As I headed west, I enjoyed the stimulating views of the autumn leaves starting to catch their colors, but not yet giving up and falling to clutter the highway, thankfully.  My plan was to make it to Ohio by nightfall and set up camp somewhere near the interstate.  Around 5:30 I stopped for dinner and crossed into Pennsylvania, hitting the major turnpike.  I thought it was odd that the toll gate didn’t issue me a ticket, and it didn’t have a “press button for ticket” button.  Somehow, the light eventually turned green for me, so I wrote it off thinking maybe motorcycles don’t have to pay this toll.  As I rode on, I kept my eye on the sky, monitoring a significant collection of clouds and feeling the temperature drop as I climbed in elevation.  The hilly terrain while on a smooth, wide highway was relaxing, especially since I was listening to “Lost” by Gregory MacGuire on mp3; I decided to take a break from Atlas Shrugged for a couple days and enjoy a different story.  I’m only about halfway through the epic novel, which recounts a detailed history of the intertwined lives of several individuals; sometimes it’s stressful.

After 100 miles or so, I passed a sign saying the next gas wasn’t for 80+ miles, so I figured I’d better get gas and grab some coffee while I was at it.  While gassing up, I noticed another Kawasaki rider was doing the same, and decided to ask him about the turnpike rules for motorcycles.  Ron, a former Marine and Maryland resident headed for Pittsburgh, informed me that motorcycles have to pay the toll, too, though he wasn’t sure how I was able to get the green light to go.

Ron and I chatted for a bit before I headed inside for food and coffee.  When I came out, he was still there.  He told me his cousin lives in Pittsburgh and that I was welcome to crash on their couch if I wanted to.

People, most specifically my parents, probably think I’m crazy for talking to strangers and being so comfortable as a female that weighs 130 pounds on a heavy day.  However, part of living in a society is respecting the kind gestures of other people and not being paranoid that everyone is out to get you.  I think my greatest sidekick on this entire adventure has been courage – courage to be open to new experiences and meet new people, accepting of any consequences that may arise.  Had it not been for this courage, I would not be able to call this whole thing an adventure.

Being as the clouds were still hanging about and I could feel the possibility of rain coming, I took Ron up on his offer.  Less than 30 miles later we were exiting the turnpike and I had to figure out how to pay the lady at the booth without a ticket.  Unfortunately, if you are not issued a ticket, usually if you neglect to take one, you are charged as if you rode the entire turnpike – which is this case would have been all the way from New Jersey.  $37 in toll fare later (OUCH!), we were in the heart of Pittsburgh, passing Heinz field and countless iconic bridges.  I thought Portland had an overabundance of bridges, but Pittsburgh definitely has more.

After ordering New York style pizza from the local delivery place, we chatted for a while then fell asleep.  I was surprisingly comfortable on the couch there in the multi-tenant house in Pittsburgh.  The area was nice enough for me to be able to leave my saddlebags on my bike and park it on a steep hill with out fear of someone stealing anything.

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My bike (background) and Ron’s bike – a late 90’s model Kawi with very low miles and a Yoshimura exhaust – nice!

I woke up around 9 and Ron and I decided to go get a quick coffee and breakfast down the street, then he would guide me back to the interstate and on my way toward Ohio, Indiana, and eventually Chicago.

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Ron and a small view of the rolling hills beyond Pittsburgh.

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Old school buildings lining the streets of Pittsburgh.

After Pittsburgh, it was only a few miles before I made it into Ohio.  The morning had felt like it was going to be cold, but ended up being pretty warm, though still cold enough to keep my jacket on, minus all the long-sleeved under layers.  I got onto the Ohio turnpike, this time making sure I got a ticket, and kept riding until I was hungry enough for lunch.  On turnpikes, rather than regular gas stations, there are “Rest Plazas” that have gas stations, convenience stores, many have Starbucks, fast food, and even showers for truckers and whoever would like to bathe there.  I didn’t want to eat anymore Starbucks pastries, so I opted for Hardee’s, the eastern U.S.’ version of Carl’s Jr.  It also was called “Red Burrito,” not to be confused be Carl’s Jr.’s green version.  They had many options for enormous burgers, and even though I was hungry, I knew I wouldn’t have room for much.  The lady at the counter politely suggested I get a kids meal because it was cheap and there was a small-sized burger.  I went along with this but was unpleasantly let down when my meal did not include a toy.

Just kidding.  The last thing I need is any unnecessary trinkets to fill my precious cargo space.

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My Hardee’s Kiddie meal.

After lunch, I continued westward.  Before leaving Ohio, it began to rain, but not too intensely, just enough to be uncomfortable.  I considered stopping, since I wasn’t as fortunate as the last time I encountered rain in that I could not see any break in the clouds.  Instead of giving in, I tucked my head down, kept my arms and knees close to my gas tank for warmth, and trudged on.  This past July I had traveled up to my Sister’s home in Seattle to visit and ended up riding the entire way back in the rain.  Then, it seemed like a disaster and I was terrified and miserable, but in Ohio on the turnpike, the roads were in much better shape, it was still a decently warm temperature, and visibility was great.  All these factors reminded me that I had no room to complain.

During this portion of my ride, I had a personal epiphany.  Thinking about how long I’d be riding in the rain, the months to come in basic training, the years to come in my life, and everything I’ve survived through up until this point, I realized that, no matter the severity of the struggle at hand, there will always come a time for it to be over.  Even if there isn’t a visible break in the clouds from where I’m standing, there will be eventually.  When I go through basic, this simple memory will sustain me.  When I am deployed to God-knows-where, the people that tell me daily how I inspire them will be in my thoughts.  And when I get so homesick I want to breakdown, I will count down the days and keep my head up.

Before too long, the Ohio turnpike ended.  I was able to enjoy a whole one minute break from the rain while paying my cheap (compared to Pennsylvania) toll under the roof of the toll plaza.  Then, it was on to Indiana.  Again, I approached a ticket booth for Indiana’s turnpike, which attempted to not give me a ticket, but I refused to leave without one… been there, made that mistake.  This booth had a button to push for a ticket, and it still wouldn’t spit anything out for me.  I hit the “Help” button and waited for an answer.  Finally, I was issued a ticket and on I went.  At least I enjoyed more relief from the rain!

It is hard to say I was able to get a great feel for Indiana, since I was so far north in the state and sticking only to the Interstate.  I do know that I was close to Michigan and the Great Lakes, which is what I blame the wonderful rain on.  After 100 miles of riding in the rain, I began to see that it was clearing up – thank God.  It wasn’t so much as I was miserable or anything, I was mostly worried about my bags soaking through and my laptop getting destroyed ten days before completing my masters degree.  I stopped at a rest plaza, grabbed some coffee, pulled out my laptop and other electronics, and wrapped them up in case I encountered more rain in the 100 miles to come.  Many things in my tank bag were soaked, but nothing important that I can’t live without.  Actually, I don’t think I own anything in my life that I can’t live without; though my motorcycle comes close, I value my own life much more.

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Looking back at the storm I just rode through.

Just before 7pm I passed through the exit of the Indiana turnpike and continued on toward Chicago.  I pulled over just after the toll stop to remove an extra hood I had on under my helmet and forgot to buckle up my helmet.  I spent the next few miles attempting to securely fasten my helmet while riding, since all the shoulders said no parking for any reason; I’d rather not risk becoming roadkill thanks to an unfortunate semi truck accident.  During this distracted time, I managed to miss my turn onto the interstate going around Chicago and ended paying two tolls totaling $6 to go through the city.  Traffic was terrible, but I think it was worth it.  The sun was setting and the enormous skyline of Chicago was mostly visible, except for a layer of mystical-looking fog looming over the more distant skyscrapers.

Just before 8pm I arrived in the Western Chicago suburb of Schaumburg where two friends of mine from college, Matt and Jennilee Shepard, have lived for just over a year.  After a much-needed shower and settling in, we went to dinner at this great diner called Portillo’s, which is known for their hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, according to the Shepards.  I went for the hot dog, since it is my favorite American food (especially when it’s $1.50 at Costco).  The hot dog was amazing to say the least!

We quickly called it a night.  We’ll see what tomorrow’s adventures may hold.

H