Tag Archives: rain

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

Little Laramie and the Road to Utah

When I first arrived in Laramie on Tuesday afternoon, I parked in a parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus to give Tucker a call.  Coincidentally, I saw the backside of the UW chapter of Chi Omega across the lot.  I had to walk around to the front to snap a picture.

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University of Wyoming’s Chi Omega.

On Wednesday, Tucker worked until the afternoon, so I ventured out into Laramie.  Last I wrote I was in a coffee shop wrapping up my master’s degree.  After finishing up all my necessary tasks, I headed back to Tucker’s house and threw on my workout clothes and running shoes.  Randomly, I had the urge to go for a run and geocache to get out some energy – I must have had too much coffee or something.  As I ran, I quickly became exhausted.  I didn’t remember ever getting out of shape this quickly before and was momentarily upset at myself for not working out more during the past few weeks.  Fortunately, I quickly remembered that Laramie sits higher than 7,000 feet in elevation, while Beaverton, where I live and train, is just under 200 feet in elevation.  Oops.  My lungs were not happy.  For the rest of the day I periodically coughed and sputtered as my lungs protested my attempt at cardio.  The outing was not a total bust, though.  I wandered around Laramie attempting to find caches, with no success on my own, but I did manage to spot some antelope grazing in the area and found a great overlook of Laramie.

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Kind of difficult to see, but there are two antelope in this photo.

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Two more antelope in the distance, this pair let me get closer.

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Grand Street in Laramie with the Snowy Mountain Range in the background.

Around 5pm, I headed back to the house to shower up and figure out the rest of the night.  Tucker came in soon after me and we headed out to attempt some more geocaching, I figured I could do better with help, and then on to dinner.

Geocaching was a success!  We found three caches out of the five we searched for; we think the two failed attempts were lost to recent construction.  That or we are just terrible beginners.

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My first successful geocache find! Thanks to Tucker for helping!

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My second successful geocache find. I had searched for at least half an hour on my own and came back later with Tucker.

After a wonderful dinner at a local joint called McAlisters, we called it a night.

The next morning, I had planned on getting up before 7am and leaving early, but slept poorly and woke up around 8am.  I went to prep my bike and found frost on my seat, so it was a good thing that I waited until later, anyway.  I left Laramie right around 9am and it was cold out.  I had mapped out my journey to Salt Lake City, but found an alternate route through the mountains and down into Colorado.  This alternate would add two extra hours and 70 miles to my journey, but it seemed worth it.

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Found the first frost on my bike on Thursday morning.

Within the first hour of my ride, I was grateful to have chosen a route other than the interstate.  The winding, sloping roads of the smaller Wyoming highways were much more fun.  Since it was still very early in the day and I was continuing to climb in elevation, the temperatures stayed cold.  Had it not been for the chaps given to me by Roxanne and Chip in Iowa and the fleece the hood from Ron in Pittsburgh, I’m sure I would not have made it through the day, no joke.  The only cold thing on me was my fingertips, but I persevered, at least until I found good stopping spots with things for me to photograph.  The wildlife on the journey was incredible.  I saw what I thought was a majestic black eagle, I had forgotten that juvenile bald eagles are completely dark until about two years of age.  I saw many little prairie dogs or groundhogs, whatever they’re called out here; most of them held a regal stance as they soaked their faces in the rising sun just outside of their holes.  I also saw many more antelope.  I can recall at least three giant herds of 30 or more just grazing in large fields.  I will admit, I did honk my horn and wave at them out of excitement… yes, I am a dork.  At the edge of Wyoming, just before the Colorado border, I began to notice yellow and red leaves in the trees, the most changed leaves I have seen yet.  I’m not sure if autumn is starting all at once and I missed it by a week back east or if it is starting out here because the cold is already hitting the higher elevations, but it was beautiful.

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I stopped to warm my fingers up a bit and get some pictures of the coming autumn.

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The views riding through northern Colorado were breathtaking. I stopped more times than I ever do just to take pictures.

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It was neat to see all the ranches from the main roads in Colorado. The view from this driveway looking back east was phenomenal.

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The view looking east from Grizzly Ranch.

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The view looking west behind the ranch.

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Just beyond the cars in view is a rock feature on top of the mountain. I didn’t get to stop to take a picture other than this construction break. In Colorado.

Riding through Colorado was breathtaking.  With each straight stretch, I was acquainted with views of brilliant mountain ranges extending for miles and miles.  The valley floors had grasslands populated by cattle and horses.  I caught up to highway 40 heading west and had the ride of my life. The smooth, sweeping curves were meant for riding and the rise and fall in elevation made the ride all the more entertaining.  The views were spectacular as the highway took me up to the top of the Rabbit Ear Range and back down into the valley where Steamboat Springs lies.  Another motorcyclist trailed me the entire decent to Steamboat Spring.  The only thing I would change about the decent would be the wind; gusts hit me from time to time and would scoot me across my lane, but my bike handled it all well.

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Catching glimpses of mountains and rock formations between Colorado and Utah.

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More mountain ranges coming into view.

After Steamboat Springs (a gorgeous little town, by the way), the scenery turned to much flatter ground, though still accompanied by mountain ranges in the distance.  After a while, I arrived in Dinosaur, Colorado to refuel and get some snacks.  Within a couple of miles, I was in eastern Utah.

The flat lands went on, then began to ascend into the mountains.  I realized that the temperature was dropping as I climbed and feared I may hit rain.  I did.  For ten miles I rode through mild rain, after which I chuckled and said, “is that it?”  It wasn’t.  I was in the clear for a few more minutes, but then I would ride through another 45 miles of rain, stopping for gas, seeing the rain turn into snow for a bit, then back to rain as I dropped into the Salt Lake City Valley.  Fortunately, the snow didn’t stick, thought I did have a mild heart attack from the freezing temperatures.

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Temperatures began to drop so I took a scenic view break to warm my hands up. I found this awesome little river.

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SNOW?!? Uh oh!

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Just rode through the neighboring clouds, on to the next one.

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Salt Lake City, just behind those cloudy hills.

Though the cold weather was terrible, it reminded me that I would soon be safe and warm.  As soon as I was back on interstate 80, I knew I was close enough to stop stressing.  I met my uncle, aunt, and cousins at their local high school to watch one of my cousins play volleyball on the varsity team that my uncle helps coach.  It took a bit for me to get warm and dry, but I eventually did and looked back on the day with pride that I made it through.

-H

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.

image

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