Tag Archives: Roadtrip

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.

image

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!

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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!

image

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.

image

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

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

Searching the back roads for game, without success.

image

Fog between the many rolling hills over Idaho City.

image

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.

image

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

image

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).

image

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

image

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

image

Clean after a quick rinse!!

image

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.

image

Grandpa showing me how to make ammunition by hand.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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!

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

Can you spot the little snow ball?

image

Canned beer, in real cans.

image

View of the Diamond Lil’s Bar.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

The view looking east from Grizzly Ranch.

image

The view looking west behind the ranch.

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

image

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

image

SNOW?!? Uh oh!

image

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

image

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

From the Land of Lincoln Back to the Hawkeye State

 

 

 

 

 

image

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.

image

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.

 

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

Here comes the Cassville Ferry!

image

The Cassville Ferry preparing to release vehicles.

image

The only vehicles onboard.

image

Looking south down the Mississippi from the ferry.

image

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

image

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).

image

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

image

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

image

Artistic shot of a train as we waited to proceed.

image

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

image

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

image

Heading into Minnesota on another blue bridge.

image

Farm barns and silos at sunset in Iowa.

image

image

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

image

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

image

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

The Tail of the Dragon and on to the Atlantic Ocean

Written September 2nd, 2013.

If you haven’t seen on facebook or instagram, I have finally arrived in North Carolina to rest for a couple of weeks before returning back to the west coast via a different route than the one I arrived on.

Thursday morning was a foggy, damp morning.  Putting away my tent and other camping items was interesting as I had to try to dry everything off from the intense dew that settled during the night.  No bears had come, though the people in the neighboring cabins asked if I’d heard them in the night because they saw a great deal of trash strewn about.  They all got a good laugh when I told them about the dogs.

I set out around 10:30am, I was psyching myself out a bit about the Tail of the Dragon, thinking it would be nerve-racking, when it really wasn’t.  It is a well-known motorcycle and sport car route that has 318 turns in 11 miles, sometimes called Highway 129 South.  Many signs warn trucks to turn turn around because there are so many switchbacks to come.  The route takes riders over the mountains and through some very green forest area.  Before you get to the actual switchbacks, the road is parallel to a river.  I pulled over to take some great scenery pictures because the view was too good to pass up!

image

Overlooking Chilhowee Lake before getting into the switchbacks of the Tail of the Dragon.

Going through the turns was so fun, it was smooth and simple, like just practicing how to weave on the most perfect course.  For the first time of my entire trip, I didn’t have music or audiobooks on, just pure silence.  I didn’t need any distractions like I normally do, the road was more than enough entertainment for me, or anyone.

image

I stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Calderwood Lake.

image

Looking North from the viewpoint.

Along the way, photographers were intermittently stationed to capture photos of riders and put them up on the internet for sale later.  I went through just before 11:00am on August 29th if you happen to find any of those sites.  I found one of the sites and the picture of me totally made me look like a guy.  Oh well.

When the route was over, I couldn’t believe it was so simple and enjoyable.  I would’ve gone through it again if I wasn’t planning on riding all the way across North Carolina by the end of the day.  The first ten miles of the route are in Tennessee, the last one mile crosses into North Carolina – it was pretty cool.  At the end (or the beginning, depending on where you start) there is a restaurant where hundreds of bikes were parked.

image

Only some of the motorcycles in the lot. About 12,000 go through the tail of the dragon each day.

image

Coolest General Store ever… biker heaven!

I stopped to get lunch, since I did not have breakfast, and to enjoy the atmosphere of pure biker heaven.  I ordered a bacon and egg burger for lunch because I couldn’t decide if I wanted breakfast or lunch, so it was perfect.

image

My burger that was kinda breakfast kinda lunch, but completely awesome.

There were beautiful bikes of all kinds parked outside the restaurant.  My favorite was a practically brand new Honda CBR 1000 Repsol that had all sorts of Repsol additions; a GoPro decked in Repsol, a backpack with the Repsol colors and logo, etc.  If you don’t know what Repsol is, it is a color scheme for a sport bike, commonly seen on race tracks.  It is red, orange, and white and so sweet looking; before I ever got a motorcycle, I would refer to Repsols as my “boyfriend bike,” though I would never own one because I don’t find CBRs comfortable.  My roommate had one, so I just lived vicariously through him for a while – remind me to tell him to look up “JohnnyRepsol” on the Repsol forums, whatever that means.

image

The Repsol CBR with its matching GoPro. Some people go overboard, in a good way 🙂

There were riders of all types at the restaurant and a couple of them even saw my Oregon plates.  Some guys from Michigan told me they thought their trip was long, riding the whole way from home, but then they saw my bike and knew it wasn’t all that bad.  Most people that made the trip trailered their bikes to nearby campsites or hotels… I definitely out-badassed them all!

While there, I took a lot of photos of the bikes, the dragons, and the Tree of Shame.  The Tree of Shame is a tree that is decorated with all the gear and parts from bikes that have been wrecked on the Tail of the Dragon.  Really, you have to try to wreck on this route – the speed limit is 30 and if you’re going much faster than that, you’re asking for trouble.

image

The Tree of Shame: a collection of wrecked parts.

image

The newest addition to the lot: a hand-carved emerald dragon.

Around 1pm I finally got back on the road.  The first 60 miles or so was a winding highway through the forest and misty air of North Carolina, it was very enjoyable.  I had to cover nearly 500 miles if I wanted to make it to the beach by the end of the day.  As the day went on, it got warmer and warmer.  I drank all two liters of water in my Camelback and refilled it at a gas station.  While at this particular gas station, I took the time to rest and call my grandparents to let them know I was going to make it to them around 8pm.  While sitting in the parking lot, a small shiny skink-like lizard darted by.  You know you’re in North Carolina or south of it when you start seeing lizards running around the place.

When I got back on the road, I realized I was riding toward an ominous dark cloud and was not looking forward to probably hitting rain for the first time during my entire journey.  When I started to feel sprinkles, I was still under blue sky, then the rain dumped on me out of nowhere.  It wasn’t like rain back home because it was sharp, like tiny razors were skidding along my skin.  It wasn’t cold, it was warm and comfortable.  I laughed most of the way through the rain because I thought I’d be miserable in it, when really it was a refreshing break from the heat.  The rain was so intense that I thought about stopping under an underpass or gas station if one came up, but I saw a glimpse of blue sky before I could settle on any big decisions.  The downpour only lasted about five minutes across two or so miles.  No big deal for an Oregonian, that’s for sure.  I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans with my riding jacket buckled around my waist by my backpack and everything was drenched.  Before I departed for my trip, I had put water resistant spray on my jacket – which did no good since I wasn’t wearing it – and on all my bags, so they were only wet on the surface.  However, my jeans, boots, and t-shirt were soggy as heck.  Fortunately the humidity was still high and it took less than thirty minutes before all the clothes I was wearing were completely dry.  It was like a free, hilarious shower.  I told my grandmother that God was being funny because he didn’t want me boasting that I rode the whole way without hitting weather, so he made sure to hit me hard and keep me humble.

image

The sky only forty minutes after a torrential downpour doused me.

My route east was mostly Interstate 40 straight across from Asheville to Greensboro to Raleigh and on.  After Raleigh, my grandfather had told me to keep riding until I saw signs for Interstate 70 East Bypass toward Clayton.  Well, I saw interstate 70, but not the bypass.  After a few more miles I saw Interstate 70 Business toward Clayton, so I figured that was what he meant, so I took it.  Every mile or so I was stopping at a stoplight, what a pain.  I attempted to call my grandparents, but no answer.  My map said this would take me the right way, so I kept going.

image

At least I got to snap a quick picture of the sunset when I stopped to check my map.

By the time it was 8pm, I was still two hours from the coast and I was tired as heck.  But I knew it was worth it and kept going.  Finally, I got about 30 minutes away from the coast to New Bern, North Carolina.  Ever since I read a book by Nicholas Sparks called “The Wedding,” I’ve always wanted to visit New Bern.  When Sparks spoke about the town in his book, he perfectly described the sleepy, old fashioned town.  The quaint kind of town most people imagine growing old in, as the couple had in his book.  The one reassuring thing about riding so late was the warmth of the air.  I dislike riding at night, but the warm air kept me comfortable and positive.  I finally arrived at the beach condo around 10:15pm, which was very rewarding because I got to settle myself in and greet my grandparents.  The second longest ride of my trip and it was well worth it.

image

Water tower that is a want to be lighthouse that says: Atlantic Beach, NC.

image

View of the beach from our condo.

The next day, we woke up around 8am and set up a canopy on the beach.  My grandfather and I walked the beach and combed it for all kinds of amazing shells.

image

So many shells!!

 We spent the entire day out in the sun.  I think my grandpa has some weird obsession with shells because everywhere we went he kept eyeballing the beach and grabbing the coolest whole and broken shells; he says he’s collecting them to fill a part of his garden with, but I think he found about 100 pounds too many.  He must have over 200 pounds of shells in total at their house now, no exaggeration.

image

My grandfather has an obsession with shells….

When he was finding shells in the surf on his own and his pockets got full, he would grab the small shells with his mouth and hold them in there until it was also full.  It was easy to tell when this happened because he looked like a human chipmunk standing in the surf… I’m surprised he wasn’t dehydrating from having all that salt in his mouth.

On our walk along the beach, we also found four horseshoe crabs that had died and washed up.  We were going to keep those for the garden too, but fortunately grandpa forgot about them.  Imagine how bad that would smell up their car!

image

Grandpa has crabs… horseshoe crabs, that is.

image

Close up!

image

Even closer close up. Horseshoe crab eyeball.

After I became exhausted from beach combing, I hung out for a minute in the shade.  My grandparents were telling me about the fishing they had done the day before and I told them I had never been fishing.  My grandpa was very excited to hear that and said we could go fishing that afternoon.  High tide was around 4pm so it was best to start getting things set up as soon as possible.  Apparently you can fish right there at the ocean… how cool is that?  I learned how to cast, which I think was my favorite part because it reminded me of throwing a lacrosse ball with a lacrosse stick, and I learned how to cut up bait to put on my hooks.  In all, I caught three fish, two of which we threw back.

image

Getting ready to go fishing for my first time ever!

image

I unexpectedly caught something, I hadn’t even felt it tug on the line.

image

Teamwork!

image

I caught a flounder and let him go.

image

Grandpa searching for shells again…

My grandmother accidentally caught a brave crab that just wouldn’t let go of the bait, and grandpa caught several fish, a couple of which were bait and two were for food – which we never ended up eating.  Nevertheless, it was a great experience and I found out I really like fishing.  The next adventure we plan on having is a day of golfing.  My grandfather doesn’t get around well enough to be able to golf, but my grandmother is very excited to take me this week – I am excited, too!

After our adventurous day on the beach, Friday night concluded with us going to a restaurant on the water in Atlantic Beach then walking around the bay in Beaufort.

image

The classic taste of home. Oregon brewed.

image

Sunset at dinner. Gorgeous.

image

Walking the pier area in Beaufort.

Apparently Beaufort is where Navy Captain Michael John Smith, the pilot of the Challenger, was raised and we found a memorial in his honor.  Here, many pennies were placed at the base of the memorial and my grandmother said it had to do with who had visited, but different coins meant different things.  So, like I usually do, I consulted Google to answer the universe’s questions.  For military memorials and graves such as Captain Smith’s, it is custom to leave a penny showing you visited, a nickel if you went to basic training with him, a dime if you served with him, and a quarter if you were with him when he died.

image

Pennies gathered at the base of the memorial for Navy Captain Michael John Smith of the Challenger.

You should all be well versed in the history of the Challenger accident, so I think it’s safe to say there won’t be any quarters left here.  All that we saw were pennies.  This did made me think that I wish I would’ve left a dime for Specialist Hunt back in Oklahoma on behalf of Sergeant Baker, but I guess I’ll know for next time.

After our walk, we called it a night.

***

Saturday morning consisted of running around the condo, packing everything up, cleaning out the rooms and the refrigerator, and trying to fit all of grandpa’s shells in the car.

Most of my stuff fit in the car so I had to haul very little on my bike for the way back.  The way back was another 4 hours on the bike, more than I had expected, but oh well, what’s another day.

image

Coffee and breakfast at the Waffle House.

image

Waffles are best when wrapped around bacon.

Since getting back everything has been laid back.  We got take out Chinese for dinner Saturday night, I got to see my uncle – my mom’s brother who is ten years older than me – for the first time in at least twelve years, and I went to church and listened to my grandmother preach on Sunday.  Sunday afternoon and evening was filled with flashflood warnings and thunder and lightning storms, very typical of out here.  The rain just kept on falling but has cleared up today.

image

Hanging out with Grandma and the dogs.

image

Flashflood and thunderstorm warnings all day long.

I have been enjoying laying back and catching up on homework and other life things.

Expect to see periodic posts about my musings that I thought of along my journey and some updates on anything fun I’m doing while still out here.  I imagine I’ll stay for at least another week or so because I want to get in as much time with my friend Andrew and my grandparents as possible.  I miss them all and who knows when I’ll be able to make it out here next.

Much love from the East Coast!

-H

Rebelution, Matisyahu, and Big Sky Brewing

Written Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

To say that yesterday was my day of rest and little excitement would be a major understatement.  To say that I am extremely blessed in every aspect of my life would be an accurate description, but slightly understated, as well.

Let me go back to the night before I departed on my cross country adventure to explain Cooper.  As a fluke, I met John Cooper, also known as “Coop” or “Cooper,” at a block party hosted by one of my lacrosse teammates on the eve of my departure.  I showed up to the party around 9pm, nine hours after it began.  As you can imagine, people attending and hosting a party that had been going for nine hours would be pretty well intoxicated at this time.  Between introductions, urban bocce ball, and my friend Shanna (“shane-a”) introducing me as her ‘single’ friend, she remembered that Cooper was also headed East sometime this coming week.  At this, Cooper explained to me how his former college roommate was in a band called Rebelution and they were going to be playing in Missoula on Tuesday, August 13th.

At first I thought this was unfortunate because I was set on sticking to my scheduled route and dates for travel.  Then I remembered: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

image

“Happiness is found in the journey, not at the destination.” Wise words above a doorway in my hosts’s guest house, just North of Missoula.

Once I got to Missoula, I knew I’d need a break day just to decompress from my horrendous journey on Monday.  So, I thought, ‘why not?’  I might as well live in the moment and experience life while I’m still a civilian.  It was also convenient that I saw Rebelution a few months back in Portland when my friend Tom bought me a ticket and insisted I go – it was a great show.

I started my day yesterday by cleaning up my bike.  I had bugs, grease, and gasoline all over it and my host graciously offered me a bucket, rags, and soap to use.  Then, I headed into Missoula to find a Starbucks with Wifi so I could do homework and complete my blog post.  After a few hours at Starbucks, I thought I’d pick up some necessities and head over to the concert venue.  Google had informed me that the concert would be at Big Sky Brewing, the makers of Moose Drool, and Matisyahu would be opening for Rebelution.  I got to the brewery at 7pm and Cooper called shortly after with VIP stickers (instead of lanyards) and wristbands for entry.

image

VIP sticker pass for the Rebelution/Matisyahu show. Good thing I snapped this picture, I tried to stick it to my bike, but lost it somewhere in between Montana and North Dakota.

As we checked in, the security would not let me go into the regular venue with my backpack that had all my riding gear in, so we asked if we could store it on the tour bus.  The security guy obliged and walked us over to the bus.  On the bus, Cooper found his friend and reacquainted himself with all the roadies and other band mates.  This tour bus was the biggest RV you’ve ever seen, with all the plush amenities you can think of.

image

Inside the main area of Rebelution’s tour bus… creeper status.

image

Matisyahu on stage with Montana’s sunset providing an early encore.

Walking around the VIP area was pretty cool because we got to rub elbows with all the roadies and talk to them about their adventures so far.  As Matisyahu took the stage, the sun began to set and there were enough clouds that the fading light painted the most beautiful pinks and purples in the sky.  Also, the amazing view of the mountains made the scene even more gorgeous.

image

All access passes are just that. Matisyahu up close and personal. I loved every minute of the sunset.

image

People were invited to get on the stage to dance and share some love with Matisyahu. I couldn’t resist!

Having an all access pass made it possible for us to go onto the backside of the stage and watch the band as if we were attending their practice, but with a crowd, light show, and amazing sunset added.

image

The moon, the crowd, and the remnants of sunset.

As I was walking around between sets, I saw a particularly cheerful gentleman and decided to comment on how happy he looked.  He said he was so happy because this was the best line up the brewery had had ever.  I asked him if he worked there, and he did.  I mentioned that I’d only heard of the brewery because of Moose Drool, and he modestly said, “I started brewing that in my basement.”  Turns out, this cheerful gentleman was the brewery owner and had just dropped off several cases of beer into the tour bus.

Within the next hour, Rebelution got on stage, and most of us were hanging out by the beer tent when the owner and his teenage son stopped by to hook us all up with free beer.  Needless to say, I quickly broke my “no beer” rule for this very special occasion and indulged in the moment.

image

Bjorn, the owner of Big Sky Brewing, and his son Gunnar. We were all loving the show.

Standing on stage as the band played, dancing to their music while drinking free beer, and seeing an epic sunset… I can’t complain.  After the show, one of the guys I arrive with approached Matisyahu as we walked off the stage.  I am not one to get star struck, in fact, I typically prefer leaving higher profile people alone because I would hate random people constantly approaching – so I stood off to the side for a bit.  Then, the guy I had been walking with told Matisyahu that I was riding my motorcycle across the country, so I introduced myself.  At this, Matisyahu perked up.  He told me he had done a similar trip when he was younger and would love to do it again someday.  We talked about my plans, my bike, and my experience level.  Then he showed me his cafe-racer-looking bike that was sitting in the back of a travel trailer hitched on the back of his tour bus.  He explained that he loves getting out and just riding when he gets free time on tour.  By this time, I already knew my life was amazing, but I was humbled for the hundredth time on this adventure at how blessed I am.  People in our world are famous, or infamous, nobodies or heroes, yet most tend to go out of their way to maintain normal human interactions, no matter how mundane or extraordinary their day to days lives.

image

Photobombed by the keyboardist. Later, he punched me with my motorcycle jacket on just to see if the armor was up to standard.

image

Eric, the singer of Rebelution, doing his thing.

To top off the night, the Big Sky Brewery owner gave us a free brewery tour after the show and handed me some labels for an upcoming beer that hadn’t even been bottled yet.  I was asked not to say much, but the beer is a special edition that will never be for sale.  Instead, it is sent overseas to our troops as a thank you for their service.  He thought it was appropriate to give me a couple of the labels, which hadn’t even been opened yet, since I am in the Army now.

image

BEER!

At the end of the tour, the owner was kind enough to tell me I was welcome back any time and that him and his wife always have a spare room, just in case.

That was pretty much the end of Tuesday night.

image

Sunflowers and Montana mountains. I love this country.

Wednesday went pretty smoothly.  I left my host’s house near Missoula and headed East toward Billings.

I crossed the continental divide and at least three other small mountain ranges in around 350 miles.  I stopped for lunch and gas in a small town called Anaconda, Montana that had an enormous smokestack that I had been staring out for miles.  The rest of the ride was very uneventful, easy going, good weather, and the only wildlife I saw were cows, horses, and farmers.

image

World’s largest smokestack in Anaconda, Montana.

For the night, I am in Billings and plan on leaving first thing in the morning, riding toward North Dakota.

image

Suebee, my snuggle buddy in Billings. She is a beautiful five-year-old mastiff.