The week of preparation was hellish. My bikes seat was still at the upholstery shop, I still needed to weld up a bracket for my saddle bags and I still needed to finish my HID mod. I scrambled to get everything done in time and it was nerve wrecking to be pushed to such a deadline. The whole time leading up to departure, I swear my bike wasn’t going to make it. But somehow, I found a way to pull it all together and packed the bike up for departure.
With the bike packed and ready to go, all I needed was a departure time and a place to settle for the night. I had plans to stay with Damian, an old friend from Florida State University that I never thought I was going to see again. He ended up working as a Secret Service Agent in DC and had strange hours so I didn’t have a departure time set until I got word from him. Around 2pm, I got the green light and off we went. I expected to be in DC by 6pm, but with heavy delays on the hell hole of New Jersey caused by those rubber necking excuses for a human being, we had to push back our arrival time several hours.
After we crossed the Delaware memorial Bridge, the temperature dropped drastically. No longer were there trees insulating us from the wind. Instead it was open fields with 20mph gust of 50 degree air. Every part of me began to feel the cold seeping through my jacket. I had not ridden since January and all but forgotten how cold it can get when wind sneaks into the cracks of your gear and robs your body of heat…I was more than ready for the warm sun in the coming days.
This is my buddy Rudel on his 1098.
I tell you, this 1098 makes some SERIOUS heat on the exhaust end. At this point I wish I brought my heated gloves with me…oh wait I did… I JUST FORGOT THE DAMN WIRE.
Several members on the DMF got together to form a welcoming party at this upscale pizza restaurant in Rockville MD. We had originally planned to get there at 7pm, but didn’t actually arrive till 9pm. When we finally got there, about 6 DMF’ers were there ready to leave and my buddy Damian had just showed up. It was great to see his face after all these years.
The pizza place had a 45 minute waitlist and we were so famished by then from having no breakfast or lunch that we were ready to walk to the corner store and just buy a bunch of junk food to munch on.
However with some convincing, we rode out in search of an actual place to eat and settled for a no name Austin Grill in the nice part of town. I forgot that I had a camera by this point since all I could think about was food food food. Of all the trips though, I distinctively remembered that the food sucked here despite how hungry we were… Catching up with Damian was great as it brought back some memories of the good old FSU days. After the meet and greet and chilling with the DMF’ers we parted ways and rolled back to Damians place to catch some ZzZs. Damian actually didn’t have a spare room or sofa but his GF was kind enough to let us stay at her place despite never meeting us at all. Special thanks to her and Damian for their hospitality. Really, it was more than I could of asked for. We locked the bikes up at the back of the house and deliberated about the next day.
Here is where the misery began. A heavy rain storm was passing through the area overnight. I checked the radar several times that night, and I calculated that Rudel and I had a 3-4 hour gap of relatively dry air starting at 6am. After which, would be rain rain and more rain. We decided to completely reverse our route, superslabbing our way down and twistys up. Both of us got little to no sleep because we had massive diarrhea attacks all night (THANKS AUSTIN BURGER!!). One of the worst ways to start a vacation is getting sick.
2 hours later…(yea I didn’t sleep for jack diddly squat) I woke up with the smell of morning dew (and farts) and NO RAIN! Rudel and I packed our gear as quickly as possible and snuck out of the house leaving Damians GF a note thanking her again.
After the train passed, we booked it onto I-95 towards Richmond VA. However Rudels bag, now lighter since he was wearing his blue rain gear (ironically purchased from the last attempt to ride to Deals gap with Yauhen) was slipping off his bike. The pack fell to the side several times necessitating us to pull over nearly 3 times to adjust it….This would become a key point later in our story.
The rain began to drizzle and we decided that breakfast was due. No food pic here, only a shot of us departing the parking lot of a Waffle House.
We made it to Richmond, soaked as soaked can be. A clenched fist drew several cups of water. My boots was a miniature ocean and my balls were swamped from the rain gear I was wearing. Luckily the air was warm. The rain eventually got so bad we had no choice but to pull over. Vision was terrible and my tire’s tread was running dangerously low. We managed to pull inside a starbucks before the rain took a turn for the worst.
By now, we had bullshitted at least 3 hours and the rain was just looming overhead. Sometimes it would sprinkle, sometimes would rain steadily, other times it would be pouring on us. We were soaked anyway, and decided to just march on until we could no longer ride.
At one point in this rainfall, it began to hail. We made it to North Carolina by this time and the visability was so poor that hand signals almost did not work. Rudel wanted to pull over and began doing so. I couldn’t see until it was too late and I blew by him. He caught up with him and as I pulled over he blew by me. I caught up to him. We really couldn’t turn our heads to see where each of us were because our necks were exposed to the hail and mixed with 70mph speeds, they stung like a mother fucker. Eventually we managed to stop underneath an overpass, except Rudels bike completely blew by it cause his brakes were cold as ice and wet. (this is where street compounds pay off!)
Every now and then, the rain would subside and we’d gear up, only for it to pick back up. By now, we were so tired that we just kinda sat around and bullshitted for about 30 minutes.
However the last time we got up and ready, there was a strange calm and eeriness in the sky. There were thousands of leaves floating through the air and the sky was pitch black. No wind, no sounds.
Luckly as it passed the air on the highway must have been much warmer and the twister died on the highway.
Later we find out that several twisters formed and touched down about ¼ mile behind us, but we were so busy staring at the one right in front of us that we didn’t care to look back.
After the twister passed we hopped back on the bikes and headed out. With TONS of debris scattered across the road, we rode slowly. Debris ranged from trees and leaves to waste bags, random building material, chairs etc. All sorts of crazy shit.
At some point, we made it to some heavy traffic. I began to notice that the cars were all shut off. No red brake lights, no exhaust clouds. Just off. Doors were opened and cars were abounded. People were scattered all throughout and wandering forward. It was a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie. As we lane split through people and open doors, we made our way to the source of our traffic jam 20 minutes later…about the same amount of time we spent on bullshitting underneath that overpass…What was the source you say?
I thought to myself how perfect was the timing of my friends bag? Could we have been riding so slow that we made it to the side of the truck? Could my boots be sticking out like The Wizard of Oz? The police wouldn’t let us pass since there was gas and oil all across the I-95. Further down the highway were several powerlines that fell too.
With no other choice, we turned the bikes around and lane split against traffic down I-95.
Of course then we got shitted on again and it rained until the sunset. There were pockets of traffic throughout caused by the utter destruction caused by the storm. We saw houses torn apart, billboards completely ripped to shreds and trees without any leaves at all. The intensity of the wind was unspeakable.
Again, as the temperature dropped, the rain began to intensify, and we had no choice but to stop right at the edge of North Carolina. So close, yet so far. We were lucky enough to get a room for the outrageous price of $99 a night. It was the last room in the area too since the desk lady turned away a line of people after us.
After drying all our gear on the heater we walked around town and found some grub and then hit the sack.
The next morning we were greeted by our good old friend, The Sun…
Ill share with you guys a little extra something about that night.... I have a sleeping problem as some of you may know (it is afterall 3am right now as im writing this...)After I moved to florida, I had daily episodes of sleep paralysis. This picture best defines sleep paralysis.
Anyway, that night was the first night id ever been asleep in the same room as someone and had a sleep paralysis episode. For those not in the know, sleep paralysis fucks with your senses. Your body goes into a paralysis mode when it enteres sleep so you dont act out your dreams. your senses go on hibernation and play little roles in your dream. However, when you are in sleep paralysis, which often occurs going into REM sleep or coming out of it, your body forgets to tell your brain that it is done with REM Sleep, so you end up awake but immbolized. Your mind is also wired differently at this stage. What you hear is what you smell, what you see is what you hear, and what you feel is what you see. The strangest things get translated and they often take a devilish meaning. THroughout the night i heard creeks and people chatting up as they walked by our motel room. All night, I had a voice speaking to me to kill my roommate. OKAY i know what youre thinking here. This kid must be nuts! I am experienced enough to know that i was going into sleep paralysis. I now know just to ignore the voices and not open my eyes. I tried to scream out for my buddy to wake me up, but my voice didnt work. I tried breathing extra heavy so he would noticed something was wrong, but it all failed. Eventually i woke up in a pool of sweat. I guess it didnt help that I actually did i have a knife beside my pillow huh?
In my last blog I finished off with the aftermath of the tornado and the morning sun that greeted us after that miserable ride… pictures are far and few here since I forgot about pictures and focused more on the trip itself. so I’ll make it up to you guys by trying to make this leg of the trip as short as possible. Really this is just for memories sake, the pics begin once I got to NOLA.
During the ride down to SC, I ended up losing my rain cover for my saddle bags. Result? You guessed it, everything I owned was SOAKED. It just so happens that the bag that got soaked was my underwear and socks. There was not much I could do except throw what I could on top of the heater in our motel and let it dry.
We woke up late that morning, around 10am. The sun was shining bright in our window, but the air was still chilly. We hadn’t quite reached the Sun Belt yet, but we were clearly getting closer since we stood only 10 miles from the South Carolina Border. So I put on my socks and underwear, reminiscent of the previous day’s moisture and got ready to roll out.
Our next stop was Jacksonville Florida. I wanted to meet up with my old high school friend, Sharbel. He moved down to Daytona to attend Embry Riddle and his family lives in Jacksonville. The ride down there was BORING to say the least. Once the sun reached full noon, the heat started to pour on us. All my gear quickly dried up and the ride became less miserable and more enjoyable. My ass and balls were no longer swamped in moisture. I couldn’t say the same for my feet though. Luckily, I’m not a particularly smelly person.
We showed up in Jacksonville around 4ish and had a nice BBQ and shot the shit for a while talking about old times. I hadn’t’ seen him since senior year high school, so there was much catching up to do.
The whole family!
We couldn’t stay there for long because our next stop was Tallahassee. This lead us ontop I-10, which is about the straightest road on east of the Mississippi. It didn’t help that the sun sets in the west so the whole ride had the orange sun burning a hole into our eyes out.
What was in Tallahassee? My dear friend Megan of course! Megan, Damian (who I stood with in DC) and I all lived in the same apartment complex back in the day. She had the best car in the lot, a Bright Orange Jeep Wrangler. Nothing really says southern girl than a jeep wrangler does it? Seeing Damian and Megan really brings back good memories of living there, I’m left feeling a bit nostalgic as I write this too.
The worst part about this short jaunt was that I didn’t sleep well the night before, especially with the whole killing my roommate thing. So as I rode along I-10, I began to slip in and out. At some points I was doing 100mph to try and get some adrenaline so I could stay awake, but going 100mph in a straight line is as boring as watching someone organize a library shelf. Other times I was barely doing the speed limit of 70mph. I had to pull over several times and it took about 30 minutes more than I expect to reach Tallahassee. But once we got there, it was a blessed sight to see that bright Orange Jeep Wrangler in front of her house. I was so relived to finally sit down and call it a day! Thank you Megan for letting us stay at your place on such sort notice! I never thought I would get a chance to see her again, same with Damian, but it goes to show, friends are always there for you no matter how much time has passed!
Next stop New Orleans!
After breakfast, Rudel and I rolled out onto I-10 and continued to New Orleans. The ride was as expected.... BORING. However there were many little things that distracted me along the way.
There was a crazy girl from Georgia driving a white Toyota Camry doing 95mph (GPS Verified) the WHOLE way. The only reason we had to pull over was cause we had no more fuel. She was yapping on the phone the entire time too. Dangerous? Very...
Going 95mph is pretty scary on a straight road, not because its fast, but because there could be a cop lurking behind a tree at any moment waiting to snag us with a ticket! I really dreaded going down this path because of how boring the ride was. The only reason I took this path was to see my friends, otherwise I would have done something completely different.
On the way there, my bike suffered its first breakdown. Okay, maybe not a breakdown, but the shaking broke the tabs off my tail light. We ended up pulling over and mended it with some good old duct tape and moved on.
Once in Pensacola, we saw a sign for the blue angels and as quickly as my mind shifted gears, I was on the off ramp looking for signs to their practice field. We wouldn’t find it and ended up stopping at a gas station to grab some water. What happened next was pretty shameful too…
As I come out of the convince store, Rudel and I are greeted by a bearded gentlemen striking up a conversation. He told us that life has been hard for him lately. Divorced and fired from his job as a driver. He was hungry and wanted to grab some food so rudel gave him $5.00 I on the other hand, jaded by the panhandlers on the subway, said sorry, no cash. We continued to talk for another few minutes. He reveals to us that he lost his license as a driver because of a DUI. We wish him the best and as we get ready to roll out, the dude passes us with a 6 pack in his white plastic bag. Fucking bravo. Even though Rudel gave him the cash, I felt some what cheated and lied to. Here is my friend, trying to help another man get some food, but instead he buys beer with it. Rudel said to me, its up to him what he does with the money, and if a 6 pack can cheer him up, then so be it. With that, I forgot about it and moved on. I guess Rudel is right though, but part of me feels like he gave up on life. Lost his job cause he lost his license to a DUI and continues to drink. I’m not sure if he really was hungry and chose beer instead. Maybe he is on foodstamps. I don’t know and really it’s none of my business.
Leaving Florida, we made our next stop in Mobile Alabama, mostly because we ran out of gas and had no choice but to pull off in the outskirts of the city to find fuel. Let me tell you. Alabama is fucking scary. Sorry to offend anyone here, but they LOVE their bible and they LOVE jesus. Inside downtown Mobile, we sat down in a small park with a gigantic marble cross. We’re talking over 10 feet tall!!! There were squad cars in every corner watching every one too. They eyed the shit out of us and I felt very uncomfortable here. As racist as it seems, it seemed like all the white people were employed and only black people were sitting on the benches shooting the shit… We ate our lunch and took a gander at the USS Alabama and went on our merry little way.
After another few hours we made our way into downtown New Orleans. It really wasn’t like anything I remembered it to be back in Mardi Gra 2011. The town seemed kind of dead. None the less I was quite excited. We parked our bikes at the holiday inn on Iberville and Royal St and got a chance to finally wash our clothes properly.
There aren’t that many people as you can see in this picture. Nothing like I remembered it to be, but that was kind of expected.
We hung out for a bit and from what I gathered, New Orleans, outside of the major festivals is a REALLY sleezy place. The shot girls there are all about making a quick buck by selling you overpriced shots that have no liquor in it. They do outrageous things to make it seem kind of sleazy too. The majority of the crowd was older people in their 50s. After 1pm, the crowd goes back to their hotel and the only thing left are the hired girls that work the floor to get you to buy drinks and of course the tremendous amount of prostitutes.
It seems like there is a general agreement between police and the prostitutes there because you could tell who was who and the cops just didn’t care. Aside from a prostitutes and cops, there were a lot of homeless people. They roam Bourbon Street asking for change and alcohol. One kid even went as far as begging us to pour alcohol into his hands and he gulped it up like there was no tomorrow. He wasn’t more than 25 years old.
The next morning, we ventured out on foot and walked along the boardwalk and took the ferry across the Mississippi into Algiers which is a completely different place. Quiet and homey, except there was not a soul in sight. I would almost say that it was abandoned because not one person was outside enjoying the weather.
On foot, you can only go so far, so we ended up hoping on our bikes to discover the greater New Orleans area and what we saw was quite heart breaking. The flood had still cause massive damage. People were playing out in the streets next to run down houses. Schools were closed and beyond repair. Countless people would be on the streets with a sign asking for change. Riding through poor neighborhoods on shiny new Ducati’s was not quite appropriate, but there was no way I would set foot there unless I was with a crew consisting of Chuck Norris Clones. As we rode by, a simple nod turned their look of hate into appreciation for the bikes. If that makes any sense. You can’t go there and ignore them because I’m pretty sure we would have gotten shot otherwise.
One distinct memory we had was quite sad. We stopped at a red light and a young lady was in the center medium and looked at me and she said something that I couldn’t hear, but I could read her lips. She said “could you spare some change please”. I actually had very little cash on me, and with gloves on, there was no real way I could reach into the pockets of my jeans and give it to her.
I looked her in the eye and said I’m sorry. She burst into tears and I rode off. I felt so remorseful at that point I didn’t know what to do. We ended up riding to a small yuppie café in a better part of town filled with younger yuppies. We talked about that girl and decided that we should go back and give her some cash.
Just a random shot at this café, which was really just an open house that had a barista.
When we headed back to find the girl, I saw 2 other people asking for money. And rudel found that girl walking around. He handed her the money but I was too far away because I was at a light behind them. She walked off, and I sped up to catch up to him, and we decided to leave. I ended up taking a wrong turn and crossed some crazy overpass and had to make some retarded turns to get back to where we were. When we finally get back on the other side of the overpass. I see the same girl walking away with a white grocery bag…in the shape of a 6 pack. She was holding hands with a guy in a clean white tanktop. TWICE!!!! Seriously TWICE. Till this day, I really hope that wasn’t a 6 pack, and I really hope that guy just happened to have a clean shirt. Because she looked like she was living in the streets and hadn’t showered in several days, if not weeks. Bah, just typing this really upsets me. But I keep remembering what Rudel said, once you decided to give someone money that’s it, its up to them and money is money, it brings joy to those who have none and they really can do whatever they feel like. I guess that 6 pack really helps them ease their mind. In hind sight though, its not like they can do much. There are no jobs and theres plenty of rundown houses to sleep in. So what else is there to do but beg? I guess they both enjoyed some beer and maybe they have nothing but each other. Who knows?
As the sunset, dinner was in order. One of my FAVORITE parts about New Orleans was the amazing food. I spent WAY more money on food than I did alcohol. Hell I think I spent more money on food than the hotel! Our last meal in NOLA was at Mulates. Oh man oh man. DELICIOUS. I had some fried oysters and gator bites. Satisfaction guaranteed.
We went shopping for some gifts and stayed out late that night and had lots of fun. I picked up this wood carving for myself. The woman who was selling it said his brother makes them in southeast Asia and she sells it here. It was called the New Yorker ironically.
....New Orleans was tons of fun, but theres no place like home, and that is exactly where we were headed. We woke up as late as we could and had a late lunch and began our journey back home. Our plan was to pass by Barber Motorsports Museum. This is almost a MUST visit if you are in the area. Three levels of motorcycles from all eras. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face after walking through this museum. Sadly, as big as the museum was, we were the only people in it. It felt like a museum sleep over, which was pretty cool because you could hear a pin drop on the lower levels. Barber Motorsports is right outside of Birmingham Alabama.
Since there was still enough light out to see (not that it matter since Ben Franklin invented light bulbs), we decided to press on and see how far we can get before we had no choice but to stop. We didn't make it more than 50 miles before night caught up with us. The pitch black highways didn't help the travel either. All we had to do was make sure we didn't ride beyond our headlights.
Suddenly it began to drizzle lightly, and it wasn't long before a full storm would catch up. With visibility already low and the GPS not being water proof, we decided to pull over and make a call to an old friend of mine, Walsh. I gave her my location and the most reasonably close place to stay was Johnson City in Tennessee, which was sadly another hour away. So with the directions in my head we gunned it as safely and fast as we could. We had to make a pit stop 30 minutes in for gas. Walsh had previously called in and booked the room for me, but I still had to call in to confirm.
With only 30 minutes away and the drizzle becoming a steady rainfall, we were forced to slow down. The first few minutes of a rainstorm is the most dangerous, especially if it hasn't rained in a while. By the time we made it to the motel, we were luckily, only lightly soaked and but frozen cold.
I had a very interesting night that day. I hadn't really met anyone of significance along the trip until that night. The women who worked at the desk was older, around late 30s. Possibly 40s and she was just getting off her shift and we had quite a chat in the middle of the night. She was a pretty interesting person having moved across the States several times and came off as very well spoken. It was definitely odd to find that kind of character working the midnight shift at a Super 8 motel.
One of my friends always said that some people look like they just need someone to say hi, and it would brighten their day up. And its always nice to meet someone new and share some new stories.
Anyway, I retired that night with the bikes chained to the column wall. Next up, Tail of the Dragon!
As the sun rose, we cleaned up and made our journey to meet up with a buddy who was coming down from NY on his way to NOLA.
The Dragon was quite scary for me. I didn't really enjoy the super narrow roads and my rear tire was already so worn out, it gave such a terrible feeling through the turns. So I kept at my comfortable pace and still managed to have fun. Yauhen and Rudel were moving much quicker and managed to catch glimpse of some riders who were hauling ass on the tail. Some of the riders that day were riding to the point where there was no room for error. Very scary stuff.
I ended up in front of rudel for a moment and he was still set on a faster pace. Coming up on my rear he ends up snffing my rear tire and having to pick the bike up and running off the road. At an elevation of over 3000 feet with a steep drop off, he managed to run off on a nice open patch of grass with a boulder blocking off the side of the cliff. A perfect place to lay the bike down with almost no injuries to anything but a little bit of ego.
More riding through Tennessee lead us to make a quick stop at this unknown location. There was not a single car in sight. Absolutely quiet. No airplanes in the sky, no rumble of trucks, or even a bicyclist. We must of stood here for an hour just welcoming the peace and tranquility.
After The Tail of the Dragon, we parted ways and made our way home. The ride home was pretty uneventful from here on to. We parted ways after some good Mexican food. Of course this is me making a dumb face.
We rode as much as we can and called it a night somewhere in North Carolina. the next day it was more rain, more cold and more frozen body parts. The sad part was that we could of made it home in one shot. But it was cut short. The temperature had dropped to a frosty 40 degrees with pouring rain on our backs.
With our hands and feet soaked, the wind chill was punishing. I couldn't feel my limbs and my core was getting extremely cold. I could handle being either wet, or cold, but not wet AND cold. Its a deadly mix. We really couldn't feel our bodies anymore and physically, it become impossible to ride and we just pulled of at a random stop and called it a night. It was only 2pm and only 7 hours from home. But the local motel we got had great brochures of the area we were in. Turns out it was West Virgina, home to some really great out doors activities. Definitely somewhere I'd like to go back and explore.
We made it home the next day and boy, was it nice to be back home. The trip was a long grueling ride through tough weather. The whole trip down and up was plagued with frozen wind and tropical rain storms. I dont think there was a single day where i wasn't atleast partly soaked. Perhaps that one day was I was driving into New Orleans.
It was a great trip totaling over 3500 miles and 11 states. One thing I wished i had more of was time. Time time time! too many miles, too little time. We were doing 500 miles a day, everyday. It didn't leave much time to enjoy the ride, but enduring the pain of saddle butt for the story of out running storms was well worth it. Next time, I'll take the long way around and enjoy it. Of course next time, I wouldn't plan to go so damn far in such a short time!