Friday, April 14, 2006

Roadtrip. ( Part 1 )

Yesterday's ride to work ended up at 14 hours and 679 miles. I will admit it, the buns are a little sore today. Even with my appetite for riding, I pretty much had my fill. Considering I spent a little over two hours actually working at my job, that puts the riding time to 12 hours. It all works out to an average of 56 miles per hour. I guess I could have taken a little nap and rode some more to make a SaddleSore 1000 for the Ironbutt group. Been there, done that, though.

This won't be a blow-by-blow account of the ride ( thank goodness ) but I wanted to share a few highlights.

The day started early with Sophie and I being on the road by 4:45 AM. I was up around 3. You know how it is when you know you're getting up early for a big adventure. The brain is active and sleep is hard to come by. At least that's how it is with me. I was picturing what things might be like on the job and how I was going to effect a repair. I must have done it a hundred times in my mind while in bed. How could I sleep? So I got up early and finished a blog post. Then it was time to leave. I had what I figured to be a five hour ride and planned to be on site about 10 AM.

It always amazes me how much traffic is out so early in the morning. I can remember a time when I had the freeway all to myself at 5 AM. Not anymore. By 6 I was close to Portland which has a population of nearly half a million. There's also quite a number of smaller cities ( relatively speaking, anyway ) that are bedroom communities for folks who commute to Portland. The rush hour crawl had already started when I got up there. Nothing else to do but deal with it.

The mess continued for another 30 miles or so up the Columbia River. I stopped at Troutdale which is the last outpost of the Metropolis. After Troutdale things settle down and there's actually elbow room for miles and miles and miles. ( he writes with a big smile on his face! )
Coincidentally, there's a truck stop, a restaurant, and a McDonald's. There's also bunches of people who are making the last pit stop before the long, empty road, as well as those who just came off this stretch and badly need fuel and a restroom! Not necesarily in that order.

I topped off the tank on the ST. It's probably 250 miles to my destination from here. With the 7.4 gallon tank I should be fine until I hit Richland. Walked over to McDonald's for a couple of breakfast burritos. There were a few truckers in there for morning coffee. I often think I would like to be a trucker. I know their life has it's share of hassles, but it seems like living on the road away from offices and telephones would be awesome.

The ride up the Gorge is like a very skinny, attractive girl with no brain. Great to look at but boring after a while. Looking for nice curves? Forget about it. Just mile after mile of pretty much straight road with the river on one side and cliffs on the other. The gusty winds can be entertaining, though. Some gusts are so strong they can literally move vehicles into another lane if the driver isn't alert. Hood River is on the Gorge and is one of the windsurfing capitals of the US. The reason is the wind. Not being on a windsail, I keep a good grip on the bars.

The good thing about the ride is that the speed limit is 65 miles an hour most of the way. The road is called Interstate 84. Two lanes either direction with no commuter traffic to speak of, only travellers. I set my right wrist at about 75 mph and just leave it. I chose this route because I knew I could make time. First priority was to get the job done and I wanted to save my time for unforeseen contingencies. I figured 75 mph would be fast enough to make time but not fast enough to attract law enforcement.

Speaking of law enforcement, I experienced two polar opposites in cops on the trip. I'd been on the road for about 4 hours when I noticed an Oregon State Police trooper coming up behind me. No lights, just cruising. The cop came up behind me and just stuck there. I stayed at 75 and ignored him. If he has an issue with the speed, so be it. He already knows how fast I'm going and I'm not going to play hypocrite. Besides, slowing down would be an admission of guilt, wouldn't it? Then the cop started to slowly pass me, looking hard at me the whole time. He was a big man who reminded me of my late Grandpa. Once upon a time he had been beefy but had turned what you might call "fleshy" with age. I still would hesitate to physically tangle with him. The trooper looked like he was close to retirement age. Mostly bald with close-cropped grey hair. A big, round head. He wore wire rimmed glasses with big lenses. As he passed I saw he had one arm draped over the in-car computer console. I nodded at him with no effect. Ok, maybe he just didn't see me knod. So I waved. Still the icy stare.

I'm amusing myself by talking to him which he can neither see nor hear.

"Lighten up, John Boy! Don't tell me. You had a bad experience with a bike when you were a kid, didn't you?" and so on. I certainly will be the last to show disrepect for law enforcement. This guy just seemed to be a little "over the top". These thoughts were just going through my mind to entertain myself. You see, I've been on the other side of the badge and I'm not intimidated.

I figure he's like me. Bored by a long drive and finding entertainment where he can. In this case he's probably trying to play mind games and figures he'll win either way. Just as the trooper finally goes past me he drops back until he's still in the other lane but behind me. We're coming up to a big truck, now. The big truck moves into the left lane to give an abandoned pickup on the right shoulder a wide berth. I hang back with the cop and let the truck pull back into my lane. Now I have to make a decision. I want to go around the truck but I have this cop just off my left rear. He's not changing position.

I decide to make it a draw in this mind game. I signal but the cop doesn't move. Ok, however you want it, John Boy. The throttle gets twisted and I shoot left while accelerating in front of the cop. Take that! I see the needle hit 85 before I roll back to 75 and pull into the right lane. It will be a tie, either way. If I get cited I'll contest it. Then the cop will have to go to court. Win or lose, he'll have to spend the day sitting on his ass on a courtroom bench. If it falls on his day off, he'll still have to show up or I win by default. The cop doesn't bite. He speeds up and finally passes me. I follow him until I get to my exit into Washington.

One of these days my attitude will get me into big trouble!

In Washington I have a different experience. After getting done with the job I jump on the bike and get out of there before I get entangled. Once safely out of Dodge, I pull off to the side of Interstate 82, take my helmet off, and pull the cell phone out. I need to report to the office and tell them a couple of things since I won't be back until Monday. As I'm making the call a motor officer on a BMW is coming from the opposite direction. There's two lanes each way with a dried grass median between us. I see him slow down and signal a turn in my direction. I hold up my hand and make the "OK" sign. He waves and goes on. In a few minutes I see him cross the median and the bike pulls up behind mine. My call is finished and I turn to him.

Seems he's decided to stop and chat with a fellow motorcyclist. The officer is with the Benton County Sheriff's office. After he went by he saw the Oregon plate. Sometimes an officer will use any excuse to stop someone and check them out. In this case, the officer seemed to be genuinely friendly. His name is Kevin and he's an avid rider and tourer in his personal life as well as being a motor officer. We had a short and friendly chat and went our own ways. When I told Kevin where I was going he gave me a tip about some road construction I would encounter. He also suggested an interesting way around which proved to be all he claimed.

That's one of the really awesome things about being a two-wheeled traveller. With people who have the heart of a motorcyclist ( as opposed to "posers" ) bikes are the Great Equalizer. The love of riding transcends all else.

The ride home turns out to be a great one. Since this is getting pretty long, already, I'll put it into the next post. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

I know that road, Dan, and your description (Skinny girl, no brain) is pretty apt. Have to admit, I was LMAO over that one! You should have taken the "back way" up through Yakima. Might have taken a couple hours more, but what roads! I'm hoping to do a run down that direction (I'm in Spokane, WA) this summer. Glad you and Sophie had fun.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dan. I need to get out on a road trip myself. All work and no play, as they say. Commuting is fun, most of the time, but nothing like getting out there and flying down strange new roads.

Nice job holding the line with that first trooper. They need that sometimes. We are, after all, the very citizens they exist to protect and serve. They tend to forget that.

Ride well,

Anonymous said...

Dave, Check out part 2 coming up for that Yakima thing.

I really felt the freedom that you don't get commuting. It was a great breather. It's amazing how the American people give power to cops, government agencies, and so on, only to have it turned against them. I wish we could get enough people together at once to put things right, again.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I wish I could blog as good as you, but what I can do is give you a nice Guitar Lesson!