Day 30 & 31: Going Back / Going Home

Day 30: The day without photos…

I imagine you saw this coming; my alarm went off at 7:30 and I felt like actual death… The celebration was over and I was definitely feeling it.

Check out was at 11:00 and the Econolodge had coffee.  I needed to plan my route, do something with my soaking wet clothes and kick some of the hang over.  I started off with the hangover issue; one coffee turned into nine while I mapped out a route through Maryland that avoided the interstate. I remembered I had bought a box of 2.5 gallon ziplock bags back in Battle Mountain, NV when I cleaned my air filter and stuffed the remaining bags in the bottom of one of my panniers. One bag was able to take care of my wet clothing issue.

By 10:40 I was feeling good enough and I had a route I thought I could live with. I proceeded to take all of my unpacked gear and luggage out to where the bike was parked.  With a massive pile of crap sitting in the parking lot I checked out of the Econolodge; the time was 10:55.

Everything was completely disorganized and just kind of laying there; I was half dressed, only wearing my riding pants and a t-shirt. I slowly packed everything onto the bike and got on the road a little after noon.

It wasn’t raining but the ground was wet as I rode up US Route 50 to the Bay Bridge; the spray off the front tire was getting my knees wet.  I knew it was supposed to rain once I crossed the bridge so I decided to just stop and throw my rain pants on about 20 miles short of the bridge. This turned out to be a good decision as the rain came early and started a few miles later. I crossed the bridge in the rain with decently high cross winds only to find that the route I’d planned earlier was an absolute disaster.

When I put the route together I assumed that even though Maryland was a generally congested state, the main roads between major cities should, in theory, move pretty quickly.  I couldn’t have been more wrong…  Every main road was riddled with stop lights spaced out every 1/4 mile; the suburbs of one city just merged into the suburbs of the next. The entire day’s route was supposed to be 290 miles and by 5:30 I’d only gone about 200 miles.  To make matters worse I’d been riding through the rain since before the bridge; my boots were filled with water and I’d soaked through every pair of gloves I had.  I’d even used my cold weather glove liners as stand alone gloves in search of some relief. I finally gave in; I was going to go the last 90 miles via I-70/68 to Cumberland, MD where I’d booked a room for the night.

The day had already been some of the most complicated riding of the trip; rivaling that of the ride into Ocean City, MD.  The conditions were about the same but seeing as it was Friday afternoon I was almost exclusively riding through rush hour traffic.  I figured the worst was over when I left Frederick, but as it turned out I was in for quite an experience ahead…

I spent some time consulting the map on my phone; since it was raining I was going to have to put my phone in my jacket pocket and ride the route from memory.  My onboard GPS was excellent for navigating via a set of tracks but left much to be desired when using it for turn by turn directions. Fortunately I’ve traveled I-70/68 almost every year since I was 6 years old. That, in combination with that fact there’s only a handful of directions, made memorizing the route pretty easy. I finished memorizing the route, had a break and headed out about 6:15-6:30.

Traffic moved at about 70 mph; which was a bit slower than I’d anticipated, I had figured it would move closer to 80 mph.  The rain picked up and the fog set in; it felt like the shortest 90 miles I’d ever experienced. The fog was so heavy and the rain so consistent that I found myself coming right up on the bumpers of trucks at the last second.  I had developed a pet peeve over the last few weeks for people driving in the rain or fog without their lights on.  It makes checking your mirrors for vehicles extremely difficult with the tiny mirrors the bike has.  I would look 4, maybe 5 times before changing lanes in the fog just to be certain no one was there.  Finally, it got dark out; this forced people to turn on their headlights but made the affects of the fog worse.  It was complete darkness, extreme fog and rain when I went through the Maryland Rocky Gap.  Traffic was heavy, trucks were moving slow and some people were actually trying to make passes in these conditions.  It was so bad the only way to tell I was passing through the gap was when I saw the sign.

I finally got off I-68 in Cumberland. I’d abandoned my glasses miles before when it got dark outside and started using my face shield.  The street lights in Cumberland combined with the water on the inside and outside of the shield made it impossible to see.  I abandoned the face shield and just squinted through the rain to find my motel.

I pulled into the motel a bit after 8:00 pm to the guy at the desk hanging a “No Vacancy” sign on the door.  He smugly asked what he could possibly help me with; I told him I had a reservation, he looked disappointed. He must have just been dying to send someone back out into the rain.

I walked back out to unpack. A couple of guys that were just hanging out under the overhang, smoking cigarettes, walked up and started asking me about the bike. They told me all about the dirt bikes they’d rode and how they’d geared a CRF230 up to do 130 mph; I had gotten used to all the tall tails by that point… After you explain your experience everyone seems to have a story about “well, this one time I was riding and…” I started to grow concerned however when one of guys told me about how he would just LOVE to have my 650; he could make it go so fast.

I made my three trips up to the room just as I usually did; they were still hovering over the bike each time I returned.  Through no fault of my own, I was finally able to get out of the conversations after their ride to the bar showed up.  I pushed the bike over to the wall on the side of the parking lot and locked her down HARD; rotor lock, steering lock and I even ran one of my pannier locks through the rear wheel and around the frame.  It was the first time I’d used the steering lock all trip, that bike wasn’t going anywhere.

Day 31: The final day…

This was it; the last day on the road.  My Dad and a few friends were planning on meeting me at Ohiopyle State Park on their motorcycles for lunch and the ride back home. For me the trip was short; 47 miles. I decided to just stay in the motel until check out; it was raining anyway.

I listened to some music, had some coffees and packed.  I was sad to go home and for a brief moment I considered not and just live a indefinite life on the road. If I went home I knew exactly what was waiting for me when I got there, but if I kept going…my life would be an open book.  Everything could be handled Monday over the phone; quit my job, sell my car, get out of my apartment’s lease.

My bike had been spectacular to this point but frankly needed a good bit of TLC, as well as a number of upgrades and other small modifications to make it a better long distance machine.  To go on indefinitely meant leaving the country; my passport expired in a few months and I didn’t have any visas.  It seemed I was pretty unprepared for long term travel actually…  I decided to call the TAT a test run and sadly go home.

The day looked like it would be complete crap; Cumberland was foggy with a light rain.  My boots were still wet so I busted out some bear bags for my feet.

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They were a bit awkward at first but I should have had them on every day for the past week.

I started loading everything up and on my way back to the room to grab my jacket I ended up in a full on conversation with a drunk old guy. Apparently, we were old friends; he gave me a hug, told me how things hadn’t been the same since I’d left and was surprised to hear I was living in Pittsburgh now. After about 20 minutes of this non-sense I managed to escape; I really had seen it all at this point, I couldn’t help but laugh as I walked up the steps to grab my riding gear.

Check out was a similar pain; I waited about 20 minutes while some lady argued with the lady behind the desk about getting an additional night in her room. From what I could tell she hadn’t booked enough nights.  It was getting close to 11:00; I was hoping this would wrap up soon, I didn’t want to get into an argument over a late check-out because of this the lady trying to get another night. I escaped at 10:56 though, good enough for me.

I set off, the fog was difficult; I was on Route 40 and couldn’t see any of the turns for the first 20 miles.  I actually almost blew this one:

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Finally, everything cleared.  The day was perfect and the temperature started to rise into the mid 70’s.

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It wasn’t long before I crossed into Pennsylvania.  I didn’t expect to have any feelings about finally entering PA; especially since Ocean City was the finale and everything else was just going home. Surprisingly I was beaming with excitement.  Even though I’d gone through 12 other states before getting here I hadn’t seen many welcome signs.  The only two I believe I passed were Tennessee and Virginia; I had pictures of neither, so I present to you the first welcome sign of the trip:

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I followed Rt. 40 another 2 miles and made a right onto PA Rt 523 toward Confluence, PA.  I shot through town and onto PA Rt. 281 and finally took the right onto Sugar Loaf Road.  This likely means nothing to most of you; I bet it sounds a lot like filler.  However, back on Easter Sunday I’d ridden up to Ohiopyle, up Sugar Loaf Road and took the pictures I would eventually use in the very first post of this blog.  I took a 5 minute detour to try and recreate the cover photo from the first post.

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I headed out and rode the last miles into Ohiopyle to meet up with everyone. The trip was over for me; I was no longer on my own, I was no longer exploring

They’d beat me to the place we were meeting for lunch by a few minutes.  I was great to see everyone again.  We had some lunch and headed off, back down the mountain on a route I’d been on hundreds of times.

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As the ride progressed people started to peel off and head toward their respective homes. My Dad and I finished the ride back to my parent’s place where I kept my bikes.  We hung the left onto their street and pulled the bikes around the back of the house like I’d done thousands of times before. In that bittersweet moment my trip was officially over…

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The last time the bike was here it was August 12th, almost 6,000 miles later here she was again.

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I unpacked some, talked to my Mom a bit and headed home for a little.  I was going to come back for dinner but I needed a shower and wanted to relax.

With that I was no longer an adventure rider, just a normal everyday dude.  Back to the routine, no adventures, no romantic journey, no crazy stories…

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I had a week off before I’d go back to work where I’d start a new position; until then I would try and hash out the remaining blog posts all while getting my life back in something that resembled order.

What a ride though…

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Mileage: 5,937 miles, 152 hours and 15 minutes of ride time, 1 flat tire and 2.5 leaked quarters of oil.

According to Garmin at least…

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