Saturday, May 30, 2009

So, I've managed to camp for the night in a pretty amazing location. Complete with, for reasons explained below, an awesome cell phone signal.

According to the GPS, I'm overlooking Ella Gap, Georgia.

Massive, massive, massive update

So, even though I've been able to update a little bit since I left Texas, I haven't had a chance to post any pictures.  So, here we go.

I rolled into Austin still kinda dazed from my lowside.  I was welcomed with open arms by my old friends Kat and Raven (they're the one's who's wedding I went to), who decided that I was FAR too thin and took me out to dinner.

Om nom nom nom nom. 

I used the few days I spent there to mostly relax, and process the news of Casey's condition.  We didn't do a whole lot, mostly watched Transformers (In 1080p Blu-ray, no less!), and then played a hell of a lot of Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  Raven even had Guitar Hero; Metallica.  I know Metallica is old news to most people, and they're generally viewed as the most choad-tastic of all sellout asshole bands, but . . . holy shit most of their old stuff is REALLY freakin' good.  I mean, goddamn.  And playing/singing along on the PS3 just makes it even better.

How they managed to get that licence play approved, I dunno.  But it's awesome.

While there, we went out for lunch at an Indian place.  I haven't had Indian food since . . . well, I was in India, and goddamn did I miss Tandoori Chicken.

While in Austin, I also dropped by and hung out with another old friend,  , whom I have not seen in LITERALLY almost 6 years.  She was just as cute and . . . well, weird as she was when we first met.

So, after a few days in Austin, I packed up the bike and headed out.  Raven took a bunch of pictures of me as I was leaving, but I don't have them (Raven, you wanna e-mail 'em to me?).  He was kind enough to hose most of the mud and gunk off my bike, though.  (That's Raven with the hose.)

Making my way out of Austin, I headed down in the vauge direction of Huston.  Most of it wasn't very interesting, but it did have some fairly fun twisty bits.

I was very exited when I saw this;

Sadly, I wasn't able to find a giant rainbow-covered hill anywhere.  Just another speck of a "Town", of like three houses and a church.

I camped for the night in a feild somewhere northwest of Huston, and was pestered by thunderstorms all night.  It was getting cloudy and stormy looking as I was setting up, and I rushed to get everything off the bike and into the tent as quickly as a good.  Quite literally, within a few minutes of me zipping up the rainfly with my and my stuff safely inside the tent, big, heavy drops started attacking the tent, and the rain continued for a while, thunder and all.  I and my gear stayed perfectly dry, so really, it was kinda wonderful just laying there, warm and dry, listening to the rain and thunder going on all around me.  

It was mostly dry the next morning, and I found this guy on the tent as I was packing up.  Goddamn, everything is bigger in Texas. Resisting the urge to pee on him (as he was on my tent), I shoed him away so I could get on the road.

The nice thing about staying on the smaller state and local highways is that there's tons of these little fruit stands all over.  Goddamn do I love strawberries.

Most of the rest of Texas was flat and dull, and I made it to the Gulf of Mexico and leaded into Louisiana.  I hugged the coast, hoping it would be senic and interesting.  It wasn't.

It didn't help that the day was generally grey and crappy, even making the ocean look bland and un-interesting.

Every so often, I'd roll through small towns (or ghost towns) still bearing the reminders of Katrina/Rita.

I spent most of the day dodging storms, and managed to stay dry the whole time.  At one point, I could see a big-ass thunderhead ahead of me, as well as one behind me, but by generally riding in the direction of clear sky, I avoided having to pull out the rain gear.  At one point, I did stop and treat myself to some fast food. 

I headed north, hoping that I would be able to find some hilly country and camp for the night (I failed, resulting in that wipeout on the mud road that I posted about a while ago).  However, you know you're in real redneck territory when you start seeing this;

 . . . seriously?  I thought that was just a joke.  Almost EVERY DAMN SIGN in the whole state of Louisiana was potmarked with bullet holes and the occasional crater from a birdshot round.  Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't try and stealth camp around there.

This was a picture of the bike at a gas station after my wipeout on the mud road.  it was 11:30 by this time and the lights at the gas station sucked, so I guess you really can't see most of the mud.  But I promise you, there was a lot of it.  I spent almost half an hour just picking/kicking it out of the foodpeg and crash bar so that I could actually use the rear brake.

After a night in the hotel just west of Baton Rouge, I rolled on through the bayou country.  I wasn't able to avoid the rain this time, so at one point I pulled over into the cover of a Lowes to put rain covers on the luggage and myself.

Of course, just because my luck is awesome, it stopped raining about ten minutes later.  Ah well, it was good practice.

I failed, again, at staying away from franchise/chain restraunts, at a stop to refuel.  I know I'm a tool, but that's a damn lot of sandwitch for $5.

In an attempt to make up for it, I stopped by another roadside fruit stand, where I filled up on more stawberries and cherry tomators.  I know it's expensive, but goddamn do I love fresh fruit.

The one thing I will say about Louisina is that nature here is a VERY potant force.  Everything is alive, and green, and growing.  So much so that if you park your car in one place too long, you run the risk of it being taken over by plants.

I just noticed that "Drive your engine clean" sign in the background.  That's pefect.

Anyway, after lots of dull flatness, I headed into 'Nawlins. 

And of course, what's the most interesting thing about that place?

Just how messed up it STILL is.  Even what, six years later?

Seriously, a huge chunk of the neighborhoods look like this.  Maybe only 1 in 8 houses have anyone living in them, but at least half of the lots are just bulldozed empty plots.  The bulk of the structures that remain are . . . well, they all look like this.

It's unreal.  It's a goddamn ghost town, surrounded by a city.  I took these pictures at about 4pm in the afternoon on a Tuesday, and everything is just . . . dead.  Nothing's moving, anywhere.

Most, if not all of the abandoned structures had this, or something similar spray painted on them.  I'm not sure what it is, a gang thing or a designation by the city, or something else.

After swinging by a McDonalds (I know, I know!  I went in there mostly for the cheap ice cream and motorcycle theme);

I headed north into Mississippi.

Most of the southern coast of Mississippi wasn't very interesting either, largely flat with straight, dull roads.  However, it was warm, the sun was setting behind me, and whatever breeze there was, was at my back.  In situations like that, it's pretty awesome just to be able to throw my feet up on the highway pegs, lean back on the seat bag, relax, and watch the world go by.

After staying with an old friend from high school for the night in Bilouxi, I pushed east, making it into Florida, and it finally started to feel kinda tropical.  I dunno what it is with Palm trees that makes the place actually feel nice.  They're pretty useless and don't produce much shade, and their fruit is very problematic.  But sand, beach, palm trees . . . it does add up to making a place actually feel semi-tropical (and yes I know that Florida is not in the Tropics.  Shutup.)

Me doing my best to try and look cool.  I think I fail.  I'm quite possibly the only person who's SO nerdy that I still manage to fail at being cool, even while riding a motorcycle.

Passing out of Pensecola, I saw off in distance from the highway, some sort of a tiny little ship with a couple of pistols glued onto it.

but . . . wait, what's that silouette next to it!? Big-ass tail, sloping wings . . . I KNOW THAT PROFILE!

A B-52 Stratofortress, more coloquiolly known as the Big Ugly Fat Fucker, or simply the Buff.

The B-52 is EASILY one of my top three favorite production aircraft ever (The others being the B-1B Lancer for it's perfectly proportioned beauty, and then the SR-71 Blackbird, for it's . . . well, what part of 2,664mph at 120,000 feet needs to be explained?).  I love it for it's brute force and simplicity.  This was an aircraft who's basic design was started in 1945 that is STILL IN SERVICE TODAY.  These planes are over fifty years old and WE'RE STILL FLYING THEM!  For a design to survive that long, through so many different wars, and to STILL be useful and effective, is just . . . I mean, that's just feaking awesome.

And I think a lot of that long lifespan is due to it's simplicity.  There's nothing really complicated or revolutionary about it; It's just a giant metal tube that has some absurdly large wings, with eight (EIGHT!) monster turbines bolted to them.  Legand has it that the initial basic proportions for the aircraft were sketched out by a couple of Boeing engineers on the back of a cocktail napkin (Seriously.  That napkin is in a museaum somewhere, I'm told).  And over the years, and eight different production versions, the specs haven't changed much (although with the H revision, the tailfin did get taller).

Awwwww, no bombs.  Fooey.

Again, that "B" in Buff stands for "Big".  Notice the family by the rear wheels for some perspective.  And the motorcycle off the nose.

Years ago, while in middle school, I was thrilled the day I finally found a 1:72 scale model aircraft kit of the B-52.  I spent WEEKS building that kit, laboring over the pain scheme endlessly, and actually gave it the exact same paint job that this aircraft had.  Black belly with a tan/green/olive patteren top.

I love the look from the front.  The view is dominated by those huge wings, so long that they needed a pair of retractable wheels at the wingtips to prevent them from scraping the ground.  Watching them take off from the front perspective is hilarious, the wings themselves actually take off before the aircraft's body does.  You can see them start to gain lift, flexing upwards before finally hauling the fusalauge off the ground.

They had some other neat aircraft in various stages of restoration there, as well

And, uh, that little dingy in the background MIGHT have been the USS Alabama, one of the most potent WWII era battleships.

I didn't bother going aboard, as I needed to get going and really, it didn't interest me as much as the B-52 did.  But goddamn, that old iron is a very impressive (and intimidating) machine.

I headed out, down the beaches. 

I stuck to roads that ran along the coast, most of it being very . . . well, I mean, sure, it wasn't curvey or anything, and there were tons of tourist traps and all sorts of gaudy resorts, but once you got past all that, it was kind of awesome to just . . . lean back, and watch it all go by.

(yeah, I know you can't understand 90% of what I'm saying.  It wasn't important anyway, just me complaining how there's no nice looking waves to play in or something.  And blarg, playing it back on the website, it keeps skipping and hanging.  Maybe that's just the connection I'm on, either that or Youtube's encoding process is stupid.)

Expensive and exlusive real estate gives people licence to build weird houses, I guess.  I personally blame architects like this for the housing crisis and crash in land prices (Because really, who would want to live within eyesight of a UFO molesting a box?)

That night, I actually stayed with a fellow inmate from the Adventure Rider motorcycle forums (  The site maintains a "tent space" list, people who voulenteer their yards or whatever for other traveling inmates to camp in overnight.  Florida Bob went about . . . oh, ten steps farther then that, and offered me not only his guest bedroom, but his wife made me a freakin' awesome dinner! 

Hot, homecooked meal, a luxury I hadn't had in quite a while.  It was fantastic, and Florida Bob and Mrs Florida Bob are two really awesome people that were a blast to hang out and talk bikes with.

The next day, I was again treated to a great meal, courtesy of Mrs. Florida Bob.  Fresh-squeezed juice and everything!

Florida Bob took me out to show me some of the only fun motorcycle roads in the entire state of Florida.  He's riding this dead-sexy Italian beauty that he picked up just over a month ago.

Bikes from different sides of the world, meant for totally different types of riding.

That yellow dot off in the distance would be Bob.

After a hundered miles or so, Bob was kind enough to spring for lunch at this little french place.  Not gonna lie, this was one seriously awesome sandwitch.  I had to attack it with a knife and fork, this was way too large to two-hand.

Florida Bob's head getting attacked by the owner and head cook of the cafe.

And, not going to lie, there were upsides to the restraunt besides just the great food.

And I made a new friend while waiting outside!  I think he was more interested in the fact that I still smelled like ham and eggs.  I was more interested in petting him and reminding him that he was very cute

After bidding goodby to Florida Bob and Mrs Florida Bob (Again, guys I can't thank you enough for your hospitality, especially on such short notice to some random guy from the internet!), I headed north. 

Just to give you an idea of how freakin' flat Florida is, I stopped by it's highest point . . .

At all of 345 feet above sea level.  I guess the upside is that when this global warming thing that we keep hearing about finally kicks in, the majority of Florida will be wiped off the map pretty quickly.

Once I got OUT of Florida, back into Alabama, the roads immediatly got better.  Not racetrack twisty, but at least they were senic and interesting.

I camped for the night, and on getting going again, chose (what looked like on my GPS) to be a major state highway to bring me up to Birmingham, Alabama.

It, uh, wasn't.

At first, it started out okay.  It was a very hard-packed clay that due to some rain a day or so ago, was a little bit damp but very firm.  It could be a tad slippery at times (and I had some pucker moments alright), but was very smooth, pleasent and enjoyable.  Truth be told, this was a hell of a lot better then a lot of the "paved" roads in Chicago.

But then, conditions started to deteriorate a bit.

And then they started getting worse, although still pretty manageable.

But they kept on getting worse.

And worse

And finally, I came across this.

At this point, I was in the middle of god-knows-where.  Even though my GPS claimed that this was state highway 35, there were no other major-looking roads, towns, or anything for a long ways in any direction.  I had no cell signal, 1/3rd of a tank of gas, and a heavy cruiser bike with touring tires . . . and a couple of bad memories that were punching me in the face, reminding me of what could happen if I tried to push on.

I headed those memories, managed to get the bike turned around, and headed back the way I came.

Making it back to paved roads, I congradulated myself for not being TOO MUCH of an idiot, and had lunch in one of the nicest highway rest stops that I've ever seen.

The roads remained pretty flat, but the closer I got to Birmingham, the more interesting things got.

This section was . . . very scary.  Truth be told, I think I'm still a little shaken from my lowside last week, and I can't seem to get myself to lean with the bike without a lot of concious effort.  I took most of this dead-slow, which was very appropriate, as these corners were SHARP, lots of rapid switchbacks, and many of them were compleatly blind as well.  In time, hopefully I'll get some confidence back, but for now, I'm okay with riding like an old man.

On Florida Bob's advice, in Birmingham, I stopped by this place:

There were . . . pretty things parked outside.

 . . . oh no, my pants!

Anyway, this place had a HELL of a mesuseum, which . . . well, I took enough photos there that I'm going to save that for it's own post.  Because really, this has been an ABSURDLY long entry anyway.  I've been at this coffee shop for like four hours, and it's high time I got back on the road and try to at least make it into Tennessee today.