Monday, June 10, 2013

Took a bit of a break there

At least this time, the lack of reliable updates wasn't JUST because of my own laziness or lack of decent Internet access.  I actually had to fly back to Chicago last week to take care of some things related to my life that doesn't involve motorcycles.  It took me off the road for a while and didn't give me many interesting pictures to show for it, but here's what happened on either end of the . . . uh, vacation from my vacation.

After leaving the Bonnaroo festival site, I headed southeast and into the northern suburbs of Atlanta, to a tiny little shop that for various reasons has garnered a huge following online.  Two Brothers Tires ( is a very small little shop that does exactly what the name implies, and they do it well.  They've been named vendor of the year by numerous motorcycling groups many times over, having built a reputation for reliable and quick service.

Even with wheels-on service (where you give them the whole bike and they take the wheels off, rather than having to pull the wheels off yourself), it was only $70 total, less than half what it would have cost me in Chicago.  Everyplace I found in Chicago is $80 per wheel on the bike, or $40 off.

I really did need this new rubber, badly.  I might have squeaked a few more miles out of the rear, but the front tire was so badly cupped that I was getting excessive vibrations through the handlebars at lower speeds.

These old tires are Shinko 705s, but they were on the bike when I got it and I'm not sure of how well the PO treated them, or what tire pressures he ran.  Cupping this excessive is usually indicative of really wonky pressure or suspension settings, so I don't think I can blame the tire.  The Shinkos have a reputation for performing pretty well as a good dual-sport tire while also being quite cheap (less than half the cost of a Kndra k60 or TEK-80), so I replaced them with the same thing. We'll see if they last any better with my treatment than they did the PO's.

Outside of the tire change, the whole day was sadly spend on super-slab; I had to cover a lot of miles in the next couple days to due to over-scheduling my social commitments around Bonnaroo.  Still managed a good stealth camp tonight, and perhaps what might even be called my first pure stealth camp.  Previously it had been on National Forest land, which is technically legal.  But tonight was a real stealth camp, getting my bike and tent someplace where I wouldn't be discovered, without a lot of thought to the legalities of it.

My first potential location was RIGHT off the highway; it seemed to be an abandoned rest area or something.  A very, very overgrown parking lot separated from the interstate by a thin line of trees.

I thought better of that option though, not so much for fear of safety or cops, but just because it was loud.  I didn't think I'd get great sleep having to listen to semis roaring past all night.

So I gave up on that option, and headed out into the more rural areas north of Spartanburg, South Carolina.  The usual route of taking side road after side road after side road eventually lead me to a field, with a barely visible ATV track running through it.

Following the path to the far end gave me a perfect clearing, very secluded from the road and out of site of some nearby houses. 

I was gone pretty early that next morning, and spend the whole day again on the slab.  I had promised an old friend of mine who was now living in Norfolk that I'd come spend a night with her, and it was a commitment I very much wanted to keep.

Robyn is one of those people you really want to hate for getting to be both beautiful AND intimidatingly smart, but you can't because she's just too damn nice.  Aside from being a stunningly beautiful (and buxom) blond, she's just finishing her PhD in Environmental Toxicology and already has a job lined up when she graduates (to anyone over the age of 35 reading this:  That's incredibly rare in today's economy).  

Oh yeah, and she has an ADORABLE pet ball python!  :D

Whossa snake?  URASNAKE, YES YOU ARE!!!
The next day saw yet MORE super-slab, as I burned miles up to Washington DC.  I had plans to pick up my friend Sarah, who I hadn't seen in almost three years, for a few days of heading up into Shenandoah National Park for some sightseeing.

Sarah's not the camping type, so we snagged a hotel room for a few days and alternated being lazy and lounging in bed all day, then going on motorcycle rides, and then making extensive use of the in-room jacuzzi. (:D)

We did a good section of the Skyline Drive, through the national park.  Skyline Drive composes the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 500 mile scenic route through the mountains that winds it's way all the way down to the Great Smokies. It's a couple thousand feet up in the mountains and gives spectacular views out over the valleys on both sides.

Sarah spent most of the time on camera duty.  It was a good setup; she took pictures of the nature, and I took pictures of her.  :)

It was also HOT that week, touching 90 each day, and we were feeling every bit of it.  Sarah's jacket is a good one, but it's full-thickness black race leather and while it's got vents, there's only so much airflow she could get riding behind me.  Even I was getting uncomfortable in my vented mesh gear.  Being up in the higher-altitude parkway did help some, but the heat still sucked so much energy out of us that we didn't manage more than about a hundred miles every day, so frequently did we take cool-down breaks.

And hamming-it-for-the-camera breaks.
 And as usual . . . I made friends with the locals.  Hello mister bug friend!

But then I got friendly with the other locals.  :\

Only my second time being pulled over so far this trip, which seems to be better than my average.  I was treated fairly and let off with a verbal warning; for as much time as I spend awkwardly talking with cops on the side of the road, I don't seem to actually get many performance awards from them.  And I'm okay with that!

 Sarah sadly couldn't get more than a few days off school, so after just a few nights I had to drop her back in DC, and then I myself had to fly out from Dulles the next morning.  In theory it would have worked perfectly; I unloaded and left the majority of my gear at Sarah's place, took just some clothes and essentials with me to the airport.  The plan was to leave the bike in long-term parking with the riding gear locked in the saddlebags, waiting for me when I came back.

This all would have worked perfectly, if it weren't for the MASSIVE thunderstorm that hit me just as I was about 10 miles from the airport.

This was Noah's Ark level of rain, the sort of rain where everyone on the freeway slows down to 30mph and puts their blinkers on because there's no way their wipers can keep up with the buckets being dumped on them.  And there I was with no rain gear for myself, no rain gear for my luggage, gritting my teeth through it all.  By the time I arrived in the long-term parking lot the rain had let up some, but I was still completely soaked through.

For the record, four hours of airplanes and airports is even less fun when you're wet.  The storms had messed up the flight schedules, so I didn't even have time to try and find one of those overpriced clothing stores and buy some dry stuff.

The only upside was that I totally got an exit row.  :D

I flew back to Chicago, took care of what I needed to, and six days later I was back.  The weather was much nicer . . . but my soaking wet riding gear had now been marinating in a black box in the hot sun for a week.  It was still wet and smells AWFUL.  Like spicy rotten flesh.

It's a bit better after it dried out, but it's still nasty.  I doubt anything short of a powerwashing with bleach is going to get this stink out.

So that was yesterday.  I spent the night with Sarah at her place, and then this morning loaded up the bike again to hit the road.  I've got to be back in Manchester tomorrow afternoon to start working the Bonaroo event, so today has been yet more slab.  It started out nice and sunny, but as I got farther south it got darker and now I'm in a whole mess of thunderstorms.

At least this time I had rain gear.

The freeway overpass, the natural home of bikers in the rain.
And here I am, just outside of Knoxville, and it's still raining heavily.  If I was forced to I probably could have camped in this, but it's no fun.  I paid the $40 for a cheap hotel, and am making use of their Internet to post this.

Tomorrow I'll arrive in Manchester and get to work; probably won't be much updating until well after the 18th, when the festival is over and I'm free to get back on the road.

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