US trip, strike 3
The trip was scheduled with my friend Paul to leave on September 4th 2004
Six weeks before that date my other friend Rusty finds out about it and wants to join in and begins preparing sparing no expense. He buys a 2004 VFR, all the camping and trip goodies along with a set of hard bags.
Two weeks before launch date Paul lands a government type job that’s too good to pass up and has to bail. Just me and Rusty now.
Ten days before launch and Rusty finds out his long overdue hard bags are lost in the mail and orders from another outlet but now the trip must be postponed for 5 days.
Two days from the new launch date he can’t be ready in time and needs 1 more day.
I go over and mount his hard bags and we find out the hard way that they’re incomplete, some special bolts and spacers were left off one of the bag’s handle causing him to drop it leaving a nasty mark. In 2 hours time with a drummel I fabricate the missing pieces and complete the mounting along with the tank bag and Chatter Box hook-up.
He says he would like to delay 1 more day to take care of some pending business but I put my foot down and the 4AM Friday launch is on.
Friday 4AM we communicate by phone and are off to our planned meeting point. On the way there I spot 2 deer grazing along the interstate and I know nothing good will come of it but today it’s someone else’s problem.
We meet at the rest stop and all is go, we’re off.
160 miles down the road and we make our first fuel stop.
Rusty has a problem.
He didn’t get any sleep the night before and he’s so tired he’s falling asleep on the bike plus he tweaked his back again (a recent condition) and is in pain.
“I don’t feel safe” he says.
After weighing our options he decides to return home and I motor on.
Out of Florida and barely into Georgia I leave the interstate for some nice country roads.
Into Alabama and I notice there are a lot of stray dogs, they seem to be competing with the buzzards and blackbirds for any fresh road kills.
Arriving at my planned stop for the day it was still early and I was feeling good so I motored on. I thought I heard some cracking noise coming from my chain but it must have been something else, the factory chain only has 10,000 miles on it. From past experiences I know my chain last me 20,000 ~ 22,000 miles more than enough for this trip.
Getting on in the evening I need to find a motel but every little town I go through has nothing to offer. I don’t mind it too much since I’m on a nice road with hilly sweeper and the Bandit is eating it up but I can tell the suspension is a little soft for the weight. Up over a left hand uphill I cross a deputy in a 45 mph zone at 70 mph and see brake lights.
I figure it’s a good time have a little more fun with the road as the curves tighten up, I dial it up a notch. Checking the rear view shows nothing but empty road, good. I’m sure he has nothing to say that I want to hear. I’m off the map now and the next day’s route is still packed away so I keep on the same heading into Tennessee finally crossing an interstate and settle into the Days Inn after a satisfying 780 miles.
I check out the bike and the chain needs some adjustment, it’s a little more than I’d like but with the way I rode and the heavy load I don’t give it a second thought as I adjust it followed by a good lubing. A tweak to the suspension and I’m done, Time to see what hurricane Ivan is doing.
The next morning comes early and after checking the map I see I misted my turn but taking the interstate for one exit will see me back on track.
I start to load up the bike and notice my taillight is on. I look at the ignition and sure enough I turned the key one notch too far and left the parking lights on all night.
Hoping against hope I grab the keys and try to start it,
My battery’s low. I’m on a hill but getting the bike in a position to coast would take far longer than I’m willing to give it. I could call the moto-club but that means at least a couple of hours so I set off to find jumper cables.
Across the street was a one-table flea market but the way people were showing up you’d think they were giving away free beer.
This old timer looked like a local so I ask about cables and while he didn’t have any he made it his job to find some. Not 15 minutes later he shows up with a set of cables and Betsy (his Ford truck).
With the Bandit fired up I finish the loading, fuel up and take off. Hwy 114 is one sweet road, picture Deal’s Gap with 3 times the elevation changes. The Bandit’s suspension is dialed in, Judas Priests' ‘Leather Rebel’ playing on the headset was tailor made for this road.
Into Missouri and the roads flatten out until the Ozarks. There are more nice fun roads than you would think by looking at maps from tight and twisty to high-speed sweepers. At 60% of max lean the Bandit is rock stable at 120 mph. After some triple digit travel I get to my next turn off and waiting for me to turn is an unmarked deputy, he waves at me. They’re a lot friendlier in Missouri, he’s the third cop to wave at me. Being the solid citizen that I am I wave back and motor on.
I pull into Camdenton and the end of the day is here. I spot some good ol’ boys hanging out at the firehouse so I pull in and start to remove my helmet.
This 6’6” deputy tipping the scales around 300 pounds and a Bubba name plate walk’s up and says,
“Help ya?” and spits a wad of chewing tobacco juice before turning back to face me.
“Is there a campground near here?”
“Yeah, left at the light just over the hill”
“Is the road paved into it?”
I thank him and ride off in search of the campground. Turns out it’s 4 miles down the road over several hills, the road into it is deep gravel and it’s an RV park. Not what I’m looking for. I check at a motel but Sahib wants too much and I ride on to the next town, my chain is definitely emitting some cracking noises but it feels smooth.
I arrive in Wasaw,MO and get the last room at a Super8 hotel, seems there’s a convention of some sort in town.
The chain has problems. Today’s 470-mile ride didn’t do it any good, I have a good 2 inches of slack and there’s rust dust behind the foot peg and over the side of the rear wheel. It’s shot.
Options. There is a bike shop about 30 miles away but they’re closed Sunday and Monday (it’s now Saturday night) I would have to spend the next 3 days at the Hotel then hope they have the chain, have time to install it and do it right. Not an option. I’m a week late for this trip and still 4 days away from some high mountain passes that I fear will be closing soon because of snow from all the rain that’s being forecasted in the next few days. Then there’s Ivan, a call home finds the family freaking out and unsure of what to do.
After some debating and choice words I decide I need to limp the Bandit home.
For this I plan to take the dreaded interstate all the way to minimize the stress on the chain. Up early I leave on I-70 limiting my top speed to 80mph. I-64 in Illinois, lunch off I-57, temperature dropped into the 50’s in Kentucky, I-24 into Tennessee, I get to Nashville with a couple of hours of light left so I decide to go as far as Chattanooga and get a room. This interstate travel is brutal, no wonder I stick to back roads. Just past Chattanooga I gas up and realize I’d be going through Atlanta during the morning rush hour so I decide to ride on. What’s another 100 miles? Chain is sounding real bad now but still smooth, I picked up a can of WD-40 and give the chain a shot every time I stop.
Coming into Atlanta I find myself leaned over at 80 mph with 4 lanes of traffic on my left and a semi on my right, cars to the front and rear. Hard to believe it’s 9PM on a Sunday night and I’m thinking this would not be a good time to drop the chain.
I put that thought away before it could take root and chose instead to enjoy Atlanta’s inner city sweepers. South of town I pull into a Travel Lodge and notice my shoulders are sore,
I thumb to the second trip meter and find the reason for it. 790 miles.
My chain now has a full 3 inches of slack but no tight links and the inside of the tire tread is brown from rust dust, I adjust the slack again.
A good night’s sleep and I’m ready, knowing I’ll have some rain to deal with. That’s not going to help the chain situation any but I feed my faith in Suzi to starve my fear of throwing the chain with all that it implies.
The bike is loaded and I walk out of the room with my helmet perched on top of my head to find a
little girl of about 4 screaming bloody murder at the apparition in front of her.
Mom to the rescue and all is well.
I get home without incident but I have another 3 inches of slack in the chain.
Some hard numbers.
Total mileage~2474 miles
Average~618.5 miles a day
Fuel used~67.24 gls at a cost of $115.4
Trip duration~4 days
This is my 3rd try for the other coast and I think I'll give it a break for a while and ride the eastern US on my next trip.
2007, sounds like a good year for a trip.