Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Myself, My Pistol and God; A Chronicle of Pain and Beauty Through Five States: Part 1

I packed all of my luggage on Thursday night so that I wouldn't be delayed on Friday morning when I got up. I packed all of my clothes as well as toiletries into my duffel bag, which I attached to the back seat with a bungee net and two bungee cords. I didn't need that many bungee devices to hold the bag down effectively, but I used the extras because you never know when you might find something more you need to pick up. In one saddlebag I stored all of the rain gear that I wouldn't be wearing when I first got out on the road, in the other I stored some bottled water, food and my electronics such as my camera and various chargers. All of the electronics were in their own freezer bag to prevent any food spillage or sudden rainstorm issues.

I set out all of my clothes and gear that I would need to save time as well. Since I knew it would be cold in the morning, I started out wearing my zip up hoody over my long sleeve button down shirt, as well as my well as my leather concealment vest underneath my rain jacket. For my legs, I just wore my rain pants over my jeans. I bought chemical handwarmers to put in my pockets, boots and gloves to keep my hands warm. Even with heavy winter gloves, holding your hand in the same position when it is cold out reduces circulation and makes it hard to keep your fingers warm.

On my head and face, I wore my balaclava and my fleece neck warmer and I kept the face shield on my open-face helmet to break the wind. I thought I would take the shield off later in the day, but the amount of large insects I ran into convinced me to keep it on for the whole trip.

Here I am on Wednesday night, sporting my concealment vest (no pistol since I just got home from work). It was hot, so I only had an undershirt on beneath it.

I love my truck.

I went to bed around 10:00pm on Thursday night, later than I expected, which is why I got up at 3:00am instead of 2:00 as I had initially planned. It can be hard to wake up on only five hours of sleep, but it's just enough rest that I don't feel tired throughout the day. After showering and dressing, I had a breakfast of eggs and toast, it took a little longer than cereal, but the added protein meant I wasn't going to feel hungry so soon. I was on my bike and on the road by 3:45AM, I stopped at my local 76 station to top off the tank and get my starting receipt for my Iron Butts Association (IBA) certification.

I took four dollars out of my wallet and put it in the front pocket of my rain jacket for easy access when I got to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. There was no traffic on the first leg of the ride, and although it was a little overcast, I didn't run into any rain. I crossed the bridge, got through Tacoma and headed North on I-5 toward the HWY 18 Junction.

The traffic on the east side was obviously a little more dense, but there weren't any slowdowns or backups, so I didn't mind. The one problem I did have was that due to the density of trucks and the fact that I was paying too much attention to my podcast, I didn't notice the HWY 18 sign until I was on top of it. This wasn't a big deal, I just took the next exit and turned around. It probably only added two minutes to my trip in total, but it's annoying when you miss small things like this.

Now cruising effectively on HWY 18, there wasn't much chance of making another error on the trip since getting onto I-90 and staying there was the only technical detail I would need to remember for the next 900 miles, that made things very easy.

One thing I made a point of remembering and noting thoroughly was the towns I would stop in along the way, before my trip I spent an hour mapping out the distance between towns to ensure that I didn't run short on fuel. I stuck to my plan precisely, so my first stop was one of my favorite towns east of the Snoqualmie Summit, Cle Elum, Washington. I stopped at a safeway gas station and filled up, then used the hand drier in their restroom to warm up the tips of my fingers. I made my IBA log entries for my bridge receipt and my gasoline and got back on the road. This would be the last stretch between gas stations in which I would not take a short break in the middle.

As I headed out on I-90 towards Ellensburg, I got to watch the sun continuously rising over the rocky desert ahead. The Columbia river crossing was beautiful, as it always is, but unfortunately there wasn't time to stop and take pictures of everything on this trip, but anyone who hasn't been through this area should take the time to go there now and appreciate the mix of high plains and rock formations.

I don't know if this is new or if I just didn't notice it when I last crossed through Eastern Washington, but they have put signs on the fences to let you know what is growing in the fields. Some of the crops such as wheat and corn were easy to recognize, but it was interesting to find out what the more difficult crops such as potatoes were.

At about 8:30, I saw a sign for a rest stop and decided it would be a good opportunity to call some people up and snack on some donuts while I took a rest. I was far enough east that it was starting to warm up a lot, so it was time to lose the rain gear and heavy gloves.

I called Brandy and left a message, she was still asleep, then called Jon and gave him my first report on where I was. At that point, I was still running well within my expected time frame, but we'll talk more about lost time on a motorcycle later.

This is the first picture of my motorcycle, all packed up. I'm about 50 Miles away from Ritzville, which is my next fuel stop.

I tried to take a picture of myself with the bike in the background, but forgot that I still had the camera zoomed a little, so got a close up of most of my face instead.

This is more like what I wanted, but you can only see the very front of the fender behind my right shoulder.

I couldn't spend the whole day getting it right, so it was time to move on.

It was a little too soon to switch from my heavy gloves to my fingerless gloves since the temperature was still wavering around 60 something, but I kept my hands warm by resting them by the engine one at a time. This is the main reason I installed a throttle lock, I never used it for extended periods throughout the trip, but the ability to rest my right arm and hand without slowing down was very important. With my hoody, vest and jeans, the temperature was very comfortable for the rest of my body.

Since the speed limit was 75, and my average speed was about 80 getting to Ritzville, my fuel mileage dropped significantly. Instead of getting my average 50 to 55 miles per gallon, it went down to about 40. Since it's only a 650, and a V-twin 650 at that, I wasn't terrible surprised. I'm sure that adding the extra weight and wind drag of my gear also contributed to this in a big way.

I pulled off on the first exit for Ritzville, which consisted of an area mixed with industry and old town buildings. There was one gas station very close to the freeway, I drove past it because there was a sign that said a McDonald's was nearby, and it was about time to eat. I spent a few minutes driving around the old town area, but saw no signs of any type of commercial buildings, so I assumed that McDonald's was actually in the newer commercial part of Ritzville, which was just a little ways up the interstate, but wasn't hungry enough to justify another stop so soon.

I went back to the gas station and filled up, then propped my kickstand on a curb so that I could hold the bike level and check the oil, which was perfect. I had a peanut butter granola bar and got back on the road.

It was probably close to 70 degrees outside at this point, very comfortable with my sweater, vest and fingerless gloves. The humid, clean mornings of farmland like this is very refreshing, aside from the times when a farmer has just fertilized his fields with a mixture of manure and water (which doesn't necessarily smell bad, but isn't quite the same). I could tell I was getting close to Spokane because of the large forests of pine that started to crop up and eventually became very dense around me, comparatively speaking anyway. Spokane was crowded since it was now just about 10:00am. I hit a few patches of stopped and crawling traffic, but we were able to resume normal speeds without too much delay.

Spokane has always been interesting to me, it's a well balanced mix of industry and commerce. In that respect, and in reference to it's mix of old and new buildings, it's a lot more like a mid-west city than a western city, even though it's only a few hours from Seattle and it's subsidiaries, which are all extremely commercialized, coastal type cities. The difference between the two halves of Washington state makes it clear why some people want to divide into two states. In my opinion, the diversity is a big benefit to both sides, but in recent times I've heard more rumblings from people in Western Washington who think that the Eastern side of the state is dragging them down. Such a statement couldn't be further from the truth. All of the money we make by selling excess power alone is enough to negate that argument, but in addition the majority of our state's agriculture resides on the east side. It's disappointing that anyone woudl take our cheap power and food for granted in such an extreme way. The only benefit the West side offers the East is the large ports which they use to distribute their goods.

A few miles past Spokane, I stopped in Liberty Lake, Wa to eat and take a break at a McDonald's. I purchased a cheeseburger, fries and a small drink. When people go to a restaurant that offers free refills, then buy a large drink, it bothers me very deeply. Of course, this only applies to people who eat in, not drive through, but the point remains. I used my free refill to fill my empty water bottles some unsweetened iced tea mixed with a splash of lemonade. When you are on a trip, it's nice to be able to change the liquid you are drinking without consuming too much sugar or caffiene, both of which will spike, then crash your energy levels. This is the same reason I eat small meals on the road. I find that you are usually inclined to eat large amounts, but doing so will bring on unbelievable energy crashes. Usually a few minutes after a small meal, I no longer feel hungry, but still feel like eating. I've seen other people behave this way on road trips, I assume it's just a normal response to the monotony of hour after hour of driving. Even if you have great conversation, music and a fun road, your body wants to get out and do something.

I re-packed my bags, got out my iPod charger and plugged it into the newly installed cigarette lighter. It worked perfectly, and the cable wasn't in the way, although I did have to wait to plug it in until after I was already on the motorcycle, which made for a bit of a juggling act. I got back on the interstate and crossed the Spokane River, moving into Idaho. I'm now down to just my long sleeve button up shirt, vest, still wearing my fingerless gloves. I didn't stop in Coeur d'Alene, though it's a very pretty place, my next planned stop was Kellogg, ID. Coeur d'Alene was right in the middle of my two stopping points, and as an added downside, I know from experience that most of the gas stations aren't right on the interstate, so I intentionally worked around it for brevity. Even though I'm in the mountain passes right now, the temperature is starting to get very warm. With all the wind on the interstate, my clock/thermometer read a steady 84 degrees.

I made it to Kellogg without any other breaks, by the time I stopped at a gas station, it was pretty close to 100 degrees. My iPod was charged so I packed up the power cable and took off my black long-sleeve shirt so that I was down to just gloves and my vest. I put on some preemptive sunblock, I've previously mentioned that I don't burn easily, but when you are out in the sun all day like this, especially in the open air, it's much easier to burn and I didn't want to take any risks. A mild burn on a trip like this could become a huge drag.

This point in the trip is where the pain of riding for hours on end really began to set in. It doesn't stay in your ass, your legs get tense and your lower back begins to hurt. I found that the faster my average speed was, the sooner I would wear down and need to take a break. After I crossed the border into Montana, I took a break at a rest stop where there was a small river, about ten miles past the state border. I walked around a little to get some blood flowing back into my legs and butt. For the most part, however, the pains of riding stopped almost immediately after I stood up and started walking.

This is a picture of the river running next to the rest stop.

Here is my motorcycle shining in the midday sun.

I did some leg stretches and put my long sleeve shirt back on. The temperature was a little lower and as previously stated, I didn't want to risk getting any burns. I went around to the backside of a picnic table divider so that I could take my vest off and put it back on over my shirt without inadvertently showing anyone my Sig Sauer pistol. Even though Montana is an open carry state, it's best to avoid any unnecessary risks or time delays due to jumpy travelers who think anyone with a firearm is obviously breaking the law.

I had some beef jerky and got back on the road. The western portion of I-90 in Montana has been under construction for some time. I didn't' see any road crews, so I don't actually know what they are doing there, but there were many points where the interstate was reduced to two lanes and the speed limit was lowered to 55mph. I could see by the dust and debris accumulating on the closed lanes that it had been a long time since any traffic or road crews had passed by. Since I never saw any road crews working, I entertained myself with the notion of riding down the closed sections to see if I could figure out why they were closed. Of course, my limited time kept me from becoming involved in any side adventures of the sort.

Since there wasn't much traffic, there was no real delay, and it gave me a chance to see riders going the opposite direction up close for a while.

I got into Missoula at about 3:30 and stopped for gas at the first station I saw. My mileage had improved a bit due to the long stretches where the speed limit was lowered. I sat at a small table inside the gas station and drank a gatorade while I called Jon and then Brandy to let them know where I was. Jon was at work so I had to leave a voicemail. I informed Brandy that by this point I had figured out that I would need to come back on Sunday morning instead of Monday morning due to the added travel time. After this many hours, it's natural to feel a bit of remorse for taking such a long hard trip, but after traveling so far, going back is entirely out of the question no matter how you feel.

I hadn't hit any sort of wall, but I definitely had a few moments where I asked myself what I was doing, one of those moments where you look at the big picture and consider how completely insane and awkward the world is. This, however, is the reason you take these trips, this becomes your resolve to continue and succeed.

It is probably close to 100 degrees again, but it is a shady afternoon, so the sun does not feel so scorching hot. While I was inside, I left my motorcycle in the shade of the building to cool off for a bit since I was doing the same.

Here I am, just before getting back on and putting myself through another hour of torture.

My bandanna was affixed to my head almost permanently since my hair was not very manageable since it had been under a helmet for so long. Since Montana has no helmet laws, I saw many riders enjoying the wind, helmet free. Joining in was very tempting, but I had no easy location for stowing my helmet and the breeze would have tangled my hair terribly. I didn't bring a brush and was not prepared to spend the time trying to pull the tangles out with a comb.

As I pushed on towards Butte I could see a thunderstorm looming ahead. It was still bright where I was, but the dark overhead clouds and the blurry white smudges below them meant there was some serious rain coming on. You can tell that it's raining ahead when you can't see the horizon. I was pretty sore, so I stopped at a rest stop to rest for a little bit and to see if the storm was moving. I marked the location of the storm over the surrounding hills and laid down on a bench to rest my back. I listened to a podcast for about 15 minutes and got back up. The storm wasn't moving at all. There was no wind in any direction, so even though it was small, it was hovering due east and I wasn't going to be able to avoid it.

Here is a picture of one of the hills near the rest areas I stopped at.

You can see that a forest fire scorched a majority of the pine trees on the hillside, this was a common theme through all of Montana, I assume a lot of it comes from the large wildfire they had four or five years ago, but small fires are commonplace every summer. I love Montana's smooth rolling hills plentiful timbers and flowing rivers. It all comes together nicely. There aren't many places where you can see dense forest and sage brush on the same hillside.

As a side note, the sage brush smelled great through the whole trip, it was all in full bloom and I was able to smell it almost all day and night.

I was still about 30 or 40 miles away from the storm, so I decided to continue riding without rain gear until I got closer. Rain gear isn't something I want to wear because it's still well over 80 degrees outside. As I continued on the road, even though I wasn't yet under the clouds, I occasionally felt droplets on my fingertips. I stopped at the next rest stop, which was oddly close to the last rest stop (only about 39 miles) and got my gear ready.

I brought some trash bags for my duffel bag, but the saddlebags came with their own rain covers which just slip on. I got my rain gear ready, but decided to continue riding until I got closer to the storm before putting it on. Even this close to the cold front, it was warm and increasingly humid.

Here is a picture of the storm looming ahead. The camera didn't really capture the intensity of the dark clouds, but you get the message.

I tried to demonstrate this a little more effectively by showing the sun on the concrete and the motorcycle with the clouds ahead, but it still wasn't quite as powerful as it was in person.

Here is a picture of my low-tech rain cover over my duffel bag. You can see how bright the sun still shines in the background.

I pushed onward into the storm, the droplets on my fingers became more and more frequent, until it a point where it was almost rain. I took the next off-ramp, put on my rain gear. For some reason my iPod had locked up. I couldn't get it to reset or respond in any way, but the battery was very low, so I stashed it in my saddlebag and listened to the splashes of water instead. The rain became very intense and there was a good deal of lightning around. Under an overpass, a fellow rider was taking shelter from the storm and talking on his phone. I might have tried the same thing, but this storm was not going anywhere. One of the nicest things about Washington storms is their constant state of change. In the mid-west, however, storms tend to pummel one reason and hang out until they've got nothing left to throw at you. The intensity is powerful, but it didn't last long. The storm ended well before I got to Butte and the sun came out again, it gave my rain gear a chance to dry off before being stowed again.

I stopped at a combination gas station/Mcdonalds since it was close to 5:00 and definitely time for another meal. I didn't really stop for any type of lunch since I had jerky, granola bars and an apple to hold me over. I stripped off all of my rain gear, including the covers for my duffel and saddle bags and stowed them away. No sign of rain ahead now, so I might as well air out in the cool breeze. I fueled up the motorcycle and parked in a space in front of the McDonald's entrance. I had a quarter pounder meal, which has not only become disappointingly small and expensive, but the quality of meat at McDonald's seems to be getting poorer and poorer all the time.

I received a message from Jon saying that he got my last message, but that he was going to be at work and to keep calling him to give him updates, he'd be home later. I called Brandy and felt a little morose again. I've been riding for 13 hours, but it felt more like 13 days, I barely felt human anymore. After finishing my meal I felt a lot better, though I was disappointed that Mcdonalds only had sweetened tea and no lemonade. Their tea is too weak to be sweetened.

When I got back on the road, the lowering sun lit up the eastern hills I was riding through and made them all glow. I couldn't see much in my rear view mirrors, so I had to look way over my shoulder when checking my blind spot to make sure I was clear. I rode up the familiar hillsides, making a note of the curve which Brandy and I had passed over a year before, and slid the car on the blood of a freshly stricken deer in an attempt to avoid it. Riding or driving in Montana isn't too bad aside from the pass just east of Butte. The steep, blind corners make it very dangerous, so I was glad to be crossing it before nightfall. I knew that the rest of the trip would be relatively flat and straight with wide curves.

At the top of the pass I stopped at a truck parking turnout to put my hoody on. The sun was still up, but the shade was getting cooler. The sweatshirt had been warmed by the sun and felt very cozy warm. Going down the other side I took it easy. The truck speed limit was 25mph to prevent break failure from overheating. All other vehicles were allowed to go 60mph, but since there was no one around, I played it safe at about 50mph. Once to the bottom the roads straightened out and the hills rounded down to tiny nubs. I've finally mastered the art of traveling at lower speeds so that I didn't have to stop as frequently.

I probably rode for a full hour when I heard a type of flapping sound, as if one of the buckles on my saddlebags was undone. I reached down and felt that they were firmly clasped, so I was unsure what to make of it. Since the sun was setting I stopped at the next exit with a gas station since the light was soon going to fade away and make it impossible to pinpoint the problem.

Not that it made any difference, I checked everything on the motorcycle and couldn't find any thing that could be making that sound, so I am guessing it must have been my hood strings or something else. It was getting a little cooler, but was obviously going to be a warm summer night, so I put on my rain jacket to break the wind, but didn't wear my rain pants.

Before I left the gas station I had to take a few snapshots to record as the last pictures of my first day's journey.

Here are a couple of shots of my motorcycle in the setting sun.

The last rays of sun shining on the clouds overhead was beautiful.

Across the parking lot I noticed an interesting fellow who I would have liked speaking with, but judging by what I saw, I probably wouldn't be able to end that conversation in any time shorter than an hour. He had an old pickup with a homemade camper strapped on the back, which was nothing out of the usual, but towing behind that pickup, he had a flatbed trailer, on that, he had a trailered sailboat and an antique car of some sorts. By the looks of it, maybe a VW Carmengia.

My thoughts began to race at the sight of this. Where is this guy going and what is he doing with a camper, sailboat and an antique convertible? He has Washington plates, so I hope to see him again one day when I have time to dedicate to a long conversation with him.

I didn't notice it until I got home and reviewed the pictures further, but the strange wooden frame on top of his trailer is very odd too. I'm still having trouble imagining what that may have been needed for. The bent rear bumper and the angle of the trailer tongue tells me that he's overloaded the tongue of the trailer and the towing capacity of his truck, I didn't expect to see him again down the road, but was quite surprised when he passed me by at about 1:00AM. I thought to myself that he must have been going well over 100mph to catch up that much later, his fuel costs must be astronomical.

Time melts away at night, there is no scenery to pass through, just endless reflectors on highway markers until you spot the next town, a distant glow on the horizon. At first I had the company of lots of cars and trucks, but after about 10:00pm, I was basically alone on the road. Every 30 minutes or so someone would speed by, then I'd be alone again.

Half way to Livingston, I pulled into a rest stop to put on my rain pants to break the wind and keep me a bit warmer. This particular rest stop had forced heat hand dryers, so I was able to warm up a little before getting back on the road. The only problem with that was they also left a weather radio on just loud enough to sound like a radio was playing in another room of a large house. It was positioned over the doorway, very close to the hand dryer. It took me a few minutes to figure out what it was or where it was coming from, but after listening closely I made out most of a weather report which indicated that there were no warnings. I put on my fleece neck-warmer, and checked to see if my iPod had run out of batteries and restarted yet. It had, so I plugged it into the charger and was glad to be accompanied again by podcasts.

There isn't much to observe from the road now. My headlights will occasionally illuminate a bit of bare hillside or a few trees. Sometimes far off light would reflect on water showing me a distant lake. I would have loved some moonlight that night, it wasn't cloudy, but it was humid enough that the stars weren't showing up, and even though I could see my road well, sight distance seemed limited since nothing but darkness surrounded me on all sides.

Fortunately it wasn't too cold out, probably right around 60 degrees. The temperature is much lower on a motorcycle due to the windchill, so without cold weather gear, I wouldn't have been very comfortable if it were much colder.

I get to Livingston at about 10:00pm, I stop at a Conoco and fuel up, use the facilities and get going. I took a large Ibuprofen a couple of hours before and the soreness has faded. I've also been riding at slightly lower speeds with less traffic, which is helping a lot.

As I got closer to Billings, I could see the white strobes on a tower of some sort off in the distance. I remember seeing this on a church trip through Montana several years ago. I remember wondering at that time what the strobes were attached to and why plain red lights weren't sufficient. I still haven't figured it out and probably never will. The interesting thing about the strobes is that they flash at an uneven rate, there is no apparent pattern to their flashes, one flashes and then two will simultaneously flash. Then the middle strobe will flash, then the top, then the bottom. It doesn't seem like they are even on individual timers, it is very odd and when you can see it for many miles, it gives you plenty of time to think about it.

Just before midnight I pulled into a Chevron in Billings. I called Jon to check in, I wasn't going to keep calling Brandy at night since she was probably resting. Jon indicated that he was going to go to bed soon, but that I could keep calling with updates. We spoke for a few minutes about how much overnight road trips could drag on and how odd it was that I felt fairly energetic even though I had been on the road for 18 hours. He recommended using a five hour energy if I felt a little tired, I was already drinking some coffee at the time, warming my fingertips. After the call, I decided to try out the five hour energy, the cashier offered me some ultra extreme version, but I felt that a standard would be more than enough. They also had an alternative flavor, but I stuck with the standard.

Back on the road, the five hour energy slowly started to kick in. It was about what I expected, not a big buzz, but a bit of a manic awake feeling. It felt a bit like chewing nicotine gum, but much weaker overall and less like I was floating.

The Interstate turned south towards Wyoming and the temperature begins to drop a little more. At some previous point I had opened up a couple more chemical hand warmers for my pockets and gloves. They work very well and for the $7 I paid for 24 of them, I can't complain at all. They lasted hours and produced good heat.

At about 1:45 in the morning I began to feel tired, so I decided that I would stop at the next rest stop and take a nap. After this many hours on the road, I was naturally feeling a little lazy and paranoid. Luckily one of the biggest benefits to riding a motorcycle is that you can ride right onto the sidewalk at most rest stops. In this case, the rest stop had nice sidewalk leading right up to a covered picnic table. I parked the bike as close to the end of the table as I could, making sure that I left room to back up and turn around when it was time to leave.

Since I was getting close to the border of Wyoming, and for some reason Wyoming doesn't have CPL reciprocation with Washington State, I unloaded my pistol and stashed it in my duffel bag. I kept the magazines loaded and in my concealment vest, since most states require you to keep the firearm and ammunition separate and since a magazine would be the safest place to store the bullets. Furthermore, there is no law that prevents you from carrying ammunition, as long as you don't have a means to fire it. Although open carrying is permitted and I did bring my hip holster, I had no way to wear my hip holster outside of my rain pants, since the rain pants had no belt loops.

I set my alarm to go off in 25 minutes and, using my duffel bag as a pillow, took a rest on the picnic table. I couldn't help but think paranoid thoughts, There were very few people around and I thought about what I could do if someone stabbed me from behind. My pistol was now separate from the ammunition, but it would be just as hard to access if I had it in my vest, which was wrapped up under my rain gear, on top of that, if it were in my vest, it would not be comfortable to lay on my side. I had the presence of mind to brush it all off as tired paranoia, and managed to snooze for a few minutes.

Four minutes before my alarm I woke up and checked my clock. This is one of the parts of napping that I dislike the most, I never fully go to sleep and if I become consciously aware of the fact that I am sleeping, I wake myself up, worried that I might have overslept. I got back on the road at about 3:45 (Mountain Time) meaning I had just over an hour to make it to Sheridan and therefore pass the 1,000 mile mark, completing the timed portion of my journey.

Getting further south and further from the mountains, the temperature was changing from very cold to very warm frequently. It was more frequently cold, but occasionally I would reach the top of a low sloping hill and would feel a burst of warm air, which would usually fade after the top of the next hill. It's funny how much more you are impacted by conditions. In a car it doesn't matter if it is rainy, cold or warm, you are safe and comfortable inside. On a motorcycle, you have to constantly adjust your gear based on the changing conditions. As noted in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" though, traveling on a motorcycle really makes you a part of the scenery instead of just another spectator. Not only in the changing conditions, but in the overall experience of your journey. If I were in a car I never would have smelled the Pine forests, fields of sage and Cattle or the fresh clean scent of summer rain. When you are constantly looking through a window, it's more like moving through a painting than experiencing your travels. Riding by the base of cliff gives you a true feeling of awe.

After about 30 minutes of riding, I can see light cresting the southeast sky. I can see shadows of hills and mountains around me, and flat open spaces that represent lakes, but nothing well defined. The road is showing up more effectively which allows me to ride a little faster now, watching for shapes on the horizon. I'm not shivering from the cold, but I feel a little stiff and the idea of the warm day ahead makes me wish the sun would come up just a little faster.

The hills around me are illuminated by a pale blue, to my right are the impressive and steep Big Horn Mountains. I remember crossing them on Highway 14 last June, the switch back climbs what is nearly sheer cliff face, then levels out at about 4,000 feet and after a few miles, drops back down fairly steep cliff face on the other side. It's a beautiful drive and I'm glad that we took that route to Yellowstone instead of the easier Highway 16.

I pull into a gas station in Sheridan at about 4:45, just in time. I pay for my gas, get a receipt and ask the cashier if he would be willing to sign a witness form for my IBA certification. He barely speaks English and doesn't seem to understand, so he declines. I walk outside and ask a man with a horse trailer if he would be willing to fill out the witness form for me, with no questions asked he gladly accepts. My total trip to this point works out to about 1100 miles on my odometer.

Moving my motorcycle into a parking space, I call Brandy and let her know that I was in Sheridan, she was still asleep, so I let her go back to bed. I call Jon and let him know where I am and tell him about my experience with the somewhat rude cashier, walking around to warm up while we talk.

I cross the parking lot to a McDonald's and get myself a hot breakfast sandwich, which I eat while I walk around to continue making blood flow. My back feels a lot better when I walk around and stretch out, so I pace the sidewalk in front of the convenient store a couple of times. A drifter sitting near the truck stop next door asks me if I'm heading to Billings, I let him know that I just came from Billings a couple hours ago and that I just completed a 1000 mile ride in 24 hours from Bremerton, Washington. He said that he had some family in Bremerton and knew the area, we wished each other well and I get back on to ride to a rest stop a few miles up the interstate.

At the rest stop I took a picture of the sunrise, riding into the rising sun hurts the eyes, but it's very pretty.

Here is my motorcycle with the sun rising behind it (which is fairly faded out).

The sun coming up raises the temperature significantly, I take off my fleece neck warmer and balaclava, but I keep my rain gear on for now, the wind is still brisk.

I put on some music and got back on the interstate again, after about 30 miles I start to feel fairly tired. It's that swimmy head feeling where you feel a tad unbalanced and your eyelids are heavy, I know I'll have to stop.

On the side of the interstate a freshly mowed field on a sloping hill draws my attention, I've got the road to myself so I pull off into the field and park. I use my duffel bag as a pillow once again and take an hour nap in the shade of my motorcycle. No need to set any alarms since I've now completed the time sensitive portion of my journey. Occasionally a loud vehicle drives by and wakes me up a little, but overall I got a good hour of sleep in. The setting was very relaxing because I was across the interstate from a pretty lake.

Here is my motorcycle parked in the field. I'm only about 10 feet off of the interstate.

I take off my rain gear and switch to my fingerless gloves again, taking my time packing up, I feel very refreshed. I took a drink of some iced tea mixed with lemonade which was leftover from yesterday. It's already around 60 degrees now, but I keep my sweater on under my vest, I know it will be colder once I get going.

Listening to music again, the highway is empty. I love the red asphalt in Wyoming, though the poor quality patchwork creates some painful jolts at 80mph. I ride for another hour before reaching the next rest stop. I wanted to make a fast stop, so I leave my helmet on (and therefore my headphones in). I stop at the drinking fountain and start to fill up an empty bottle with water. A custodian is sweeping the floor and says something to me, but I can't hear him. I pull the headphone cord until they pop out and he repeats himself. "Have you tasted the water yet? You might want to taste it before you fill up on it."

I indicate that I haven't, but that all the rest stop water has been good enough so far. We talked for a few minutes about where I was coming from and going to, he warns me not to run out of gas out here and I assure him that I've planned out my stops carefully so that I won't run out. The conversation is beginning to end and I fill up the water bottle, he again asserts that I should taste it, I do and it's a terrible soapy flavor, he laughs and says that they have a shallow water table and lots of strip mines in the area. I fill it up anyway in case I need it, but don't intend to drink it unless I have no other choice.

At about 8:00 I pull into Moorcroft, WY for gasoline, I buy a 1 liter bottle of water and laugh to myself thinking about Super Troopers while I do so. It has a wide mouth, so it will be easy to refill. I end up keeping this for the rest of my trip. Having a good supply of water now, I dump out the soapy rest stop water and call Jon, immediately greeted by a "Where are you?"

I explain that I stopped for a nap on the side of the interstate and tell him that I'm probably about two hours away now. I suggest that we go to breakfast when I get there, if they can wait another two hours and they agree. Since I haven't been to their new home, I get the GPS out, mount it to the glass of my speedometer and program the destination. It's very warm now, I take off my sweater and pack it away then get back on the road. I have to look around my GPS to see my speedometer, but the mileage reading on the GPS and watching the estimated arrival time wind down was nice. I hit the highway and maintain an 85 - 90mph speed for most of the remaining trip. It makes me sore, but I'm eager to be done with this ride. It became very painful, but I pushed through to Rapid City without any other stops.

As I got closer to Rapid City there were a lot more insects since the forests had become fairly dense. Occasionally I get a feeling like a droplet of water on my fingertips, but it was only a very moist bug. All the bugs make me think back to an earlier point in the trip (I don't remember when) that I stopped in a rest stop and was surprised to find a bee hiding inside the end of my fingerless gloves. I managed to shake it out without being stung, but the paranoia makes me check my gloves every few minutes as I ride. One particularly large insect hit the corner of my mirror and then hit my fingertips, it was astonishingly wet.

I was glad to see that they were still working on the same improvements to I-90 that they were working on the last time I was there. The speed limit dropped to 45mph for a few miles, but went back up to 65mph as I got closer.

The last few miles to the exit seemed to take forever, after all of these miles, I was very ready to take a break from the road. I took the I-190 exit to head right for the center of Rapid City, I-190 is a bit of a joke, it heads North/South instead of East/West like it should, and it is only about 1 mile long. It looks like Rapid City simply did what many other cities do in designating a small stretch of freeway as an interstate so that the federal government will build and maintain it, much like Tacoma's I-705 or Portland's branch of I-405. After getting off the Interstate, it was just a few blocks to Jon and Sheena's apartment. Google Street View had pictures of Columbus Street, so I was already familiar with the corner where I needed to ride up onto the crosswalk about a third of a block into the front yard of Jon and Sheena's place.

Jon and I had previously discussed this, so I knew I could stash my motorcycle behind the hedge out front. I took my bags inside for safety, but motorcycles are easy to steal, so I was glad to have a secluded hideaway for it. Not to mention it was shady, so the seat wouldn't take a beating from full sunlight all day long. Having saddlebags that can be zipped off was never more convenient than this time. I was able to carry everything up in one trip, they had a convenient closet in the living room where I was able to keep all of my stuff out of the way.

I had arrived.

There is plenty more to say, but for the sake of keeping this digestible, I'm dividing it into three portions, next will be my short stay in South Dakota, and after that I will write about the journey home.

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