My Trip Across America
 

 
    In the month of May 2007 I had the opportunity to travel across America on my motorcycle.  It started off as a ride from Indiana to California for a wedding I was planning to attend, but it became even more.  My buddy and I decided instead of just traveling to California that we would also travel to Maine before returning home, making it a coast to coast ride.  I had never traveled that far on a motorcycle before then, but felt this would be an adventure of a lifetime.

    Even months before the trip I was very excited.  I simply could not wait to hit the highways on my custom 2002 Honda VTX 1800C.  I had my packing list done at Christmas which the trip was still 5 months away!  Just two weeks prior to our departure, I was riding to work and had a major accident.  I was driving beside a car on a 2-lane roundabout when the car swerved into my lane.  I made the necessary maneuvers to avoid being hit by the car; however in doing so hit the inside curb of the roundabout with my left peg.  I lost control of the bike, slid across two lanes of traffic, and then flipped over the outside curb into the dirt.  Lucky I was wearing my helmet and I was able to walk away from the wreck with just some minor injuries.  My bike however did not survive the accident, it was considered totaled.

My Crashed VTX

    I freaked out.  Less than two weeks away of my trip of a lifetime and no bike to make the journey.  I missed several days of work, and I could barely walk.  My friends told me not to make the trip, but I did not want to miss out on this.  Determined to get myself another motorcycle, I located a 2001 Yamaha Venture ready to go with only 800 miles on it.  My insurance agent was able to get me a check for the VTX with just two days remaining before our scheduled departure.  It has been said that you should not add accessories to your bike right before a long trip, but what about riding another bike all together?  Of course I had to change the stock exhaust to some Baron’s Bag Slash Pipes, because my ride needs some bite.  I installed the pipes the night before the trip and they sounded awesome.  I was ready to ride.

    It was 6am on a Saturday morning in May and I was all packed ready to go.  My buddy arrived at my house on a 2007 Yamaha FJR ready to roll.  We went to a gas station down the street and filled the tanks.  As John B. L. Soule famously quoted (not Horace Greeley as often credited), “GO WEST, YOUNG MAN!” and then we were off.  We made our way towards St. Louis ready to see this beautiful country.  I will tell you this, riding a Venture with the stock pillow seat versus a VTX with a Corbin Young Guns seat on a long distance ride is like sitting on a couch versus sitting on a wooden stool.

    Not much to talk about for the first day of riding.  We arrived in Oklahoma City, OK before sundown.  We had planned to stay at my wife’s cousin’s place but we were turned away at the door.  My wife’s cousin lived at my house for over a year when she lived in Indianapolis and she told me when she left for Oklahoma that we would be welcome to stay a night if we were in town.  So much for family!  We ended up at a hotel down the street.  However, we did eat at a great steak place down from the Hotel called the “Chuck House”.  It is a great place to stop to eat on a budget.  We had dinner and a few drinks and returned to the hotel for some shuteye.

    In another bright and early morning, we left at 5am to try to make it to Douglas, AZ (1600 miles away) in one day.  We began to ride out of Oklahoma City in the rain, which quickly became a downpour.  We stopped many times at underpasses to try to get out of the rain for a little bit.  It was not getting any better so we decided to stop at a truck stop to rest and wait for the storm to pass.  Good thing we stopped as tornados were touching down just miles away from where we were located.  We rested a few hours and finally decided to move on.  There is nothing I can tell you that is good about watching the sky for tornados while on a motorcycle other then not seeing one at all.   We finally left Oklahoma and the skies opened up and the sun came out.  “Welcome to Texas!”

    Traveling thru Texas you see billboards all over the place for the free 72oz Steak at “The Big Texan Steak Ranch”.  All I could think of was one of my favorite films of all time “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy when he tries to eat the entire steak and the cook states he has to eat the fat and gristle as well to get it for free.  I love that scene.  I really wanted to stop but we were running behind on time to make it to Douglas that day.  Anyway, if you are ever in North Texas, you might want to stop at “The Big Texas Steak Ranch” in Amarillo, TX and make sure to bring your appetite.  We drove all the way to Albuquerque, NM for dinner at my buddies relatives place.  Spent an hour or so for dinner and got back on the road.

    It was getting late, and I was tired.  It was about midnight local time and it gets really dark in the desert.  We were on a not heavily used highway in New Mexico so my buddy stopped his bike.  I stopped next to him and he said, “Turn your bike off”.  I screamed back at him, “Are you kidding me?”  Let’s think of this, I have not seen a car for miles, we are in the middle of nowhere, and you want me to do WHAT???  So I do it and turn off the bike.  I am glad I did.  Wow, it was like I was in outer space.  You could see stars that you did not even know existed.  It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.  We made it to Douglas, AZ and crashed for the night.  We both slept in since we needed the sleep.  We were staying at another relatives of my buddies for the day to visit and get some rest.  We spent the day enjoying the family and laying around resting.

    We decided to run to the Yamaha Dealer in town to see about having them look at my buddies bike for a tire wobble.  I decided to buy some new Kuryakyn Universal ISO Grips and the Kuryakyn ISO-Throttle Boss for my bike and installed them.  The stock grips were very uncomfortable for me when I was used to riding with the Kuryakyn’s I had on my VTX.  It took a couple of us to get them installed, but we got it.  That throttle cable link is a royal pain to get connected, but well worth it once the grips got installed. 

    The next day we traveled to Las Vegas.  We took some very scenic drives thru the desert up to Vegas.  The desert is an incredible place to ride a motorcycle.  I am jealous that people out there get to enjoy riding their everyday.   I have never been to Vegas before so I was very excited.  We traveled thru the Air Force Plane Graveyard near Phoenix and stopped at the Hoover Dam.  Security was very tight coming into that area, I felt like we were driving into a war zone.  The Hoover Dam is an incredible man-made structure.  Pictures do not do it justice.  We made it to Vegas and it was party time.  We hit the strip, did a little gambling, and had a fun night walking around, eating, and drinking. 

Hoover Dam

 

 

Northern Los Angeles

    The next day we traveled around Vegas some more and finally left dodge headed for LA.  On our way, we decided to take a scenic path thru the mountains north of LA.   We went about 30 miles down this scenic route and saw a sign for road closed ahead.  Not knowing what lies ahead we traveled onward.  We arrived at the closed road.  Come to find out there was a landslide and it took out the road.  There was no way around it, we are forced to turn around and go back 30 miles to the start.  We did take some good photos from top of the mountains, but lost a lot of time.  We made to LA, drove into Hollywood, drove down Sunset Blvd.  Damn, Hollywood is dirty, it is like driving thru Gary, IN.  We found a place to stay north of LA somewhere. 

     The next day was one of the most incredible motorcycle rides I have ever ridden.  We drove up the coast on Route 1 up to Monterey (this is where the wedding I was attending).  Driving the California coast is the most beautiful, exciting riding you can do.  You cannot keep from stopping every 5 minutes to take another photo.  Some of the twists and turns are very enjoyable.  We took a whole day to ride up the coast.   We arrived in Monterey for the weekend, attended the wedding, and then left for Maine, a mere 3,500 miles away.

                               

California Coast up Route 1

    During the weekend I decided to get new brake pads for the Venture.  The brakes were chirping a lot and felt changing them would be a good idea.  I am glad I did, the chirping stopped and the brakes were felt much better.

    We decided on the return trip to go north.  We finally got the opportunity to use lane splitting that has always been talked about in California.  Traffic was stopped on this road we were on and my buddy made the move to lane split.  I followed, holding my handlebars as tight as possible, hoping that no one decides to be a jerk and wipe us out.  It seemed to me that California drivers expected this; however out of state drivers do not understand this way of the road.  We had two out of state drivers swerve at us thinking we were in the wrong.  No problem.  I revved my engine like I am going to kick their butt and they stopped.  We drove up to Carson City, NV and hit the old casinos.  I think we were the youngest people in town.  I believe the average age of the people in this town was 65.  I think once people retire, they move and live in Carson City.

 

Northern California

    The next morning we headed toward Yellowstone National Park.  Nevada is not a very fun state to ride in.  It is very flat and straight (boring).  We tried to make it fun by taking off the beat path and side roads.   We felt we did not want to drive thru Salt Lake City and went around Salt Lake on north side.  We ended up on a country road and we saw a lot of livestock.  We drove over a hill and a bunch of cattle are standing in the middle of the road.  Revving the engine near them made them move, but I was weary that one of the males might charge at us.  We made it unscathed, and stopped in Idaho Falls, ID.

    OK, the next day might have been the best day of the trip, riding thru Yellowstone National Park.  It was bear season and we are on the lookout for bears.  We rode down thru the park stopping at the tourist stops like “Old Faithful” and other popular areas and then you see them.  Bison are everywhere.  These animals are absolutely enormous and they are so close to you.  My buddy got within 5 feet from one while I was taking a picture.  A park ranger started running at us screaming, “Step away”.  Supposedly Bison can move very fast and can be aggressive if threatened.  I thought I was going to get the newest picture of The Darwin Awards right in front of me.  Seeing how close he got, you would think he was crazy.  Just image if we saw some bears (lucky for us, we did not see any).  We left the National Forest and stopped in Cody, WY for the evening.

 

Fun with Bison in Yellowstone

    We left the next morning out of Cody thru Wyoming and into South Dakota and stopped in Sturgis.  We visited the Harley outlet, checked out Mt. Rushmore, and rode the pigtails (very cool). We continued our tip across South Dakota.  We were driving along and my gas gauge indicated needing to stop soon.  I know I can go around 40 miles on reserve so I was not too worried.  The problem is (1) not many gas stops on exits, (2) we were in construction and many of the exits were closed.  I had around 30 miles in reserve and saw an exit.  We stopped and the gas station there was closed for the night.  We saw a sign stating a casino is up the road so we followed it expecting to see a gas station up that way.  We drove another 10 miles with nothing in sight.  I saw a lamppost and decided I have to stop.  I am just about out of gas.  I tell my buddy I cannot risk going any further.  We heard a dog barking from a house down the road and decided to see if someone is home.  It’s around 10pm local time.  My buddy gets off his bike and walks towards the house.  Then in the shadows I see the dog.  It is a Doberman Pinscher and it is not on a chain.  I thought that was it, my buddy was going to die.  Then a light turned on.  A woman came out asking what we wanted.  We told her that we were out of gas and wondered if she could help us.  She stated she had some gas in the garage and that her daughter was inside with the phone ready to call the cops if anything were to happen.  We said we would be happy to pay her for the gas and we were not going to cause her any trouble.  It was the most expensive gas I have ever paid for, but I would have paid even more if I needed too.  We got back to the highway and drove another five miles and found four gas stations.  Just my luck!  We called it a night.

    We made a plan to try to make it back to Indiana all in one day from Chamberlain, SD.  We drove all day and into the night.  That was the coldest ride of the trip.  When I arrived back at my house, I jumped into the shower to try to warm back up.  I still do not know what the temperature was during that night, but getting home and sleeping in my bed was well worth it.

 

Pictures along the way

    We took a couple of days to rest up and headed back out East.  We started early and rode up to Fredonia, NY just south of Niagara Falls.  The ride was not that exciting.  The only highlight was seeing a nuclear power plant up close just outside Cleveland.

    The next day we decided to pass on Niagara Falls since we both had been there before and rode up to Adirondack Park in Northern New York.  Wow, that place is awesome for riding.  The roads are clean, smooth, and fun to riding on.  I would recommend anyone going to that part of the country to try riding the park.  You will not regret it.  We stayed outside the park in Albany.

    The next morning we rode thru Vermont and New Hampshire and arrived in Maine for some Lobster.  I had never had Lobster before so I thought I would try it.  Not bad, if you can get a good one which should taste close to a steak not fishy.  We drove down the coast thru Boston, Providence, and into New York.  Then all hell broke loose.  As we approached New York City it rained harder than I had ever seen.  Picture this, driving in crazy New York traffic on pothole roads in heavy down pour.  Get the picture?  Somehow, someway we made it thru it.  We arrived in New Jersey, ALIVE!

    Being that I love history, I thought it would be a great idea to drive to Gettysburg for our next stop.  Riding a motorcycle on the east coast is not as fun as it is on the west coast because of the traffic.  We went to Gettysburg and visited all the historic spots in town.  We spent the night getting ready for the last day of the trip.

    We got up for the last day of riding.  The sun was out, bikes are ready to go home, and so were we.  I drove during the day thinking of all the wonderful places we had visited, soaking in all of my travels.  As we got closer to home, the more I felt sad know that my adventure will soon be over.  We arrived home safely with many stories to be told.

    Looking back on my trip, I would do it all over again.  I rode to both coasts and borders in a two-week riding period. I would say that is a great accomplishment that most people would never attempt to do. Thanks for reading my story.

 

Papa