Summer 2014 Ride

DAY 1 – 5/30/14

After some final preparations, I started this year’s trip at about 9:00 am.  The weather cooperated and made for a nice day of  riding.  I’m pleased to report that the new Kawasaki has proven to be quite a good bike for traveling.

Today’s route was all interstate highway miles.  Traffic was minimal and there were no notable highway construction delays.  Combined with the sunny 70 degree weather, it was a good day for a ride.  By the time I stopped in Toledo Ohio, I had covered just under 600 miles.

Sunday will be another day of interstate riding.  I should be somewhere in Nebraska by the end of the day.

States: NY, PA, OH
Miles Today: 590
Total Miles: 590


DAY 2 – 6/1/14

After a good first long day on the Versys, I had high hopes for the remaining part of the ride so I got started at around 8:00 am and continued West on I-80 through Indiana and into Illinois.

As I passed through Chicago the temperature was now in the mid-high 80’s and it was starting to getting windy.  Continuing across Illinois and into Iowa, the wind gradually got stronger and more annoying.  It wasn’t a real strong crosswind but was enough to make the ride a bit of work.  The lack of wind protection on the Versys really didn’t help either as my head got knocked around and of course, the wind noise was a constant companion.  I stopped quite a few times today, probably every 50 miles or so, to rest and take a break from the wind.

Riding on interstates can be interesting.  There isn’t much to amuse your self with so odd things seem to stick with you.  For example, there were certain trucks I  passed that I would remember because of the load they were carrying of the graphics on the trailer.  After stopping for a brief time, they would keep on moving down the highway and pass me while I was stopped.  I would get back out on the road and end up passing again.  This would repeat over and over throughout the day.  When this happens, I always think of the story of the Hare and the Tortoise proving that slow and steady wins the race.

I had intended to get to Omaha before stopping for the night but during what turned out to be my last rest stop, I had noticed that the sky ahead of me was getting dark and grey.  I checked the radar and saw a rather large storm ahead and decided that I would stop for the night and avoid putting on my rain gear and riding through a downpour.   I found a motel a few miles down the road and stopped for the night at around 6:30 pm.

States: OH, IN, IL, IA
Miles Today: 606
Total Miles: 1196


DAY 3 – 6/2/14

The rain passed through overnight and I awoke to cloudy skies and 65 degrees.  The roads were dry so after filling up with gas, I resumed my ride across Iowa and into Nebraska.

I’ve been stopping every 45-60 min for a 5 minute break and it seems to help out a lot.  This little Kawasaki isn’t like the Harley or BMW where you only stop for gas.  I need to stop a lot more often on this bike.  It looks like the Versys is good for a maximum of about 600 miles/day.

At one of the rest areas I stopped at I spoke to a guy from Omaha.  As it turns out, it’s a good thing I didn’t try to make it there last night because they had heavy rain and 50 mph winds.  I’m really glad I stopped when I did last night.

Riding through Nebraska gives you plenty of time to think and pause to reflect on things.   Today’s thoughts focused on how this year’s ride was compared to previous years.

This is my 7th cross country ride so I’ve become quite familiar with what to expect.  Because I’ve taken the same route more than once, I recognize and remember stopping at specific gas stations and truck stops in the past.  The motel I stayed at last night was across the street from a Super 8 motel that I stayed at a couple of years ago and the restaurant that I ate at last night – I’ve eaten there before.   I don’t plan ahead so the fact that I ended up staying in the same town somewhere in Iowa is quite a coincidence.

Ok, back to the ride report.  The wind had calmed down and was a non-issue today.  With the temperature right around 80 and hardly a cloud in the sky, it was a perfect day for a ride.   Traffic on I-80 seemed light and I didn’t hit any major construction zones either.  It was a great day.

Late in the afternoon I entered Wyoming and could see mountains in the distance.  After riding across the prairie for so many hours, seeing mountains always makes me feel good.  I passed through Cheyenne WY at around 5:00 pm and decided to continue on to Laramie where I stopped for the night.

I’m not sure where I’m going to go tomorrow so I’ll take a look at the map tonight to figure out where to go next.

States: IA, NE, WY
Miles Today: 618
Total Miles: 1,814


DAY 4 – 6/3/14

I got a nice early start this morning and got back on to I-80 for another day of interstate riding.  The part of I-80 through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada is quite nice with some great scenery and little traffic.

For the first couple of hours, it was a nice easy ride but as I neared Rock City WY I ran into some strong gusty winds that made the ride a bit challenging.  With the wide open spaces out here, the wind just blows across the flat land with nothing to stop it.  There was once instance where the wind wasn’t too bad but I could see a cloud of dust/dirt blowing across the road ahead.  Sure enough, as I hit that part of the road I got blasted hard by a strong cross wind.  I was ready for it so it wasn’t too bad but it was the kind of wind that will blow you right off the road if you’re unprepared.

At one of my frequent rest stops, I was on top of a mountain ridge alongside a good size wind farm.  The turbines were spinning away making nice clean, green power.

The wind only lasted for an hour or two and calmed down later in the day making for a comfortable ride.  The roads are generally straight and speed limits vary from 70-80 mph so you can really make some good time.

Somewhere in the middle of Nevada as I was getting back on the highway after getting gas, a bee hit me and ended up inside my helmet.  The odd part is that he was sitting upside down on top of the chin bar just behind my face shield.  I could see it sitting there and it appeared to be dead.  I didn’t just want to open the face shield because I figured he would just blow back into my face so I just watched him for signs of life as I looked for a chance to stop.  Within a minute, I started seeing him start moving his legs around so I made a quick emergency stop, opened the face shield and let him fall out.  Crisis averted!

After passing through Salt Lake City, I rode through the Bonneville Salt flats.  It’s quite a sight to see.  The salt goes on for miles and miles with occasional patches of water visible.

There were a couple of times today that I saw some insane tire wear on the rear tire.  It seems to be related to the road surface because sometimes it looks bad and other times, the tire looks normal.  It looks like the tire is heating up and just tearing the tread off along the center of the tire.  When I stopped at a rest area, I had to brush the gravel off because it was sticking to the center of the tire.  I’ve never seen anything like this on my other rides.  It looks like I just did a long smoky burnout.  The tread depth is now around 3/32 so the tire is just about used up at only 3,500 miles.  I’ll have to keep an eye on it to see if it’s going to make it the remaining 1,000 miles to my destination.  When I left NY, it had 6/32 of tread so it looks like it will be close.  When I get to LA, I’m going to be looking for a rear tire.  The front tire seems to be holding up fine.

It was a long day but I made good progress travelling over 700 miles.  I ended up stopping for the night about 150 miles east of Reno in a little town called Winnemucca NV.

States: WY, UT, NV
Miles Today: 741
Total Miles: 2,555


DAY 5 – 6/4/14

When I woke up today, I knew that I was close to CA so I took my time and got started around 8:30 this morning.  I headed back out onto I-80 for the final 150 miles of interstate highway to Reno.  From Reno, I took 295 into CA toward Susanville where I turned west on Rt 36.

The road from Susanville to Red Bluff takes you through the Lassen National Forest.  The mountains are dominated by thick pine trees and the aroma of pine is all around you.  It’s a truly wondrous place.   I visited the Lassen Volcanic National Park a few years ago so this is the second time I’ve been in this area.

I’ve read many good things about Rt. 36 between Red Bluff and Fortuna and it’s been on my ‘To Do’ list of rides for a while.  This year, I decided it was high time I got around to riding this awesome road so I topped off the tank in Red Bluff and continued west on Rt. 36.

When you see a sign like this, you know you’re in for a good ride.  After following a few cars for the first 10 miles or so, they turned off and it was clear sailing ahead.  For the rest of the ride down 36, I only had to get around one car.   I had to road to myself.  I got a thumbs-up from some riders going the other direction so  there was no sign of the highway patrol either.

After the first few dozen corners, the rear shock felt a bit soft so I decided to pull over and adjust the rear shock to stiffen it up a little.  With the shock adjustment done the bike felt much better in the corners.  And the corners just kept coming and coming one right after another.  What an awesome road.

I didn’t think I’d have time to go the whole 140 miles so, on the advice of a friend, about halfway across Rt. 36 I headed north on Rt 3. to Weaverville where I was told I would find some motels (Thanks Chuck!).

The beginning of Rt. 3 had some signs too.  The same warning to long trucks, followed by a 25 mph sharp corner warning, which is followed by a Cattle Crossing/Open Range sign.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  If hairpin turns aren’t enough to get your adrenaline flowing, now you also have to watch out for free range cows while leaned hard into a corner!  Awesome.

Rt. 3 was just as good as Rt. 36.  Plenty of great scenery and hairpin turns without guard rails.  Once again,  the only car I came up behind was kind enough to pull into a turnout and let me by.  It was another great 30+ miles of riding.

I ended up stopping at around 5:45 pm in Weaverville and got a room for the night.  Tomorrow, I’ll go back down Rt. 3 and finish up the ride to Fortuna.

Roads like this make the 3,000 mile trip worth it.  This is one of the best motorcycle roads I’ve ridden.

States: NV, CA
Miles Today: 457
Total Miles: 3,012

DAY 6 – 6/5/14

I was looking forward to finishing up the Rt 36 ride this morning and was not disappointed.  After going back down Rt 3 to 36, I continued to Fortuna.  This part of 36 didn’t have as many of the sharp corners but instead, had nice long sweeping turns.  A great ride for sure.

From Fortuna, I started South on US 101 and took a detour to see the Redwood trees on the Avenue of the Giants.  If you’re ever in northern California, this is a great place to visit.  I took a short hike through the forest to relax and enjoy the awesome sights.

After leaving the redwoods, I got back on to US 101 and headed toward Monterey.  Passing through Oakland was frustrating because I got there right around 5:00 and hit heavy traffic.  The Versys is much better at lane splitting that the BMW so at least that worked in my favor.  I’m still not very good a this lane splitting thing but I guess it’s something that takes practice.  I see other motorcycles zip right through but I can’t keep up with them.  I can’t imagine commuting in this kind of traffic on a daily basis.  It’s just crazy.

Once past Oakland and San Jose, the last 30 miles to Monterey was cold and foggy.  I was glad to get to the motel to warm up a bit.

Tomorrow will be the end of my ride as I expect to get to my daughter’s house in southern California.

States: CA
Miles Today: 469
Total Miles: 3,481


DAY 7 – 6/6/14

As is typical on the coast, the weather was cool, about 55 degrees,  when I left Monterey this morning.  The skies were mostly clear with just a hint of fog rolling in off of the ocean and the smell of salt water was in the air.

I headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway going through Carmel and Big Sur.  I stopped along US 1 a number of times to take pictures because every time you go around another corner, the view changes.  It’s some of the most beautiful scenery that you’re ever see.

Just south of big Sur I turned off of US 1 and onto Nacimiento Fergusson Rd.  This road takes you up into some nice canyons.  The road is narrow with tight switchbacks that take you up the mountain and above the fog  giving you an incredible view of the ocean from above US 1.

On the way up to the top of Nacimiento Fergusson Rd. I came across a tarantula walking across the road.  It didn’t seem to be in a hurry and posed for pictures.  I tried to coax it off the road but instead of turning around and running, it just reared up and got ready to attack  I decided to just leave it alone and let it take its chances crossing the road.

I rode past a number of National Forest campsites as I continued east toward Lockwood.  Eventually, the road straightened out and I started seeing lots of nondescript white vans on the road.  As it turns out, this road goes through a US Army training camp.  I’m guessing that I was being monitored because i had to drive through some devices that looked like big metal detectors.

Eventually, I ended up back on highway 101 where I headed south and then turned on to Rt.  33 toward Ojai.  The first part of this road went through some rather large Almond groves and then through some oil fields near an town named Taft.  After leaving Taft, the road started getting through some canyons and cooled off nicely.

Once I got to Ventura, I got back on to 101 and made the final run to my daughter’s house in Rancho Santa Margurita.  Of course my timing couldn’t have been worse because I spent that last 2-3 hours in heavy traffic giving me time to practice my lane splitting skills.  I probably went at least 20 miles weaving between cars trying my best not to smack my mirrors into pickup, SUV, and mini van mirrors.  I’m really not too good at this lane splitting thing so every time I saw another bike behind me, I pulled over and let them by.  I tried to follow but could never keep up.  In the end, I spend about 1.5 hours battling traffic before ending my cross country trip at about 7:30 pm.

States: CA
Miles Today: 430
Total Miles: 3,919


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