Friday, August 22, 2014

One boy, one bike

Ten A.M. on a cool summer morning in Michigan. I sat alone in the driveway on my motorcycle wearing an over sized motorcycle jacket. A tent and sleeping bag were strapped to the luggage rack. I talked aloud to myself:

"What the hell am I doing now? This is such a dumb idea..."

Ahead of me laid a week long camping trip across the country, consisting of 13 states and approximately 5000 miles round trip. It would be the first time I had spent more than two hours on a motorcycle in one sitting. I had two choices at that point. One, go back inside and crawl under the covers, throwing away everything I had planned over the past five weeks; or two, start the bike and pull out of the driveway.

2,731 miles later I sat on a stump near Coulee City, Washington. My '82 Suzuki had just died at an intersection on Highway 2. I was at an old abandoned gas station; paint peeling off wood siding; broken window panes; crumbling concrete. I was less than 300 miles from my destination. After twenty minutes or so of piddling around hopelessly wishing my dead battery back to life, a nice lady pulled up and asked if I needed help. She gave me the phone number to a tow service in the nearest town. Soon enough there was a gray haired, heavily tattooed man winching my motorcycle onto the back of a flatbed. He took me about 20 miles into Coulee City to the only parts and hardware store in the small town. We walked in and gave a typical exchange, and I was quickly back on the road. Funny note about how small and old fashioned Coulee City is: the store wasn't yet equipped to take plastic. I had to go around the block to the only town bank and withdraw cash from the ATM in order to pay for the new battery.

Back on the road it was blazing hot and smoky. Wild fires were raging heavily throughout the area. Twenty miles on, Highway 2 took me into another very small town called Waterville, where I decided to stop for gas. At the first red light, the bike died again with the same story. No lights, no starter, nothing. I was directly off of main street, hundred year old brick facade buildings lining the way. There was no traffic to be seen, so I just pulled my bike to the side of the street. Unbuckling my helmet, I surveyed my surroundings. I was surprised to see that I had backed into the parking spot of an auto parts store. I went in and plead my case to the guy behind the counter, who stared back with a confused face. He paused, looked behind me as the door-dinger donged announcing another customer entering.

"Well I can't help ya" he said, "but this guy here is the local motorcycle expert."

I turned to see a gruff older guy in overalls and glasses.

"That's a nice bike out there!" He complimented through a thick salt and pepper mustache and beard.

"Thanks, you should see it when it's running."

I then replayed my story to him, Tim, who found a lot of humor in it. After double checking the battery connections, he assured me I had a dead alternator. He gave me a jump off his truck and advised me to just keep the bike running for the remainder of the day, and rev the engine when at stops to keep it from dying. I thanked him for his help and he followed me for a few blocks to the gas station to make sure I'd be alright. I never made it to the gas station. He pulled up behind me.

"Alright Daniel, I've got a proposition for ya. I'm going into Wenatchee today to buy a '63 Lincoln Continental. Why don't we load your bike into my trailer and I'll take you into the city to a shop my buddy runs. He's been working on Suzuki motorcycles for over forty years. He'll do ya up right."

I couldn't believe the fortune of the the situation I had found myself in. Of all the places I could have possibly broken down across thousands of miles, it just happened to occur in this small town right in front of an auto parts store that my saviour Tim just happened to be walking into seconds later. You can't make this stuff up! This total stranger was gracious enough to go out of his way to make sure I would get to my destination; took me into his home, even offered me a beer and a tour of his welding/motorcycle garage.

So we headed through the mountains into Wenatchee, bike trailer in tow. We dropped the bike at Jack's Motorcycle Repair in Wenatchee and I knew she was in good hands. Tim and I parted ways after thanking him excessively and I found a motel for the night. From the window I was able to snap a good pic showing the heavy wildfire smoke in the area. These were taken at the same time, looking in either direction.

Looking to the East, clear skies

Looking to the West, thick wildfire smoke
The next morning I took a greyhound bus the rest of the way to my grandparents' house in Mukilteo where I could finally rendezvou with the family. It was a great feeling to get off the road and sit down with a beer and homemade burgers with familiar people.

Much of our time in Washington was spend at Dumas Bay running the 2014 Encausticamp with mi Madre. Unfortunately my camera died around that time, and the one thing I forgot to pack was my camera charger.

Unpacking and setting up

The return trip to Michigan was equally as amazing. I took a different route this time so I could maximise my scenery-intake. The weather was perfect most of the way. I only got rained on once, and I was able to find a rest area within a few miles to pull off and wait out the storm.

If I had to pick a favorite part of the trip, it would be everything on the East side of the rockies. Beautiful landscapes with mountains, lakes, rivers, and valleys; wild buffalo, elk, and moose.

My first campsite. The only campsite I took a picture of

I'm back at home now, getting settled in. As I write I'm eating chicken alfredo with garlic scape pesto made from the garlic I grew from Grandpa Dick's bulbs he gave me last year. The pesto is fantastic, and Maddie made her homemade alfredo sauce with lots of butter, cheese, and fat. They paired together perfectly.

From my driveway in Haslett, MI to where I broke down in Wenatchee was approximately 2,750 miles. When I pulled into my father's driveway on the return trip my tachometer read 2,089 miles. Somehow I managed to cut almost 700 miles off the return trip.

Getting away feels great, but getting back always feels better. 

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