British Columbia is a B I G place, covering a significant part of the planet. And it's really far away.
So, as fortune favors the bold, but REALLY favors the prepared, I started planning. Needed new tires before the ride.
My favorites are Pirelli Scorpion Trails II and Metzeler Tourance Nexts.
I chose the Torance Nexts because they are a bit better on dirt, though they ride a bit firmer.
I did not plan on doing any off-road, mostly for safety (and some skill) reasons. Going down, even unhurt could be a problem for a 73 year old and a fully loaded 1200 GS. I might be there a LOONG time.
Still, on whatever ride I've ever taken I have found myself on less than ideal road conditions. You always do. It could be the road turns to dirt or gravel or some mix of the two, or there is a significant stretch of roadwork...whatever. I had been happy with the Nexts and that's what went on. Historically I get well over 8k miles out of them, and that's what looked like the ride would be. At the end it came in around 7500 miles and there was significant tread left on the Metzelers.
Also, needed to do a 12k service...check and a biannual brake flush...check. The girl was ready
This is her the night before departure.
I would be remiss if I did not give huge thanks to the inmates over on ADVRider.com. They were great, with recommendations, suggestions, evaluations and generally invaluable advice. And they were enthusiastic about the swamp headed "foreigner" visiting their stomping grounds. Again, they were a great asset in all regards and too many thanks are not enough!
Leaving NOLa in the height of summer and riding through the heartland can be hot, so, I planned on leaving in the early am, and stopping mid afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat. I usually do not ride out of NOLa in the summer, prefering to travel in Spring and Fall, but this time it was unavoidable.
Days before I was going to depart, I had a patient who had just returned from BC/Alberta, the Banff/Jasper area, and the Icefields Parkway--a major destination for me, was closed for them...by snow
... and this was not unusual.
Last year when I met up with P'man and Mrs P'man in late summer they had a similar experience just a couple of weeks before, so planning something "up north" requires some meteorological luck, but knowing when it is least likely to be thwarted by a m"wintry mix."
that meant leaving NOLa and traveling in the convection oven of June/July (for me).
On the way out of town I pulled over to get a shot of the bike in the swamps, soon to be very far behind.
Day one was uneventful...NOLa to Mena, Arkansas. Stayed at the Ozark Inn. I am not sure if there is a good part of Mena, but I suspect this was not it. Just across the parking lot a construction crew was busy doing something indiscernible, but it involved a back hoe, a front loader, noise and a lot of guys talking. Shovels could have been present, but soon enough they stopped.
Night came and went and Tuesday, June 18th dawned on what would turn out to be the worst day of the trip.
Again, I wanted to get an early start, so at dawn + 30 I was loading my bike, fueled by bad weak motel room coffee and the no-breakfast the Ozark provided. Ok, par for the course, no real biggie.
I am loading the bike and at the abandoned garage, also across the parking lot, the one that looks like a repository for old window A/C units, disassembled and rusting dishwashers, flat squares of grey metal, leaning against other grey pieces of metal, I see some movement, a scurrying, human in shape. I am thinking someone who works there is arriving. I continue to pack.
Soon I see that the moving shape was in fact human and headed my way.
You've been there, you're packing or refueling and someone approaches to talk with you about whatthehellyouredoing, whereareyougoing, whereareyoucomingfrom...you get these questions all the time, right? As the shape approached and I was prepping for the conversation, no real conversation happened.
50 ish year old sorta white male, picket fence dentition, and a plaid shirt that would have been kinda red, if color had remained. Earth tones, I mean like REAL earth as in dirt and mud.
I am reminded of the coffee shop scene between Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction
; Jules announcing he's going to walk the earth... "like Cain."
Yep, definitely a bum... now encroaching on my personal space. I say hello.
He mumbles something and is holding out a styrofoam cup that has something black and ashen in it at the bottom...maybe an old cigarette butt, maybe something else like the remains of a chew, but he's holding it out to me, though not offering me any, just out.
His speech is garbled, not with an Arkansas drawl, not with some speech impediment, not drunk (I think), and I make out that he's telling me he has no coffee.
Right, he has no coffee, well, brotha, this is your lucky day!
I tell him I can help him with that.
I go inside the room and get the motel pack of the "Mountain Colombian Josef" decaffeintated green packet "coffee" and bring it out to him.
He studies it, like it's some thousand year old theorem no one has ever proven or solved.
He tells me he has no water, things are starting to get a bit dicey security wise, I am thinking , and he then starts walking into my room, I guess, to get water.
I stop him, now raising my voice, "you're not going in there!" stepping in front of him. There is no one around, but in my motorcycle ninja garb and with a fully functioning frontal lobe, I must have been "imposing," and I have never been "imposing" in my life.
He shuffles off, disappears toward the front of the Ozark inn.
It was just a bad karma feel to the whole exchange. And then...and then...
So, my wife and I went to Mass the day before leaving. Cover all the bases, right? The gospel is the one "if you've done it to the least of your brethren, you've done it to Me," you know the one.
And I realize, 12 years of Catholic School guilt rearing its sometimes imprudent head, that this bum was by any measure whatsoever the quintessential "least of my brethren."
I think i'd have to travel to Calcutta to find lesser. This was that guy, no doubt.
No, he wasn't Jesus, wasn't Jebus either, but on day two of this epic thing, this happens, really no big deal, I can blow it off, but I have had the experience before where I've done something on one of these rides and bad luck seems to follow me for a while, long enough to connect the dots, to add 2 + 2 and maybe get a solid 5, but it could be a 4, you know?
So, my plan is...I have water in my side case--I had forgotten that. I get one out and on leaving Mena, I look for the guy to give him a bottle of water.
I look, I miss a turn, manage to get lost in Mena, all the while looking for the guy aka the least of my brethren.
I never see him. In an ironic twist, I am bummed.
But some good riding lies ahead today, though so does some BAD riding.
First, the good.
The Talimena Trail traverses the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Winding with elevation changes it is a nice change after the getouttadodge interstates of the day before.
There was rain all around my trip out of NOLa, but I managed to ride between the drops, and the dry continues on my first scenic part of the ride.
I notice what appear to be box turtles crossing the road, presumably to get to the other side, and I am careful to avoid them, thinking now that my karma balance may be equilibrating, until...
THUMP . THUMP, oh man, I just rolled over a box turtle, now definitely in the red in my karma account. Sorrr-EEEE!
The Talimena only goes so far and soon I am in the environs of Tulsa or something like Tulsa, a TLO, a Tulsa like Object, and it become H O R R I B L E and H O T. Quickly.
The garmin, Oh Ma Gawd! I HATE the garmin, get me out of OKLAHOMA. I wind up with the school marm voice telling me to Make A U Turn, and Stand On Your head, and WE JUST WANT TO DICK YOU AROUND. And Make that Turn You Just passed, I swear I heard some giggling.
It's now very hot, sweating in my armor, struggling to see the GD garmin screen that just disappears to blackness in anything brighter than an 8 year old's birthday cake. It is horrible. I look at my paper maps and tell the garmin to aim for anytown OK, that is in the direction I want to go, about 25-30 miles away---get me to sweet sweet Kansas and out of OKLAHOMA.
The garmin never fails to please . I put in the name of the town about 30 miles away, actually the first 4 letters of the name, and because the stupid garmin lists towns in ALPHABETICAL order, rather than by proximty, I am told of places in Poland and Indonsia, 6, 7, 8 THOUSAND miles away, but not the town down the road a piece. I could have put in more letters of the town, but the input system leaves a LOT to be desired, like the delays between tapping a letter and it actually appearing on the screen.
So, it starts "directing" me, sending me on the WEGOTHEREFIRSTWHITEMAN Turnpike. WhaaaT? I don't want to be on a toll road.
Dealing with a toll road on a motorcycle is not a fun experience, right? I thought I told you that, garmin, yet... Let's exit, no wait, the garmin is telling me to exit...uh oh, unmanned toll booth. Doesn't take cards, I have a 10, that's a non starter, so I snake around the barricade, a scofflaw and an outlaw in OKLAHOMA, and the garmin, instead of sending me on a local road as I thought the exiting of the WEGOTHEREFIRSTWHITEMAN Turnpike would lead to, the Garmin is sending me right BACK onto the WEGOTHEREFIRSTWHITEMAN Turnpike. I don't realize it until it is too fricking late!
Another scofflaw moment ensues at the toll booth at the entrance of the t'pke, and again when I get off at the next exit, and find my way OUT of OKLAHOMA and into Kansas, and the rain.
I've watched storms brewing in my general direction for a while and eventually we meet.
I pull over to wait it out and even in a storming rain, lightening and thunder, it was better than OKLAHOMA.
The end of day two finds me in Penny's Diner, in Wellington, watching Dorthy-Weather broil the skies from my booth with my tasty burger.
The next morning dawns grey then pink then bight overcast, and I am in Kansas, officially far from home.
Some can't stand the ride across Kansas and Nebraska. Not I, said the pig.
First, the plains are not always flat, but rolling to slightly hilly. Louisiana is flat, Kansas, Nebraska, not so much. It appeals as a minimalist landscape, land and sky and not much to break the horizon. Blue, gold, green in a tableau painted in watercolors by a 6 year old.
It stirs contemplation, almost a meditative experience. You're usually alone "out there. " You and the red tail hawks, the odd F-150, broken wind mill and a tarmac that could continue to Tatooine for all you know.
Rolling along the GS is doing its thing, Point A to Point B, and I finally stop in Sidney, Nebraska, near where Colorado and Wyoming and Nebraska meet.
I stop at the Comfort Inn, you know the one right by the Love's, Comfort and Love's woo hoo. A natural.
Turns out the Love's incorporates an IHOP, maybe not my favorite cuisine, but now they have burgers and other cow parts and that's what I have, that part of Elsie that becomes a Philly Cheese Steak.
Have you ever taken a shower at a Love's Truck Stop? You can. I wonder if they have beds? Hmmm.
So, as I mange my IHOP Philly Cheese Steak, the PA system is alive.
me and my fellow diners
Lemme set the scene.
I'm eating at anIHOP, for the first time since I've known better.
Actually an IHOP Express. It is within a Love's truck stop in Sidney, NE
An aural cornucopia awaits. I got the Philly cheese steak and it, and the attendant fries are good! On the radio is Faith Hill's cover of Take Another Piece a' Ma Heart, on the TV, Hannity is interviewing Trump, and over the intercom:
Customer 24! Your shower is ready! Please proceed to shower number 3!
Trump is talking about the wall...
Customer number 25. Your shower is ready, please proceed to shower number 7.
Occasionally, the overhead tells a driver of DH TRANS that his truck is in the way of the driver behind who wants to be on his way.
A family arrives to take the table next to me...Tattoos abound.
Mom sets the table for 4 kiddos , 11 and under.
Sitting at the window, I tell you what, Nebraska skies are gorgeous.
I'm doing fine.