Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Via Mexico: Chapter 2

      Unfortunately, I was the smallest of the three.  As this guy came charging through the gate he approached Michael first and immediately started swinging while yelling at us to give him whatever we had.  We had no intention of giving him anything, and nothing is what he got.  Michael had enough arm length to hold the lunatic off until he got bored and came after me, I was not so fortunate.  The fists immediately started swinging and crack!  He landed one square on my nose, breaking it and creating a facial blood geyser.  The moment this happened he turned and ran.  At this point, I'm standing there in the parking lot holding my nose with blood pouring out like a faucet.  While all this was going on, the driver of the car the nut followed in had called the police, they arrived quickly to assess the situation.  I explained to them what happened and that the guy ran off and was probably long gone by now.  Surprisingly though, the idiot came back!  Not sure why exactly, but he did.  Clearly when you are that high on drugs you stop making rational decisions.  Regardless, he came back and got arrested.  Upon arrest, he explained that he was in fact high on crack and had multiple warrants.  I'm guessing our friend, Says hello with Fists, is still enjoying his getaway at the State of New Mexico Resort and Spa.  
       When the flashing lights of the squad cars made there exit, we walked back out to our bikes to decide what to do.  As we stood there, both in a little shock from the ridiculousness that had just ensued, a white Cadillac Escalade rolls in.  Inside this pristine Cadillac was an older, grey haired  gentleman that immediately showed concern for us.  It was clear that I was not in the best of shape, plus the fact that it was freezing cold and we were on our motorcycles.  He came to a stop in front of our bikes and asked what was going on.  We filled him in on our intro to Albuquerque and our plan to ride to Puerto Vallarta.  He was intrigued by both and offered to take us out to eat as a way to show us that not everyone in this town was bad and to hear more about our upcoming adventure.  Happy to meet a friendly face we took him up on his offer.  We all went to our rooms, unloaded our things and met in the lobby ten minutes later.  
      From the hotel we took a short walk downtown where we found a casual bar/grill to sit, eat and drink.  This was one of those times that makes travel of anysort worthwhile.  Instead of sitting around feeling down about the situation, we were very much enjoying ourselves with the help of a stranger.  We sat there for a couple of hours trading stories and ideas on all sorts of topics.  In fact, this gentleman is who turned me on to the phrase "rocking chair stories", a phrase I still hold on to whenever I find myself in a precarious situation.  In addition to treating us to food and drinks, he also arranged for us to park our bikes in the underground employee parking area (it turns out he was a traveling salesman and stayed in that hotel every week) to ensure there safety, then went even further and gave us his Spanish-English dictionary.  As the evening came to end we meandered back to the hotel with a few more stops along the way to shoot some pool and taste test some more beer, eventually getting back to our rooms for a good nights sleep.  
      Day one of our trip proved to be a test of will.  We encountered cold, snow, rain and an attempted mugging.  We found this all almost humorous because everybody had been warning us about Mexico and nobody mentioned the hazards of Albuquerque.  Regardless of what happened on this day, we would not be deterred.  Tomorrow would be a new day.   

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Via Mexico: Chapter 1

      December 24th, 2009, 6 am, cold, dark and rainy.  Motorcycles packed and ready.  Kickstands up and we were off.  The destination was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Typically, leaving the comfort of your own home at a time like this to embark on a motorcycle adventure would seem ubsurd.  But, knowing that our destination would provide us with a warm comfortable sun made it all worth while.  
     The idea for this trip stemmed out of an invitation from a mutual friend to come down and enjoy the new house he had just purchased in the little town of Bucerias, just outside of Puerto Vallarta.  Michael and I discussed everything from routes, time needed, date to leave, time to cross the border, safety measures and many other details.  We planned and prepared as best we could knowing we would be on the road for up to two months in a foreign country.  We acknowledged and promptly dismissed the warnings from family and friends about the dangers of crossing the border, and eventually, we got all the details ironed out and it was time to go.  
      It was a cold, dark, wet morning, the forecast was looking bleak,  but we would not be deterred.  Our emotions were a mix of excitement, concern and curiosity about what we would encounter.  So, with no more hesitation and a grin on our face, we rolled out.  It started to rain within the first mile, but at least it wasn't snow we thought.  That would change just south of Denver when the rain did eventually transform to snow.  With temperatures now in the 20's and snow falling, we found our stops to warm up becoming more and more frequent along with conversations regarding our intelligence level.  But alas, the weather broke as we were approaching Las Vegas, New Mexico.  We pulled into town for a bite to eat, enjoy the warmer temps now in the 30's and prepare for our final push into Albuquerque.  
      Turns out that we were in no way in the clear with regards to weather.  Almost immediately upon leaving Las Vegas the snow rolled back in, and this time, with a vengeance.  It was not only snowing, it was blowing sideways.  The gusty cross winds were drifting the now substantial amount of snow onto the interstate forcing down our speeds and pushing us as far right as we could get.  At this point we found ourselves crawling along at 20mph on packed snow.  Luckily, as we were about to be passed by a local in a pick up truck, he quickly acknowledged the dangerous situation we were in and volunteered to tuck in behind us to help control traffic.  The gentleman followed us for 50 miles until we exited for fuel, at which point we exchanged a friendly wave of appreciation.  We exited slowly and carefully eased our way into the gas station where we promptly parked our bikes and found shelter inside with a warm cup of coffee.  At this time we had to honestly assess our situation and decide what to do next.  We checked the weather scanners, spoke to truckers coming from the south as well as other drivers.  From what we could tell, if we made it another 20 miles or so south the snow would turn back to rain and we would soon be in Albuquerque.  We hesitantly decided to press on and sure enough, the snow did finally stop falling and the roads cleared up a bit.  From here we were able to simply sit back, relax and finish our day by exiting for downtown Albuquerque.  
       Albuquerque is a rough town, and we were reminded of this almost immediately.  Our goal for the night was to find a warm room and a hot meal, seemed simple enough.  We found a hotel on the west end of downtown by the name of Hotel Blue.  Hotel Blue was a nice enough place but more importantly it had a fenced, locked parking lot to ease our concerns for the safety of our bikes overnight.  We went inside, booked a room, then went back out to park our bikes in the safety of the secured parking area.  As we pulled in and stopped in our parking space we noticed what appeared to be a cracked out enraged gang banger pounding his fists on the fence and yelling obscenities at us.  Sitting there staring at each other in disbelief, Michael and I quickly assessed our situation and decided to shut down our motorcycles.  This, in hindsight, turned out to be a bad idea.  The thug took this as a sign that we were down for an impromptu boxing match and managed to follow a car into the parking lot.  Now, here we were, locked inside the fence with this fist throwing, crack riddled gangbanger looking for a little entertainment...........................

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rocking Chair Stories

      Says hello with fists....that was the name my good friend Michael and I gave to the crack head that broke my nose the day after Christmas in 2009.  But this story isn't about that, this story is about the gentleman we met because of my broken nose. 
      Occasionally, an incredibly ridiculous situation like this leads to an amazing situation that you will remember forever.  As I stood there in the parking lot of the Hotel Blue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, nose pouring blood and the flashing lights of the local police fading away into the cold winter night, a white Cadillac Escalade rolls into the parking lot and stops in front of our motorcycles.  Out steps an older, grey haired gentleman full of curiosity as to what we were doing on our bikes on this cold night and why exactly my nose was broken.  We explained to him the situation involving a local junkie who was trying to rob us (with no success I might add), discussed boxing techniques that would have come in handy 20 minutes prior and told him about our plan to ride to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  He found all of this rather unbelievable and decided he should to take us out for food and drinks to hear more.  Happy to have found a friendly face in this crime riddled town, we agreed.  
    It turns out that this gentleman was a traveling salesman and had been staying in this hotel every week for years.  He said he had never heard of anything like this happening around that hotel, so I was happy to have provided a first for him.  From the hotel we meandered our way to a local bar/grill where we immediately started consuming damn near lethal amounts of Jack Daniels (this is back when I still drank), consumed record breaking amounts of burgers and fries and occasionaly swabbed blood that was intermittently dripping from my sniffer.  Sitting around the table we discussed our plans to ride into Mexico, places we were hoping to see and situations we hoped to avoid.  He talked a bit about his experiences with traveling in Mexico, provided constructive advice and even gave us his Spanish/English dictionary.   This gentleman instilled in us that we would have a great trip regardless of what happened, even reminded us that we were currently having a good time despite the fact that we had just gotten jumped and my eyes were quickly turning a real nice shade of black and blue.  The one thing in particular that he said that really stuck with me was this :  "Don't worry about anything, you're out there making rocking chair stories."  
      Rocking chair stories, what a nice way to put it.  I suppose I already new that we were out there doing something we would share with others for a long time to come, but when he said it that way it really hit home.  Though I don't remember his name or the name of the place we ate, I do remember his kind words and wisdom.  He has become one of my rocking chair stories.  


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Going to The Surgeon

The bike that is...
       As many of you already know the motorcycle is going through yet another transformation.  Last years travels across the United States took it's toll on it in more ways than one.  Not only did the appearance of it change from shiny raw steel to a rather disturbing shade of brown, thanks to the seemingly endless miles along the coast and camping on the beach, but the motor also took a beating.  As the summer went on, the miles racked up.  And, with the increasing average MPH, especially on the interstates, the motor was feeling about as responsive as a Vespa.  It was slowing down noticeably in fact.  I found myself downshifting at times where I wouldn't have before and holding the throttle wide open at times I shouldn't have needed to.   None of this was surprising though as the motor now has 132,000 miles on it, 90,000 since the last rebuild.  
     This new version of the bike will be dramatically different then anything I've had before.  Though no serious modifications are being made to the frame the front end is getting replaced. I learned over this last summer that running an 18" over telescoping fork on a bike with a 60 degree rake is rather pointless.  Because of the extreme angle the suspension is rendered virtually useless.  Any suspension you get simply comes from the flex in the fork tubes.  In light of this, the current front end is being replaced with a 27" over rigid fork.  Thats right, rigid. The front end was fabricated using  nothing more then steel tubing.  The idea being that the increased length will offer more suspension due to increased flex without the issues of constantly blowing fork seals.  I'm excited to try it and report back on the results.  
     The only modifications made to the frame itself was the addition of a custom luggage rack and tie down points to ease the securing of a bag.  The new arrangement will give me the ability to safely and efficiently secure a waterproof duffel bag without the use of bungee chords.  This sounds like a small thing but over the course of a couple months on the road its the details that make a difference.    
     The motor and transmission is where the majority of improvements are being made.  A complete top to bottom rebuild is taking place as I type this.  The motor is being bored out to a 95", up from 88".  Virtually every component of the motor is being replaced and upgraded including S & S flywheels, gear drive cams, pistons, lifters, etc.  Complimenting the new motor will be a shiny new Baker 6spd transmission complete with an overdrive to keep my RPM's down when cruising the interstate at 90mph.  This work is being done courtesy of Frontline Cycles in Longmont, CO. 
   Finally, All this will be coming together with a fancy new paint job.  This will be the first time I have had a bike with paint on it in nearly 8 years.  Estimated completion of this project is two weeks from today, so keep your fingers and toes crossed and check back soon for more updates!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wanna go camping?

"Hey, whats up man?" 
"Nothn really, you?"
"Nothn...wanna go camping this weekend?  Forecast said it's suppose to be a little warmer"
"Yea, sounds good!"
"Where do you want to go"
"I don't care but we probably shouldn't get to high in the mountains, it'll still be freezing up there"
"Agreed. Alright, lets meet in the morning at 9 and go figure it out"
"Cool, see ya"

     This was a conversation that took place between myself and my good friend Aaron a few years back, in March,in Colorado.  The forecast was looking great.  Temps in the 60's and sunny, couldn't be better especially on the tail end of a long winter.  So that next morning we met up, bikes loaded with our tents, sleeping bags and other essentials and hit the road.  Not really having a plan we casually worked our way over towards Morrison along Hwy 285.  Morrison is a neat little town nestled in the foothills of the Rockies so it seemed like a good place to stop, grab some lunch and discuss our lack of planning in a little more detail.  It's a good thing we did, because after our bellies were full of burgers and fries we learned that a full stomach does not improve your ability to make decisions.  We did however decide that staying on 285 wasn't a terrible idea...as long as we stayed below 8,000 feet.  Straight up 285 we went.  Well, it wasn't actually that straight, 285 is a rather curvy road that climbs in altitude fairly quickly, alot of fun.  Anyway, we worked our way up 285 looking for campsites, not giving much thought to how far into the mountains we were getting.  The road was fun, the temps were great and the sun was shining...what was there to think about? Right?  Along we went, smiles upon our faces and couldn't be happier while passing sign after sign pointing towards a campground.  It just seemed a little early to stop for the day so we kept moving. 
      Along Hwy 285 there are plenty of cool little towns, one of them being Jefferson.  Now there isn't really much in Jefferson, basically a gas station/market, so we stopped to check it out.  By this point it was probably 3pm, seemed like an appropriate time to actually find a campsite.  As we had approached this little town we noticed a sign for Terryall Reservoir, perfect we thought.  We went into the quaint little market to inquire about this reservoir.  The friendly shop keeper let us know that there was in fact camping but it was 14 miles down the road so we had better take some food and water.  No problem.  We loaded up on the essential, high quality survival type foods such as hot dogs, chips and coffee, topped off our fuel tanks and worked our way down the tarmac ribbon.  The 14 mile long road to the reservoir was a blast, packed full of perfectly placed curves, dips and climbs.  The best part about it was that at the end of this scenic twisty road was an amazing reservoir complete with waterfalls, wildlife and trails.  
     It was rather easy to find a spot to camp as there wasn't anybody else up there, a little early in the season we figured.  We decided on a spot right on the water thinking it would be nice to wake up to.  What we did fail to think about was our conversation that very morning about not getting above 8,000 feet.  Tarryall Reservior sits at 9,111 feet. After we spend a few minutes setting up our makeshift temporary village while watching the sun go down, we decided to walk up one of the nearby trails and gather some firewood.  Surprisingly, there was a complete lack of firewood and the thought of having to burn a nearby picnic table just didn't feel right.  Luckily, Aaron came to the rescue, hopped onto his spaceship (Honda Goldwing)  and went back to Jefferson to grab some firewood.  It was a good thing he did because the temperature was dropping quickly and hot dogs taste a lot better cooked.  It didn't take long to get a fire going, as we are both professionaly trained in the use of a Bic lighter, and we were in business.  Everything was good.  We sat around our fire, ate, put on some more clothes, ate, put on even more clothes, swapped stories...talked about how cold it was getting.  Man, it was getting cold, seriously cold and we couldn't get that fire big enough to combat the dropping temperatures.  Time to climb into the sleeping bags and attempt to stay warm.
       Thinking to myself that I have a nice sleeping bag, I did't think staying warm would be an issue, but it was.  I laid there curled up, freezing, trying my best to get some sleep.  Didn't happen.  At somepoint in the night I was not only freezing but a truck full of kids showed up to do a little late night drinking, so I thought.  It turns out, after complaining to Aaron about it the next morning, that I imagined the entire thing.  Apparently there were no loud, drinking punk kids.  I'm still not sure about this.  The only thing I can think is that I was so cold I was becoming delusional, probably borderline hypothermic.  Who knows.  Either way, I climbed out of my tent tired and cold that morning.  How cold was it?  According to the thermometer on Aarons space ship it was 15 degrees.  The bikes were covered in a thick frost and just glared at us when we talked about wheather or not they would even start.  First things first though, coffee.  I got out my JetBoil to get some coffee going in hopes that it might warm us up a little as we deconstructed our hobo village, it didn't.  I would have been better off pouring it on my head.  It was ok though, we thought, soon enough we would be barreling downhill back to the warmth.  Luckliy it did eventually warm up, but not before we froze our unmentionables off trying to get to a lower altitude.  It was the kind of cold where the wind on your forehead is so cold that you can literally feel your brain freezing solid, but then, clearly they weren't being used anyway.  But like I said, it did warm up.  In fact, by the time we got back to Denver it was nearly 70 degrees.  A great way to end an overnite camping trip!
        I know this may sound like a miserable night so let me finish with a few things I didn't mention.  At one point in the middle of the night I was awoken by the moonlight.  We didn't realize that there was going to be a full moon.  Let me tell you, a full moon at 9,000 feet in a clear, dry sky is something to take note of.  It was so bright it not only woke me up but lit the reservoir like daylight.  I could see clearly across the lake as the landscape was blanketed in a cool blue glow.  I walked over to Aarons tent knowing he wouldn't want to miss it and woke him up.  Together we spent a few minutes marveling at the site, knowing then that these are the moments that make it all worth while.  These are the experiences worth a little discomfort.  Sure, I could have spent the night in my warm bed but I would have missed out 2 great days of riding, beautiful Colorado roads, discovering a new campsite, a full moon in the Rocky Mountains and quality time with a good friend.  There is nothing I would have changed.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Its just not possible...is it?

         It was the summer of 2012 (I think), June, hot and humid.  Arkansas was the destination, the STFU Run to be specific, and I was riding with a '72 shovelhead.  Upon this vintage steed was a fine fellow by the name of Justin Cope.  Justin has been a very good friend of mine for a long time so when he told me he wanted to ride to Arkansas on his '72 I put my fears aside and agreed that it was a great idea.  Not only would this offer us the opportunity to crush some miles together but the destination would land us amongst more good friends such as Wes (the creative master mind behind the STFU and Ride party) , Zac, Jay and the other Oklahomies.  The fear I had was directed towards Justins motorcycle, certainly not his riding ability.  With an extensive background in professional motocross racing and freestyle motorcross there isn't any lack of riding ability.  In fact, I'd dare to say that he's got more skills on two wheels then anybody I know.  
        I'm sure this next part will ruffle a few feathers but lets face the facts.  Vintage motorcycles are awesome but they tend to be slower and have more problems.  Basically, you spend more time sitting on the side of the road repairing who knows what.  Virtually every long ride I've taken with somebody on an old bike at some point involved an hour on the roadside fixing something.  But, then I rode with Justin on his '72 and my opinion changed a bit.  
      The first couple days of the ride were reletively uneventful, simply heading east across kansas with an eventual right turn to make Oklahoma.  In fact, the only problem we had on the way out was with my bike...I lost a bolt that held the clutch pedal in place.  Luckily, a local farmer unknowingly loaned us a piece of his barbed wire fence to help me repair it, hope he's not mad about that.  Meanwhile Justins '72 is rolling strong, no problems at all which I found very strange.  When he wasn't looking I would snoop around his bike looking for signs of a Honda motor disguised as a vintage Harley.  This just wasn't right.  My '03 Twin Cam is losing nuts and bolts and his '72, well, its just going.  I figured if I kept rolling on the throttle and making him push his bike a little harder that it would eventually explode into a glorious ball of fire along i-70 giving me the opportunity to point and laugh and say things like "I told you so!"  But no, this bike just wouldn't break down.  So, we made it to the party.  Happy to see friends and confused by what I had just witnessed.  "How could this be?"  I thought.   Theres no way that bike should have made it from Colorado to Arkansas in two days without a single problem.  It's just not possible.  
      Deciding to push my concerns about being tricked aside for the night, I joined the party...all night.  If you haven't spent much time in Arkansas in the summer I'll tell you this about it - it's humid, really humid. We're talking hard to breathe kind of humid.  Then throw in the heat and you resign to jumping into the local stream to try and survive.  Arkansas is beautiful though, and riding the Pig Trail to the party site was a real treat.  In fact,  Arkansas is packed with incredible roads, check it out if you get a chance.  
       The next morning, after a solid hour of sleep, it was time to get going.  We didn't have a lot of time for this trip so today we had to throw down some miles to get home before our curfew expired.  This worked in my favor though.  Today was the day, I could feel it.  There was no way this shovelhead was going to home get under it's own power.  So off we went.  Mile after mile, faster and faster that damn thing just kept going.  300 miles in, nothing.  500 miles in, nothing.  What was going on here?!  I asked Justin how is bike was running, "good" he said.  I was skeptical.  600 miles in, nothing.  700 miles in, we stopped for gas.  Finally!  I hear Justin say "uh,oh" - this was it.  My negative opinion about traveling with old bikes would finally be supported!  "whats wrong?" I ask with a half cocked grin.  "my chain guard fell off" he replies.  Chain guard? seriously? You lost a chain guard?  You gotta be kidding me.  He just pushed that '72 Harley, at 85 miles an hour, 700 miles across Arkansas, Oklahoma and into Texas and all he lost was a damn chain guard!  
        Ok, I guess it was time for me to change my opinion on the reliability of old Harleys.  So, for the next 100 miles to Amarillo, Texas I did just that.  We rolled into Amarillo tired, hungry, filthy and trouble free I might add.  We immediately went to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, had a steak of course and found a place to sleep.  That was a long day, 800 miles eastbound on I-40 to be exact, so it was time to get some shut eye.  
          The next day, the bike once again proved to be a quality machine all the way back to Denver.  The point to this whole story is that I was completely proven wrong about old bikes.  If built correctly they can handle the rigors of everyday riding, that bike proved it.  In addition, this trip also showed me how much fun it can be to travel with others.  Justin is just a down right good dude, somebody I would trust in any situation and I know always has my back.  That was one hell of a good ride, and look forward to more with him in the future.  


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Featured Artist / Kayla Koeune

      I'll be honest, it isn't very often that I am truly impressed by something or somebody.  Kayla Koeune is an exception to this.  Kayla is not only a talented artist but also a truly genuine person, war veteran and avid traveller.   Her inspiration comes from personal experiences and the ability to reproduce others experiences.  Much of Kaylas art is motorcycle oriented but I have also witnessed her recreate wedding photos and other images dear to a customers heart.  What I personally enjoy about her work is the looseness of the painting, not to clean like a photo.   Kayla adds her own style that is unparalleled.  Her talent has given her the ability to travel to shows around the country where her art is displayed.  She will design the shirt, be a guest speaker and be the featured artist at the upcoming Steel Sisterhood womans riding summit in Loveland, CO this coming June.   Kayla has painted live at such shows as Sturgis, Vegas Bike Week amongst dozens of others and continuing to do so.  In short,  If you are in the market for a custom painting, drawing or design work I would highly recommend Kayla Koeune has a top pick.  Check out her website at www.infernoartstudio.com where you can check out some of her work and purchase prints.   

Monday, January 5, 2015

Come to the Darkside!

         Darksider:  The term commonly used for somebody who uses a car tire on there motorcycle   
   Car tires on motorcycles is nothing new but still one of great debate. Back in the '60s and 70's it was very common to run a car tire on the rear of a chopper, Goldwing riders do it on a regular basis and I've even seen BMW GS1200's equipped with this setup.  So why all the debate?  Using a car tire on the rear wheel of a motorcycle offers obvious advantages, in my opinion anyway.  Not only will it last 4-5 times longer then your average motorcycle tire it also rides smoother, stops faster, grips better and can handle a larger load when traveling.  In addition, they tend to be considerably less expensive.  The skeptics will tell you that the problem with a car tire is that because they are more square they don't corner well, that when you round a corner you roll up on the edge of the tire and have virtually no contact with the road. Go ahead and You Tube this and you will see all sorts of "scary" videos of guys with there GoPros mounted so that you can see this occurring, then of course safely get through the corner, come to a stop and tell you how dangerous it was and certain death will ensue if you try it. Doesn't really add up in my opinion. Shouldn't the video show them sliding out followed by the pretty flashing lights of an ambulance?  Further more, have you ever looked at how much rubber is really contacting the road on a motorcycle tire? Not much.
        I'm not going to sit here and tell you that a car tire is for everybody and great in all conditions because that would be a lie.  If you are racing a sport bike on a track you probably ought to use a motorcycle tire.  But, If you ride a hard tail, big miles or a giant touring bike then it might be worth looking into.  I use a Vredestein Sprinter Classic 165/60-15.  Thats right, a 15" rear wheel.  Replacing my 16"x3 stock wheel with a 15"x4 wheel opened up my options with the car tires.  The Vredestein is the exact diameter of a 16" Dunlop therefore not throwing off your gearing and speedo.  But, with the taller sidewall, rides considerably smoother.  I also had my spoked wheel lined to eliminate the need for a tube, making roadside repairs easier.  
       My experiance is this-  The car tire rides smoother, last longer, handles great even up here on the twisty roads of Colorado, stops faster (especially on wet roads)  and in my opinion looks great!  So if you were already thinking about it I say do it, and if you think it's the worst idea in the world...well,  so be it.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Boulder to Milwaukee...Straight Through

      This wasn't my first time taking on a 1000 plus mile day, but it was by far the worst of them.  Going into these longs days there is always the question of "why am I doing this" in the back of my mind.  I know, without a doubt, that it is going to hurt, i'm going to want to quit a 100 different times and i'll be overly exhausted when I am finished. This time was no different. 
      The day, not the ride, started at 7am with with a typical work day.  I'm an electrician for those of you who didn't already know that, so most of my day involves climbing ladders and hauling materials.  Due to my work schedule I knew there was no way I could hit the road until 4pm at the earliest. This breaks my first rule of a 1000 mile day- leave at 4am.  Being Hell bent on getting to Milwaukee the next day I was willing to break this rule.  
      4:30 PM. Blue skys, temps in the 60's, not a bad start.  Here I go.  First stretch, I-76 eastbound, is very possibly the most bone rattling stretch of road in the country. It's as if the road engineers measured the length of a motorcycle then cut the expansion joints to a depth and spacing interval to effectively remove the fillings from your teeth. Then, just for fun, employed a crew of sledge hammer yielding inmates from the local prison to install an appropriate number of man eating size pot holes just to keep you on your toes.  I'm confident there are cameras installed along this stretch of highway to capture the grimmacing faces of us fools stupid enough to ride a hard tail down this road knowing full well that it takes us to Nebraska, not much of a reward there.  But alas, I made it to the Nebraska state line where I knew the road conditions would improve. Pulling over at the "Welcome to Nebraska" sign for the obligatory state line photo and to put on my helmet I noticed the wind picking up.  The interesting thing about Nebraska is that it is the only helmet law state in the area and the wind always blows, making your helmet especially miserable. Add in the fact that eastbound I-80 through Nebraska is hands down the most boring, uneventful highway in the country littered with overzealous cops and you have the makings of c grade horror film. To make matters worse, after putting on the helmet I loathe so much I realized that I was not only missing my license plate but my tailight as well, the entire mounting bracket in fact.  Lets see, I have no tailight, no license plate, its almost dark and I'm 800 miles from my destination...screw it, lets go!  And go I did. I went until it was nearly dark and I was nearly out of gas. Pulling into a small mom and pop gas station somewhere along that god forsaken intertstate of doom I now realized that my headlight wasn't working either!  "You have got to be kidding me!" was all I could think. Now, broken lights are nothing new to me. In fact, If you ask any of my friends they will probably tell you that it is more surprising when they do work then when they don't. This however was not a good time for this.  Fortunately my extensive experience in road side light repair led me to a broken ground wire, easy fix. And again, I was on the road. 
         It was dark, very dark and the temperature was plummeting.  I was already wearing full leathers but it wasn't enough so I stopped to put on my rain gear to help block the wind. It helped substantially but it was stll cold.  Cold I can deal with ok for a while but the thermostat was quickly being turned down to full shake, that temperature your body gets to when your teeth start to click and you are practically shaking out of your seat. I didn't realize at the time that I would be in this condition for the remaining 650 miles, upon reaching Milwaukee. 
         Gas stop after gas stop can take a toll on ones starter. To be honest here, I knew going into this ride that my starter was in rough shape but I honestly thought it would make it.  I was wrong. Somewhere near York, NE, at yet another gas stop, my starter began to slip more then ever.  When I say "slip",  I really mean that the pinion gear is so warn that it no longer correctly engages the ring gear making a horrific metal on metal grinding noise that scares small children and sends 4th of july level sparks flying all over the gas pump scaring the kids parents.  Basically, it's a rather concerning experience for everybody involved.  Sadly, this wasn't my first experience with this so I felt confident that if I timed it correctly I could get to Milwaukee on what remained of the ring gear without having to resort to push starting.  Turned out I was wrong about that as well. "No problem" I said to myself as it went from difficult to impossible to start the bike using the starter, I'll just resort to my back plan, push starting and leaving the bike running when getting gas.  And there it was, not even half way into this ride and i'm without taillight, license plate, starter and it's freezing cold. I'm recruiting help from drunk farmers at 2am to push start me and im still 600 some miles from my destination.  Things are looking grim. 
           "I must go on" I say to myself in some sort of Star Wars esque voice, "I must go on!".  Aside from the obvious mishaps everything else was going nicely. I hadn't seen any wildlife like I was concerned about, traffic was light and the motor at least was running smoothly. At least that's what I told the friendly highway patrolman that pulled me over in Omaha at 4am for obvious reasons.  Now, I certainly didn't expect to get across Nebraska without getting pulled over and in fact I was surprised I made it as far as I did, because lets face it, in addition to being sans tailight and license plate, I also feel the speed limits are mere recommendations. Upon entering the fine city of Omaha I marveled at the total lack of traffic. There literally was nobody on this 6 lane interstate, with the exception of a couple of late night highway patrolmen moonlighting in the median. The moment I saw them I knew my time had come to do some explaining. So, like any honest person would do in this situation, I lied. I acted like I had no idea I had lost my taillight and license plate. Come on, what was I supposed to do? How could I have possibly explained to him that I new full well that they were missing before I even entered his territory? It worked. He bought my story. More then anything I think he was surprised that this tattood, filthy biker on a ten foot long chopper was actually sober. Whatever it was, he sent me on my way with no real concern about anything, to my surprise.   Trooper number 2 nabbed me 20 miles up the road with all the same questions followed by all the same answers and the same surpising result,  a gentle warning. Trooper number 3 got me another 20 miles up the road. At this rate I would never get to Milwaukee. As trooper number 3 approached me, lights flashing behind him in the cold, dark, foggy sky, he asked "are you the guy that keeps getting pulled over for not having a taillight?" I responded with a cheerful "yep!" "ok" he said "just watch for cars coming up behind you, you are really hard to see" "You got it, Thanks." I replied.  Meanwhile, I'm thinking "no one is passing me, in fact, you probably could have just gotten me for speeding as well" But, I kept that to myself, resaddled my stead and continued my ride.  Luckily, that would be my last interaction with law enforcement on this ride. 
         Things were getting extremely difficult at this point. I had lost so much time dealing with my starter, head light repairs and explaining myself to the friendly highway patrolmen that I was now just focused on making it to sunrise in hopes of a second wind and warmer air. This was one of those of those moments where I felt genuinly defeated and figured it couldn't get much worse. And, again, I was wrong. 
        It was about 5:30 in the morning and I was somewhere near Des Moines, Iowa.  The fog was so dense I couldn't see 50 feet in front of me and it was glazing on my glasses making it near impossible to see. While navigating blindly down this road I felt something bounce off my leg.  Apparently the screws holding my throttle housing together had been coming loose but I couldn't see them because of the conditions I was facing. Suddenly, my throttle housing was sliding off my bar and the cable was threatening to fall out entirely. Fortunately, I quickly discovered that If I actively held what was remaining up against my brake lever that I could just barely keep it together well enough to continue on. The down side to this was that my right arm was becoming exhausted from fighting the wind to keep it from flying off and leaving me stranded.  But, I had no option so I pressed on. 
       Just to give you a clear picture of my current condition at this point I should remind you that I was now without taillight, license plate, correctly functioning throttle, dead starter, it's 40 degrees, foggy, I'm nearly shaking off my bike from being so cold, I've been pulled over three times and way behind schedule. Not exactly optimum conditions for a 1000 mile day.  I pressed on.  
      The sun finally did rise, despite my doubts about even that happening,  and provided a little relief.  I won't say that it warmed up substantially but at least I could see where I was going.  The other benefit to the sunrise was that it did provide a very short lived second wind.  At this point, if I remember correctly, I was about 300 miles away. "Not bad" I thought to myself. I stayed focused and pressed on. Leaving the bike running for short gas stops and begging for pushstarts when I needed to rehydrate and get some calories in me. 
      Coming through Illinois after you turn north and begin your final approach into Wisconsin you find yourself on a toll road. One of those really annoying ones where you have to stop, pull off your gloves, dig through your gear only to find that you are out of cash, hand the attendant your warn out credit card that doesn't swipe anymore therefore forcing them to hand enter the numbers while the stressed out father of 5 in the mini van behind you is losing his mind and repeatedly testing his horn for proper pitch and volume. This not being my first rodeo, I chose the questionably immoral method of merging into the scan pass lane, blended in with traffic and pretended to be a nieve tourist.  I figured I had broken so many laws at this point that throwing one more into the pile would most likely go unnoticed. To this day I have yet to get a bill from them. 
      From this point It was just a quick 100 miles to Milwaukee. I rolled into town 21 hrs after my departure blurry eyed, wobbly and looking like some sort of homeless vagrant. Luckily my wonderful girlfriend, the motivation behind this insanity, was there to greet me.  Despite my condition she welcomed me with open arms and a warm bed that I immediately took full advantage of.  Even Sam the dog seemed happy to see me!  Though I think he momentarily thought I was of the canine species as well.  So, there I was, exhausted but happy, another 1000 mile day under my belt and one I won't forget anytime soon.