I've had a week to relax and review the cross-country trip. I always like to take some time to process before coming to any conclusions about changes I would make if I did it again.
First, the trip itself was terrific and I would highly recommend doing something like this. The variety of landscape, terrain and climate in the country is amazing, and I only saw tiny slices of it. There is so much more to see and ride. If you think about it and assume about 1 mile average visibility, I saw an infinitesimally small portion of the country. So, while I have ridden across the country, I have certainly not seen the country.
I think of the trip in 5 segments. Segment 1 was the 3 day trip up the California coast. It was absolutely beautiful, but I know there was a lot more to see and ride inland. I left California knowing that it could be a lifetime of riding just by itself.
Segment 2 was the days I spent sightseeing at Crater Lake, The Oregon desert the Craters of the Moon, Idaho's high desert, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and The South Dakota Badlands. Literally something new and fantastic each day. The Oregon desert was the only place where I felt a bit scared on the road alone. It was so desolate that I had a thought that a mechanical failure and the lack of cell service would certainly lead to my rotting carcass being picked apart by wild animals! Fortunately, the engineers at Honda were kind enough to prevent that.
Segment 3 was the flyover of endless prairies and cornfields to get from the Badlands to Knoxville, TN. With consecutive days of 560, 736 and 356 miles, almost all of it on two lane roads, I pushed myself to extend my range, cover ground and make time for the great riding that awaited my in the eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina area.
The next 2 days, segment 4, were pure riding bliss. Although Knoxville, TN to Asheville, NC is only 82 miles, I rode over 300 miles on some of the best roads imaginable to get there. This day, more than any other, reminded me that this trip was about great riding, great roads and great landscape and not just getting from point to point. The second day was about 400 miles, all on the same road, as I spent the day on the Blue ridge Parkway winding my way northeast through beautiful scenery and one great mountain pass after another.
The tail end of the trip, days 13 and 14 were the only time I really "hit the slab" of interstate. The Shenandoah NP was nice, but not quite the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Gettysburg was a perfect rest and a must-return destination. But after leaving Gettysburg, I could feel home calling and put my head down to make time to set up and easy day on day 14. In a somewhat fitting event, the lack of rain I had seen for 13 days across the country was offset be a steady rain that morning which accompanied me all the way from Fishkill, NY to the Massachusetts border near Sturbridge. 120 miles and 2.5 hours of solid soak left me pretty soggy when I stopped to change at a rest stop on the Mass. Turnpike, but dry clothes and better weather combined to make the very last leg uneventful.
What can I say except mechanical perfection? I will admit that I was a bit hesitant about undertaking this ride on my VFR. I'd owned ST1300's and big cruisers and wondered how my 52 year old, sometimes uncooperative frame would handle the relaxed, but still sporty, riding position of the VFR. It never should have been a thought. At speed on long straight roads, the wind support made covering distances easy, whether upright into the wind or resting my torso on the tank bag and enjoying the quiet pocket of air provided by the stock windscreen. In the mountains, on more challenging technical roads, the VFR handles admirably, certainly well above my skill level, despite being loaded down in the rear with three hard cases and a soft duffel. The handling improved immensely after new rubber was put on in Lexington, KY, replacing the stock Battleaxe's that had been sitting for 4 years before I bought the bike as a new leftover last year. One thing that I find especially noteworthy is that this bike was essentially "unfarkled." Other than the luggage and GPS, it was completely stock. The seat, windscreen, bars and pegs were exactly as they left the factory and worked perfectly for my 5'11", 200 lb. frame. I've had 3 other VFR's and replaces all of these things at one time or another, but for me, it's perfect as is. Throughout the trip, I talked with other riders, a lot of HD's and a number of Goldwings and we all had about the same 150 mile riding range before stretching required a brief stop.
My philosophy on preparing for this trip was, "better safe than sorry" with respect to equipment. In addition to the GPS, I packed a full Cruz toolkit, the normal VFR tools including a rear shock adjuster, a full CO2 flat repair kit, a new and well-equipped first aid kit and chain lube. I'm not sure how well I would have fared with any of these if there had been a problem, but I certainly felt better having them along. Fortunately, only the chain lube got used. These items needed space and added weight, but I think I'd pack them again anytime I am more than a phone call and a few hour pickup from home. Of course, being a bit superstitious, I know the only reason I didn't need them is because I had them, which is good enough insurance for me.
One of my secondary goals for this trip was to lose a little weight, as I'm sure the prior week's family vacation has added a few pounds. Breakfast was always whatever the hotel had, generally coffee and a bagel. Lunch was almost always out of the trunk, trail mix, perhaps a Muscle Milk at a gas stop and water, lots and lots of water. I generally carried at least 2 quarts in the trunk. As each day wore on and I felt myself getting a little tired, I generally threw in a 5 hour energy shot mid-afternoon. I'm never one to drink any of this stuff, but it really did help and there wasn't a crash. I don't know if I lost weight, but I did a pretty good job of staying light on the bike and then having a beer or two and eating a reasonable dinner when I was done for the day.
CLOTHING AND LUGGAGE
This is something I would definitely change. I over packed a lot. My daily riding gear was padded bicycling shorts and a t-shirt under the Olympia vented two piece suit. I needed all the luggage to pack all my riding gear on the bike for the trip out to San Diego, but I should have sent at least one bag home with the family. I packed a thermal one-piece undergarment that I use back east when the temp drops to 40, but never needed it. I also had way too many clothes. With basically two pairs of riding shorts and t-shirts, all I ever need clothes for was to walk out for dinner. A single pair of shorts and only 1 or 2 more t-shirts would have been fine. One extra I packed that I would have kept was my running stuff, as a few runs and a walk every evening really helped loosen any cobwebs that long riding days created. In retrospect, the hard top case was overkill and I could have managed quite well with the tank bag, two side cases and soft tail bag.
At the beginning, I had no idea if I had over planned or under planned. I did a little of both. The daily routes didn't need to be as planned out as they were before I left, but it would have been nice to be able to plan a little more detail at the end or each night for the next day. I did not bring a PC to connect to my GPS and detailed route planning is a lot easier on the PC interface. Additionally, the GPS must have run out of space and cleared the trip log 12 days in, a major disappointment as I lost the detail of where I had ridden. With a PC, I would have downloaded trip data each day and converted it to a saved route. As is, I'm going to recreate the trip from memory and my daily notes, but next time I'll leave the iPad at home and pack a small net book.
Do it! Don't find excuses why you can't. Everybody's busy...