I just realized that I took a trip worth writing about. So I think Iíll write about it. Posted this on VFRD too, so double post I suppose..
On November 18th, I had a Spartan Race scheduled at Fenway Park in Boston. Spartan races are mud/obstacle races for the adventurous/stupid/insane sort. This particular race was only 2.75 miles (some are 12+miles long), broken up with about 15 obstacles (such as a rope climb, 8í wall climbs, jumping, crawling, lifting, etc). Theyíre a lot of fun, and Iíd recommend them to anyone curious.
Anyway, Bostonís a pretty long way from Chicago, about 1000 miles. But the weather looked pretty good, and I had plenty of vacation days to burn, so I thought Iíd make a moto trip out of it. The plan was to ride out early morning to arrive in Boston late night. After a couple days in Boston, Iíd spend a couple days in NYC, crash on a friendís couch near Buffalo, then back home to Chicago. The below map is a rough estimate of my route, though not the exact route I actually took.
Before I set out, I picked up a new set of winter gloves: Cortech Scarabs. I love Ďem. They arenít miraculously warm, but I donít think anything unpowered really will be at 80mph in 40* weather. Wearing a cheap pair of knit gloves underneath, they were warm enough, are excellently made, and look fantastic. I also picked up some overpants (both from LeatherUp, which is great), but the pants were less than fantastic. The biggest problem was the inseam, which was locked at 32Ē, and too short for me. If I normally wore 32Ē inseams, Iím sure Iíd love these pants, considering the good quality and low price tag.
On to the actual riding. I left Chicago at about 5am Saturday morning. Plugged my phone into the PowerLet steering column mount and turned on Pandora. Cruised down LSD and onto 90 west. While it was still dark on this particular morning, LSD looks fantastic while the sun is rising, with the red hue shining on the silver skyscrapers along the lake. It can look like the cover of a scifi novel under just the right lighting. At this hour, the roads were mostly desolate.
Life continued on rather uneventfully along the highway. I ended up stopping for coffee quite often, but didnít find myself to be hungry very often. I do love me some 70mph speed limits though, and the miles passed by quite quickly. Riding with the sun up was fun, even slabbing it. I do try to stop off in no-name towns for some quirky coffee joints, but seeing as how I had a thousand miles to cover in one day, I was relegated mostly to oasis stops. It wasnít all highway oases though.
As the sun went down, the fun ended. New York is a VERY wide state, and it got VERY cold and dark. The glove setup, while awesome, wasnít effective in these conditions. I had three heat packs shoved into each glove, and still had to pull over for 30 minutes every hour just to defrost. While riding along I86, Iím convinced I hit a wormhole where time slowed down, and that highway just never ended. Sitting fairly motionless in the cold, hopped up on caffeine, and staring at the circle ahead that my headlights illuminated, I realized that this plan had some flaws.
I considered holding up in a motel that night, but had a friend waiting for me in a hotel in Boston, so I pushed on. I discovered that, on a VFR, itís not the back or wrists that go first, but rather the hips. Each time I pulled off for gas, Iíd get a pins-and-needles feel throughout each leg as it extended to meet the ground. I also discovered that gel-based heat packs get rock hard as they expire. But I86 finally ended, and I found myself flying through Massachusetts.
As I entered Boston, the temperature eased up. This might have been a result of the many tunnels I had to ride through, but the change in temperature and lighting was much appreciated. I finally pulled into the hotel at 2am, had a couple slices of cold Dominoís pizzas as I related my travels to my buddy, and promptly got the best night of sleep Iíve had in a while.
The next day was spent far away from the motorcycle. Bostonís a beautiful city, a bit more suburbany than Chicago, but with a very interesting metro system. I love the bendy-train green line, with its old-school appearance and super tight turns. The population is remarkably racially integrated (from a Chicagoan point of view), and the streets are crammed and nonsensical in layout (also, to a Chicagoan). I recall seeing some odd little man in colonial garb loudly announcing ĎThou shall haltí at a red light. I later discovered that he wasnít in fact crazy, but a tour guide. The Spartan Race was a blast, and I found my body sore and weak for the second night in a row, though the enormous burger and porter afterwards certainly helped.
The next day, it was off to NYC. I made my way through Warwick, RI to snap a picture in front of the Ghost Huntersí headquarters, a favorite show of the ex-girlfriend. The trip as a whole was pleasant and well lit, and I arrived in NYC around 4pm. I knew I was within the city limits when I spotted Times Square as a beacon of light in the approaching darkness.
Here I used couchsurfing.org to find a couch to crash on. The experience was great, and while you have to be smart and reasonable in expectations, Iíd recommend the service. The city is enormous and beautiful, though the trash bags on the curb are a bit of a let down. But I love that the city really does never sleep, and thereís always a small restaurant/delicatessen open. Once again, the day of NYC exploration was spent far away from the motorcycle.
But it was time to leave NYC now. I left late in the morning and headed back west. When I was traveling east, I traversed the Appalacians in complete darkness. Tackling them in the sunlight was a blast, and enjoyed the weaving mountain roads. I noticed from a county road that I was in Orange County, and during breakfast, decided to see how far I was from Orange County Choppers. 15 miles? Well I guess I have to stop by and check out their office. Much bigger and fancier than I was expecting. I liked the first couple seasons of the show, but itís a bit too dramatic for my tastes these days, and their shop/showroom is far too touristy. But they do have some very nice bikes, and enjoyed the browse.
The rest of the daylight was spent traveling those winding roads, and I approached my friendís town as darkness fell. Heís only 10 minutes or so from Erie, and as I rode through the small valleys filled with mist. The low beams looked a bit foggy, but with the high beams on, it looked down right spooky. But it was warmer, so not bad. Arrived in town around 10pm, enjoyed an omelet, watched some stand-up on Netflix, and crashed once again.
The next morning, it was time to head back home. I took the long way through Buffalo and stopped by Niagara Falls. It was a beautiful sight, though I was unrealistically expecting a loud and constant thunder.
This was my last stop of interest. The ride home was pleasant with sunlight and mild weather. I arrived back home around 9pm, grabbed some dinner with the girlfriend, and promptly passed out.
A few things I learned from this trip:
- Donít bother trying to travel 1000 miles in one day. Itís just not worth it, and you miss so much. Iím glad I did it once, so I know I could, but I doubt Iíll ever try it again.
- Tied to above, donít worry about going as far as you can on each tank. I never let my tank get down to ľ full, which meant less than two hour stints at a time.
- Donít travel cross country in the middle of November. Too cold.
- Traveling in the cold? Think youíre overdressed? Doubtful.
- Do all the little maintenance things a few days before the trip. Less worries while traveling.
- If one person says you're crazy, ignore them. If lots of people say you're crazy, they're probably right.
- Have fun! Be a little crazy!