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When Harley-Davidson announced plans for their 115thYear Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee. I looked at attending the party in Milwaukee and a ride started to form. A ride that would conclude with a 50CC Quest to get me back home in Las Vegas, NV.
After nearly a year of planning and then 21 days on the road, I can say my ride is done. I’m not sure if I will be able to do something like this again, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to do it.
Leading up to my 50CC, I had already spent 19 days on the road and covered just under 7,000 miles, 5 days of which were spent in Milwaukee for the 115th.
Then there was Hurricane Florence. She started to form in the Atlantic the day after I left Las Vegas. Though initial estimates were vague, it started to look like I would be heading to Florida as it hit the coast.
Days prior to me going to Florida, I was ready to abandon my 50CC ride, but forecasters started to state that the storm would hit the coast further north. I kept a close eye on the news channels and weather apps and decided that it would be safe to go to Florida and to start my 50CC quest.
I was at the Tail of the Dragon when I decided and left Tennessee and rode into North Carolina then towards the Georgia seaboard and down to Florida. It was kind weird, though I never rode this part of the country but you could tell something was amiss. Cars flooded I-95 going south to Florida, loaded with family and possessions. While going north was convoys of utility trucks, buckets trucks with their orange lights flashing overhead, 5 to 10 trucks at a time … packs of them.
Getting to Florida was easy enough, I had planned a short mileage day, only 400-500 miles that would get me to the Best Western Oceanside at a reasonable time. A quick check-in, unload the bike and I was ready for a dinner and an early night.
Next to the Best Western was the Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House. I figured it would be a good place to have dinner as it was right next to the hotel.
This is where all good plans start to go south.
My planned leave time in the morning was “Whenever I wake up and feel like it”, I did get to the restaurant early but then I started to look at the menu …the beer menu. They had a broad and varied range of hoppy goodness to choose from, which I did. It was still early when I left dinner, so I made a trip to a local brewery and picked up a night cap for the room.
Getting back to the room with a growler in hand (DON’T JUDGE ME). I broke out the laptop to do a final check of my route, download the GPX files, prepare my packing for 2-days of riding, etc. and I started to search the TV channels.
This is where good planning went to shit.
On the 19 days prior to my 50CC start, I took a lot of secondary roads and got to see numerous small towns, at which point I started to think of Michael J. Fox’s movie Doc Hollywood. Afterwards, every time I saw a pig, sow or hog I would say out loud “Nice pig Doc!”. OK, sometimes I may have yelled it, but that’s not the point.
Well guess what was on HBO that night, yup! Doc Hollywood. I finished my downloads, my packing and snuggled up to my growler of beer to watch myself a movie… at midnight… the morning that I leave for a 50CC ride.
In the morning I wake up on my own as planned, had breakfast, packed the bike and left. All done at a leisurely pace, with no thought to a leave time.
Weather was still OK and I actually felt good, there was no stress as I arrived at my starting gas station at 10am. Though my ride plan was a little messed up since for some reason I seemed to have set the majority of my gas stops on the other side of the freeway. But the plan had long been established and this is not the time to start second guessing it, so I stuck to it and rode the plan.
All is well.
Thinking back, I probably planned my gas stops a little close together, I could have stretched them farther apart but then my GPS’s would be squawking at me all the time if I bypassed a gas station. I made a mental note on how to adjust the route and plan better with more general waypoints in the future, but for now, I still rode the route as it was planned and how Garmin was telling me to go.
I rode into Alabama and then into Mississippi, everything is still going well, minus the gas stops being on the wrong side of the freeway, and I am still feeling good. I entered Louisiana planning on taking the I-12 route that avoided New Orleans, but I started to crave oysters and beignets but I stayed true to the route and took the I-12 as most people do.
Texas! I love Texas, I’m from Texas, I was born there and I am a “Son of Texas”. I crossed the Texas state line at 9:30pm local and into Beaumont when I hit construction. They shut down three lanes of expressway to one lane. If you have a CB, this is the time to tune to channel 19 and be entertained. After about 45 minutes of construction delays, I finally get to the other side of town… where the rain starts.
This wasn’t ordinary rain, this was Texas rain. At first the rain was light and was coming from behind you, so it managed to dirty up both the outside and inside of the windshield. As the rain became heavier, I rode slower and slower… to the point that I had my flashers on as I rode the edge of the right shoulder. It was miserable.
Once you get wet there’s no point on point on the rain gear. Hours later I rode into Baytown, Texas, soaked from head to toe. I even squished when I walked.
But at least the rain started to clear and I got into Houston on dry pavement.
Houston was easy, I just stayed on the I-10 since it was 11:30 at night, traffic was nothing to worry about until I hit construction again on the other side of the city. It wasn’t bad, just slower than what I wanted to go as I thought that I had to make up some time.
Houston to San Antonio was spent drying out in the wind.
My plan was to check into a place in Junction, TX which would have been the halfway point to San Diego but if I felt good enough, I would push on towards Van Horn and try to nest a BBG into the ride. At the gas stop I felt good and my timer showed that I could still pull out a BBG so I rode on.
Well I thought I felt good.
Some miles later, I remember coming up on two semi- trucks and a third one that was just ahead of the pair. I turned on my blinker, went to the #1 lane and passed them. I then looked in my mirror to see if it was OK to go back to the #2 lane and the trucks were gone! What the heck! I just passed them. Where did three semi’s disappear to? I looked over my shoulder, nothing. Checked my mirrors, nothing. They just vanished!
With the sudden realization that there are semi-truck abducting aliens in West Texas, my brain starts to fire with a little more clarity. I look at my onboard GPS, compare that to my handlebar mounted GPS, recalculate in my head how far I have gone and what my next stop is and figured that I just went several miles with my brain checked out. It’s still hard to explain, but I wasn’t sleepy, I didn’t doze off … my brain just checked out for a bit. Realizing this, I took the very next exit that advertised lodging and checked myself into a Super-8.
Oh Super-8’s, how I loath thee…
I get checked in just after 5:00am local time.
5:20 am : Take a quick shower then crawl into bed
6:00 am : Starting to fall asleep
6:30 am : Woken up to my room neighbors waking up and doing their morning routine
7:00 am : Woken up due to room neighbors letting doors slam as they leave the room
8:00 am : Woken up due to random Semi starting up in parking lot just outside the door
9:00 am : Woken up due to “Housekeeping!”
9:30 am : Checked out and on the road again
Never stay at a motel with a number in the name, just saying. I’m looking at you Motel-6.
The next stop was Van Horn, TX. So, this is where I should have been last night. Nice place. I grab a small breakfast of some trail mix, wash it down with some orange juice and I am off again.
While in El Paso, TX I stop at Barnett’s Harley and had lunch at Whataburger before I leave the state. It’s time to stop screwing around and get back logging miles.
Entering California at night is odd, running next to the sand dunes, know that Mexico is just a stone’s throw away, as I leave the sand dunes I notice a large field of red flashing lights up ahead? Fields of red lights flashing in unison. Hundreds of red lights all flash at once, then off, on, off. Is this the home base for the Semi-Abducting Aliens?
Miles go by, the red lights still flashing from a distance in front of you. What are they?
Slowly you get closer and the shapes start to appear… WINDMILLS! Hundreds of them. But still I wonder how their red lights all to flash at once. It’s a mystery to be sure.
I know that this second day of my 50CC would be crossing the deserts of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona so I planned ahead and wore a thin long sleeve short. I have lived in Las Vegas for a number of years now and I know how to dress for the heat.
But the heat wasn’t what was ahead of me anymore, it was the Cuyamaca Mountains at midnight. The mountain pass that now lies between me and San Diego.
SWEET MARY! Why is it so cold all of a sudden? … the elevation keeps climbing.
I can feel every degree drop on my body. I click over to the temp reading on the onboard dash to verify, then click back to the first screen to check elevation. Yup, still climbing and still getting colder.
Another mile, another temp drop and higher in elevation. What the … I’m like 20 miles from my end destination at Dog Beach in San Diego, am I just going to fall off the mountain and SPLASH I’m there?
Another mile and the temperature is now down to 46 degrees. AHHHHHH!!!! This can’t be real, it has to warm up soon… it’s San Diego, home of the best year-round temperatures in the US.
AHHHHHHHHH! 44 degrees! SERIOUSLY!?
AHHHHH come on! Hit 39! You can do it!
ahhhhhh… it’s starting to feel warmer, my body starts to relax a little, I turn a corner and with a cold blast of air. AHHHHHH! Come on! When does this end?
I see a bright light ahead! Is it San Diego? No… not at this altitude, it’s just a Border Patrol Check Stop that someone decided to put in the middle of the mountains.
“Hey! It’s cold up here!”
No answer, they just keep waving at me to continue my torture.
“Some sense of humor you guys have.” … to myself, as I ride off.
Elevation is dropping and it’s starting to feel warmer, then the next turn and another cold blast of air. “Enough!” a yell into the cold.
Finally, the elevation drops to something that consistently warm as I enter San Diego. Only a few more miles now.
A couple of freeway lane changes here and there and I reach my final gas stop. As I fuel up, I check my timer and I completed the ride in time. Excited, I start my last log entry and answer yes to “Do you want a receipt” on the fuel pump and nothing happens. OK no biggie, I’ll just go inside and get a reprint. I walk up to the door and attempt to pull the door open and it’s locked!
There’s a small window off to the side where a guy appears, “Can I help you?”.
I am relieved and answer “Yes” and ask for a reprint of the receipt.
With the reprint receipt in hand and my final log entry done there was just one more thing to do, that bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean to accompany my bottle from the Atlantic Ocean that I got yesterday.
I pull into the parking lot of Dog Beach at 1am on Sept. 14, only 42 Hours after leaving Jacksonville, Florida.
I dismount the bike and remove my helmet, googles and ear plugs. I wasn’t wearing a jacket, so that made it easier. Yea, 1am humor.
As I start to rummage through my tour pack looking for that bottle that I need, when some random stranger comes up on a skateboard with a guitar slung over on his back.
Strange Skateboard guy, “Hey, what kind of bike is that?”
Me, “It’s a Harley. Ultra-Limited.”
“Yea, what year?”
“It’s a 2016”
“What brings you out here?”
“Well I just came from Florida yesterday, I’m just out for a ride.” I find my bottle and start to walk towards the water
The guy starts to sing and strum his guitar, “I rode up on my skateboard and met this guy on a Harley on a beach in …. …… … “
I’m thinking to myself, “Man, there are strange people out here …” interrupting my own chain of thought “…. says the guy who just rode here from Florida in 2 days.”
To myself, “Yea, I’ll shut up now.”
I get my bottle of water and get back to the guy playing his guitar who has now been singing to my bike for the last 5 minutes and another fella that’s just tossing a tennis ball up at street light then catching it … I hope it’s a tennis ball.
I get on my bike and leave the park, hoping to find a hotel that offers a late checkout … just as long as there’s no number in the name.