My Adventure Story
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7/04: Today was a great day! The July 4th parade in Vallejo really exceeded all of my expectations. The turnout by crew members and parade goers alike was very high. All along the parade route people cheered and genuinely appreciated the folks who were marching. We heard, "Thank You for our Freedom" over and over. We saw elderly veterans standing feebly but clapping and smiling as if it were their first Independence Day parade. It was truly a moving experience to see the citizens of Vallejo symbolically welcome home one of their their own. I will never forget this.
The Vallejo symphony orchestra performed in the city square after the parade with traditional American music. They dedicated several pieces in honor of the Vallejo including Victory at Sea.
Tomorrow, most of us will go our separate ways, looking forward to the next reunion in three years. New friendships were formed here and things long forgotten were renewed.
An elderly man approached me after the parade and asked how the USS Vallejo performed at sea. Perfectly, I said. He became emotional and said that he was one of the ship fitters that assembled the submarine. He had never had the opportunity ship fitters speak with a crew member before and had always wondered "if his best was good enough". I thanked him for his diligence and genuine concern for the sailors that would occupy the hull he created. His name is Charlie. The parade was equally in his honor. Good luck to you, Charlie!
Here are a couple of links to some short video from today's parade.
7/03: The 658 reunion has been a real treat. The organizers did a wonderful job in planning. On Saturday, I toured three wineries (drank a lot of champagne) and also toured the historic home of General Vallejo. He was a very interesting man. Named his kids Plato, Napoleon, etc. I believe he ended up with 16 children. Also toured the mission in Sonoma. There are 21 in California. I had the idea to do a Harley Mission tour next year. That could be fun.
Today we went to Mare Island shipyard and had the tolling of the bells for all of the Vallejo shipmates that have passed away. A very moving experience. We toured the museum and went out to see and climb on the actual sail from the Vallejo. In fact, many of the key pieces were on display inside the museum. It brought back some wonderful memories of being out under the ocean in many parts of the world. Seems like it was yesterday.
We had lunch at the Discovery Theme Park across the street from the hotel. Dinner was at a great restaurant called the Front Room at the Wharf in Vallejo.
I picked up the bike from McQuire's Harley Davidson in Walnut Creek. I had a problem with the NEUTRAL light staying on so they took care of that and the service work. Ready for the next 5K miles. Not sure if I will start down the CA coast tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning. We will be marching in the parade at noon and there are several more events scheduled throughout the day that I want to attend. So, looks like it will be Tuesday.
Also, camping in Tahoe was really nice. I spent two nights at the Fallen Leaf campground. Very nice people and pretty quiet. There was a lot of construction on the main roads in Tahoe, which snarled traffic in every direction.
I also reconfigured the GoPro bike camera. Up until Tahoe, I had it mounted on the windshield or the front fender mounts. After reviewing some of the video I noticed that there was a lot of vibration. I placed one of the curved mounts on my Joe Rocket helmet and the video from there is great. It also seems to provide additional safety since people see it much easier and appear to be less likely to actually pull out in front of you knowing they may be on camera.
6/28: OK, I know. I've been quite remiss in updating the events for the past five days. But I have to tell you, the past two days have been exquisite. Craig & John graciously opened up their home to me and I've never felt so welcomed. Since this adventure began I have religiously checked the weather every six hours to plan ahead and develop contingencies. Not lately. I didn't care what the weather forecast was. I was completely taken by their hospitality and the wonderful food, wine, people, I encountered. So, thank you Craig and John for a great respite.
Tomorrow I will make my way to Winnemucca, NV. A little over 350 miles so should be an easy ride. Rain is forecast with high winds so I'll be on the lookout for challenging conditions.
The ride from Driggs, ID to SLC was better than I imagined. Logan Canyon was the best of the best. Stopping along Bear Lake to have one of the infamous raspberry shakes was truly unique and a must do. I met another Bill and his wife near Logan who was kind enough to inform me of some road hazards.
I met another Bill on his new BMW GS1150 who was headed east to Yellowstone. turns out he is also from Northern Virginia.
New Link Info: For more real time position locations, you can go to
instead of waiting for me to update at the end of each day (or two). This link is a direct feed from the satellite with a position every 10 minutes.
6/23: Spent the morning in the hotel room preparing for a few conference calls. Was done by 10:30 and out the door by 11:00. Spent most of the day in Deadwood. I had intended to take the tour to visit Wild Bill Hickock's grave site but ended up hanging in town. Saw an authentic gun fight on Main St., went to a wine tasting (not great), and had another Buffalo Burger.
Back to the hotel to do laundry, a little more work, and pack up for an early ride out in the morning. I've changed my itinerary a bit and added some new locations north east of Yellowstone. This will change one of my overnight stay locations but I hope to be in Jackson Hole on schedule Sunday afternoon.
6/22: Today was a gorgeous weather day! Sunny and warm as I head out from Rapid City. First stop - Mt. Rushmore. Spent a little over an hour and walked the President's Trail. Great photo ops. Looks like they have designated the location and started the initial work for Ronald Reagan on the very right side of the mountain.
After leaving MR, I headed towards Needle Pkwy and stopped at Sylvan Lake. Breathtaking nature all along the way. The narrow rock tunnels are only big enough for a single vehicle to pass through. The altitude climbs to over 6,000 feet. I shut the bike off and coasted down the other side for about 10 miles. Reminded me of gliding.
There were two encounters with buffalo. Both times they stopped traffic. They seemed to be completely unfazed with people and cars. A couple of quick raps on the throttle got them moving. Herding with Harleys, I guess.
Made a quick run through Deadwood on the way to Sturgis. Seems like a cool town so I will spend more time there tomorrow. Stopped at Knuckle's in Sturgis for a beer and burger. I chose the Buffalo Burger. Excellent taste and very lean, tender meat.
The weather is supposed to be nice again tomorrow. Time to prepare for a couple of conference calls in the AM and get some sleep.
6/21: Day 7 complete. Probably the toughest weather day yet. About 225 miles of high crosswinds from the north and heavy rain. Temps were in the low 60's most of the day but the winds were just harrowing. The winds were 25-30 mph constant with 40-50 mph gusts. I think I have developed a permanent lean to the right.
Hello to Rich and Heidi on their '81 Gold Wing and to Tony, who is trucking a load of sheep to Colorado. I'll let you guess what happens to them (the sheep) next.
Although the rain and winds kept my focus on the next 50 feet in front of me, the landscapes of South Dakota are remarkable. Gentle rolling hills with vistascapes that run endlessly to the horizon. I'm looking forward to reviewing the video from today.
I guess the worst part of the drive today was near Chamberlain. the winds were very high and the rain was another deluge. I was coming into the turn to the left that leads into the bridge crossing the lake when a gust from the right had me lean the bike upright and even further so that I was leaning to the right but still turning left. The seam between the bridge and the road was a metal joining plate about 2 feet long. Both wheels lost traction and I could feel the bike slipping hard to the left out from under me, first the front wheel and then the rear. It lasted only a fraction of a second but created a "white knuckle" moment. I didn't see any more metal joining plates but it caused a constant vigilance for them, nonetheless.
I entered into official summer at mile marker 378, (1806 GMT). It looked nothing like summer. More like a tropical storm in the Caribbean.
Another short stop for fuel and the final weather reprieve at the Busted Nut Saloon and gas station. I thought there might be a history to this place but I was told it had only been there 2 months. Sigh.
Once I crossed into the Badlands, the sun broke through, the rain stopped, and the winds calmed. It was a Bruce Springsteen moment so I cranked up "Badlands" in appreciation for the magic and rolled the throttle up to 85 mph and hit cruise control. Made good time to Rapid City where it started raining again.
Tomorrow is a promising sunny and warm day as I make one of the truly impressive parts of my journey through the Black Hills. It will be a long day but chock full of incredibly the most scenic and majestic places and journeys that we bikers long for.
6/21 (4PM): Whew! 50mph crosswinds across the rain soaked interstate made for interesting driving. Still raining hard so I pulled into the only building in Reliance, SD to wait for better conditions. Rain has slowed but winds still as high as before. I will wait until the next squall passes from the north and head west again. Thanks to Shebo from Reliance, SD (Population 168) for the interesting local history and the coffee.
6/20: Day 6 complete with the longest single day run yet (500 miles). Started out horrible with heavy rain in Milwaukee. Add to it rush hour, freeway construction & lane closures, fresh (slick) asphalt, and a helmet visor without wiper blades and you have a recipe for lots of adrenaline. I had to pull over under an overpass a couple of times simply because I could not see more than 10 feet in front of me. It lasted for about an hour and cleared up for a while. Interestingly, when you are in that sort of situation and every second could spell disaster, you don't feel your back pain nagging at you and you don't feel it necessary to move your feet up to the highway pegs. Finally, it was nice to be able to relax with a backache.
I met some really nice folks outside the hotel in Milwaukee. One guy from Australia who rides a Yamaha touring bike and a couple that ride Harleys. Nice chatting with them all.
Interesting parts of this leg were crossing the Mississippi River, seeing thousands of windmill farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota, hundreds of miles of due west open freeway. The GPS wavered between 269 and 270 for three hours. The severe weather was ever present to the west and south. Fortunately, I only had a few light showers after the Milwaukee departure. I decided to hotel it tonight vs. camping. Turns out to be a good decision. There's a deluge coming down right now with lightning, thunder, and heavy winds. Not in the mood to be outdoors lying on the ground.
It was also refreshing to see the 75mph speed limit in SD. The bike is running perfectly and has been very comfortable. I could have done another 150 miles if it wasn't getting dark. A faithful steed, indeed.
6/19: Day 5 complete with 7 states and 1,000 total trip miles with my arrival into Milwaukee around 1:30PM. Stopped at the Harley-Davidson museum and spent 3 hours in constant amazement of the history, ingenuity, passion, and remarkable success of the Harley-Davidson company. They have some of the happiest employees I've ever met. Could have easily spent another hour or two. Too late tonight to upload photos but there are some that will surprise you. I'll try and get to it tomorrow evening.
Overall, Milwaukee seems to be a bit of a ghost town. Lots of shuttered storefronts, street beggars, and general malaise. The Riverwalk district is really clean and aesthetically pleasing but once you go a block or two off the path it gets pretty desperate.
Hit my first encounter with rain on the ride out of Chicago this morning. Near the north end of Lake Shore Drive. Only lasted 15 minutes, just enough for me to pull over and don rain gear. The problem with riding a heavy bike in places like Chicago is the manhole covers. They seem to be every 15 feet or so and are slick as hell. Between dodging them and the crazy cagers, it keeps you busy.
Severe weather expected on the ride to Sioux Falls, SD tomorrow. Should make for interesting decisions regarding schedule and whether to proceed with camping tomorrow night. If the rain is too heavy I'll dive into a hotel somewhere.
6/18: Great day in Chicago! Visited the John Hancock tower and went up to the observation deck. Pretty cool. The elevator ride to the 94th floor only takes 40 seconds. It's the fastest in North America. Also spent a couple of hours at Navy Pier. A real transformation since my last visit many years ago. Excellent tourist area or a place to just hang out in the Beer Garden!
Took in the rare Cubs-Yankees game at Wrigley Field this afternoon. I really thought the Cubbies had a chance to win again but with bases loaded in the 6th, Russell Martin held on through a helluva collision with Carlos Pena at the plate to quench the possibility of the Cubs tying the game. All in all, a great afternoon at Wrigley. I downed a couple of Chicago-style hot dogs and an Old Style beer for the sake of cultural relations.
Still no rain to contend with but I suspect that will all come to an end tomorrow. Rain expected on my rollout to Milwaukee in the morning and pretty much for the next two days as I make my way to Brandon, SD. I will don full rain gear and make the best of it. At least it won't be cold.
6/17: Left camp ahead of schedule at 7:30AM. Weather was much nicer than forecast. Warm and sunny all the way to Chicago. I stopped in Indianapolis to have breakfast with my niece and her son. Great to see them after such a long time. Traffic coming into Chicago was a nightmare stop and go scene. It was very nice to see the Chicago skyline around 159th Street. Felt like home for a minute. I've always loved visiting Chicago. Just can't stand the harsh winters.
Once I got into the Loop, my GPS starting acting up, which is typical in downtown areas. Had to make a few loops around to find the Marriott. Maybe that's why they call it the Loop. Found the parking garage and took the basic items but the remote locking would not lock the saddlebags or tour pack compartment. Turns out there was a Harley Davidson shop on the corner but they were of no help. Clothes only outlet. Found a Walgreens and bought a new battery for the FOB and back in business.
Grabbed a taxi and went out to Northbrook to meet with my latest client, MOOG. Toured the factory, which has undergone vast improvements from the last time I had visited. Had a nice seafood dinner with Jim and Jon and back to the Marriott.
Cubs/Yankees game tomorrow at 3:00 and Field Museum in the morning.
6/16: Day 2 Complete. Left Parkersburg at 10:30AM after doing some work in the hotel. It had rained pretty hard overnight so the bike was soaked. It was still cloudy but improving conditions so I took off.
I checked in at the Miami-Whitewater Campgrounds, which is a very nice place. Highly recommended based on the number of activities for day campers and water park/lake enthusiasts and how the campgrounds are on the other side of the lake away from the noisy parts. Set up the gear, which is nothing more than a bivy sack, sleeping bag, and inflatable mattress. It was a comfortable evening with no insects or rain.
Rode out to the Quaker State restaurant for bike night (see pics). Good size crowd with great looking bikes and a cool blues band. The parking lot must have had over 300 bikes.
: Day 1 complete. Left Marshall at 0625 this morning and arrived in Parkersburg at 1245. Rt 50 has some wonderful scenery and some really twisty mountain roads including a few 180 degree hairpins. There is also an area between Romney and Grafton that has about a dozen very large windmills operating atop a ridge line. Very majestic looking and you can see them from about 15 miles away.
The only incidents I had today were animal related. A deer and a cat both ran out of the forest right in front of me within 2 minutes of each other. Not sure who was chasing who. Good thing the pavement was dry. You can catch the superb braking & counter-steering action once I get the video links loaded. I plan to merge each day's route into this link and add anything noteworthy when I have Internet access. Stay tuned.