Home Sweet Home

Posted on 28 May 2010 | No responses

Arrived safely back at home after 700 miles in a little over 12 hours. Will update more soon

Out of the flatlands and back into the Northeast

Posted on 27 May 2010 | No responses

Another 600 miles today, that puts me at 7200 miles total for the trip so far. I got a slow start this morning, but got into a groove and made my way across Indiana, into Michigan then Ohio, Pennsylvania and into New York. I’m now in Bath, which is in the Finger lakes region in upstate New York. Nothing really spectacular to report today, most of this is familiar territory that I have ridden through before, but it is nice to be out of the flatlands and back into states with more interesting riding.

My bike has a huge gas tank by motorcycle standards, it is just over 9 gallons, and with mileage of 42MPG or thereabouts, 360 to 400 miles per tank is quite possible. As I was pulling into the hotel tonight it occurred to me that I hadn’t got out of the saddle in some 450 miles, about 8 or 9 hours, as at the one stop this afternoon I had gassed up while still sitting on the bike. It’s no wonder my rear end hurts at this point.


The picture above shows the effects of 7000 plus miles of mainly straight line riding on a motorcycle tire, what was one a nice rounded profile tire is now quite badly squared off, all the wear has been in the middle of the tread. It’s no quite at the point where the bike will stand up on it’s own, but the handling is strange, very stable in a straight line, but twitchy in corners.

The basic plan for this trip, such as it was, was to try to ride in as many states as possible while making my way to and from New Orleans. Here’s  a map of the states I have ridden in so far;


As you can see i have ridden through a fair portion of the country, but there is a section in the Northeast that I can still fill in, fortunately the states are small and close together, so with another 700 miles I should be able to pick up Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and then head for home. We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but there’s a chance I can be home late tomorrow night.

Through Wisconsin

Posted on 26 May 2010 | No responses

I covered about 650 miles today through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and into Indiana. I booked a hotel in South Bend Indiana before I left Duluth this morning and in hindsight that was a bit ambitious. I wanted to get around Chicago today and I got that done did butt it was a long day.

This morning in Duluth was simply glorious, beautiful blue skies and a great view out over Lake Superior.  I went by Aerostich and they quickly replace the troublesome zipper on my suit while I picked up a few items to make the rest of the trip home a little more pleasant. It was then off into Wisconsin, which is a state I really enjoy travelling through as there is a rich variety of countryside. it is America’s Dairyland, so there is a lot of dairy farming, but there is a fair amount of beautiful rolling hills and in places it reminded me of riding through the English countryside.


As you can see i have accumulated a pretty good bug collection on my windshield, but I hit a brief but heavy thunderstorm this afternoon which washed some of the worst of that off, so it looks a little better now. After the rain, I realized that it was almost 6PM, I was still 100 miles north of Chicago and the GPS was saying I would arrive in South Bend at close to Midnight. I had already covered 450 miles and the thought of making my way through Chicago on surface streets filled me with dread, so I made the decision to hop on the interstate to make better time, which shaved about two hours off the trip.

Tomorrow I need to make a quick detour to get into Michigan, and then it is off to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

I’ve had a few comments from people before and during the trip from people who think I am nuts to undertake a trip like this alone on a motorcycle, whereas to me it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. During my travels I have seen two people walking across the country for one cause or another and a couple on recumbent bicycles out in the middle of nowhere. It’s all a matter or perspective, but as far as I am concerned, those guys are doing something meaningful and significant, all I have do to is sit down and twist the throttle.

Turning for home

Posted on 25 May 2010 | No responses

Another 600 miles today. I headed out of Sioux City Iowa, back in Nebraska then up through South Dakota and into North Dakota before making the turn to start heading east and back to home. The weather was cloudy much of the day, less windy and about 15 degrees cooler so the riding was much more pleasant.

Fairly unremarkable day all in all, i did manage to get myself and the GPS confused while trying to find Gas and a place to eat in South Dakota. At one point the GPS said “When possible make a U-Turn and then make a U-Turn” I’m not sure what it had in mind, but I ignored it and it sorted itself out eventually. Here’s a self portrait taken at just about the turning point in North Dakota


I’m now in Duluth Minnesota for the night. Why Duluth? Well it is home to Aerostich who make the riding suit I wear and sell a multitude of other motorcycle paraphernalia. I don’t need much of an excuse to visit, but I did have problems with one of the leg zippers on the suit while I was in New Orleans so I’ll see if they can fix that tomorrow and then it’s south towards Chicago.

Riding through Flyover Country

Posted on 24 May 2010 | 1 response

People often refer to the Midwest as “Flyover Country” because it is the part of the country they only see from the plane when flying between the coasts, but it really is the heartland of America. The roads are flat and straight, but if you look around there are plenty of interesting experiences to be had.

Today I got an early start, pre-booked a hotel in Sioux City, Iowa so I had a target for the day and then hit the road. I travelled from Oklahoma, back into Arkansas, clipped the corner of Missouri then in to Kansas and Nebraska before crossing the Missouri river into Iowa. Here a sample of what most of today’s roads looked like


By pure chance I wound up on the road through Picher, Oklahoma which at the time I passed through seemed quite bizarre, after researching it further it really is quite a sad story. It started with what looked like huge sand dunes just off the highway, I was tempted to pull over and explore but kept moving. It was once I got into town that things got strange. Every building in town was abandoned, some with severe damage and they all had “Katrina” type markings spray painted on the facade. When I stopped for lunch I looked up the story of Picher and found that the Sand Dunes were in fact massive piles of mining waste and the markings were the result of the town taking a direct hit from a Tornado that killed six residents. The town was home to huge lead and zinc mines and apparently most of the bullets in both World Wars were made with lead that came from Picher. It is now considered by the EPA to be the most toxic site in the US and due to the contamination and the risk of the underground mines collapsing, the town is now closed and all the residents have been relocated. You can learn more in the Wikipedia article here LINK I never thought I would see anything like the sights of the Lower Ninth Ward again, but within 36 hours of leaving New Orleans I had found somewhere where just as ravaged but with an even worse prognosis.

I did see this guy on the road on the way out of town, possibly the last resident to leave


I’m happy to report that he was capable of moving fairly quickly when he wanted to and he safely made it across the road.

I then stopped for lunch at a tiny diner in El Dorado Kansas called “Job lunch” billed as the Best Little Veal Place in Kansas. I went for a loaded veal sandwich, with Pickles, Onion, Relish and Chili and it was quite good. I passed on the opportunity to have my first experience of Rocky Mountain Oysters and the Fried Green tomatoes that were also on the menu. I was chatting with the waitress who was heavily pregnant and apparently due in July, she mentioned that she was looking forward to having the baby so that she could ride her trike again, I commented would need to have someone who could watch the little one, but apparently when you live in a small town and have 14 brothers and sisters, child care is not an issue.

The two biggest challenges today were the wind and my allergies. Allergies haven’t really been a problem for me recently, but the grasslands of Oklahoma where more than I could handle and despite picking up some anti-histamines, i spent most of the day with my eyes streaming tears inside my helmet. As to the wind, there were strong winds out of the south all day running 20-30MPH. It wasn’t bad when i was heading North, but travelling on East or West bound roads meant battling a heavy crosswind which gets pretty tiring on a bike, you basically have to steer and lean into the wind constantly in order to travel in anything resembling a straight line.

Tomorrow’s travels will again depend on the weather forecast in the morning, but hopefully I can continue North.

The Journey home – Day One

Posted on 23 May 2010 | No responses

Today I covered a little over 600 miles from the Who Dat Nation of LA through MS, AR, TX to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. I managed to get the bike packed and get on the road by 9AM this morning and stopped riding about 13 hours later in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

It was a fairly unremarkable day of riding. I saw a fair amount of corn in the fields in Northern Louisiana, which was a bit of a surprise, I wasn’t expecting to see that until I got further into the Midwest. There were some fun roads today along the Arkansas Oklahoma border, fast open sweeping bends and rolling hills which were a refreshing change. I did get into a conversation with a lady at a gas station who mentioned that the Dakotas were getting some pretty extreme weather , so I’ll check the weather in the morning and decide where to head next.

Heading North

Posted on 23 May 2010 | No responses

I’ve been checking the weather this morning, and while it doesn’t look as though there is any rain or extreme weather I need to worry about, it also looks like there is no escaping the heat. It has been in the low 90’s here in Louisiana the last few days, and after a long day of work it has been really tough to put on my full armored riding gear, gloves, boots etc for the ride home in stop and go traffic. Wearing all that gear in the direct sun is extremely hot, but you have to dress for the crash not for the ride so as difficult as it has been at times, I have been wearing all the gear all the time.

I was hoping that if I headed north from here I could hit some cooler air which would make for more pleasant riding, but it looks like Mother Nature has other plans. Even as far north as Fargo North Dakota is supposed to be in the Eighties so it looks like I will be riding in the heat for the next few days.

Farewell to Habitat

Posted on 22 May 2010 | No responses

I mentioned yesterday that the sod for the lawn had been delivered, but that a lot of dirt needed to be moved to level the yard before that project could begin. Well today we moved the dirt and started laying the lawn.


The crew from Indiana left at Noon to head for the Florida beaches, so before they left we got started on the concrete pad for the back stairs into the house. I pretty much leveled, surfaced and edged that piece single handedly and it looked pretty good if I do say so myself. In the afternoon I went over to another site on Louisa Ave and helped them pour and finish the sidewalk there.

Tomorrow I will probably head over to morning Call for Beignets and Coffee one last time and then hit the road. I’m still not sure where i am headed, but i think i will give myself a day or two to get back into road trip mode. If the riding is good and I am back in the groove, i will stick with the original route, if not I can always head for home at any point.

I really will miss New Orleans. I have worked harder here than I have for years and feel as though I have really made a contribution and left something tangible that hopefully will enrich the lives of others. Once I get settled back in CT I will see what I can do to work with them on a local basis as they really do seem to do good work. I really do leave with mixed emotions. I feels great to have been here and to have given something back to a town where I had some great times prior to Katrina but it is hard to leave when there is so much work that still needs to be done here. Hopefully I will be able to return at some point in the future.

Finishing Touches

Posted on 21 May 2010 | No responses

We were back at the house on Bartholomew Ave this morning to wrap up the sidewalk. It was slow progress working with the crew we have, but we did get it all done and I’m quite proud of the job we got done.


We did get sod delivered today, but before the lawn can be laid, thee is a lot of work to be done leveling the yard.


Lunch today was a quick trip back to the Poppa’s, the heavily armored PoBoy shop, but I changed it up a bit today and got catfish with Red Beans and Rice. I’m really acquiring a taste for the food down here, even the least promising looking places make some pretty good food.

The volunteer crew had to leave early to go on a swamp tour, so they were done by 3:30. From then on it was just me, 3 of the Americorps crew and Martin who is the homeowner at this site. Martin has put in a lot of hours working on other people’s houses, so he knows what he is doing and takes obvious pride in doing the best job possible, especially on his own house. It was a real pleasure to meet him and spend some time with him, he is originally German and is a musician here in New Orleans. I’m looking forward to working with him again tomorrow. We were able to get a lot of finishing work done on the house. Adding railings to the stairs, some soffit work, hanging sliding doors etc. We worked well beyond the normal wrap up time and i think we finally called it a day at about 5;30. The house is supposed to be move in ready in a week and that’s a target that seems quite achievable.


As you can see in the banner above, this house is sponsored by a number of Canadian organizations including the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Raptors. The funding model for Habitat is quite interesting and designed so that they can be self sustaining. The home owner takes out a mortgage through Habitat to purchase the home and Habitat then takes all the payments and uses them to purchase building materials and building lots to build additional homes. Of course donations and sponsors are always welcome as well.

Where to next?

Posted on 20 May 2010 | No responses

It is surprising how quickly you can fall into a new routine. Almost every night I get “home” to the hotel, take a shower to get rid of the worst of the grime, clean the bathtub to again get rid of the worst of the grime and then go for a soak in the hotel jacuzzi. One of the ladies I work with always raves about her jacuzzi and how great it is after work and I had never really understood the appeal until this trip. Now I get it.

Generally after that I grab a quick dinner and then by 9 o’clock I’m dead to the world. Tonight though I actually felt like I had some energy left so I went for a 3 or 4 mile walk, left the iPod and just thought about what comes next. I only have two days left with Habitat and the reality of planning the trip home is beginning to hit me. I’m thinking through three options

1) I can head home on Sunday, sticking to my original plan and picking up as many states as I can on the way home, probably 3000 miles and 6 days of riding

2) I can head home on Sunday and just take the quick route home to get back to my family, probably two days and 1200 miles

3) I could spend the weekend here, spend another 2 or 3 days working with Habitat, and then head for home on Thursday or Friday taking the quick route home.

I really have enjoyed my time here and the thought of extending it and getting more done is quite appealing. I have certainly lost a lot of sweat here, after working with a saw-z-all and rebar today I have lost some blood and by the time I leave I expect I will shed a few tears. Let’s see what the next few days bring.

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