JULY 8, 2009
Day 1 – 7:37 AM, Odometer 15,420 Gardiner, New York to La Porte, Indiana
Off into the steamy morning to the city known for the billowing white fog, traveling past Port Jervis, NY where my house was located, through the Pocono Mountain range toward Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA where I ran over an unknown brown furry slice of roadkill. Dodged many troopers along I-80.
Stopping for fuel and food in Du Bois, PA where a gentleman and his teenage son approached me to discuss my bike. His oldest son who is currently stationed in Iraq had the same motorcycle as I was riding. Discussing where I was headed and he offered up some points of interest based on his yearly trek to Sturgis, SD. Nice gentleman who bought me lunch and wished me a safe and adventurous trip.
The landscape was pretty flat after the Pocono’s. Running on excitement and adrenaline I maintained a cruising speed of 80-90 mph, which ended approximately 60 miles short of Chicago, IL. Just as it started to get dark and lightly drizzle. Pulling off the beaten path to rest for the night and get an early start in the morning after spending 741 miles in the seat of the 2000 Ducati Monster 900ie to La Porte, Indiana.
Most importantly I had a smile on my face the entire time.
JULY 9 – 13, 2009
Rising at 5:30 am excited about the full day of travel that would take me 503 miles to the city I grew up as a kid. Passing through downtown Chicago during the morning rush hour speeding along next to the train, asking myself why I chose to pass though at this time of day.
Weaving my way through the morning commuter’s coffees’ in hand, I proceeded to head north through Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which added 50 additional miles to my trip. I welcomed the opportunity to see the city a second time but did not anticipate construction for the 35+ miles before arriving in Milwaukee. The first trooper riding a motorcycle was spotted behind a tall bush and I managed to avoid all forms of road kill. The road has a rhythm to it much like life, finding those who to travel and share space as you wind your way to the light.
Smiling and good to be home even though my backside was a little sore. Initially a good Idea but I am leaving the extra padded cycling shorts in the saddlebags for the rest of the trip.
Day 3 Bloomington, Minnesota to Ideal Corners, Minnesota
My father decided to take me up in his plane that he and my mother built in their garage. Headed up to their lake house in northern Minnesota about 200 miles from the Twin Cities near Brainerd, Minnesota to say hello to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The trip took us over many of the lakes and gave me a first hand view of how many the state has to offer. Making way for progress the GIANT Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox was moved outside the city of Brainerd. A department store resides on the spot where Paul used to greet you over the loud speaker as you entered his yard.
Visiting with the neighbors who were constructing “game” made out of PVC pipe and a pair of golf balls held together with a rope. Building projects seem to go hand in hand with being “up north.” Later in the evening I joined 3 guys I went to high school. Hanging out talking about OLD days and laughing so hard I could not breath at times made for a memorable evening. Good times and many smiles. It felt so good to laugh that hard. Bonus as we were talking about the space station it passed right over us just before sunset. It was extremely bright and easy to spot. Very Nice!
Day 4 Bloomington, Minnesota to Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
The day brought me to my nephew’s lacrosse game, a sport I would have love to play as a kid growing up in Minnesota, to Lake Minnetonka where water skiing, bbq, and spending time with many friends were on the agenda. I got too sun burned hanging out at Big Island ( formerly known as Morse Island ) ending the day with a setting sun over the lake. Sharing stories, beers and time with friends as the smile became more of smirk as if I had figured out the secret to it all.
Day 5 Bloomington, Minnesota
Spent the day giving motorcycle rides to my niece and nephew, cleaning the bike and preparing for the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota.
Day 6 Bloomington, Minnesota to Wall, South Dakota
Leaving around 6:30 am headed to the western part of South Dakota. Traveling 564 miles to the Badlands National Park, and hopefully getting to Mount Rushmore, and Custer, South Dakota before the sun set.
As in life plans don’t always work out. The day started out wonderfully, I passed Le Sueur, MN where the Jolly Green Giant and Little Sprout reside (another giant figure in the state). It reminded me of my trip to Australia where they have a number of similar giant sculptures in the form of a pineapple, flip flop and lobster. Toward the southwestern part of Minnesota I was greeted with rows of giant modern windmills dancing in the wind. Happy to see that the state I grew up in is taking a forward approach to alternative energy sources.
Crossing the Missouri River into South Dakota noticing the beautiful rolling hills that looked like scoops of ice cream piled next to each other. Everything was going smoothly until my bike started to sputter 3.6 miles outside of Kadoka, South Dakota. Yes I ran out of gas. My gas light never went off and the Italians aren’t know for their expertise in electronics, that said I pulled over to the side of the road and gathered my thoughts.
Hoping someone would stop to help me out my wishes were never answered. Here in the heartland someone would surely offer me a ride or gas to get me to the next station. Nope, Nada, Nothing. Pushing the bike 3.6 miles up a 5-degree incline to get gas. I had to run out of gas at the bottom of the only hill in South Dakota. Ugh. My saving grace was the wind was blowing westward for some reason and helped me push the bike or at least that was what I was telling myself. Still it was 3.6 miles in the beating sun and no water. Note to self, stock up and fill the “Camel Back Water System” and if you ever see a motorcycle on the side of the road stop and ask if they need assistance.
Chugging 3 bottles of Gatorade and full of gas, the bike not me, I made my way to the Badlands National Park. I visited as a kid but wanted to see it again. 2 bees, 3 grasshoppers, and 1 horse fly ended up in my helmet after a head on crash into my chest, bouncing up into my helmet, visor opened with the passengers being sent off to join the other road kill. Approaching the Badlands a huge storm was approaching and I wanted to get to the other side as to avoid the fate of the 2 bees, 3 grasshoppers and thousands of bugs that met their demise.
Through the 20+ miles of the Badlands the storm provided a very dramatic backdrop to the hills. Thankfully I never had to deal with the storm as it passed just north of I-90. A woman from the gold coast of Australia was the only one that offered to take a picture of me on the bike. We spoke about my trip to Australia and she explained that this is her and her husbands 4th trip touring the USA this time ending in NYC. Exiting the Black hills toward the town of Wall, South Dakota my bike started to sputter again. “No not again” I thought I was sure there was plenty of gas in the tank. Pulling over I pushed the bike a quarter mile to the gas station. Trying to start the bike but it never fired up. Sounding like a clogged fuel filter, which fortunately could be purchased at NAPA the next morning, checking in to a hotel and calling it a day.
Bright and early I was sitting outside of the NAPA store like an eager puppy in the window. My new fuel filter purchased but dreading the instillation because the filter is located inside the tank. My hands are just small enough to be able to get my fingertips on the filter and pry it loose from the clip. Draining the full tank of gas into clean empty Kerosene containers that the NAPA owner had sitting in the back. Fighting with the rubber seal that goes around the gas cap. Frustrated for not having all of the tools I needed but smiling because I fixed the problem myself after 4.5 hours of working on the bike headed toward Rapid City, South Dakota, which was to be my destination the previous day. I never made it to Custer to see the buffalo, historic sites and Mount Rushmore; fortunately I saw them, as a kid so all was not lost. Smile straightened out after the past couple of day’s forks in the journey. Definitely the right decision to ditch the cycling shorts.
JULY 14, 2009
Day 7 Wall, South Dakota to Wapiti, Wyoming
This was the day for the letter T. noticing the letter in some form throughout the 520 miles to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Starting with the TANK – cutting up my hand whilst replacing the fuel filter, causing the 4.5-hour delay.
TWENTY TO THIRTY mile per hour winds in my face heading west. Neck was very sore after 40 minutes into the trip so I rode one handed holding the bottom of my motorcycle helmet with my left hand. Passing a trailer that read the “Lazy T” ranch the bike began to sputter outside of Buhler, WY. Pulling over and puzzled because I had only gone 127 miles. Not again I thought. Fortunately this time it was still in the middle of nowhere but near a construction zone. Pushing the bike to the side of the road I talked to this woman named Francis who offered two options. One was 4 miles in one direction and the other 11 miles in the other direction. “Damn” looked like I would be hoofing it again.
At this point a woman TESS pulled up and offered me a ride toward the gas station 4 mile away but I had to accompany her on the remainder of her roadside duties for the next TWENTY minutes. TESS had an accent much like us Minnesotans. Working on the road crew for the summer until she would attend Nursing school in the fall further west in Wyoming. “No worries” I was not pushing the bike so I agreed to ride along and listen to the friendly accent. We spoke about traveling in general and she had never been outside of the country other than Spring Break to Cancun Mexico.
Telling me about the TORNADO that passed through the day before blowing up the portable toilet, imagine the mess. The TORNADO freaked out all of the birds seeking refuge under the bridge and the next morning there were “bird bodies everywhere” according to TESS, “and enough feathers to make TEN pillows”. I had to take her word for it since I didn’t know how many feathers it took to make 1 pillow. She thought I may have run out of gas because I was facing the strong winds getting less gas mileage as I headed west. Very insightful I thought and made total sense.
Getting gas at the TEXACO I filled up the bike and gave TESS a TWENTY after she kindly brought me back to the bike 4 miles down the road where Francis was manning the “slow/stop” flip sign. Off I go toward Yellowstone. TRAVELING through Wyoming I got hit by actual TUMBLEWEEDS with a few getting lodged into the nooks and crannies of the bike. One of the more memorable scents was from the very pungent TREES in parts of Wyoming.
Outside of Cody, WY ( A fun Town that I wished I would have spent more time in ) I entered Cody National Forest/Park. Traveling through the first TUNNELS making my way to the front gate. Upon getting there it was TWILIGHT and no rooms were available at the closest lodging near the gate so I had to travel TWENTY-FOUR miles back to Wapiti, WY. This wasn’t that bad because I got to see the path traveled from a different view.
Riding through the mountain passes to and from Yellowstone was fantastic at TWILIGHT. Lodging at a RV and Cabin site in Wapiti, walking into the bar/restaurant where want to be rock stars were singing karaoke. Finishing the day talking to a local cowboy/guide, who hunted and tracked elk, mountain goats and moose and the occasional bear, and a Harley rider from Pittsburgh, PA who was passing through from Montana. Traveling the same pass I did earlier in the evening he thought that it was the most beautiful part of his trip and I got to see it THREE times. Downing a shot of TEQUILLA before bunking down in my TWO TWIN bed cabin still 4 hours behind my original trip plan.
THANKFULLY to have a place to sleep and looking back thinking it was better that the clogged fuel filter had sidetracked me. Heading through Yellowstone in the AM would be more satisfying. Smiling because I get to be one of the first through the gate in Yellowstone.
JULY 15, 2009
Day 8 Wapiti, Wyoming to Wendover, Navada
The 511 miles from Wapiti, WY to West Wendover, NV had the most diverse forms of landscape, texture, smells and temperature. Glad to have the rain pants to add as a layer of comfort headed into the mountains. Excited, I eagerly handed the man my twenty bucks to get me through the eastern gate of Yellowstone National Park. Feeling like the amusement park was open exclusively for me I would eventually pass through the Grand Tetons to the Salt Flats of Nevada.
Driving through Yellowstone I found myself the only person on the road. Occasionally people would pass by as I was taking a picture but it was so nice to be able to leisurely pass through the park at my own pace. Around every corner brought something new from the Bison who was 8 feet away to the giant pelicans in the lake whose shore had thermal areas of boiling water, to the majestic mountains. The pictures that accompany this leg of the journey hopefully give you a sense of vastness of the park.
The Grand Tetons live up to the name bestowed upon them. Stopping many times to take photos, much more than I needed, headed toward Jackson Hole where I planned on having lunch. Just outside of Jackson Hole I noticed a motorcycle pull off the road a few miles up. Thinking back on my promise I pulled over to ask if they needed assistance. Erin, a skinny white guy sporting a handle bar type moustache similar to “Yosemite Sam” but black, said he ran out of gas. I told him about similar fate back in South Dakota and offered him a ride a few miles up the road. Borrowing a gas can he filled it as I took the opportunity to fill my tank as well. He hopped back on the bike holding the gas can in one hand and to the bike with the other back to his yellow Harley Sportster. I waited until he started to drive off with the empty gas can balancing between his stomach and the tank. I saw him pulled over again but it was because the can blew off and to the side of the road. I waved to him as I passed by headed toward the southeast corner of Idaho one of the states I have never visited.
I spoke to another biker who was from Seattle that was traveling on a small 350 and explained how it took him so much longer to get places. Asking where I was headed he was curious about the Salt Flats outside of Salt Lake City and thought about heading that way. I wished him luck as I drove off past Bear Lake, which was split in half bordering Idaho and Utah.
Many of the towns I passed through had names that were very familiar to my life. Reflecting as I passed through Bloomington, Idaho having the same name of the city I grew up. There was Garden City, which reminded me of my friend Kenny who invited me to join his family for Christmas in Garden City, NY. Providence, another school I applied for grad school was RISD located in Rhode Island. Paris, Idaho, which brought up memories of the Eifel Tower that I seen some 20 years previous. Grateful for the memories of all the wonderful opportunities I have had to experience and the fascinating people I have met along the way.
Passing through Salt Lake City I ran up to catch 4 bikers that were ahead of me. It became sort of a game and a way to pass the time. Approaching the group I noticed a man riding his Harley with Ape Hanger handlebars, who was wearing nothing but a pair of cut off shorts, yellow tinted aviator glasses and flip-flops. No shoes, no shirt, no helmet ( he was bald so at first I thought it was his helmet ) and smiling like he had it all figured out. I rode with them for a good stretch until they took an exit outside the city limits toward Burmester.
Chasing the sun toward the Salt Flats I wanted to checkout the Bonneville Speedway. Not realizing I had a long stretch ahead of me that was pretty straight and monotonous. The one thing that was breaking up the boredom was the beautiful quality of light and all of the shrines made out of bottles that were along the highway or mini salt castle creations. Car tracks would head off the road and try their luck driving through the white salty compound sometimes getting stuck and others making beautiful patterns that looked like individual signatures. I was wearing a jacket that was given to me from a good friend and his wife who’s brother died in one of the trade center buildings. Her brother was really into motorcycles and wearing his jacket felt as if he was traveling along with me.
Making my way to Bonneville Speedway it was late and not much going on so I headed toward the border of Nevada. Pressing on where I gassed up in the town of Wendover, which bordered Utah and Nevada. One could tell they were in Nevada because hotel and casino’s were everywhere. Looking for a place to stay I stumble upon the RED GARTER hotel and casino with a rate of $27.95 per night. Hell I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay at the Red Garter.
In the lobby I met a newly retired couple that was traveling to 5 states in 5 days on their Harley. Nice people, she was in the day care business and sold off a number of them and he was a ski patrol in Utah. Ended up having a drink with them after dinner in the hotel bar where all kinds of characters seemed to be congregating. There was the um dancer who explained to us how she makes her own costumes and incorporates her yoga poses into her routine, the trucker who was traveling along with a parrot, the DUDE ( as he called himself ) who was a blackjack dealer in one of the casinos and a few others that added flavor to the evening.
This was a long day and I saw such extremes in terrain from the Great Divide where the odometer read 18,000 miles exactly at an elevation close to 8,000 feet to the salt flats that went on for miles. What a terrific day full of smiles, thoughts of friends and reflection.
JULY 16, 2009
Day 9 Wendover, Navada to San Francisco, California
Starting at the very east edge of Nevada with 616 miles to SF. Tipping my cap ( helmet ) as I passed the giant cowboy headed toward Elko Nevada. Passing a truck stop outside Wells, Nevada called the 4-way Café thinking of my only skydive and the friends who joined me as I continued toward the sun. In Elko while filling the bike I noticed how badly I needed of a rear tire. The young man gassing up his motorcycle offered directions to the nearest motorcycle shop ( 5th Gear Power Sports ). The early start had me waiting until they opened their doors. I was a little bummed out because this was going to put me behind by at least 3 hours but I rolled with it. Changing the rubber threads to treads off I went into the desert.
A “camelback” full of water, two extra bottles and a number of sun blocks with varying SPF levels I headed into the desert. This part of the trip had me concerned about breaking down and it would have been escalated if not for the new tire on the back. Listening to the PIXIES across the big sandbox while racing a train to my right and the bright blue sky above had me smiling and singing to myself. Yes I think the time alone is starting to make me a bit silly.
Outside of Mill City, Nevada I saw my first Dust Devil. Tornado like but it was blowing sand that passed 10 feet to my left. Thankfully the sandbox wasn’t as hot as I thought and the colors of blue, tan and pale green began to change. More trees and hills started to appear and more police officers were patrolling the border just outside of California. The area of Squaw Valley California is a place I will go to explore. Trees, lakes and beautiful mountainside greeted me as I headed up in elevation feeling the nice cool air hitting my face.
North of Auburn I saw my first California forest fire. It was extremely HOT that even being on the bike was suffocating. Weaving through the heavy traffic south of Sacramento caused by 4 boxes of Styrofoam trays tossed all over the freeway. Cooler breezes welcomed me as I passed through Oakland and Berkeley headed toward the San Francisco.
Coming over the Bay Bridge I entered spectacular San Francisco with a view of downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance with the peaks of the bridge peering out of the fog. The whole trip I was thinking of how I would mark the end of my journey on a motorcycle, would it be a picture of me on my bike in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, in front of my new home or in front of a famous trolley car? The first picture I took was that of the college I would be attending. It just felt right. Up the street I drove dropping off my bags at my new home, throwing my stuff into my apartment and walking down the block to the Connecticut Yankee a bar owned by New Englanders. Thought it fitting to end my journey with a nod to the east coast. I ordered the bowl of clam “chowda”, a Sam Adams and a shot of Tequila eating and drinking standing the whole time I was there. The neighborhood I live in feels like home and a nice place to spend the next couple of years possibly more. Upon my arrival I found a nice sitting monk tucked away in an odd furniture shop, the monk carved out of solid stone. Sitting with a peaceful and patient appearance, which struck a cord with me.
Having time to digest all that I have seen, those I met, obstacles to overcome the one piece of advice I would offer is to urge all of you to step out of your busy lives and see our country it is absolutely beautiful and the people I met along the way were so friendly and fascinating that I am looking forward to my next trip that I have never traveled. Dream, inspire, experience, take that chance and smile.
Hope you enjoyed this experience as much as I did and feel free to ask me any questions or comment directly. Thank you for taking time out to read my story. – Timothy Morse
Final odometer reading – 19,143
Total Miles – 3,723 at 7:15 pm pacific standard time, thousands of dead insects plastered to the front of the bike with a smile on my face as I parked in front of the place I will spend the next couple of years.