Whew....this year was tough, way more difficult than doing the lower 48 states in 21 days. Not counting the ride from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle, the shortest mileage day of the trip was the last day home at 350 miles. Have a big kickoff celebration, everyone feels good, it's HOT, leave a little after 10:00 AM, then go 564 miles to Cincinnati. That's how this trip started. I had a little extra excitement the first day. I'm buzzing up the interstate, at the speed limit of course, and my bike quits. I mean it just shuts off. Then it came back to life. Roll on up the road, and it does it again. I pull off, and a few buddies pull off too. Now we are separated from the group. I get it to fire up, we catch them at the first gas stop, we look at it and really can't see anything. We get close to Knoxville, happens again. At this point we send everyone on except Ronnie, Sheriff and I. We go to the Harley shop. Loose connection on the battery and I'm off. We're trying to catch the group, maybe a little over the speed limit, we stop to get gas. My bike would not start, dead again, jump it off, nope this time it's dead. Sheriff goes off and buys me another battery, we put it in and all is fine, we're rolling. We meet the rest of the group at the hotel. They had to ride in an absolute downpour, we didn't. First day of a new ride, and in my mind I'm worried about what might happen next to my bike. Anxiety for the next 20 days. This year is going to be difficult, I had no idea what was to come.
The ride out of Cincinnati to the U P was good. The ride over to Minnesota was wet, all day wet. Cross the border, is Canada ready for us? We take the scenic way and meet Jerome "Boom Boom" Bechard's mother in Regina and off we go. The roads are a little lumpy now the farther west and north you go. Here is where we learned about frost heaves. It's where the freezing of the winter cause the road to dip in the summer, and freeze and create a hill in the winter. As I said earlier, when the road changes color, you pay attention, because something is different, you don't know if it's good or bad, you know it's different so you venture on, carefully. I will give Canada tremendous credit, they give you plenty of warning when road conditions are less than optimal. If you see a sign that has three humps, get ready, I see it here it comes, go over it all good. In Alaska, you see the sign and then boom....too late you just hit it. The farther west and north, the roads kept getting worse. It was pretty much a wet ride through Canada.
The ride to the Arctic Circle was a warm sunny day, 80 miles of curvy frost heave roads followed by 120 miles of gravel, loose dirt and 4 foot wide, 4 foot deep pot holes. I turned around at the circle and came back to Fairbanks. I wanted ALL of the stress to be done in one day. Didn't work. Sitting in Fairbanks as the rest of the crew came back from Coldfoot, I was sitting at the Harley shop waiting for my bike to be repaired. It's not the bikes fault, the roads simply beat everything to pieces. As I was sitting there, I was thinking about all the roads we had traveled, and the rough roads I know I will have to travel again, and again until we get back to Montana. More compounding reflective stress.
Leaving Lake of the Ozarks, it was raining, but not hard. We're going to run out of it soon. We're taking a deviation and going to take a ferry across the Mississippi, really looking forward to it. But the rain got a little harder, the visibility a little less, and now I'm on the edge. We round a curve and I see a bike laying on its side. The rider stopped, put his foot down, but it slide out from under him and he dropped it. Not hurt, but dropped. The turn was like the 2nd turn at Talladega. So I pull up into the turn, put my kickstand down, turn the bike off and get off. No sooner had I stepped off, my bike fell over. I wasn't on it, it wasn't running, no one got hurt, it just fell over. First time in four years....doing my part to make sure the team stayed hydrated. Two bikes down in one curve. It caused anxiety amongst the whole group. The guys were asking me if I was OK....of course I was...it just fell over. But I had an increased level of anxiety too. Forget the deviation, let's get gas, hit the interstate and get to Nashville quickly, but more importantly safely.
Why don't people obey police? On the ride to the marina in Columbus we had a police escort. They stopped traffic from 2nd Ave getting onto JR Allen as we are trying to exit on River Road. Some people just don't care. Now we are having to dodge cars to get to our exit. I think Linda was concerned, this time I was not. Rick, Jonnie and I knew what we were doing, and we exited safely. This was new for Linda, and she got to experience some of the anxiety that I had been dealing with for 3 weeks.
For all of my motorcycling friends, I'm not saying I'm better than you. I'm not saying I'm a better rider than you. I'm not saying that I'm tougher than you. I am saying that I've ridden in some very difficult conditions that have challenged every single bit of my abilities. Mamma Cat understood. It's like driving in a severe thunderstorm. You are extremely focused, hands gripping the wheel tightly for those few minutes. Now, sit on a motorcycle and do it for 12 hours, in that storm, gripping the bars, on the edge of your seat. I'm not kidding here, I was making decisions every minute that could impact my life.
These were just moments during the course of 3 weeks. This is not how I live. That is not the case for the children at Arabella and Carpenter's Way Ranch. Go back and read the words in bold. Let them sink in. Think of a child who went to sleep in their bed, are woken up and taken away from the only thing they've ever known through no fault of their own. Children should not have to live with anxiety every moment of every day.
Thank you for helping us raise over $135,000 to take that anxiety away. And we are not done. Please plan on joining us at Bikes on Broadway September 8 and 9 for live music and good times. Tell all your friends, I would love to see the biggest gathering downtown has ever seen. Even my brother is coming down from Indiana!!!
Today's song of the day....I used to be lonely, until I learned about living alone, I found other things to keep my mind on....Keep pushin' on...you know you have got to be sostrong, even if you think your strength is gone, keep pushin'....keep pushing on....Keep Pushin' by REO Speedwagon