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C2C Day 26: The Final Stretch July 28, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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I arose late from the festivities of the night prior, and again packed up the gear and loaded the motorcycle, but this time I knew was the last for this journey.  Unlike some previous trips, my thoughts at the “last packing” were quite neutral.  It seems most vacations are either “too short” leaving one thinking it is not yet time to be going home, or “too long” inducing a heightened eagerness to get going.  Perhaps it is the nature of being on the road such that the packing and unpacking is more of a daily routine than a milestone, but I felt I had been gone for just long enough:  not too long, not too short — and I was happy to go going home.

I gassed up and continued along US-40 though Wheeling until it met up with I-70E.  I rode into Pennsylvania, stopping in a truck stop for a red bull and Advil, and plotted my course to Indiana County.  I continued east on I-70 crossing my outbound track on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, picking up toll road SR-66 a short while later.  I took SR-66 north to US-22 toward Blairsville to pick up my final county.  Unfortunately, US-22 was one long 35-40 mph construction zone, and the sign for Indiana County completely inaccessible.  I stopped in Blairsville at the local hardware store and asked about the whereabouts of any other Indiana County signs (courthouses, county road maintenance buildings, county offices, anything…) and was told that Indiana, PA would be my best bet.  I blindly started up SR-217 toward Indiana, when it dawned on me that SR-217 southbound must cross the Indiana County line without taking me further off-route; hopefully the sign would be accessible given that the county line is a river. 

Heading south looking over my shoulder at the northbound signs, I found it just at the start of a bridge with the narrowest of shoulders leading up to it.  The road was narrow and had recently been chip-sealed.  Construction trucks (presumably going to and from the morass on US-22) were speeding up and down the narrow road throwing gravel at anyone dumb enough to be parked where I was.  Playing a bit of real-life Frogger, I dodged traffic to get my ABCs pic completing my list of 25 counties from A to Z (there is no “X” county).  I got back on the bike, managed a U-turn, and continued south on SR-217 as the sky started to look threatening. 

I pulled over in the parking lot of a closed restaurant with a “Welcome Bikers” sign out front and adjusted my gear a bit in preparation for rain.  Snapping one end-of-journey self portrait in my mirror before stowing the camera in a sandwich bag, I saddled up and rode south to US-30, the Lincoln Highway.  The Lincoln Highway was the first coast to coast highway running from New York to San Francisco.  US-30 subsumed the Lincoln Highway running from Atlantic City to Astoria, Oregon keeping the nickname. 

selfmirror

Looking a bit scruffy...

I have traveled many Pennsylvania sections of US-30 in the past, and have really enjoyed the scenery and small towns it offers.  Unfortunately, US-30 consists for very long lengths of “no passing” zones which can destroy an otherwise great ride when there is traffic.  But today on a mid-day Monday, the road was reasonably clear (at least from SR-217 to Breezewood) and the ride was enjoyable. 

Somewhere near Stoystown the sky was really looking ugly and the air had that feeling of oncoming rain.  I pulled over to don the raingear, questioning myself as I was doing so, as the sun started coming out again.  I figured I’d be better off with it, and the forecast was calling for storms, so I kept gearing up.  Getting back on the road, within an eighth of a mile, I hit, not rain, but wet, very wet roads like they had just been deluged by a storm.  I was glad to have the rain pants on as my legs and the bike became saturated with road spray.  Then within a few miles… dry roads again. 

I had been really lucky on this trip with weather, hitting only two patches of rain worth mentioning (outbound PA and leaving Yellowstone) and this is despite so many forecasts for storms on my route.  I had managed to be a fraction of a day ahead or behind avoiding the weather an unbelievable number of times:

  • en route to Sturgis, threading the needle between two storms; 
  • the day after leaving SD, tornadoes and storms hit behind me;
  • in the desert of eastern Kern County, CA there were storms, hail, and 62 mph gusts within miles from where I was recovering from heat stroke.
  • the day after leaving Vegas, torrential rain and mudslides hit behind me;
  • in the happenstance of an early stop for laundry in Kanab, thunderstorms deluged the area while I was safely in the hotel blogging and folding laundry;
  • the day prior to my arrival in Amarillo the temperatures were in the 100’s; when I arrived it was 76°
  • about to cross into Illinois, T-storms and hail passed quicker than forecast letting me skirt the northwest edge of the southeast-bound storm.

I was making good time and stopped about 150 miles from home in mid afternoon at a little diner at Reels Corners where SR-160 intersects with US-30.   After a ribeye sandwich and iced tea, I headed outside and chatted with a couple from Seattle who were out on their Road King.  They flew in and bought the Road King to ride while there, and will sell it when they leave.  Not a bad plan given the cost of renting.  I talked with the gentleman, Skip, for a while.  Skip had recently retired from civil service working with the Navy.  He also happens to be an avid space enthusiast.  He was actually down in Cocoa Beach for the scrubbed shuttle launches at the same time I was there for the LRO/LCROSS launch .  Unfortunately, he didn’t know that LRO/LCROSS was going on June 18th, and he has flown home right after the shuttle scrub on the 17th.  He was sincerely disappointed at missing the Atlas V launch of LRO/LCROSS.  As consolation of his misfortune, I gave him an LRO/LCROSS mission pin which really seemed to make his day.  We talked a while longer about adversity on rides, and how that is where all the good stories come from.  We said our goodbyes and he went into the restaurant to join his wife, with his new pin already on his biker vest.

The rest of the ride was pretty routine.  The weather had grown quite hot and humid, and I started questioning my logic of wearing my raingear.  Even if I were to hit a downpour, I’d be home in a few hours with a shower and fresh clothes anyway.  I pulled over and stowed the gear and continued on to Breezewood, PA, the quintessential rest stop.  From what I have seen of Breezewood, the entire town’s economy is based upon travelers needing gas, food, and lodging.  About 130 miles from home, it is a good fuel-topping point in either direction.  From there — a nearly normal interstate ride home, except for a crash about halfway causing a 2 mile backup (was really glad I ditched the raingear as I melted over my hot pipes).

Arriving home is a little jarring in a low-key kind of way.  I had spent really more than a month on the road, home for only 4 days between the Florida trip and the California trip, and totally disconnected from work for the latter.  In that time I pretty much lived in a microcosm of the trip not thinking about my to-do lists and normal responsibilities.  Arriving in my driveway there was a feeling of:  “Huh.  It’s over.  Now what?” 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the grass was not as overgrown in the last three weeks as it was when I returned from the Florida ride in June.  The pile of mail is intimidating, and I don’t even want to think about what is in my work email  inbox.  I have budgeted a week to transition back to real-life, and will likely take every minute to do so.

Wait, wait.  There’s more.  Still coming….  The Wrap Up

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