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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 6 of 29 – The prairies

Left Bismark in some rain and rejoined the Interstate 94, but not for long. Turned south and followed the Missouri river until entered the Standing Rock indian reservation. Soon after I entered South Dakota. You should the countryside. Nothing specific to see but a lot of it and scenery was spectacular in its vastness. The scenes from North by northwest sorung to mind as I was driving. Even got a little fed up with all the driving. Barely made it to Rapid city South Dakota where I collapsed in a quickly erected tent.
The next day was reserved for Mt Rushmore and the Needles highway.

 

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 5 of 29 – Cold and hot

Met some nice people over breakfast and chatted for a while. One of the ladies works as a teacher at the local reservation. Told me a scary and dad story about a little boy who was fishing in a river in the south part of the US and somebody saw the boy behaving strangely as if dizzy. The boy complained the worms were biting him. Turns out the boy thought he was picking up worms to use as bait but they were in fact baby copperhead snakes. Their poison is extremely potent, even more so when they are young. Sadly the boy died about an hour later.

Hmmmm, and I intend to do a lot of camping here.

I still decided to ride on westwards towards North Dakota despite being in the middle of a cold front.

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The blue dot on this weather radar is me and the red one was Fargo which lies on the Minnesota / North Dakota border.

Turns out this was not one of my good decisions. Would be better if I stayed in the AmercInn hotel in Fergus Falls. The rain was relentles and the miles just continued with no respite in sight. Needles to say my equipment could have been better – my gloves got completely soaked through and I didn’t think in the morning to put my waterproof trousers on. I had some latex gloves with me and I put them on remembering my motorcycle basic training I had last year in April when the instructor advised the use of washing-up gloves.
But I was in a way stuck, couldn’t get a room as it was early in the morning, didn’t want to turn round. Nowhere really to go but to push forward. There were miles of road with no services but then after a veeeery long time along came this cafe that saved my life in a matter of speech. My fingers on my right hand were almost completely numb and only started to get some sensation back into them after warming them on a hot mug of coffee. Also had a very hardy late breakfast that included eggs and stake. There was also a nice addition of peanut butter – I presume it was for the toast, not to spread over the steak. It was all very good 🙂
After my meal I checked the weather radar again and it was showing I was just on the edge of the storm now. There were only a couple more rainy patches after which I started to see my first signs of sunshine. The sunny bits slowly became longer and more frequent. In the end I could start to take some of thd extra layers off. By the time I arrived in Bismark, the capital of North Dakota the day turned out to be hot and very sunny.
My spurits were up again after being down the toilet for most of the day. I stopped at a little recreational area called McDowell Dam – well it just had to be seen and here it is….

Met these two guys in a rest area who were on their way to Montana and they gave me lots of advice and what to see and where to go in Yellowstone. Thanks guys 🙂

In fact I don’t know if its because of the bike but everyone is open and wants to chat with you.

At the moments staying in a KOA camp in Bismark.
Tomorrow I head off south towards Mount Rushmore and the Crazy horse monument.
Need to sleep now. 🙂

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 4 of 29 – Just the Interstate 94

Not a very nice start to the day. Started raining early in the morning and so I had to pack a wet tent and everything that goes with it. The wetness just seems to impregnate everything else.

Hit the road at about 7am and it was still raining then but it did soon stop. Just as I thought everything was just find I noticed something dangling from one of the bags. I quickly pulled over just in case I was in immediate chance of sharing my belongings with the rest of drivers on the motorway. Just as I got of my seat a car pulled up in front of me and then started to reverse. Oooops – I’m in trouble, I thought. Perhaps an unmarked police vehicle. Well, it turns out it was just a concerned driver who saw me pull over and immediately stopped to see if I was in trouble.
And it happened again in Minnesota when I stopped at the side of a country road near the village of Brandon, MN.
People here are just so keen to help out. Doesn’t feel so lonely after with so many people looking after you 🙂

Driving on a motorcycle with an open-face helmet has already taken its toll – on my eyes. Similar to my many patients who get the same condition after they stick their heads out the car window 🙂
Unfortunately I cannot self medicate myself and I am not intending to get out a mortgage just to be seen by a doctor.

Stopped over at the Minneapolis Harley Davidson shop to buy some proper eyewear.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 3 of 29 – Hitting the road

Last night had a few loose nerves to which those close to me can attest. Got a little worried the Heritage wont be able to take all the luggage I had for it. Turns out it was fine and this photo confirms that.

About an hour or so into my driving noticed that part of the luggage was listing to the right. Turns out the rollbag was not rigid enough and it sits on a very narrow carrier. After fastening it differently it seemed to be OK. But in all the worries about what was going on with the bags behind me I apparently forgot to raise my kick-stand on one of the luggage-check-stops. Not good.

Saw quite a bit of rural Illinois countryside. Avoided the toll roads and stuck to the lovely country roads. 😀

Stopped for lunch in this privately owned diner near Sauk city, IL. Had what the lady called a “poor man’s” lobster which is fish and chips to you and me … if by you I mean someone who lives in the UK.

I noticed while driving on their motorway 94/90 that I was THE only one driving at the speed limit which is 65. I even got overtaken by just about every truck. I thought those things were blocked from going over 50 or 60. Well … apparently not here.

As I was driving towards Minneapolis I noticed a KOA campsite so I turned in there for the night. No use me risking trying to find a different place further north. It is my first night tenting and with a new tent as well. Either I am dumb as a brick or is the Zephyr tent just a tad difficult to put up.
Maybe I am just dumb. Anyhow… the pegs that come with it are almost useless. Any extra pressure on the …. like trying to push them down with your foot will bend them in very creative and artistic shapes. Not something I want to be doing tired after a long day’s drive.
Nice place but to very noisy as its right next to the motorway and, as I found out during the night, a busy railway.

 

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 2 of 29 – Got the bike

Outside Countryside Harley Davidson

Not a very good start – lots of rain. Got picked-up in the morning and met this interesting guy who was doing the driving.
My arrival at Countryside Harley Davidson was followed by the various paperwork and then it was time to meet the bike. The Electra glide was my second choice and the Heritage Softail Classic my first and the Heritage was what I got. Used the little carpark nearby to get a better handle on the bike. It seems much lighter than the Honda Pan European despite it actually being much heavier.

Some of the controls are different like the indicators but I like it … big chunky buttons each on its own hadlebar to switch on the corresponding indicator.

I did find something quite scary in the traffic here. Their massive big juntions and especially doing a left turn in their massive big junctions. Good to keep you wits about you and it does help to have all my lights on so I am lit up as a Christmas tree 😉

 

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 1 of 29 – Flying there (for a long time)

First item on the menu is an apology. This was typed on my Samsung Galaxy phone and considering the quality of my usual typing on its virtual keyboard I think I will probably have some absolute spelling gems 😉

12am
We should have taken off at 11am but I am not really sure we did. The weather up here very sunny and best of all you guys in Pembrokeshire might have seen me as we flew over Fishguard. I could actualy recognize the Cleddau river, Haverfordwest and what really put a smile on my face was a clear view of Marloes sands, Skomer and even Gateholm. Sooooo great 😀 am grinning ear to ear. Literally.
Just been served the nibbly bits which comprised of a microscopic bag of pretzels. Richmeister probably assumes we shoul all be on a diet.

12:30
Our on-board entertainment system is down and problem has been discussed with the ground Virgin Atlantic engineers.  Guess what …. they are turning it off and back on again. Takes me back to my IT days 😉

13:00 on-board entertainment fixed
13:30 what? How many “Die hard” movies have they made??
14:00 bored
15:00 booored
16:00 bohooored
16:30 over land again – at least land that I can see through the clouds. Lots and lots of snow. As far as I am concerned nothing to see here, carry on southwards, had enough of winter for this year anyhow.

This is past midnight UK time, past 6pm wtziai (whatever time zone I am in). I am sure I got stiffed by the cab driver who, instead of taking me on the straight route took me down two or three toll roads. Feel bad for giving him a tip.
Feels weird when everyone you know is asleep and you can’t chat with them online. Reminds me from when I was doing night duties in London last year.

Another topic … vending machines. Never seem to have any problems with them AT ALL when I am in the UK or Slovenia. Just see people hitting them in films – american films that is. And guess what. Got shafted the second time (the first time being the taxi driver) when the machine took the money but kept the drink. Luckily the staff were nice enough and vended me another one for free 😀

 

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Trips and outings

Almost ready to go…

Taken on my recent trip to Wales
Taken on my recent trip to Wales

Later this week I will be living the dream by starting my long-planned motorcycle trip round the US, going into the wild as much as possible, breathing the fresh air, meeting strangers, creating friendships 😀

Chicago, here I come.
… just as soon as I clear this damn man flu 😉

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling Uncategorized

Pre US-trip motorcycle warm-up

As my riding skills might be a little rusty before my US bike trip in June I decided to get a motorcycle for a few days and travel to Pembrokeshire and back. Started off in Manchester on Saturday morning and took the M56 towards northern Wales.

Great journey but very exhausting at took me much longer than it does in the car, I had to do quite a few stops on the way, on one of them even got to help a fellow French biker near Ruthin who was trying to get to Anglesey. As I am not a very experienced biker and I have hardly any experience in the UK I was a little surprised about the courtesy the bikers show to each-other. I am talking about the waves and nods that you see them giving each other. I even got a nod as I was walking down High Street in Haverfordwest and the biker riding his motorcycle recognized my biking jacket. Really makes you feel welcome and part of a group. I didn’t realize I was joining one when I passed my test. I think they might have left that part out or I just didn’t get the memo as usual 😉

The day I travelled back to was even better than the trip down – stunning Bank holiday sunshine, very warm, summer-like temperatures – I mean British summer-like temperatures, of course and loads of other bikers on the road. Had a lunch on one of the picnic tables at the Corris rest site at Tan-y-Coed.

A picnic area near Corris
A picnic area near Corris

I was was nicely surprised when I drove up to the Mersey tunnel as I was dreading having to pay the toll: trying to get the right toll booth that was attended, getting my gloves off, finding my wallet and hoping I would have enough money and that I didn’t pack the wallet in one of the panniers. It turns out the tunnels are free for motorcyclists – all you have to do is to drive on the far left side of the tolls and there is a narrow drive for bikers only. Cool 🙂

 

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Preparations for my bike trip to the USA

Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic

This has been a little wish of mine for ages and now that I (seem to) have the money and the time I have decided to go for it. My mental plans started about a year ago when I realised I really needed to pass my motorcycle test n the UK. Not a really silly thought. I met a guy in the lake district, when I was doing my 3-peak challenge, who told me that you could, for an extra fee, just drive in the States on a car driving licence.
However I asked the rental people in the US who told me that many states are now closing this supposed loophole and that you will have to have a valid motorcycle licence for the type of bike you will be riding.

Last year I started the process to get my licence and completed the CBT and then did my theory exam, Module 1 and Module 2 tests.

Me at Motorcycle Training WalesOK, at stage 2 now and booked by ticket to Chicago through Virgin. I was advised to set off from Denver, Colorado by the author of a very useful biking blog, Guy Boutin. However the flight prices to Colorado seem to be very high and often involve an approximate 33-35 hour journey (not always) and with 1-2 stops and are quite expensive. BA has even a direct flight to Denver but would cost me about £760!! No way!! I found a return ticket by Virgin Atlantic direct to Chicago, Illinois from Heathrow for £520 – bargain! By the way, Virgin Atlantic is by now means a budget airline and the quality of service is very good as I found out when I used them for my skydiving trip to Florida.

I have now also booked my motorcycle with Eaglerider and I hope to get the Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic, similar to the bike on the photo. The second choice is the much larger (and heavier) Electra Glide that does have much more default luggage space but I would prefer something a little lighter.

Haven’t really planed a trip like this before so there will be a lot to learn, I have now also received some ultralight camping gear. Even though I will travel with a bike you shouldn’t overload it as it will elevate the centre of gravity and make the bike more unstable and difficult to manoeuvre. Basically get the lightest gear you can afford and something that will be easy to assemble. I found the Terra Nova tens pretty good, there are two quite light ones, the more expensive 1.25kg Laser Competition 2 ad the cheaper 1.79kg Zephyros 2. The price difference was £240 for the basically same design and slight weight difference.

Am am still trying to get my head around travel insurance but everything including the US is going to be more expensive as there is no social health care to speak of.

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Leisure Motorcycling

Haverfordwest drivers beware! Well, sort of :-)

This is supposed to be a joke but it does depend on how you look at it. It is because on Monday, April 16th, I did my CBT – Compulsory Basic Training for driving a motorcycle and at the end of the training – about 4pm I was set loose on the streets of Haverfordwest.

I would like to apologize to everyone as I kept driving a little to slow or left you waiting because it took me longer than normal to clear a roundabout. This sensation is new to me as I passed my driving exam in 1991 in Portsmouth and have driven a car ever since. Having L plates stuck to my vehicle and being able to repeatedly stall the engine when trying to drive off a junction are completely new experiences to me. Believe me 🙂

Will be getting some more lessons ASAP so unfortunately so you will have to endure with me qiute some more but hopefully you should see less and less cock-ups on my part 🙂

Take care now 🙂

 

Update April 24th, 2012

Passed my motorcycle theory test in Haverfordwest 🙂 On to the practical ones 🙂

Update May 9th, 2012

Have been having quite a few lessons in Haverfordwest and Swansea as I seem to suck a little at riding a motorcycle but I can see some signs of improvement lately so there is still hope yet.

Me at Motorcycle Training Wales

Update June 21st, 2012

Successfully completed the first part of the practical exam called Module 1 🙂 Did it on the same make and model of the Honda bike seen behind me on the photo above. I did the exam in the Swansea test centre which is just over an hours drive from Haverfordwest and still the closest test centre to me. Now I have start to get ready for Module 2 which is the bit of the practical exam you do on the ‘real’ roads. Module 1 is just in an enclosed circuit but its very technical.

Update September, 2012

Successfully completed module 2 so now I have the full licence.