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Thats 'Mr' Jr Member
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Tuesday May 31, 1988
Frustration with internal politics at my job had been building for a while and I made the decision to leave the company. Lisa was the sales manager so I got up from my desk and walked into her office to ask how much vacation time I had on the books. Checking her files, she informed me I had two weeks so I told her I wanted to take it. “All of it?” she asked. I told her I wanted to use both weeks because I just needed a break. My personal plan was to look for a new job and then resign upon returning from vacation so with that in mind, I went down to the shipping dept and asked my friend John B., who was the shipping manager, for a couple of boxes. Returning to my desk, which was the receptionist station between the offices and the retail store, I gradually and quietly cleaned out my desk and packed up all of my personal items in the boxes. I took the boxes back down to shipping and taped them shut, then I went upstairs and stashed the two boxes under my desk.

When I returned from vacation, I was sitting at my desk staring at the screen of the word processor and trying to think of how I wanted to word my resignation when Lisa opened her office door and said, “Michael, could you come in here for a minute?”
As I opened the door, I saw John L., the general manager sitting in the corner of Lisa’s office and my first thought was, “They’re going to let me go! This is better than I thought as it will qualify me for unemployment.”
After informing me that they were indeed letting me go, for a variety of odd reasons, John L. told me that Tim, the owner and president wanted to see me in his office. My impression was that Tim really did not want to see me go but by making his old high school friend the General Manager, he put himself in the position of having to back up John’s decisions. Tim shook my hand and gave me an envelope containing a final check which, to my surprise, was significantly more than I had expected and I left. John L. was waiting for me outside of Tim’s office and announced that he would escort me while I cleaned out my desk. Upon arrival, I got down and took out the two sealed boxes, looked at John and said with a smile, “All done! Bye!” and walked out. The look on his face was something I’ll never forget.

I did not find another full-time job while on vacation but I began toying with another idea. My Father had passed away in Virginia the year before and I was thinking about taking a motorcycle trip across the country on my 1982 Kawasaki LTD-1000 to visit friends and relatives, many of whom I had not seen in several years. With my final check and some funds in my savings account, this seemed a good time to do it.
While telling a friend what I was thinking, she said she needed to introduce me to Michael C., who she sometimes worked for making stained glass items because he was looking for someone to do some temporary work on the road. After meeting with him, he explained how each Summer he would travel around the country to do a series of arts & craft fairs in different states but he would often run low on stock so this year he was hoping to find someone to work the first few shows while he flew back to California to build up more inventory for the remaining shows. The plan was, I would meet him in Columbus, Ohio for the Columbus Arts and Crafts Fair then we would move on to Pittsburgh, PA for three weekends at the Three River Arts and Crafts festival where I would handle the shows while he flew back to California to make more stock. After the Pittsburgh weekends were done, he would come back and go on to do the rest of his scheduled fairs. I would get paid and continue on with my own journey.
Having lived in Pittsburgh for several years in the seventies, I was looking forward to this trip and packed my bike with saddle bags and a tank bag. I also had my backpack. My sleeping bag roll was bungeed to the sissy-bar and my tent was strapped across the front of the bike. I had also mounted a windshield for this trip, though I normally did not use one, I’d decided I did not want to fight the wind for thousands of miles. I’d paid my landlord for June and July rent and let them know that a friend’s daughter would be staying at the house while I was gone. The daughter of a couple of friends needed a place to live for the summer while she was home from college so I agreed for her to live at the house and pay a part of the rent. This arrangement helped, financially, and I was glad the house would not be sitting empty all summer.
I’d planned an early start on Tuesday, May 31 but things were not quite right with my bike so I stopped at my mechanic’s shop and had him install a new chain. Also, due to a repetitive issue with the clutch cable when I had first bought the bike, I had paid Jim in advance for a clutch cable to keep on the shelf in case the problem came up again, so I wouldn’t have to wait for him to order one and I told him to give it to me. I put it in my saddlebag, along with a small assortment of tools and a quart of oil and a tubeless tire repair kit that came with a couple of CO2 cylinders for re-inflating the tire, in the event that I might get a flat in the middle of nowhere. While the bike was there in his shop, I told him the brakes had not been feeling right so he checked the front and rear fluid reservoirs and found the fluid had virtually turned to an almost a paste-like consistency. Jim flushed out the brake systems, refilling them with fresh fluid, cleaned out the calipers and installed new pads. After a couple of more maintenance checks, I was finally ready to hit the road and headed out of Santa Cruz County, riding over the Pacheco Pass into the central valley and heading for Merced where I turned North onto Route 99.
As I cruised along my gas gauge was getting low and seeing a gas station up ahead, I pulled in but realized it was closed. There was long, black skid mark across the concrete leading to the rear tire of an old Harley and a guy sitting next to it. His drive chain was dry and stretched to the point where it had jumped the sprocket and got wedged between a sprocket bolt and the frame. He also had no tools and no extra clothing beyond his t-shirt, jeans and boots. I ended up using a 10” adjustable wrench as a prybar to lever the fork out a little and the guy was able to pull the chain out. We loosened the adjusters, put the chain back on the sprocket and tensioned it out. I then sprayed the chain with my can of chain lube and he was good to go. I continued on to find an open gas station and then rode into Sacramento where I got onto I-80 East and rode right into rain. The rain was steady and never let up from Sacramento all the way up to Tahoe where I checked into a hotel for the night. I hung everything up to dry, turned up the thermostat and fell asleep.

Wednesday June 1, 1988
I woke up tired but got myself moving, packed everything up and got on the road, riding into Nevada on I-80. It was an overcast, chilly morning and I was shivering as I rode, wondering how I could start a trip like this without packing my thermal underwear. Seeing a rest area up ahead I decided to stop to use the bathroom. I pulled into a space in front of the men’s bathroom door, parking next to a van that was clearly a painter’s van, judging by the collection of ladders and different smudges of paint here and there. As I entered the building, I held the door for a man coming out, exchanging a simple “G’mornin”. When I came out, he was standing there looking at my bike and commented that I appeared to be packed for a long trip and I told him I was headed for the East coast. He had a few questions about what it was like traveling on a motorcycle and I mentioned how I was mad at myself for not bringing my long underwear because I was freezing, so he said, “Hold on a minute.” When he opened the side door of his van, I saw several pairs of thermal underwear, new and unopened! “What size?” he asked and I told him a large should do it. He tossed me a top and a bottom. I asked him how much they cost as I reached into my pocket for some cash and he just waved it off telling me not to worry about it and to have a good trip, then he got in his van and left. I went back into the bathroom and changed. A short time later I was back on the road and feeling a lot more comfortable. Maybe it was karma for helping that guy with his Harley the day before.

Stopping at the last casino before the Nevada-Utah state line I figured it would be a good time to take a break, stretch my legs have a little fun. I allowed myself to spend $20.00 and played a little blackjack then messed around on a roulette table for a bit before getting back on the road for the run across Utah and into Wyoming. By the time I got into Wyoming it was dark and I didn’t really want to be riding at night. There was something odd about the sides of the highway but it was hard to tell in the darkness just what I was seeing. When I got to an area where there was some good lighting, I saw there were high snow banks on both sides of the freeway. Eventually, I saw a motel ahead and stopped to get a room for the night. It had been a long day but I’d knocked out more than five hundred miles. It was Wednesday and I needed to reach Columbus by Saturday so I still had a long way to go.

Thursday June 2, 1988
Waking up in the hotel room, I showered, dressed, put my gear on the bike and got back on the road, continuing East on I-80. I did not have a watch and had not looked at the clock before I left the motel room so I had no idea what time it was. From the looks of the sky I thought it was going to be another gray, overcast day. Knowing I had to cover a lot of miles, I zeroed the trip meter and decided I would get one hundred miles under my belt before I looked for a place to stop for coffee. Eventually, I began to see an odd glow on the horizon and could not figure out what I was until finally I thought, “Dang! The Sun is coming up! What the heck time did I get up this morning?” When I finally did stop for coffee and breakfast, I decided to see just how many miles I could do today, since I had got such an early start. Continuing across Wyoming, I crossed into Nebraska and covered most of that state but before evening I got off of the interstate and pulled into a campground, which I believe might have been somewhere around the Lincoln, Nebraska area. It has been many years so it is hard to be sure exactly where I stopped but I do know that my trip meter rolled over seven hundred and fifty miles that day and I was more than ready to make camp and rest for a bit.

The man at the campground office said they were full up but looking at the bike and the way it was packed, he inquired, like so many others, how far I was going. I told him I had to be in Columbus, Ohio by Saturday and I’d just rode over seven hundred miles since before sunup. He thought for a moment and said, “Well, I think we can find space for one guy on a motorcycle for one night.” Pointing out the dirt road that went straight through the campground from the office, he said if I follow this road it will T with another road and if I turned right, I would see a cul-de-sac with a chain link fence around the end of it and a picnic table on a small grassy area, telling me I could camp there. He then charged me just ten dollars so I bought some munchies and a bundle of firewood in his store and rode down to the campsite, drawing a lot of stares from the folks in the campsites along the road as I slowly passed by.
Arriving at the T intersection, there was a large RV parked on the right corner. I followed the road to the right and saw the spot the man had told me to look for so I parked the bike near the picnic table and immediately set about getting a fire going in the small fire pit that had a circle of blackened stones around it. I then unpacked my tent, laid down the plastic footprint and spread the tent out over it. Setting up my tent was a simple procedure that only took a few minutes and once that was done, I unrolled my sleeping bag into it and zipped up the mosquito net screens to turn my attention to dinner.
The fire pit was starting to get some good coals under the fire. I arranged three small stones in a triangle, just outside of the firepit and then, using a stick, I scooped some coals into the triangle. Opening a can of beef stew, I poured it into the pot of my mess kit and placed it on the triangle over the coals where it did not take long to heat and a few minutes later I was sitting at the picnic table having a hot meal with some water from my canteen to wash it down. Over the years, I’ve had folks ask why my mess kit pot was not all black with carbon, like theirs was. It is because I don’t cook with my pot in the fire. I always make that small triangle of stones to the side and place my pot over some coals so my pot does not get all blackened.
After I cleaned up my dinner pot, I put some more wood on the fire, sat back on the table and lit up a Camel straight, (yes, I smoked back in those days). As I relaxed with my cigarette, the door on the big RV across the way opened up a man walked over saying “Hi” as he approached. Like other folks he was curious about the way I was traveling and how far I was going. He then told me he had seen me ride in and when he looked out the window, no more than twenty minutes later, he saw my tent and bed made up and me sitting by the fire having my dinner and wanted to come over but thoughtfully decided to wait until I was done eating. He explained how he called his wife over to the window and told her, “That guy just rode in here about twenty minutes ago and look at him! His camp is set up and he’s sitting there eating his dinner next to a campfire. It takes me almost two hours to get this rolling motel room set up.” We chatted for a while but the sun had set, it was getting dark and my neighbor said good night and to have a good trip. I let the fire burn down and called it a night.

Friday June 3, 1988
Another long day of riding and putting the miles behind me to try to make it to Columbus in time. In eastern Iowa, I got off of I-80 East near Davenport and onto I-74 which would take me to I-70 for the run across Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio. After a stop for coffee and breakfast I checked the oil in my engine and decided I should add some to bring it up to the full line and while doing so, a man came out of the café and said that he had never seen anyone have to add oil to one of those Japanese bikes. I told him that I’d left the West Coast four days ago so it should be no surprise that my oil is down a little. He was driving a large box truck with a hydraulic lift on the back and offered to put the bike in the truck and drive me the rest of the way to Columbus. I told him I would prefer to ride my bike, but thanked him for the offer and got back on the road. As the sun set, I kept my eyes opened for motel where I could stay, get a hot shower and relax a little. The next day would be the final run on into Columbus.

Part of riding a motorcycle across America is the amount of time you have to just think about things like how different this is from traveling in a car where you can have a cooler of drinks and some munchies sitting next to you. You’re in your own small world, inside your helmet where you can’t reach over for a munchie or a bottle of water or light up a cigarette, while riding across some states that can only be described as passing the same acre of land for five hours. My LTD-1000 had a 4.5 gallon gas tank and was averaging fifty MPG on the freeway so I had plenty of range, not only between gas stops but coffee breaks too. At some point you begin talking to yourself until you have exhausted every hypothetical conversation you can think of. I would mentally run through favorite movies, recited all the jokes in my memory, sing songs to myself. When I did stop at some roadside diner for coffee or food I’d be sitting at the counter, almost in a daze as I am all “thought out” and the sound of the engine and the tires against the road are still in your ears, but people see the bike outside, all packed up with saddlebags, tank bag, sleeping bag, etc. and a California plate so they try to talk to you but often, as I sat there staring into my coffee with a cigarette between my fingers, my response, through the lingering ‘road haze’ was often little more than looking up and saying, “Huh?” No wonder people think bikers are weird.

Saturday June 4, 1988
Five days on the road and there was already a sense of routine setting in. I suppose it was because I was traveling on a schedule to a set destination with a relatively narrow window of expected arrival, so I had no time for sightseeing or stopping to explore backroads. The Interstates were the fastest route so I had to stay with them. Coming into the Indianapolis area I had to navigate around the city on the beltway and on towards the Ohio state line. Along the way I hit a stretch of I-70 where the East and West bound lanes were quite far apart and as I was just cruising along, I suddenly felt what could be described as a shove from my left, immediately followed by a loud POP. Looking towards the West bound lanes I saw a large cloud of condensation and shards of black rubber flying around from an eighteen-wheeler truck while cars maneuvered to get out of the way of the vehicular shrapnel. One of the back tires on that trucks trailer had exploded and I realized that if that had happened while I was passing him, the shockwave would have probably blown me off the road, or worse. That event made me very cautious about passing the big trucks. Give as much clearance as possible and get past fast!

Arriving in Columbus by midday it was not hard to find the craft fair as there were plenty of signs and banners to direct me. Once at the fair it was just a matter of walking around until I found Mike’s vendor’s tent. When I found him, he was talking with a lady and was quite surprised that I’d made it. He stopped to introduce me to his lady-friend and told me to look around. He handed me a name tag to wear and I pinned to my leather vest.
Finding a place to put my leather jacket, gloves and helmet, I looked at his set up and the stained-glass items he had. Boxes of all sorts in different sizes, some with polished stones, seashells or colored crystals incorporated into the lids, lampshades, and other decorations such as small hummingbirds that could be hung in a window, which I later learned were an extremely popular item. It didn’t take long before a woman came in to look at the goods and started asking me questions. I spoke with her a little bit as she looked at a few items and I soon made my first sale. When we closed down that evening, I followed Mike back to the hotel and we got some dinner, during which he told me how surprised he was that I could show up after such a long motorcycle ride and just go into sales mode with a product I had no experience with, but I told him I’d been working in sales the last few years and though I have no hands-on experience making stained glass, I’ve had other friends who were into it so I do have some working knowledge about it. To me, sales was just being able to talk with people about what you’re selling. We would work the next day and then pack everything up into his truck and trailer to move onto Pittsburgh for three weekends of the Three Rivers Arts & Crafts Festival.
To be continued.
 

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Great read! Can't wait for more. :)
 

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Thats 'Mr' Jr Member
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Discussion Starter #3

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And I thought I made long posts. But you have me beat. Sounds like quite a trip. You should post that on advrider.com. I have ridden all over the U.S., and parts of Mexico and Canada. I am somewhere around the one million mile mark, nearly 200,000 of those miles on two Vulcan 750s. I bought both new, a 1993 and a 2002, and wore them both out. I now have a fairly low mileage 1997. I have owned over 50 street legal bikes since 1975. I have had only one job in my life, as a fleet services mechanic for the city I live it. I was there for 36 years before becoming disabled and having to give it up. Unfortunately, even though I now have a lot more time, the disabilities have also put an end to long distance riding. I currently own 6 bikes, including a couple of Vespa scooters. Back in 1988, I had a 1983 Kawasaki GPz 750. I can no longer ride bikes with low bars. The Vulcan 750 is the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden. It compares about even to a Goldwing. I gave up on windshields. I have never had a windshield that didn't make things worse instead of better. They all caused extreme helmet buffeting, except for a couple that were too short to do anything that I just put on for looks and a place to put stickers. And the stock ones on 1985 and 1993 Goldwings. Honda worked some sort of magic with those. And I'm sure the full fairings had something to do with it.
 

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Thats 'Mr' Jr Member
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Discussion Starter #5
And I thought I made long posts. But you have me beat. Sounds like quite a trip. You should post that on advrider.com. I have ridden all over the U.S., and parts of Mexico and Canada. I am somewhere around the one million mile mark, nearly 200,000 of those miles on two Vulcan 750s. I bought both new, a 1993 and a 2002, and wore them both out. I now have a fairly low mileage 1997. I have owned over 50 street legal bikes since 1975. I have had only one job in my life, as a fleet services mechanic for the city I live it. I was there for 36 years before becoming disabled and having to give it up. Unfortunately, even though I now have a lot more time, the disabilities have also put an end to long distance riding. I currently own 6 bikes, including a couple of Vespa scooters. Back in 1988, I had a 1983 Kawasaki GPz 750. I can no longer ride bikes with low bars. The Vulcan 750 is the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden. It compares about even to a Goldwing. I gave up on windshields. I have never had a windshield that didn't make things worse instead of better. They all caused extreme helmet buffeting, except for a couple that were too short to do anything that I just put on for looks and a place to put stickers. And the stock ones on 1985 and 1993 Goldwings. Honda worked some sort of magic with those. And I'm sure the full fairings had something to do with it.

All that long distance bike travel sounds awesome! I know what you mean about the helmet buffeting, I noticed it when I got the windshield for my current bike, but I keep it on as shield from some of Florida's gawdawful big bugs down here.
 
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