What I did on my summer vacation, Part 1

Hi all! It's The Cabinet Man again. I know it's been a while...

A bit of background first. Every year I take off on my motorcycle for a little adventure. Each trip has a theme and includes as many sights/destinations as possible that fit into that theme. When I lived in Maryland, these trips were typically three weeks in length, as I needed to spend 1/17th of my life outside of the state in order to stay sane. However, my most recent trip was only one week since I now live in my most popular destination, Colorado. At the culmination of each trip I write-up a trip report and e-mail it to all of my friends and family that care. (All three of them...) I'm going to post this year's report on Fuz's blog. "Why?," you ask. Well, that'll make more sense in the next posting. Bear with me for now.

This year's trip started on two wheels and ended on four. This was the first major trip for my (relatively) new Suzuki V-Strom 650, nicknamed the Black Mantis. (Because, from the front, it looks like a praying mantis head. Come'on, use your imagination!!...) I'd had the machine out before -- a day-trip here, a weekend there -- but never anything this Herculean. The plan was to cover 4500 miles in 8-1/2 days. Well, men plan and God laughs. The Zook was eating me alive from the ass up!! As much as I enjoy riding motorcycles, I'm one of those unfortunate boney-butted souls that never really gets comfortable in the saddle. With the addition of an arthritic (throttle-side) wrist, my favorite pastime is a labor of love.

Well, there was little love on this trip. In a sense, as a motorcycle endeavor, it was doomed from the start. It was hastily planned at the last minute. I violated my cardinal rule of limiting daily mileage to 450 miles. I set out for parts South in mid-July. I only performed a cursory pre-trip mech-prep of the scooter. I was a Bad Man -- and I paid for it.

The trip started out OK, as any trip -- good or bad -- typically does. But by the second day, I was starting to get uncomfortable. Un-recoverably uncomfortable. My usual "two laps around the rest area" walk wasn't working out the saddle sores. My Throttlemeister wasn't adjusted properly and wouldn't hold tension on the throttle. My wrist was in agony. I had planned to saw three inches off the top of my windscreen but I never got around to it. Because of this, the airflow inside my helmet was insufficient, forcing me to crack open the faceshield to the first notch. This resulted in noisy buffeting that brought on headaches. Hack!! Add to that a lingering knee injury and The MysteryBack Spasms and this was no longer fun.

By the third day, I was miserable. My butt lasted less than one hour that morning and the whole day was spent trying to find various positions to releave the pressure on the sit-bones. It was futile, as every solution eventually became a new problem. My goal for the day was Wichita, KS, but by the time I rolled into Oklahoma City, I was ready to call it quits. I still had over 160 miles remaining for the day andI made it by sheer will. When I finally got to Wichita, I was exhausted. I decided to skip ND, head back to the Springs, and swap the Black Mantis for El Puerqo Grande.

Ah, yes, El Puerqo Grande (which loosely translates to "The Big Pig") -- EPG for short. I have a love/hate relationship with this vehicle. EPG is a Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 "long bed" with a 6.8L V-10 engine. At 5500 pounds and with the aerodynamics of a barn, I probably don't need to tell you that it just loves its gasoline!! It has the turning radius of a ballistic missile submarine and the grace of a rodeo-prepped brahma bull. I dropped a topper on it a few years back and and within that I built a platform upon which I can toss an air mattress and -- given level ground and reasonable quiet -- get a pretty good night's sleep. It's awfully damned handy for the few things I use it. The rest of the time (which means "most of the time") it guards my driveway.

So now it's EPG to the rescue!! Back home at the end of a painful day four, I gear-up the truck, hit the sack early, and I'm off at sunrise the next day. I'm home less than 12 hours. The rest of the trip thru CO, WY, ID, and MT is physically and mechanically uneventful. Compared to the motorcycle portion of the trip, I was in relative luxury: CDs to listen to, a cooler at my side full of snacks and sodas, no tent to setup/tear-down, and travel attire more suitable to the summer temps. I even fired up the A/C a few times. (I'm so ashamed...)

The astute reader will have by now discovered that I've left out a great amount of detail about this trip. This was intentional. I will focus on that in my next post. In the meantime, to satisfy your curiosity,I've included the ever-anticipated Minutiae portion of the trip report. Check back soon for part two. Until then...


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Trip: July 2005

Theme: "Us vs. Them"

Primary objectives:

Sand Creek, CO
Waco, TX
Medina, ND
Naples, ID
Granby, CO

(Figured out the theme yet?)

Miles Traveled:


By motorcycle: 1945
By 4-wheeled box: 2657

Average miles per day: 613.6

Best tank of gas:

By motorcycle: 46.9 mpg
By 4-wheeled box: 15.6 mpg

Worst tank of gas:

By motorcycle: 41.5 mpg
By 4-wheeled box: 12.6 mpg

Best driving CDs I brought along:

"Mezmerize", System of a Down
"Dream Police", Cheap Trick
"Fuckin A", The Thermals
"Spend the Night", The Donnas

and it goes without saying:

"Back in Black", AC/DC

Not the best CD choices (not that they're bad CDs, just not good drivingCDs):

"Gala", Lush
"The Joy of Sing-Sing", Sing-Sing
"Strange Times", The Chameleons UK

Best Roads:

1) Hwy 135 in western MT, between I-90 and Hwy 200

2) Hwy 56 in western MT, between Hwy 200 and Hwy 2

(Both of these roads made me regret leaving the scooter at home. High-speed, easy-lean canyon carving at its finest and no John Q. Law to be seen anywhere!! Be careful taking-in the scenery while driving -- it's easy to end up in the river...)

Honorable mention:

1) I-15 from the Dubois, ID to Butte, MT.

(That barren mountain, big-sky panorama isn't for everyone but I love it!!)

2) I-90 between Coeur d'Alene, ID and Missoula, MT.

(Wonderful twisty interstate stuff not well-suited to EPG at 75 MPH. Once again making me wish I'd had the V-Strom.)

Worst Roads:

1) Hwy 95 between Sand Point and Coeur d'Alene, ID

(The traffic in both of those towns was intolerable and in between was fifty miles of teeth-gnashing, two-lane car-artery clogged with inattentive drivers. Most of the guilty sported WA license plates but enough had ID plates that the culpability has to shared. If there was ever a road that screamed to be "nuked for level and paved for interstate", Hwy 95 is it!!)

2) Our very own I-25.

(Traffic moved pretty fast approaching Denver from the north but it was a dense 200-car pile-up in waiting. I took the E-470 bypass around Denver -- which cost me $8.50 spread across five tollbooths -- since Maryland sapped my lifetime's allotment of patience for stop-and-go traffic.)

Most Pleasant Surprises:

1) Lake Brownwood State Park, TX

2) A little no-name, mom-and-pop campground in Livingston, MT

(I had planned to stay in town at a to-remain-unnamed nationwide chain of "economy lodging" -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- but changed my mind upon being quoted the price of the room. Sitting down?? $85!! I 'bout shat myself. As I left in disgust, I noticed this little CG behind the aforementioned "economy lodging". I pulled in, described what I needed -- a shower and level ground -- and paid my $10 pittance. Clean, quiet, and I slept like a baby in the back of EPG. Sooooooo, big unnamed nationwide chain of "economy lodging", ..... bite me!!)

Least Pleasant Surprises:

1) Lake Pend Oreille, ID (yawn...)

2) Spending $77 to fill-up EPG in Montana. Hack!!

Kill Ratio:

0 for 0

(First trip w/o a critter fatality. Although, there was a grouse in ID that waited until the very last inch -- and I'm not kidding about that!! -- before moving out of the path of EPG's front tire. Granted, I was "4-wheeling" and only moving about 1.3 mph but that was one brave -- or stupid -- bird!!)

Cool Stuff I Saw:

1) The biggest fookin' surplus store I've ever seen, Idaho Falls, ID

(I dropped $125 before I got past the third row of goodies!! In an effort to hold onto enough $$$ to get home, I parked the shopping cart and walked the rest of the store with my hands in my pockets.)

2) Low-budget playground south of Casper, WY

(The playground consisted of nothing but 55-gallon drums and those huge cable spools. Whoever designed this thing was a genius!! I'm sure the surplus drums and spools were donated. Cost to the town was probably little more than a half-dozen boxes of welding rods and three 5-gallon buckets of paint. The barrels were welded into all manner of odd-shaped, human-sized Habitrail concoctions. If I were 10 years old, I'd be having my way with that playground like Rosie O'Donnell at the mall food court!!

And just for the record, I was never 10 years old...)

3) Country political statements (1, 2, 3, and 4), east of Dodge City,KS

(There are almost a 1/4 mile of these. Some are rather elaborate. My camera didn't do justice to the visual.)

4) Wind generator farm, south of Lamar, CO

(There seemed to be a hundred of these things -- and the were HUGE!! I saw a semi-truck with just one of the propellor blades on it. It had to be over 50' long. That makes each tower post about +100' tall and the overall height greater than 150'...)

Worst Advertising:

Little America

(Oh, gag me!! Talk about stereotyping middle class America with the 4-door car payment and two blonde spawn!! A motel, a restaurant, and an automotive garage. Big whoop. You just described a town. Oh, and the Perfect Person mechanic holding that huge tool wrench in his hands?? Uh-huh. Yeah, that "symbolism" didn't get past me and probably not past the nation's bored housewives, either. Faux wholesomeness. Hack, spit...)

Best Advertising:

A ranch entrance, south of Cross Plains, TX.

('Nuff said...)

Breaking Up the Monotony:

1) Even when I'm not at work, I'm debugging Windows.

2) OK, picture the scene: somewhere in the middle of BF Wyoming, I'm stuck doing 35 MPH in a construction zone behind a Voortman's Cookies "box truck". We get back to two lanes and I whip around the rolling blindspot and punch it. Well, that NASCAR-wannabe ain't gonna' have none of that!! Mr Voortman floors the cookiemobile and the race is on. 40, 45, 50 MPH as we race up the hill, EPG's 10 cylinders of gas-guzzling, axle-twisting torque against his Chevy Whatever. 55, 60, 65 MPH and we're still neck-and-neck. 'Cept cookie man's not paying attention and damn near rear-ends the grain truck I strategically place in front of him as a blocker. He nails the brakes and after a total of ninety heart-stopping seconds, I scream over the hilltop at a blinding 75 MPH. Face is saved, the stars re-align, and two vaporous gallons of partially burned liquid dinosaur are combusted, catalyzed, muffled, and exhausted into the atmosphere. Victory is mine!! Somebody get me a cigarette...

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