Tampa Fl, to Marion IL
May 20, 2005
Garrett, Tonya and I have done numerous cross country trips together and apart, some on motorcycle, some in cars. No matter what, a few key rules never change:
Always dress warmer than you should (you can always peel off on the road, searching through your bags for a sweater on the side of the highway sucks)
Always plan on leaving VERY early so that you are at your destination before the sun goes down
To the best of your ability, pack for as many scenarios as you can think of
Pack your bike the night before so that the next day all you have is your clothes laid out and toiletries to worry about (toothbrush, etc)
I did #'s 1, 2, and 4 very well. Later on in this trip I would see that #3 was missed (and badly). Garrett and I actually got a decent night's sleep the night before the ride. We were in our separate rooms by 8 and I am pretty sure asleep by 9 (I know I was anyways). I woke up right at 3am without the alarm - just popped up. I went in, checked to see if Garrett wanted to sleep the extra hour or if he was ready to start the trip. He was ready . . we got up, got dressed and made our way to the bikes.
As you can tell, I was awake but by no means alert. Frankly I have no memory of riding to I-75 and only the vaguest memories of being on the highway at all until we got north of I-10.
Starting up the bikes at 4am is not a great way to make friends in the neighborhood, so we saved that literally for the last possible second before we left. We took a few minutes for last minute gear checks, make sure bags were packed and secured (securing my duffel bag was a major hassle). We also took a few obligatory pictures before we left - just in case someone would need photo evidence to identify us with later.
After our goodbye's were said and everything was checked for about the 10th time, Garrett and I rolled off.
I was not exaggerating when I say I remember very little about the ride until we got out of Florida. I know we stopped in Micanopy to get gas but that is about it. This picture was taken in Bell Lake, GA exactly one freeway exit from Jennings GP , the local racetrack that I had been to not that long before the cross country excursion.
I want to take a moment and talk about the BMW K1200rs and now is as good a time as any. That bike is just amazing. Name another bike you can take to the race track, shred the tires, grind down the pegs and turn a fairly decent time in, and then three weeks later take on a cross country tour. Name a bike with GOBS of horsepower, a torque curve like a billiard table, ABS brakes, heated handgrips, shaft drive, and on and on and on. People complain that BMW's are expensive and that they are too clunky for race bikes. This is ironic since 90% of all motorcyclists never go on a track and of the 10% that do only a small percentage put their streetbike to track use. If you compare the dollar per mile on a BMW it is probably the cheapest of all motorcycles, probably cheaper than walking.
The ride up to and out of Atlanta was very "ho-hum." Lots of flat, straight miles to wear your tire into the shape of a brick. The only point of interest was a BMW M3 trying to out accelerate me. That was a brief and embarrassing moment for him I am sure. I buried the throttle, buried the needle, and he was a dot in my mirrors. North of Atlanta, before Chattanooga, we decided to stop and eat. It was probably right at noon when we came in, as there were all sorts of business types in suits and skirts looking at the two dirtbags who smelled like the highway sitting at the window table.
As we ate I reminded Garrett that he had our maps and that I wasn't sure where the hell we were going after we got out of Georgia. Garrett was the navigator on this trip, he had the tank bag and the maps. We each had a copy of our hotel info but he was the owner of the route to get there. As we ate Garrett started looking for the maps. Not finding them on his person he decided to go out and make sure we had them with us still (a very sound idea).
After looking in the tank bag and not finding them, he then opened up the system cases on Jenna to see if he put the maps in there. At this point, I am starting to think that somewhere at a gas station in the last 250 miles there is a stack of daily route maps and we're gonna have to grab a map at a truck stop and take some quick notes.
Again the searched continued (this went on for about 15 minutes of back and forth). Finally, Garrett found the maps tucked away in a pocket on one of the bags - and we could finish our meal with minimal worry. Had I planned for this trip correctly, I would have laminated the daily maps so we wouldn't have to worry about them suffering from rain, sweat or road dirt. That was another point I missed for this trip.
Anyway, Garrett and I ate, reviewed the maps, looked around for a minute and decided that if we were single and spent any time in Atlanta we'd both dabble in the Dark Side from time to time (and I am not talking Darth Vader here . . .)
The time from Atlanta to Chattanooga was a blip. We made some MAJOR time on the highways pretty much every where we went on this trip. In any event, Chattanooga, TN is really pretty. Nice rolling hills, lakes and rivers. Nice rain too. Chattanooga through the rain was fine for me. I was wearing my Joe Rocket suit that is rain resistant, multi-liner, etc and at this point I was fine. Gloves got soaked through but otherwise I was ok. Garrett took this time to break out his 'Frog Togs.'
Frog Togs are very light rain gear but they are almost guaranteed that you will never, ever look cool wearing them. If you don't mind looking like a 70 year old Michelin Man then Frog Togs are the way to go.
Here is a perfect shot (right) of Garrett telling me exactly what he thinks of me and what I can go do with myself after I gave him my opinion on Frog Togs and how he looked in them. He said something about going and "Bowling your elf" or "Trucking your elf" but I couldn't quite make it out over the noise from the rain.
Frog Togs are also kind of a pain in the ass to put on, especially if you are soaked already.
After the rain in Chattanooga, TN it mostly cleared up. There was a nasty tractor trailer wreck on the other side of the highway and it completely shut the southbound side of the interstate down. Other than that there wasn't much to talk about on the route to Marion except that it was mostly boring once we left Chattanooga. By the time we did arrive in Marion (still daylight) our map was absolutely shot though. Luckily, we didn't have this type of massive rain again and when it did come Garrett had put the other maps up.
Invariably, every trip has at least one story about a clerk at a hotel treating us like something she picked out of her pet Chihuahua's stool. This trip is no different. When we arrived in Marion we stayed the Holiday Inn Express on Comfort Drive. The first and most immediate vibes I picked up from the clerk was that a) she considered us something slightly lower than turtle poop and b) she was really annoyed that we were interrupting her catching up on re-runs of "The 'L' Word." First she told us there was no reservation under my name. When I produced the confirmation number she then told us that we were at the wrong hotel, finally, when I handed her the piece of paper with the address, confirmation number and phone number she magically found our reservation. When I asked if it would be possible to find a good place to park the bikes, our oh-so-helpful clerk replied "anywhere in the painted parking places." All in all I don't consider that Holiday Inn very friendly and I more than likely won't be using them or recommending them in the future. There were something like 5 hotels RIGHT there - maybe next time I'll find one that is more friendly to travelers.
We were pretty tired, actually I remember being more tired on this leg of the trip than other days. The next two days would be harder rides, but we'd sleep better and ride more relaxed than our first day out. We walked over to a local Steak House, got fed, got a beer and then headed back to the hotel to crash out. We took the time to utilize the hotel's hot tub. In 30 seconds we instantly ruined a guy's chances for getting laid when we hopped in the tub and the little fawn he was lining up in his sights got spooked and jumped right out. Some chicks dig unshaven, tattooed guys with bloodshot eyes - but odds are you don't want to meet them. The look the guy gave us was priceless - still he was a bit of a princess himself so if he can't persevere under pressure then screw him.
We didn't stay that long either. We had been there maybe 10 minutes when a fit, well groomed and quite homosexual couple jumped in and started chatting us up. It took me .01 second to be out of the tub, towel around my waist saying "have a nice night" over my shoulder as I sprinted down the hall, up the stairs and locked and bolted my hotel room door behind me. I think Garrett and I nearly ran each other over getting out of the pool area and up the stairs. I seem to remember his heel thwacking me in the forehead on the way up the stairs.
You know you are in trouble when you are in a hot tub that is HUGE and EMPTY and a guy gets in and practically sits on your lap. "Don't mean to crowd your space here" . . ."no, no, its fine, you can have it - I was just leaving" Kinda the hot tub equivalent of sticking your finger into another kid's desert at lunchtime.
Marion IL to Wall SD