Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The road home

I flew back to Milwaukee to get the Guzzi and ride it to the MotoGP round in Indianapolis and then back home. A bunch of us were going to rent a motorhome and stay in (or camp next to) it during the races. I left Milwaukee a few hours before everybody else to try and avoid Chicago rush hour. The best route, though longer, was to go straight south to the Urbana area and then turn and head east to Indianapolis. This would avoid dealing with the skyway & nasty interstates around the Illinois / Indiana border.

The traffic around Chicago wasn't too bad, except I didn't have a speed pass, so I kept having to stop for tolls: Stop/bike in neutral/take glove off/get money/give to tollbooth op/get change/put in pocket/put glove on/shift back in gear/ drive off. Repeat several times. All in stop and go traffic with the motor getting hotter.

Once south of Chicago an hour the roads were pretty empty. Very straight, and between cornfields and other crops. Late summer light & looming clouds added to the ambiance. Sadly once I got a hour or two outside of Indianapolis it started raining. This was also when it started getting dark. I kept having to pull my headlight up and wipe my faceshield (the downside of the chopped front fender is revealed!) I tried to stay behind cars to see how the road went based on their taillights but wither they were going 90mph or got off at the next exit. It was pretty dark and the rain had let up when I crested a hill and there was Indy. It's such a low city I just came up on it all of a sudden. The only real indication were the signs for the beltway around town.

After some confusion over which RV Park we were staying at, I finally met up with everyone. The place was surreal - right across the street from the track with nothing else around but RV parks and a few (closed) hot dog stands. Except there were a few people who had permanent homes and seemed to live there year round. We found out later there are only 3 events at the Speedway all year. Otherwise it's just empty.

Other than the few residents it was nothing but RVs, tents, motorcycles and motorbike nuts in town to see the MotoGP circus. The entire track is surrounded by these lots. And it was loud. All you heard up and down the street were bikes: Harleys, Ducatis and other twins with loud pipes, crotch-rockets revved to 12000 and what not. At one point a police chopper came over shining a light on someone on a crotch rocket flying down the street. I think they just turned into one of the parks and lost the cops.

I finally got to sleep around 2AM, only to be woken up at 7 when the track issued it's wakeup call in the form of Blind Melon blaring over loud speakers. Within minutes the 2 strokes were being warmed up at the track. No point in trying to sleep. That's when the manager came by and told us we needed to turn the RV around because it was facing the wrong way. Plus our tents were in another reserved spot so we had to move them too (we ended up just paying for another spot). Fun turning that thing around without hitting telephone poles, tents, parked cars, etc.

The two days of practice / qualifying and racing were great. It actually cooled down quite a bit. For the entire month before it had been high summer, but the Friday before the races it suddenly turned to fall temps. I ended up buying a sweatshirt at the track (I think the vendors made a lot on hoodies). It was pretty amazing to see all the people at the races. No one in the US really cares about motorcycle racing, but seemed like all the ones on the East Coast were there. Plus on Saturday night we got to see the Indy Mile flat track races. Kenny Roberts (Sr) did a few parade laps (at speed) on the Yamaha KZ750. What a sound. A bunch of the GP starts were there too to watch.

Sunday I decided to get out of Indianpolis by about an hour and then get a hotel. After a long weekend in the sun, drinking beer and too little sleep I wanted a good night's sleep. Found a cheap motel near the Ohio border and crashed for the night. The next day I was able to make it home, although it took about 15 hours. The big problem was that the tempratures really dropped. I think when I got in it had gotten down to 58 or so. I was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and 2 sweatshirts under my jacket. Still wasn;t enough because, like a dumbass, I decided at the last minute to bring my vented dirtbike gloves, and not the good Held gauntlets I usually wear.

The Guzzi never missed a beat, even with it's cobbled together electrics (thanks to my headlight redo) and getting rained on. The thing was a tractor just plodding along hour after hour.

The highlight of the trip back were Routes 555 in Ohio and US-50 in West Virginia. A friend told me about 555 so I planned my whole route home around it. Something like 60 miles through Ohio farm country on narrow roads with tons of curves (many blind) and elevation changes. About the only traffic I saw was an Amish guy in a horse-drawn cart, two dachsunds and a couple of other bikes. Totally amazing road. At the end of that it was into W. Va. on US-50 which sucked for a bit - more like an interstate with a few cities thrown in. Then it got more and more rural. Next thing I know it starts going up into the mountains. For the next 2 or so hours it was more and more curves as I went up and over part of the Appalachian Mountains (I think) in the dark. I was worried about the timid illumination from my head light when I realized it *did* have a highbean - problem solved. By the time it flattened out at Winchester VA I was done. Cold and tired. Time to get home. Luckily there were no cops because I was definitely moving at a "spirited pace". It's always the last hour or so that's the longest. Of course I had no trouble riding out or back from Milwaukee *until* I got into the DC area. I think I had three idiots to contend with in the last 10 miles. Oh well, made it back in one piece with no breakdowns.

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