“Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.” –Joe Abercrombie, Red Country
When writing a trip journal, one has to balance the story they want to tell versus what the audience is interested in. In other words what I, as the writer want to remember, as opposed to what you actually want to read about. I could create drama by writing about the arguments Janel and I had when we were tired on the road or create feelings of glee by writing about the laughs we had at dinners, but I think you read my stories because you want to hear about the adventures. So, instead of writing a story in step-by-step fashion, I will give you the best of the best: the most interesting experiences we had during our three-week trip across the USA.
The Kindness of Strangers—Fontana, North Carolina
The morning after the MOA’s Fontana Getaway, Janel was able to repack all our stuff into two Touratech Zega Pro side cases, one Pelican case and a backpack, making our melted bag obsolete. We did have to trash a few items, but overall, we were able to salvage most of our clothes, even if they had a bit of melted plastic on them. While attaching our gear to our 2016 G 650 GS, some MOA members came over to discuss our trip across the Americas. A lot of people seemed interested to hear about what we were planning, about Janel’s newfound love of riding and the adventure that we sought.
Once I had the final bungee strap attached, an MOA member asked, “Is that all you have to strap your bags on?! You are going to kill yourself! One second…” He wandered off to his bike, returning with two RokStraps and two G3 straps and proceeded to strap all my gear to the bike. I would like to say “helped me strap,” but no, he just strapped it all down for me.
“There, that should keep you two alive for the ride.”
When I asked what I owed him for the straps he said, “No, no, you can keep them, just have a safe ride.”
The MOA is about being part of a community, and this community takes care of its members. This wasn’t the first act of kindness we would experience from an MOA member, nor of course, would it be the last.
A Helping Hand—Somewhere in Tennessee
The idea of this trip was not to get home as fast as possible; we wanted to take the time to really see the United States of America. Highways are perfect when your goal is to get from one place to the other as quickly as possible, however, investing time in visiting the rest stops littering the interstates was of little interest to us. Hitting the back roads, we were able to explore small towns, interact with new people and even rescue a small turtle.
While riding through some back road in Tennessee I noticed a large rock in the middle of the road. Swerving to dodge it, I took a closer look and realized it was a turtle.
“That was a turtle!” I communicated to Janel through our Cardos.
“We better go back and help it then!” was the prompt response.
Janel and I are big animal lovers; I think we might like animals more than people. I know some of you are shaking your heads, but how many of you like motorcycles more than people? Yeah, I thought so!
I quickly pulled a U-turn (legally…?) and gunned it back to the turtle crossing, hoping I wasn’t too late. The turtle was scared and hiding in its shell about a foot from where I saw it earlier. I quickly propped the bike on the kickstand, looked both ways (rule number one during a rescue—don’t get hurt yourself) and quickly made my way out to the turtle. I could see its little eyes in the shell as I scooped it up and ran it to the side of the road and put it down gently in the bush. I would like to think the turtle was thankful that this random Gore-Tex monster helped it out, but really, it probably didn’t even know what had happened. My wife, on the other hand, was very proud of me.
Nature Doesn’t Keep Score—Elsewhere in Tennessee
The oppressive afternoon sun beat down on us as we got closer to Nashville. I was hot, sweaty and tired from the ride from Fontana. Our new set-up on the bike wasn’t working well; Janel was basically on top of me, and I was so close to the handlebars I might as well have been racing on the track. My goal was to get to the hotel and relax for a few days before having to plan out a new strategy for loading the bike.
Sweat was pouring off my face, so I cracked my visor half an inch to let the air evaporate some of the nastiness building up in my helmet. It was at this moment a wasp out enjoying its day made a wrong turn and ended up through my visor and up my left nostril.
I realized very quickly what had happened and started to freak out, frantically blowing my nose while trying to slow down and pull over. Janel was yelling, “What’s wrong!?” but there was no time to speak in my state of panic.
Once the bike was off the road and stopped, I yelled at her to get off. I ripped my gloves off, and shoved my finger up my nose to find the little bastard that was making an already difficult day harder. I felt the movement stop in my nose, took my helmet off, and sat down. Janel still had no idea what was happening but saw a large black bruise starting to form under my nose where the wasp had attacked me with gusto.
After some water, a break and an explanation, I went to put my helmet back on. The second I did I heard the buzzing of the same wasp. I tore my helmet off again only to find him still alive in the base of the helmet. A little flick from my fingers and he was off to what I can only assume was to harass a group of picnickers.
We rode onto Nashville, and as the day came to an end, all I could think was, “I saved a turtle today, didn’t I? Seriously, what the heck, Nature!?”
Type II Fun—Across Montana
On a trip like this you are bound to meet some amazing people and stay in some incredible places. We met one guy in Clinton, Indiana, who invited us to his restaurant and cooked up a private dinner. We stayed in The Great House of Galesburg in Galesburg, Illinois, where we enjoyed the best pizza we have ever had while examining the house’s trap doors once used as part of the underground railroad. These are the fond memories most people tell you about to convince you to also go on a trip just like this, but what they often forget to mention are the days that aren’t much fun. Some days the wind blows so hard you have to ride to the nearest hotel out of fear for your safety. They don’t mention the aching muscles, the tiredness, the craving for a home-cooked meal or the cold. I don’t think we can blame them though; they are likely suffering from the memory loss that comes along with Type II Fun.
REI describes Type II Fun as “miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect.” The idea is that you don’t remember the hardships you went through during the actual activity, but instead look back at the adventure and want to do it again because you remember how much fun came from the hardship. As the snow slowly coveed the roads of Montana and I was starting to lose the feeling in my fingers and toes, I kept telling myself, “This is just Type II fun, you will never remember how cold you really were. You just need to keep going and you will somehow remember this fondly—all nine hours of it.” Nine hours of bitterly cold, blowing snow in the mountains of Montana. A nine-hour day was never in the cards for this trip, but intense winds in Iowa and Nebraska—along with Janel getting a severe ear infection—set us back on our trip about three days. A specific date set with the American and Canadian border customs to import Janel’s motorcycle had left us with a hard push to the border.
Heads down, trusting in our MotoZ tires and Janel so tightly tucked behind me trying to keep out of the wind, we rode into the snowy mountains hoping the bad weather would break. With the weather choosing to continue on its course we pulled into a McDonald’s to grab a hot chocolate and a coffee. When the crew member taking my order saw my hands shaking while getting my wallet out, he quickly turned and grabbed a hot chocolate from the counter, saying “I think you need this now.” About 10 minutes later while Janel was still warming her hands on her coffee, the same crew member came out with another hot chocolate for us saying, “The folks in the back didn’t realize I already gave you one, and I think you really need this.” We did.
Partially warmed by our hot drinks, we got back on the bike and carried on. Around 4 PM the sun did start to come out and the temperature slowly started to rise, but we had such a chill it was of little relief. The cold was in our bones and suffering to the end was our only option—that or a stranger’s hot tub. With no hot tubs in sight, we carried on until we pulled into the Double J B&B in Troy, Montana, a few hours later. This was the relief all Type II Fun adventurers relish in: The end of the adventure. Our faces finally lit up in smiles ear to ear, though Janel’s was a little on the pale side. I told her to get in the shower and I would unload the bike. Hands still shaking, I fought to open our pannier locks and get into our lovely room overlooking the Kootenay River. With showers done, we grabbed a quick meal of pizza and salad and sat on the back deck watching the sunset. We were tired from three weeks on the road. Starting with hot and humid weather in Alabama and Tennessee, then temperatures plunging along with wind that was literally blowing us off the road in Iowa and Nebraska, the trip had already been a difficult one before ending with snowy white roads in Montana. When we tell people about our trip, we tell them about the trials and the successes, along with the beauty and the kindness of people we met along the way. I find people often ask if we would do it again and I think they would get different answers from each of us. Janel remembers how cold she was on the back of the bike. I just can’t stop thinking about all the places we didn’t get to see. Might be time to get back to the States for round two.
Places to stay and eat along the way
Lord and Liberty: Henry House in Nashville, Tennessee
Henry House is a beautiful heritage home now renovated and made into luxury accommodations. Located a short walk from the Honky Tonk Highway, the house is the perfect place to stay if you want to enjoy the sights, but also get some rest when your body and mind have had enough. They also have safe off-street parking for your BMWs.
Great House of Galesburg in Galesburg, Illinois
Galesburg might be a random stop along your route, but it is totally worth a detour for two reasons. The first is to stay at The Great House, a beautiful mansion built in 1857 and converted into a bed and breakfast. The house is expansive and has been beautifully and tastefully appointed with a comfortable beds and private washrooms. It also has Silas the cat, who is actually amazing. The second reason to visit is to go to Baked, the local pizzeria. Without a doubt this place has the best pizza Janel and I have ever eaten. No need to elaborate further—make the detour, eat the pizza.
Terra Villa Restaurant in Clinton, Indiana
We had our own private dinner here after meeting the owner in Clinton. The owner knew the area well and was able to explain the 29 MPH speed limit to us along with other Indiana intricacies. He cooked up a feast for the three of us. With bellies so full, we slept like rocks that evening. It is worth a stop if you are in the area. Make sure to order the pinwheels, you will not be disappointed. Call them at +1 (765) 832-6161.
Double J B&B in Tory, Montana
I have to be fair, any hotel with hot water would have been good enough after that nine-hour mountain trek. However, the Double J B&B was exceptional. With beautiful views of the Kootenay River, lovely comfortable beds with a lot of space and parking for all your two-wheel needs, this is the kind of B&B of which all riders dream.