Thursday, May 8, 2014

Coast to Coast: Day 1: New Albany, OH - Terre Haute, IN. Thursday, May 8, 2014

My motorcycle packed and ready to go

     I had a Thursday morning exam for Math 1151, which sucked. I was supposed to bring my graded midterm exams to the final because the professor couldn't read his own handwriting in his records. I forgot them, so when I showed up to class forty five minutes early (7:15 am), I waited around first before being sent home anyway. Luckily, my professor informed me that I could also take the exam at ten, so I had plenty of time to go home, do a quick check up on the bike, fill it with gas, and return to school with the midterms. The professor said I would thank him later for sending me home.

     I still felt like crap. I dragged myself to school a few hours later, and felt completely unprepared. I sat down in the classroom, and waited anxiously for the professor to hand out the exam. When he did hand out the exam, I found to my surprise, that final was an exact copy of the two midterm exams. He told the class to just copy everything over from our midterms, and make corrections to both the midterms and the final if we knew how to correct our mistakes. I corrected maybe two questions, and copied everything else off the midterms. I really wanted to get home.

     I completed the sixteen page exam in a record forty five minutes, handed it in, and left. I raced home and parked my car in the driveway since my bike and all my luggage took up a whole garage space. I checked to make sure the oil filter housing wasn't leaking (as it did the day before and had to get a gasket replaced), did a last check of the packing list, and set my GPS/phone to my first campsite in Terre Haute where I made my reservation. Then I got on my bike, and just sat there.

     I must have just sat on that bike looking at the odometer for over five minutes. 20200 miles. I was petrified of the idea of going across the country. A week ago, I had never even been as far as outside Columbus on my motorcycle, except to bring it home from my mechanic in Marysville. Even then, my dad followed me home. The sheer scale of the nineteen day trip to and from San Francisco finally started to settle in my mind. I checked that I had everything on the packing list, but I couldn't help but wonder if I had forgotten to pack something.

     I never really calmed myself down. Instead, I pulled up the kickstand, gave the kick start a good shove and pretended I was just going for a short ride. If I didn’t delude myself into thinking I was only doing something small, I probably never would have left my house.

     This wasn’t the kind of send off I had imagined. The sky was dreary and cloudy, my family didn’t give me a big goodbye like it could be the last time they ever see me. Sure, the journey would be extremely dangerous and prove to be life threatening the entirety of the journey. Every day I played a game of Russian roulette where the bullets characterized themselves as debilitating exhaustion, harsh climates, and breakdowns in the most unfortunate places in the country. Fate brought me a new challenge every day, but as triumphant as the journey would turn out to be, my family had their doubts. I was used to giving up on things. They were intuitively expecting me to make it maybe as far as Indianapolis, get tired and come home. I wasn’t going to give up. Not this time

     I'm terrible with directions. No, I’m a navigation abomination. I guess that could be my nickname. When I moved in with my dad, 3 mile away from my mom’s house, it took me six months to learn how to find home. There’s a difference between having a bad sense of direction, and having no sense of direction. I just hoped I would never lose my phone. It was the beating heart of my trip, and I was nothing without it.

     I still knew places that were familiar, but that familiarity faded quickly. Within the first hour of my ride, I gradually moved from the comfort of my hometown to the back roads, where the future became uncertain. About fifty miles into my ride, I could feel the energy draining from my body. I wasn’t even out of Ohio, and I started to doubt the feasibility of the trip, and that maybe going on this journey was both a bad idea and unachievable. Maybe I was losing hope. Then I realized that I just hadn't eaten, and so the trip was simply just a bad idea. I stopped at a nearby Wendy's and had most of my meal. I kept things quick, and I was back on the road and felt great in no time at all.

     The weather made a change of heart as I ventured out of Columbus, and I passed through many small towns on Route 36: Urbana, Piqua, Greenville, and others. They were very quaint but busy places, and it was always cheering to see activity going on in these communities. Between towns were long stretches of road flanked on either side by massive farms. I didn’t see any tractors or farming equipment in Ohio, and later Indiana which I crossed into without even noticing. Maybe it was still early in the season, or the long winter pushed the farmers’ schedules behind.

Country Roads of Indiana

Side view

     Somewhere in a town halfway between the eastern Indiana border and Indianapolis, I was acquainted with a Casey’s General Store. It was really a gas station, but the gas they sold was dirt cheap and had an octane rating slightly higher than Pepsi. I decided to pass on a fill up; I only use 91 octane or higher gas. My bike’s engine has a high compression ratio, which essentially meant that it was a snob about its food. The problem was that these gas stations were everywhere. In every small town along my route, there was a Casey’s General Store. I was relieved to finally find a BP, and by then I was running on reserve (a setting on the gas valve that accesses a lower portion of the tank when the bike is almost out of gas) .

     A few hours later, I had reached Indianapolis, but it wasn't much to see. Getting to the city took most of the day, and I didn't have too much time to stick around if I wanted to be in Terre Haute on the edge of the Indiana-Illinois border before dark. Heavy traffic and lack of any kind of parking whatsoever limited my time in Indianapolis to a small stop at a speedway. It was a shame too, since I could have gotten to the camp site a lot faster if I had skipped town and left the traffic behind.

The only picture I was able to take in Indianapolis

     As the the afternoon passed into evening and the sun began its descent, I could really start to feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. The ride was thrilling for sure, but it was more that I was reaching a mile farther from home with every passing minute.

     It didn’t feel like long before I reached my destination. The KOA Campsite in Terre Haute was a sight for sore eyes, and that’s even what I said to the desk clerk at the camp office. The clerk at the register was a friendly, older woman who checked me in at around 7:00pm. Once I was registered, she got in a golf cart and led me back to the tent area. I followed on my motorcycle.

     I could see that there was construction going on by the campground pool, but there was a cafe next door that looked promising. The camp was hidden in a forest that was adjacent to a farm, so I had a view of a field beyond a thin line of trees. They were remodeling the tent spots with stone floors, but I was thankful that they hadn't reached my spot yet- my tent relied on being planted to the ground to keep the poles up.

     My tent spot included many amenities that I wasn’t expecting to have. I.e., there was more than a patch of sand. There was a picnic table next to a pole with an electrical box, so I could charge and work on my laptop. Under the electrical box was a faucet, in case I needed to wash my boots.

My tent spot in Terre Haute 

A nice table for me to work on my computer 

     I was tired and out of my prime, and I made the mistake of trying to park my bike next to my tent on the patch of sand. The kick stand burrowed into the earth, and I knew it would just fall over if I got off the bike. I had to move it in front on the tent spot on the gravel. I maneuvered the bike into a grass spot next to my tent, but the area was concave and there were tree roots all along the ground. It took me about five minutes to hassle the bike over the tree roots and onto the makeshift gravel driveway.

     I had a little more luck setting up my tent and unpacking my equipment. The tent was uncomfortably small and made worse with my saddlebags, duffle, and tank bag stowed in the back of the tent. I wasn’t taking any chances that someone was going to steal from me. I only brought with me what I needed, and I couldn’t take any chances.

     I decided to check out the rest of the campsite. The bathrooms a short walk away from my tent were surprisingly clean. They had showers, but I forgot to pack a towel. I decided that I would rather go two days without showering than be cold that night, so I passed on getting a good scrub. The camp was very quiet. Even as the night drew a dark blanket over the sky, I could see little light. Not a campfire in sight. There were numerous RVs lined up not too far from the tent area, the owners of which I almost never saw. There was no one to talk to, but it wasn’t as if I was going out of my way for a conversation either. I preferred to keep to myself. I did a quick look up online to route my next day’s ride before settling down for the night and going to "bed". I didn’t realize how tired I was until I got into my tent, but a moment’s sleep was always just out of reach.

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