At least the dead liked me.

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Eventually I made it to New Orleans, Louisiana. A cross-country motorcycle trip through the area isn’t complete without a stop at one of the St. Louis Cemeteries. After accidentally paying homage to Easy Rider and convincing myself it was planned, I left.

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I rolled through the neighborhoods skirting the city. Eight years later and Katrina’s calloused hand still gripped very particular socioeconomic enclaves. The popping of my motorcycle’s engine drew the curious out of their homes. Curious doesn’t feel like the appropriate word. Defensive, maybe. Defensive over what remained.

At times the pain, the fear, and the hate was excruciatingly palpable. Stifling, really.

To be honest, there are facets of this afternoon that I’m still trying to philosophize. When I come to an understanding, I’ll go into greater detail about their significance.


 Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photographs and blurbs contextualizing them from my cross-country ride this past winter.

This time I broke my KLR650 in Alabama.

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I can’t remember how many days into the trip this was, but I remember being to the southwest of Mobile, Alabama. The night before, I stayed at a little motel somewhere on the north side of the city. The next morning I ventured down for the free breakfast and accidentally struck up a conversation an employee. We got talking and before long she tells me about her trip to Key West with her husband. She then proceeded to show me pictures of the two of them wearing straw hats and drunk. A simple ‘hi’ lead me into an hourlong conversation about Panama hats.

I eventually hit the road and didn’t make it far before I started to notice a slight loss in pressure from my front brake. I continued cautiously. With each application I’d lose a little more until finally, in the middle of trying to outrun some good ‘ol boys in a pickup truck, I completely lost my front brake.

I found a gas station up the road and pulled in to examine the damage. My front brake was completely covered in brake fluid but I couldn’t determine where the leak was coming from. I doubled back towards a small engine repair shop I passed a few miles back. I pulled in and was, I wouldn’t say greeted, but stared at by a man with a huge belly. Not a pot belly. Something more like a cauldron belly. He stood there with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other while I explained my situation. Another man appeared from the shack. A few moments later truck pulled in behind me with two more men inside. They all had dead eyes and blank faces. It was weird.

Unceremoniously I was directed up the road to a motorcycle shop. Great news! I rode through their property to turn around. It was littered with boats. Lots and lots of boats. I waved goodbye and crossed my fingers.

I found the motorcycle shop without any trouble only to find out they were closed for New Years Day. Did I tell you this was on New Years Day? It was. I hung out in their parking lot for a while trying to figure out what to do next. I passed a few auto parts stores earlier, so I decided to head towards them. My only chance was that someone there rode motorcycles or knew a guy with a shop I could work in.

I struck out at the first location.

And the second.

I called a handful of other places just looking for a lead.

I came up to an Advanced Auto Parts store and pulled in. I was immediately addressed by the salesman, John. I couldn’t even get my whole story out before he was on his cell phone calling people he knew with motorcycles. When we struck out there, I asked if it would be okay if I did some work in a corner of their parking lot. At least I could buy tools and supplies if I needed to.

John assured me it was fine, so I began taking apart the front brake. Every now and then he would come out and check on me. It was no longer my problem, but our problem. When I tried to buy a tool, he led me behind the counter and gave me unrestricted access to every tool they had. When the tool I needed wasn’t in the toolbox, John would take it off the shelf, rip off the tags, and give it to me to use. I think the only thing I paid for was brake cleaner. After disassembling and cleaning the caliper, I was able to get it to hold fluid. Somehow. I wouldn’t uncover the real problem until Tucson, Arizona.

John asked me where I was headed next.

I didn’t know.


Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photographs and blurbs contextualizing them from my cross-country ride this past winter.

 

I broke my KLR650 within the first three hours.

2013-12-30_1388384650This is a picture from my first night on the road- a KOA in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This campground was the only destination I actually planned on going to. Every other stopover was on a whim or because I was too lethargic to keep riding. This particular location is the northernmost KOA open year-round so I kind of had to make it.

Night fell quickly. Partly due to my inability to plan and partly due to it being the dead of winter. Instead of getting an early start, I left mid-afternoon. I didn’t bother to figure out how to pack my motorcycle prior to my departure, so when I got downstairs with all my equipment, I realized I couldn’t fit most of it. Amidst all of this frustration and swearing, a neighbor came by and called me Dean the whole time.

Anyway, on my way down to Fredericksburg I got stuck in a tremendous amount of traffic. Coming out of New York City and into New Jersey was particularly trafficy. I got fed up pretty quick and rode down the breakdown lane (sue me) just to give my clutch hand a rest.

As I passed into Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia I heard a loud bang from my front wheel. I thought I hit a pothole. Luckily I was approaching a tollbooth and wasn’t traveling more than 30mph. I can’t confirm this because in that instant my speedometer stopped working- a fact that would leave me stranded in the desert later. I pulled over and tried to figure out what happened. I figured I snapped the 15-year-old speedometer cable, shrugged, and continued on.

I arrived to the campground three hours later than expected. The manager left a map taped to the office window so I could find my site. When I got to my site, I remembered I had never bothered to learn how to set up my new tent. I didn’t even bother to watch a YouTube tutorial and now I had to do it in the pitch dark. After twenty minutes I got the tent up. Just up, not set up. A short while later I figured the rest out.

All day I daydreamed about sitting by a campfire telling myself scary stories. When I got there, everything was wet and I couldn’t start a fire. My kitchen lighter was no match for Virginian moisture. I sat and ate my food in silence.

Then I wandered into the woods and took this picture… with a camera I didn’t bother learning how to use.


Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photographs and blurbs contextualizing them from my cross-country ride this past winter.

 

Sorta, kinda preparing my KLR650.

2013-12-24_1387900137Changing the chain and sprockets on my KLR650 prior to my trip this past winter. Apparently it’s best to take a motorcycle you’re completely familiar with on a trip like that.

I didn’t…

I only owned this particular motorcycle a couple of months before taking off. I’m not even sure I changed the oil before leaving. I’ll admit it now, I don’t bother much with motorcycle maintenance. Some people buff, polish, spit, and shine, but not me. I ride until something breaks, or in this case, rusts off. Here’s an example- I was riding down I95 and the heat shroud around the header fell off. I rode another few miles with it wedged between my boot and the engine case before tying it to the rack with some scavenged twine.

On another ride, the plastic tank skirt broke free from the motorcycle. Somehow I was able to catch it as it flew past me on the highway. I held it in my left hand for about 15 miles before deciding it was probably best to stop and repair it.

Anyway. I digress.

Up until the day before I was going to leave, I had no idea which motorcycle I was actually going to take. That made it difficult to give interviews about my trip. Ultimately, the question of what type of motorcycle I was going to ride comes up. ‘I’m not sure yet’ was never the answer interviewers expected. I had it narrowed down between my 1999 Kawasaki KLR650 or my 2008 BMW R1200RT-P

The deciding factor? I’m still not sure.

 


 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photographs and blurbs contextualizing them from my cross-country ride this past winter.

 

Add Adventure Bike Rider to My List of Publications!

Photo: ABR Magazine.

Photo: ABR Magazine.

Hi everyone!

I wrote a feature for Adventure Bike Rider – a motorcycle travel publication based in the United Kingdom. The article is titled, “The United States of Ruin,” and it’s about some of the spooky places motorcycle travel has taken me. You have a couple options… purchase a hardcopy to cherish forever, or if you’re more tech savvy, you can go the digital route and download the issue. Either way, this is the link for you: Adventure Bike Rider Shop. It’s also on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, so you can check it out there, too!

As always, thank you all!

-Dave

Carving Cape Cod.

GoPro Mount R1200RT

Riding Old King’s Highway.

I spent the past two days searching for a way to get a more unique camera angle when riding my motorcycles. I came up with this!

It’s a still from my first test, so the framing isn’t great… but you get the picture!

Brant Point Lighthouse Time Lapse.

 

Here’s a little time lapse shot from the ferry rounding Brant Point on Nantucket Island. I made this the day after giving my lecture on travel and adventure motorcycling. If you’re interested, that video is a few posts below!