WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 13 - Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania - Cincinnati, Ohio
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 1997 22:28:36 -0700

Wanderlust 13 - Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania - Cincinnati, Ohio

I am not superstitious, so it is just a coincidence that my luck seemed to run out in Wanderlust 13. All is better now, but in addition to covering 1,017 miles in 20.6 hours of riding time it has been a tense and trying ordeal.

"Even disasters - there are always disasters when you travel - can be turned into adventures."
- Marilyn French, American Writer

Even when the only reason to ride is The Ride, it is nice to have someplace to go. Otherwise you have no idea where you are in the progress of the ride. So why Maine? Not because it is 'over there'. Because it is where DeLorme Mapping Company is. When DeLorme was preparing the new version of their Map'N'Go program I was selected as one of their customer beta testers (because of all the problems I reported in a previous program). In return for testing this version, I received a free copy. In return for the free copy, I told them I would use it to navigate across the US on a motorcycle. I may be the first person crazy enough to do so.

So, Freeport, Maine, N43 degrees 48.384', W70 degrees 09.830' was the target where the front wheel of the bike touched at 10:00 am. The new headquarters building is still being finished inside, but soon there will be an interactive media center for the public to try out the products and to play with the 1:1,000,000 scale world globe. Foreshadowing how my luck would turn, neither of the only two people I knew in the product test area were available. So I left unheralded.

The next stop was supposed to be the BMW dealer in Falmouth. Yesterday the warning light for the Antilock Brake System started flashing and wouldn't reset. It is more an annoyance than a problem, but it does mean that if I needed the ABS in a panic stop, it might not work. The warning first came on a few days ago in New York when I had to brake hard and speed shift to avoid someone changing lanes. The front wheel slid a little while the rear was still spinning, and the mismatch in speed tells the ABS it needs a stop-and-reset to get coordinated. Except that the light was 'fluttering' like it had a loose connection. Eventually it went out on its own, but I thought the dealer should see it. Lost luck. The dealer is closed on Monday. So I rode nearly 700 miles with that flash flash flutter stop, flash flash ... over a hundred years since electricity has been in common use, a RED LIGHT has come to mean danger, stop, warning. It is in our psyche. Try staring at one for 6 or 7 hours and telling yourself to ignore it. Mind over matter. Or perhaps more appropriately, mind over doesn't matter.

"Go West, young man." Horace Greely, giving advice.
"Get out of here, go out west or someplace ..." Mom, telling me to go play.

And so it was I headed for the west again, but by an intended somewhat southerly route. Maine to California by way of Texas? Having grown and lived in New England, there was little I wanted to see there again. As painful as it would be, it was turnpike, interstate, and controlled highway or get nowhere slow. In so doing, I was reminded of an old Massachusetts joke. It is said that the state is the only one ever to name three towns for one governor. The highways took me near one, through a second, and into the third of the towns: Lowell, Peabody, and Athol. :) (That's a joke, folks, but there really is a town of Athol.)

Even when you have your eyes closed to the 'known' things around you, a traveler can learn. Marcel Proust said "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." I have been through Leominster more times than I can remember. I don't remember ever having seen the sign I saw this day: The Birthplace of Johnny Appleseed. There really was such a dude. I suspect he was an early release from the Fitchburg State Hospital ... but that's just my cynicism again.

Again, I grew up less than 1/4 tank of gas from here, and it seems, as in the story of the Purloined Letter, what is always in front of you is unseen. I had been noticing the dates on the town boundary signs. Surprisingly, some of the towns in New Hampshire weren't settled until the 1850s. In Massachusetts and Connecticut the towns were dated in the 1600s and the 1700s. What was amusing, though, was the different word used to denote the date. "Settled", "Incorporated", or "Inhabited". One wonders at the specific or subtle distinction. Then I came into Simsbury - "Named 1740something". Named? People had been living there how long before they decided where they were? How could they even call a town meeting if they didn't know the town name?

By the way, speaking of Connecticut, only one person ever responded to the meaning of the name, and she got it from her Yankee relatives, so it is a technical foul. But being the only contender I'll give Anne Lescher her moment. Connecticut means long tidal river. The significance is that the Connecticut is the river which has the longest tidal affect upstream, some 40 miles from the ocean.

In Simsbury, luck struck again. Just as I was laughing to myself about territorial anonymity and picturing someone 'getting a bee in their bonnet' about it - power of suggestion ? - I was whacked in the side of the faceshield by a bee that then fell inside my helmet. Picture this. A man on a motorcycle in moving traffic, *standing* on the footpegs (to be in the airstream), ripping off his helmet, shaking it violently, catching his sunglasses as they somersault over the tail, and then putting it all back together in less than a block to screech to a halt at the stop light. No sting, but I certainly depleted a chunk of my adrenaline reserve. I was very tired for the rest of the day.

After following a wonderfully sinuous road from the Connecticut border to the Hudson River, I crossed into the great wasteland of the confluence of New York and Pennsylvania. To me, this is the Nevada of the East. Just get through it. Been there. Done that. Looking as hard as I could for something to mention, all I could find is that Boalsberg Pennsylvania is the "Birthplace of Memorial Day". Wow.

Portland US1 I95 I495 MA2 US202 US44 NY199 NY308 NY9G NY199 US209 I84 I81 I80 US11 Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania for the night.

FuelPlus statistics: 518 miles, 10:13 engine run, 51 mph average

The next day's travel was unremarkable. So I won't remark on it. Although this may have been the most pleasant crossing of Pennsylvania I ever suffered, it is like saying that was the best root canal I ever enjoyed. I have personally never been in Pennsylvania but what I have been trying to get out of it. Some people actually live there, so it might actually be nice. I had many miles to cover - and the state was in the way again.

Luck struck suddenly around Smyma, Ohio. I went to downshift and it seemed the gear stuck a little. A moment later it stuck again. Then the transmission was locked in 4th gear and I couldn't get it up or down. Even coasting to a stop and turning off then engine didn't help. Being the careful and understanding type that I am, I thought about it for around 14 milliseconds, then I bashed the shift lever with my foot. The gear broke loose. As I rode I began experimenting with all the variables of throttle, clutch, acceleration, gear loads, and engine lash. Remembering the many discussions about splines and such on the Internet BMW list, it appeared to me that either I had a relatively simple alignment problem, or the entire transmission was disintegrating. Now the gear lock problem had spread to 3rd, 4th, and 5th - downshift only. Pre-loading the lever didn't help, but either declutching before decelerating or blipping the throttle with the clutch disengaged allowed a smooth shift. Still, it looked like touring for the day was over, and Cincinnati was the closest dealer.

Luck struck again. If this wasn't enough, I arrived at a friend's to get the news to call home immediately. The old dog had gone into heart failure and was in intensive care with questionable prognosis. But the good news later was that the treatment worked and she pulled through. I'm not as sure I did.

In a manner of speaking, my luck ran out in one more way before things turned back to normal. Since I left California on June 1, I have not ridden in any real rain. There were a few sprinkles in New Hampshire but not enough to suit up. Nearly 5,500 miles, across the continent and half-way back and not a drop. So, in the half hour and 30 miles it took to get to the dealer, it rained almost an inch. Frogs were wearing scuba gear. Fish were drowning. I was not happy.

Luck tried to throw one more zinger. Greg at the relatively new Tri-State BMW dealer near I275 north of Cincinnati told me his only K-bike experienced mechanic left for the Texas rally a week ago (he travels like I do?), but Greg would ride my bike and help me figure out what to do. Somewhere right about here something clicked on the luck meter. The sun came out. Greg came back and said "Classic détente cam gear problem. You can ride it all the way to California and back without worry. Just blip when you shift." I'll get it fixed when I get back. The other mechanics in the shop are as relieved as I am ... they were worried about a trial by fire on tearing apart their first K. I quickly came to like them all. They are enthusiastic, friendly, and know their limits. That spells trustworthy to me. Nice place. Visit them.

But now I've lost a day. Everything is wet. I am dirty, sore, and tired. So I took the day off and combined these two reports into one to contain the 'luck'. The Weather Channel tells me if I wait until late morning, I can head south to the gulf keeping my unbroken string of not _traveling_ in rain.

It is at a time like this I must remind myself that traveling is supposed to be a challenge ...

"I might be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride."
- Bob Weir, American Songwriter

Bloomsburg US11 PA54 PA45 US22 Cincinnati

FuelPlus statistics: 499 miles. 10:22 engine run, 49 mph average

    Have  Bike,  Will  Travel    
Wire:  Sam Lepore, San Francisco
    88 R100RT and 95 K75RT

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