Ghost home from the Par-Tay

The following is my rework of an email message I posted to the slug list after arriving home from the annual Par-Tay up in the Pacific northwest.

The Arrival Home

I pulled into my home garage last night at about 12:30am. I had a bit of a late start from Sparky & Pooder’s place in Minnesota because they insisted on feeding me breakfast… twice. I had hopes of finding someone in Chi-town to put me up for Saturday night but nearly all the usual suspects were down at some motorcycle race in Indiana. I did eventually get Stroker Ray on the phone (more about that later) but he was leaving on business early the next morning so I decided he didn’t need the complication of a houseguest. I elected to get past the Chicago metromess before stopping for the night, but that strategy forced me to wade through the unwashed masses on their way downtown for a Chicago Bears game. Yeesh. By the time I was gassing up in Indiana, it was dark and cooling off. I had just over another tank of gas worth of distance to cover, so I said “screw it” and headed for home. The downside to this decision was that the electrical current load problem I’ve been having with the Vector has gotten worse and I couldn’t run with my extra 110 watts of driving lamps on without the voltage on the bike dipping down to 11.9V. Consequently, I crossed Michigan using other cars and trucks as bambi shields and avoided a close encounter of the furry kind.

Happenings since my last post…

After I left Chuck & Barb’s place in Idaho on Tuesday morning, I spent several rather unplanned and lazy days winding my way across the country. On Tuesday I meandered over to Jackson, WY and slowly made my way through the Tetons taking photos of everything and eventually got up into Yellowstone. I had wanted to exit via the northeast gate and do Bear Tooth Pass (yet again) but I was running out of sunlight so I bailed and used the east gate to get to a Cody campground with a nice tent site in a grove of trees next to a stream.

Wednesday I slept in a bit, got a shower, and headed off southeast for Worland. Hey Chuck, they did some road work on that nice little WY431 cutoff that gets you to Worland faster so it isn’t a suspension test road anymore. Had lunch in Worland and enjoyed a nice blast over the Bighorn mountains and into Buffalo, WY. I then resigned myself to becoming one with I90 for a few days… but maybe not. About 100ft before the Moorcroft exit is a sign for Devil’s Tower National Monument. “What the $%*#?”, said I as I exit for a minor detour. It was too late in the day to take good photos of Devil’s Tower but I still did the full loop through Hulett, WY and on to Belle Fourche, SD. Then it was down to Spearfish, SD, up Spearfish Canyon and into Lead/Deadwood. Little did I know that Deadwood was hosting some big classic car festival that weekend and, just like Sturgis, the die-hards show up early to snatch up all the good resources. With no room at the inn (or any campground), I left Deadwood heading south and, as it was getting dark and critterlicious, I found a tent site under a pine tree next to (yet another) stream.

Thursday I slept in a bit, got a shower, and headed off to do Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Road. Both were quite enjoyable except for a group of four bikes that decided that they were going to travel at a 15mph pace for the southern half of the Needles. I know that every human has the right to travel at whatever pace you want, but when you look in your rear view mirror and see enough vehicles to make a 4th-of-July Parade, you need to get your molasses-ass to the side of the road and let the poor trapped souls get by. These bastards were giving bikers a bad name. I got a bite in Rapid City and found myself back on I90 heading east for a scheduled visit to Sparky & Pooder in southeastern Minnesota on Friday.

Funny story of the trip…

Along any interstate highway, it is not unusual to see a disabled vehicle by the side of the road. Sometimes they’re sportin’ a flat tire. Sometimes the vehicle sits at the end of a trail of oil or antifreeze. Generally, there is a story behind the vehicle that you can pick up on as you drive by. This time it was a little mysterious. The vehicle was a little red Honda SUV at the end of a set of tire tracks that started from the shoulder, took a nice gentle angle down into the shallow ditch, and then abruptly curved off through the barb wire and about 50ft into a field of wheat. I had visions of the driver having a heart attack but couldn’t see anybody behind the wheel. I surmised that the driver fell asleep and already flagged down assistance. I drove on.

About a half-hour later, I encounter another vehicle by the side of the road. This one is a monster RV with a guy standing at the back end looking down at the empty towing yoke that is dragging on the ground. The epiphany strikes as I passed him and I quickly pulled over onto the shoulder. Being SD, I was able to make a u-turn right in the middle of I90 and go back up the shoulder to have a chat with this gentleman. I opened the conversation with a question, “Did you lose a little red Honda SUV?”

The man’s eyes go wide and he happily gasps like I just found his kidnapped teenage daughter, “YES!”

I explain that the vehicle is upright and probably only slightly damaged. He’s ecstatic, looking over my shoulder back up the road like he expects to see his car somewhere off in the distance. I then explain that I saw his vehicle at least 35-40 miles ago. It was like I punched this poor bum in the stomach, is face turning red with embarrassment. He quietly offered his thanks and I headed on my way.

Here is where I pat myself on the back. For that entire conversation, I successfully suppressed the rather intense urge to fall down to the ground, roll around, and laugh my ass off. As I continued down the road, I kept an eye out for a place for the guy to turn his behemoth RV around. The first median crossing was eight (8) miles down the road, but it was too deep in the middle for the RV to make it across (without dragging bodywork). I laugh some more. There was another median crossing at 12 miles, but it was also too deep and had several inches of water in the middle of it. I cackle in pure schadenfreude. It wasn’t until 15 miles down the road that there was an exit where the guy could turn around his RV. Doing the math:

  • 15 miles back west to where I met the RV driver.
  • After he turns around at this exit, he has to travel the 15 miles back to where we spoke,
  • Followed by another 35+ miles to where his car sat,
  • Plus at least another five (5) miles to the next exit past his car,
  • Plug the five (miles) back to his car,
  • Then the last 35+ miles to get back to where he started when I told him where to find his car.

That’s 110 miles of total detour to recover his lost car.

It was a good 10 miles before I could control my laughter and keep the Vector in a straight line.

Back to the Road Trip…

I got all the way to Sioux Falls,SD that night, leaving a real short Friday ride to get to Sparky & Pooder’s. The only downside was the 30-40mph crosswinds that were seriously pissing me off and putting a major dent in my fuel economy.

Sparky & Pooder were, as one would expect, excellent hosts and I enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and evening full of tasty food, cold beer, and excellent company. It turns out that my schizophrenic phone (remember my Treo got wet just before this trip and half the buttons have different, or more than one, meaning) had been calling Sparky and hanging up about 20 times. Oops.

Newsflash: Pooder has a Gold Wing now. It appears to be in excellent shape with less than 20K on the clock. I think Pooder is still figuring out what all the buttons do. 😉

Navigating Around Chicago

While stopped at a toll road oasis in Chicago trying to figure out where all the traffic was coming from (or going to), I noticed that I’d missed four calls from the same number, one that I didn’t recognize. I call the number and tell the guy who answers he was trying to call me. The voice on the other end turns out to be Stroker Ray, who I had tried to call back at Sparky & Pooder’s. He informs me that I have it backwards and that I had been calling him about once every 20 minutes all afternoon. Apparently, my schizophrenic phone was, once again, redialing my last call over and over. Ray had to go through old email messages to figure out who the hell was tormenting him. In any case, we had a nice chat and Ray weighed in on the charging problem with the Vector. I think he’s correct that there is some loose connection in the charging wiring somewhere such that it can put out decent voltage, but only up to a certain current load. I’ll track that down this week.


Here are some raw statistics from the entire trip:

  • Total miles: 6,855
  • Total days: 16
  • Average miles/day: 428
  • Longest day: 801 (North Platte, NE to Bozeman, MT with Aitch)
  • Shortest day: 88 mi (around Len & Pauline’s place in South Carolina)
  • Total gas/oil costs: $681.15 (includes three extra quarts of oil –  don’t ask)
  • Total gallons of fuel: 191
  • Avg. cost/gallon: $3.059
  • Average miles/gallon: 36.3
  • Average litres per 100km: 6.48 (that’s a translation for Aitch)
  • Average distance on one fueling: 150.8 mi
  • Maximum distance on one fueling: 190 mi
  • Maximum miles/gallon for one fueling: 40.95
  • Minimum miles/gallon for one fueling: 30.33

An approximate map of the entire trip is available here:
Note: Google Maps lost it’s mind a bit towards the end of the route and everything became straight lines instead of following roads, but you get the idea…

In Closing…

For those of you who joined me for a part of the trip, hosted me for a night or two, or simply waved at me as I drove by: thank you.

Now I’m going to go open that bottle of tequila that Snarl foisted upon me as I tried to leave his place. Yeesh… some people.

Posted from Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States.

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