Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Motorcycle Diaries: Clarion to Chicago


“Nothing beats a good night of sleep at The Clarion House!”

Nope, this is not their sales pitch, but could may as well be! Perhaps I was just too exhausted and in need of a comfortable bed to turn off main system power and recharge the batteries. I deservedly had an extended night of sleep, maybe longer than I expected. By the time I was ready for breakfast, I had a feeling I would be running late once again.

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At some point came the realization of how far I actually still was from Chicago: I went to bed thinking I was 30 to 45 mins away from Cleveland so I’d still have an easy riding day to Chicago, but as soon as I plugged in the coordinates on my GPS, I realized I was still 3 hours EAST off Cleveland! So there I was again having a late start - this time I had spent too much time at the breakfast table chit-chatting with guests and the owners - and had to cover lots of ground in order to make it to Chicago before it got too late and dark.

I left The Clarion House around 10am and had another 500 miles to Chicago. It occurred to me that this was it, if spontaneity was to be part of the package, so would delays – and the pressure associated with it. Simply AWESOME!

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Around lunch time, I ran across another nameless  rider also heading west. We rode together for about two gas stops and then we had some gas-station-lunch. I wish a had done a better way of keeping record of people I had met during the trip, but unfortunately I wasn’t thinking too much down the future. It’d be cool to hear about his road trip and also to give him the photo above.

It felt good running across other riders on the highway; it “breaks the ice” and changes your pace a bit. Unfortunately it only happened a few times during my trip, but enough to keep the spirits high and connecting to other people. Actually, riding the bike was definitely an advantage in this regard: normally bikers are very welcoming to other bikers but I realized that on long-distance solo trips there were this mutual need to share experiences, talk to another rider, talk to another human being. And all would happen in very natural, organic way. Definitely very different than traveling on a car.


Indiana State Police: Was the glass half full or half empty?

So on my second day riding I make friends with the Indiana State Police. We kinda bond over the fact that I was doing 91mph on a 75 limit and he even gives me a $150 gift, payable to the State of Indiana. Up to that point I was not happy about it: less than 800 miles and already a speeding ticket? WTF! At this pace I would be luck to even have a driver’s license by the time I made to the west coast!

After briefly discussing the predicament, in which I failed to convince him that I was merely passing a truck-trailer into a safer spot on the road, he asked me for my license and bike’s documentations, which was located in the bike’s trunk, under the passenger’s seat. As soon as I started unloading the saddlebags, in order to access the passenger’s seat, the officer asked if I needed to unload my bags in order to get to the registration and after I said yes, he then said to forget about it, that he would check it online instead.

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Moments later he comes back with my ticket and a very intriguing question: he asked me if the bike was actually registered. I told him I have had this bike for many years and that it was absolutely registered. He then mentions that under his Indiana DMV system shows that the bike is indeed mine and that registration was valid until March 2013 but also that registration was not currently valid.  He was not sure what was going on, so he just gave me the ticket and let me go. Up to that point I thought this whole thing was just a interstate “translation” issue, and that as soon as I arrived in Chicago and unloaded the saddle bags, that I would take the registration and keep it in my wallet instead of the bike’s trunk, to avoid any future delays and troubles with the laws.

Couchsurfing in Chicago

Well, as it turned out, the glass was definitely half full and the state trooper was maybe a blessing in disguise (and $150 price tag!). I had just realized upon arriving in Chicago that I had forgotten to renew my bike registration and I that any screw up on the road could mean the end of the trip. Not a good situation. This whole situation definitely spoiled my mood that day.

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And the rest of the day had all ingredients for a nice evening: it happened that my first couchsurfing experience could not had been any better. More on this down the road. Let’s just say I regret being so tired and mentally exhausted over the fact that my motorcycle was actually not registered and I had just started my roadtrip.

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