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Sunday, 22 May 2016

My Arse is Sore. Over One Thousand Kilometres on a Guzzi

The last week has been a rough one. Rob's passing on my second night away took the wind out of my sails before I even arrived in Jersey to start five days of training, and at times like this you just want to be with the ones you love. So after two full days of ground school, and three days in the simulator it was time to get home.

My flying schedule for the next week also has me away from Tuesday to Friday, so I decided to Iron Butt it home all in one day. Just over 1000km. It would be the longest, single day ride I have ever taken.

I had the trip planned out on Garmin Base Camp, 1005km and a moving time of 9hrs 45mins. The plan was to take the George Washington Bridge, with it's money liberating $15 toll, then connect with the Merritt Parkway, then the I84, I290, I495, I95, I Am Lost, I Don't Know, I Don't Like the Interstate, and I Hate Toll Booths.

That was the plan anyway.

Friday night, my training partner, windsurfing, dog walking, trail running, and drinking buddy, Pudge (apparently his real name is Jim) celebrated the end of our last sim session as we always do.....in the hotel bar. Chicken wings and too many IPA's were consumed leaving me a little foggy at 4am on Saturday. Not an auspicious start to the day.

It was a nice predawn morning in East Rutherford, sky was clear and it was 13C. I loaded up the bike gave it a quick once over and headed off into the darkness at 0500. I left early to avoid the infamous NYC traffic.

I only road the bike once since arriving in Jersey. Thursday I took a run over to Motorcycle Mall, the local Guzzi dealer, as well as Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, Victory, Aprilla, KTM, Polaris, Kymco, MV Augusta, and Yamaha. It's huge. I wanted to pick up a litre of engine oil to have, just in case. It was cool to see that many bikes all in one place, especially Guzzi's. They had the entire line of V7's, including the new Sternello, the new V9's, a Griso, Audace, and the beautiful Eldorado. I can see myself with one of those, and an Africa Twin in the garage.

New V7 Sternello Scrambler

The V9's

Ducati MultiStrada Adventure

The brand spanking new MG21 Flying Fortress

Setting off from the hotel, I had a rough idea of how to get over the GWB to cross the Hudson River to New York. The almighty (Garmin) was the voice in my head leading me in the right direction.......right up until I came to the on ramp for the I95, which was closed. The detour sign was of no help and I just ended up riding in circles around the Gillette Stadium in the dark. Garmin was bound and determined to put me back on the closed on ramp. Fuck. I managed to find my back to the area near my hotel and reset Garmin and told it to take me home the fastest route instead of the preprogrammed route I had made with Basecamp.

I had planned on fueling up in Westchester, NY about 60km away, since I was down to about 1/4 of tank, but since I was now riding around aimlessly in Jersey, why not save time, and get gas now. When paying at the pump in the US, most gas stations outside of Maine require you enter a zip code of your address that is attached to your credit card. Not possible if you have a postal code, resulting in having to go inside and prepaying.

The kind gas station attendant, who apparently was also Canadian, but I'm guessing by the accent, his journey to America originated in India, showed me a neat trick to cheat the system. Say your postal code is A1A3S9, enter the numbers only 139 followed by 00. 13900. Works like a charm.

I was finally on the move again, and made to the GWB, where $15 later I was now in the state of New York. Since I had the route change, Garmin kept me on the I95, and I was now headed into the Bronx, where I am glad it is not the 1970's. I'd be lucky if I made it out of there alive.

It's Saturday morning, it's not even 6am yet and there is a tonne of traffic, it's moving well, but it's busy. Do people sleep or take a day off around here?

My plan for a quick escape from NYC is thwarted when four lanes of traffic comes to almost a standstill. The road info sign above is kindly telling all of us that there is an accident ahead with major delays. Double fuck. Of course in typical NYC fashion, everyone is trying to change lanes in order to gain a two car length advantage on the next commuter, there are wall to wall tractor trailers, and then there is little ol' me on on my svelte Italian stead.

I know lane splitting is not legal, except in California, and the rest of world outside of North America, but being Canadian, with a foreign plate I figured if by the small chance I get caught I'll fake a Quebecois accent and plead ignorance. So nonchalantly I begin a slow weave through the traffic, that is moving at a first gear, clutch slipping pace. It's one of the times I'm glad I never had a sidecar.

Before long I make my way to the accident scene, a couple of badly crumpled yellow cabs and pieces of yellow cabs are laying at odd angles occupying three lanes of the interstate. Sorry I never stopped for pics. Once clear of that mess it was clear sailing.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful, I had a nice tailwind, and Guzzi was cruising comfortably at an indicated 120kph, which translated to 113kph on Garmin. I wasn't flying, but I wasn't worried about being pulled over by the boys and girls in blue either.

Traffic was moderate for a Saturday morning, I was either passing someone or someone was passing me. The traffic really doesn't let up until Freeport, then it just disappears and your by yourself on the road.

Best part of the day, and thankfully it was near the end was the Airline, or Route 9 from Bangor to Calais. It's a wonderful stretch of single lane, with enough hills and curves to make it interesting. With a speed limit of 55mph, it's the Guzzi's happy place, and after a long day of interstate droning, it kept me awake and wonderfully entertained.

It was a long day when I finally got home, almost 12hrs of being constantly on the move. I stopped twice for more than 15mins. The rest were gas and goes. 

The Guzzi turned out to be a very worthy steed for a long trip, 1000km in day was a bit too long, comfort wise, but I wouldn't hesitate taking it on a cross Canada trip. A casual 600km a day would be wonderful. It just goes to show that you do not need a $30K Gold Wing to see the world.

Rob's memorial was held in Toronto yesterday, and on the long ride home my thoughts were with him and his family.

Then something weird happened.....

Once I was back in Maine I turned off the Garmin voice guidance to my Sena and started listening to music on my phone. I put on the whole playlist and hit shuffle. Everything from Van Halen to Stompin' Tom Conners. Just after I cleared Canada customs in St. Stephen, one song ends and then a voice starts talking to me about a 1200GS. It's Rob's voice, explaining how well the GS does off road. It sends cold shivers through me, and tool me completely off guard. 

Last fall I helped Rob with a short video review of the R1200GS, he sent me an audio file with a narrative. Somehow when I updated my music on my phone, that file made it's way there too, unbeknownst to me. 

It freaked me out to say the least.

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