Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 1 - California to Ohio

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Originally, I wanted to do this trip last year - and return via a more southerly route to take advantage of some TransAm Trail pieces - or maybe just visit friends and family in Memphis, New Orleans and West Texas. Due to the bad heat wave in Texas - I decided to avoid going through there. It just didn't sound like fun.

Additionally, to offset the cost of my fuel for the 16' moving truck going east - I put an ad on craigslist and transported a scooter to Salt Lake city, storage unit stuff to Toledo, and a KLR to Cleveland - in addition to my own motorcycle and my mom's stuff that I was bringing back to her.

A BARF/ADVRider friend named Harry helped me out a lot with going over the DR and sorting out various little issues that needed to be addressed - he noticed that my choke cable was frozen, so that got added to the list. He even found something in my rear tire - but it wasn't puncturing the tube and it came out alright. The front sprocket got changed from 14 back to stock 15 (wow - what a difference! I need to change it back so I don't get speeding tickets).


Day before departure, I had everything organized and out on the driveway when Gary and Jerry arrived to help load the truck. Gary has lots of motorcycle tying-down experience and between the three of us, we were done in about 30 minutes. There was still a LOT of space in that truck!

DAYS 1 - 4 (8/19 - 8/22)

I left on Friday (8/19) morning, a bit later than planned but that seemed to work well for traffic. I got to see pretty much all the scenery that is to be seen on 80 in daylight, arriving on the outskirts of Salt Lake City just after dark. We unloaded the scooter in the driveway - I felt very woozy and light headed while removing the tie-downs from the scooter. It took me a minute to realize that it was from gas fumes - well, I guess I won't be sleeping in the BACK of the truck on this trip!

The next morning, I went to City Cakes & Cafe ( - a vegan bakery with very delicious cupcakes, cookies and other goodies - so I got a lot of yummy things: chocolate peanut butter bar, lemon bar, peanut butter cookies, ginger-molasses something muffin and a few other items for the road. I figured - breakfast on this road trip is easy!


Saturday morning's drive out of Salt Lake City was gorgeous - and the rest of the day was alright. The scenery into Wyoming was ok - I got to see antelopes and loads of wild looking horses all over the place. After seeing billboards for a thai place and for a place offering to "meet all your camouflage needs" - I decided that had to be the lunch stop.

Anong's Thai Cuisine in Rawlins ( served me thai food that was just as good as the Bay Area - so I was optimistic: if I can find a decent Thai place for lunch every day, I'll be set!


After a very delicious lunch, I pulled away from the curb and noticed - I was RIGHT by that army surplus place - so had to go in and have a look around. Sadly, I did not have any current camouflage needs, so didn't buy anything.


I did, however, have some camping needs and since I wasn't too far from a Cabela's - I headed there. I saw a big storm off in the distance - and a rainbow:


And had a nice stroll through Cabela's - but they didn't have quite what I was looking for, though I was tempted to pick up one of these as a passenger seat for the DR:


After racing the storm on 80 - I won - I decided to spend the night at a place on Jennifer Drive in Sidney NE. There weren't a lot of good options for hotels, or restaurants - so I whipped up some miso & udon noodles on my camp stove in my room. Yum!

Sunday (8/21) morning, I noted and then clean forgot that there was another Cabela's near Sidney. You ever notice that there are nearly as many Cabela's as Target or Wal-Mart stores on I-80? I stopped in TWO Cabela's that day - finding what I wanted in La Vista. A nice waterproof duffel for the gear & clothing on the back of the DR - indispensable! Not much scenery in that part of Nebraska - or Iowa - so I kept pressing on and spent the night at a very nice moose/lodge themed hotel in the Des Moines area and ordered mediocre pizza from "the best pizza in town." At least I got to take a shower and watch True Blood!

Monday (8/22) morning, I heard the news that I just missed massive showers and  flooding in La Vista and Council Bluffs - if I had left a day later - I would be looking for another route! I stopped in Dixon IL for gas - at Clark & Main!


I saw a grocery to see if I could come up with some healthy local produce for lunch later - and was shocked: not only was most of the stuff in the store packaged, including the fresh produce, there was not a single item in the produce section (that I could see) that was local. Seriously? We're in Illinois in AUGUST and you can't tell me that they aren't growing fresh, delicious tomatoes somewhere around there - right? Most of the produce was from Chile (isn't it WINTER there?), Mexico and California. You couldn't just buy a handful of greenbeans - they were swathed in shrink wrap on a styrofoam tray.


The kids at the cash register told me that Sullivan's is the last grocery store in town - the others have all folded due to competition from Wal-Mart for grocery dollars. There is a farmer's market, but they weren't sure when it was or where it was - but they were pretty sure that there was something. Little did I realize that this was just the tip of the iceberg of my grocery store/local produce experiences on this trip.

Lunch on Monday was hard to find - I ended up in Grand Island at a Maui/Hawaiian Islands sort of pizza place - with quite mediocre pizza. Don't go there. I pressed on -- amazed at the number of toll stops on 80 as I got closer to Chicago. I couldn't believe the crazy McMansion developments along the turnpike west of Toledo - giant houses on an artificial pond with big SUVs in every driveway. It looked like the gated communities outside of Sacramento in Roseville. Despite Google maps giving me directions for a freeway exit that NO LONGER EXISTED and sending me the wrong way, east toward Cleveland, away from Mentor, I made it to my mom's later on Monday night.

DAYS 5 - 7 (8/22-8/25)

Tuesday (8/23) morning, I unloaded the boxes from the truck to the spare bedroom. My mom & I headed for brunch at Tommy's down on Coventry ( We stopped in Mayfield Heights along the way to do a bit of Italian grocery store shopping at Ferrara's.



After brunch, I took my mom shopping for groceries, pet supplies and a dehumidifier for her place. Friends came by later and helped us unload both bikes - yay! Empty truck!

Wednesday (8/24) was a day of more unpacking, errands and de-flea-ing my mom's place. We went for lunch at the nearby Thai place (super yum!) and then I took off to collect, Dan, the owner of the KLR, from a Greyhound stop about 40 miles east. We stopped at AAA so we could take advantage of his membership to get a lot of maps - that was super helpful for my trip! I wish I had got the maps before I got on the road - it's so much different looking at paper maps than just trying to plan with Google maps or searching on the internet.

After returning to my mom's, we set him up with ice cubes and water in his bottles while he got organized and on the road. We had a big laundry night and I got my duffel packed and organized for the trip, all my stuff set up and ready to go. Dinner and TV then bed -- only to be awoken by a horrific storm that seemed to tear open the sky with light and sound.

Thursday (8/25), I drove the moving truck to drop it off - finding that it was in a totally unsupported industrial park. I started walking and stuck out my thumb - managing to catch a lift with an arborist back to Mentor Ave. Apparently, he was having a busy morning - power was out all around the area - trees were blocking driveways. The University area in downtown Cleveland was hit pretty hard, as were areas really close to the lake. Power outages, downed trees, limbs, leaves and debris were everywhere. The forecast, however, was clear and sunny!

It took me about an hour to get my old cordura mountain bike panniers and new waterproof duffel attached and  packed (for the former) and packed and attacked (for the latter). I was on the road before noon, heading down to meet my friend Eric for lunch in Cleveland Heights. I stopped by Ferrara's to show my motorcycle to the elderly lady who was amazed that I would be riding a motorcycle - she wasn't there but all the guys behind the deli counter all came out to have a look at my set-up and kindly appreciative, wishing me luck before returning to what they were doing before my interruption.

Lunch at Tommy's with Eric was thwarted - they had no power when they opened, so didn't open. Power returned to the neighborhood but Tommy's employees did not - so we had thai food up the street. Every single 20 year old young man who worked there made a trip out to look at my motorcycle and wish me luck and express envy at my trip. As soon as Eric and  I finished - I got on the road west!


More photos!

Week 1, West-to-East: 2,650 miles

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