Euphoria

I can’t begin to explain how it feels to see the cities of Sammamish and Issaquah pop up on my GPS.

When I lived in Issaquah, it was only Issaquah. After o graduated and moved on, where I lived became Sammamish.

It is excitement mixed with anxiety mixed with hopefulness.

I am strangely peaceful and excited for the next few days. There are a lot of people I hope to see but my isolationist self may try to keep me from going out of my way.

Is it more about the people or the place? Will it be enough to just ride around and check out the old haunts?

Probably not.

I was almost moved to tears last night while setting up meetings with a couple of old friends. It has been decades.

This will be an interesting few days.

Normal

Is this what normal feels like?

I think I remember but I’m not sure. It could be.

Today I just…was. There weren’t any negative thoughts, no anger, not even feelings of despondency.

I didn’t even think about this blog or what I would write which is a first. Usually it’s something I think about a few times a day.

That being said, this post may jump around or not have a point.

I was just impressed that today was just a day.

We left Kalispell at 7:30. Riding through canyons in the shade and early morning hours, it was really cold. We averaged in the mid 40’s. I gutted it out for over an hour because I didn’t want to stop to put a coat on. I can be retarded like that. We did try to take some riding pics.

I finally had to stop so we pulled into a little town restaurant for hot drinks and a cinnamon roll. That did the trick. When we got back on the bikes it had warmed up to 64. We crossed from Montana into Idaho and enjoyed meandering through the mountains and small towns. I thought about sticking around for the start of “river days” in Bonners Ferry but alas.

Crossing a bridge over the Columbia river took me back into Washington State for the first time in 14 years. I miss this place. For those who don’t know, I grew up in Issaquah Washington and I still have a lot of friends. People I haven’t seen in a long time. I am really looking forward to catching up with and many as I can. A good friend is helping to find a place where we can invite a bunch of people to just hang out for an evening. If you live in the Seattle area, keep an eye out for a post regarding when that will be. I’d love to see you.

In Washington we began following the Pend Oreille river. It was beautiful. My dad even had an eagle fly next to him for a good ten seconds. Turning up onto a winding road, it set the tone for the next few hours of our ride. We were in amazing country. High alpine. Tall Douglas Firs and Ponderosa pines. Rock outcroppings and small towns. Tight corners and high speed straights. We were having a great time.

We found an interesting but good spot for food in Colville. It was Hawaiian flavored Asian inspired noodles and meats. It was a ton of food and more than either of us could eat. I felt bad leaving a half eaten bowl on the table. Oh well.

From there we had more great riding, for maybe an hour. And then we began the downward spiral. Almost literally. The roads began losing elevation and while doing so, the roads were still winding. We were having a blast. But the temperatures were rising. What began as a cold day, had progressed to a very pleasant day. Now it started to get hot. We descended below the alpine treeline and were coming out into brown hills and sagebrush. And 100 degrees. And then it hit 106.

We were baking on the bikes. Finally had to stop at an Arby’s because they had air conditioning. It took about an hour to recover. That, and a milk shake.

We decided to get a hotel just down the road in Pateros. Our hotel literally backs up onto the Columbia river. My dad swam in it. I didn’t. I didn’t want to get the herp. I did swim in the pool for over an hour and it was bliss.

We’ve decided that this is as far as my dad will go. If he went on my route for tomorrow, he’d be committed all the way into Seattle. So he’ll leave here early in the morning. He has a long way to go and I hope he’ll stop in Butte to spend the night.

It has been an amazing three days being able to spend time with my dad exploring this area. What a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Much like the rest of this trip.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Your trauma is just as bad

How many times have I heard someone say something along this line: “what happened to me pales in comparison to what happened to you”?

A lot. Actually almost everytime I get into a deeper or longer conversation with anyone concerning my story. We’ll inevitably begin talking about things that have become traumas in their own lives and inevitably they’ll try to discount them as not worthy of discussing further.

I’ve been there as well.

It happens all of the time in group therapies and it happened in mine.

While I was in therapy, locked up at Salt Lake Behavioral Health, we would all spend time telling each our deepest, darkest issues. I couldn’t believe the terrible things that had happened to these guys. I wasnt worthy of sitting here in the same room as them. My traumas were nothing compared to theirs. When it came time for me to read my trauma statement, I was worried that the other guys would wonder why I was even there, that I didn’t belong. Oddly enough, at least 4 of them approached me later and said that they were in shock. That my story moved them to tears and that they felt that their own trauma was shameful in comparison.

Over time, I’ve learned that we all think that way. That any other person would be able to handle our traumatic situation with ease and that we are just weak for not being able to stoically handle our own business.

The thing is, we all have strengths and weaknesses and unfortunately our traumas hit us in our weakest areas. What one person may be able to handle another is crushed under the weight. When we hear the trauma of somebody else, we are amazed that anyone cam live through it because it wasn’t something we’d ever expect. We didn’t live the life that lead up to it. So it is surprisingly shocking. It seems to be something well beyond our understanding.

At least that’s my observation.

And I have to tell you. Your trauma is just as bad as mine. If you are dealing with something that you know is horrible and is ruining your life, don’t ignore it just because you think it isn’t worthy of therapy.

Own it. Get help. Before it embeds itself like a tick in your psyche and you do something you’ll regret.

I spent some time on the bike thinking about that today because of a conversation I’d had with my dad. Nothing specifically but it just keyed a thought.

Vets hear similar things all of the time when talking with vets from other eras. Hell, even I say it. How can I compare my service, my war, to that of a vet from a real war? Do you see what I’m doing?

It is a vicious cycle.

Today we woke up around 6am because neither of us could sleep and my dad likes to talk. That makes it hard to roll back over for another hour. That’s ok because we had a big day ahead of us and we needed to get moving. I may have just been enjoying a real bed too much. The continental breakfast would have to do.

Rolling out took extra clothing, it was 54 degrees. We topped of the tanks and headed north.

Deep canyons, tall trees and great roads. It was beautiful but hard to enjoy as it hit 46 degrees in the shade. I haven’t been this bundled up since day 2 in Arizona.

After an hour we came out above the canyons, to high plains. Rolling hills and farm land as far as you could see. It remained this way for about 250 miles. Here’s a shot of Great Falls, where Lewis and Clark had to portage around.

We got lunch in East Glacier at a restaurant on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Worst, and most expensive hamburger so far this trip. They can’t all be winners.

Right across the road was the Galcier Park Amtrak bridge so I took this picture for David.

Here is where we hopped onto the “Going to the Sun” highway. This was the whole point of our days journey. It didn’t disappoint. Other than being really crowded. The immensity of the mountains and valleys is not something I can adequately put in to words. I apologize for not being able to describe it well enough. Someday, everyone should do this park.

One of my favorite things about today is that I had some friends who were currently in Kalispell. We linked up in town for dinner tonight. It was so fun catching up with them. People from southern Utah meeting in northern Montana. I love it. Thanks guys!

I had a good time. I enjoyed being able to think about things and it was great to have somebody to talk with and to share experiences with all day.

Venmo: Jake-Weber-21

PayPal: webers@digis.net

Big thanks to those helping.

A day I’ve been counting down to.

My dad called me three weeks ago and said that he’d just bought himself a brand new Harley.

He was the one that got me into this mess when he rented bikes for all of the Weber boys last year. Little did we all know what would be happening just a year later. While watching my trip unfold, he was inspired to quit prolonging the inevitable and to grab life by the horns. I think he’s pretty excited to be a new Harley owner. If he feels anything like I did, I know he is.

So three weeks ago we are chatting about his new bike and he states that his goal is to meet me in Montana and to ride with me for a few days, if I’m up for that.

Of course! How many guys get the chance to ride motorcycles with their fathers across beautiful country? Or just doing anything adventurous? Do it while you can because time marches on and it will pass you by.

Since we made the tentative plan three weeks ago. It has been in the back of my mind since then and has been something we’ve both been looking forward to.

And here we are. We met today in White Sulphur Springs Montana. I came in from the west, and he came in from the south.

My route to get here today was pretty interesting.

Once again I did not sleep well. I was awake at 5am but tried to force myself back to sleep. Finally at 6:30 I’d had enough so I just got up. I rode out heading north and got breakfast in the little town of Hulett. The Sturgis motorcycle rally overflow reaches all of the way out to this town. I believe this is somewhere that most groups transit through on their way to the rally.

Anyway, from there I continued north through rolling hills and farmland until I crossed into Montana. Then it got monotonous.

Mostly flat and not much to see. I just set the cruise control and zoned out. I realized later that I hadn’t really been thinking about anything and that’s a good thing. There was plenty of opportunity there for something negative. I’ll take that as a positive.

I did stop in at the Little Big Horn. I got there just in time for the “Ranger Talk”.

That guy was amazing. He used to be a high school teacher and he was animated. He even had props. Seriously. Props. There were about 150 enthralled listeners by the time he was done, over an hour later.

This is a mass grave of over 200 cavalry Soldiers. By the time the Soldiers were originally buried, they were so decomposed that identification was impossible. The deepest grave dug at the time was Custers and his was only 18 inches. A year later the Army came back to find that animals had dug up all of the corpses. They were eventually all reburied here, at the top of Last Stand Hill. Custer and the other officers remains (what could be identified) were all reburied back east. This is a very solemn place to stand.

These are not actually tombstones but markers of where Soldiers bodies were found. The only one with a name on it is Custers, the one with black marking.

This is at the Indian memorial just north of Last Stand Hill.

I left Little Big Horn with a peaceful soul. It was good for me.

I headed on to Billings which I’ve decided is a town worth avoiding. I picked up a poker chip and had lunch. Then I got out of there as quick as I could. It didn’t help that it was 95 degrees there.

Next I just had to put it the miles and I’d be meeting up with my dad.

I didn’t count on the wind. Crazy wind directly from the side. It was so bad that it was literally lifting my helmet off of my head. Which was then in effect lifting me off of the bike. Which of course was blowing sideways hard enough that I changed lanes inadvertently once, despite my best efforts. It was downright dangerous.

My dad said he ran into some dangerous winds as well.

Now we’re hanging out in a little hotel in a little town and planning our trip for tomorrow.

We had a prime rib dinner at the joint next door and wondering where we’ll have breakfast tomorrow. Things are good.

Venmo: Jake-Weber-21

PayPal: webers@digis.net

An amazing world

As I’ve been riding, there have been so many things I’ve seen that are jaw dropping, awe inspiring and just humbling.

Today was my favorite.

I began with a ride through the rest of the Badlands NP. It was about 6am and I had the road all to myself. I watched the sun crest above the pillars and just soaked in the sunshine and the morning warmth. I could have taken a picture but sun pictures never work out so I just kept that one for myself.

I stopped for breakfast at Wall Drug in Wall ND. It was decent but a couple busloads of Chinese tourists came in right after I did so I didn’t stick around after I finished. Too crowded.

Next stop was Sturgis. It is beyond obvious that this town lives for one week a year. Everything, and I mean everything is geared towards motorcycles. Surprisingly it is a pretty town with a nice backdrop. I could see how living here would be appealing, if you could vacate the premises for that certain week.

Next stop was the town of Deadwood. As soon as you leave Sturgis and head towards Deadwood, you start climbing into the Black Hills. It is so beautiful here. It helped that temperatures were in the low 70’s and there were blue skies. But the hills and trees could hold their own in any landscape beauty pageant.

Unfortunately Deadwood has become commercialized. It is a unique town with a lot of old buildings. It would take time that I didn’t want to devote in order to really see it all. Maybe someday I’ll come back with my wife and family and we’ll explore.

The roads just kept getting better. Winding, flowy, alpine vistas and wonderful smelling pine trees. It was heaven just riding through.

I pulled up to Rushmore and the tourist nightmare began. I did the same thing I did at Niagara Falls. I parked, walked quickly to a vantage point, took and couple pictures and left just as quickly.

Now the real adventure in riding began. The road became very narrow. It was relatively slow going but the road wound around, back and forth, switchbacks and even corkscrews. Yes, corkscrews. The road would do a tight curve in a narrow area and it would go under a wooden bridge, which you would end up on just a second later, going over where you had just been. It would then turn again along the mountain and keep going up. It’s hard to describe. At several points the road would go through a single vehicle width tunnel and drivers would just play chicken with each other to see who got to go first. At other times the road would separate between the two lanes with no line of sight between them.

As I rode through Custer State Park, I ran into several Buffalo. It’s definitely not the first time I’ve seen buffalo, not even the first time I’ve seen them while riding a Harley. Each time though it’s a neat experience. Especially when a bull is right in the road and won’t move. I didn’t get a picture of him because I kept my hand on the throttle just in case. What I would do I don’t know. But it was just in case and it made me feel better. I did get this picture after he moved on. And no Tim, I didn’t rev the engine.

I also got these pictures at an overlook, looking back on Rushmore. It is in the distance. You may have to zoom in.

The next road was called “the needles” highway as it wound in and out of tall black spires that must be the needles. There was even a short section that went through a somewhat natural gap widened to be a tunnel.

After all of that amazing riding, I turned onto a much straighter piece of road and made a quick stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial. I remembered watching something about this on TV a long time ago. I was surprised to see…that it hasn’t changed. Are they working on it? I don’t know but they did charge me $7 to see this…and that’s as close as you can get.

I stopped in for lunch in Custer and then resumed my trip across South Dakota. It didn’t take long before I was in Wyoming.

Wyoming is home to me. My family can trace its roots pretty far back in this State. I breathed in with a big smile as I crossed the State line. Beautiful rolling hills and the foothills of the Black Hills were my companions as I turned north towards Devils Tower.

Just wow. Seeing pictures of the tower will never do it justice. The immensity, the striations and the colors can hold you in a trance as you just stare at it.

Which is what I have been doing for the last while during the time I wrote this post. This has been my view.

Yeah, I know, the tree is in the way. Just wait. I will be camping here at the base of the tower. There wasn’t any internet service in camp and I discovered that there is here, in this exact spot.

Clouds are overhead, threatening rain again. I got lucky last night. Fingers crossed for tonight.

Here’s a picture of a prairie dog that I got for my kids. They are all over the place.

Big thanks again to everyone helping out. I really appreciate it.

Venmo: Jake-Weber-21

PayPal: webers@digis.net

Today was a great day of riding and of sightseeing. Definitely in the running for my favorite day so far.

Bonus! No more humidity!

I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well but it’s mostly a point A to point B day.

One thing worth noting. No negative thoughts today. That’s a plus. Now that I’ve said that, I’m screwed.

Good night.

Dodging the weather

What an amazing day, from start to finish.

Just as predicted for last night, with a 119% probability…

It rained. I’m not exactly sure if it happened between 11 and 2 but that seems right. It did wake me up and it didn’t help that I was getting a little wet. I was prepared though so I just threw a bath towel over myself and promptly fell right back to sleep. I was pretty confident in my preparations.

I woke up with the sun at about 6 am, having slept pretty well considering. Bonus, all of my stuff was dry and my tent wasn’t soaked. It must not have rained long and it had time to dry out somewhat.

I packed up and left under blue skies, heading towards Fargo North Dakota. I picked up breakfast and took the opportunity to get a poker chip while I was in N.D.

As I was eating breakfast I watched the sky get ominously dark. That was odd because I’d checked the weather forecast and I didn’t remember it saying anything about rain. As I rechecked the weather app I overheard two ladies discussing the same thing. Yep, the weather app said no rain. I checked the radar. It showed rain. Hmm.

As I mounted up to head south, the rain began. I thought I’d ride on for awhile. Nope. I pulled into a gas station and got all suited up. The rain stopped.

Oh well, I kept it on. The thing you quickly learn about trying to navigate through any farm state is that roads ALWAYS go in straight lines, never angled. This is to go around all of the farms. So you go straight for a long time, sometimes up to 50 miles, and then you make a 90 degree turn. My navigation looked like a big, never ending zig zag.

Which became comical. Off in the distance I could see clouds with rain descending in droves. I’d inevitably be heading right towards one and then I’d make a turn and move away. Then it would continue. I was getting pretty lucky. So much so that I finally removed the rain gear. An hour later, right after lunch, I got soaked.

Here’s the bummer part. When I went to take off my rain gear the first time, I discovered that the rain cover for my clothing bag had somehow come off and blown away, without me noticing. Damn.

So now I’m getting soaked again and I need a solution. I ran into the gas station and asked for a big black trash bag. She obliged. I bought some straps and clear gorilla tape (to use later to repair my tent. I was surprised they had it). I got my bag all set up and it worked surprisingly well. I’m pretty happy with it.

Of course, five minutes later the rain stopped.

Up until this point in South Dakota I had been rolling along through Corn, soy, wheat and potato fields. Even a couple sun flower fields for good measure. These were huge farms. At least 10 major silos and you could see millions of dollars of heavy equipment driving around. It was impressive. I’ve always admired farmers and love watching how they work. I was loving rolling along and seeing it all. It was a big change from the last month where all you could generally see was trees lining the roads. Now you could see rolling hills all the way to the horizon. So beautiful and as always, not what I expected.

This time I left the rain gear on. I found myself a lot less anxious concerning the weather and so I just rolled happy while in my big puffy, black suit.

I wound my way through an Indian reservation which upped the hill ratio considerably. It is so green here.

As I left the reservation, it was like I rode through a magic gate. One second it was chilly and overcast with drizzle and the next it was blue skies, 80 degrees and climbing. I made it another 30 miles before I had to take off the rain suit. As soon as I did, it clouded up. Oh well. It at least hasn’t rained again. It sure got windy though.

My route is taking me to Sturgis but along the way I am riding through Badlands National Park. It is really not what I expected (I need to learn to stop expecting things). Absolutely stunning.

I had to take pictures. This place is great. There is even a very nice campground.

The wind is pretty strong so I’ve got all of my stakes in but this tent has been used in some pretty harsh winds and it does really well. With it all repaired I think I’ll have some good peace of mind which should hopefully lead to a good nights rest.

Just for the record, I’ve now done three days straight of over 500 miles each. I am also now over 12,000 miles total for the trip.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the trip. There isn’t any part of it that I’m dreading or not looking forward to. Plus, even though I haven’t done most of these areas, the west just feels like home.

I’m happy.

Venmo: Jake-Weber-21

PayPal: webers@digis.net

Thanks!

Big day

I have so much I wanted to write about today but I have a raging headache so that may get difficult. You’ll also have to excuse the convoluted madness I may post.

Last night I camped. I did not sleep well. I woke up in physical pain at about 1am. My chest hurt. The actual bones hurt. I don’t know why. Perhaps I was sleeping on my arm or something. Regardless, I tossed and turned for hours, in and out of sleep until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I just got up. With a bad headache. Yay.

I got packed, popped some pills and got on the road. It was 52 degrees out when I started rolling just before 7am.

I put about 60 miles in before I found a little cafe and went through the breakfast routine. It was nice and quiet which was good because I still had the headache. Let’s just go ahead and say I’ve had it all day. I’m just barely keeping it from being a migraine, which would not be good.

I got to the only Harley dealership I was going to pass in Wisconsin just a few minutes before they opened. Two Vietnam vets were sitting outside smoking and joking and so we talked for a short while. I gave them one of my cards. I got my chip and then sat in the parking lot plugging my days waypoints into the nav.

My route would take me winding through northern Wisconsin, up along Lake Superior, back into the interior for awhile and then up to cross the border into Minnesota near Duluth.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love trees and it has been interesting to watch the forests change from lush deciduous to sparse pines. It almost reminds me of the tundra and forests in Alaska.

As I left the Harley dealer it began to sprinkle on me. The forecast said their was a 0% chance of rain. Looking at the skies it looked like it wouldn’t get much worse so I didn’t stop for any rain gear. The temperatures hovered in the high 60’s and low 70’s until I got near Lake Superior. Then the winds came on strong, the temps dropped and again with the rain. I was freezing but it still looked like it would pass so I just kept going.

When I turned away from the lake back into the interior, I started a little bit of a climb. I’m not kidding when I say that in 10 miles, the temperature went from 61 to 80. It was almost like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

And then I turned back towards the lake and Duluth. Freezing again.

I want to mention that all throughout this trip, the bugs haven’t been that bad. Ever since I’ve been in Wisconsin and Minnesota though, it feels like I’ve been hitting birds for 100’s of miles. At one point a construction flagger stopped me. It was only him and I and so I turned off the bike and we chatted for a minute. I was instantly swarmed by millions of gnats. It got so bad I couldn’t breathe without inhaling them. That’s not a joke.

In Duluth I got lunch from a place with the worst service ever. Just really slow and inept.

On my way through Minnesota I continued to admire the forests and the farms. I can’t imagine why people live here. 8 months of the harshest winters and then your four months of decent weather is just enough to get warm.

I did cross back over the Mississippi again near Brainard and at this point it is hardly noticeable. It feels good to be on the right side of that river.

I kept thinking this trip that at some point I’m going to cross some imaginary humidity boundary. I haven’t found it yet.

I’m camping just past Detroit Lakes Minnesota, near Long Lake. It’s deathly humid. The camp hosts say that this is unusual. It has already been sprinkling on me a little. I’ve got all my gear stowed where it may survive some rain. I still have holes in the roof of my tent so something is bound to get soaked. I really hope it just passes over. I need some sleep tonight.

One other thing. Something I’m reluctant to do but I’ll put it out there and you can all do as you like. I’ve had several donations and several others have asked how they can help. I’ll give you my Venmo and PayPal addresses and the rest is up to you. Yes, I really appreciate any help. Thank you.

Venmo: Jake-Weber-21

Paypal: webers@digis.net

Pictures like this never turn out the way they look in real life. This is a farmers field, at sunrise, just before crossing from Michigan into Wisconsin. It just felt peaceful. I had to share it.

Goodnight.