I’m tired

I’ve put in about 530 miles already.

I left my campsite in Dearborn Michigan at about 7:30am.

It was interesting to be going the opposite direction of the morning traffic. I was near the GM proving grounds and they have a plant just a bit further up the road in Flint. That means nearly every car I passed was something from the GM family. Like a weird episode in the twilight zone.

I stayed on the freeway for 258 miles, which took me all of the way to Mackinaw city and the Mackinac Bridge.

Before I ever left, I was discussing this trip with a good friend who is a very experienced motorcyclist. The first thing she suggested was to find a way to go over the M.B. so I did. A lot of my route planning for the great lakes region was designed around getting me to the bridge.

On the way there I passed the 45th parallel which is half way between the equator and the north pole. That was interesting.

I stopped in Mackinaw city for lunch and to take some pictures.

I told my friend I was here and she mentioned that I shouldn’t look down. So, of course I did. A lot.

Here’s the deal. The bridge was under construction which means everyone was going slowly. The deck of the bridge is metal grate. On a motorcycle I’m able to do something that people in cars can’t, and that is to look straight down. So I did. And woah. Crazy. I couldn’t do it long because I was still riding. That and it would instantly make you dizzy. It was only about 300 feet down. I loved it.

A few pics of the approach to the bridge proper.

After crossing the bridge I returned to back roads. Little did I know that on the Upper Peninsula, all of the roads are back roads. And they all had high speed limits. That, and not much traffic equaled a good time. I rode along the shorelines of both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The L.S. shoreline takes the cake for views. When I was on the interior roads, the scenery all looked the same but I was enjoying myself regardless.

As I was riding along I was trying to figure out where to stop. This area has a lot of camping options and so that made choices easy. I thought I wanted to at least get into Wisconsin but as I got closer the time zone changed. I was going to end up riding forever! I finally just called it a day and found an awesome campsite near a little lake outside of Crystal Falls Michigan. Which is where I am right now getting a pizza.

I feel good. Tired. But good. Today was my second longest day, behind the very first day which was probably over ambitious.

Everything feels good right now. At least as good as one can feel after a 500+ mile day on a motorcycle.

Bu the way, my wife is amazing. On the fourth of July, she, my kids, and a friend installed a sprinkler system in our yard. It ended up taking a few more days to get it all in and fine tune it but I am so amazed that she took that on. I think I need to leave more often.


According to the VA, and I assume other medical professionals, flashbacks are moments where the individual literally feels like they are back in the moment. The can see it, feel it, smell it and hear it. The mind thinks it’s there. It can be extremely traumatic, especially if they happen all of the time and the sufferer cannot control when they happen. To many people, that is the symptom that most defines PTSD.

I don’t have flashbacks.

I wonder if I am the odd one out.

I do however have intrusive thoughts. All of the time. If it’s quiet, my mind wanders. If I see something, my mind is filled with thoughts and images. I can smell something and it will trigger memories that I don’t want to remember.

It is never a good thing. I relive every bad situation in my life. Major events to crazy, stupid things that happened when I was a kid. I relive the moment in exact, excruciating detail. Some events pop up more often than others. Things that happened in combat.

I remember August 20th 2003 in vivid detail. The UN embassy in Baghdad had been bombed and we were there within an hour. For what reason I don’t know. That was above my pay grade. There are things I can’t unsee. It wasn’t a thing I really worried about for years. I thought about it often but I never thought it was a problem. It is now.

September 7th 2003. We were in a hasty perimeter around a military intelligence unit. We were attacked and it lasted for about 90 minutes. This was the first time I shot someone. Several someone’s. I exchanged fire with one guy. His bullets hit the tree next to my head and ricocheted into my helmet and neck. I hit my target. That date is one I can’t forget. Initially I was proud of that moment. My award was downgraded because of my rank but I still received a V for Valor. I may have thumped my chest a bit. Now I see it in detail every night. Every. Night. My neck is phantom burning as I write this.

One date I can’t remember because I never cared to look. I was the gunner in the last gun truck in a convoy. We were stopped for an IED up ahead. Another convoy stopped behind us. The driver and commander got out to ask questions and to help pull security. We all never saw the hidden, secondary IED at the drivers feet. It went off and blew me out of the back of the truck. I hopped up and ran around the back of the truck, finding the driver in a cloud of dust and blood. I jumped on top of him and readied myself for the ambush that was sure to come. After what seemed like awhile, someone pulled me off of him and we began first aid. Medevac would not land in our area because of the threat of fire so we had to load him in the back of our truck and drive him to an aid station. I never saw him again or heard anything regarding his status. I’d like to think he was ok. Realistically I know he wasn’t. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had just been going on adrenaline and I couldn’t hear anything. My ears were bleeding and I had a major headache. A headache I’ve never really gotten rid of. I told several officers and senior NCO’s about my headaches. They told me to get over it, they’d go away. They didn’t. I still get migraines all of the time and I never did before this. I relive this moment every night. Every. Night.

That seems like a lot of things to always be remembering. It is. It never really goes away.

I can’t help but think this may be why I’m on edge all of the time. The trauma never ends.

I had another incident my second tour. I won’t go into details. It was not combat related. It was worse than everything else I’ve mentioned. It destroyed me. It took everything I had and am/was and destroyed it. To the core.

It triggered everything. Before that I thought I was a badass. I was an NCO who had been in combat. I’d seen shit that no one would have believed. My squad was chosen for every terrible mission because my squad leader was the best and we worked hard to justify our status. I had been in so much shit that I had monthly meetings with our Battalion commander or Command Sergeant Major, just to make sure I was ok. I just brushed them off. Of course I was ok.

This last incident, in my last tour, made it all not ok.

I see it all.

I did EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. I’ve talked about this before.

It worked. I no longer relive that time in my life. But that was only that one incident. There are others. Many more.

I feel like I’m in a black hole and I’ll never claw my way out.

There are too many memories.

I wonder why I really haven’t written abou this before, or at least verbalized it. I have to my therapists, I think all of them.

Maybe because it is so constant. It’s just a part of my everyday life. I adapt to it. I’m sure I really haven’t but that is my new normal. I’m thinking that has a lot to do with why I’m angry all of the time. How could I be ok and happy when I have thoughts like that? That is impossible.

Adding stressors to my life just makes it all worse. Stress brings all of the thoughts, terrible memories and feelings of inadequacy to the forefront of my mind.

Then I collapse. I can’t see a way out. How could I when I think about this junk all of the time.

The reason I mention this all now is because I was having a good day. I am still as a matter of fact. I’m doing ok. But I caught myself reliving an event. So I thought of something else. Then not 10 minutes later I was reliving it again. I caught myself again. It was tedious but I was able to redirect my mind each time and right now I feel peaceful.

I’m hesitant to call this a breakthrough. Maybe just a good day. I wasn’t stressed today and so my mind was capable of handling it. Who knows what will happen if I’m having a bad day. Actually I know exactly what happens and I need to stop doing it.

I’ll keep working on it. Just writing this out brings back bad memories, and right before I go to sleep. This is the main reason I take sleeping pills. So my mind doesn’t tear me apart lying in bed.


As for my day?

I left Rob and Jenn’s home just after 7am. I received the coolest gift from them that I’ll treasure always. It’s a poker chip. One that commemorates their son who suffered and died from PTSD in the Navy. Thanks you two for everything.

I put close to 5 hours on the bike and got to the Chair Force (oops, did I just say that?) Museum around 12. I spent over 3 hours there. Here’s some of the things I saw.

Yeah, that’s a motorcycle. Right in the gift shop. I actually watched that episode of Orange County Choppers. To be honest, other than a few artistic parts, it looks like junk.

Another Me262! That’s 2 on this trip so far. This one is a single seater but still never saw combat.

The ACTUAL Memphis Belle. This display just opened in May so I feel pretty lucky to see it. I learned that the only reason this plane became famous and was sent home on a liberty bond tour was because the originally chosen plane and crew were shot down. Oh, and the guys in the ball turret were nuts.

If you are a veteran and dealing with Agent Orange effects, this is likely the plane responsible for it’s dispersment.

An MH53 Pave Low. My favorite Helicopter. This thing is huge.

My favorite airplane ever. A P-38J. This one saw action over Europe.

The first airplane model I ever built. I think I was 7 or 8. My dad helped. It’s and F 105 Thunder Chief. I still remember that day.

An A 10 Warthog. Brrrrrrt. This was our angel in the skies my first tour. All of the other American jets flew too high and didn’t care about the guys on the ground. This one did and we saw them all of the time.

They had added an entirely new hanger of exhibits. In part of it was the “Presidential” section. They had 3 former Air Force One’s including 26000 which flew every President from Kennedy to Clinton. It was surreal to see and stand where Lyndon Johnson was sworn in hours after Kennedy was killed and then to stand in the back of the plane where they placed his casket. They didn’t want to put him in the cargo hold and so they cut out a wall and removed seats. Jackie Kennedy had designed the outside of this plane. All very intersting.

My favorite WW1 fighter, a Spad XIII

An actual piece of the very first airplane, ever.

That was the museum. At this point I just wanted to put in some miles and so for the very first time on this trip, I deactivated the “no highways” filter on my GPS. 3 hours later at an average speed of 70mph and surprisingly little traffic, I made it into Michigan.

I am tired. 480 miles today.

Quick note, I’m about 10,600 miles total so far.

I’m in a good place.

Both mentally and physically.

I appreciate all of the comments and personal messages after yesterday’s post. You all know how to pick me up.

I wish I didn’t get all clingy but sometimes it happens.

Today was better.

Last night I camped literally in the back yard of a Harley Davidson dealership in New York. They had closed at 3pm on Saturday and weren’t open on Sunday. Plus they had a large lawn area which backed up to a bunch of trees. Perfect.

Unfortunately it dropped to 50 degrees overnight and all of my stuff got soaked from the dew in the air. It was so fun to put on wet clothes this morning and to put away wet gear.

Ignoring all of that, I began to head south towards Pennsylvania. I was hungry so I was on the lookout for a mom and pop cafe. None. Town after town. Not that there weren’t any open, there just weren’t any. I finally resolved to stop at the next breakfast place open, whatever it was.


Yay. But at this point it was 10:30 and I was really hungry. I’d already put in over 100 miles. A nice Vietnam vet in the lobby shook my hand and handed me $10 for my next tank of gas. McDonald’s ended up being a good place after all.

I’d received a message from Rob offering me dinner and a place to stay if I was heading through his town in Ohio. I checked the map and it was right on my way. Perfect!

So here I am. Cool. Dry. Comfortable. My clothes are in the laundry, I got a shower in and we had an amazing steak dinner. All that and I get to sleep in a bed tonight. I was even able to pull out all of my wet gear and laid it out to dry. It’s fun being able to really get to know people. I get tired of talking to myself.

I’m in a good place.

Tomorrow I’ll head off towards Dayton Ohio and the Air Force Museum.

Stupid games

I have a lot of time to kill just thinking to myself while I ride, so I play games by counting things. I know, I’m weird.

Here’s the latest one.

How many States have you slept it? Not in a car or airplane or other conveyance just passing through.

People like to brag about how many States they’ve been to, so here’s a new way to do it.

Me? 39. I’ll add a couple more as I go.

Time to think today

The weather today was perfect. Blue skies, mid 70’s and no wind. I was mostly in areas without traffic which was surprising with how I actually rode through Buffalo NY.

It was peaceful which is a great time to just relax and think.

Before I get to all of that, I did stop in Palmyra for some Mormon history. First was Joseph Smith’s boyhood home (rebuilt). A nice lady gave me a personal tour.

I then climbed a hill nearby because they all said I had to. Then I got chased down by some “sister missionaries” who wanted to make sure I had a book of mormon on my ride. No thanks. No room.

Then began the much longer than anticipated ride to Niagra Falls. This place was over run with people and I’ll just say it, most of them were from India. I found that interesting. In my neck of the woods all of the tourists are Asian, mostly Chinese.

I parked, walked quickly down to the falls and then walked quickly back. Less than half an hour which was plenty. Yes, I saw a wedding there. Why? It’s also touted as the honeymoon capital of the world. Again, why?

So here’s the deal.

I’ve recently wondered what I’ve done to scare everyone off. I would say that it doesn’t matter but it does. Yes, I’m doing this for me but I do want to get this put there to where it can help. Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve had several people message me saying that my story is resonating with them.

Recently? Not so much.

Which got me thinking and not necessarily in a good way. I thought about the types of people who are following me and why. I have a lot of new people who I don’t know following me, mostly because it’s been shared on a page they follow or they’re a member of a group that has posted my blog address.

It is somewhat a motorcycle blog so I have a lot of people in the community following.

Mostly this is a Human story blog though. I’m not getting the human part of it out there enough.

I also have a lot of family following. They’re family. They have to. Plus it gives them all something to gossip about at Christmas parties.

I have long time friends who are here, following and cheering me on in the comments and in PM’s. That means a lot to me and is really helping to keep me going.

I realized though that not many of my bicycling friends are here. Does that mean that we’re just acquaintances after all?

I’ve posted before about how PTSD makes you question relationships and to cut ties the moment you feel slighted.

I’m trying very hard not to feel that way. I have a whole community of cycling friends who I thought would be invested in my journey. There are a few but those friendships carry on beyond the bike.

I’ve coached for 7 years. I’ve guided for 8. I have very few of those people here.

I want to think I’m being unrealistic. This feels very awkward to write all of this and I don’t want to offend anyone. It really is where my mind goes a lot of the time. Who cares and who doesn’t?

I’ve had a lot of friends who can tell you how fast I can feel slighted and write them off. It’s always my fault and I’m left scrambling to apologize.

I just feel that in this blog, I’m putting more of myself out there than ever before. I’m raw and vulnerable. Isn’t this when friends would at least give you a one line encouragement? I feel that should be expected.

I’d really like feedback on this. Tell me I’m nuts (the VA agrees with you). Or, tell me why you’d be upset as well. Whatever you feel like saying. I just need to hear from you.

I guess I feel lonely.

I am happy though. Odd balance.

Pics from SW New York this evening.

Fitting this in.

My phone was wet all day yesterday and the battery wouldn’t charge. Here it is, Saturday the 7th and I’m sitting in a cafe in Hannibal New York, trying to kill time while it charges.

Friday morning at 4:45 I was awakened by the pitter patter of rain on the roof of my tent. I was actually lucky.

For the last week I haven’t been putting the rainfly on my tent. One, it’s just easier and two, it keeps it cooler. But my campsite this time had zero privacy so I put it on so I could change my clothes. I even put all of my gear inside. So when I woke up to the rain, I just smiled and rolled over. And then suddenly sat up, remembering that my clothing bag was uncovered on the back seat of the bike. A quick, wet run and all was taken care of.

I stayed in the tent until almost 8am because I lacked the motivation to pack up in the rain. I finally did so and as I rolled up the wet tent and put it away, I knew I’d have a fun time pulling it out later.

I was off for the day. I just intended to ride, with only the customary stops, nothing special.

My route took me across Vermont and then into New York. I had to take a ferry from Charleston VT to Essex NY. While I was bracing my bike against to waves of Lake Champlain, I was also entering in my next 20 waypoints. Sitting there, otherwise occupied, a really nice couple with a huge black lab approached me to talk about my bike and my combat service. I’m still glad I wear my cvma vest as it is a good icebreaker. We chatted for a bit and I handed him a card. He left and a few minutes later he came back. He’d read the card and wanted to talk more about my trip. They have an Instagram account for their dog that you all might be interested in #shermanthecitydog

I know I mentioned yesterday that it was about 100 degrees all day. Well, today was about 65 with gray, overcast skies, sometimes rain, and really windy. Quite a change.

I was now riding through the Adirondacks. I even went through Lake Placid which ended up being a really bad idea. Apparently it’s where all of New York goes to vacation on a holiday weekend. I survived though and kept meandering on my way.

I found a place to camp at a State Park on the banks of Lake Ontario. Crazy enough, even a State Park isn’t cheap in New York. They have a normal rate, but then they have a weekend rate, an additional fee if you aren’t a NY resident, and an additional $2.75 if you didn’t make a reservation. Damn. I’m surprised I didn’t have to pay more for not being a minority. I cringed as I pulled my soaking wet tent out of the bag and tour pack. This was going to be fun. The camp area was packed, no privacy and it seemed like an elementary school playground without all of the kids running around. I think everyone ignored the quiet time hours. Fortunately the sleeping pill kicked in and I don’t remember much until morning. I do remember having to pull on another blanket as it got cold. It was 53 degrees when I woke up. That makes it difficult to pry yourself out of the sleeping bag. First thing I did was to check to see if my phone would charge. Nope. That made me worried. Fortunately it is charging now. Fingers crossed it still charges back on the bike.

Today I will end up riding through Palmyra, which is historically significant for all of my Mormon friends. I really didn’t plan on going there but as I was plugging in waypoints, it just happened to be the next one up. It should be interesting. I think I’ll take a tour.

Then on to Niagara Falls. Megan says I’m not allowed to find a barrel but I have goals. I’ll try to post pictures but that might get interesting.

Off to put in some miles.

Today was a rough one

I really felt like I was losing it today. So many things should have made me feel good today. As I posted earlier, I made it to a pretty major milestone in the trip.

That euphoria was short lived.

I had decided late last night to follow a “recommended” route along the coast of Maine until I reached the town of Belfast. I’d make that a loop back to a couple dealerships to get chips and that would make for a great time in Maine. Or so I thought.

Here’s some quick advice for anyone wanting to ride or drive through the Maine countryside. Don’t.

Ok. So it being the day after a holiday could have something to do with it. I did see a ton of out of state plates. Mostly Massachusetts.

Here’s the deal.

Traffic. Constantly. Everywhere. On the coast. In towns. Between towns. In the hills. In the mountains.

Now, that wouldn’t be so bad. If…if everyone would just achieve the damn speed limit. I don’t care if you only go the speed limit. I really don’t care if you go a reasonable amount over. But in the name of everything holy. Just achieve it. There isn’t a single car made after 1990 that can’t go the speed limit, anywhere in this great nation. If it can’t, get it off the road.

This wasn’t a one time thing. Or even occasionally. It was absolutely constant. If the limit was 55 (typical), the person in front would be doing 40. Yep. 40. And no one would pass them! There would be a huge line of cars just meandering along. On the rare occurance of a dotted center line, there would inevitably be the same traffic coming at us. On the even rarer occasion that I could pass, the car I was passing would try to speed up to close the gap. Every time!

This went on for almost the entire day save for two times.

The first was bumper to bumper, stop and move 5 feet and stop again, traffic. There was obviously an accident up ahead based on the ambulances flying by. There were no alternate routes because of all the lakes in the area.

The north east is in the middle of a record setting heat wave and at one point my thermometer displayed 100 degrees. Motorcycles don’t have AC, at least not yet, and I was completely exposed. No shade.

After about 2 hours of this I couldn’t take it anymore and so I pulled into a roadside tavern to take advantage of their air conditioning and to talk to my wife on the phone, killing some time.

I tried again after an hour and made it through in about 30 minutes.

A Ford F series had wiped out a guy and his wife on a Harley. I don’t know the outcome but none of the ambulances left with their lights and sirens on.

That was an enlightening moment and really served to chill out my road rage for the day.

Odd how the rest of the day was quite peaceful. It was all my mindset.

It did help that once I crossed back into New Hampshire the roads became more remote and the crowds thinned out.

Because of all of the setbacks today, I didn’t make it as far as I’d originally planned but that’s never been the point of this trip and so I’m happy.

I’m shacked up in a reasonably overpriced campground for the night. Already showered and waiting on a small load of laundry, just because I don’t have anything else to do. Dinner is on the bench next to me, beef jerky and trail mix. So good.

I feel like I need to stop thinking of all of the things I am really tired of and start to really look around at where I am and enjoy the journey.

I realized I didn’t take any other pictures today so you get this one. My beat down, too much sun, selfie.

Happy 4th of July!

Today was sponsored by an old battle buddy. He wanted to make sure I had a hotel and a good dinner. His words.

It made today so much nicer and easier on the mind knowing that I’d have a real bed to sleep in tonight.

So a huge thank you goes out to him and a couple others. I appreciate the love.

I left camp early and by 7am I was sitting in a little cafe getting coffee and French toast. That’s always a decent way to start the day.

At some point while driving through New York state this last week, a gentleman approached me as I was fueling up. He’d noticed my combat vets vest and he is a member of the Patriot Riders Motorcycle club. As we were discussing my trip, he mentioned that I should really do Mt. Washington. I’d heard of it before but it hadn’t been on my route. Well, somehow I’d changed things up enough that it would be “on the way”. I’m so glad I did it. It costs $17 for a motorcycle to ride to the top. The mountain has some long history with Americans. The first idiot climbed it in 1649. Why? I don’t know. Then some other idiots built a “hotel” up there in 1852. Apparently there were a lot of stupid people back then because the hotel was busy. Mt. Washington has the highest recorded wind speed on earth. It as also typically covered in clouds or very low visibility along with the winds. I got lucky today. It was 71 degrees at the summit, clear blue skies and zero wind. People I overheard talking had been there many times and had never seen it that nice. By the way, the road up is insanely narrow and steep. No guardrails or a center line for most of it. They were also doing construction so a mile of it was compacted dirt.

I survived the mountain and literally got the bumper sticker (they hand them out at the bottom).

I figured since I was so close to Maine, I might as well cross the border.

I hadn’t really figured out where I’d be for the 4th and as I rode along, I decided that Portland would be as good a place as any. Especially since I didn’t need to worry about camping. So nice.

I pulled into Portland’s old district and found a lobster shop right on a pier. It was about 2pm and I was hungry. Hungry and lobster don’t equal cheap. Oh well. Two lobster rolls hit the spot. So much so that I’m writing this at 11:10pm and I’m not hungry. That was fun, and really good. I wish I could find them back home.

While I was eating I looked over at one of the charter whale watching boats. I checked out their website just for kicks and saw that they were doing a fireworks cruise that evening and there was only 1 ticket available. Boom. Mine.

I’m not sure what possessed me to do the cruise. I wanted to see the fireworks but I didn’t know where to go and the whole crowd thing. The cruise solved those two problems.

I’m not one of those vets that avoids fireworks. I personally think it’s ridiculous. If a loud noise surprises me, then yes, I may get triggered. If I’m expecting it and know where it’s coming from, like fireworks, then it’s perfectly fine.

It turned out to be a really enjoyable evening.

Now I’m back at the hotel. Another old one too. This one is really quaint. It was built in 1879. My bathroom is my own, but it’s down the hall and I need to use my key. Plus I go up a million crazy stairs just to get to the third floor. I love it.

I think tomorrow I’ll follow the coast for just a short while before I make the turn West.

I hope everyone still has all of their fingers.

Happy 4th of July!

A post script to July 3rd.

About 10 miles after dinner I’m really starting to think about where I’ll be camping. The sun is quickly setting and I’d prefer not to set up camp in the dark.

As I’ve posted before, it’s really hit or miss asking my nav or Google for places to camp. Against my better judgement I went with the closest camping option on my nav.

It proceeds to take me on some crazy back roads where there is actually a town. Rumney New Hampshire. Amazing. They even had a cemetary that required fields on both sides of the road. I pulled into the Baker Campground and of course the office is closed. Dejected, I walk back to my bike. A voice calls after me. A kind woman checks me in and charges me $10 less than the nightly rate. I also got a spot overlooking the Baker River.

I also obviously have cell service. That means I get to call my wife tonight which is a major plus.

Why is it that some days I’m able to rise above the crap I’ve been handed? I really wish I could figure that out. Right now I feel like a normal person and I’m happy.

To a better tomorrow…

Oh. I totally forgot to say that the weather is so nice right now. This is the first night in forever that I haven’t lost 10lbs in sweat weight while setting up my tent in the humidity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still humid. I can’t wait until I get back west to dry heat.