You can read part 1 by dropping down a few posts.
So I was under way and headed towards Kentucky on the GS. It was a cool late fall night and the weather was good. I figured that by leaving at such an odd hour I would avoid traffic, but I wasn’t so lucking. Around 1:30am I entered into the NYC area and immediately got stuck in a construction zone. The traffic was backed up as the highway merged into one single lane. The motorcycle quickly died on me. It didn’t like to idle, and it was hard to keep it running at any reasonable rpm, so it stalled. Repeatedly. The bike was hard to start when warm due to a small air leak in the intake manifold. Most warm motors will fire right up with a little throttle, but this one didn’t. The choke had to be on full and it took some cranking to nearly flood the motor, at which point it would roar to life and rev to the moon.
I stalled and restarted the bike many times and eventually made it through the construction zone and back to open road. The highways in the New Jersey area are terribly rough and not ideal for motorcycling. Hitting pot holes and bumps is unavoidable. The luggage behind me would shift forward with every bump pushing me up onto the gas tank. I should have tied it down better. But there was no time to stop and make adjustments, I was in New Jersey, and no one has ever wanted to stop in New Jersey if they didn’t have to. So I just rode with one hand on the bars using my other hand to hold back the luggage as best I could. It was tiring and difficult to say the least. Who knew a small case full of clothes could be so heavy!
As soon as I hit Pennsylvania it started to rain a little bit. I pulled over at a gas station to refuel and I went inside for a plastic bag to put my camera and phone into so the water wouldn’t ruin them. My leather jacket is of no protection in the rain and in fact, it soaks up water like a sponge. The attendant at the counter was a nice older gentleman who warned me “I hope you aren’t traveling west.” To which I replied, “Actually, I am.” “There is a big storm coming through right now, you might want to wait it out,” he advised.
I thought on the mans words for a brief minute, then grabbed the bag, threw in my electronics and hopped back on the bike. Hey, I’m not afraid of a little rain!
A few miles down the road the rain began to get heavy. It was now about 4:30am and I was beginning to get a little chilled. The rain quickly soaked through my jacket and fleece shirt. I could feel the water pooling in the seat. I began to get cold. At this point however the biggest problem was visibility. I was on the highway in the dark and in the rain, and the little GS headlight put out barely enough power to light my path.
As I entered Maryland the rain became torrential. Sheets and sheets of rain pounding the street and filling it like a river. I was now entering the mountains, I would not see another major town for several hundred miles. The roads were empty, no lights anywhere, and my headlight was too dim to read the signs as I drove past. At higher speeds I could feel the front wheel begin to hydroplane, which is terrifying. I did my best to find a good balance between driving safely and making good time – after all, I wanted to complete 1,000 miles in 24 hours so I couldn’t slow down too much.
The key to driving recklessly or in awful weather on a motorcycle is to be extremely on edge but NEVER make any sudden movements. Every muscle in your body needs to be tensed ready to compensate for sudden hydroplaning effects, corners, or gusts of wind. You never want to touch anything with more than the lightest pressure. Acceleration, braking, and cornering should be the most methodical movements you’ve ever made. Gentle and easy. It is also more important to prepare your body to absorb debris and potholes rather than planning to avoid them. Always keep your front wheel facing directly forward.
The early morning winds and drenching rains made me completely freezing, but there was no stopping. As day broke I prayed for sun. After a couple fuel stops the sun eventually came and the rain began to soften. I emerged on the other side of the storm cold, wet, on edge, and exhausted – but triumphant!
More to come. . . . . it gets worse and the story gets better! The most dangerous riding I have ever done in my life is yet to come.