Daniel's pannier stickers.
Today was the day Daniel was beginning his epic adventure to the Arctic Circle/Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and there were actually a few of us that wanted to go along to witness this occasion. You will need to visit his website ATL to the Arctic to see more send off pictures and hear his family's side of the departure.
We met up at Blue Moon Motorcycles in Norcross at 10 and managed to get under way by 10:30. In all 7 bikes accompanied Daniel out of town, with one person peeling off early. It felt a little like a mad dash to get onto the freeway. And it definitely felt like regular Atlanta hitting stopped traffic at the 285/20 interchange. The good thing about being on a bike in traffic is being able to zip through cars and jump into the lanes way down the road. The bad thing about being in a large group of bikes is that you aren't able to do that. :-) Our fearless leader made all of the right decisions and we made it onto I-20 West without trouble.
From here it is just a ride due West to Birmingham, Alabama and Daniel's first stop at Barber Museum. This little leg of the journey is 130 miles of flat and easy interstate riding with nothing to look at but the bike in front of you. I hadn't anticipated ending up riding third, right behind Daniel. And I had turned the GoPro at a 90 degree angle to direction of travel, hoping to catch some side shots of the country. But it dawned on me that I could try to snag some images of my fellow riders! So I popped out of formation, rode up next to Daniel and by pointing and miming hoped I had made my intent known. By this time our fearless leader was wondering what I was up to and had slowed down. I made the same gestures to him and I think he got the idea as well. I moved back into the fast lane and the rest of the group moved into the slow lane.
Now this is another area of "stupid user" issues with the GoPro. Looking at angles and elevation I knew my throttle arm would be in the shot, but thought it would be low in the frame. Well...never assume... I've wound up with 1500 shots of my arm on prominent display with a few discernible features in the background. Sometimes. Live and Learn. So these are the shots I ended up with for Daniel and his motorbike.
Daniel and his steed.
Daniel and his loaded steed more visible.
Fearless leader, Paulius.
The camera managed to capture one good image of some strange things seen on the road.
Sharing the road with a tank.
The most emotional experience wasn't captured though. Just before reaching the border we slowed down our convoy and moved into the right lane. No one was quite sure what was going on, but fearless leader wasn't concerned. Till suddenly we saw in the shade of an overpass a couple cars on the side of the road and a large group of people waving signs and cheering. I assumed they were more of Daniel's supporters and was very happy they were seeing him on the road. I found out later they were his sister Kris (the one he started this for), her children and husband, and Daniel's father. They had driven down from Rome to see him off! Sitting here crying just writing this. Fearless leader had known about the surprise visit and was anticipating them. This was a complete surprise for Daniel and just helped him on a little more.
We arrived at Barber in due time, extremely hot and sweaty! Barber was great and gave us complimentary tickets to the museum. I have had opportunities to go to Barber in the past, but never took them. I mean, it has seemed interesting, but nothing that I felt I wanted to go out of my way for. I was wrong and will admit it. If you don't go for the museum you need to go on a track day.
The museum is definitely something to behold with the architecture and the volume of vehicles. It is 5 levels of fabulous displays mostly of motorcycles, but containing a couple other hot vehicles.
We were only able to spend about an hour here. Not nearly enough time. But Daniel needed to press on and we all needed to eat. To spend our last minutes that we could, we traveled about half a mile down the road and had a last meal of sandwiches at Bass Pro Shop. I've never seen a deli in one, and this one was nice!
We had a humorous farewell and conclusion. We were all kinda expecting to watch Daniel ride off into the sunset. But he kinda was waiting around for us to leave first. We didn't get the hint until he finally spoke up and told us to leave because he wanted to say goodbye to his girlfriend without us hanging around. :-) We laughed, we hugged, we cried. OK. The guys didn't necessarily do that but Daniel's girlfriend (BK), his mother and I did. I've had the chance to get to know them over the last couple of days and they are wonderful women. So we suited up and headed off. Our dramatic exit was a little marred by a couple people taking an exit out of the parking lot that was closed. Necessitating u-turns and ride-bys. ;-)
We stopped at the corner station for gas and were able to honk and wave and make spectacles of ourselves for Daniel's benefit when he rode by. God speed, safety and blessings of fun on you Daniel!! (Since I have taken so long in writing this Daniel has busted his rump and has reached Idaho to meet up with his brother, who will be riding a ways with him into Canada. Read his blog to see his road pictures and updates.)
Now for the rest of us...towards the end of lunch our little return party felt it might be fun to ride Cheaha. Cheaha State Park contains the highest elevation in Alabama at 2,407 ft. above sea level. With some nice, twisty roads to boot. Wanting to approach it from the back, and not wanting to take I-20, we navigated the side roads to the park. This was an interesting adventure as the leaders GPS connection was tenuous and would cut out/reboot the unit every time he hit a bump. And this is Alabama; bumps are everywhere. Another guy stepped up and we wound our way around the country side. This comes back to our temperature issues. Yes, on the way to Barber hitting patches of air that were 94F were actually feeling downright cool. On these backroads we never did experience cooler temps until we climbed the peak into the park. At our halfway point hydration stop we started comparing temp readings. Paulius' read 104F. Phil's read 102. I had stopped looking at mine when it read 100.4F and sweat is streaming down my face while we are moving at 55 MPH. Sweating is normal and expected at a stop, but while moving at speed with the helmet shield cracked?!? Highly unusual. I think we all sucked down about half a gallon of liquid each, huddled in the shade of a cement brick building with an occasional breeze flitting by.
Hitting the twisties on approach to the park the main pack took off and had some fun. Bringing up the rear I slowed down and took my time. 1) These are unfamiliar roads to me, plus narrow and twisty and I didn't want to ride fast. 2) My dark visor shield, the shade of the trees and the light gray color of the road prevented me from discerning if there was any gravel on the road. 3) I wanted to look around at the sites. So I took it easy and every once in awhile I would round a corner to see Phil waiting to catch sight of me. Then he would continue on to wait again in a couple miles or the next road intersection. :-) Thank you Phil! The only time I questioned if they had taken a different direction was one I saw the swim lake. We had been taking about water and rivers and cooling dips and I wasn't sure if they could have passed up that opportunity. Alas, they had.
We made it to the peak and stopped for more hydration and salty snacks. The campground store was well equipped with food/drinks and park benches for us to sit in this downright cool 86F shade! How long has it been since you could say 86F was cool?? We rested and chatted for about 30 minutes before hitting the road again. Most of us were still about 2 hours from home and it was approaching 6 pm EST. I texted Mr. Oilburner to let him know I was on my way. He texted back that it was raining up a storm at home. When I told the guys the consensus was to hurry up so we might be able to catch some of that rain!
The return road down the mountain was wide, sweeping curves made for speeding. But my trepidation won out on the light colored road again. This time someone else was bringing up the rear and I slowed him down a little. The other guys had gone ahead. And either they took a turn we didn't or they had roared on through to the freeway, because we never saw them again. My tail gunner and I hit the freeway and headed East. The rest of the ride was uneventful. Mark peeled off a little after the border crossing, leaving me to Atlanta freeways and rain. I wasn't worried since I have my highly visible saddle bags with reflectors on that all cagers shun. I didn't encounter wet roads until the I-20/I-85N transition. And even then it was rapidly evaporating. I didn't hit any rain myself, just the remnants of a heavy rain and large puddles. I took the long street home that curves in front of the house so Mr. Oilburner could see me or hear my blaring, blatting horn and would come rushing to open the garage door for me. :-) I had been on the bike for about 2 hours by this time and couldn't manage to get out of the saddle. I just had to sit there a few minutes, flexing the legs before even thinking about dismounting.
The day amounted to 355 miles at about 11 hours total time. It was bloody hot and humid like you would not believe. I felt for Daniel that was going to have to go through a couple more days of this. But soon enough he would be hitting the unseasonably low temps that North America is experiencing. It was a special day for what it was: seeing a friend begin his epic adventure.
My fifth state: Alabama
Horrible 102F+ temps
Riding with a friend at the beginning of his journey