Friday, September 3, 2010

Great River Ride – Reflections

Great River Ride 2010 Map

The idea for the riding the Great River Road (GRR) started last year when were first found a map of the route in a visitor center in Dubuque, IA. We both thought it would be fun, and then set the idea aside. The trip started off this year as a ride down to Virginia International Raceway to watch the TTXGP electric motorcycle races, but after looking at calendars and distances we decided to just stick with the GRR and the mountains.

The trip almost didn’t happen. Two weeks before we were to leave, I took a heavy hit while at Flat Track School. I twisted my knee and pulled a muscle in my back in addition to bruising it through my back protector. For most of those two weeks, I could barely walk and could not lift much of anything. I’m lucky to have good friends to help; the bike was prepped and ready to go.

We left Minneapolis and rode to the start of the Mississippi. We chose this as the beginning since it seemed logical to start at the beginning of the river. It also gave us a chance to ride past our home and abort if it was too much for me. We were lucky things worked out.

The first few days were tough, but we managed. I wore a very stiff knee brace and had a steady dose of vitamin I (Ibuprofen ;) ). At each stop, my wife would hop off the back of the bike and put the kick stand out as I couldn’t. She also carried all the bags around. By Iowa, I was nearly 100% and was able to do things for myself again. We made a great team.

We made it to the end of the river in Louisiana and followed the Gulf around to Florida. From there we headed north and into the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. We rode some great roads in TN, NC, and WV, but my favorite of the trip was probably OH-555 with the Cherohala Skyway a close second. We then circled back towards Chicago and then to Minnesota.

At each gas stop we had a bit of a routine. I would take care of the gas and getting food/water and my wife would clean our visors and lights. She also gave the bike a quick visual inspection to make sure everything was still normal. Our routine also carried on to our hotels. Once we stopped for the night, she would wash all our riding clothes in the sink, and I would dry them.  The rest of the day was pretty much sleep, read emails/comments, ride/site see, upload photos, write the post, and repeat.

We both feel very lucky to have been fortunate enough to meet some friends on the road: Bash3r, Eve, Linda and Bruce, and Sojourner. Thank you for your hospitality; it really made the trip special. I also appreciate all of the emails and comments (blog, flickr,facebook, and twitter). The interactions made the trip richer and much more interesting for both of us.

We covered 4723 miles in 19 days covering 19 different states. Here is a break down for those who like stats/details:

Day 1  - 192 miles - Minneapolis to Park Rapids
Day 2  - 263 miles - Itasca to Brainerd
Day 3  - 420 miles - Brainerd to Dubuque
Day 4  - 216 miles - Dubuque to Fort Madison
Day 5  - 216 miles - Fort Madison to St. Louis
Day 6  - 335 miles - St. Louis to Blytheville
Day 7  - 459 miles - Blytheville to Baton Rouge
Day 8  - 174 miles - Baton Rouge to Venice
Day 9  - 155 miles - Venice to Long Beach
Day 10 - 145 miles - Long Beach to Pensacola
Day 11 - 272 miles - Pensacola to Birmingham
Day 12 - 241 miles - Birmingham to Sweetwater
Day 13 - 151 miles - Sweetwater to Sweetwater (Dragon/Cherohala)
Day 14 - 374 miles - Sweetwater to Charleston
Day 15 - 242 miles - Charleston to Columbus (OH-555)
Day 16 - 196 miles - Columbus to Fort Wayne
Day 17 - 180 miles - Fort Wayne to Chicago
Day 18 - 189 miles - Chicago to Madison
Day 19 - 293 miles - Madison to Minneapolis

Average of 249 miles a day

States covered in order: MN, IA, WI, IA, MO, KY, TN, AR, MI, LA, MI, FL, AL, GA, TN, NC, VI, WV, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN

I’ve now motorcycled in 26 states vs the 14 at the beginning of the trip.

Motorcycle Visited States Map as of 2010-09-01

We created 85GB of digital content on the trip! 1170 photos and 75 videos. There is about 24 hours of video… I’m not sure how I’m going to go through it all yet to find the interesting bits!

We travelled very light. We each had one 40L side case for clothes, food, and tools. The top case was only used for the netbook, DSLR, GoProHD, and to put the tank bag when we stopped. The tank bag only had the camelbak and our rain gear.

We brought with a lot of snacks and some other food to keep our costs down. My wife had the jetboil and snacks on her side, and I had the rest of the food. We made oatmeal most mornings which saved us a bunch of money.

Overall, we only spent about $300 on food and another $300 on gas. Most of our expenses were lodging. We spent around $1500 which was right on budget.

The bike, my SV650, worked near flawlessly. We only had to adjust the tire pressure a couple times. By the end of the trip the chain needed to also be tightened along with the steering head bearing. An oil change later, the bike was back in working order. To my surprise, the tires are still have tread too.

We both really enjoyed this trip. It has left us with many great memories, experiences, and stories. It was also full of firsts. It was my longest motorcycle trip (time and distance) along with the longest trip (time and distance) we’ve taken together.

It was also the first time I’ve blogged an entire trip. I’m very glad I did. It has been a great reminder for us of the details of the trip which tend to blur together after time. It also became a vehicle to interact with our friends and family. I will be doing it again (hopefully sooner rather than later!). It was hard to come back to reality (lawn mowing, plumbing fails, and work) after such a great time, so we left ourselves a day at home to get back into the swing of things.

Thank you for joining us on our trip! We’re eagerly looking forward to our next adventure.


Full Flickr photo collection here.

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  1. Chris: It was great fun to tag along. I'm so glad all worked out physically for you and that by Iowa you were better than good enough.

    I wondered about the re-entry. That's usually the worse part of the trip.

    Thanks for the share.


  2. Yes, thank you for posting as you went along. It was fun to check and see where you were and enjoy the pictures.


  3. Keith: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Yes, yet again, I think was I healed by riding. We tried to be smarter this time, and kept an extra day after the trip for "re-entry". It seemed to work.

    Richard: I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Are you still using google latitude? What do you think about it? I've made the public badge static until my next trip (hopefully soon!).

  4. Chris,
    I'm still playing with Latitude and when I'm out of town, I turn up the resolution but will probably leave the public badge in "City only" mode most of the time. Not sure of it's usefulness beyond a web widget.


  5. Richard: I've come to a similar conclusion. It was neat a few weeks ago to see that another friend from MN was in IL at the same time. It didn't change anything, but neat.