Saturday, August 27, 2011

BigTrip2011 - Day 12 - Jack’s Obstacle Course


I started the day (August 9, 2011) refreshed after a long sleep.  The clock radio had a headphone cord on the back! (Awesome idea) I plugged it into my phone, and turned it all the way up. This was a new hotel which was still being built, so I didn’t have any neighbors. The music really helped to spice up my oatmeal I cooked for breakfast in the in-room microwave.


After breakfast, I rode back to Annapolis. I hadn’t gotten a chance to look around the night before as I was too tired.


Sadly, the capitol building was covered in scaffolding and giant blankets.


Annapolis felt very European to me with the buildings close together and the brick roads.


They even hid the power,phone, cable lines to preserve the look. nice!


After Annapolis, I rode east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to start the directions Jack Riepe sent the night before. He was kind enough to include three different sets. I chose the most scenic route of the three as I had time and the weather was nice in MD.

chesapeake bay bridge

On one of the country roads I passed by a number of scooters – this was one of them.

moped rider

The closer to Jack’s house I was, the darker the clouds. At what looked like the edge of the storm, I pulled over and put on my raingear. I kept the tinted shield. It didn’t look like it would be a bad storm.


In the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, I was enjoying the route Jack had laid out. Then the wind picked up and started blowing the leaves off of the trees.

wind picks up and blows leaves out of trees

It got very dark. I didn’t realize how dark until I saw my headlight reflecting on the road signs. Even though it was noon, it felt like 9pm. Then it started to rain.

rain picks up

I tried my best to follow the route, but it was getting harder and harder to see the directions on my tank bag not to mention the road signs. I abandon the route about 15 miles out from Jack’s house and began to follow the GPS since I could easily see the screen.

As the storm got worse, my speed kept getting slower and slower.

heavy wind and rain

My GPS lead me down this road which was closed for construction – dead end. I sat at the red light for what seemed like hours in the pouring rain waiting for the green. It gave me time to decide left or right since there was no detour sign. The GPS wouldn’t start re-routing until I turned off of its suggested route. A truck went by to the left. I decided to follow it since large trucks usually use main roads one of which would hopefully go the way I wanted. I was less than 10 miles from Riepe’s place now. Given different circumstances, I might have pulled over to wait. There wasn’t anywhere to pull over, and I was so close to my destination. My gear was keeping me dry, so I pushed on.

road closed

I started up the hill. There was a lot of water coming down. My boots, while on the pegs, were dragging in the water.

flooded road start

The mud from the side of the road obscured the road surface which wasn’t smooth. My front tire bounced around as I climbed up the hill. 

really flooded road

There was a lot of water on the road!

car bow wave

Multiple times the wave from my front tire was splashing up to my handlebars. I was happy to have the fenda-extenda on the front fender to keep the water out of the forward facing spark plug!

water splashing up to my bars

The cars were also going slow. Many of them were considerate and slowed even more when we passed each other. This guy didn’t. It was a huge wave that went over my head!

sprayed by car

The rain took a breather as I rolled in to West Chester, PA still following my GPS. It lead me right into a lunchtime traffic jam.

west chester traffic

I escaped the mess of cages and only had one more turn until I was on Riepe’s street. I was only half a mile away now. Then the cars started stopping again – some of them even turned around. I crawled forward unable to see the cause of the delay. When I got to the front of the line, there was a UPS driver standing in the middle of the road. His truck was no where to be seen.

He said “The road is blocked. A tree fell in the storm.”

I replied “How blocked?”

He shrugged “You might fit.”

I waved, and rolled on the throttle. His truck was parked five or six blocks up the road. The tree was three blocks beyond the truck. Just as I pulled up a worker, pulled the last branch from the shoulder. A skinny strip of clear pavement appeared. With the tree and worker out of the way, I slowly rode through. There had to be more than twenty cars waiting on the other side.

Tree Blocking Road

Minutes later, I saw Jack’s house and pulled into the driveway. The garage door opened and I heard a voice call out for me to pull in. Jack was waiting for me inside. When I mentioned the storm, he said I should have stayed at the hotel.


I was lucky enough to park next to his K75 named “Fireballs”. From the stories of cooking deer in mid-jump and disintegrating small rodents, I expected more lights.


Jack made Leslie and I some food. He refused to eat it as he said “It tastes like garbage”. We enjoyed our garbage. It was tasty.


We stayed up well past midnight chatting away and swapping stories – another great meetup!

Thanks Jack!


The storm was in the top three of worst storms I have ridden in. Strangely, all three storms were on the SV650 and in other states (CO, LA, PA). I seem to experience a boot-dragging-in-the-water storm once a year. I have the entire ride on video, and I will be posting that later.


About 120 miles today. The last 20 miles took over 70 minutes.

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  1. I always hate the guys that drive superfast on flooded roads... even when I was in my truck I hated trucks/cars passing me like that... its like "really?... you need to get there that fast that you're pushing water up into other cars and potentially people's houses" (typically happened during tropical storms back home in Texas). *sighs* people are so weird... me, me, me / completely obvious to their impact on other people ... *sigh* ... personally never ridden in flooded roads on a motorcycle.. not sure if I would... especially on roads I dont know... not sure about there.. but here and back in Texas they seem to love to put man covers in the middle of the road... in more than one storm seen them washed off, and cars finding the open hole the hard way. Hate to do that on a bike.. but got to do, what you got to do.

    And I've been seeing those more often in my business travels and trips about... really nice to have my own music instead of trying to find the local station equiv... if they have one.

  2. For a moment I thought, how the heck did you manage to get to Holland? That road in Annapolis indeed looks very dutch to me.

    That rain storm was awful, I am glad that you got through unscathed and not hurt by fallen trees or flushed away. Not sure I would have been riding in this weather, it looks really dangerous, especially if there are still stupid cagers around.

    Jack seems to attract a lot of travelers lately, I hope you guys had a good time together. And I wouldn't mind some of that 'crappy food' either especially after this kind of an adventurous ride.

  3. Great writeup and complementary posting to Jack's posting of your visit. It's good to have pictures to go with the descriptive text used by Jack.

    You and I both know though, that kind of rain and water levels are a blast on three wheels! : )


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

  4. I agree with Dom. I think your writeup complements the one Jack did on meeting you very nicely. Good choice of photos to show what you rode through.

    Thanks for the picture of a scooter. I must say there does appear to be a little bit of tension in the rider's arms. It's difficult to keep the arms relaxed with traffic whizzing by. Been there, done that.

    Thanks for the share.

  5. William: They put manhole covers in the middle of the road here too. I usually ride in one of the wheel tracks which would avoid that. I didn't notice where they put them in PA.

    SonjaM: Annapolis was a treat. The storm was impressive, but I was only concerned for my safety one time for a few seconds. The rest of the time I enjoyed the laser like focus an event like this brings. I've also ridden in worse the first time I went to CO.

    Dom: Thanks. Three wheels would have been fun during the storm, but less fun everywhere else -- twisties, traffic, waiting for down tree. I just realized I haven't ridden my Ural in over a month. Might take it to work today.

    Keith: Thanks. The photos help tell the story nicely until I can get the video finished. So many things to do!

    I've also done the traffic whizzing by thing on my scooter. I keep one eye on the mirrors and the other watching the scenery.

  6. holy crap! Yea, that doesn't look like it was much fun.

    I too hate those oblivious drivers that soak you down with their puddle roost :-/

    It's pretty awesome that you got to meet a nice handful of the people who live inside your computer :)

  7. Annapolis looks like a pretty nice little town. The flooded streets, not so nice. With all those obstacles on this trip, the broken brake line and the flooding back at your house preventing you from leaving earlier, maybe you weren't supposed to meet Jack?


  8. Dear Chris Luhman:

    What I said exactly was, "If it was me, and I was faced with riding in a vicious storm, I'd have spent the day in a hotel." But then again, since it wasn't raining in Annapolis, I probably would have hit the road myself.

    I can't imagine how your GPS led you into downtown West Chester. While it is a nicely preserved maze of old buildings (great bars, restaurants, and shops), it is the original bitch for traffic (and damn nea impossible to park).

    When the storm started to roll over the house, my thought was, "Where the hell is Chris in all this?" The danger of manhole covers in storms like this is that huge torents of water cam lift them up and move them away from the openings. These are then perfect for swallowing a bike's front wheel.

    I am assuming you came up from West Chester through the south. There are a coupe of really beautiful roads that lead into town, but these are bordered by a river or a large creek. Consequently, these can be very dangerous for motorcycles in a flash-flood (cloudburst) circumstance, as they get covered with mud and silt, and moving water can sweep a bike right off the pavement.

    Still, you came through it like Steve McQueen.

    The weaher was forecast to be bad, and I held off on planning dinner as I wasn't sure you'd come through. It was just as well... I never figured you to be a vegetarian. Otherwise, it would have been either marinated steak on the grill, or a spicy Thai shrimp dish. Eating out at the Hindi place wasn't bad though.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  9. PS: Chris — I do not own an "R" bike. My BMW has a proper cooling system and an engine that was designed after the discovery of internal combution. I own a "K" bike... It still sounds like a sewing machine, but a sewing machine powered by Messerschmidt.

  10. @Jack Riepe: Chris was trying to pay you and your bike a complement by calling it an R75....

  11. fuzzy: Yes, VERY awesome to meet the friendly faces from inside my computer!

    RichardM: Those thoughts were in my head more than once that day. I think I even told jack that the universe didn't want us to meet.

    Dear Jack: I didn't know were I was most of the day, and that was ok. I was either blinding following your directions or the GPS. Both worked out nicely. :)

    You are too kind, Steve McQueen is way cooler than I am.

    Yes, I don't mention the veggie thing on this blog because I don't think it's very important to motorcycling. :) The other blog covers that subject well.

    Sorry for the typo on your bike. A horrible sin has been committed to confuse an R and a K. I corrected the original post.

    RichardM: YES! complimenting the K or insulting the R we will never know ;)