For many years, I have ridden one of my bikes to work. Most often this has been a year round, daily commute. Travel distance is 50 miles, one way, from my home in rural Western Pennsylvania to the big city environs near Pittsburgh. I have been blessed with the opportunity to not only commute to my business office by motor-sickle, but also to ride the Pearl Goose when traveling to work sites locally and out-of-state.
For those not familiar with previously published "Adventures of the Pearl Goose" musings, I am referring to my beloved Moto Guzzi "California Special", 2000 model year, feathered in stunning Pearl White!
The work referred to is forty-five years (a lifetime) of being involved in the commercial diving industry spending many days of each week in the field crawling around in muddy, dark waters of almost everywhere. Often, I am involved in "clean" work; consulting for industry, the Department of Defense and U.S. Army Engineers. Frequently, I would send my crew to a diving work site by truck, while selfishly guiding the Pearl Goose in the general direction of ... hmm, work. I know I arrived at the site in a better mood than they did! Ah, the benefits of being the boss. But boys, I would argue, consider the ride home after a long, hard, bone-chilling cold day spent working underwater. Standing in front of the crew I would shiver, quiver and chatter my teeth, then slowly blink the saddest of eyes that beg for sympathy. I never told them that ...yep, even the ride home is better on the Goose!
Often during these rides, beguiling images of two themes would flash into my mind. "Ride There", and, "Ride To Work". Both encouraging concepts strongly promoted by Andy Goldfine of AeroStich RiderWearhouse. Of course, the "Ride There" theme suggests we motorcyclists should use our bikes to get wherever, anywhere, everywhere and every time by motorized two wheeled conveyance. The second theme "Ride To Work" as conceptualized by Andy in 1989 proposed a National ride to work event. Since the early 1990's, the third Wednesday of each July has been the official "Ride To Work Day". Well Andy, I'm paying attention!
Everyone agrees, Guzzi guys and gals just can't wait to "ride there", especially if it's ... for work, or any other excuse being dreamed up!
In early June, 2005, I was contracted to teach an "Underwater Cutting and Welding Course" for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District at their Tennessee River Operations Center (T-ROC), Florence, Alabama. Travel to these types of instructional events is generally by commercial air. But not wanting to miss a chance to fly on the Pearl Goose, I opted for taking to the airways just above the tarmac. And so, these themes electrified my being as I was off on another adventure .... I get to "ride there", and, "ride to work".
Packing any motorcycle to accommodate living and working for two weeks on the road, plus stowing all the learning materials for an anticipated twenty students can be a daunting task. Considering the need to have all the books, forms, diplomas and assorted peripheral teaching stuff arrive in pristine, usable condition is problematic.
Some would ask, "Why not just ship all important items to the destination". Well, how much fun is that? While waxing philosophically, I often ask myself, "Are you ready for life", "up for the challenge"? Turns out UPS has enough on their plates without having to haul my extra baggage. I figure this way; me and all the stuff will arrive on time, and as a complete package.
As for arriving on time at such an important function for which I'm paid, some may ask, "What if you brake down, have a flat (which I have experienced on my way to Key West on a similar gig), wreck, or whatever"? Timely arrival can be a worrisome thing when there are twenty pumped up divers from three states awaiting their undaunted leader. To this my stock answer is, "They can't start without me", "I'll be there".
Actually, if a rider plans his/her travel time wisely by adding an extra day on the front side of the ride to a destination, then that rider will be there at the appointed time. It also helps to be mounted on a rely-able, fly-able Moto Guzzi. Eh, planning a sensible route doesn't hurt either.
My trip from Western Pennsylvania to Florence, Alabama was plotted by GPS to be just over 800 miles with an estimated 13+ hours travel time. The route desired would take me and the Pearl Goose over rural two-lanes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.
Now I've ridden many 1,000 mile days. I'm no "Iron Butt-er", but I can stay in the saddle and punish myself with the best callused cheek crewman. So, 800 miles in 24 hours is do-able. A dear acquaintance of mine, whose initials are F. W., once told me that he can get anywhere in a day, if he get's up early enough. Although this trip could be a "one goose day" venture, I am taking the scenic route, smelling the roses, and hoping to experience the best in all manner of sights and sounds. I have scheduled three days to ensure maximum pleasure and timely arrival at my appointed destination.
On July 29th at 05:30, the Pearl Goose and I are off. My must-be-to-work date is August 1st, so there is plenty of time for meandering through five states and exploring new territory. Side trips to beckoning sights are anticipated and intended. If a landmark appears inviting, I'll divert from my direct southerly route at a whim.
Super-slabs were avoided like the "black plague", and, all towns with declared populations "larger than two" were skirted by using the "squiggly roads" feature on county maps. Yes, I did use paper maps to research my route and execute the ride. And yes, I did use a Garmin GPS unit to confirm alternative paths whilst threading my way through the wilderness.
Boys and girls, I'm here to testify that there is real and scary wilderness in southern Ohio, central Kentucky and middle Tennessee. Just south of Lexington, Kentucky I was way-laid by the ghost of "Man-O-War" whose apparition chased me and the Pearl Goose up, over, around and down one of most scenic, twisty, curvy, dippy and exciting ribbons of asphalt I have ever ridden. No joke! I will admit to being lost in what I believed to be a dreamy fantasy provided by dear Mother Nature herself, and just for me. What road you ask? Why, none other than "US Route 68"! Often, these "US" designated roads are laid out through marvelous country-sides. I'm betting there are a few awesome "US" roads close to your home territory.
I sashayed more than twenty-five riveting miles of descending and winding macadam. No houses, no people, no cars ... just heart thumping, wondrous forest, field, gorge and stream. Suddenly, I emerged from this dreamscape into the glimmer of a tamed environment with manicured meadows and an occasional house. I arrived at an intersection which appeared to be a major crossroads to civilization. Good timing too, as the Pearl Goose had flashed its belligerent and glaring "red eye" (low-fuel alarm) at me a few miles back.
With dusk rapidly approaching and obviously drawing a blank as to where the Goose had taken me, I stopped in a dirt patch at road side to retrieve my Kentucky map for the saddle bag. While I was orienting to my location a kindly sole drove up and ask if I needed help. I told him that although I knew exactly where I was, the Pearl Goose wasn't too sure. Nodding understandingly (he is a gold-winger) he took the map, confirmed my position and pointed me in the direction of Lebanon, Kentucky where I could feed the Goose and my belly.
Almost forgetting the electrifying ride just experienced, I related how the specter of equus had chased me through hill and holler. The kindly gentleman's exact words were; Son, you have just ridden through the "Grand Canyon of the South"! I kinda like this gettin' lost stuff.
Arriving at Lebanon in the dark, off course but with no time schedule problem, I decided to give it up for the day. So I found a motel, a first-rate diner-style cafe and settled in for the night. Some quiet time was spent pouring over Kentucky and Tennessee maps to re-plot my next day's ride.
At first light, I fuel up the Goose and headed in the direction of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Mid-morning I happen on another stunning rural road. This time it was a State Route, Kentucky 90. Running due west, SR 90 snakes around huge Lake Cumberland and Wolf Creek Dam. Once again, I'm on a thrilling jaunt through absolutely unpopulated, scenic wilderness. I just can't believe my good fortune to stumble on these mind-blowing ribbons of asphalt. And in excellent condition, I am happy to report.
I soon crossed the Tennessee border and angled south-west towards Murfreesboro, allowing my track to skirt Nashville by a wide margin. At Columbia, the Goose lands on another stellar "US" Route (US 43) which will take me on a curvaceous, due south, 2-laner to the Alabama border.
There is no observable wilderness in north-western Alabama. It's too hot and sticky there, especially in July and August. So, wilderness just kinda melts into tufts of soft white. We be in "Tall Cotton" country now!
Finally, the Goose and I touch down at Florence, Alabama. It's early evening on July 30th, just our second day in transit even after taking the "roads less traveled". Almost dusk, but the temperature is still a sweltering 96°f. During the next week of work here, many roadways and parking lot asphalt surfaces melt and buckle. Some road surfaces become rippled in the record heat or 103-105°f. Yah gotta love bein' in the Old South during late summer. Halleluiah!
My next seven days are spent in the unrelenting sun. The only respite being the morning and afternoon commute on the Goose from motel to waterfront. I'm not complaining though, since many of my friends are crawling in the blistering sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. No way to "feel their heat or their pain"! And remember folks, "if there weren't heat, there couldn't be cold"!
About mid-week, there is a grand discovery. On station are the "Neptune's", father and son, underwater custom motor-sickle fabricators, aka "Florence County Choppers". Around Alabama, their names have been shortened to "The Tunes", and they go by Tuney, Sr. and Tuney, Jr. So, while I'm here in Florence, why not have this infamous duo modify the Pearl Goose. This will be marvelous practice for testing underwater skills performance, not to mention "fluid dynamics". Tuney, Sr. dressed in hard-hat diving gear "strikes and arc" in the underwater cutting torch and attacks the front fender, to make what he calls an aesthetic modification. Not to be outdone, Tuney, Jr. grabs a 36-inch pipe wrench and begins to lower the Goose's rear-end. These two intrepid souls are in the process of building a customer base. It becomes obvious that they are truly "an army of one". Must be delirium caused by some good old Alabama heat. What a hoot!
With the training course completed, I saddle up and point the Goose north, soaring back through the by-ways of rural America following the same routes that provided so much pleasure. As the miles zip by, I reflect on this remarkable journey. I find it profound that "Ride There" and "Ride To Work" can in fact be, one and the same. Both, or either, are within the capability of every rider, every day, to everywhere and anywhere. Make the commitment, just do it! And yah just gotta know, "it is better on a goose"!
Another exciting adventure in the life of the Pearl Goose!
"Guzzi Got It"! Amen.
~ Fini ~