Following are two excerpts from my latest book, “KEEP GOING! The Pleasure and Pain of Perseverance” The first is the start of Chapter One; and the second excerpt is the first few pages of Chapter Five:
Excerpt from Chapter One: "Alaska 8 – The Sheep Caper"
I got a call from Jake Herzog during the winter of 2003-2004 to say that he and Jim Hoellerich had been talking about riding to Alaska together. He called to ask if I might be interested in going along with them. He said it would be Jim’s first trip to Alaska, and that Jim was quite enthused about going.
I had already ridden to Alaska seven times – two with Jake and others, and five trips alone, but I jumped at the chance to go again, even though I planned on going the following year for my granddaughter’s graduation from the University of Alaska. Oh well, I suppose I could do it again next year, God willing.
I was 79 at the time, and other than my family’s and my friends’ concerns about my age and my failing eyesight, the only concern I had was with sleeping arrangements, since many motels along the way don’t provide rollaway cots – and I, for one, don’t care much about sleeping on a rollaway.
One way we sometimes dealt with it in the past was to rent two rooms, a double and a single, if both were available, and to split the cost three ways; but that can get expensive after a while, and I’m frugal by nature, as most of my friends know, having been brought up poor during the Great Depression. I still pinch my pennies.
Several years ago while traveling to Alaska with my two long-time buddies, Jake and Bud Peck, I bought a new inflatable mattress for sleeping on the floor in double rooms whenever there was no other option available, but that thing lost all of its air long before morning every time I used it. As soon as I got home, I returned it to the department store where I bought it and got a full refund, which put me ahead of the game, seeing that I had gotten a few partial nights use out of it in spite of its being defective.
I wasn’t sure how we would deal with the sleeping arrangements this time, but the problem resolved itself when Jake called a few months later to say that he had to cancel – and for good reason – daughter Lynn was about to give birth to his and Arlene’s first grandchild during the time we would be away. When I discussed this latest development with Jim, he was disappointed about Jake’s not going, but he said he would still like to go, so without hesitation I agreed to go with him and began my preparations.
The first major problem arose two weeks before we were scheduled to leave when my primary bike at the time, a BMW R1150GS, blew the main bearing in its transmission during an impromptu trip I took to Rhode Island to pick up some old enduro photos for a book I was working on. As soon as I got back with the growling gearbox, I paid a visit to the two BMW dealers closest to my home, but I was unable to get either of them to agree to fix the problem prior to our date for leaving.
Excerpt from Chapter Five: "Las Vegas in December:"
I’ve always enjoyed attending the annual AMA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony when it was held in Ohio in August. I even helped to sponsor a few of the events, and I would see friends and fellow competitors being inducted. I’d never think of going to the event any other way but riding. When the AMA announced in early 2009 that the event would be moved to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and that it would be held in December, it raised the bar considerably for riding to the event, but I still wouldn’t think of going any other way.
I gave it a lot of thought when it was announced. I wasn’t sure that my 84-year-old body was up to the task, especially at that time of year – and that’s without considering the interference with Thanksgiving and Christmas, where I’m the senior member of the family and I’m usually home for those holidays. This time my granddaughter and her husband were coming from Alaska to spend Christmas with Grandpa.
If I were to decide to go, I would have to get a better handle on at least a few of my physical issues before I could commit to the tickets or the hotel reservations. Eventually everything fell into place in time, and I was quite sure I could manage it, in spite of concerns about my eyesight and physical issues that had been getting progressively worse recently. The pain in my back would increase after hours of riding, but I felt at the time I could manage it, and I definitely wanted to go.
I began preparations by changing the tires, the chain, the brake pads and the oil and filter on my 650 Suzuki V-Strom. I was still able to do all of it at home without help, although I would get totally exhausted from my congestive heart failure, especially changing the tire, which gets strenuous for someone my age. I’m also bothered by back pain when I’m on my feet too long, or in the mornings after I’ve spent a lot of time riding the previous day.
I clocked 64,000 miles on the bike in less than the two years that I owned it, but since I never had a problem with it, I wasn’t too concerned about it taking me to Las Vegas and back trouble free. My main concern was with the seat and suspension, neither of which were the greatest for long distance riding comfort, and there wasn’t much more I could do about that.
It wasn’t until a week before I left that I realized my plan called for leaving on Thanksgiving Day, which could affect motel availability. I knew beforehand that I would be sacrificing Thanksgiving with my family but I hadn’t thought about motels on that weekend – so I made some calls to try and reserve rooms. After calling a few motels along the route I had planned through West Virginia and Kentucky, and learning that there were no vacancies, I changed the plan in favor of riding interstate highways for the first few days – I was able to make reservations along the interstates.
It was cloudy and 47° when I left home, and the sun began to break through in New Jersey, but not for long. It got foggy again as I descended into the Delaware River Valley, and a heavy cloud cover returned and stayed with me until I reached Virginia several hours later. The temperature was in the low 50s most of the day, which I thought was great.
I began to think about lunch around Harrisburg, and I pulled off the highway several times during the next few hours whenever I would see a sign for any kind of place for food, but nothing was open on Thanksgiving Day, not even a convenience store. Even some of the gas stations were closed. I tried to enter a rest area to get something from a machine, but that too was closed. I thought for a while that I might have to resort to sardines for my Thanksgiving Dinner. I was carrying a few cans, just in case I got snowed in somewhere in the mountains during the trip.
I rode 431 miles the first day to Verona, Virginia and checked in at 2:45. By using the interstate highways I was already ahead of my original schedule. While checking into the Knights Inn that I reserved, the first thing I asked the clerk was about eating-places. I was getting really hungry by then. He said the Chinese place next door might be open, but it wasn’t.