After an inspiring meet up with the nomadic artist Lisa and her husband, I finally got around to scanning some of the notes and drawings from the first time I took the scooter long distance, to visit my friend Grace in DC.
This trip was hugely formative for me, and I documented more than I think I’ve bothered with since (ha). A trip on this scale had been something on my mind for a while, but my GTS wasn’t even 2 months young, with barely the first 500 mile service mark under her belt (most of those miles were in February and March too, an apt primer for future freezing rides). I felt I was a novice rider, having only acquired my motorcycle license a year before. I did my best to plan the trip thoroughly, but it was terrifying to set off — everything was new, and rich with potential. I found a note that reads: Whenever I set off on a trip, it feels like I’ll never be back again. Moreso today, because no one drops me off at the airport or bus station, I AM the plane and the bus. It’s all me. The day before, Jenn at the my kungfu school gave me three kisses for safe travels.
The total mileage ended up being 1024 miles roundtrip. The thought was, after a nice easy couple hour ride to the New London Ferry, I could rest on the boat, then crawl down Long Island and stay with my friend (and writer of the Guinea Pig series!) Colleen in Brooklyn. I’d take the Manhattan Bridge and Holland Tunnel through the city, and mostly Rt-1 alongside 95 to arrive in DC that night. On the return leg, I had plans to stay with a Couchsurfer in Philly (and backup plans at a hostel), and then do one long ride all the way to Providence. In an effort to avoid the despicable Newark area, that last leg turned out to be an exhausting 13 hour riding day…but some of the most beautiful riding up along the PA/NJ border and through NY and CT.
I’d like to note that I have a fear of riding over bridges, so riding through New York was weighing irrationally heavy on my mind. As it turns out, the Manhattan bridge is so huge it didn’t set off my fears, and the ride is marvelous, especially when you look over the other way and see a train running alongside you. If that wasn’t enough, it immediately dumps you in the chaotic heart (and smell) of Chinatown, and then you hit the tunnel, which is the coolest thing ever and feels like a videogame.
I switched to a smaller sketchbook after this, specifically because I didn’t like how it was exposed to weather on the back of my seat. Still, this roughly represents how I pack for (what I consider now, but not at the time) a light trip. Now, I also have an expanded configuration for camping gear with saddlebags!
Of course I need a skirt for this trip. I managed to pack quite light, because I could do laundry at Grace’s and she offered to lend me clothes if needed.
Those boots have seen so much rain, mud, snow and salt, and are molded to my feet. I’ve worn them for almost 10 years now.
The topcase is still mostly used for scooter gear, because it’s easiest to access and stays with the scoot. Thanks to LASIK I don’t need spare lenses anymore, but as I feared on that trip, I did lose a contact lens on the road, due to an errant bit of wind and dirt in the parking lot of the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Also, I don’t know why I carried 2 pairs of fingerless gloves?
This setup worked pretty well. I’ve since ditched the jeggings in favor of extra stretchy skinny jeans, which feel slightly more like real pants when worn on their own and don’t look as dopey when paired with sneakers (relatively speaking). I also have a new riding jacket, a slight upgrade with removable liner and vents. No hoods on zip-ups, they flap around at high speed, and it’s annoying to pull it out from under a jacket all the time.
On this trip, I jammed one earbud into my ear (other ear listening for traffic) and pulled my helmet over it, and the constant slight pressure would eventually give me a headache and I’d pull over to adjust. Now, I sing the praises of in-helmet earphones on long trips.
Also, after I arrived in DC temperatures shot into the 90s, so most of this gear didn’t go back on until I left for Philly.
I’m so glad Grace seemed far less worried about riding 2-up than I was. After a few days my confidence grew and we were getting around fine. It worked out well, because Grace knew the city and gave me directions from the back, and a lot of traffic seemed to slow/stop around us.
Upon reflection, I’m amazed at myself for making this trip with so little experience riding the GTS before setting off, but also against a mental landscape of several uncomfortable transitions (isn’t that always the case!). I was putting off ending a complicated long term relationship I couldn’t really talk about, while searching for a spark in my stagnating pursuit of martial arts, and I wrestled daily with doubts and loneliness associated with my career choice. I found a note that read: for months now, every morning I wake up and struggle to convince myself to get out of bed. Thankfully, I rationalized that spending a week on a ridiculous scooter trip to see a good friend beats staying at home stewing problems over in my head. The trip came together quickly (more quickly than I’d expected, even though I’d nursed vague desires to do something like it for a while), and I took off in a cloud of Steph-shaped anxiety.
There’s a simplicity to being on the road. I worry about rain, wind, or cold, and how many miles I can get in one day. I think about when I’ll stop for gas, or for a stretch. I keep a few tools in case something breaks down, and a small supply of food, water, and tissues. I tell the people who care about me that I’m safe.
There are more stories, more notes I took along the way, more ideas for comics, but for now this is a slightly paraphrased chat log, the morning after I got back to Providence:
Grace: Heya! Glad you made it home safe.
Steph: Hey! Yes, me too. Everyone I met said to stay a night if I got tired. But I really wanted to wake up here.
Steph: …of course, now that I have, I’m at a loss… Why did I want to wake up here again? haha