If you are afraid of needles, wear leather

Day 2 – Miles for Peace Motorcycle Adventure –

As we awake in the Howard Johnson Inn in Dalevaille to raindrops tapping on the window, I begin to experience the visceral fear that I’ve once felt some years ago as I had one of the worst experiences of my life while doing a 12 hour / 600 mile marathon ride in Japan (from Yamaguchi to Tokyo) with over 6 of those hours spent being pelted by rain that, having my eyes closed, I would have mistaken for hundreds of needles attempting to pierce my skin.

It all started with the horrible idea of riding my Yamaha DP instead of spending the $150 on the bullet train and instead of taking the train to Tokyo for a job interview. The night started innocently enough with a light rain yet I felt ready with my with my thin rain jacket and tight polyethylene surfers top (I now know this was a horrible idea). The thought was that once I got wet, the moisture would not be held in any layers, especially Cotten, close to my skin.

As the ride progressed, so did the rain. After about 1 hour I was wet, with water pooling in the sleeves of my rain jacket and dripping down my legs and into the cold dark asphalt. Within 2 hours I started to shiver. Within three hours a creeping numbness began to settle in my hands as my shoulders and stomach were on the verge of spasm as they violently reacted to the insurmountable coldness that they were exposed to.

I recall, after some 6 hours, stopping at a convenience store somewhere near Osaka, the halfway mark. Walking into the Lawson’s (like 7/11 in the states) I begin to open my mouth but am surprised to experience, what feels unsettlingly similar to lockjaw, when the muscles of the jaw, squeezing shut to avoid the chatter of my teeth, attempt to once again release so I can form a word. I greet the store clerk, with a pool of water quickly forming at my feet and retreat to the bathroom where I proceeded to completely undress, squeeze the water out of my clothes and blow dry them to the best of my ability before I get back on the bike…So now, back in the Howard Johnson Inn, I force my mind away from the cold and painful ride in Japan, instead returning to the sanitized hotel room with bright white sheets and free shampoos. It’s time to ride but this time I layer up with the knowledge that less is not more.

As we speed down I-81, with rain pelting the front of my body, attempting to find its way thought the thin membrane separating it from my think leather layer, hidden behind this supposed impermeable wall, I look for a way to ease encroaching wetness the and decide that I can find some relief by placing myself about 30 feet behind a large white tractor trailer. This not only blocks most of the water, but also cuts down the wind substantially. The only problem is that there seems to be a negative correlation with the amount of rainfall and my visibility.

As we continue this drive on I-81, minutes turn to hours and what was once the familiar feeling of needles attempting to penetrate my skin becomes a light misting until the soldiers of the sky finally retreat and I’m left with a grey sky and jet black asphalt with thick white lines on its surface, running past my tires. Thankfully, The skies begin to clear and what was once low hanging dark clouds transforms into a blue sky, become more picturesque as we head to Nashville.

With the open road ahead of us, my body settles into a slightly comfortable position with a arch in my back and arms extended, hands firmly on the handlebar grips. In this position my mind wonders, as I watch the trees pass and green signs telling of “attractions” beg us to stop. It was somewhere between Knoxville and Nashville that it happened. As I was passing a truck in the left lane, I noticed what appeared to be the carcass of a dead animal in the road ahead, it’s profile low and dark. As we approach, I see that this carcass is actually a fairly long tire tread that had been separated from its host and is a comfortable 3-5 feel past the center diving line and in the right lane. As both myself and the truck I’m attempting passing get closer to this obstruction, I watch as this piece of rubber gets sucked under the truck, and after disappearing for a moment, tumbles out from under the tractor trailer with a pirouette before falling lifeless back to the ground. The inherit danger of riding a bike resurfaces in my mind as I wonder what would have happened if I had been in the right lane behind the truck as this piece of long back rubber, tired from years of use, found its way under my tire.

As the day comes to a close, and we are about 15 miles outside of Nashville, we decide to find a campground with KOA (Campgrounds of America) being our primary target. Pulling up to this KOA after 6pm begets the after hours registration process, relying heavily on the honor system of placing money in a envelope and driving to your campsite. Let’s just say I will plead the 5th at this moment. Setting up camp, I notice a tall man with hair that is slightly greying, leaning over the bed of his truck as I come to a stop at the tenting location. We exchange pleasantries and quickly talk about the bike and our ride to California. As we are setting up the tent, I notice out of the corner of my eye, this man approaching with something in his hand. Within a few feet of the tent, he extends his hand to revel a plate of food (chicken, corn and 4 nearly arranged pieces of bread with butter). As he hands it to us, he says “it’s probably better than anything ya’ll have so enjoy”. We take it as he walks away and Sigga immediately takes the corn as I munch on the pieces of bread. Unfortunately since both myself and Sigga don’t eat meat, so I decide to wrap the meat in a paper towel, walking it down to the bottom of the campsite, I leave it in the grass.

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