Heading West

I’ve spent the past eight weeks travelling from New York to Chicago, albeit via a zigzag route which took me north to Canada; now I’ve started the remaining journey west and will cover two thirds of the continent in one week! This is broadly in line with my route plan, which was actually more of a wish list. With certain places a must see while others were a stop off, as I knew the journey would evolve along the way. I purposely didn’t buy a Lonely Planet guide.

Everything needed can be accessed on the internet and the best tips I’ve received have been from those I’ve met. And, if I’m really stuck, an internet search on “10 things to do in xxxx” has always come up trumps. Anyway, I’d prefer not to follow someone else’s pre-described path. In fast tracking Middle America I won’t be missing too much as locals have correctly pointed out that there is only farms as far as you can see. So for the next three days I’ll be adding kilometres on the motorway before taking the secondary roads through the mountains from Yellowstone Park on up to Vancouver. But I will make a few stops to see: Wall Drug, Badlands, Black Hill Mountains and Mount Rushmore. There is another reason for expediting this part of the journey. The weather.

I’ve started the trip two months later than originally planned as I was requested to stay on in my former job longer than envisaged. Not an issue in itself but the implication arising is now I have to seriously plan according to weather patterns. So far the luck of the Irish has prevailed; as an Indian summer during September added to the trip. Last week it was a sweltering 28 degrees celsius in downtown Chicago. Now, the 10-day outlook is equally positive with blue skies and a fantastic 28 degrees in Sturgis (where I am today) and a cooler 15 degrees in Vancouver forecasted. But this is just luck of the Gods as it has snowed in both places at similar times in the past; in which case I would have had to skip parts of the route. After Vancouver I shouldn’t have to worry about snow as I’ll be heading south on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

So over the next seven days I’ll drive 3,800 km (2,100 miles) on the motorbike. I’ll aim to drive approximately eight hours a day, including fuel stops, lunch breaks and two rest days. In preparation I’ve had the bike serviced which included an oil change and replacing the break pads. No doubt it will be boring at some stages but I’ll consider these moments like an uneventful day at the office; not that I’ve had too many of those but sure you get my drift. Anyway, it’ll be good to have some think time, as it’s a rare commodity in our busy lives. While it will be demanding I’m looking forward to being able to say I’ve crossed the United States on my motorbike. Equally, I’m looking forward to a massage in Vancouver, as with an already tense left shoulder, I’m sure my back will be as stiff as an ironing board. And I’m indifferent as to whether it comes with happy ending as I can take care of that myself.

Got to go – off to Mount Rushmore. Weather is great but I’ll put a sweater in my saddle bag in case it cools down (now 28 degrees) later.

Al Dempsey

4 October 2010