To the wet coast and back

I’m a professor at Purdue which means I have a 9 month work year. In other words I’m unemployed for 3 months out of the year. I don’t draw a salary for that period of time which really bites into the family income. Since I know that is the case I plan for it, and save each month enough so that I have my salary spread over the 12 months of the year. For the honor of being a professor I get to work long hours during the school year (I’m only compensated on a mythical 32 hour work week) and deal with the expectation of administration that I will show for meetings during the summer.

I don’t do meetings but I do adventures. This time around it was a five thousand mile round trip to the west coast by motorcycle.

The reason for the trip is work related. I needed to attend a conference in Seattle on big data and intelligence analysis as I apply that to my research for cyber operations. The IEEE conference on intelligence looked to be a good fit. A senior professor and the dean of my college at Purdue supported my attendance, but the getting there was all on my own dime. That is an important piece to this as Purdue bans the use of motorcycles for any university related travel. So all travel up to the appearance at the conference venue and after I check out from the hotel at the end of the conference is considered personal travel. Under the Purdue rules I can’t even ride the motorcycle (a scooter, or motorized bicycle) across campus for a meeting.


The ride out to Seattle was three days with stops in Nebraska, and Oregon to overnight. I had to make more stops than I originally planned because both of my HID headlights died. The ballasts apparently failed miserably. I have to admit I was a wee bit peeved. The result was no night time riding at all and a lot of time on the side of the road diagnosing the issues. HID is supposed to last much longer than halogen but the cheap Chinese crap I ended up with (a premium kit from a known vendor) had me in the dark. I ran the low beam the first day and at about hour 7 it failed giving me the lampf error which means lamp failure on the BMW. The bulb was fine but the ballast was toast. I replaced the HID by ripping them out. Total time to repair was approximately one hour.  I then put halogen back in. In the mean time my parking light also failed. Back into the assembly for a few minutes and another repair. I’m going to likely do this all over again but with a different vendor. No issues on the lights after that.

The trip back from Seattle was a two day event. At approximately 2400 miles I rode from Seattle to Sheridan Wyoming and then from there the rest of the way into Indiana. If you’ve watched the news I was in those tornadoes people were talking about in the midwest. I continued to ride. I can see on my phone the weather radar that gives me a good idea of when I will break out of storm. Since storms are fairly static events (I know they feel dynamic but it is perspective) I can get a good idea when I will exit from bad weather.

People often ask me why I would drive from place to place when planes are often cheaper and easier in some ways. A three day ride across half the country is definitely slower than the six hours it would have taken by plane. Even at 40mpg when you add in hotels it is more expensive. So why ride instead of fly?

I like to drill holes in the atmosphere where I am in the environment. This particular ride represented a shake down ride for another one in the near future. Though some would challenge the science of the statement I do like the idea of turning dinosaurs into fun. The ride though is also about seeing the country I love and being part of that country. I stop and check out wild views that simply aren’t replicated by a jet at 4o thousand feet. Finding places that few stop for, and most pass by can be rewarding.

Whether it is the mind numbing slabs of the midwest and great plains or the rapid transitions up and down of the mountains there is so much to see. Finding a place to stop and just view what is the world can be rewarding.


When I was in Marine Corps boot camp we had a final exercise that was similar to what Marines now call the crucible. After days of being pounded ragged by live fire exercises, forced marches, night maneuvers and just being beat down there does come a moment of clarity. For me that moment of clarity was at sun rise the last day before we headed back to graduation. The sun poked up behind the mountains at Camp Pendelton (really just low hills) and with that transition from dawn to day a certain level of understanding of my place in the world occurred. It was just for a moment. It might have been mind numbing exhaustion and incipient hysteria, but it still was clarity.

Traveling across the country maintaining a 60+ mile per average over 12 hours seems controversial to some. I find it clearing and interesting to accomplish. I don’t believe in taking unneeded risks and I become fairly evaluative of the traffic stream around me. The R1200 GS/Adventure is not a speed machine. It is is a tractor or jeep with two-wheels. It plods along at a sedate pace merely allowing you to soak up miles and see more of the country. Planning a ride across the country can be as simple as point “that a-way” and go, or as complicated as dragging out a cartography program and looking at elevations. For me the fun is when the elevation lines get really close together.


This ride was not about just the conference. Every few years I have a duty or obligation that I have to manage. It is an emotional event that I grow to dread but I’m always glad that I do it after I’m done. I go to the grave of my son and pay my respects. It might seem strange or eery to others but we have a chat. No, for the more trollish readers, he does not speak back to me. But, there is a sense of connection that I can’t get anywhere else. Having a child die before they have grown old enough to speak is losing out on all the basic interactions. It creates a profound sense of loss that will not be expressed by mere words. For this ride to the Pacific North Wet ™ I would be making one stop just to insure I understand where I come from and where I’m going. It is the first stop and I spend awhile just contemplating.


I eat a 90/10 vegetarian/meat diet. In practice that means that I eat about 3.5 to 5 ounces of meat three times a week. A chicken breast or small piece of fish is what I usually have. This isn’t one of those hard fast rules. If I crave meat I eat meat. It is something I do for my health. When I get across the Puget Sound to the Bremerton area I always try and make a stop at Skippers Fish and Chips. This isn’t high order cuisine. It is a bit of history.


Between junior high and high school I moved between school districts. I moved out of the semi-urban Bremerton school district to the suburban Central Kitsap school district. There was a lot of angst and pain in that move. Though they would deny the policy, when I moved, I got “tracked”. Since my parents never went to college I was put in metal shops and wood shops instead of college preparation courses. In the Bremerton school district I was set up to go to college, and at Olympic High School they pretty much made sure I took no college preparation courses. The situation was worse than being ignored it was a hostile and aggressive environment where administrators told me my yard bird (derogatory term for a ship yard worker) dad and high school drop out mom meant I’d never see college and I’d be lucky to stay out of jail.

To put this into perspective. In my junior and senior year of high school semesters I took eight courses in metal shop and four courses in wood shop. I took two years of mechanical drawing. I was in the Kitsap Vocational Skills Center where I took microelectronics and small engine repair. I took no advanced mathematics, no advanced writing (my highest level of writing courses in high school was journalism), but I was in drama for two years. In my junior year of high school I joined the Army National Guard which made me an instant emancipated minor. You can imagine in a school system that was hostile to my red neck roots having the rights of an adult causes even more issues. I can’t count the number of times I was told that high school was going to be the best years of my life. If I actually believed that I’d of been a suicide statistic. To high schoolers everywhere trust me, it gets better, and then it gets way better. What a sad state of affairs if you peaked in high school.

The town I grew up in has become smaller to me. When I return I am reminded of my roots and where I came from. The things I did as a young man and even as an adult fade into a history that is part fact and mostly self delusion. The house I grew up in has been knocked down and replaced by a three bedroom box. The ancient home was part of the Mormon settlement in Illahea and dated back to before world war 2. A hundred years ago kids went to school by boat. The roads simply weren’t in place. When I was growing up the roads getting into our community were all dirt. The place we called “hells hole” is now a preserve. The state park at Illahea has become a postage stamp of serenity. Things become smaller when you go out into the world.


After spending some time on the ground it is side stand up and head for Seattle. There are many roads to Seattle, but only one of them means a boat ride. The Puget Sounds is a slash through the north western part of Washington State. The Puget Sound is nearly a thousand feet deep in places and the gouge means ferry boats to get from place to place. The mountains slide down to the water edge to become wave pounded rocky beaches and then below those waves on the way to depths that are dark. I’ve climbed the mountains of the Puget Sound area finding a lot of fun in the Olympics and Cascades. I’ve sailed and boated on the lakes and Puget Sound. When I moved in high school I was moving out of the house I was raised in from infancy to a boat where I lived until I left for the Marine Corps. I have swam most of the “hot” spots around the Puget Sound having been a certified diver for quite some time. Moving off land to live on a boat fueled an early desire for adventure.


Riding a motorcycle on to a ferry boat can be an interesting event. When I was younger one of my jobs was as a courier between the Bremerton Area marina repair places and the Seattle chandlers (boat suppliers). Back then mail order was a long wait and there was almost nothing online. I spent a lot of time riding my enduro motorcycle around Seattle and back and forth on ferry boats. The mid afternoon ferry boat ride this time was empty. I ended up on the upper deck with another motorcycle and a great view most of the way. One of the best parts is that motorcycles depart first from the vehicle deck. With a mid-afternoon ferry boat ride I was still going to be a few hours early for check in at the hotel.


Since I was in Seattle I had to make at least one stop at Touratech. The company Touratech is a motorcycle supply place for adventure motorcycling. I’ve bought lots of things from this company that is based out of Germany. The Seattle store has some interesting historical items from customers that have traveled around the world. I didn’t see Helge Pedersen or any of the other globe riders group. I did get to see one motorcycle with a dinghy. A dinghy is yacht speak for a smaller boat that accompanies a larger boat. After trying hard to make my credit card squeal for mercy I gave up and only left with a new seat bag. It was neat to see some of the stuff, but I’m riding a previous generation motorcycle and accessory companies seem to chase the newest edition stopping development of stuff for older bikes. That makes sense in a corporate world, but I’ll be riding my bike for a decade or more. So, even though my bike is all of 5 years old it is ignored from the place of further development. I’m not complaining I’ve got a lot of accessories on my bike.


When I finally got to the conference I found it interesting. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle. The conference was interesting as it dealt with my area of research, but more importantly I was impressed with several of the papers delivered. There was way to much in the way of social network analysis of Twitter data. There is a serious issue with using Twitter data as evidence of cultural changes. Twitter is a form of computer mediated communication with inherent biases created by social and cultural requirements for the use and access to Twitter as a service. Second to that the fact that Twitter post streams are indicative of what people want you to see and you have some serious biases in the research.

All in all it wasn’t a bad ride. 4806 miles with 71 hours moving time and a moving average of 67 miles per hour. I had three days in the middle while I was at the conference. These are kick stand up to kick stand down times or start of the day to end of the day. When I’m taking pictures of the bike as you’ve seen earlier the motorcycle is usually running and the GPS on cataloging stopped time. For longer stops I leave the GPS on running off the batteries while the motorcycle is turned off. Average gas time from exit highway to enter highway again was 10 minutes. The largest tank fill up was 9.6 gallons which is more than the tanks is supposed to hold. Lowest MPG was 32 mpg and highest mpg was 43. Most distance on a tank of gas was 345 miles.


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