Lewis and Clarke Expedition Epilogue

This was a “trip of a lifetime” for me. What fun we had not only in the day-to-day “doing” but also in the pre-planning of the trip. With my family as the only exception, apart from getting my aircraft instrument rating I’m not sure I’ve put more money and effort into any other single event. It was a blast.

I learned a few things. Like:

  • If you ride more than 500 miles on a motorcycle your butt is going to hurt, no way to get around it!
  • If the temperature is above 85 you need to really think about water in-take. Don’t skimp and drink as much as you can as often as you can.
    If the temperature is above 95 you need to have a way to drink water when you ride.
  • If the temperature is above 100 you should consider staying put! 🙂 Seriously, above 100 degrees and you’d better take in water nearly constantly. I don’t think I’ve been more tired than I was when we were riding across Oregon trying to get to The Dalles and the temperature was 103 degrees and the sun was shining in my face for 8 hours. I even had a water bladder and I sucked water from a tube and stopped when the bladder went dry to fill up again. It was brutal.
  • If you don’t like the weather today it will change tomorrow. I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in weather from one day to the next than I did on this trip. One day it would be so windy you could hardly keep the bike upright. The next day it would be clear but very hot and dry. The next morning we’d start out in 45 degrees and spitting rain. The next day 103 and clear.
  • Eastern Oregon and Washington are a desert
    Driving faster doesn’t shorten a riding day.
  • When planning a 7500 mile trip doing a few days where there is no riding at all would have been a good thing! I’m thinking for every 5 days of riding one does he should take one day off.
  • When you think it’s a good time to stop and take pictures, do. You’ll never have the chance again and it’s a good time to talk to others and just take a break.
  • When riding across the USA you wouldn’t believe how much “straight” driving you do. Motorcyclist revel with the curves. Really, there weren’t a “ton” of them. There was some great riding but mostly it’s “straight and level” riding.
  • Whether you’re going through the mountains up and down there is just not much turning compared to riding some of the back roads around my house.
  • You can take trips without any reservations what-so-ever. I’ve never done this before and was somewhat worried about it. But, frankly, if you aren’t looking for anything other than a bed and coffee for breakfast you can find a hotel in just about any town you pass through.
  • Try as you may you will not be able to see everything in a short amount of time. I had grand plans of seeing Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, etc., but there was just no way.
  • No one ever factors into a trip what happens if someone gets ill. Although I didn’t complain there were two days that I didn’t feel good. Probably a cold or something I ate. You just have to press on.
  • When you get to the end of a trip and you think to yourself, “Wow, that was fun” and you are 2600+ miles from home you have this really weird feeling. I’m not sure if it was one of having accomplished something that took that much time and effort or if it was the sudden realization that you have 2600 miles to go! 🙂
  • You don’t have to drive 7500 miles to have fun on a motorcycle. In my back yard I have wonderful riding as you can see from this picture in Maryland and another in Virginia I took just yesterday.
  • I didn’t think I took that many pictures but ended up with 551! I never had to charge the battery in my Nikon camera either! The manual says it will take ~1000 shots without a recharge. I believe them now. The next big trip I take I’m just taking a fully charged battery and the spare battery pack they give you. That’s all you really need. No charger which just added to the weight I had to carry.

I don’t know how Harley riders with no protective gear do it when it’s 103 and the sun is barreling down on you. It just seems like you’d be in a constant state of dehydration and couldn’t continue to do it day after day not to mention keep you from getting sun burned. It may sound crazy but being enclosed in my riding suit makes the heat tolerable. Having a full-faced helmet keeps you from drying out too. I did notice people with open faced helments would have red faces when the ride was done.

At first I didn’t do much in the way of planning. Gloria got on to me one evening because I didn’t know how many days I’d be gone and we at least needed to plan that! So I got my computer out and <nop>DeLorme Street Atlas 2004 and started hacking away at the trip. The first thing I noticed is that the USA is a very big place and doing a little advanced planning helps one stay on course.

As for planning to the extent you try to “etch in stone” the plan route, forget that. This many miles it would be impossible to draw on a map a route and then stick to it. We did, generally, follow the route I had outlined in the beginning but I’m now going back and building route maps on the exact route we took which was probably 1000 miles longer than I had planned in the beginning.

Gloria always asks each of us, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” when we go on a big planned vacation or journey. That’s not an easy question to answer. Here were some of my favorite parts of the trip, however:

  • The first day. I was sad leaving my girls. It was hard to go.
  • Meeting up with Craig, Mike and Pat in Columbus. We ate at a pizza joint there that’s a blast. And they sell Heffaveitzen so it can’t be all bad.
  • Listening to the truckers yak on channel 19. Definitely rated R but I heard some great jokes along the way.
  • Watching the airshow in Indianapolis. I was disappointed about missing the “Thunderbirds” only to see them perform over Portland while enroute to Astoria. They are amazing.
  • Not knowing the final destination for the day.
  • Talking to locals in small towns like Arrow Rock Missouri.
  • Forgetting what day it was.
  • Seeing states I’d never been to before.
  • Seeing a replica of the keel boat which confirmed my suspicion that Lewis was nuts for thinking he could paddle that thing upstream and carry it overland when they couldn’t pass in the river. %SMILE%
  • Being in the place where Sacajawea was born and learning that if it weren’t for her the trip may have never taken place.
  • Eating meals where they charge you less than $5.00 for all you can eat buffets.
  • Seeing the replica of Fort Mandan and learning about the Mandan indians. That fort was SMALL!
  • Not getting eaten by mosquitos.
  • Our ride through Idaho, probably the prettiest ride I’ve been on … at least right up there at the top of all rides.
  • Seeing the Great Falls and other landscape mentioned in their journals but disappointed to learn that most of it is under water now.
  • Seeing the things written in Lewis and Clark’s journals. So many of the observations they made are there for you to enjoy today, most of them unchanged.
  • Being in Glacier National Park. I really wanted to do this from the first day of planning. Definitely worth the trouble of driving there.
  • Route 12 in Idaho when you leave Lolo Pass (Montana) traveling west has got to be one of the prettiest roads in America.
  • Lake Tahoe. It is so very pretty at all times of the year (As crowded as it has now become)
  • The journey. If you ever get a chance to be foot loose, take it. The chance will never come again. Trust me on this one.
  • Freedom.
  • Technology. How could I really document this otherwise?  … And continue to update it as my memory comes back to me?
  • The last day. It was so nice to be home again.

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Posted 05 Sep 2004