30 Days to cross the USA

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DanielS
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30 Days to cross the USA

Post by DanielS » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:17 pm

Each year my friend and I try to do a big trip. We've done Russia a couple of times, Mongolia, Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine and most of Eastern Europe. We also did Iceland a few years ago. All good fun and camped along the way.

This year though has been busy with work, my friend has been very busy with his company and things just haven't worked out. So a few months ago my wife and I decided to go on a trip together on the bike, this could end in divorce! Using the Air Canada "Fly your bike" program we planned to fly into Toronto and out of Vancouver.

Being employed has pros and cons. One of the downsides is only being allowed 10 days leave in any one go, if you want more, then it goes up to board level. However, after begging, pleading and making lots of coffee for my boss, he gave me a full month off work after getting it approved. I don't think it'll happen again, but who knows, perhaps I'll get some photos of him with the secretary at the Christmas party and can blackmail him next year for more leave. For now though we were dead chuffed and got the flights and bike booked.

OnHellas has done a lovely write up of his trip (Link here - https://www.adventurebikerider.com/foru ... 04#p644804 and has done a much more thorough job than we could ever do in 30 days, so give it a read. For our little version though, here it is, there are no dangerous or death-defying moments really, just about 8,500 miles of mostly lovely riding.

I'm still tidying up the photos so will add as I go along, hopefully tonight. But for now, the start went like this on our little checklist:

1) Book Air tickets for us (Air Canada obviously to get the discount)
2) Book the "Fly your Bike" and the associated paperwork like Dangerous Goods Certs and Insurance
3) Ensure Travel Insurance was adequate for riding a 1200cc bike - My Lloyds bank account covered it and is included FOC!
4) Breakdown Insurance - ADAC would cover us in the USA
5) Bike setup - My 1200GS is an old one, 2006 and had 60,000 miles on it. I gave it an almost full service, incl the final drive and I also got the rear suspension reconditioned. I found a new front shock too, so fitted that. Then a thorough check over, new Anakee 3 tyres, pads, all that kinda stuff. It was good to go. In fact, 10 days before we left, I managed a further 4 days off work and did a 1,500 mile Scotland trip on it to ensure everything was ok.
6) Replace my old aging intercom with something better for comms. I managed to get two second hand Sena 20's for us.
7) The fun bit, routes and navigation. I bought a rugged phone a few months ago and I know it's good as it came off my bike at 80mph on the way home from Scotland, it has a few marks on it but still works perfectly with no damage to the screen! It also has a 10,000mah battery which means it lasts for a few days or even a full day using satnav and bluetooth. I ended up buying Kurviger Pro, OSMand+ and Locus all for the phone as each one has its pros and cons. To plan the route I mainly used www.furkot.com, what an amazing website and I can't recommend it enough.
8) Internet Access - I like my Internet access so found a deal where I can get a Three.co.uk Simcard, load £20 on it and get unlimited txt/minutes and 6Gb Data in the USA. Deal! As for the Canada bits, my wife has a simcard that covered that (and the USA) from Amazon so we were both able to keep up to date with things.

You'll notice I say "free", "Second hand", "cheap" and similar quite often. That's not because I'm too much of a cheapskate, but because this was going to be an expensive holiday (Expensive for my income anyhow) as there's no camping for us this time, so we needed to watch the pennies, which we did with a daily entry of what we spent.

I think that's a fair summary of the start. Air Canada wanted the bike a minimum of 6 hours before we flew, and since we flew at 8am that means it needed to be there the day before, so on Thursday 13th June we rode down to Heathrow in the pouring down rain, our gear utterly drenched, and dropped the bike at Air Canada Cargo, caught a free bus to the hotel and repacked our luggage before going to sleep as we had a 5am start for our flight.
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DanielS
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by DanielS » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:40 am

Friday morning we set off, nothing exciting about flights, especially in Economy class. But at least the view coming into land over Toronto was pretty.
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Although we left the UK at 08h10 and flew for about 7 hours, we landed just "three" hours later at 11h30 Toronto local time. Very confusing, but it worked out well as we were not sure how much time it would take to get the bike from Air Canada Cargo. It was a Friday and we didn't want to get caught out over the weekend without the bike as we needed to get going. 30 Days is a long time for a holiday, but not when you have a large distance to cover.

We took a couple of busses and had a bit of a walk to the cargo area. It took us about 45 mins to get there but that wasn't a problem because when we did arrive we were told that the bike was still being offloaded and transported to the warehouse, so we had about a further 45 min wait. There were some customs forms that I needed to get stamped which was at the Canada Customs building just a 10 min walk away. Piece of cake as I was the only guy there. Then back to cargo, hand over CAD$115 for something or other and we were presented with the bike. Loaded our stuff up and rode off to the hotel which was across town, about an hour away. I think I only got hooted at once to remind me that you can turn right on red lights.

The hotel was great, we got an upgrade to a suite which was nice, bought some food from the Wallmart across the road and called it a night at around 9pm. It had been a long day.

Saturday started with a parkrun. I think I've mentioned it before but parkruns are 5km runs where a bunch of people get together at 9am on a Sat morning and run. It's a timed event but not a race so you get a time and it's always a pleasant atmosphere. They started in the UK about 13 years ago and not there are about 2,000 venues worldwide across about 10 countries. Each bike trip I try and fit a few in if possible and this was no exception. So we arrived on the beach and ran our 5KM with a mix of Canadians and some other holidaymakers.
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Back to the hotel before checkout time and our first breakfast abroad. There was a Denny's attached to the hotel, bottomless coffee and breakfast we could hardly finish because it was too big and then off we went towards the border about 45 mins away.
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by Wildman » Fri Jul 19, 2019 12:28 pm

In.

Tramp
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by Tramp » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:09 pm

Cool keep the reports coming and you may need to run more to loose the weight from the big portions lol :D

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zimtim
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by zimtim » Fri Jul 19, 2019 5:56 pm

Nice one
I loved Denny's for breakfast.cheap and plentiful and good way to fill up for the day and sneak a few extra sausages into the pocket for later :roll: :roll:
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by DanielS » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:23 pm

Don't worry, we get more runs in, and Denny's was ok, didn't find it particularly cheap though. That was our only Denny's of the holiday too as far as I recall.

The first stop before we arrived at the border had to be the mighty Niagara Falls. As you ride in, you sort of get filtered through to the massive car parks, and I couldn't find anywhere to park the bike so had to go with the flow. CAD$25 later and we were parked. Parking is a rip off as we were only going to be there for an hour or two, so I wasn't overly impressed with that, but once we got to see the falls, it made the pain bearable.
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I've got many more photos of the falls, but mine don't do them justice at all. All I can say is that they're truly immense, and apparently we got the best view as from the USA side (On the other side of the river), the view isn't half as good.

We headed off about 2 minutes down the road to the border with the USA, straight to the booth as there was no queue. A small bit of confusion with my V5 as it wasn't the normal Canadian or USA one and for some reason we had to go into the border agency building and present ourselves for an interview. We only waited 5 mins, had an interview, obviously said the correct things, and then had to pay a whole USD$6 for some papers go get stapled into our passports. We were then on our way in the land of the free.

That day we had booked our first ever Airbnb in a town near finger lakes. The road down took about three hours and was on lovely pleasant roads. Straight, but a nice mix of small American towns, most with flags out on the porches. We learned later that there were even more flags than normal due to Memorial Day a short while ago.

The Airbnb, we affectionately called "The Shed" was a converted milk house. No water in it and the toilet and shower were in an outhouse a few meters away which was nice and modern. Here's a photo of "The Shed":
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Our first night on American soil was good and the next two nights would be in another AirBNB but this time in New Jersey, a mere 6-hour ride away.

I had a friend in Ithaca which was on the way, so we stopped for breakfast with her and had pancakes. The largest portion ever arrived and I couldn't finish them. The small place we found was absolutely rammed with locals and was lovely. Turns out it was Fathers Day and so everyone was treating their Dads. A nice filling breakfast and we were soon back in the pelting rain and riding off.

No photos of the ride as it was properly horrific rain and we got soaked and it was a bit of interstate. As we entered New Jersey you go over a couple of bridges, and one had two sections that were about 200 meters of metal grid rather than a concrete base. With the rain it was like riding on ice and the bike had a few very slippery moments, I thought we were coming off at one point. Mental note to take another route out of there when we leave in a few days!

My wife had never been to NYC before, so we spent a day and a half walking around the city. It's always a good experience, lots of nutcases like this, a homeless lady that just yells out like a cavewoman, as well as the two topless girls behind her who charged for photos with them. Oddly even the wife said that they were unattractive and didn't have nice bodies, which I tend to agree with, they could have done with a bit of exercise and laying off the McDonalds if they're going to be doing that. Sure, I'm no Adonis and shouldn't criticise, but that's why you don't see me with my clothes off in public.
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We did the normal sightseeing stuff and walked almost everywhere. Had pretzels for lunch too which was quite amusing as we effectively got them for free - We had walked into a pretzel store and the guy obviously knew we were tourists and gave us two free vouchers for pretzels, which we immediately used to buy two pretzels, what a bargain. We did at least buy a few drinks from him so it wasn't completely a waste of his time.

Our AirBNB was very nice, a spare room in a massive house and a friendly host who gave us all the tips on getting into the city. I'd definitely recommend them. We'd been apprehensive about AirBNB at first, but we need not have worried and they're a fair bit cheaper than hotels in cities sometimes. The next day we were planning a morning in NYC and then a leisurely drive towards Washington, DC. I wasn't too bothered about going, but it was kind of on our route so we might as well go and see where Trump hangs out. That was the plan for the next couple of days.

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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by Tonibe63 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:24 am

I'm in 8-)
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DanielS
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by DanielS » Mon Jul 22, 2019 1:52 pm

We left our NYC Airbnb and started to head south to yet another Airbnb in a suburb of Maryland next to the capitol. The plan was to pop into Washington, have a look around, sleep in the AirBNB again and then have another visit in the morning. It seemed a good plan.

Remember the metal grate bridge on the way into NYC? Well, I was so adamant that I was going to avoid it on the way out of the city, that I had been checking Google Streetview maps for a better route out of the city. My GPS was set to avoid tolls and it turns out that there was a concrete bridge out of the city and straight onto Interstate 95 to get us away from the hustle and bustle and we'd sort it out from there.

With the satnav reprogrammed we headed out and were confronted by a toll ticket machine on the entrance to the Interstate. Try as I might, it wouldn't give me a ticket and so, with a queue of cars behind me, I just rode on (no barrier) and thought I'd worry about it later. Sure enough, about 30 miles later it ended and we approached the booths to pay. There were three signs: "Card" "Cash" and "EZPass" or similar. I noticed the EZ pass lanes didn't have a barrier across them so just shot through there. I couldn't be bothered with trying to explain it to someone and I reckoned that the ANPR would see my British plate and just ignore it. We'll see if I ever receive anything in the post ... My first crime in America.

From there it was leisurely riding around Philadelphia and towards Baltimore where we stopped for a drink. God bless the bottomless drinks at many places, including McDonalds where what we'd do is order one large drink, enough for both of us, which is advertised at $1 (Or $1.08 with tax .. For goodness sake, just add the tax into the price!) When we were ready to leave we would go up for a refill and get nice cold water from which we would fill our water bottle up on the bike so we could use that for the afternoon. Did I mention I'm tight?

Unfortunately walking out of the McDonalds there was the dreaded oil under my bike. I'd seen it earlier in the day too but it looked like it was from the car before me, however this time there was no doubting it was from the bike. Cock. Remember how I had my rear shock rebuilt before I left (and did 1,000 miles on it through Scotland)? Well it seemed to have failed and was dripping its oil out slowly but steadily. Here's a photo, difficult to see but the black shield is all covered with oil and it was dripping off the bottom onto the exhaust too.
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I gave the bike a bounce and it was clearly not as good as before. Also, the wife did mention that it was harder to see over my head when riding so it was sagging and getting worse. It was pretty warm too, so we retreated back into McDonald's to formulate a plan. I had a look for BMW dealerships and there was a bike one (Bobs BMW) about 60 miles away. I also posted on ADVrider for help as it's seen as mainly a North American based forum, finally I popped a post on the ADVRider Facebook group too. There wasn't much to do from there, so we decided to head down the road some more towards our Airbnb and take it easy. This meant some steadier riding just to be as smooth as possible and limit possible issues. It also meant that we wouldn't get to see Washington that day as the slower riding meant we wouldn't have time. The Airbnb was the destination for today now.

We stopped only half an hour later as I was anxious it was getting worse, and sure enough, as we stopped we could smell the oil dripping onto the exhaust. Good and bad I guess as at least it meant that the shock had oil in it. We gave it another rest to let the oil cool, I don't know if it helped, but it gave us the opportunity to get out of the sun and I treated us to McDonald's ice Creams. Ice Cream makes everything better. We checked our phones again for help from our previous posts.

ADVrider had come though and suggested many things. Bobs BMW Dealership was mentioned, as was a unit from Wilburs on next day delivery, and "Beemer Boneyard" for a second-hand part. They all seemed like good options but then a chap called Eddie said he had his old GSA shock and he was only about a day south of us, almost on our route. I then had a further message from a chap called Trip on a Facebook post saying he too had a shock for me and he was about another half day south of Eddie. So that was the plan, limp to Eddies (For 6pm the next day) and if that shock didn't fit, then limp to Trip's the day after that. Things were looking up. The bike was getting pretty bouncy though and I wasn't sure what the consequence would be of a completely failed shock. An Ozzie guy on FaceBook had a "bush fix" to keep you limping along, so that evening we arrived at our Airbnb and took a walk to the shops to buy the required bits. Can you guess what we did with our bits? (Answer tonight when I get home from work)
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zimtim
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by zimtim » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:09 pm

Good job
I can see where this is going flipflops and gaffer tape :😂😂😂😂
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Can see it working on lightweight bike but two up on BMW with luggage. Still a hope a prayer is better than no hope
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Re: 30 Days to cross the USA

Post by Wildman » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:04 pm

Did you get to meet Trip?

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