7.17.11 Day 25 Turn of Events
I've debated about posting the events of this day for almost a week now and Ive made the decision to omit the first half of the day. It was such a shit first half and the people I encountered were so unlike what I have experienced so far on this trip. I feel like I should be sharing the events because the bad comes with the good, however these incidents showed such a heinous side of human nature that I think it is better left unshared. The original intent of the blog was to record the ride and the emotions that come with riding through the country. I wanted to be honest with myself and show the good and the bad. This was the first real bad day that I've had so far and I know there will be more. You know what? Here it is......
I woke up bright and early this morning and the first thing on my mind was Alaska. I was getting closer everyday but it seemed to get further away with every mile. As of now, its looking pretty grim as to whether I will make it to the Arctic Circle. It gets colder day by day and at some point, it might be impossible to pass on a sport bike. The feeling of maybe not reaching Alaska is incredibly depressing. I’ve been reading Peter Jenkins’ account of his foot travels through America with his dog Cooper and sometimes I think how wonderful it would be to have a companion like Cooper. I love traveling alone, but I can’t lie, some days it gets a little lonely. Its been a while since Ive seen a familiar face. My interaction with people is usually limited to just a few moments at a gas station, at a scenic overlook or at a campground. I’m having all these great experiences and no one to share them with. The crappy moments, however, I’m happy to endure alone.
Packing up this morning was a slow process. I’m just in a terrible mood today. I’m physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I’ve only been on the road for just less than a month and I think about the next 3 months ahead and the looming task that is the Arctic Circle. Wondering to myself if this is just plain stupid, I hit the road. A wave of depression is hitting me today and I’m just not into it. No pictures, no spirited riding, just road after road, mile after mile. I got off at a gas station to just rest. Im sitting on the curb with my head in my hands when an older guy walks up and starts asking questions. I’m friendly but concise with my answers. I just want to be alone in my helmet. When he is satisfied, I take off again. After a while, I turn the music off and just look around while I ride. Listening to the wind, the sound of the motor and my own thoughts is starting to bring me back. I keep thinking about how much longer on the road I have and all the things I still have to look forward to. Maybe it was just leaving the beautiful Adirondacks and Maine that was getting me down. The sound of the motor was soothing, I kept imagining the pistons wrapped in rings going up and down the bores turning the polished journals of the crank. The valves slapping up and down at unfathomable speeds. The whirring of the straight cut gears in the gearbox and the grooves in the ratcheting drum sliding the forks back and forth while I select each gear. What a marvelous piece of engineering. Somehow, this made me feel better.
Riding into Ithica, Ny, I’m already starting to feel a lot better. The town is pretty cool and I enjoyed seeing it. I wasn’t in a picture taking mood yet so I left the camera untouched for most of the day. After Ithica, I ended up on CR 327 which ended up being a great twisty road. At the end, I plugged Watkins Glen back into the GPS to make my way there. It had me turn around and head back the way I came. No problem, Ill gladly ride that road again….or so I thought….
Just a quarter of a mile up, I see a white F-150 with Jersey plates ahead so I slow down and just relax and follow at probably 100 feet behind. The driver cant seem to stay in his own lane and is using up the entire road so I stay back even further. Then he starts slamming on the brakes for no reason. What the hell is this guy doing. I pull close to the center of the lane so I can look in his side mirror. I can see him looking back at me and he is red faced and angry. What the hell? Why is he harassing me? Every time he hits the brakes so do I as Im trying to keep a good distance from him. He hits the brakes hard one time and almost comes to a stop in the middle of a corner in the other lane. This guy is going to kill someone and its not going to be me. Not today. As soon as the road straightens out and the double yellow turns to dotted yellow, I make my way past him way on the other side of the road trying to keep my distance. At this point, he is just creeping along riding the brakes. As Im passing him, he deliberately swerves at me and I look to my right into his window. He looks belligerent. He waves his fist and me and I could tell he is just screaming away inside the truck. What’s up with this guy? I speed up to get away from him and when I speed up, so does he. I hear his truck downshift so I throttle it up to get as far away from him as possible. He’s trying to keep up with me now and we go through a few corners and I leave him behind. Weird, I didn’t do anything to this guy and he’s trying to kill me. A few miles and a few turns later, I felt safe enough to stop and look at the gps again. I was wrong. I check my mirror and this truck is flying up behind me and pulls into the grass on the right. I click it in gear, ready to take off but there is a lot of traffic crossing and Im stuck for now. He slams on the brakes and stops next to me and rolls the window down and starts shouting things at me incoherently. I point to my ears and say I can’t hear him with earplugs in. He gets out of his truck. I’m looking for a break in traffic to escape. He walks in front of the bike blocking me in and keeps shouting things. I turn off the music and look at him and all I hear is “chink” this and “chink” that. What? Really? Whats wrong with this guy? I guess Im gonna be here for a minute so I put the bike in neutral. I look in his truck and I see his wife/gf with her head down shaking it looking extremely embarrassed. There is a small child in the back seat looking scared. The guy is still angry for some reason and is yelling at me to get off the bike. So I say to him, “Dude, do you really want to fight me right now, I’m in full gear. You can swing all you want but I wont feel a thing. Your only hurting yourself. Why don’t you stop embarrassing yourself and your family and get back in your truck.”
I’m having a crappy day at this point so I really don’t care what happens next. If this guys really wants to fight, let him have it. His fists will do nothing to my helmet, full leathers and chest and back protector. His wife then shouts at him through the window, “Come on! Lets just go!”
I motion to his truck for him to get back in, click it in gear, lunge forward at him. He steps to the side just enough for me to turn the bars a little to get by him. I gas it and made a right turn into traffic. I feel my saddlebag hit him as I turn. Im going the wrong direction now, but it was my only way out so I didn’t care. I still don’t know what he was so angry about. Whatever, I shake it off and keep heading towards the Glen. I try not to dwell on ridiculous things like that.
Arriving at the glen, there is bumper to bumper traffic. What’s going on? There’s no race at the track this weekend. Then I see a sign for a Wine Festival. Man, I was hoping to have some quiet time at the track and do some reading and writing. The small park by the lake was charging $5 to park and it looked packed. I come to this park a lot when Im working at the racetrack, it’s a great peaceful spot overlooking the lake. Not so much today. I fuel up and decide Im just going to keep rolling. On my way out of town, Im sitting in traffic just minding my own business when the guy next to me rolls his window down. I glance over and his whole family is staring me down. Wife, kids, the whole lot. Looked liked the Beverly Hillbillies or something. The guy starts talking to me so I turn the music off and I hear something to the effect of “Hey Ching Chong! Where the hell you going?”
I shake my head and shout back to him, “That’s a great example your setting for your kids, buddy.”
“I’ll raise my kids however the fuck I want!”
Damn, what is with today? Traffic moves and I take off leaving the car full of ignorant retards staring at me. I guess you just can’t escape racism even in the northeast. I spent most of my life in Georgia so Im used to hearing all the racist stuff day in and day out. Again, I shake it off and keep riding. What an absolute shit day. I’m ready to be in Buffalo and see a familiar face. I knew it would put me in a better mood to see my cousin.
Tired of people, I hit I-90W again. I just want to get to Buffalo as fast as possible now. Its torture being on this road though, traffic, crosswinds…… I got off at every service plaza to take a break and close my eyes. I couldn’t believe the day I was having. Ten miles before my exit, there is one more service plaza and a Tim Horton’s sign. That’s what I need. An Ice capp will make things better. I pull in the parking lot and see a Suzuki Bandit loaded up. Parking next to it, I see a lot of stickers on his windshield and a few of them were places I had just been to. Cool! I havn’t seen another rider in a while, hopefully I see him inside.
Walking inside, everyone just stares at me like Im an alien. I guess they have never seen an asian kid in full leathers before. What a freakin day I’m having. Get in line and get my ice cap and then I start looking around for someone in riding gear. I turn around and see a jacket and a Icon chest and back protector identical to what Im wearing. Then I notice the owner is an Asian guy. No way! Another Asian guy touring on a bike. I had to say hi.
“Are you on that Bandit outside?”
This one question led to over an hour of talking and laughing with one of the coolest people Ive met so far. He’s from Toronto and is returning from a week long ride around the Northeast. We rode to a lot of the same places the past few days so we shared some stories and just talked about where we were from and just life in general. It was genuinely fantastic to meet someone so much like me especially with the day I was having. Seriously, what are the chances? Thinking about it now, if I hadn’t had those shitty encounters and the broken strap yesterday, I never would have taken the interstate and wanted to stop so often to get my mind off things. After just a few minutes, I was all smiles again and felt like Ive known Owen for ages. We joked about our asian backgrounds and how we should be sitting at home and playing the violin and piano instead of roaming the country on motorcycles. This guy had me cracking up. He reminded me a lot of my cousin John. Kind hearted, highly spirited, infectious smile and laughter. I felt like I was with family. He offered a place for me to stay in Toronto but I was already heading to visit my cousin.
After a while, we both had to hit the road, Im hours late to my cousins house now. We swapped contact info and rode up I-90 until I got off at my exit. Im remembering why I love doing this now. There will always be the bad days and the ignorant people. But its those genuinely great people dotted in that will make this trip memorable for an eternity.
Now that Im in Buffalo, I ride to my cousin’s house near University of Buffalo. She greets me outside and helps me carry my gear in. We catch up for a minute, then I grab a shower so we can go get some dinner. So in Buffalo, what do we have for dinner? Buffalo Wings of course. We hit up Duff’s which is the place Obama went when visiting the area. Twenty wings were ordered and at first I was thinking we would need more, but after getting through about 7 of them I realized these weren’t the wings I usually get in Atlanta. These must be those genetically engineered chickens because they were massive. With 5 wings left on the table, Christina and I looked at each other and said, “We can do this.” We come from a family of foodies so there was no way we were going to let these wings go to waste. Christina says she can do one more, there’s no way I can do 4, but I’m sure as hell going to try. After her one, she grabs another. I’m thinking, yup, we are definitely from the same family, hahaha, I love it. After we finish the wings, she starts eating more of the fries. Hahahahaha, man, we are definitely related. I don’t know how our family are just not massively obese. Wings crushed, we waddled back out to her car and go home stuffed.