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Erik Trautman

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-- Pablo Picasso

The Mid Atlantic and the Carolinas

After a brief couple of days grilling, organizing my life, and hanging out at my family's house in Newport, RI, it was back on the road again. I love the Eastern Seaboard for reasons that are entirely unrelated to the quality of the driving there. Because, frankly, the driving sucks. The I-95 corridor is just home to too many humanoids and there's no avoiding them without taking a significant detour inland. So from a motorcycling perspective, my trip down to the southeast was pretty poor, particularly through the length of Connecticut.


NY to NE

I departed from Pittsburgh, a city of rivers, bridges and steel that positively overflows with character, and headed north via a winding series of narrow highways through the hills that overlooked green valleys and small towns. I soon left the interstate and picked a path along local roads. Sometimes that gamble pays off with amazing scenery and sometimes it becomes stoplight, logging truck, and school bus hell. In this case, it was the latter: I went 80 miles in three hours. On top of that, the cool air made it difficult to find a comfort zone even when I had stretches of road to myself.

Once I finally returned to the highway, it became a race to get to Syracuse before dark. Atypically, this ride was actually much better than the local roads had been. The rolling hills were draped with long fast curves and occasional farms that gave the whole ride a pleasant backcountry feel. The further north I got, the more color began to fill the forests as autumn made its presence known.


Appalachia Again

I spent a couple days in Franklin TN (just outside of Nashville) with some good friends doing the 1,000 things that I hadn't had time to do while on the road during the past couple weeks. It was great to see them again and great to have some peace and quiet for at least a short while.

I hit the road again on the next major leg of my trip beneath a beautiful blue sky and feeling pretty good about the road ahead. I was particularly excited to get another crack at Eastern Kentucky, a part of the country that left me wanting more after my first time through. After such a long time without seeing much besides flat horizons and forests, I couldn't wait to get into some real hills.

The highway driving was better than it had been in the midwest since the road actually curved and climbed and the weekend truck traffic was light. Even the trees to either side, which spread thick gnarled boughs wide across the way, were an improvement over the monotonous forests of before.


Pinballing Through the Midwest

After my plane landed in Kansas City again on Sunday morning, I left straight from the airport and rode to Des Moines, IA. The trek north through Missouri wasn't terribly interesting, consisting mostly of forests that hemmed in the highway and occasionally a nice farm or two. The countryside got prettier as I pushed into Iowa and the farms became more common. The crops weren't always harvested yet and the road was sometimes rimmed with meadows of yellow flowers that shone golden in the occasional sunlight.

Des Moines is a pretty city. It's got a simple Midwestern charm combined with patches of modernity. Clean stone buildings flanked the capitol area downtown, which played host to a street fair when I rode past. I found a nice brewery to stay in for a couple hours and soak up the local flavor.


Nebraska and the Kansas State Fair

Before I'd even started my trip, I had images in my head of riding down from the mountains of Colorado and spending the next week criss-crossing a patchwork countryside of tall golden cornfields and sparse pasture lands with romantically hazy sunsets at my back and surrounded by a pleasant late summer warmth. The reality fell far short of those expectations.

Northeastern Colorado flattened out quickly and the air thickened to the point where I could hardly breathe without having to clear my throat. It was some kind of mixture of cow shit and dust that stung the eyes and lingered in the nostrils. The road cut past enormous cattle farms and stockyards with their plumes of stench so powerful as to make you gag. The rest of the land was wide open commercial farmland with nothing left in the fields but the stubble of cut stalks left behind from the harvest.


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Great Colorado Countryside

The journey down from the mountain passes towards Great Sand Dunes National Park continued through the afternoon. We stopped where we could to take pictures of the marvelous countryside.

At last the passes opened up into a much bigger sort of plain, one which had flat land as far as the eye could see. The patchwork of giant squares formed by the intersection of straight country roads every few miles was divided evenly between empty barren spaces and large, dry-looking commercial farms. The mountains stretched out along the edges of the horizon to either side.


Ouray, the Million Dollar Highway, and the Marvels of Colorado

One of the highlights of our journey northward into Colorado was to be the San Juan Skyway, also known as the "Million Dollar Highway", which winds through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. During our time exploring Mesa Verde, though, we had to keep a wary eye on the horizon, where the clouds were gathering and darkening throughout the morning. By the time we were ready to leave, a sporadic light rain had begun to fall and we weren't sure if we'd be able to ride far at all.

Under those conditions, we left Mesa Verde and headed for Durango, CO. I really don't remember a whole lot of the ride because I was busy boring holes in the clouds ahead with my eyes, trying to discern their direction and intent. There were moments when there was nothing but blue skies above the crown of the mountains and two turns later we'd be heading directly into the darkened grey abyss. Luckily for us, the actual rain held off.


Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park

I slept a solid 10 hours after the Grand Canyon hike and awoke feeling refreshed and ready for the next leg of our trip. My friend from Texas and I packed up our campsite and set off traveling east towards Colorado. Some of the journey backtracked across the same wide open desert we'd traversed a few days prior, but it was a pleasant ride and not terribly challenging. The desert transitioned eventually into a sort of scraggly shrubland.

We stopped off at the Four Corners monument, which is pretty much a tourist trap designed to sell Navajo crafts but a point of interest nonetheless.


The Grand Canyon: Rim to River and Back

The ride from Moab to the Grand Canyon was a long 350 mile day but took us through some of the most classically amazing western vistas I've seen yet.
Things started out fairly desolate but, by the time we stopped for brunch in Monticello, UT, we were surrounded by a huge forest and dozens of signs warning about deer accidents.

That reminder of geographic variability didn't last too long before the trees thinned out and we were again given a clear view to the horizon. After a time, the only features to break up the emptiness were the broken husks of ancient farms and the occasional high voltage transmission lines bringing power from the dirty coal units of the Four Corners area to clean-conscious California.