Operation Clam Chowder
Operation Clam Chowder was a ten day, 4175 mile, ride that covered twenty states.
A few months prior, I traded my Ducati monster for a very clean ’99 Honda VFR with just a bit over 5k on the clock. It was time to take it for a serious ride.
Trace and I decided, to get the most bang for the buck, we would ride east, where the states are the smallest.
We prepped for a couple of weeks. Owning my first “sport tourer”, I went and purchased a few new goodies for the ride. Trace and I bought HJC Chatterboxes, Saddlebags off ebay and motofizz bags from Aerostich, Trying to be the outdoorsy types, we also picked up various camping gear, hiking tents, sleeping bags and the like.
Day one- Omaha, NE, to South Bend, IN. It was a relatively easy ride. Stopped right outside of Chicago for “Chicago style” pizza. We got caught in a rainstorm that was brutal. We rolled into South bend about 10pm.. a full two hours later than planned. Video 1
1) Rainsuits won’t keep your hands and feet dry, buy waterproof gloves and boots.
2) The chatterboxes were crap, they only worked if we were ten feet away from each other and even then only half the time.
3) “Chicago style” pizza is overrated.
4) You can’t always plan to ride in daylight, always bring your clear faceshield.
5) This was going to be harder than I thought
State line Pictures taken:
Day two- South Bend, IN to Erie PA. Jaunting through Michigan, We spent most of the day on the backroads. We stopped at the Rock and Roll hall of fame in Cleveland, and also took a photo op of lake Erie. Video 2
State line pictures taken:
Day Three- Erie PA to Mexico NY- One of the better days of the trip, Highlights included eating hot wings in Buffalo NY. We did a thirty minute visit to Niagara Falls and ended up crashing at a friends house. We grilled dead cow, drank beer and swapped war stories. When we stopped at the New York state line, I remember a weird feeling came over me. It had finally set in, we were out here..doing this ride. Seeing that sign made it all real, and we were a long way from home. Video3 .... Video 4
1) Never underestimate the will of a redneck to build a bonfire, and stand back…eyebrows are flammable
2) Niagara Falls isn’t as big as it looks on TV
State line pictures taken:
1) New York
Day Four - Mexico NY to Concord NH- I have to say from a sportbike fan, this was the most serious riding day of the trip. We left my buddy Jeremy’s house. It was a cold and foggy morning. We spend the rest of the day riding in upstate NY, through the Adirondack mountains. Our plans that morning were to make it to Yorktown, Maine by nightfall. The ride through the mountains, while breathtaking, took a toll our bodies as well as the clock. Crossing through Vermont, we spent most of our evening dodging moose. The New Hampshire state line came and went. We made a decision that Yorktown would have to wait until morning. An emergency phone call back home to my wife helped us get hotel reservations in Concord NH. Video 5 ... Video 6
1) Plan ahead that riding the twisties will cost you time, because they are worth it!
Day Five – Concord NH to Easton PA- This seems like this would be a easy day from the first line of this paragraph. Driving the route direct, it’s only 349 miles. But, we did it anyway but direct, and it turned into the day from Hades. Our morning started easy enough, we went out to see two bikes from Canada parked next to ours. The two riders that owned them struck up a conversation with us, I don’t know if they really understood were we were going or where we had come from. A few hours into the ride, we had made it to Maine, The sign on the state line was tiny and disappointing. When we planned this ride many months before, I envisioned the sign to be big, blue and in a field of green. Instead it was a small green sign, on a post, on a bridge. I didn’t care, we had done it..we had made it to Maine. The Atlantic ocean was only 20 miles, That would be as far east as we could go. A mile into Maine, The blue sign was there, it was big and in a field. My daydream was fulfilled. Video 6 ...
We got off the bikes, took a second set of photos..We even pulled my Nebraska license plate off my bike and held it up to the sign and took a picture....See Top . It was off to Yorktown, Maine. A few minutes later, there it was...The Atlantic ocean. We wouldn't be going any further east. It was time to head south. We made into Massachusetts. Stopping for lunch, We ordered clam chowder and relished in our victory. After eating, Rhode Island was next on our list..This became the strangest part of the trip. There wasn't a state sign going in, We guessed there had to be one on the way out. We came to this tiny town..There was a particular intersection that we came to. We kept riding around in circles coming back to the same intersection. We turned left, turned right, and turned around...and still kept ending up in the same place. We were getting frustrated, turned around, and a bit freaked out. We stopped at the local motorcycle shop and fortunately, one of the guys offered to escort us out of town. We later committed to buy GPSs and are planning on going back to RI someday to figure out what actually happened. Video 7
We made it to Connecticut. Looking back over our shoulder, We saw the Rhode Island sign. Tracy and I propped our bikes for the photo op, but we wouldn't dare go back into the state. The day was still far from over. We ran through New York, stopped and ate italian food in New Jersey..We never even knew that we had been in NJ until later. Our last 100 miles was hell. We got directions from some guy on the quickest route. We didn't know that is was going to be in a forest! It was pitch black, lightly raining and I still had my dark faceshield. Tracy led the way. I was forced to simply focus on his taillights, trusting him with every move. We rolled into the hotel in Easton PA, at about 1:30 in the morning. The hotel had already given our room away. They put us up in a "honeymoon suite" with hot tub and a fire place in room. I couldn't help but laugh. We only had one bed. We asked for a roll-away bed and flipped for it.
Lessons Learned: 1) Buy a GPS as soon as possible
State line pictures taken:
Day Six-Easton PA to NYC, NY..and back!
Our morning started like many others on this trip, get up, eat some breakfast, and begin the riding day. Because the rough ride the day before, we slept in. The original plan was to ride to Philly, catch a train to NYC, Tour around the city, and hop on the train back. Unfortunately, we slept well past the morning train schedule. Today was supposed to be a goof off day. What to do? What the hell, we'll ride into Manhattan! We got our New Jersey state sign, and took the Holland tunnel onto the island. I remember paying $26 dollars to park the bike in some shady parking garage. We walked around Times Square and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. The traffic was horrible and we'd had enough .Crossing back over, we took a few pictures of the skyline. I had never seen NYC and it was a very cold feeling not seeing the World Trade Center. With myself being from Oklahoma City, I have somewhat of a kindred sprit with the people of NYC .Video 8
Riding back through NJ, we stopped for gas. We didn't know that in NJ, you're not allowed to pump your own. But, then the station attendant saw we were on two wheels, He left us alone. It was an easy day, less than 150 miles of riding. For the first time in the ride, we had idle time. Trace and I walked down to a Mexican restaurant and grabbed dinner. We had Yuengling beer for the first time..It became my most favorite adult beverage of all time.
State line picture taken:
Day Seven --Easton, PA to Hanover, PA
This was a rare day in that we did very little video. We stopped to get the Delaware state sign picture. I remember one of the most strange parts of the ride. Riding along the Pennsylvania countryside, we found ourselves on the outskirts of an Amish village. They looked upon us as if we were from another planet. I saw a pair of young boys, in their full Amish clothing, skating along on rollerblades. Maybe I'm just ignorant, but it seemed very out of place. Hanover was just a stones throw away from Gettysburg. We got in pretty early, dropped off our bags and rode that way. Gettysburg was very quiet, we got there late in the evening and were the only ones in the park. I had been to the USS Arizona memorial a few years before and it had the same hallowed feel. It was a very cool experience.
Soldier's National Monument
State sign pictures taken:
Day Eight- Hanover PA, to Cincinnati, OH. This day was simply to pick off the last few state signs along the way. We stopped at the Maryland state line first. We actually had a picture from a few days before, but it was along a scary dangerous highway and we didn't even have time to pull off our helmets. So, this time, we got off..took a bit of video and moved on. West Virginia was next, and hear me now WV! You guys had the worst sign of the bunch!
Wild, Wonderful, Crap Ass Sign, West Virginia!
One story I have to relate. We stopped at a gas in somewhere, West Virginia. There was a couple of older ladies. They saw our license plates and asked "Are you coming from Nebraska?" "No Ma'am", I said, "We're heading to Nebraska, we are coming from Maine.". She smiled at me and said, "Good for you, you're actually doing it." "What's that?" I asked. "The thing that people say they're going to." She replied. I'll never forget that. We knocked out the Virginia state sign and made our way to my sister-in law's house in Cincinnati. Staying there was comforting. We were still 1200 miles from home. But, it was a place that I had been to before. The whole ride had been plagued with the stress of the unknown. But here, I knew how to use the remote, where the fridge was, and I could find the bathroom in the dark.
...I slept like a baby.
State sign pictures taken:
Day Nine- Cincinnati OH to Iowa City, IA
Nothing really good to report here. We took one last state line picture in Kentucky. We decided since we had gone 3900 miles with our camping gear, we would use it on our last night. As Tracy paid the campsite dues, I looked for a place to set up. I was riding along and I noticed that every campsite was labeled "handicapped" I thought it was strange. I passed a few of them, amazed that it was necessary to have so many campsites for disabled folks. I was so intrigued by this, I wasn't watching what I was doing , or where I was going, and rode my motorcycle off the road. It was good six inch drop off and she fell over. This was an ongoing theme for me, seeing a motorcycle on it's side. I picked the bike up, luckily it tipped over in the grass, and no real harm was done. Tracy and I were both exhausted and fought with setting up our tents. Roasting hot dogs, I drank beer knowing that I was only 240 miles from home. Tracy had never camped before and I took great joy watching him battling his camping gear.
State sign pictures taken:
1) Keep your eyes in the same direction as your front tire
2) Camping by motorcycle is not as cool as it sounds
Day Ten: Iowa City, IA to Omaha, NE
A wake up, a packing of the camping gear, a breakfast of pancakes, and a four hour ride, and it was over.
It was a great adventure and a crazy ride. I was glad to be home