Day 36 - 8/6/07: Effingham, IL to Nashville, TN

Day 36 - Effingham to Nashville
Off the Bike at McKendree Party Arctic Adam Returns Party at McKendree
     
Bike at Home Bike at Home Bike at Home
     
Bike at Home Bike at Home

Today I make it home.

I woke up 9:00. My plan was to leave the hotel around 11:00 in order to get to McKendree by 4:00. I took my time packing up my gear, my last time packing. I went downstairs to get some breakfast at the continental set up. I had a bagel and a banana. There was nowhere to sit downstairs, so I took my food back to the room. I watched a little TV and checked my email while eating.

At 10:30 I took my gear down to the bike. There was a Ural with a sidecar parked next to me. I checked it out, it was a pretty cool ride. I loaded my saddlebags, then put the U-Pac on the rear of the bike. I strapped everything down and I have to tell you, I felt a little sad that this was the last time I would be packing up the bike. After I get back to Nashville the bike won’t be my only form of transportation. As a matter of fact I will have to drive Hannah to camp, and later on kindergarten, in the Crown Vic. Almost every day for the last 36 days I have packed up the bike and gone for a ride. This would be the last time for this trip.

I don’t want to get all weepy and sentimental, but I have to admit, I never thought I could pull this trip off. I remember co-workers telling me I would only make it as far as Chicago, and my brother telling me that I am only doing this because everyone said I wouldn’t. While I knew my co-worker was wrong, my brother was partly right. Part of me wanted to prove all of the nay-sayers wrong. Even before the trip began I started to get nervous about it. It was hard to believe that everything came together to make this possible. Six weeks off work, the consent of my wife and daughter, having my mom baby sit during my absence, not to mention buying a motorcycle and all of the related riding and camping gear.

In the beginning I had a tendency to think of the trip as a whole, as in riding all the way from Nashville to Deadhorse and back. But that first day was just to Chicago, and it wasn’t a big deal. After spending a few days in Chicago with my thoughts I was able to get my head around this trip. In reality it was just a series of one day trips that has led me 11,000 miles.

I remember dropping the bike in Sikiani Chief, BC in the middle of the Alaska Hwy and banging up my knees pretty bad. When I dropped the bike I lost all of my confidence and began to wonder how I was going to ride the next 2,500 miles, not to mention the last 400 of it on the Dalton Hwy with no help or services at all (in reality over 800 as you have to ride it both ways). That day my knees hurt all day long. Every time I got on the bike they would bump into the tank or the seat and just burn. I remember planning to give up once I got to Toad River. I planned on camping for the night and then heading home. I called Patty and she said I had accomplished a lot and if I should come home I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Dave talked to me some that night over dinner. He kept reminding me that this was a once in a lifetime adventure and that problems were bound to happen. He told me that while my knees hurt, I was able to ride and they were bound to get better over the next few days. As a matter of fact they were better by morning.

I remember the Dalton Hwy and how much I long to return there. Those 4 days were the best of the trip by a long shot. I was so worried about the lack of support, no food, no services, no repair shops, nothing. But I came prepared and overcame my fears.

Most of all I remember the scenery:
The first yellow canola field I saw across the border of Canada.
Seeing my first wild black bear in northern BC.
The varied wildlife throughout British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska.
Passing the tree line on my way north to Deadhorse.
Standing in the Arctic Ocean.

Sometimes it all feels like a dream to me. It’s very hard to convince myself that I actually spent 36 days on the bike, riding over 11,000 miles to the end of the northern most road in North America. Sure, I have a few souvenirs that I picked up along the way. Some t-shirts from Coldfoot and Deadhorse, and some rocks I picked up in the Arctic Ocean. But they don’t seem connected to the trip. They’re almost like objects you receive from a relative who has traveled abroad. I have only these ride logs and pictures to remind me of my accomplishment.

Wow, I kind of went off on a tangent there. So after loading up the bike I left town. It’s about 300 miles from Effingham to Nashville and I planned on stopping every 100 to get some water as today is hot, over 100 F! I made it 80 miles before I had to pull over at the Rend Lake rest stop for some water and a rest. I’ve said it before, but the heat really does make me drowsy. I hung out in the A/C while I drank my water. I did make one big mistake though, I left my jacket outside in the sun. When I went to get on the bike my jacket was blazing hot.

On my next leg I rode 120 miles, I was determined to keep up the 100 mile average between stops. I pulled over in Grand Rivers, KY for some gas, an ice cream sandwich, and a water. The GPS had me arriving at McKendree at 3:50, so I felt I had plenty of time.

As I neared the KY border traffic came to a halt. It took around 15 min to go the 3 miles to the border. They had everything blocked off, and no one was working. When I got through the construction I was burning up hot again, so I stopped at the TN welcome center for some water. When I got back on the bike to head out the GPS was saying it would be 4:20 when I arrived at McKendree.

I picked up the pace and made it to the Lebanon Rd exit on Briley Pkwy at around 4:05. Then I got stuck in traffic on the way in to McKendree. I actually made it to McKendree at 4:20. Everyone was waiting in the outside pavilion in the heat, but they were still happy to see me. I pulled in and was going to turn the bike around when Darin and Sonia brought out a banner that said “Finish Line – Welcome Back Adam”. I stopped the bike and turned around to pull in across the finish line. It was great, everyone was happy, they were amazed that I’d grown my hair and beard back out. There was cake and most importantly, lots of water. We hung out in the pavilion for around 30 min, then moved inside.

Patty, Hannah, and I left McKendree at 6:30 and headed for the house. We arrived around 7:00. When I pulled into the neighborhood there was a Loose Gravel sign. I found this quite funny, to have traveled 11,000 miles, ridden over gravel, mud, and dirt, only to come home and see a Loose Gravel sign.

I parked my bike on the street, in the same place I had when I first started out. I took some pics in the afternoon sun. I pulled the bike into the garage and unloaded it for the last time.

I am finally home.

Copyright © 2007 Adam Bertram,  All Rights Reserved.