Summer 2016 – Day 1, Jacksonville to St. Louis

The beauty of the English language is the ability to create new words. Motography. The combination of motorcycling and photography. I guess that I could be called a motographer. This summer I combined my two passions while crossing off some destinations on my motorcycling bucket list. Riding across the Great Plains. Pikes Peak. Million Dollar Highway. Four Corners. Mokie Dugway. Monument Valley. The Grand Canyon. Utah’s amazing national parks.

On family vacations as a kid, my dad took his camera loaded with color slide film. When we returned home, he would drop them off at the local pharmacy. There was a little counter in the back with a Kodak sign hanging overhead and shelves filled with yellow film cartons behind the counter. A week later, he would pick them up and that night we would look at them using a little battery-powered slide viewer. The slide went in the slot, you pressed a button on the top to turn on the light, and you could view the slide through a small magnifying screen. Eventually he would put them in a slide tray and store them away. Every now and then we might setup the slide projector and the screen and actually look at them again!

My travel photography is so different. I capture the requisite selfie on my phone to share on Facebook. I take my digital SLR to take high quality pictures, and I take a GoPro to capture the action. I can review the photos immediately after I take them. And I take many because they are digital. At night in the motel, I pull out my chargers and USB cords and batteries and make sure that I’ll be ready for tomorrow. Once home, I spend hours processing the photos and posting them to share with the world.

Each photo brings back vivid memories. The drop in temperature as a storm front caught up with me and the rain began to fall. The desert heat that remained with me until the sun went down. People I met – a motorcycling couple from California, a nature photographer photographing condors, river rafting guides on the Colorado River. Deliberately speaking simply and slowly as I talked with a Chinese tourist from Beijing. The dry beauty of the American Southwest. The vastness of the Plains states and the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. Struggling to catch my breath at the top of Pikes Peak. The vertigo from looking over the edge of an arch bridge. The coldness of the Colorado river. The wind at the Grand Canyon. The joy of sharing it with my best friend.

Here are the factoids of the trip:

  • Days on the road: 15
  • Total miles ridden: Approximately 5800
  • Gas Stops: 34
  • Least expensive gas: $2.05 Valdosta, GA & Lone Chimney, OK
  • Most expensive gas: $2.82 Buena Vista, CO
  • Average MPG: 42
  • National Parks: 5
  • National Forests: 8
  • National Monuments: 7
  • National Recreation Areas: 2
  • National Grasslands: 1
  • Most miles in a day: 1100
  • Number of states ridden through: 14
  • Number of states ridden for the first time: 8
  • Highest Elevation: Pikes Peak, 14,115 ft
  • T-shirts purchased: 2
  • Coffee mugs purchased: 2
  • Pins purchased: 5
  • Rainstorms: 2
  • Highest temperature: 104F Mexican Hat, UT
  • Lowest temperature: 53F, Jacob Lake, AZ
  • Weight of camping gear shipped home: 50 lbs.

I headed out on the first Saturday of June. My wife was at a conference in Utah, and the plan was to meet her in 6 days and tour together. I had spent the previous weeks getting the bike ready. I installed new Avon Cobra tires, changed the engine oil and the rear differential oil, made a bracket to hold my GoPro on a the handlebars, and purchased a new Odyssey one-piece waterproof riding suit from Olympia Moto Sports.

Rain day 1, south of Chattanooga on I-75
Rain day 1, south of Chattanooga on I-75

For me, the trip doesn’t really start until I am on a road that I have never ridden before. So the drive from Jacksonville to Nashville was just a matter of putting in the hours. I hit heavy rain south of Chattanooga and the Odyssey lived up to it’s claims. It kept me completely dry. But while planning my route, I noticed the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in the southwest corner of Kentucky and decided to include it in my ride. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake. It was a pleasant ride, similar to riding the Natchez Trace, but not spectacular. In the end it probably added about 50 miles and an extra hour or so to my ride that day. I would have been better off getting to St Louis earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep. Mixing high-mileage days with sightseeing is challenging.

Land Between the Lakes
Land Between the Lakes
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Matthew Dragiff

A Goldwing rider from Jacksonville, FL.

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