Cross Country Day 21 – Indianapolis, IN to Pittsburgh, PA

I had a great time at the mecca of speed but it was time to put rubber to asphalt once again. I walked down the Econolodge steps and towards the Brick. I was again reminded of a cowboy’s trusty steed lashed off to a hitching post. She was more than slightly worse for wear. Bug pelted, dirty, with a cracked turn signal and a clutch lever forced towards the triple clamp. We’d been through so much and now it was all winding down – one more stop in Pittsburgh and then home. I have never spent so much time away from people I know. If I travel, I usually have a friend in tow or my destination involves family. No, this was a unique journey with most of the miles only witnessed by a 25-year-old motorcycle. I knew I was being anthropomorphic by giving my motorcycle the power of vision, but I think the technique was needed to keep my sanity. I recalled Tom Hanks talking to his friend/ball “Wilson” in the film Castaway.

The Brick fired right to life and we rolled out of Indy. The trip was a shoestring east on 70 for just over 5 hours, an easy haul compared to some of the days I put in on the beast. I decided on Waffle House for breakfast. If you’ve never been to a Waffle House you owe yourself the experience. When I traveled with my old bands the joint was a common stop mainly because of the consistency from location to location. I’m not just talking about the food, but the actual operation of the familiar yellow building. When you place an order, the waitress shouts the order to the line cook. The funny thing is that he is standing approximately 2 feet away. As I ordered my food and heard the order repeated, my mind flashed to an imaginary Waffle House waitress training meeting with the handbook cracked open and read like a psalm from the bible. “Speak in a loud clear voice when giving orders to the chef. This will assist in avoiding mistakes.” I popped back into reality realizing that the chef actually heard my order and the waitress shouted it out as to reinforce my words in waitress shorthand. “Whiskey down!” I have learned over the years is rye toast.

The meal was filling and satisfying. I looked down at my gut that had swelled over the past few weeks from eating my way across the country in every dive and greasy spoon I could happen upon. What was this about? I purposely went out of my way to not eat anything healthy the entire trip. Was I trying to kill myself with cholesterol? I already take simvastatin and I know the risks of eating greasy food, but that didn’t stop me. I kept pounding buttery nails into veins. I was loose. Nothing tied me down and for once I was going to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. I can lose weight fast and decided that my no holds barred method would stay in place until I dipped my feet in the Atlantic Ocean.

I pulled onto 70 and just gunned my way towards Pittsburg. I was going to stay with my friend Alyson again. I extended my stay with her so we could see the Pittsburgh Banjo Club again. The ride was uneventful but pleasant. The skies were a bright blue and the temperature was perfect. Great weather makes for easy miles and I sliced through the Buckeye state in record time. I only stopped for gas and just kept moving.

After a few hours I made it into Pittsburgh. There was a traffic snarl on 28 in PA, but I eventually got the Brick to Alyson’s garage. In the driveway was her tank of a car, a Chrysler 300 that she calls Sandy. I used to name things. I named my guitar amplifier I built myself after my ex-wife and I got a tattoo of an old flame on my arm that I later had to get lasered off after we broke up. After these events occurred, I stopped branding things. The practice was obviously a jinx, so when I got The Brick I made a definite decision to not to name the bike a human name. But on this trip as I mentioned before, the salty bike has grown on me and I’ve lowered my defenses a bit. I now refer to the two-wheeled beast as “she” and “her” – the failings of a hopeless romantic.

Alyson cooked me up a nice spread of enchiladas and salad. “What’s this green stuff?” I joked. A home cooked meal was a welcome treat after eating in nothing but fat laden dives for as many miles as I can remember. We sat and chatted. Many things have happened that the vastness of my journey was hard to communicate. “How has your trip been?” she asked. “Do you have 2 straight days to talk?” I answered. The statement wasn’t a joke. I had driven roughly 6000 miles since I saw her just 18 days ago. I crashed, almost got arrested, was propositioned, saw things I’ve never seen, almost got stranded, and made it to California and back. I decided that when people ask me, “How was your trip?” my response will be a simple, “Good.”

We finished up dinner and Alyson had a meeting with Ambit Energy, a new company that has formed since the deregulation of public energy. The speaker was an exciting guy, but the entire conversation seemed to focus on making money. I thought about my financial situation. I was going deeper into debt by taking this trip but to me I couldn’t imagine not taking the ride. Life is about opportunity and sometimes the almighty dollar must take a back seat. I have friends that worry about money and security. They are saving their bucks for when they are old. My response to this methodology is always the same, “What if you don’t make it to old?” I looked on as my old drummer Jeff Wood passed. He was one of the most in shape people I have ever met and I remember his bluster as he bragged about doing 2000 sit-ups a day. He had the abs to prove it and he drummed harder than any person I’ve ever met. But that didn’t stop that bastard the grim reaper from swinging his mighty scythe and delivering him not one, but two brain tumors back to back. We have no idea when our last day will come. I could have met mine during the swirling double gusts that nearly snatched me off the Brick on the Tonopah to Green River stretch. So I live like I live. Stretching funds beyond their limits, refinancing with loans against my retirement account in order to take part in the adventure before I check out.

In the last verse of his song “Moving Out” from The Stranger album, a 1977 gift from my 7th grade girlfriend Joan, Billy Joel sings:

And he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for
A Cadillac ack ack ack ack ack
You ought-a know by now
If he can’t drive with a broken back
At least he can polish the fenders

This is how I rationalize going into debt for doing things I want to do and buying things I want to own. The time is now. I’m a driver not a polisher. The bell tolls for thee.

Alyson and I returned home after the Ambit meeting and talked about our past relationship woes. I couldn’t seem to bounce back. Even though I knew my ex wasn’t the right one, something ached that I could not release. I looked out on the long road during this trip and found few answers. We talked for over an hour. I believe the act of discussing the past can help one release the associated hardship. I felt a slight part of the weight of the past had lifted after our discussion. She is a good friend to listen to me and share her feelings too. She had known pain. I hated to see her have to go through the tough things I did.

We decided to head up to Mt. Washington that overlooks Point State Park where the three rivers of Pittsburgh join. We walked along and became hypnotized by the panoramic vista. A young couple asked me to snap a photo for them with the stretching scenery in the background. I saw the innocence in their eyes, a grain that had not been lost yet due to the torture of heartbreak. I handed their camera back and they thanked me. I became a little part of their lives. An aging adventurer wandering with an old friend captured a moment of their lives that was filled with promise and hope for the future. Where was my promise and hope? I drove 6000 miles and even while squinting, I couldn’t see the tiniest dot of light.

We strolled into a great restaurant called the Georgetown Inn and sat right on the windows overlooking the point. We met the owner and I told him about my trip. He reinforced what an incredible achievement I had pulled off by traversing the country. I did feel proud that I had done what I set out to do. After a few drinks, the feeling of longing was supplanted by laughs and jokes. My eyes refocused to the reflection in the window, which had now been converted into a mirror speckled with the city lights and framing two smiling faces. We helped each other move on – even if in the smallest way.

The night turned even funnier when I had to pee badly and we couldn’t find a place to stop. Alyson ended up parking by the side of a children’s hospital and I ran into the bushes to relieve myself. About midway through, I saw a security guard charging towards me. I quickly cut off the event and ran off as the guard barked at me. I apologized severely on the run, but I wasn’t waiting around for the interview. Alyson and I cracked up the whole rest of the way home. I seem determined to wind up in jail sometime before returning to NYC, if not by speeding then by accidental public exposure outside a children’s hospital.

We had a few more beers at home and watched Top Gear, a show I truly love. The show features 3 British guys all committing incredibly adventurous deeds with automobiles. Alyson went upstairs to bed before too long, and I started to nod off with the television flickering like a moth in a headlight, strobing my basement lair with light. I had a great day and cathartic discussion with an old friend. I realized I couldn’t let go but drifting off to sleep I decided to not try so hard and let the process happen. Time is a great healer and I needed more. Removing my glasses, my subterranean world became a soft focused blur. As my tired eyes closed, I think I did see a light dot of hope appearing – or maybe that was just the TV.

Starting Mileage 70 Yup 70
Waffle House Ohio Can’t steal this
The Point Goodnight Brick


Indianapolis, IN to Pittsburgh, PA – 386 Miles

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One Response to Cross Country Day 21 – Indianapolis, IN to Pittsburgh, PA

  1. thehornrims says:

    Whiskey Down! Many memories of the Waffle House (or Huddle House, depending on what part of Georgia you find yourself in). Yum…

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