Friday, July 17, 2009

Crossville and on North to Kentucky

After a restful night at my Dad's place in Crossville, we woke up and had some breakfast at a local restaurant. Had some good food and planned my route for the day, including a stop in Jamestown, TN, where I lived until 5 yrs old. My destination is the Honda AMA Superbike Race at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. It just so happens, that is where Tracy grew up, so it's also a chance to meet her there and visit with family.

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As Dad and I wrapped up breakfast, he came back from a phone call to tell me I had an interview at the local paper, the Chrossville Chronicle. So I packed up the bike and headed over. I spent a little more than an hour telling my story about traveling across the US to see the space shuttle launch and all the neat things I've seen. Not sure if it'll make the paper, but I hope it does. The pic below is me in front of the paper, with Missy, who interviewed me.


And me all packed up, ready to head out.


The sky was stormy as I left East TN headed north. On the south side of Jamestown, the sky turned black and the wind started blowing. I pulled over to put on my rain gear. About 30 seconds after I got back on the bike, the clouds opened up and it poured. Wasn't so bad, my gear protected me. But my shield was fogging up in the humidity and it was hard to see thru the rain. Then things got worse....the bike started acting funny, misfiring and stumbling. After a mile or so of confusion, it stalled out...right in the center of town. I struggled to push the heavy bike up an incline to get it off the road and onto the sidewalk, under an awning. Cars honked at me as the rain came down. I could tell at the end it was only running on one cylinder. The bike is dead, the trip is over. I pulled out the cell, to start calling friends and signal. Got out the backup signal on that network either. Dammit. The business I pulled over in front of...closed. No available phone within sight. I was thinking about how I wouldn't get to see Tracy or make it to the race. I couldn't imagine what was wrong. My heart sank.

But then I collected my thoughts and put my brain to work. After some process of elimination, I deduced it was an ECU issue. The F800 has a feedback loop on the ECU that constantly re-evaluates the fuel map to get better fuel economy. I figured that it may have gotten confused with the rapid change in the environment. So I completely shut off the bike, let it cool. Then fired it up and slowly revved it across the entire RPM range. It seemed to clear up. I am still not sure if it was a slightly fouled plug or just a confused ECU...last time the bike stalled on me was in the high humidity of a rainy night in Baja. So, I jumped back on and continued.

I drove past the old house where I lived as a child. With all the rain, I didn't stop to make pictures, I felt it was best to leave all the electronics sealed up. It was the same as I remembered it. Continuing on, the rain eventually let up and the sun came out to dry me up. After crossing the KY line, I came across a cool steel truss bridge over the dam that creates Lake Cumberland. Looked fun down there.


I continued up SR68 the rest of the day. It's a beautiful road with horse farms and hay fields all around.


Stopping for gas, I ran into a fellow biker named James. He was on a Ducati monster, similar to my old one. he exchanged info, he took a few pics of my getup and then we rode together for a few miles thru Kentucky. A cool guy. I tried a few over-the-shoulder shots but they didn't really turn out...the dang camera bag blew *right* in front of him. D-oh. But I did catch a fuzzy shot of him in my mirror.


I passed thru a little town with some really cool structures that had been 'preserved'. At least they looked kinda preserved.


The moss growing on the side of that building was really neat.

Took a few shots of the road...I seem to have a different definition of level while on the bike.


I ended the day on the Kentucky/Ohio border. It's Maysville, KY to the south and then you cross a beautiful suspension bridge and it's Aberdeen, OH.


I actually went a few miles north on 41 into Ohio but saw deer everywhere and decided to turn around. Stayed in Aberdeen at a motel on the side of the road. Part of it had burned down so I was staying in the part next door. Got a weird vibe from a Harley dude about the safety issue so I parked the bike sideways right up in front of my window. "Hell I'd pull it in my room if it was me." Hehe. Had a 10" pizza at a local joint down the street, it was good.

Tomorrow, into Ohio!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We have liftoff!


After 4500 miles on the bike, 11 days of waiting, 6 launch attempts, 3 trips out to the pad and two 13 hour truck drives, I finally got to see the shuttle go up. Man it was awesome. Jason shot video, I hope to post it soon.

The story is, NASA claimed to solve the hydrogen leak issue, and ran a test to prove it. The launch was re-scheduled for July 11th, so after extending my break in TN a few days longer, Jason and I decided to make the trip back down to see it. But I didn't take the bike, time was of the essence for both of us and I really didn't want to slab the 13 hour drive from Nashville to Titusville on a motorcycle, in the rain. So we left at 7AM Friday and arrived that night in FL about 9PM. Saturday, the launch was scrubbed because of lightning strike issues from a storm on Friday. Sunday, we went down to the VIP section at Banana Creek (3.3 miles) to see the launch, but it was scrubbed just before T-9:00 due to a weather violation at the RTLS (Return to Launch Site).

Monday, due to awesome things I can't reveal (A.T.I.C.R.), we went to view the launch from OSB, which is a bit closer and the REAL VIP spot. All the head honcho's were there from NASA, JAXA (Japanese NASA), CSA (Canadian Space Agency), congressmen, senators, etc. We had lobster tail, tiger prawn, fruits, drinks and even a special STS-127 edition Jones Cola. It was truly special and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Unfortunately, as on Sunday, the RTLS had a weather violation and it was scrubbed again.

They did a 48 hour scrub this time. Jason and I had already sworn up and down we'd leave after the last launch, but we both pushed our schedules to the max and decided to stay for the Wednesday attempt. Good thing we did because after a few email exchanges, I managed to get promoted to "Escort". I had a badge and was able to help out a bit during the mission. How badass is that? And the more you ask how all this happened, the less I'll tell you so don't ask. :)

Tuesday, while we waited, we hit up the store and took Jason's cousin Corey to the gun range. Highlight of the day was when I got a "nice tracheotomy" from the gristly instructor when he saw my target. We also went out to a causeway near the pad to get a night shot or two with the big Xenon lights turned on.

Shuttle at Night

Wednesday, we were back again at Banana Creek (along with everyone, even the real VIP's) and it was hot out. Lots of people walking around in suits in the hot weather, yuck. I was actually pretty nervous, knowing this was my last try to see the shuttle. We had been getting rain on the way to the pad, but once we got there, it was nice and clear. Hearing all the "OK" statements during the 40 minute hold prior to T-9:00, (including weather!!) made my pulse race. The moment the clock started moving again (at T-8:59), the crowd went nuts and so did I. Basically, if you imagine that the Shuttle is a car, it takes 9 minutes to start before it can move. So unless there is a technical issue, resuming the countdown after T-9:00 means it's going up.

That 9 minutes went by like seconds. At 3 minutes, they have an announcement about safety and where to go in case flaming rocket fuel is raining from the sky or a cloud of hydrochloric acid is floating your way. Really brings the danger close to home when you hear that stuff. At T-0:06 you start to see the puffy clouds and flames and at T-0 it slowly lifts off the pad. I say slowly because from 3 miles, it looks slow. It's actually going hundreds of miles an hour within a few seconds. It actually takes about 10 seconds for the sound to arrive's clear of the pad before you start to hear it. And it is LOUD. Shakes your chest from the sound. It's not a roar like a jet, but more of a crackling rumble. It arc'd thru the sky for about 2 minutes before the SRB's dropped off and it sped out of sight.

Man it was so worth it. Now the major destination for this trip was validated and one of my life goals can be crossed off the list. See a Space Shuttle Launch.

Here are a few more shots from the launch:
Go Endeavour!

After the launch, we left immediately for Nashville, drove the 13 hours through the night and got in at 7:30am. After crashing for a few hours, I headed up to Hendersonville to pack up the bike and then blasted up to Crossville to stay the night with my dad.

Tomorrow, I drive thru Jamestown, TN (where I lived until I was 5) and then up into Kentucky, on my way to Ohio for the superbike race and to meet up with Tracy again.