Friday was D-Day. Departure. Time to point the Goldwing south and hit the road.
Bill and I had talked about a schedule the night before, but reached no concrete decision. My only deadline was “Be home by Sunday night,” because I hadn’t brought any of my daily meds for Monday. It’s heck getting old.
He drove us to the Starliner Diner, a Hilliard landmark, for breakfast, then to the BMV to get the title notarized. It was surprisingly busy for a Friday morning, but we got there just before it got really backed up. Once that was done, we headed back to his place, and I started loading up the Goldwing. I had a backpack, my carry-on, and a bigger bag that had held the backpack and my carry gun. That had been the hardest part of prepping for the trip: figuring out how to get my carry gun up to Ohio.
Flying With a Gun
How do you fly with a gun? It’s not really that difficult. The gun needs to be in a locked, hard-sided case, unloaded. Ammunition needs to be separate from the gun. The lock on that case cannot be a TSA-approved lock. You have to be the only one with a key to that lock. The locked case goes in another bag, and that one gets the TSA lock. The idea is that TSA doesn’t want anyone to be able to access the gun except the owner. Given that the 7 TSA keys have long been compromised, I’m not sure how safe it is to lock the outer bag with a TSA-approved lock, but at least it’s locked.
I then secured the outer bag and the backpack (the gun case was in the backpack) with red zip-ties. I put a note in the outer bag asking TSA to re-secure the bag with zip ties if they cut the red ones, and added white zip-ties to the bag. That way there’d be no doubt if the bag was opened.
Different airlines have different procedures at this point. I flew American. The desk agent asked to inspect the gun. I had already locked the slide so it was obvious it was unloaded. I then signed a declaration card that she put in the hard case. She had me lock the case, then lock it in the outer bag.
She added a red RETURN TO BSO tag to the outer bag, which I found out later meant “Return to Baggage Service Office.” That meant the bag would never go on the luggage carousel, but would get special handling on the tarmac. I was a little concerned that the red tag would function as a “Steal This Bag” indicator, but I had no problems. It would have been helpful had the Tulsa agent explained procedures a little better at check-in. I got nervous at the baggage claim in Columbus when my bag wasn’t on the carousel. The red zip ties were intact though.
I took a bit of a risk here, in that my outer bag was a soft-sided bag. Why? Transportation and cost. Riding the bike back limited my cargo capacity somewhat. I wasn’t going to be able to carry a large rigid case home, and I didn’t want to buy a new suitcase just to leave it in Columbus. Plus, the older hard-sided cases wouldn’t have a TSA-approved locking system. If they had to open the case, I’m not sure what they would have done, but it probably would have cost me a suitcase. So while this wasn’t an ideal solution, I made the best of a one-time situation.
Hitting the Road
Once we got back to the house, I made two or three trips between the house and bike. I stuffed the big bag I had bought for the trip in the left saddlebag, and my backpack in the right. My carryon and the hard case for the gun went in the trunk.
The extra windshield got strapped onto the back seat, wrapped in plastic to keep the straps from scratching it up.
It was a little odd standing there. On the one hand, it felt like I had never left Columbus five years ago. The trip in from the airport and Bill driving us around Hilliard brought back a flood of memories, and I missed more than a couple of people and places. I could have easily spent days visiting with people: a high school friend or twelve; a former boss; plenty of cousins and in-laws. Some of them I haven’t seen in fifteen years or more, so it would have been good to reconnect.
At the same time, I itched badly to hit the road. I wasn’t necessarily in a great rush to get home. But I wanted desperately to get rolling. I had planned on stopping by Iron Pony, or checking in with my boss from the escort service over a former coworker’s death, but as I stood there looking at the bike, I realized all I really wanted to do was ride.
Bill and I stood there for a moment or two, silently contemplating what was happening. He was losing a bike he had ridden for 13 years. He and his wife had put close to 40,000 miles on that Goldwing, and there were certainly some fond memories of those rides. But in our email negotiations, he said at one point, “Glad it’s going to someone I know, and will take care of it,” and repeated that sentiment to a few people.
He looked over at me after a long minute, shook my hand and said, “I’m at peace with it.” That was good to hear.
I grabbed my helmet, started the bike, and the song playing on the radio was The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane.” I wasn’t sure what kind of an omen that was.
I had intended to drive around Bill’s neighborhood for a bit to make sure my riding skills weren’t too rusty, but once I cleared his driveway, it was like I had never been off a bike. All was right with the world.
I probably have over 100,000 miles on 4th– and 5th-generation Goldwings. That helped develop a tremendous muscle memory for the bike. I leaned and turned and rolled easily through the first few turns, and instinctively found the switches and controls as I needed them. I didn’t even forget to put my feet down the first time I stopped!
My original plan, such as it was, called for me to head west out of Hilliard on Scioto-Darby Creek Road over to US 42, then run that all the way down to I-71 at Lebanon. As I headed down Avery Road, my thumb instinctively hit the left turn signal, and I reflexively turned down Norwich Street to pass Tidd Funeral Home. They were set up for a funeral, and I craned my neck looking for the escort bike. It was close to noon, so I assumed they were still on their previous service.
At the end of Norwich, I turned on to Scioto-Darby Creek Road, still thinking I was going out to 42. But muscle memory again took over at the intersection with Alton-Darby Road, and I found myself heading south along a route I traveled several hundred times in my escort career. My arms twitched at intersections to stop imaginary traffic. My head stayed on a swivel, more than a typical rider would need, but about right for an escort. I may have reached for my non-existent whistle once or twice.
I was soon westbound on US 40, where I switched from an old favorite FM classic rock station to the music on my phone. Plans to create a travel playlist never quite materialized, so I ended up shuffling the songs and taking what I got. The first one I heard outside West Jefferson was Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time,” which seemed perfectly appropriate for the occasion. A line near the end of the last verse seems particularly poignant at this stage of my life.
“I’ve got to keep on chasin’ that dream, though I may never find it.”
Sometimes I wonder if I even know what the dream is.
Even better, the next song was Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away,” about a man on a motorcycle ride searching until he finds what’s right. That song has always spoken to me, from the singer’s escape to his spirit rising with the hawk. Several times throughout the day, birds soared along with me, riding the air currents created by the sunbaked asphalt.
Where they chasing me, or was I chasing them?
Who was leading whom?
One of the nice things about a trip without deadlines is being able to stop for photo opportunities whenever they popped up. I took advantage of several, but missed far more. I wish I had stopped to take a picture of my new favorite road name: Fishworm Road. It’s a real road, near Clifton Ohio. Honest.
I skirted Cincinnati and Louisville, not wanting to follow 42 through town, where it would be city streets. Interstates 71 and 275 got me around Cincy, and let me stop for a late lunch in Erlanger. My original plan had been to get back on 42 there, but it was late in the afternoon, and traffic was horrendous on the surface. I decided to get back on 71/75 for a bit, just in time for some mild twisties along the Ohio River where I had another good photo opportunity.
Somewhere around Carrollton, I wasn’t paying attention to road signs, and I ended up on Highway 55 instead of 42. It really only meant that I missed some more nice twisties. By the time I found a place to stop and confirmed my mistake, I was well over halfway to where I could pick up 42 again, so I kept going.
I was starting to get tired and saddle-sore after 8 hours on the road, and it was getting dark. Thinking there would be plenty of hotels near a military base, I decided to call it a night in Radcliffe.
I got a little nervous passing through West Point when I saw there were only two hotels. One looked a little sketchy, and the other looked like more than I wanted to spend, so I continued south and ended up at the Gold Vault Inn in Radcliffe. Where else would you stay near Fort Knox?
I was close enough to the post that I could hear “Taps” coming back from dinner. That ended my night on a somber note.