Tag Archives: motorcycle diaries

Day 24: Ferry to Cape May, NJ – Kindred Spirits

Meet Margo Pellegrino, my Spirit Animal. No, she’s not the bird, that little f*%ker attacked me. Margo is the amazing and awesome woman who inspires me to do amazing and awesome things. If you think my solo adventure where I learned to ride a motorcycle, flew off to California, bought a motorcycle then rode across the continent in a span of less than 6 months sounds a bit nutty, then you can look no further than Margo as my inspiration for such solo adventure feats.

In 2007, Margo took her first solo adventure from Maimi to Maine. She didn’t do that on wheels though, she did that on water, along on a 25-foot long fiberglass outrigger canoe. Since 2007, she’s completed solo adventures from Seattle to San Diego, Long Beach Island to Washington, DC, Maimi to New Orleans, Cape May to Montauk, New York to Chicago,  and Chicago to New Orleans.  Next, she will paddle from her backyard dock to DC to lobby congress to protect one of humanity’s most precious resources – clean water.

She has paddled solo on the Pacific, on the Atlantic, up the Intracoastal Waterway, in the Gulf of Mexico, up the Hudson River, up the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes . She moved alone among vast expanses of water, some polluted, in sweltering heat, and hypothermic cold, over crashing waves, through crushing chop and along raging surf. She’s paddle in downpours, sunshine and everything in-between. Alone. Solo. One Woman.

Along the way, she raises money and awareness about the importance of one of humanity’s most precious resources – water.  Some of her causes include the National Resources Defense CouncilGulf Restoration Network, NJ Clean Ocean Action. Along each of her solo adventures. . . neigh, each of her solo one-woman-on-a-mission missions, Margo spends time with coastal communities giving talks, advocating for action and recruiting communities to take action. For each of her trips, she relies on a network of hosts recruited through the Surfrider Foundation, and The Blue Frontier Campaign to support her along the way and provide places to stay.

In my telling of my own solo adventure crossing the continent, if I told you I encountered a few hairy situations, rest assured, they pale in comparison to what Margo has encountered. There was the landing in Northern California that nearly snapped her tiny craft in half. There was paddling up the Hudson wondering about the rainbow sheen on the surface of the water. There was the encounter with a certain ex-president out on a motorboat in Maine. Shout out to another bad ass lady and solo adventurer, June Bernard (Salty Blue Designs) who drove a van supporting Margo’s whole West Coast Trip and helped with some of those crazy beach landings.

If I sound like I have a bit of a girl crush on this amazing woman, well, it is because I do.

While I met some shady characters with questionable judgement and unguarded not-so-witty commentary who made me feel uncomfortable on the road, I rarely felt the danger that comes with being isolated, on a vast puddle of water and totally vulnerable. Not in the way rendezvousing with your next support host in open water to find out it is a guy on a pontoon boat already several beers in. Then, although everything turns out for the better, your first encounter with said host sets your neck hairs on end as he greets you, who is sitting perched on a tiny fiberglass boat in the vast, vast ocean, from his pontoon with a freak you the fuck out  “Well, you got pretty blue eyes.” Seriously guys, shit like this is not cool.

Given all that, I found it laughable that when I arrived at her doorstep in New Jersey, she proclaims my self-indulgent motorcycle ride of self discovery to be a crazy adventure.

Despite my morning crossing the Cheasepeake Bay into an insane head wind, then cruising the entire Atlantic coastline of Maryland and Deleware and catching the Ferry from Lewes to Cape May where a captive audience queried me on my own adventure, it was really the compliment from a queen of adventure that made my day.

Happy Cooking and Happy Solo Adventure!

Day 24: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – Screaming in the Wind

There I was, coiled up like a compressed spring, crouched down over the tank trying to hide behind my windshield which was vibrating a little more wildly than I liked. I was headed directly into the wind mostly. If I were sailing, my course would be a tight close haul, heading just slightly northwest into heavy winds directly out if the north. In a sail boat, this would feel like screaming across the water.

I actually WAS screaming across the water.

No, seriously, you can hear that banshee in my helmet screaming her head off in this video.

I was 14 miles and 19 minutes into crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I was somewhere around 75-feet above the Atlantic Ocean riding into 45 mile per hour head winds. Head winds created by air being sucked into the backside of Hurricane Maria from its north and west as she headed out to sea. I was literally screaming – out loud, vocal, trembling, fierce screams- across the water (on a bridge).

I was screaming at the frothy waves below and all around while simultaneously trying to ignore them. If I were to acknowledge them, look at them and hear them their siren song would beckon me to join them in their bone crushing and motorcycle crushing churn. In the interest of the all important video documentation for occasions like this, I did dare to look (edited so you can actually see those waves within the grey in gray on grey day).

Earlier in the morning, I contemplated heading around the Bay for a 4+ hour detour toward DC. I wanted to catch the ferry to Cape May which the detour would eliminate. I wanted to avoid DC traffic which the detour would make me face. However, I also didn’t want to get blown off a bridge and into the Atlantic.

I signed up for Twitter notifications from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (@FollowtheGulls if you are curious). At a Level 1 winds of 40mph, they restrict campers, RVs, vehicles towing trailers and vehicles with external racks for luggage, bicycles and such. At Level 2 of 47mph, they add a few other things to that list including motorcycles. The previous afternoon they hit Level 1 and stronger winds were this morning.

When a couple at the BnB was asking if it was safe to ride a motorcycle across the bridge today, the ex-marine, tough guy stepped in to add “Yeah, I’ve ridden across the bridge in good weather and bad weather. It wasn’t this windy and I have a much bigger and more powerful bike. It sucks in bad weather.” Thanks, tough guy, that didn’t help. Had I not already been anxious, I probably would have called his comment what is was – a tough guy flexing his manliness for an audience. Perhaps he realized he unnerved me when he softened his tone and offered a “don’t worry, you’ll be fine” at me as I was loading up.

At 9:24am, one mile from the bridge toll booth, Twitter sent me an alert. “The CBBT is currently operating under Level 1 wind restrictions. Winds are in excess of 40 mph.”

I did not want to go to DC. I did not want to skip the ferry. I did not want to bail out of this amazing opportunity to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. So, with a sigh and my stubborn determination – I sent my husband a message, “They are at Level 1, I am going anyway. Gimme 45 minutes before you panic.” And off I went. Weeee.

I can’t say I like long open crossing on bridges in the first place. I’ve caught myself leaning away from the void when traveling down the Florida Keys or over Bay Area Bridges or when on a mount pass with a shear drop. There is something about the pull of gravity and the abyss that unsettles me. I don’t really call it a phobia. Nor is it some stray morbid suicidal thought, so don’t worry. But there’s a tiny hot spot in my brain that realizes a tiny “oops”, a muscle spasm, a momentary disconnect from reality, a crazed twitch and poof, gravity and the abyss win. Is it just me? Really?

Anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to like this in good weather.

So, at 19 minutes into the crossing, I found myself coiled up like a spring, white knuckling the grips, fighting not only the wind, but also that crazed and facinating draw of gravity and the abyss off the edge of the bridge. So, drowning out the wind, I screamed. I screamed a crazy, fierce and ugly into my helmet and rode on.

The wind didn’t win. Gravity and the abyss didn’t win. This day, I won. It took me 25 minutes to cross. Yeah, I might have sounded like I nearly lost my mind 19 minutes and 14 miles into the crossing, but I didn’t.

Wow, that was a lot of drama. It really was pretty terrifying. No embellishment, I was scared. After nearly 4000 miles alone on two wheels, this was some freaky shit.

At the other end, I relished in a little parking lot celebration. As I passed cars trying to lock down loose loads and find the shuttle van that will take their bicycles and roof racks across, they watched, confused as a crazy woman rolled into the lot hooting and clapping. I am okay with the embarassment.

Amazingly, Day 24 had only just begun. I’d only covered on 25miles of the planned nearly 300mile so far. Many other things happened on Day 24, so, I think it might get two or even three posts.

How’s that for drawing out the ending?

Happy cooking and screaming at your demons.