10 days, 8 states, 4 bikes, 2 dreamers..
and one Ramblin' Fever.
In spite of everyone's concern and foreboding, we chose to drive our 1980 Dodge Ram Van "Ramblin' Fever" out to New York for a summer vacation filled with bikes, racing, family, friends, and awesome new places. Sure, we have no idea how many miles are on her but we've spent the last year getting everything tuned up, replaced, and repaired for just an adventure such as this. New engine and transmission, new tires and new-to-us captains chairs.. loaded her up and we were ready to rock! Although I knew Jay had a shadow of worry in the back of his mind, I was bathing in a warm feeling of bliss and calm as we headed out on the road after work for our adventure to begin.
It felt like fall as we embarked under grey skies. A cool breeze and Willie Nelson tunes swirled in the air as Ramblin' Fever purred along the highway. We were shooting to drive through the night to avoid traffic in Chicago and arrive in Toledo just as dawn was about to break for a cat nap and breakfast before we busted out the bikes for some urban trail riding.
A couple hours into the drive, we were chasing a thunderstorm down 94 as we headed towards Madison, WI. The skies entertained us with magnificent explosions of light and illuminated branches that seemed to stretch out across the sky for what felt like 10 seconds each time. We continued to watch the storm as we headed east and the night settled in.
Jay loves driving at night, which is a true blessing and complete opposite of the uncontrolled car-colepsy I experience at night; I'm almost incapable of staying awake on long night drives. I must have fallen into a deep sleep sometime after Chicago because I woke with a jolt as I felt Jay tap my shoulder and say "Kristy, we're getting pulled over".
The clock read 2:30am and we were somewhere an hour or so out of Toledo, likely the only vehicle on the road.
I sat my chair up, wiped the sleep from my eyes and rolled the window down as the officer approached from my side of the van. It was humid from the recent rains and Ramblin' was running rich, filling the stagnant summer air with a thick plume of fuel and exhaust. The officer shined his flashlight on our faces and the dash and opened by saying "I pulled you over because your license plate isn't illuminated". Jay smiled and nodded, sharing that he had discovered the same problem just hours before we'd left, likely a problem from me getting rear-ended in June that we hadn't realized. He handed over his license and insurance cards and the officer said he'd return with a warning as long as everything checked out.
We sat in the van patiently as I sleepily giggled about the officer's demeanor and the thick fuel smell we could now taste on our tongues. As he spoke to us, it was as if he was afraid to look into the back of the windowless van. I only saw peeks of his face as he made quick glances at us around the door frame. Twenty minutes went by and he still hadn't returned and we deduced it was going to be one of two results: he was either a) trying to find SOMETHING to get us with, or b) he was waiting for the second squad car to arrive. But, he returned, apologized for the wait, and sent us on our way with a printed out warning.
After idling so long, Ramblin' roosted the officer with a thick cloud of smoke as we pulled back onto the highway and we shared a nervous laugh together... crap, now he's gonna get us. Ha!
Jay continued to drive the last hour or so to Toledo where we found an all-night diner. We pulled around to the rear employee entrance where there were no lights and parked the van. Jay shoved aside our bags and blew up the thermarests, making a cozy bed in the back of the van with our feet nestled precariously beneath our bikes and snuggled by our gear bags on all sides. We slept for a couple hours, woken up by the growing summer heat and sunshine filtering into the windshield and the morning delivery truck unloading next to us.
We clambered out and shuffled into the diner in need of a red eye plate and some fresh coffee. (Queue Supersuckers "Good Livin'" for proper theme music).
There we were at 10:00am on Thursday riding singletrack in Toledo, only 16 hours after we'd left home. Splatters of sunshine clawed their way through the dense canopy above us as we navigated the flowy singletrack. Deer quietly roamed the trail along side us, popping their heads up as we passed in relative silence. It was the perfect way to spin out the legs before making the last charge to NJ - our bed for the night and base camp for the next few days.
Over an hour had gone by and we hadn't made it a mile. I sat and watched as the engine and transmission temp gages began to climb and Ramblin' began to chug in the heat, eventually dying in the left lane. We knew it was just the heat but something had to be done to resolve this on our own - there was no way AAA was coming to the rescue here. Jay looked at me and said "Switch. There's no way you'll do what I'm about to do".
So we traded places as the cars idled around us and I flagged the semi next to us that we needed to get over to the right shoulder. The next time the cars moved, he let us over and Jay took it all the way to the shoulder but didn't stop to let her rest. I checked the map and we were only 3 1/2 miles from the next exit so Jay kept it moving on the shoulder, passing maybe a 1000 cars and semi's packed so tightly in desperation to move, no one tried to stop us. But hey, if you saw Ramblin' Fever coming up the shoulder after two hours of mind-numbing traffic, would you have believed it?
I found us a 10-mile detour that we drove as Ramblin' chugged but improved greatly as the moving air cooled the '92 Magnum under the hood and we jumped back onto I-80 just after the construction zone and purred along as if nothing happened. I waited a moment but, once we were both relaxed again I cranked up "Eastbound and Down" by Jerry Reed and we sang along with smiles on our faces, petting the carpeted dash and praising Ramblin' for being so awesome.
We were now a few hours behind our goal but still took in the beauty of the sunset behind us as we counted down the miles to our next stop, "Forrest Lodge" in Sparta, New Jersey with our good friends, the Christians.
At 11:00pm, we rolled into the quiet community and revved the engine one last time before putting Ramblin' to bed for the night. We shared the day's adventures with Joe and Cindy over a beer before joyously heading to bed (in a bed!) for some much needed sleep. We made it!!! And in Jerry Reed's words, "Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking', we gonna do what they say can't be done"... yep, we did what they said couldn't be done!
The first mini-adventure of the trip was a success. Oh yeah, and we're only on day 2!
Stay tuned for more epic stories to come.. riding in NJ, Singlespeed USA antics, the Belt!, New York City, Rock n Roll, and sand dunes, and more riding!
Awwww, feels so good to finally start telling the story!