Southern Motorcycle Adventure: Part 1

In October 2016 I left Boston on a 16-day motorcycle trip down through the South.

December 2, 2016

The Night Before Departure

September 30th, 2016, 10:00 PM: I'm alone in my apartment, packing my motorcycle bags and making a final checklist. In the background I have 'One Week', my favorite motorcycle movie, playing.

Of course I left almost all of my packing until the night before departure, but I didn't mind. I had ordered all the equipment, odds and ends I needed over the previous few months, so now it was just a matter of getting it all packed as intelligently as possible. The weather outside wasn't looking very encouraging – cold, raining, and a good bit of wind.

Day 1: The Morning of Departure

I got a late start the next morning. It was still raining, although not as hard, but I was excited and eager to get on the road. I decided to gun it on the highway until I got through New York City in order to make up for lost time.

About an hour outside Boston I realized that the adapter that allows my iPhone to charge from the motorcycle battery wasn't working, so my phone (and thus GPS) died. This thankfully happened right as I was passing a Harley Davidson dealership, so after a break for coffee I went into the dealership and was able to get a new adapter, which solved the problem and I was back on the road.

Day 1: Goodbye, Massachusetts

After leaving Massachusetts behind, I spent a few hours on a beautiful highway through Connecticut before entering the outskirts of New York City, and traffic.

Once I made it past New York City I pulled off the highway and got onto the back roads of New Jersey. It was such breath of fresh air to leave the monotonous highway riding behind and start on the twisting, turning, up-and-down roads through the woods, past houses and farms and through little towns. I stopped somewhere in New Jersey for a few quick photos.

Day 1: Entering Pennsylvania

The back roads through New Jersey were mostly scenic. Before long, I got to a bridge going over a river that separated New Jersey from Pennsylvania. I crossed over it into a beautiful little town called New Hope, Pennsylvania. There were many people out and about, enjoying the Summer evening in shorts with ice cream cones, having dinner on restaurant patios and drinks at an outdoor bar with live music.

I really wanted to stay here for the night, but I already had an AirBNB waiting for me in Philadelphia, so on I went. The rolling hills, woods and farmlands of Pennsylvania were absolutely beautiful. I couldn't help but imagine settling down there someday.

After another hour and a half, I arrived in Philadelphia. The outskirts of the city (at least where I entered) were in shockingly bad shape. I didn't expect to see such run-down homes, people and city streets.

I stayed in Passyunk Square, on the same street as the famous Pat's and Geno's cheesesteak restaurants. My AirBNB room was alright; not as nice as the photos made it seem, but not a bad experience.

I ended up spending the evening at Garage, a cool bar just a block from my AirBNB. I played several games of pool with some new friends before calling it a night.

Day 2: Delaware

The next morning I took a quick shower and then packed up the motorcycle. I decided to get right on the road rather than delaying with breakfast or coffee.

The route I chose had me taking back roads through the entire length of Delaware (and some of Maryland). I hadn't ever heard that Delaware was particularly scenic, but it was the most direct way to get to Virginia Beach, VA, which was my destination for the day.

Delaware was very interesting. I rode through some extremely poor, run-down towns; past shacks of homes along the edges of industrial power plants. It wasn't pretty, and parts of it were surreal to me, but it was eye-opening to see such poverty-stricken people and places right here in the USA. I knew they existed, but I hadn't seen them with my own eyes on that level before.

It feels a bit ridiculous to describe the extreme poverty I witnessed in some parts of Delaware, only to post a photo of my motorcycle sitting along a farm field in a nicer part of of the state. I regret it now, but I didn't take a single photo in those other areas.

Day 2: Into Virginia

After most of the day spent getting out of Pennsylvania, through a bit of Maryland, and all the way down through Delaware, I finally crossed the state line into Virginia.

I hadn't really thought about it ahead of time, but I was about to cross Chesapeake Bay over a 23-mile-long bridge/tunnel system – right at sunset, no less! I stopped for a few photos of the bay before crossing.

I couldn't believe how long it took to cross. I kept thinking, "Surely this is the end now", but it just continued. I was riding my motorcycle across the ocean, it felt, with sparkling blue water on both sides of me and the golden sun low on the horizon. This was one of the trip's highlights, I was ecstatic.

Day 2: Virginia Beach

Once on the other side of the bay, I rode for another half-hour or so to reach my destination for the night: Virginia Beach.

After unpacking the motorcycle and settling in at my hotel, I ventured out to explore the town on foot. I got some soft serve ice cream and then had a dinner of fish tacos and a couple of beers. It had been a long day of riding, but I was really starting to feel like I was on a long adventure and I was excited for all of the experiences yet to come.

After dinner I went for a night walk along the beach behind my hotel and took some (mostly blurry) photos. At one point, while standing at the water's edge looking out, two motorcycle cops appeared behind me without warning (electric motorcycles?) and then swerved to one side and took off down the beach, leaving tire tracks in the sand right next to me.

Day 3: Virginia Beach to Raleigh

The next morning I woke, showered, packed up the bike, and got immediately on the road.

Since this was the shortest day of the three – only 4 1/2 hours of riding – I could have taken my time, but instead I tried to get to Raleigh as quickly as possible.

There were some nice back roads through Virginia for the first portion of the ride, and I went through a few very quirky, old towns, but the majority of the ride was pretty monotonous. Unchanging flat fields and marshes, and an insane amount of road kill.

I stopped for a photo as I passed an old airplane perched on a post outside an airfield.

Day 3-4: Raleigh, North Carolina

I arrived at my friend Chi-Ho's apartment in Raleigh in the mid-afternoon. We walked downtown, checked out the city a bit and got some lunch. Later on in the evening we rode to Devolve Moto, a local motorcycle cafe.

In a day and a half I'd be leaving Raleigh with Chi-Ho and his friend Patrick, riding to the Barber Vintage Festival, a three-day motorcycle event in Birmingham, Alabama. It felt nice to relax for a bit before the next leg of the adventure.

Raleigh's local food, coffee and beer was impressively good. Everything I tried was fresh, flavorful and delicious.

Pictured below: Chi-Ho on his bike and downtown Raleigh at sunset.

Part 2 coming soon...

The Camera

Fujifilm X70

The camera I used for my whole trip was the Fujifilm X70. I purchased it just before leaving and couldn't be happier with it's performance. It fits into a small coat pocket and is super fast to pull out and take a shot.

The image quality is stellar, and you get almost all manual controls (aperture, exposure compensation and focus) when you want them. It's a fixed 28mm equivalent lens, which is wider than I normally shoot, but I've really grown to love this field of view, especially for travel photography.

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