S-Miles Across America – Chapter Seven – Special Delivery, Obamassiah and Flying Home

AAA – The American Automobile Association saved not only the day, and not just my trip, but quite possibly, a radical shift in the direction of my life.  You see, I was traveling with an open mind and a willingness to see where my dream of traveling across the country would take me.  If I found a better job and place to live, or if fate would give me a “Grand Strand” in, say South Carolina, well then I was ready to take it with a smile like “a day at the beach.”  However, fate did not leave me stranded . . ..

Two weeks earlier, on June 4th, I spoke with Kay at the Bellevue, Washington, AAA branch about this special delivery I was making.  Kay graciously listened to me as I boasted about having the opportunity to ride a motorcycle across the United States.  After telling her the preliminary route that I was intending to travel, and asking for the appropriate maps, she strongly recommended that I consider their RV Roadside Assistance Insurance Package just in case I might need a flat-bed tow truck along the way.  She then provided me with a half-dozen maps for my travels and wished me well.

The insurance that Kay provided paid off in multiple ways along my “S-Miles Across America,” but none as much as the lift I got from the AAA flat-bed after the bike broke down with major electrical issues.  The driver picked me up at Myrtle Beach and dropped me off at the nearest Kawasaki shop.

While I waited for Redline Powersports to open, I took the battery two doors down to the Auto Zone for testing.  It was dead, alright.  So, I bought a new battery, checked the bike into the shop when it opened, and headed for the beach while I waited.

I received a phone call from Auto Zone.  The new battery was fully charged in eight hours instead of the twenty-four which they had previously told me would be required.  I dusted off the fine Myrtle Beach sand from my feet, slipped on my running shoes, and started off toward the Kawasaki shop.  My only concern was that I didn’t remember any services along the way.  I knew that I would be in need of at least three water stops and/or bathroom breaks between Myrtle Beach and Conway.

I’d run a dozen marathons in my life and was sure that I could do these 14 miles in time before the shops close.  But just in case I couldn’t, I went back into the Golden Villa Motel.  Lennie, (same guy who turned me away the night before) was at the desk again.  I asked him for a permanent marker, and he kindly provided one from the jar on the counter.  I walked over to a solid surface away from the front desk, took off my shirt and drew a large hitchhikes’ thumb on the back of the white tank-top with “CONWAY” written in large block letters above it.

Lennie raised his eyebrow as I thanked him and jogged away from the dusty Golden Villa toward Conway, South Carolina.

Three miles into a good sweat, a nineteen-seventy-something Datsun pulled in front of me.  The large black teen in the passenger seat asked out his lowered window, “Need a lift?”  I asked him and his friend where they were heading and they weren’t quite sure.  “Mom let us take the car, so we’re just cruisin’ around.”  “Well, now we all got somethin’ to smile about!,” I said.

Mike, the young driver, couldn’t have been a day over seventeen.  His grin revealed yellow, stained teeth that made him look like he’d been drinking thick coffee and smokin’ cigarettes for twenty years.  There was a faint smell of a freshly smoked joint, but with the hot and dense breeze pushing through the opened windows, it was hard to tell if it was coming from inside or out.  Mike asked where I was headed.  I told him the short answer, “The Kawasaki shop up the road” and it turned into the long answer of my Seattle to DC trip via “the south.”

Looking back, I realize that I didn’t ask these two kids what makes them smile or ask for their contact information.  I would love to send them a token of my appreciation for the lift, but guess they’ll have to wait for karma.

After the ZRX was buttoned back up and reloaded, I took the quickest route north toward my destination.  This was a bit of a let down because I’d hoped to visit a fellow Keller Williams realtor in Wilmington, North Carolina, but I had quite a bit of time to make up.

Lightning began to dance a quick-step around me as I headed north on I-95 near Fayetteville and through Benson, North Carolina.  I pulled under a shelter at a gas station and watched the sky like it was the fourth of July.  When it was safe to continue, I rode until dusk, hoping to find a safe and dry place to pitch the tent.  I made my way into the city of Raleigh.  The clouds were clearing but the ground was drenched.  No dice for camping.

Raleigh, North Carolina

I found another Quality Inn near what I call,  “Tobacco Town.”  There were signs everywhere for the JR Tobacco Outlets.  Since camping was not an option in the summer storm which was being dealt, I looked forward to the “all-you-can-eat” breakfast bar at the Quality Inn.  After breakfast, it was tempting to stop in for some cheap smokes, but I reminded myself, “I’m trying to quit.”

The weather had cleared nicely as I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of hours on this incredibly powerful and comfortable motorcycle.  It’s hard to believe that with two weeks behind me, my behind wasn’t bothering me more.  I started to wish my trip could continue on . . ..

I arrived at my destination, Carne and Lindsay’s home, as they had just returned from church.  It was Father’s Day and after saying “Hello,” we enjoyed a king’s feast poolside with Lindsay’s side of the family.

Livingstons on the East Coast

When we returned to their house later that evening, we made arrangements for my flight home.  I really didn’t want to leave without taking a little time to see some historical sites.  It felt odd to ask, but Carne said “yes” to letting me borrow his motorcycle so I could ride over to the National Mall in the morning.

When I woke, I straddled the ZRX without any baggage.  I headed out into the Monday morning rush and nimbly weaved in and out of the clogged Washington arteries.  When I found my way to the Mall, I parked in a rare “free-zone” that only motorcycles could get away with.  For the next couple of hours, I wandered from statue to statue, reading about the civil war, its heroes and other battles.  Then I stood in amazement at the Lincoln Memorial.

In the middle of the day at the National Mall, the perimeter of the White House was pushed back as Obama was “on the move.”  Being disappointed that I couldn’t get closer to the President’s home, I began to make my way toward the U.S. Capitol.  I walked to the corner of Constitution Avenue and 15th Street.  All of the traffic, foot and otherwise, was halted as the Obamassiah made his way through.

In just a couple of hours, I saw enough to realize that it should take one a week to visit DC.

Later that night, Carne and Lindsay took me to a delightful dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Annapolis, Maryland.  After our meal, I was given an executive tour of the Naval Station and of the beautiful little harbor town of Annapolis.  I was in awe of my surroundings and thought for a moment how I would love to stay.

Chesapeake Bay at Annapolis, Maryland

I reached into my pocket, pulled out a little rock that I’d been carrying for two weeks, and baptized it once more, this time in the Chesapeake Bay.  I thought of Carrie and smiled, knowing that I would see her in twenty-four hours.

Monday morning, June 21st, at thirty-thousand feet, a smile once again came across my face.  Hidden behind it was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment mixed with a deep-seated desire to continue exploring.  I longed to continue meeting people from other parts of America to ask them, “What makes you smile?”  I don’t intend to stop.

In today’s state of our union, even with trouble, there is something magical about the human spirit and the American soul which lights up when you think about your own passion, especially when you boldly share it with others.

After reading about this one man’s experience of “S-Miles Across America,” please consider this:  While smiles are free, they may very well be the richest blessing that you can bestow on another.

To Carrie, Carne, and Mike Livingston; to all the others who made this trip possible; and, to the many people who answered my question,  THANK YOU!  . . .  Thanks for taking a minute to share your smile.  It means the world to me.

God bless all the smiles across America!

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S-Miles Across America – Chapter Six – Tow Trucks and Tent Tricks

Highway 10 Bypass

Can you imagine, or do you remember what it was like the first time that your flight descended toward a Hawaiian Island, or the first time you received a foreign stamp in your passport?  Perhaps you can relate to the feeling of opening that uniquely wrapped packaging that gave away the identity of a gift that you’d desired for a very long time.  You hold back a smile that you know will soon be beyond your control.

That’s me with the East Coast.

I intended to ride straight for Jacksonville Beach on Interstate 10 to complete my ‘Coast-to-Coast’ leg.  I had planned to let my toes play in the warm Floridian sand ’til dusk.  But, excited as I was about seeing the eastern seaboard for the very first time, something inside told me to wait a little longer.  So, with plenty of hours left of daylight travel, I pressed on, making a beveled bypass starting north around Jacksonville.

Instead of pulling over every 90 miles for gas, I began pulling over every 30 miles to check the chain.  It was definitely making its last few times around the block.  A couple of links would not give up their kinks, no matter how much I lubricated them or tried to manipulate their stiff-necked way.

I prayed several times that the chain would not break at full speed.  I slowed down considerably on the northbound highway through Georgia, stopping for lunch in Savannah.

"Big TIPS" make this Hooter's Girl smile.

I continued north on I-95, admiring the trees and topography of the southeast.  I began to think that the plantations had an odd smell about them.  Everywhere I went, it smelled like rotten eggs, or perhaps some sort of burning sulfer.  I’d wondered if it was some sort of insecticide or agricultural treatment for the orchards.

Finally, I saw my opportunity to see and feel the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in my life.  I hung a right on highway 521 to U.S. Route 17, aka The Georgetown Highway.  I passed through Greeleyville, Andrews, and Georgetown before continuing north to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Georgetown, South Carolina

Stretching my legs in Georgetown.

The smell of rotten eggs increased and I wondered what could possibly cause such a smell.  Highway 17 merged onto 501, “King’s Highway.”  I turned right onto 10th Street and came to a dead end at the beach.  The bike died.

I pushed the “Green Machine” from Mr. Joe White Avenue (formerly 10th Street) which was named after a man, his bike, and his smile.  I continued to wheel it across N. Ocean Street to the Golden Villa Motel.  I went in and asked the clerk for a room.  There was no room at the inn.  I asked for permission to park for an hour while I tried to figure out what was wrong with the motorcycle.  He declined.  I pushed the bike to a metered parking lot down the street, removed the luggage and dug for tools to probe and troubleshoot.

The sun was setting over a South Carolina skyline.  For the first time in my life, I saw an ocean sunset without the horizon being the emphasis, and that was okay.  It made me look forward to the sunrise, hopefully from my tent on the beach.

With a little daylight left, I continued to tinker with the bike to see if I could find the problem.  When I uncovered the battery, I discovered the source of the sulfuric odor.  The battery was fried!  The realization that I was not going to resolve the mechanical issue set in; I walked away from the bike down a newly installed boardwalk, and made a couple calls while I scoped a spot to set up the tent.  That is, until I learned that it is a federal offense to camp on the beach.  I walked down to the water, pulled Carrie’s rock out of my pocket, and dunked it in the Atlantic as I dialed my phone.

My first call was to Carrie.  She’s such an awesome girlfriend and a prayer warrior.  She made me smile about my situation.  My second call was to check in with my family back in Seattle.  I wondered what it was like on the other end to hear, “I’m broken down on the other side of  the country and really happy about it.”  My third call was for a tow truck.

Thank God, I had purchased AAA’s RV package for roadside assistance just prior to beginning these “S-Miles Across America!”  The dispatcher said that the driver would get to me within the hour.  It was two-and-a-half, but what did I care?  I was at the beach; it was warm and balmy; there were tons of happy people around; and I was in heaven!

While Dave quickly and methodically loaded the ZRX onto his flatbed tow truck, I continued to watch and listen as thrill seekers shot skyward on the Sling Shot across the street.  I asked Dave how he liked working on this strip and he replied, “Its hard work especially during bike week, but my job makes me happy.”

He gave me a lift to the Kawasaki shop.

Fourteen miles northwest, in Conway, South Carolina, RED-LINE Powersports sat back 100 yards from Highway 501.  It was after 10 p.m.; I was getting tired, but more than that, I was hungry.

I pulled the gear off of the bike and looked for the best place to stow my stuff while I went to hunt for food.  To the right of the chain-linked gate, the fluorescent lights illuminated the side of the motorcycle sales center.  To the left, there was a grassy corral where a dozen wave-runners rested.  I threw the bags and tent over the three-foot, hand-split wood fence.  I ducked between the rails and carried everything to the middle of jet-ski circle and pitched the tent.  I strategically placed it to look as if it were a part of the display.  I stowed the stuff inside and walked a half mile to Buffalo Wild Wings.

Another extraordinary karaoke effort was being made by the locals at the open-mic.  I “bellied-up,” had another burger and brew before sauntering back to the nylon dome for “lights-out.”

I woke just before sunrise, broke camp, and took the battery to the Auto Zone, a block away passing the “Grand Strand” Nissan Dealer and the Pancake House.  Sure enough, the guys at the Auto Zone confirmed the fried battery.  I bought a new one and was told that it requires a 24-hour charge – they don’t come “ready-to-ride.”  The clerk began to charge it immediately, and I left to grab a stack of short cakes.  When the Kawi shop opened, I got them started on a new chain.

"Grand Strand?" There's a smile down there somewhere!

A gentleman was picking up his wave-runner and overheard that I wanted to kill my time at the beach.  He was too kind and offered me a ride.

As I relaxed on Myrtle Beach, I received a call from a friend and past client of mine.  He told me that he and his wife wanted to look at a new home.  I got hold of an outstanding agent in my home office and they all went shopping.

This was the third real estate call that I received in 24 hours and I was feeling anxious about getting back to work . . . for a minute.  Then the waves and vacationers quickly helped me to chill.  After all, I had help on the ground in Seattle, a bike in the shop, and a special delivery still many miles ahead of me.

Continue reading CHAPTER SEVEN – Special Delivery, Obamassiah and Flying Home.

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S-Miles Across America – Chapter Five – BOLD, Sales and Alligator Tales

Texas Gold!

As I pulled into the rest stop for the evening, dusk began painting yet another beautiful desert sunset.

I’d finished chatting with Arthur and rode around to the end of a loop.  I backed the ZRX to a distant curb, dismounted the gear, and looked across the picnic area and past the facilities.  Art and his wife were settling their RV for the night.  I knew they would rest undisturbed in their motorhome but doubted that I would get away with trying to sleep in a tent off this interstate.

A large, fallen tree limb laid between the curb and a huge oak.  It made a decent barricade from the eyes of “passers-by”.  As I set up the tent, I smiled at the thought of Arthur, an Alaskan in Texas tickled by the thought of Terlingua.  Strange how ‘off-the-wall’ answers can be when you ask random people, “What makes you smile?”.

The “three-man-tent” comfortably hosted the saddle bags, duffel bag, helmet, and me – one tired rider.  As I stretched out diagonally within the nylon frame, I thought of the day’s 500 miles and the thousands from the week behind me.  The anticipation of the road ahead was something I wrestled with before getting to sleep.   Was the saddle-soreness going to subside?

I phoned my family and talked until I was tired, then the sound of crickets and warm breeze passing through the meshed windows lulled me to sleep.  My last coherent thought was a hope that I wouldn’t be woken by a State Trooper.

“Schrapp, schrapp, schrapp, schrapp” on the north side of the tent startled me to full consciousness.  My eyes bugged open and I laid frozen for a moment.  Again, “Schrapp, schrapp, schrapp, schrapp”!  I looked out of the unzipped window flap and got pegged in the face by another pass of the automatic sprinkler.  I looked at my watch and decided that two o’clock in the morning is not an appropriate time to break camp and move to a dryer spot.  So, I thanked my lucky stars that I had put the rain cover on earlier, zipped the flaps and went back to sleep with a smile on my face, trying to dream of “schrapping” down a ski slope.  😉

I woke again at 6:00 a.m. to birds singing from above.  I looked up at the sprawling oak and then across to a departing R.V. with Alaska Plates on the Jeep-in-tow.

I packed the bike and continued east on Interstate 10 through Fort Stockton and on toward Austin, Texas using Highway 290 through Harper, Fredericksburg and Johnson City.

Nice to get off the interstate for a bit!

I enjoyed several miles of farm and ranches as I passed through Gillespie County, deep in the heart of  Texas!

Shortly after noon, I arrived in Austin, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed to Keller Williams Realty Headquarters.

Texas BBQ's - so good that even the worst will do!

Working for Gary Keller and Mo Anderson @ KW

Please allow me to take you back to the foundations for what happens next. . .

In January, 2009, a sequence of events took place that called to me toward a cross-country motorcycle trip.  I had a one-way ticket to Florida, a job lined up, and a plan to buy a motorcycle to ride back home.  I intended to journal along the way with hopes to publish something of the journey.  I’ve dreamed of getting published for years.  More than that, I’ve longed to cross the county on a motorcycle for as long as I can remember.

Two days before my flight, I was asked by a friend what I intended to do with my license and career in real estate.  I told Loralynn that I’d go ‘inactive’ while I pursued another passion.  She invited me to her Keller Williams office where I saw two signs that leapt off the walls.  The first said, “God and Family First, Work Second” and the other was a poster for “Family Reunion”, a company convention in (of all places) Orlando, Florida.   It was then explained to me that, for a nominal fee, I could hang my license at Keller Williams instead of parking it with the state.  And, so I did.

Then, through a miraculous series of events, and a lot of help from Shosana Day, Team Leader of Keller Williams/Everett, Washington, I went to the Family Reunion and returned with 250 business cards and new friends from every state across the county.  Mission accomplished.  Well, sort of . . .

At KW, I’ve learned the value of being connected to a team and a company that share similar dreams, passions, values, and business objectives.  It’s really about serving our family, friends, and the neighbors in our community with a smile.  We are enthusiastic about having our business objective be “a life by design”.

BOLD = Business Objective: a Life by Design

So, back to the S-Miles . . .

I’m half way across the country and visiting the offices of my heroes in business, Gary Keller, Mo Anderson, Mark Willis and Mary Tennant.  The walls of the executive offices oozed with pictures, tokens, and books from things that make their joy complete.  I spent over an hour visiting and viewing their surroundings.  AMAZING! While being ALL about business, their life passions were thoroughly infused into their workspace.  I must admit that it was difficult to keep envy at bay.  I realized that if I want to have what they have, I need to do what they do.  Everything about their environment reflected, “loving God and serving people”.  I believe this starts with a smile.

. . . And you might ask, what makes Gary Keller smile . . . Well, I didn’t actually get to meet with him while I was passing through, but I did get a few shots of his office and I’ll let you decide . . .

Gary's guitars surround an historic set of office furniture


Keller's shelves are stocked with things that make him smile


After a long introduction to the office in Austin, I actually got some work done and loaded my “quiver” for my return to the Bellevue office.

I camped that night outside of Beaumont, Texas after having a burger, a brew, and another earful of live music at Madison’s on Dowlen.  When I woke and began to ride, something wasn’t right with the chain.  I tightened it for the fourth time and it continued to rattle.

I rode to New Orleans and found some shade to see what I could do.  I took all bags off to get to the tools from under the seat.  I hoisted the rear wheel in  the air with a very cool 3-piece pocket stand that props the ZRX’s axle opposite from the kick stand.  I spent the better part of an hour trying to remedy the clank of the chain to no avail.

The heat wasn’t bad at eighty degrees but the humidity was killer!  It felt like a hundred and I needed a beer.  I looked for a good place to get a refreshment where I could also keep an eye on the bike.

From Canal Street, I headed northeast on Bourbon.  I pulled over half-way up the two-mile stretch of bars, restaurants, and jazz clubs but could not find a place to watch the bags.


I continued northeast until I was down to my last option for some food and drink.  I backed to the curb and walked into a bar called the Bourbon Pub and Parade.  I talked with two beautiful young ladies as the bartender poured a cold one.  Soon they scooted down toward a couple of guys on my left so I started chatting with the guy on my right.  We watched people admiring the bike outside.


Little did I know, Parade is New Orleans largest gay bar

I told my new acquaintance, David, about the trip that I was on.  As I explained “S-Miles Across America”, he told me that he’d recently become a U.S. citizen after having moved from his home in Guatemala five years earlier.  He’d asked where I was staying for the night and kindly offered his couch.  I respectfully declined, then enjoyed the next hour hearing about David’s life and what makes him smile.  His reply?  Being an American!

"Proud to be an American!"

Outside of Louisiana, I began a desperate search for a place to pitch the tent for the night.  I pulled into a gas station to ask a local for the nearest campground.  It wasn’t getting dark yet but the chain was really beginning to rattle me.  I had to find something close and then the nearest motorcycle shop for the morning.

I pulled the helmet off as my phone rang.  It was my sister.  I tried to sound like I was having a BLAST.  It didn’t work.  She asked me if everything was alright.  I spilled the beans about my plight, thinking that the bike was about to break down.  She said that she’d call me right back.  A minute later, my phone rang again.

Fifteen miles down the road, Barb had a friend that opened his door to me.

It MUST be a God Thing!

Kenyan became friends with my sister a few years back.  “If we lived closer”, he said of Barb, “we’d totally be hangin’ out”.  He and I talked for a few minutes about how God has been working in our lives.  Then he showed me to the guest room.  I have to give it four stars and the experience of meeting Kenyan, FIVE!   By the way, what makes Kenyan smile?  . . . Jet Skis.

At 6:00 a.m., I headed to Starbucks to wait for the Mobile, Alabama Kawasaki shop to open.  I read my O.Y.B. and chatted with a few locals about what makes them smile.

At 8:30, a technician opened the Kawi shop.  He quickly examined the chain and told me that it should easily make it to D.C. if I loosened it a smidge.

I pressed onto Pensacola, Florida.   I stretched my legs, took a dip and bought the t-shirt.

Pensacola - Home of the Blue Angels

First Time to Gulf Sands!

Stingrays and schools of fish surround me

Allen says, "THIS!" is what makes him smile . . . Duh!

I didn't actually see any gators but heard a few tales

I continued to head east after an hour of chillin’ out in the warm gulf waters.  I planned to stay at Jacksonville Beach but decided last-minute to bypass Jacksonville and head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Continue reading “S-Miles Across America – Chapter Six – Tow Trucks and Tent Tricks”


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S-Miles Across America – Chapter Four – Southwest Grins

Bugs All Up in My Grill

I can’t drive 55!  I’d get squashed like a bug on Interstate 10!  From the start at the Santa Monica Pier, there seems to be a contagious sense of urgency to get where ever you’re going when you’re on the California Highway.  So, it seems that everyone drives either 80 MPH or ZERO because of the occasional fender-bender.  When you are on a motorcycle, a higher state of awareness is warranted and almost becomes second nature. I DO appreciate that the vast majority of California drivers show respect toward motorcyclists by allowing lane splitting at the standstills, and elbow room at higher speeds.

Which Way from LA?

The sun’s rays began to dance off windows and mirrors, while the asphalt pushed back up the day’s heat.  Oh, how short sleeves and a hundred degrees are sweet together at eighty miles per hour on a super-bike! I veered onto Highway 15 with the weekenders heading toward “Sin City.”  I made my only stop for gas and food in Barstow.  After an air-conditioned lunch, I refilled my coke and took it under a bridge for the only noontime shade before getting back on the two wheels.

At mid-afternoon, I curbed the bike on the south edge of the Vegas strip to enter the destination address for the day into my Blackberry/Google Maps App.  Up came my turn-by-turn directions to Kelly’s place.  My cousin, Kelly, was kind enough to put me up for the night.

Visiting Cousin in Las Vegas

Kelly and Michelle took me out for a fantastic dinner where we really visited for the fist time aside from family gatherings.  Our time was too short as I was just passing through and they had an early morning departure for a Los Angeles venue with the Las Vegas Showgirlz.

Before leaving Las Vegas, I swung by the new home of my dear friends, Bob and Sherryl Lovell.  They had sold their homes in Bothell and Everett, Washington, the year before and moved to retire in the warmer, drier climate of Nevada.  The change, they say, has done them a world of good!

I got my ‘kicks’ back on Route 66 as thunderheads billowed in front of me.  Bright blue skies became infested with puffy columns of sterling gray clouds.  Silver sheets in the sky promised that there would be wet roads ahead.  Again, I donned my trusty rain gear.

The two-hundred-seventy-seven miles between Vegas and the Grand Canyon were laden with intermittent showers and lightning storms.  I pulled up to the window at the Grand Canyon National Park entrance where I swear the last wet drop of my day hit the helmet!  I gladly paid twelve dollars to enter and another twelve to pitch the tent under clearing skies at the southeast rim of this Grand Canyon.

After one of the greatest moments of my life–7 a.m. sunrise devotions with my feet dangling off the southeast rim of the Grand Canyon–I broke camp and hit the desert roads through Flagstaff, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, New Mexico and into Texas.  The flat, dry, and hot roads gave me plenty of room to reflect on the beauty that I’d just taken in from one of God’s most majestic landmark creations!

Thinking Time

Once I returned to Highway 10, I “leap-frogged” several dozen miles with a couple in an RV until dusk, when we both pulled into a rest stop for the night.  The gentleman approached me as I stretched my legs and surveyed the grounds for an inconspicuous place to pitch the tent.

“That’s a beautiful bike you got there!  What’s that sign you got on the back there say?”  He was referring to a laminated 8.5×11 poster that I had bungeed over my packed tent and sleeping bag.

“It says, ‘God Bless S-Miles Across America,’ and shows my route.”

We introduced ourselves and Arthur told me that he and his wife were traveling from Alaska to Rhode Island on a similar route.

I asked Art what makes him smile and he told me . . .

"Terlingua . . . A place to bury dead bodies"!

Terlingua, Texas, is a ghost town that Art came across earlier that day.  He remembered that it had been mentioned in a movie which he’d recently seen.  He lit up when he told me how tickled he was while thinking of the irony of two infamous gunmen buried in unmarked graves at Terlingua.  I didn’t quite get why that made him smile, but when I finally saw the movie, I smiled too.

As I rode the border through El Paso, I looked through the fence at Juarez, Mexico, and smiled, thanking God that I live in such an incredible land of opportunity and wealth.

America, Bless God!

Ya’ll come on back for “S-Miles Across America – Chapter 5 – BOLD,  Sales, and Alligator Tales”

. . .

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S-Miles Across America – Chapter Three – California Chronicles


SMILE . . . You're on Cannabis Camera!

“Card? . . .  No, I don’t have a ‘card’,” I said.

His blank stare expressed an equal amount of confusion as I had had before he told me that ‘everyone’ has a medical marijuana prescription card ’round here.

Arcata, California breeds a distinctly different liberality of style and attitude toward life and drug use.  Even the glassy-eyed hotel clerk seemed a little more laid back than what I’d expect as the norm.  Whether professional, or tavernesque, the folks that I encountered in Humboldt County were, as I said, “laid back.”  There was a light shower as I shuffled my baggage off the bike onto the bell cart and into the Economy Suite.  I quickly showered and took directions from the front desk clerk to find the local grill for dinner.

Six River’s Brewery buzzed and hummed with local novice voices on the karaoke floor.  I entered to a hilarious attempt at the B-52’s “Love Shack,” performed by three college girls and a dude. “Dolla Bill’s Karaoke” was at full swing and drew quite a crowd for a Monday night.  I took the only seat available at one of the twenty-some-odd stools at the bar, ordered an IPA, and a cheeseburger, surveyed the crowd, and smiled.  The kid next to me caught it and asked me if I was going to put my name in the hat.

There’s only a few times that I’ve subjected a crowd to my bad singing voice, and without the support and patronage of friends practicing unconditional love, there was no way I was throwing “my name in the hat” this night.  So, I enjoyed my burger and brew, listened to a lot of bad singing and few good voices as my neighbor explained “the card” to me.   At the end of the conversation and the end of my evening in Humboldt, I left the brew, the music, and the offer to smoke, at the table.

After a solid night of sleep I saddled up, throwing my right leg over the seat and felt the effects of the miles behind me on my backside.  I was saddle-sore and wondered at what point of the next six-thousand miles my body would adjust.

The California Redwoods renders a thick, piney aroma that is best experienced, in my opinion, without windows.

While I enjoyed the scenic views of dense forests, I pressed hard to get down to the familiar ground and lifelong friends in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, California.

After a VERY windy crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a congested passing through the park, I continued on Highway 1.  Just a few miles south of one of my favorite dining spots, the Cliff House restaurant, I zoomed past the Point Montara Lighthouse and broke hard.

I had recently rediscovered a wonderful friend from high school, Janice Pratt, via Facebook.  I’d learned that she and her husband manage the lighthouse and hostel at Point Montara, just south of San Francisco, so I couldn’t pass without attempting to say “hello.”

Janice was out, but I had the privilege of meeting her husband.  Chris was very gracious to this stranger who had come looking to say “Hi” to his wife!  After explaining who I am and making a feeble attempt to coordinate the impromptu visit, I asked Christopher what makes him smile . . .

"Anything that comes out of my children's mouths makes me smile" was Chris's reply.

I’m sorry that I missed you, Janice, and I wish that I could have met your kids, too.  Perhaps some other time I will get to see the family that makes Chris so happy.

I zoomed past Half Moon Bay, a place where I love to stop, and arrived in Santa Cruz where I had been longing to visit again, for some time now.  It’s not about the surfing, the boardwalk, the great shops and golfing.  It’s not the way the coastal fog lifts to brilliant sunny vistas over the mountains and ocean.  It’s not the cool character of the locals on skateboard wheels.  For me, the coolest thing about Santa Cruz is seeing two of my dearest “lifer” friends.

Yvette is the hospitality coordinator for an incredible retreat and conference center in Scott’s Valley.  She extended a warm welcome and graciously made room and time for me.

Joni and Friends were spread throughout the camp.  Everywhere I looked, I saw smiling faces and REALLY wanted to continue the mission of asking individuals, “What Makes YOU Smile?,” but decided not to exploit the hospitality extended to me.  I relaxed a bit before setting out to see another dear friend.

Sarah’s smile is another one I hadn’t seen for far too long.  I pulled out of the camp and headed to the beach where we had arranged to meet.

Sarah's Smile: "Seeing a friend after so many years and feeling like it was yesterday."

I met Sarah in 1989, in my hometown of Modesto, California, through my neighbor and best friend, Keith Parham.  Keith had a magical way of bringing many diverse people together.  Sarah and I are no exception as we have  polarized differences in our world views, especially in regards to religion and politics.  Perhaps it  is our differences that forged the fiery friendship over twenty years ago.  Anyway, walking into the Crow’s Nest was exhilarating as we hadn’t seen each other in 17 years!

After catching up, I asked Sarah what makes her smile and I have to say that her answer is among my favorites.


I spent a couple of days in Santa Cruz doing some work from local Keller Williams offices and other hot-spot locations.  Of course, I also did some beach-combing.  While doing the latter, I found some Kite-Surfers catching waves and air off the cliffs just north of Santa Cruz.

As one surfer came in, I asked the question expecting “the” obvious answer.  But, Evan’s reply was “Pleasant and unexpected surprises.”

Unexpected Surprises


After a refreshing time of visiting with friends and seeing some familiar ground, it was time to re-mount and continue south on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.  Just prior to getting back on HWY 1, I got some oil and chain lube at Kragen Auto Parts where Brad told me that “Scratches and bruises” from riding his dirt bike makes him smile.

"Dirt-bike scratches" makes Brad Smile.

Next stop, CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA!  This is one of my favorite spots on earth! I went to a part of the beach where many years before, I’d met a CHiP’s TV star Heather Locklear.  A talented Filipino artist stood painting the cypress and Pebble Beach onto his canvas where Heather had once painted her pink bikini forever onto the canvas of my mind.


I cannot leave Carmel without stopping by Thomas Kinkaid’s Studio in the Garden.  I was honored to catch the gallery’s manager, Jim Cloer, while a rare lull passed over the quaint, but highly trafficked art haven.  Jim showed me Mr. Kinkaid’s latest piece entitled, “The Cross.”  When asked what makes him smile, he told me, “When someone ‘gets’ the wonder in the awe, from the eye of the beholder.”

“WOW!  . . .  That’s a mouthful!  I had to think about what he said for a moment.  It’s a profound thing when both the creator and spectator share the joy of the product and understand both its inspiration and intent.

Jim at "The Cross" . . . have to see it in person!

The next three hundred and thirty miles weaved, more than stretched, toward the end of my west-coast ride and . . . WHAT A THRILL!  There’s no way to convey the experience of riding all those beautiful cliffed curves on such a machine as this ZRX!  It really began for me at the Bixby Bridge and continued through San Luis Obispo.

Beautiful Curves Begin at the Bixby Bridge

When I came to San Luis Obispo, I pulled into the Carl’s Jr. parking lot and lifted my helmet as a pickup pulled in next to me.  A couple of Army guys got out and I wanted to ask the question–to color my collage with camouflage.  One of the two had his back to me and was on his cell phone, so I abandoned the thought and went in to order a late lunch.

As I waited in line, I turned to see a sergeant and a captain standing behind me.  The Captain happened to be my friend, Darren Schuler!!!!

"Mamorial" Make-up

Here it was, a couple of days past Memorial Day, and the last time I saw Darren was at our annual “Mamorial” Day fraternal gathering back in Murphys, California.  This was the first year of twenty that we/they didn’t get together for a round of golf, camping, cards, and general fart fest.  We were both several hundred miles from home and happy to share an unscheduled lunch together.   After lunch, I hit the road again with a HUGE smile!

Entering Los Angeles, I’d hoped to crash at another high school friend’s place in the city, but couldn’t connect at the right time.  Plan ‘B’ was to stay at a campground north of LA, but somehow, I missed my turn.  As it turned dark, I scrambled to find the cheapest motel on Ventura Boulevard.  Fearful of having the bike stolen, I invited it in to share the locker for the night.   🙂

I woke at 6:00 a.m., had a continental breakfast and headed to the Santa Monica Pier, aka “the end of the trail” for Route 66.  For me, it was just the beginning!

I split the lanes to the beach, parked, and was approached by a guy offering me a dollar bill for my pocket change so he could pay the parking meter.  His name was Mark, and “rings” make him smile.

"Rings turn hardened criminals into giggling little boys."

Mark prodded me to try the rings but I was on another mission.  I pulled Carrie’s little rock out of my pocket and walked barefoot in the warm sand to the pier where I baptized it for the second time, saying a prayer for her, for us, and for the trek ahead as I begin to cross from coast to coast.

Next Stop:  Just CLICK  Vegas, Grand Canyon, and . . . Mexico?

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S-Miles Across America – Chapter Two – Northern Pacific

Oregon Coastline

The cool Monday morning mist was just enough to warrant donning the rain suit and saddle bag covers. With three layers of clothing, I was looking forward to shedding them in the southern heat still days ahead of me.  But first, many twists through thick, mossy pine lay ahead of me as I made haste to the scenic Oregon Coast.

Thirty miles west of Corvallis, home of the OSU Beavers, I was passing through a one-horse town of Alsea, Oregon.  A man saluted from the curb outside of the Alsea Mercantile. The town’s charm and gentleman’s greeting prompted me to pause for a moment.  I made my u-turn on the narrow, two-lane highway half a blink past the center of the one-blink town. I backed to the curb of the Mercantile where I met Leslie.

Returning to the roots of a hunting and fishing paradise

Returning and retiring to his Alsea roots is what makes Leslie smile. After being away for years of service and caring for family, he is at home in his hunting and fishing paradise.

As I reached the west end of Oregon’s Highway 34, I dismounted at Waldport, OR and admired my first sight of the long coast ahead. I walked down a short set of steps to the shore and picked up a small rock at the last stair and smiled. I’d asked Carrie before I left what she would like me to bring back. Of all things, she said, “a rock.”  (Just to be clear, I made sure she wasn’t referring to a diamond.) So, I walked thirty yards to the shoreline, wet the rock by baptizing it in the northern Pacific, and slipped it into my pocket.

Before mounting the ZRX again, a couple passed by and I asked them to snap a shot for me . . ..


Baptism of the rock

Pacific Northwest Coastline

Slowly turning back toward Dallas

So, I had to turn the camera and ask, “Mr. and Mrs. Dabbs, what makes YOU smile?”. . .

In her warm Texan accent, Mrs. Dabbs smoothly replied, “Bein’ coooool.”  They were getting reluctantly close to turning their motorhome around to return to the relentless southern heat that I was longing for.

The coolness continued with a coastal precipitation that bordered a fine line between pleasant and annoying. As I continued down the Oregon coast, I remembered what the Dabbs said and tried to appreciate, on different levels, the “coolness” of the coast that I rode down.

Coos Bay, Oregon, was mapped for lunch. After a five-dollar-foot-long, Dave pulled in next to me as I made my first mechanical check-up on the ZRX. We chatted about my route, and I asked the question, “So, Dave, what makes YOU smile?”

"Riding my 750 Honda Shadow."

As I reassembled the baggage, I stowed the rain gear and continued south past the Oregon-California border.

Entering California

Continue reading “S-Miles Across America – Chapter 3 – California Chronicles

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S-Miles Across America – Chapter One – The Journey Begins

“What makes you smile?”

This is the question that I set out with on June 6th, 2010.

A heavy pattern of rain finally passed through the Puget Sound and the window of opportunity opened for me to set out on a cross-country motorcycle journey. The primary purpose was to deliver a 2001 Kawasaki ZRX 1200R to its rightful owner in D.C.

From Snohomish, WA, (20 miles northeast of Seattle), the most direct route would be I-90 through the northern states and the Midwest. With news of severe flooding and electrical storms in the Midwest, it was  no difficult decision to take a southern route down the West Coast, through Texas, and up the East Coast, making one HUGE ‘smile’ across America.

With saddle bags packed and rain gear on, I embarked on what I considered to be the trip of a lifetime. There was five-thousand-six-hundred miles in front of me. The days and miles ahead were as a blank page begging to be filled with life from the road . . .

Come with me as I tell the story of the places and faces that make “S-Miles Across America” . . .

S-Miles Across America Begins

DAY 1 – Pacific Northwest

I allowed the throttle to idle down the long gravel driveway of Mike and Diana’s property.  A distinct emotion returned to me for only the second time of my forty-two years on God’s Green Earth. The first time I’d felt this way, my seat was on the edge of an open door at ten thousand feet above my landing zone. Skydiving has a thrill of its own, but the first true step of this great journey felt the same as I rode away. A gazillion thoughts and pictures flashed through my mind to create a mosaic of life past and an uncertain, yet thrilling anticipation of the near future.  The distinction of vivid memories combined with uncertainty of the road ahead made a brilliant collage of excited emotion when the adrenaline and throttle accelerate away from the familiar.

Over the hills and through the woods, a slight shower became a downpour.  As I traveled south, away from Seattle, the test for my rain gear passed with flying colors. Three and a half hours later, I made my first stop Grandma’s house.  I treasure these rare moments that I get with my grandmother because of the rich wisdom that she consistently shares.  As I told her about my opportunity to deliver this motorcycle across the country with the route that I was looking forward to, I asked her not to mention this to my folks. I knew from experience that my family would worry too much about me while on such a solo trip as this.

“It’s better to share and let worry, than withhold and exclude family. Call your Mother!”   . . . Once again, Gramma gives good advice.  She sent me off with food for thought and insisted on slipping in a few bucks for food on the road . . . .  Thanks Gramma!

After grabbing a bite at Carl’s Jr. in Vancouver, WA, I was stepping into my rain gear as a young man pushed and pulled waste barrels through the back door of the restaurant. “Rain or shine, huh?”, he commented. “Yeah, I’m riding down the West Coast, through Texas and up the East Coast, making a big smile across America… So, let me ask you, ‘What makes YOU smile’?”.

The Mona Lisa Smile

Cecilio - Vancouver, WA

Cecilio’s answer: “The thought of doing what you’re doing”.
“C’mon! Tell me something else,” I replied and he said: “No, really, the thought of riding a motorcycle across the country makes me smile more than anything else.”
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