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21 May 2006

i'm on my way to the promised land


ever since us highway 666 in new mexico and colorado was renamed to us highway 491 three years ago, only two roads in the united states bear the number of the beast. one is a short stretch of road which connects madeira beach to the mainland in florida near tampa bay; the other is a 33 mile stretch between east hickory and sheffield in northwestern pennsylvania. i'd spent saturday night in a small hotel in oil city, pennsylvania, a small town 25 miles southwest of east hickory and today i would ride the highway to hell.

i woke up early on sunday morning ready to ride. carried all of my gear down from my third floor hotel room and loaded it onto for.great.justice, taking care to balance my pack across the seat and strap it down securely. i wiped off last night's rain from the seat with death.from.above [*], threw my leg over the bike and sat down in the soft dampness. zipped my jacket up to my neck, pulled my gloves on, and lowered my helmet onto my head, my breath blurring the shield. the weather was closing in and i decided to postpone breakfast until i'd put oil city well behind me.

fuel valve: set to on.

ignition key: set to on.

neutral: check.

engine switch: set to run.

choke: check.

i hit the start button. the starter began turning the engine over... turning... still... turning... and nothing. i tried again. weaker now. and again. and weaker still. nothing. i breathed out a long heavy blurring breath. don't stop me.

i looked around the hotel parking lot. it was an empty dead day sunday in oil city, pennsylvania, and i didn't think i'd be able to find a local mechanic who could take a look at my bike any time soon. i was several hours away from the global recon vehicular operations base in ligonier; if it had come down to it i could have requested a technician drive up and tow for.great.justice back to base, but i had a season ticket on a one way ride and i wasn't going to go out like that. i'd attempt a jump start.

i clicked the transmission into first gear, stepped off the bike, pulled in the clutch lever, and began to push for.great.justice down the smooth black parking lot pavement. when i'd reached an adequate speed i popped the clutch and the engine instantly roared to life.

i'd forgotten one critical step.

i'd popped the clutch _before_ i'd jumped on my bike and my 1991 kawasaki vulcan 750 was now dragging me down the parking lot as i desperately tried to engage the clutch or brake. shit. i stumbled to my knees and just when i thought 'i'm going down... all the way', i made a quick recovery and managed to hold onto the handlebars and pull in the clutch lever. i wish i had a video of this incident; there's no doubt i looked like a complete idiot trying to keep my bike upright as it dragged me down the parking lot.

the morning's events behind me and with for.great.justice growling, i was off on route 62 headed north, livin' easy, lovin' free, on my way to the promised land. i made it up to east hickory after passing through some beautiful countryside and into the allegheny national forest. my first siting of the route 666 sign occurred about fifty feet from the intersection. i looked for a place to pull over but there wasn't adequate space in front of the sign and i had to settle for a quick shot without the bike. i decided to turn onto the road and hope that i'd come across a small intersection which would have some route number signs. i was finally on the highway to hell and there were no stop signs, speed limit. there was however a sign which indicated that pa route 666 is also called the 'david zeisberger highway'.

seven miles into route 666 i came to an intersection with two 666 signs. i was a bit worried about my battery and had planned to keep the bike running while i snapped a few pictures, but the engine stalled when i pulled the bike over to the side of the road beside the signs. i tried the starter button and the engine roared back to life. nobody's gonna mess me around. i spent about fifteen minutes at the sign taking pictures during which time no fewer than ten cars drove past, slowed down, and the drivers asked if i needed assistance.

'no, thank you... i'm just... uhh... taking pictures of this sign. thank you, but i'm asking nothing. leave me be.'

most of the people just looked at me like i was some type of deranged psychopath, but one fellow psychopath told me she'd taken pictures of the same sign.

i jumped back on for.great.justice, stowed my camera, and hit the starter button. nothing. i'd left the key in the on position and the battery was gone. again. hey satan... paid my dues. [sigh] i'd need to perform another jump start.

i unstrapped my small pack from the gas tank and placed it on the side of the road to give me some additional space for when i jumped on the bike _before_ popping the clutch. i rolled the bike down the hill and let go of the clutch lever... cough cough, sputter. nothing. the eleventh vehicle drove up and the driver asked if i needed help.

'my battery died. i'm trying to jump start for.great.justice... any way you could push me so i can get enough speed to start the engine?'

'sure. ain't nothing that i'd rather do.'

the driver and a passenger hopped out and began pushing me down the road. i disengaged the clutch and there i was... going down, party time... grrrr... grrrowl. one of the guys handed me my pack, i strapped it to the gas tank, thanked them graciously, and was off on the next stretch of pa route 666. the road surface wasn't in the best shape and so i took it easy, especially given the number of turns and inclines. the highway to hell was not in fact a highway but a tiny two lane country road not unlike many of the roads leading to my house in ligonier.

i stopped for gas and food three times after i'd made it to the end of route 666 in sheffield. twice the engine started using the starter; once i had to ask for another push. i made it the entire way to latrobe (fifteen minutes away from reconbase ligonier) before the engine began popping and sputtering and eventually died altogether. this was the first time the engine had stopped while the bike was running... i'd ridden 4000+ miles and for.great.justice had died fifteen minutes away from a reconbase. wow.

i called the head of vehicular operations and he arranged for a tow. the main towing units were out on other missions, but an agent showed up with another motorcycle and some rope and managed to drag me back to base. i was back in friendly territory and i was happy to be home. my friends were gonna be there too.

the following day the recontechs discovered that one of the wires connected to the battery was loose and was most likely the culprit of the problems i'd been experiencing. they tightened the wire, charged the battery, and took some electrical readings. it appears the issue is resolved and for.great.justice will be able to carry me back to boston.

i'm departing reconbase ligonier on wednesday morning and i expect to arrive at _THE FINAL DESTINATION_ [!!!] of recontour 2005.2006 on thursday afternoon. i'm just about as nervous as i was when i left and i can't really explain why... i suppose because it's... the end.

hey momma... look at me.


01. what is death.from.above?

02. where did i purchase death.from.above?

03. what color is death.from.above?

submit your answers in a comment and you'll be directed to a page which provides the answers. searching archived entries for any mention of death.from.above is prohibited; cheaters will be prosecuted.

[did you catch all the references to ac/dc's song 'highway to hell'? no? click here.]

posted by paul on Sun 21 May 2006 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


01. what is death.from.above?
the cloth you bought for a turban

02. where did i purchase death.from.above?
in india
03. what color is death.from.above?
that was black

posted by james on Wed 24 May 2006 at 08:15:19 est (-05:00)

Love the "deranged psychopath" picture. . .I grabbed it for re-posting. . .free PR for you so deal with it. [smiling. . .laughing. . .]

posted by redpath on Wed 24 May 2006 at 17:02:11 est (-05:00)

IT's that pink thingy you've been wearing since you bought it in India? I believe. It's like a scarf, turban, etc. Now send me a freaking postcard. Oh, too late since you likley only about 10 miles from my house. Happy Graduation Sarah. Congrats.

posted by NEAL DAVID on Wed 24 May 2006 at 23:18:56 est (-05:00)

>01. what is death.from.above?

airborn t-shirt

>02. where did i purchase death.from.above?

i'm guessing at the same place you bought all your military surplus in beantown.

>03. what color is death.from.above?

if it's not black, the paul i know was abducted and replaced with a replicant.

ps: sit on your bike when you jump start it asstard.

posted by calvitron on Thu 25 May 2006 at 08:42:25 est (-05:00)

Neal David - Thank you. If Paul is only 10 miles from your house, will you go and jump start his bike for me?

posted by Sarah on Thu 06 Jul 2006 at 21:45:25 est (-05:00)

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