South to Savannah


JUST A SHORT JOURNEY this year, friends. In the morning I’m headed south to Tybee Island to celebrate the bride’s 60th birthday. Tybee is a barrier island off Savannah. I’ve ridden through Georgia’s first city a number of times but have never stopped to really see it or spend any amount of time there. I hear it’s nice.

Almost got on the road today, but couldn’t imagine how long it might take to get to my first stop, New York, in Memorial Day traffic. And then there’s the holiday drunks, and the texters, and the drunk texters.

All riding is good riding, but I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of summer riding in Dixie. Would much rather ride across Nevada in June than South Carolina. The West will give you about all the heat you can manage while scooting along the valleys when the sun’s up, but at least you get to court hypothermia riding up through the passes at night. No such luck here in the East when you’re motoring along the coastal edge of the Piedmont.

It’s the rainy season, too. Not that I care about rain. The raingear is rolled up across the handlebars, easy to find under the first available tree or overpass.

There are no new states to ride through this time. Piggy’s well-acquainted with everywhere between Rhode Island and Georgia. All that’s left in North America is the Northwest Territories, Labrador, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Oklahoma (we keep riding right past Oklahoma for some reason) and Mexico. Every winter I get the urge to ride south to visit my friend Tarquino, lately of Tampico, now working in Papantla. Five hundred miles across the border on the gulf backroads, places we haven’t seen yet. The drift I get from Tarquino is, Don’t do it, gringo, Muy peligroso!

When I got back from Alaska last summer, I almost immediately ran into two Mexican bikers in Providence. They were taking pictures in front of the sign for the Roger Williams National Memorial, on North Main Street. They had been in Alaska, too, had ridden east across Canada and were headed now for Argentina. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear opportunity knocking. That would be the way to ride south of the Rio Grande, riding with friendly locals who speak the language. But I had just gotten home after 83 days; as amiable as she is, even the bride would have had something to say about me saddling up the iron piggy again so soon.

I lost track of those guys, dunno if they ever made it as far south as they were headed. They were posting about their journey here. I haven’t checked in on them for some time.


All right, so, just a short ride for 2014. The plan is, I’ll meet up with the bride and our gals on June 5, on Tybee, the start of our first all-together family vacation in many years. Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 will have their significant others in tow. That’s Ryan and Jonny, respectively. And the bride’s sister, Janet Wheeler, is coming in from San Diego with her husband, Kevin.

On the way down, I’ll road test the new method of carrying gear that my friend Mike Connelly and I came up with. We designed and welded a custom rack that connects to the iron piggy’s chassis at three points and provides a foundation for that Pelican case I bought. I think the case will get me out of camp faster every morning; no need to dry-bag the electronics and futz, futz, futz. Now, fill up the box, close the weatherproof lid, ride off.



A very clean setup. No need for all those black canvas bags I used to carry, a dozen straps and cords holding everything down, cargo nets, blah blah… I enjoyed the morning ritual of fitting the puzzle together, but it did eat into my road time.



A big travel trunk needs stickers, as George Bailey says to Old Man Gower. I don’t collect stickers, but I went back through my travel journals yesterday and found two I had used as page markers: the Alaska Marine Highway, 2013, and Burning Man, 2009. Eight days on a wilderness playa in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, with Johnny Danger and 50,000 others converging from all around the world. You never know what you’ll see next. Burning Man makes Woodstock look like a Rotary Club luncheon.



I’m carrying enough grub to ride to the Magellan Strait, see if I can catch up to the Mexicans. Good opportunity to test the setup for how it’ll work on a much longer ride than the one I’m on. Bought a second bear can recently, the one on the left. “Bear can,” short for “bear proof,” allegedly. I’m sure the cans are hard to open without thumbs. Hard enough to open with thumbs.

The taller can is for grub that doesn’t have a This Way Up and can’t spill or leak with the can tipped on its side: beans, lentils, rice, pasta, oatmeal… All the liquids—olive oil, molasses, dish soap—go upright in the shorter can, which is short enough to sit upright in the case.


Like so. Grub, electronics, clothes (not many, on a motorcycle you’re mostly wearing what you’ve got for clothes). The only thing not in here yet is my camera, since I’m, you know, taking this picture with it.



Set up for a fully-articulated GoPro mount on each side of the case. Will try my hand at video again. Poor results so far. Working on it…



I drilled a hole in the side of the all-weather case (formerly all-weather) so I could hook up an external microphone. At anything over 30mph, the built-in mic just records wind noise anyway. I’ll experiment with placing the remote mic at different locations on the back of the bike, out of the airstream. Try to get some Harley drumming as video background… potato potato potato…


I’ve got 10 days to get to Savannah. My usual pace would get me there in two, so this ride is best described as leisurely. Only because that sounds so much better than indolent. I was supposed to start this little trek at the beginning of the holiday weekend with a first stop on Shelter Island, off eastern Long Island, New York. Friends of ours from Boston, Anita and Jon Brush, have a vacation place there. Alas, I had a few home improvement projects to finish up and didn’t leave nearly enough time for prepping the bike, figuring out the new gear setup, so… I never did make it to the Cross Sound Ferry in New London. Jon and Anita are back in Boston now. On the bright side, I was here at the humble manse for brunch yesterday, the bride’s actual birthday. That was fun. D2 and D3 came by and did the cooking, and D2’s friend, Jess, was here, with her hilarious and delightful daughter, Hailee.


Here’s Hailee, running and spinning around the front yard, as my little girls used to do. Don’t miss a minute, young moms & dads. It all goes by so fast.



This is last Wednesday, I think. Time to jack up the iron piggy and do the long overdue post-Alaska service: engine oil, primary oil, gear lube, neck bearings, adjust the clutch…



With the engine oil drained, I like to heave the piggy over on her side so I can prime the fresh filter about half full. It brings up the pressure quicker and minimizes the dry start. With the flatbed body on it, the ’49 truck makes for a handy workbench.



Time for fresh fork oil, so, strip off the lights and the nacelle. Top of the left tube (your right), there’s the axle wrench I use to take off the fork caps.



Fork caps are 34mm? Pretty sure about that. With this shim I cut out of a dull sawzall blade, a 36mm axle wrench fits snugly.



With the shim in place, the wrench snugs up to four of the six flats, prevents rounding over the corners. Cheaper’n buying a 34mm wrench I’m going to use once every two years.



Each tube calls for 10.1 ounces of oil, or 298 milliliters. I measure out an extra 10 mL because about that much will cling to the walls of the graduated cylinder.



One big advantage to using the axle wrench: you can torque the caps to spec without having to remove the handlebars. The bars are in the way if you want to put the torque wrench directly on the caps. The handle of the axle wrench has a cutout for a 3/8-inch drive. With the torque wrench at 90 degrees to the axle wrench, the torque value stays the same, no math involved: 55 foot pounds head-on is 55 foot pounds at 90 degrees.



Road salt was here; the Machine Age’s top performer on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Here’s a winter’s worth of surface rust on the handlebars. They clean up nicely with a bit of polish. I almost never bother, unless I’m taking the bike apart.



That’s more than surface rust on the downwind side of my air deflectors. Those are pits. But note the wing nut. Last summer I stole it from Jan Nelson, in Gig Harbor, WA. One of the chrome acorn nuts vibrated off and the left air deflector was rattling around like crazy. Jan is Mr. Metric. Where in his garage am I ever going to find a coarse thread 5/16ths SAE nut?

I hunt through every tool box, drawer and cabinet until—Ah!—Jan’s Made-In-America hacksaw. Has a wing nut for adjusting tension on the blade. I should send it back at some point, saw’s useless without it. Next time Jan needs his saw he’ll have to go buy a new one just for the nut.



Okay, fresh fork oil in both tubes, time to put the piggy’s nose back on.



Look at that face! <smooch> I should have sued that crook, Jim Henson, for stealing my iron piggy song, changing a few words and filing for copyright.

Iron Piggy, you’re so fine

And I’m lucky that your mine

Iron Piggy, I’m awfully fond of—

Iron Piggy, I’d like a whole sty of—

Iron Piggy, I’m awfully fond of you—YOU!

boop boop, bee doo



Look at how her bars and nacelle cleaned up. And with minimal effort. I didn’t even rub it out, you can still see dirt and polish. But no rust. Harleys have incredibly durable finishes and really clean up well no matter how hard you abuse them. My used-up air deflectors don’t count; they don’t come stock on the bike.


When I get on the road in the morning, I’m going to make an effort to actually stop and see people. I almost never confirm a stop ahead of time because it’s way too easy to let the road make the call. It usually says, Ride on. I’ve ridden through Virginia Beach a few times without ever stopping to meet Rusty Barton, a good egg from one of the motorhead listservs I used to frequent. And I rode through Houston once without stopping to meet Brad Barber and Jeff Bailey, off the same list. Two years ago I was about to ride out to Utah to meet Brad and Jeff. They were timing a bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then the bride broke her shoulder and I was on nursing duty for the summer. So you never can tell,  you miss the opportunity or the opportunity misses you; either way the chance to make the human connection is fleeting.

I’ll stop in Queens, NY tomorrow, to see our friend, N. A day or two there, then down to Levittown, PA, to visit with Dinh Van Thanh, aka “Dominic,” a Villanova pal I haven’t seen in quite a while. A few lucky twists and turns and accidents of timing led to us being lifelong friends instead of spending our youths stalking each other in a homicidal misadventure. Maybe down at the quantum level, it all turned out the other way around in some alternate universe. I like our reality better.

Dominic met a Vietnamese gal, Thuy, and had Vietnamese-American kids. I recall his first born as among the coolest 1 percent of all kids everywhere, and with the coolest name ever: Charlie. Dig it, not “Charles.” Charlie.

Farther south, if I ride the inland route, I might stop in Fairfax, VA to see Duane Collie and family. Great people. I stayed with them once while riding home from Key West and goofing around the Civil War battlefields. Duano’s a cancer warrior of kick-ass stature, second only to Johnny Danger, my old friend in the high desert on the Eastern Sierra; where the piggy and I have snoozed in the plum orchard, and will again if the gods will have it.

Tony DePaul, May 26, 2014, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA





About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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11 Responses to South to Savannah

  1. brad says:

    Great post Tony.

    Jan’s wingnut put a smile on my face.

    As for meeting me & Jeff, aim your brain back to the Salt Flats in August 2015. I’m building a 1970 vintage Triumph 250 to get the 250cc Modified frame Pushrod class record. Cheers.

  2. Tony, great to see you and Iron Piggy are heading out for another adventure on the road.

    There’s one for you, that all long distance riders relate to…

    When I’m riding Iron Piggy, I’m glad to be alive,
    When I stop at the end of the day, I’m glad to be alive.

    Be safe, our paths will cross again one day.

    • Tony says:

      Ahoy, Jan! You must be getting set for the NY to CA Cannonball run by now. Will look for your reports.

  3. Bill Boogaart says:

    Have a great ride! the Pelican box looks like a great addition to Piggy. And congrats to the Bride on her birthday!

  4. Jim Giglia says:


    I never tire of your travel tales and detailed descriptions you lay on us about a day in the life of Miss Piggy.

    Safe trip to Georgia and the best birthday wishes to The Mrs.!
    Still looking out the window hoping to hear and see you and MP rollin up in Fort Lauderdale.

  5. Chris Whitney says:

    Ride safe, sir.

  6. Jan Nelson says:

    Who you calling a wingnut?

  7. Joe says:

    Have a safe trip and keep us posted.


  8. Vincent Ogutu says:

    Happy birthday to Pam, and safe riding. I could come over to you in Queens. It’s a stone’s throw from Manhattan 🙂 I’ll send you my details.

  9. John Lassiter says:

    Safe travels. Spread the joy.

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