Michigan to New York on a 1982 Yamaha Virago 920
My 1982 Virago 920, on her way to Warren.
Photo by Andrew Wheat
In general, I would describe my prospective journey simply: I would ready my 26-year-old Yamaha Virago 920 on a 750-mile trip from central Michigan out east to New York to visit friends and relatives. I also hoped to find what lays behind the seemingly impenetrable walls of granite that line US 80. In the past, I simply blew by them in my car, wondering how the houses and towns were laid out on this steeply sloping, mountainous landscape. I had been re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which likens the proper maintenance of a machine to the quest for ultimate truth and understanding. Like the main character of the book, I hoped to discover the true nature of the land I would be passing through.
The story begins with my motorcycle’s over-the-winter overhaul, which included a list of small but irritating things that had eluded my wrench for the past two seasons. I had purchased some new engine cover bolts to replace some bunged up ones, but had failed to install them, nor had I installed the new crankshaft end cover, which I’d cracked two years prior by over tightening. I began with what I thought would be the easiest task: replacing the engine cover bolts. Three ruined fasteners, a new set of drill taps and an E-Z out later, the bolts were finally in place. This fastener fastening experience provided considerable posterior pain. In order to avoid another kind of rear discomfort, I also knew I would need something other than the smooshed foam padding of my vintage Japanese seat. I purchased a large gel seat pad for about a hundred bucks from a Competition Accessories catalog. I knew without it, my butt would become gravy in about 120 miles. The last step in the overhaul was to address the turn signal dilemma. The front left and rear right turn signals both left service after I broke them off one night in a display of utter stupidity. Some scavenged wire, solder and a torch were all that were needed to rectify the wrecked directors. Phaedrus would have said that my romantic rush to ride had necessitated a more classical understanding of the damage I had caused; i.e., haste makes waste. After changing the engine oil and adjusting tire pressure, I took her out for a shakedown cruise. She performed flawlessly, turn signals and all. For now, anyway.
The journey begins
The weather was sunny and warm as I set out down US 23 that first day. I joined the Ohio Turnpike, and headed east. After paying my $6.75 toll, I exited the turnpike, and found 80 East, and took it into Pennsylvania to 79 North. After some twists and turns, I eventually found Route 6, a winding two-way mountain passage. I took it east, attempting to find Warren, Pa., and a welcoming camp sight to stop, eat, and rest my aching backside.
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