The Great Western roadtrip (or how I learned to stop thinking and love the war)

Ok, so this is how my ‘vacation’ went:

Right off the bat, let me say that the time spent at war with friends was well worth the effort…. I had not been looking forward to this war as I had others. No sense of excitement for the tasting was washing over me, nor was I looking towards the 1700+mile roundtrip to get there and back. It wasn’t until the Sunday before when I figured I was committed to it, since that was when I had packed my bike in preparation. And it wasn’t until Tuesday before that I was 100% sure I was going…

Click the link below for the full story…

Wednesday night I fell into bed around 6pm with the intent of waking at midnight to begin my long ride from Portland to Taft, Ca. (near Bakersfield). True to my alarm, I woke, showered, and dressed for my ride.

The bike was already packed and ready to go, so all I had to do was warm her up and do my last pre-flight checks before heading out. Backing out of my garage, I noted the time on my dash as 12:30am spot on. (I’d left that early, as I’d timed the ride to bring my arrival as early in the afternoon Thursday as possible to give me time to unpack and nap before the parties started.) I was already in my cold-weather gear, with grip warmers blasting, so I made my way to the freeway and rolled on the throttle to get up to the speed I’d carry for the next 850 miles.

The downside to leaving so early, is that the scenery is all black. A shame, really, when riding through the gorgeous landscape that is the west side of the Cascade mountains in Oregon. Of course, the upswing to this is that this portion of the trip seems to go more quickly, as your mind is tricked into not recalling the hundreds of miles under your tires by virtue of the -same- scenery the entire way.

I made great time, and passed throughShasta around 5am. Right on schedule. The downside here is that I was under prepared for the 34degree temps going through Weed and Shasta. My gear is solid down to 41degrees (cold but manageable), but 34 at 80mph windchill was just downright painful. Luckily, by the time I hit Redding, things had warmed into the high 40’s and a 30 minute rest allowed things to top 50 and get me warmer to continue.

Luckily the rest of the ride continued that warming trend and allowed for a more pleasant journey. Topping out around 77 degrees, I was able to finish the ride and pull into camp at 1:30pm, smack dab on the 13 hour mark. Exhausted, but excited, I pulled into camp and greeted the only two there thus far: Eoin and Raz. A beer later, I realized I needed to unpack and park the bike before continuing any drinking, otherwise the bike wouldn’t get parked until Sunday afternoon!

A quick unpack of the bike (made easy by the fact that my saddle bags and top-box quickly disconnect in full and can be used as luggage), and I was back in camp and down another dram of whiskey. And that was the start of an emotional rollercoaster of a war….

Remember that ‘nap’ I had planned on taking; the reason I had left so early? Yep. Never happened. Too many people I hadn’t seen in over 2 years to reconnect with, too many drinks to be had, too much fun catching up, and too enjoyable just relaxing to nap. And that continued all through the night, until sometime after Sir Mathias’ ribs on the grill were but a memory, did I stumble my way into the tent and pass out… but not before noting that it was 4:15am or so. Yup, 28 hours, 850 miles, and countless drinks after I had first awoken from my slumber in Portland, I was now bedding down in Taft.

Friday arrived, and I slunk out of the tent around 10:30ish to a blazing sun. With nothing on my docket, I lazed around camp until such a time as my hunger pangs began (though stymied by a soda and a few drams of whisky of course). The sad site of watching Sir Mathias and me shuffle our way towards, and then through merchant’s row on a quest for lunch must have been a sight to behold. The day’s ride prior was taking its toll on my body, and the night’s festivities hadn’t exactly helped the cause either. What brought us both back to life, though, was a nearly 1foot long bratwurst with onions, peppers, and sauerkraut. Newly revived, but still moving slooooooowly, we moseyed through merchants and then back to camp, where I stayed for the rest of the afternoon until the camp potluck that night.

As always, when camping with the 3DC, our potluck was amazing. It is so wonderful to camp with not only such a wonderful group of people, but people who also know how to cook and eat! I can’t recall all of the wonderful dishes presented, but I know at least one had whisky as a key ingredient, as should be expected in the 3DC camp. For fear of leaving any one dish out I won’t make mention of any others… suffice to say, I had a bite or more of all, and left camp on walkabout just to try and work some of all the amazing food off; some serious carb loading must be the only thing which got me through the rest of the night.

After a bit of walkabout around war, visiting friends and generally camp hopping with whiskies (love to the Crimson Spade for allowing me to crash around the fire pit whilst Raz stood guard at the vigil across the way), we wandered back to camp fairly early in the evening as we knew a wonderful fire would be awaiting us there. And we weren’t disappointed. Around 15 to 20 people were at the fire when we arrived. Many drinks of whiskies, and Sakes, and homebrews from out of camp later and the herd began to think slightly, just in time for Sir Mathias to pop some Tri-tip on the grill. And all of my joking about only flipping the meat once aside, the tri-tip was fabulous. When it is that late and you’ve been drinking that much, a little bit of protein is well appreciated!

Of course, this is whenSir Mathias, who I will now refer to as Changer, had some free time…. and we all know what idle hands are. Somehow, during my time talking with (and happily distracted by) Lasairfhiona, Meala, and Kissa, the beginning of a running joke was made. I tuned in just after it all started, and was blind sided to learn I was the butt of it. Well enough, the target always moves, so I played along and laughed so hard over the next 2 hours that my sides/ribs literally ached because of it. By some turn of fate, Kissa avoided the entire camp finding out she was a “shit-sandwich fluffer” as was being extolled by Lasairfhiona, in the -best- possible way of course…. lucky ones they are πŸ˜‰ Instead, the camp rallied around the newly formed game show entitled “What’s up Seamus’ Ass?” (which works best when you imagine a studio audience completing the question, “Are you ready to play…”). As I come to find out, apparently my ass has been harbouring a Russian nuclear submarine, amongst other interesting objects. Sometime later, it seems, both Diver Dan and Scuba Steve were enlisted in an expedition to locate the scuttled sub, which resulted in some odd news style commentary and interviews around the campfire. All I can say at this point is that it is probably a good thing I was inebriated and don’t have as good a recollection of it all… otherwise I might well be embarrassed.

This all continued well into the early morn until we all finally made our way to our respective tents and turned in, myself around the 4to5am mark again…. So, for all of you on Facebook, who have been seeing people’s status as “wondering….. What’s up Seamus’ ass”, well you now know not only who Seamus is, but the story ‘behind’ it all.

Saturday morning came, and I extruded myself from the tent around 10:30am… having completely forgotten about the prior night’s running joke, until I heard the theme song being sung to me by those who happened to be in the camp just then. Ah, love, can you feel it? The remainder of the morning and earliest part of the afternoon was spent sitting around and relaxing whilst chatting, until a few minutes before two when we all walked to the battle field for Kolfinna’s memorial service.

From here I need to digress: Duchess Sir Kolfinna Kottr was taken from us on Oct. 1st due to complications from H1N1. Kitty, as she was known mundanely, was a person who touched the lives of an immeasurable number of people, myself included. She was more of an acquaintance to me than a friend, though I am absolutely a better person for having known here even tangentially. She was, however, much closer to a number of my friends in the Society; friends whom have felt her passing tear more than just a friend from them. Because Kitty was so involved and such a part of the SCA, as not only a twice reigning Queen, but also a Knight of the highest caliber, a large scale memorial was planned for the Saturday afternoon at Great Wester War on the battlefield where she presumably would have felt most comfortable.

This is the part where I feel a bit of a sham; I accompanied my friends to the battle field and arrived just as the service was beginning. Another friend was Heralding the ceremony, and I could hear the pain in his booming voice, which tore at my resolve and I began to tear up. Looking around me, at the multitude of people (literally as far as my eyes could see), I saw too many people close to me feeling so much pain at the loss of their dear friend, that my resolve was crushed. I turned, told the one person I could find who would understand that I was leaving, and I walked back to camp stifling my tears, reprimanding myself for being over dramatic, but not wanting to disrupt the memorial with my blubbering, all the while feeling a bit silly for crying. See, in my mind, right or wrong, I simply didn’t know Kitty well enough in comparison to so many of my other friends that I didn’t deserver to standat her memorial and cry. Yes, we all have a right to grieve, but my grief is tempered by the fact that she and I didn’t share the bond that she shared with so many of my other friends. The best I could do to honour her at that point was to walk away, cry on my own, and process in my own head. On my way back to camp, I think I realized that it was the grief and pain of those around me that really hit me in the soft spot. To see my friends hurt so much really cut into me the same deep manner that Kitty’s passing cut into them.

When I returned to camp, I found a sole member sitting and reading. I sat, as the tent was too hot, and the chairs were convenient and shaded. Genevieve asked a few questions, which I tried to answer guardedly, but failed to do so to any great extent. I am very appreciative of the time she took to talk with me though. I can only imagine at this point how little sense I may have been making. Too many thoughts, too many unanswered questions, etc. She is a saint for listening to me I am sure. She was saved by the bell when others began arriving back from the memorial and I excused myself to the privy for a bit. On my return, after a splash of water on my face, I’d mellowed out enough to be in a group of people again. As before, the camp sat around in the shade drinking the afternoon away, though this time with a bit more somber/sober of an atmosphere hung over us all.

Time passed, as it does at war, and soon Raz, Fergus, Eoin, Sean, Justin, and I were dressed for the evening and on our way to the Atenveldt Royal encampment to host our 3DC Annual Whiskies Tasting event. We worked through a few minor snags at the beginning, the main one being the decided lack of tables in their camp (easily rectified), and setup all the bottles which had made their way to our camp before hand. When all was said an done, I believe the final count was 32 bottles. Once again, we pulled off a 30+ bottle tasting without heavy promotion.

As the night progressed, what started (at least for Raz and I, and possible Fergus) as a tasting we were sure would fail and weren’t really looking forward to, turned into an outstanding success by the end. I had actually shirked a large portion of my implicit 3DC responsibilities and really just sat around the outskirts of the tasting, talking quietly with others; sometimes about whiskies, but often not. By the end of the night, I found myself actually please with the tasting and actually happy about how well it was received by all who attended. Of course, in my enjoyment of the event and through my varied conversations with friends not seen for years at that point, I had failed to track the time. Because of that failure, I had let down a dear friend by breaking a promise to attend her vigil (for the laurel peerage) dressed as a tranny. While I feel -horrible- for such an oversight, I am glad to have heard that she had at least one other tranny show up, so she didn’t go tranny-less at her vigil.

The tasting actually lasted far longer than expected, and by the time we were heading back to our own camp, the entire war seemed to have wound down. Not that we were ready to call it quits yet, so I, with Meala on one arm and Eilidh on another, wove back to camp with grins on our faces. Despite what I may think, I have a feeling they were just holding me up and allowing me to believe I was escorting them back to camp πŸ˜‰ Finally arriving, we settled in by the fire once again to wind down the night. There really is nothing better than good friends around the fire; except maybe good friends around the dinner table…. which means at some point late in the night/early in the morning Raz broke out the bratwurst for that perfect after-partying-snack that we were craving.

Making my way into the tent at the end of the night, I made a point to look at my phone for the time before passing out; 4:49am. I am sure I was asleep with 10 minutes, but for ease we’ll call it 5am…. next I know I am woken by a warm sun heating upthe tent, indicating to me time to rise, and my body agreeing. Figuring it was the typical 10 or 11am, I rose and began the ritual of packing to go home.

Putzing around, I cleared out the tent I had shared with Raz, and meticulously repacked my bike for the long journey ahead of me. Halfway through I recalled that my phone batter was close to dying, so I co-opted a plug from Fergus’ truck to lay a charge for the ride home. That’s when I noticed the time… it was 9:30am and I had been working for a solid hour. Yup, that means I got 3.5 hours of sleep. And that kind of scared me, because my body wasn’t telling me it was tired. At all. So I contemplated for a bit and determined that either I went back to sleep immediately, or I began the journey home asap. I opted for the later, as there was no way I would be sleeping soon; best to start the 850 miles/13 hours back home….

Rather than get out of there as fast as I could, though, I dawdled and wasted time. I was having a very hard time leaving. Not only did I not want to say good bye to dear friends once again, but I seriously was not looking forward to the ride back home, even knowing the earlier I left, the better. Finally, at 11:30am I mounted up and rolled on the throttle, leaving Great Western War in the dust.

The beginning portion back home was suitably warm, but not hot. Enough so that the ‘sleepys’ hit a few times just based on the temp and drastically boring landscape of central valley California. By the time I reach Redding, things were cooling down enough that I put on my cold weather gear in anticipation of even more drops in the next few hours. For the ride through Shasta, things stayed at a fairly warm temp, enough that I wasn’t wearing all my cold gear and hadn’t turned on my grip warmers… that came later once I stopped in Yreka to wipe the bugs from my windshield and gear up completely, as I knew by this point, the low temps were just going to get lower until I got home.

And lower they got. By the time I hit Roseburg I was shivering again, dealing with temps below what my gear can handle. By this point I was also starting to get very tired, but knew I only had another few hours to go. So I pressed on. My legs had been aching since Redding, and the bottoms of my feet were bruised by the pegs since Sacramento, though my muscles had just really started screaming at me just outside Roseburg. I was also starting to get hungry as I hadn’t eaten since a chicken sandwich since my stop in Westerly around 2pm. It was now around 10:30pm. And I was in the throws of exhaustion. I know this because I was yelling at myself in my helmet, something I have never done. That, and I made it as far as Albany (50 miles from home) and just couldn’t push further, so I stopped at Denny’s for a late night restroom break, food, coffee, and a stretch. That was midnight. After a half hour rest, I hopped back on the bike and trudge through the final hour to home. Probably the single longest hour of my life. When I got home, I immediately showered and then passed out next to Jean, who later told me I snored for a bit, then dropped into the deathly silence of deep sleep.

I awoke Monday morning to an aching body, still reeling from exhaustion. It took all my effort to do a few loads of war laundry and just sit on the couch recovering (read drinking a metric ton of water and taking Aleve). Tuesday was a bit better, though still shaking the lizard brain issues and working towards string together more complex thoughts than “food” and “water”. Wednesday was back to work at 5:30am, as is typical, though I found it far more difficult than usual due to the fact that my bed time had recently been what my wakeup time now was… but, I am finally feeling human again today, as can be seen by the fact that I have just blogged with more verbosity than this entire year combined… is this an indication of things to come? Will NaNoWriMo look tempting again? Who’s to say… as itstands I am just glad to be home once again.

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve the following:

This is a fun Photo Article from the LA Times regarding the GWW XII event:,0,3261780.photogallery?index=la-society-creative-anachronisms-event-photo1

Additionally, there are a few minimal pictures I took over the course of the event, when I remembered to do so:

Enjoy, I know I did. Far more than any one man has a right to πŸ™‚

10 thoughts on “The Great Western roadtrip (or how I learned to stop thinking and love the war)

  1. Even as the words were coming out of your mouth, and I was laughing my ass off with Kissa, I had no doubt they sounded entirely different to you. Thats part of the charm πŸ™‚ We did have a moment where you disappeared to either the privs or bed, and feared for the former, but all turned out well. I am just amazed at how well off you were the next morning!

    Now, you and Bruce finish up the process and get bikes, and I may even be able to convince John to ride up to Redding/Shasta for some fun rides!

  2. I have the same problem with crying (as you well know) – I don’t like making a spectacle of myself, and drawing attention away from something that isn’t about me. On the other hand, memorial services are really more about the living and figuring out how we go on without that person in our lives, so I don’t think you would have been looked down upon for getting emotional.

    I had myself a good cry when I got home the day she was taken off life support. I didn’t know her well, but the hole she left was huge.

    1. My issue was relative to those around me who knew her much better than I. I felt my visceral, and unexpected, reaction was in excess of the connection. It felt like my reaction far outweighed what right I did have to grieve for her. In deference to others closer, I opted to walk away rather than make a spectacle of myself. The last thing I want is for people to look at me and say “oh come on, he barely knew her, why’s HE crying…” etc.

      And yes, the hole she left is indeed huge. You should have seen the field….

  3. Best picture of the crowd at Kolfinna’s memorial I’ve seen yet:
    Again, the HUGE crowd:

    And damn, I wish I’d spent more time with you, this war. But now I’ve read the account of the 13-hour drive, all I have to do is pick up my car with the new starter, and make plans for a 4- or 5-day weekend so I can drive up. (Okay, maybe just a 3-day weekend and I’ll fly.)

    1. I was pleased to just have the time we did spend together. You are too much fun not to hang around with πŸ˜‰

      And thanks for the photos of the memorial, that really DOES show how expansive it was!

      Please come up and visit! Knowing you have so many other friends in/around PDX, you have no excuse! You can stay with us and use our place as a home base, then go see all your friends and hang with us when you want to. We’re easy like that πŸ™‚

      1. You know, I tell my friends they can be cheap, they can be easy, they might not want to be both, but if you are–own it! work it! Just know what you are. I’m easy. (giggle) It’s nice to see you’re easy too. *wink*

  4. My only regret is not spending more time with you guys. i’m so glad that you made the effort to head down just to drink with us silly Caidians.

    1. Yes, I am sad I missed a large part of war due to such a short trip and sleeping a good portion of it. I AM very happy to have spent some quality time at the tasting with you and weasel, etc.

      And you know, if I didn’t come down to drink with you all, who would drink the whiskies??? πŸ˜‰

    1. You are kind to say so πŸ™‚ Perhaps, then, I can just be disappointed in myself for failing to make it to your vigil.

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