Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where the rubber hits the road

As is the case on almost all trips that I take, the planned departure time is in some other time zone. My best intentions were to start out at 6-7am on July 11th after spending a short day at work on July 10th. The short day turned into a long day and the final packing went from Thursday night to Friday morning because Thursday night involved some last minute bike tweaking. Well, truth be known, I left changing the oil until the very last minute, as well as checking the valve adjustment.

And another characteristic of leaving is the inevitable need to return for 'one last thing' that, for one reason or another, is fundamental, but not on the proverbial list. I avoided this step, I am happy to report, but now that I am in Denver, I realize the maps of Colorado and the list of places worth visiting are in my living room in Virginia. No problem, I have my target, Mesa Verde National Park, and all the stops will just happen around that. Thanks to technology I have a schedule in Google Calendar so I know what day Ann expects me to arrive in Dodge City, so with that in mind, it is time to play ball. The new gloves I bought for the trip were no where to be found as I was leaving so I am wearing my old ugly gloves. They are well broken in.

Now for a ride report on the trip so far. No phone posted podcasts yet, but I will try that out later today. The first day was to start at an early hour and it shifted to about 10:30am. I was not nuts about it, it just happened. I was going to try to do the Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1500 which involves riding 1500 miles in 36 hours and documenting it. You can read all about it at, but one starts by getting a witness to your place and time of departure along with a gas receipt with that same time and date. This is how you learn that gas pump receipts do not always contain valid information. The time is often wrong and I got one that had the wrong YEAR on it. Receipt printers are often empty and it requires a trip inside the store to get a one, wasting even more time. Anyway, many people are reluctant to sign anything and give their name and address when approached by some guy dressed like a Martian and riding a bike loaded for a trip. So, some ten minutes after filling the tank, I got a woman to sign my "Start of Ride" form. The ten minutes did not bother me, as according to my plan I'd be arriving in Denver, exactly 1500 miles from Blacksburg, with many hours to spare. Hold onto that fact a minute or two.

So I hit the road from Blacksburg traveling on US RT 460 to West Virginia and enter I-77, a toll road, in Princeton and travel to I-64 in the Charleston, VW area. I hate paying tolls on a motorcycle, and I end up on two of them so far on this trip. At least the other one (Kansas Turnpike) is humane and gives you a ticket upon entering and you pay at the exit, just once. West Virginia has you stop three times and give the person $1.25. This requires so much work on a bike, but after several tries I have a system that involves wrapping up a quarter in a dollar bill and tucking that little unit of commerce into the zipper of my tankbag so that even with gloves on I can get it out.

At 140 miles into the trip my directions state "Keep LEFT to stay on I-64 for 426.4 miles ..." and then at 189 miles "Entering Kentucky," at 380 miles "Entering Indiana," at 504 miles "Entering Illinois," (where the photo above was taken) and at 633 miles "Entering Missouri." That one sentence about describes everything memorable about the first day, except the weather. I don't really like Interstate highways, but my objective was to get to Denver as soon as I can so my real ride can begin, and God bless Mr. Eishenhour, his road system is ideal for that task.

The weather on our ten day train trip was ideal. Sunny and not too hot. I was fearing for all rain for the bike part of the vacation, but Thursday was ideal, sunny and moderate temperatures, until at about milepost 130 on Illinois I-64, the western sky turned VERY black. However, it was just the slightest bit south of my projected path of travel (travel in the mid-west being in some cardinal compass direction, in this case straight west) so I imagined that I might be able to skirt the weather event by riding just to the north of it. Silly Person, the weather is moving from the southwest to the northeast, so it will get me. Add to this that we are now traveling in farming country.

You have heard of the plight of the family farm in the US, haven't you? This is the area where they were. There is nothing out here. Very few overpasses to hide under. The Interstate is the overpass, and most of them are over little rivers and train tracks. Exits have no services, and there are not that many exits. Big lightning now in that big, black wall of cloud dead ahead. What to do? What is Plan B? I do not even have Plan A. Emergency planner, eh? How about prayer? That works.

Here comes a sign for Exit 100. There is a sign that has a Marathon Gas logo on it, and I say to myself, "I am eating dinner INSIDE that gas station." As I exit the ramp at about 25 mph, figuring out that the only building visible must be the gas station, a big old gust of wind about runs me off the road. Heading toward the building I see another motorcycle headlight and I pull around with him to what turned out to be the leeward side of the bulding, park, grab my magnetic tankbag and run inside. I got maybe ten raindrops. As the other biker and I enter and I start taking off gear, I hear the lady working there say that they are predicting 70 mph winds and dime size hail. She lets us know that if it becomes a twister, we are all to go into the men's room, a one-holer as they say, so it will be cozy.

Oh, and on the gear part, the other guy is riding with a t shirt on and a half helmet with sun glasses. I ask about rain gear and he says he is thinking of getting that next. He was traveling from Kentucky to Saint Louis! I guess my prayer was really for him, not for me.

So we spend some quality time there, eating a pre-packaged turkey and man-made cheese sandwich on whole wheat and some fruit juice (new age, "I never heard of that fruit" packaged product that has even permeated the rural C-Store market), and as time rolls on and buckets of rain fall, a cup of coffee to go with the thanks that I am not out there. No hail, but strong winds for a long time.

Now add two hours at exit 100 to the 10 minutes at the start point and we are now trying to ride 1500 miles in 33 hours and 50 minutes. No problem, we have hours to spare.

Rain gear on, ready to ride into Saint Louis traffic on Friday after rush hour in light intermittent rain. Into the sun, like I told you not to do. At this point in the ride I was planning to be riding north to St. Joseph, MO to avoid that sun in the eyes.

And the bright headlight on the new fairing? Bright, but aimed at treetops, and the adjuster just turns, doing nothing. One more to fix in the morning, lots of light on the city portions and using cars lights as I head west across Missouri towards Kansas ...

A good dinner at Waffle House (the standard cheese and eggs, raisin toast and grits - covers all the food groups) and a good nights sleep end the first day in Warrenton, Missouri Days Inn with only 696 miles, a moving average of 66 mph and an overall average of 55 mph with 10.5 hours moving and 3.5 hours stopped. Not quite enough miles and too many hours, but I did knock off five states. The weather report for the next day for looked great, intermittent, light thundershowers for the Kansas City area. Sun all the way for the next few days is the story from

Lessons learned? Check the head light by riding at NIGHT before going on a trip and pack all your stuff (at least put into a pile near the bike) well before departure day. Not leaving a day after returning from another trip might help too! It was good. I am a happy camper!

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