Sunday, July 3, 2011

Good ride today!

I did not have any technical failures today - first day in several I can say that.  I did get on the rhythm of the ride which always takes a few days.  Next is camping - I am in a motel again tonight.  There were major numbers of small flying insects in each place I stopped in northeast Iowa and Minnesota.  So even though there were tempting camping areas in several of the small town city parks, I could not see trying to sleep with these gnats gnawing me.

Since my tracker is not working, here is a map of the day's ride. While this map shows me on the interstate most of the time, I actually ride the US highway alongside the superslab, but you get the idea of where I have been.


Discovery number one was the town of Rantoul where in 1970 I went to tech school for 10 months, midnight shift - actually got out at midnight and got to eat breakfast before we went to bed.  I thought that was cool. 

I saw only one thing I recognized, a sign for the Rantoul Motel.  It was run down so I did not take a photo of it but instead got one of the welcome sign as I came into town.  I rode out westward on rt 136, the same road I would take each weekend on my old BSA trying to get so lost I could never find my way back to Rantoul.  It never worked.  But the road is the same, and is like the one that Pirsig describes in the first chapter (pg 5 of the pink paperback) of ZAMM:

"It was some years ago that my wife and I and our friends first began to catch on to these roads. We took them once in a while for variety or for a shortcut to another main highway, and each time the scenery was grand and we left the road with a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. We did this time after time before realizing what should have been obvious: these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They’re not going anywhere. They’re not too busy to be courteous. The hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about. It’s the others, the ones who moved to the cities years ago and their lost offspring, who have all but forgotten it. The discovery was a real find.

I’ve wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn’t see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I’m looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.

But once we caught on, of course, nothing could keep us off these roads, weekends, evenings, vacations. We have become real secondary-road motorcycle buffs and found there are things you learn as you go."

You are reading along with me, right?  A link on the left side of the blog under Good Reading has a free, full-text copy of the book if you can't find your copy from your hippie days when you bought it because you thought it would teach you to fix a bike or to be cool and know a word that starts with Z besides Zoo. Well, in any case, please do you homework at least until the hard parts around July 14th.  Then you are off the hook.

I did not reach St Paul tonight, but I did make it through the 'flat' mid-west just fine and discovered that Iowa north of Dubuque has hills and curves in the road.  But lets start at the beginning.  Skip this if you have no interest in routing, but as Persig says above, it is important as a way to find the truth.  Well, whatever.

I left Champaign on US-150 East to US-45 North for about 15 miles to Rantoul and after a ride around the downtown, took US-136 West US-150 that led to Bloomington/Normal, the former home of a Normal school.  In 1970 that fascinated me, but it proved my suspicion that I had been attending ab-normal schools all my life.  I visited Normal on many occasions trying to find Normal people, but they all must stay inside on weekends, I never found them. It did not rub off on me!

Anyway on to Peoria, Galesburg and the quad cities where both the local routes and the Interstates were under construction and backed up.  Oh, and it was the hottest part of the day. Coming into Galesburg I had learned to jump on the Interstate to get through the cities faster and came upon a biker out of gas.  Denny had a gas can and I gave him enough gas for us to make it into Knoxville.  He was from North Carolina and traveling alone to Seattle.  See, other people do this kind of thing!

I got through it and started up US-61 from Davenport to Dubuque. Typical mid-west at the bottom, but got better that farther north I traveled. And it had wind generators.  I am unable to ride by these things without stopping to look at them.  And take a picture.  Interesting thing here is the crops below the turbines appear to be be used for ethanol.  What happened to growing food in the 'bread basket?'

I'll have to do a Highway 61 re-revisited blog comparing this stretch to the part in the Delta of Mississippi where the music of America grew up.  Mississippi is still growing food I think.

Then came the surprise!  At Dubuque I merged into US-52, the same road that we riders in Virginia love for the Volney to Damascus run.  While NOT as good as that Virginia portion, after riding on US-61 it was very much fun.  Non-technical, uphill and downhill sweeping turns and alternating shade and sun on a two lane with almost no traffic and after some time one arrives at Guttenburg, a river town. On both sides of this town there is an overlook about 800 feet above the Mississippi River.  The picture I got does not tell the story.  Get in your car and come see this place.  Lots of pleasure boats out there for the holiday weekend to give some texture to the scene.

So here I am in Rochester Minnesota home of the Mayo Clinic.  Had great ribs for dinner.  Ordered a half rack - look at that plate!  I could only eat half of them.  Imagine what a full rack looks like!  The name of the place is "I like it like that."  No seriously, it is called John Hardy's Bar B Q and the waitress told me it was started 35 years ago, likely by some guy named John hardy, but she didn't say that, and they have one other location on the north side of town.  Not your town, but Rochester, MN. This stuff is not healthy.  Do you think the Mayo folks eat there?  I bet they do...

Rochester to St Paul is less than 100 miles so I should get there mid-morning, take a photo at Pirsig's house and hit the road.  The road is MN-55 through Glenwood and crossing into North Dakota at Breckenridge.

Stats for today: 494 miles, about 9 hours in saddle, 13 hours overall including 2 one hour meals and many stops to take photos some of which are on this page.  Weather perfect, no rain, high of about 89 degrees.

Happy 4th of July everyone.  I should be watching the fireworks in Lemmon, SD if they have any there.

LESSONS LEARNED: There seems to be a Montgomery County in every state I visit.  Saw one Tazewell County too.  I did not pass through any Springfields, but did see an exit sign for Newport.

MAJOR NEWS: Minnesota is closed for business, but I am leaving tomorrow anyway.

1.5 hours from birth time!
MAJOR NEWS 2: Cecilia and Ben's son Andre (with an accent over that last letter, but I am not sure how to do that) is doing fine, very cute and I can't wait to see them all in about two weeks.

Stats on this trip: We got to welcome André on June 30th at 7:55am.
He was born at 7 lbs. 8 oz. and 21 inches long. Healthy, strong boy and all of us are doing very well adjusting to life on the other side of being born.

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