Austin, Texas, to Arkansas City, Kansas
This morning I set out for Superior, Wisconsin, to meet up with a group of riders from the Motorcycle Touring Forum. We plan to take five “flower-sniffin'” days circling Lake Superior, which is especially exciting for me since I’ve never seen a Great Lake or been to Michigan or Canada.
Packed up Lizzie the night before so she’d be ready to leave early. Here she is loaded with everything but a toothbrush. That extra yellow bag contains a tripod, as well as all-weather touring jacket and pants for the chilly, wet northern states.
Left Austin at 4:00 a.m. in an effort to put in at least 500 miles. Caught the beginning of rush hour in Fort Worth, but with the EFM auto clutch, crawling through traffic was easy.
The farther north I got from the Red River, the greener the landscape. Looks like they’ve had quite a bit of rain up here. At about 3:00 made it to Arkansas City, Kansas, where I was forced to surrender to the 102-degree heat.
That’s about it for today. As you know, there usually is not much to say about the first day, except I made it out of drought-stricken Texas.
Peace on the Road!
Arkansas City, Kansas, to Papillion, Nebraska
Today was a low-mileage, sight-seeing day. First stop was Cassoday, Kansas, the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World. This cool little town hosts the Cassoday Bike Run on the first Sunday of every month and declares that “a biker’s life is the only life.” No argument here!
In Cassoday I caught the beginning of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway. Spent several leisurely hours enjoying various stops and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Tallgrass prairie once covered one-third of North America; but, sadly, only about 4 percent of the prairie remains, most of it here in the Flint Hills.
I was happy to see mile after mile of milkweed in the bar ditches and sure hope the descendants of “our” monarchs come this way. Thanks, Kansas, for letting it be! I do believe if Dorothy had lived here in this sea of green, she never would have complained. At any rate, it certainly was a welcome sight for these color-deprived eyes!
Met a friendly seven-year-old girl named Sheena at a gas stop in Wamego, Kansas. As soon as she spotted Lizzie, she jumped out of the car, confidently ran up, and declared she really likes the blue motorcycle. When I told her I was heading up to Canada from Texas, she said, “Ooh, that’s a long way!” I chuckled about that for the rest of the day.
Arrived in Papillion, Nebraska, (suburb of Omaha) just after Connie, a close friend from high school, got home from work. Even though our visit was short, at least we had that time.
Peace on the Road!
Papillion, Nebraska, to Des Moines, Iowa
My home town of Des Moines is only a few hours from Papillion, so it doesn’t take much to get there. Passed quite a bit of flooding along the Missouri River, which forms the border between Nebraska and Iowa.
My brother, Scotty, fired up his old Harley Road King Classic and met me in Van Meter at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, where we visited the memorial marker for our brother, Alan. Had lunch at a Maid Rite in West Des Moines. As always, it tasted awesome, and I can’t understand why I haven’t found hamburger meat prepared that way outside of Iowa.
This picture shows Scotty at our lunch stop.
Somehow or another I let Scotty talk me into volunteering at the NCAA track quarter finals, held at Drake University. We spent the afternoon trackside, and our job was to set hurdles for the M and W 400 hurdles events. Since he’s totally color blind, I pointed out the correct set marks while he did all the heavy lifting. Excellent example of little-sister survival strategy, but don’t tell him! It sure was fun hanging out with my brother and practicing some efficient teamwork with him.
Here I am with some of the stacked, state-of-the-art hurdles. They’ve certainly come a long way from those bulky wooden things in high school.
The next picture shows the trackside view. It’s interesting to see how the starting blocks are hooked up for the sound of the starting gun so that nobody trips over the wires. Phones are not allowed to be out on the field during competition, so no pictures from any of the events. Too bad, because you can’t appreciate how fast these runners move unless you’re next to the action. I expect to see some of the same athletes again at the 2012 London Olympics.
Peace on the Road!
Des Moines, Iowa, to Superior, Wisconsin
Soon after leaving Scotty’s house this morning, I was caught in my first ever hailstorm while on a motorcycle. Whoa! Don’t like!!!
The hail came on suddenly, and I had to make a quick illegal left turn onto a side street to get out of traffic. There was so much hail on the road that Lizzie lost almost all traction, and it was a little like riding on ball bearings. Don’t know how I kept her upright! Didn’t even attempt to properly park, but stopped about five feet from the curb. Thank goodness the hail was no bigger than quarter-size, and thank goodness I had on a full-face helmet and armor!
As I was being totally bombarded, a couple nice guys in a MidAmerican Energy truck pulled over and asked if I’d like to wait in their cab. One of them is a rider himself and, of course, was eager to help. Normally I wouldn’t do that sort of thing, but under these circumstances, I jumped right in! Big relief.
I must say, it’s reassuring to know we riders look out for each other. That’s one of several reasons I’ve never, ever been afraid to travel alone on a motorcycle.
At the Iowa-Minnesota border, passed by a rookery with thousands of nesting great egrets, which was quite a sight. Coming from Texas, where there is only one natural lake in the entire state, it was refreshing to see one lake after another in Minnesota. Loved the tree-lined interstate in northern Minnesota.
Made it to the Super 8 in Superior, Wisconsin, in the late afternoon. I arrived a day early and look forward to the time off after traveling 1,463 miles to get here. Looks like one other person on the Circle Tour has checked in.
Peace on the Road!
Woke up to chilly temperatures in the low forties and thankfully remembered to check my tire pressure. Both tires down six pounds in the cold air.
Met my new friend, Raymond, a super nice guy from Montreal, Quebec, who rides a Goldwing. Not only is it fun getting to know him, but I also get to listen to his awesome French accent. What a deal!
After breakfast Raymond and I crossed back into Minnesota to go to Aerostich, which happens to be my favorite mail-order motorcycle store. I bought a tiny compact air compressor for inflating tires, and they took us on an interesting tour of the building. Missed a few photo ops because they were very strict (but nice) about no picture-taking.
While we were taking the tour, one of the employees who was on a cigarette break noticed the little green alien from Roswell, New Mexico, that hitches a ride on my left rearview mirror. They even sent the company photographer down to take a picture. Who knows, maybe he’ll end up in a catalog?
Raymond and me outside the totally nondescript front door of the Aerostich building.
Back at the Super 8, a steady stream of about 30 MTF people pulled in throughout the afternoon. Even though I was meeting everyone for the first time, I felt an instant bond and know I made the right choice about going on the Circle Tour. The majority of the group has much more riding experience than I’ll ever have, so I hope to learn a lot.
Rearranged my bags with hot-weather stuff on the bottom and way out of sight. Can’t wait to get started tomorrow morning. This is gonna be a good one! Long live long rides!
Peace on the Road!