Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Deep South (Part 3) - Tornado Crossing


View Interactive map

Day 2

I always have a hard time leaving Dad's place.  Too many times I've visited Dad on a long summers day and found myself heading back home much later than I had intended.  Dad still lives in the house which I knew for the first eighteen years of my life.  I'm not sure if my hesitance to leave is because of the familiarity of this place or something else.  This morning, my hesitation undoubtedly stemmed from a desire to be warm and dry.  When I woke, it was 47 F and foggy outside.  Riding in these conditions would be quite a contrast to being covered up in bed.

As is our ritual when I visit, we had a big breakfast.  We had homemade French Toast, bacon, and coffee.  I actually had several cups of coffee -- just to wait out the cold.

Today was to be a travel day.  The goal for the day was to make it as near to Nashville, TN as possible while spending as little time on the interstate as necessary.  A short section of Interstate 64 would get me past Huntington, WV and Ashland, KY.  A welcome bypass of stoplight after stoplight.  The remainder of the route would be "secondary roads" all the way.

I picked up Kentucky Route 32 at Louisa, KY heading west towards Morehead, KY.  I learned of this road on the Motorcycle Roads Website.  It was definitely worth the ride.  This road is full of the stuff that makes us motorcyclists smile very grand smiles.

Turning back south, I picked up Kentucky Route 7 before reaching Morehead.  Soon after turning onto Route 7 I saw signs for West Liberty.  I thought, "West Liberty.  That sounds familiar."  For the life of me, I could not recall where I had heard of West Liberty.  After several miles, I had convinced myself that I recalled the name because of West Liberty, Ohio located northeast of Dayton, OH.

I came into town at about lunch time looking for "the main drag."  Climbing the hill into downtown I approached the first stoplight.  I saw damage that could have been caused by only one thing.  TORNADO!!!  I quickly realized that I remembered West Liberty because of recent national news coverage of a deadly tornado strike.

I turned left at the stoplight expecting that this would lead me to a restaurant.  The intensity of the damage increased.  The debris had been hauled away but this town looked as if the damage might have occurred only a month or so ago.  I knew what I was seeing wasn't that recent but couldn't recall when the tornado hit.

Not finding anything to eat, I turned around figuring that the "main drag" must have been in the direction I was originally headed.  Where I had just been represented the worst of the damage.  Many buildings were boarded up or missing roofs.  I later learned that many damaged structures were simply torn down.  This might have been the place to get a bite to eat before the tornado but very little remains today.  The damage was chilling.

I turned left at the stoplight back onto Route 7, the route on which I had come into town.  The damage continued for a block or two more until I descended the hill which mostly defines the town of West Liberty.  At the base of the hill was a McDonalds.  Since I'd been unable to find a local diner or cafe, I decided to stop.  The interior was new and fresh.  It never occurred to me until the moment of this writing that this is probably because it had been rebuilt after the tornado.

After finishing my lunch, I spoke to a fellow diner and local resident named Sam.  Sam informed me that the tornado hit in early March 2012.  That was SEVEN months ago.  Seven months after the tornado and it looks like the National Guard may have left only last week.  You could tell that he had spoken of this event many times because my reactions of surprise and horror had no affect on him what-so-ever.

Sam and I talked only for a couple of minutes but in that time I learned that this series of storms killed at least 34 people.  This includes deaths in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.  As for West Liberty, three people died and many more were left homeless.  As for the town looking like the tornado passed through recently, Sam explained that people were either killed, uninsured, waiting for insurance to settle, or chose to move away.

The worst part of seeing this little town in such terrible condition was the realization that these horrific far away scenes of devastation that we have no doubt become very numb to because of "'round the clock" news coverage are not so far away.  The damage and suffering is very real.

Heading out of town, I was relieved to see that the bulk of devastation was behind me.

With few exceptions I continued to follow the route which I had planned the night before.  Avoiding major towns, I sometimes chose to ignore the navigator when the alternate path looked to be twistier.

Crossing over the tail waters of Lake Cumberland the sun was nearing the horizon.  I started to think about where it might make sense to stop for the night.  Looking over the map, the obvious choice was to get a room in Cookeville, Tennessee.  If I were going to make it before dark I needed to cut off a planned loop around Standing Stone State Park.

Besides Nashville, Cookeville was the only sizable town around.  Being located right off of Interstate 40 I knew that there should be plenty of room and dining options.

I stopped in a business park lot as I neared I40 and started phoning motels.  The front desks of the places I called were so busy that they weren't even answering the phones.  I stopped at a cluster of Hotels.  The Hampton Inn was under serious renovation.  Comfort Inn -- no rooms.  Comfort Inn Suites -- no rooms.  I learned from one of the hotel clerks that this was Family Weekend at Tennessee Tech.  Because of this, lodging options would be few.  He suggested I call the Key West Inn.

From the parking lot of the Comfort Inn I continued to call around.  It seemed that there wasn't a room available anywhere -- except the Key West Inn.  I tried to be positive about what this place would be like.  Seriously though, Key West Inn (KWI) in Cookeville, Tennessee?

The fact that the KWI had rooms and that they were only $ 57.00 alarmed me.  I had few options at this point.  It was getting dark and Nashville was over an hour away.  Even the suburbs of Nashville were an hour out.  This would be only the second time in nine years of motorcycle travel that I have had a problem getting a room.

The Key West Inn was located a good ways off of the Interstate and unfortunately it was located away from the restaurants too.  KWI looked out of place amongst the neighboring businesses, namely check cashers, sign companies, grocery stores, and carry outs.  I found the room to be both clean and adequate.  Relief!

Over dinner at the El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant, I exchanged texts with my wife, Erica, who informed me that I was in her Mom's hometown.  It is a small world that we live in.

South Point, OH to Cookeville, TN (331 Miles)
Trip total: 463 Miles

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Deep South (Part 2) - The trip begins

View Interactive map and photos

By Thursday night everything was packed and mostly on the bike.

Off to work bright and early Friday morning. I was kidding myself to think that I would work a whole day with a fully loaded motorcycle in the parking lot. Early in the day, I told myself, "I'll get an early start and leave around 3:00." It didn't last. By noon, I had the mandatory work stuff out of the way. Time to go!

Besides normal trip anxiety, there was an approaching front. Grey skies and cold rain were on its way. Not exactly the most pleasant motorcycling conditions. If at all possible, I wanted to get down the road and miss the weather.

Pulling away from work, I felt like a kid who'd just left school for Christmas break. Unlike many vacations, I'd left my mobile number and instructions to call should the need arise. My plan was to completely disconnect and "reset." Thoughts ran through my head about all the riding I had ahead, anticipation of what the Deep South would be like, and general elation that the only thing I needed to do for the next nine and a half days was to ride my motorcycle.

My child-like elation was quickly interrupted by the reality that Friday afternoon traffic was extraordinarily heavy. So heavy, in fact, that I was forced to a complete stop on a freeway on-ramp. Here I was almost exactly two miles from being "out of town" and traffic is at a complete stand-still. I had nearly twenty minutes in those two miles to postulate what possibly could be causing such a backup at this intersection of two major highways (71 & 270). At first I was irritated that I was being held up. This turned into concern that there might be a horrible accident ahead. To my dreaded amazement, someone thought it would be a good idea to block off all but one lane of Interstate 270 to replace a section of guardrail. This is one of the primary routes out of the city toward the South!? I guess I should be thankful that it wasn't something more serious.

After a quick stop for lunch I resumed the trek south. Dad still wasn't expecting me 'til at least seven or seven-thirty. I didn't want to affect his plans since I had route planning for the upcoming day still to do. My route this day was primarily determined by the wall of cold rain which was now over my shoulder. It was traveling in a Southeasterly direction. I continued south until Chillicothe where I saw on the Navigator that Highway US 35 went directly southeast. This sent me directly away from the rain. It was a good thing too because it started to catch me -- but no more than a few sprinkles fell.  Though necessary, riding in rain is no fun.

By the time I reached Jackson, Ohio I had been able to out-run the storm. The scenery was nice if a bit flat. Some of the younger trees had a little color and there was a definite nip of fall in the air. Though I never would have planned on cutting across US 35, the detour worked out nicely. This route allowed me to pick up Highway Ohio 93 -- one of my favorite routes to get to southern Ohio. As I understand it, Highway 93 used to be the "main" route north. This was before US 23 had been built across the flat farmland north of Portsmouth, OH. Unlike US 23, SR 93 was built into the terrain rather than over it. Because of this and because traffic is usually light, I enjoy riding the sweepers and ridges of this route. This day was no exception.

Dad was quite surprised when I arrived hours earlier than expected. He was cleaning up from a project he had been working on for weeks and couldn't wait to show me the results. He, almost by himself, had installed a privacy fence the length of his property. It looked great. I was happy for him since this is something he had wanted to do for years.

As we discussed plans for dinner, Dad warned me that the first place he mentioned, Jewel City Seafood, was "nothing fancy." "We can go somewhere else if you want," he said. Nothing fancy is exactly what I had in mind. Jewel City is a local joint where people eat just because the food is good. In keeping with “nothing fancy,” the dinner is served on a vinyl table-cloth, drinks in Styrofoam cups, and food on ceramic plates.  This place was packed.

I had planned to stick with something familiar -- blackened trout or fried whitefish. Our waitress suggested that I try the Swordfish. "It is mild and steak-ey. I think you'll like it," she shared. She was right. I had the Swordfish (blackened), Hushpuppies, fries, and coleslaw. I could have left it at that but Dad insisted on a piece of Pecan pie. The pie, as it turns out, was a nice addition to an enjoyable evenings visit.

Columbus, Ohio to South Point, OH (132 Miles)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Deep South - What to do with an extra week of vacation?

A friend and I were supposed to go on a bike trip to Nova Scotia. Life got in the way. Before I knew it, it was too late to head that far north. I had been saving this week all summer. Now here it is getting to be fall and I have no plans. Because of a recent vacation policy change, the saying around the office was "Use it or lose it." Problems like these are what one of my friends call "First World Problems." They're truly the best kind of problem to have.

An excess of vacation could mean only one thing. ROAD TRIP!!!! When? Where? With whom? For how long? These questions would have to wait for work to wind down a bit.

By mid-September, work slowed down enough for me to realize that fall was quickly approaching and that I needed to make a decision soon. I poured over maps. Because the weather was starting to turn cooler, I knew that a trip south made the most sense -- but how far?

A conversation with one of my riding buddies included riding the Blue Ridge Parkway. "Eh, Maybe? I've ridden is several times." "Helen, Georgia?" "No, I was just there this spring." "The Ozarks?" "That's it!" The Ozarks. The Ozarks were the perfect recommendation. It is a region of the country I knew nothing about, had never visited, and the weather was still quite warm.

The next questions to be answered were when and with whom? The two were closely tied together since most folks can't just pick up and leave on a moment’s notice. One friend who wanted to go who still hadn't been able to replace his motorcycle. Since he was in the market for a used bike he needed time to find the right one. Another friend wanted to go but couldn't go for the entire week.

At some point in September I realized that if I were going on this trip, I needed to set the timeline independent of other factors. I chose the second week of October. This gave me time to close out a project at work, and I had hoped it would leave enough time for my friend in search of a motorcycle to find one. It wasn't the case. This was to be a solo trip. Planning became much simpler.

Five days off of work combined with two weekends gave me nine uninterrupted days to ride anywhere I liked. Additionally, I figured I would leave after work on Friday to visit my Dad in Southern Ohio.

With rough plans and schedule in place, I ordered the new Butler Maps Ozarks motorcycle-specific map. It would tell me where all the hot roads were. Prior to ordering this map I was studying Google Maps, atlases, etc. I didn't see how I could ride one specific region for nine days. I found a parkway called the Natchez Trace Parkway. It runs from outside Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. This would be the perfect path to reach Arkansas.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Great West – The Trip Out – part 1 of 2

Waterloo, IA to Mitchell, SD -- 7/10/10

miles covered: 389

Having traveled nearly 650 miles the previous day seeing little other than the marvel of Eisenhower’s Interstate system and a few million acres of corn, I figured that it might be good to make a side trip today.  I had already blown past the National Motorcycle Museum which is east of Cedar Rapids, IA.  I don’t allow myself to backtrack when traveling.  Especially not when I have such a distance to travel.  I chose to stop at the Stockman House in Mason City, IA.

Arriving at Stockman House, I quickly recognized it as Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie Style.  I took several minutes to walk around and explore the facade of the structure.  The siting of this house couldn’t have been any more FLW.

I was ready to have a look around the inside.  To my surprise, the door was locked.  It took a few moments for me to realize that I had passed into a new time zone the day before.  Instead of having been open 45 minutes, Stockman House was 15 minutes from opening.  I wondered where that hour had gone since I had left the Motel.

The morning was gorgeous and the setting nice enough that I didn’t mind to wait.  Besides, I’d just picked up an extra hour for my day’s travels.

I learned through the guided tour that no matter how well the site suited the character of the house, it was not the its original location.  It stood a couple blocks away and was rescued from being torn down(!!!) by a local church wishing to expand their parking lot.  There are plenty of writings and photographs available detailing the house, so I won’t bore you with any more specific details.  I will tell you, though, that the guided tour is worth the price of admission.

Also of interest in Mason City, IA is a Bank/Hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The bank and hotel were undergoing extensive restoration and were barely visible across the park.  I hope to return someday to see the finished renovation.

Having gallivanted all morning, it was time to hit I-90 to make some tracks.  On to Minnesota, South Dakota, and beyond.

To my surprise, southeast Minnesota looked pretty much like Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  I guess they call it the Midwest for a reason.  South Dakota was completely different, though.  Having traveled through Iowa, Indiana, and Southern Minnesota, I was becoming accustomed to seeing unimaginable distances in every direction -- at least they were unimaginable for me, having grown up in the foothills of the Appalachians. 

Approaching the border of SD, it was apparent I was heading into a different region.  There were fewer and fewer trees, and the golden hues of the grasses told me that this region I was entering was more arid than from where I had just come.  It was my first visit to the plains.  Even without any major landmark (like a river) separating the states, it was clear that the Midwest was left behind.  Most shocking was how abruptly the scenery changed.

Bombing along the Interstate, I passed through Sioux Falls, SD thinking I’d stop at the next major town.  I was in for an education about sparsely populated South Dakota.  I had a hankering for ice cream.  Approaching Canistota, I saw a sign for a hotel.  I figured if the town were big enough for a hotel, it was surely big enough for a McDonalds.  I was wrong.  I spent a lot of time driving around the Dakota plains to discover this fact.

What Canistota did have was a sort of town fair going on.  I believe the activities I saw were related to “Sport Days” but I wouldn’t swear to it.  On the way out of town, there were flags flying, horses, and sharply dressed cowboys and cowgirls.  At the center of the action was a dirt path that appeared to be for some sort of competition – similar to a jousting arena.  It could have been a rodeo if the “arena” had been bigger.  I wish I had more time to stop and see what all this was about.

Admitting defeat, I worked my way back to the Interstate on the local roads and headed West towards Mitchell.

I stopped at McDonalds in Mitchell for that long awaited ice cream cone.  I’m not sure that I stopped so much for the ice cream as I just wanted to stop.  It was a warm July day and ice cream seemed like the right thing to do.  Over my “twist” ice cream cone, I studied the map and the darkening horizon.  It was 6:00 PM but I felt like I could continue.

Because of the time and the impending weather, I decided that getting a room and stopping “early” was probably the best plan.

After getting checked in to the hotel, unpacked, fueled up, cleaned up, washed out, washed off, and covered up, I walked to dinner.  This pattern will repeat itself many times during the next couple weeks.

I typically try to avoid chain restaurants while traveling – at least for dinner.  I only eat fast food such as McDonalds while traveling and consider regional chains before national chains; local joints before regional chains.  Whisky Creek is a regional chain that was just across the street from my hotel.  The atmosphere was nice and the first temptation was their selection of beer – specifically the Boulevard Wheat Beer.  Why not have a wheat beer?  I’ve traveled along fields of wheat all day.  The beer was truly refreshing after a long day in the saddle.  I had St. Louis style ribs for dinner with mashed potatoes and BBQ beans – ugh, I shouldn’t have done that.

When the lights started flickering, I decided it was time to cut dinner a little short.  With boxed-up leftovers, I huffed back across the street.

I’ve heard it said that when on the plains one can see tomorrows weather on the western horizon.  Though this may be a bit of an exaggeration, I learned this night that one can certainly see the evening’s weather approaching.

The wind blew like mad and it began to rain.  I made it back to the room a little before the skies split open.  It stormed for quite a while.  Marble-sized hail fell from the sky.  I was almost certain that the hotel was going to lose power – the lights briefly went off several times.  Thankfully, the power stayed on.

Once the storm had passed, I was treated to a rainbow.  I’m sure glad I didn’t try to push a few more miles out this evening.

Mitchell, SD to Billings, MT -- 7/11/10

miles covered: 651

I woke up Sunday morning absolutely dreading the thought of getting back on the Interstate.  It wasn’t that the traffic was too heavy or that my motorcycle wasn’t capable.  I felt like I wasn’t seeing much of SD.  I wanted to travel on the roads locals used.  Maybe I could even see some South Dakotan towns.

My goal was to get to Spokane by Tuesday or Wednesday.  I’d just made enormous progress the two prior days – thanks to the Interstate.  The speed limit on two lane state highways in South Dakota is 70 MPH.  The Interstate speed limit is 75.  With such little difference in speeds, I figured that so long as I was heading north or west, any road would do.  I chose SD Hwy 34 which parallels I-90 -- my originally planned route.

Breakfast was the familiar, and soon to be very familiar, Holiday Inn Express buffet.  Certainly one of the better continental breakfasts – unless you’ve had it several days straight.  I had everything packed back onto the bike and was headed north out of town by 8:30 local time.  As I came through town, I noticed on the Instrument panel that the rear tire was a pound or two low.  I stopped just down the street from the Corn Palace to air the tire at a local filling station.  This is as close as I came to visiting this historic landmark.

No disrespect to any South Dakotans, but I guess I just didn’t care.  The historic purposes of the structure which were to draw people to live and farm in South Dakota make sense to me; however, I do not understand the purpose of the structure today.  Maybe this is why I should have stopped? At least I grabbed a picture from the filling station.

Working north towards Hwy 34, Mitchell was quickly left behind.  Cruising along an almost deserted Hwy 37, I spotted a crop dusting plane in action.  The skill demonstrated by this pilot was nothing short of amazing.  I had to go back and see it.  I spent several minutes watching and photographing the little plane as it buzzed overhead back and forth over the corn rows spreading its toxic poison (kidding).

Delighted that I had finally captured a photograph of a working crop duster, I made a u-turn and headed back north.  Getting off of the Interstate was beginning to pay off.

Except that the road was as straight as an arrow, not much was notable about Hwy 34.  The towns were extraordinarily small and sparse.  The road surface was a red colored “chip n’seal.”  Seeing chip n’seal on a state highway was a huge surprise to me.  Back home, chip n’seal was a substitute for gravel – used mostly in alleys or private lanes.

West of the Crow Creek Reservation I came into some terrain.  Suddenly, as I crested the top of a fairly good sized hill, the Missouri River came into sight.  Just as quickly as it appeared, I started down the other side of the hill.  The sight was so impressive, I made a u-turn to go back for more.

I will reluctantly admit that, at the time, I did not realize that this was the Missouri River.  The river at this point appeared to me to simply be a large crescent shaped lake.  In some ways, I was right to identify the water as a lake.  In fact, this section of the river is known as Lake Francis Case.  It may not look to me as it did to Lewis and Clark in their epic quest to discover a western passage, but it was still pretty cool following their footsteps west.

I continued on Hwy 34 to Pierre, SD.  Pierre is the capital of South Dakota.  It is also where Central Time ends and Mountain Time begins.

In hindsight, I should have spent more time in Pierre.  I had nearly a half a tank of fuel and didn’t feel the need to stop.  I had spent much of the day stopping to check things out.  I felt compelled to make western progress.  With more than 130 miles remaining to this tank, I figured I would get fuel down the road.

Down the road turned into towns without gas stations or where the the approach to the station was dusty loose gravel.  I foolishly passed by those gravely options.  Finally, down the road turned into vast open plain.  I started to become concerned after passing several signs that read something along the lines of “No services next X miles.”  After those X miles passed, I would come into a cross roads with several houses but no gas stations.

With only 75 miles remaining, I started punching on the GPS to find a source of fuel.  50 miles due west, it read.  There was a station in Howes, SD.  About 20 or 30 miles into this 50 mile stretch, I felt a sense of panic as I realized that it was Sunday.  I searched the GPS once more to be sure that this was, in fact, the closest fuel stop.  Indeed it was.  Open or not, I was now committed.

To put my mind to rest, I decided that I would call the station and confirm that they were open.  No answer.

Howes turned out to be more of an intersection than a town.  With 25 miles of fuel remaining in the tank, I pulled up to the pump.  As feared, the station was closed.

The only thing this “town” had to offer was a closed gas station and an outdoor privy.  The gas station was run out of an addition to someone’s private residence.

I sat down and weighed my options.  Banging on the residence and begging to purchase gas was clearly my best option.  No answer.

I checked the GPS again, surely there was some mistake.  According to its database, the nearest gas station was 50 miles away.  It occurred to me that I could phone Erica and have her check the Internet for a gas station that is nearby.  I quickly ruled this out as I didn’t want to worry her about my situation. A call to my Dad seemed more appropriate.  It was Sunday afternoon, would he be home?

Unbelievably, my phone had a good signal.  I phoned Dad.  He answered.  My first words were, “I need your help.”  Silence.  Dad had been following me through a rented satellite tracking device.  He knew I was several days drive from his house.  He said, “…what do you want me to do!?”  He must have thought that I’d been imprisoned or something of that sort.  I explained that I needed to locate a gas station.  We ended the call so that Dad could begin the search.

About that time, an SUV pulled up with California plates.  I approached it and met a kind gentleman in his mid-forties who offered me water and a look over his map.  He knew the area somewhat but not enough to tell me where the nearest gas was.  The man was meeting some local tribesman.  As best I can gather, he was allowing his two adopted Indian daughters to see their brother, who still lived on the reservation nearby.

After a trip to the privy, my phone rang.  It was Dad.  He said, “There’s a town about 27 or 28 miles north of you called Faith.  There are two hotels there, surely they have a gas station.”  I told him I’d give it a try.  The worst that could come out of this is that I run out of gas a few miles out of town.  I could even spend the night at one of the Hotels if the (presumed) gas station was closed.

The parking lot reunion was well under way when I donned the gear to leave.  It was complete with video camera, etc.  Quite a strange situation.  I have to think that it was also very sad.  The girls’ parents must not have been able to provide for them.  Then to consider that the boy was still with the family.

Twenty-five miles is how far the trip computer estimated that the remaining fuel would last.  This estimate was based on the last 200 miles blowing through the plains at Interstate speeds.  For the trip to Faith, I chose a speed/gear combination that resulted in the highest return on every ounce spent.  The magic speed was 52 MPH in fourth gear.  For extra measure, I dropped the windscreen back, pulled in my elbows and got down on the tank.  Less wind resistance meant less walking.  All of this combined for a rough average of 52 miles per gallon.  I must have looked like an idiot poking along the interstate in the stance of someone trying to break a land speed record.  Good thing that there were very few cars on the road.

I watched as the miles fell away on both the GPS and Trip computer.  I started with 28 miles on the GPS and 25 miles remaining on the trip computer.  I kept hoping that my streamlined profile would start to bring the numbers closer together.  This never happened.

As the trip computer neared zero and switched to “---“ I started to sweat.  I still had several miles before reaching Faith.  I waited for the engine to sputter to a halt.

Finally, a sign of civilization.  Mostly agricultural/industrial structures appeared on the South side of town.  I wondered, “Do they have a gas station?”  “Where could it be?”

A stop sign came into sight along with junction signs for  US 212.  Just across the Intersection was a gas station.  I blew through the signs after barely checking for cross traffic.  The station was OPEN!  I had made it.  You can always count on my Dad.

Although I’ve not quite tested its outer limits, I’m told that the R1200RT holds a little over six gallons of gasoline.  I pumped something in the order of 5.9x gallons of precious Premium Grade gasoline into her.  I’ve never before nor since pumped this much gas into the bike.

My Dad insists to this day that I just needed a little faith.  I’d like to believe that the full tuck racing position behind the windscreen helped too.

After filling up, I had the best burnt-up gas station hot dog, I’ve ever eaten.  It is funny.  When my fuel tank was empty, I didn’t have food on my mind.  The moment it was full and paid for, I found myself hungry.

Leaving the gas station, it started to rain.  It didn’t matter.  I had a full tank of fuel and I was heading west.

My friend, Roger, had warned me about the lack of fuel between Belle Forche, and Crow Agency – a distance of about 190 miles.  I had only traveled 40 or so miles from Faith; however, I filled her to the brim.  I wasn’t going to have another close call.

From Belle Forche, I continued towards Crow Agency via US 212.  Roger was right, it was a delightful stretch.  Several miles east of Broadus, I found myself in a full-out lighting storm with gusty winds.  I don’t mind riding in the wind or rain, but I found on this trip that my tolerance for lightening was very low.  I cranked on the right handgrip to work past the storm in as prompt a fashion as safe.  By the time I reached Broadus, the rain had set in.

Inn a parking lot of a local convenience store, I met a fellow by the name of Rocky.  Rocky was heading back to Howes from an extended trip into Canada on his red and black Honda Valkerie.  As I related my story of nearly running out of gas between Howes and Faith, Rocky responds, “…I’ll bet ol’ Bob opened up the store for you didn’t he?”  Bob must not have been home.

As the rain continued, Rocky and I chatted about where we were going and where we had been.  What the conditions were ahead.  Thankfully, I was in for better weather ahead.  Rocky wasn’t so lucky based on my observations.

Parting ways, I made my way towards Crow agency.  The scenery was spectacular.  If it hadn’t been for the weather, time constraints, and road construction, I would have liked to gone back and done it all again. What a great route Roger recommended.

Reaching Crow Agency, I fueled up once more and called ahead for hotel reservations in Billings.

Unpacking at the Holiday Inn Express, Billings, I met Paul and Jeff – fellow club members heading to the rally.

We met in the lobby and rode to dinner together.  Though it was great to have company we were all so tired that it was difficult to make a choice on dinner.  We ended up at the Texas Roadhouse after finding our first choice, a barbeque joint spotted on the way in, was closed and our second choice, Jake’s Steak House, looked to be too swanky.

Even though we were all quite tired, it was nice to talk to these guys after three days of solo riding.

Miles covered to date: 1682

Sunday, October 24, 2010

coming soon…

In case anyone bothers to check this, my neglected corner of the Internet…

I have been working for a week to prepare posts about the Great West trip.

I plan to break the trip into three or four more manageable chunks.  This should make the trip more readable than twelve or fourteen individual posts – hopefully.