Thursday, September 17, 2009
Late Summer Motorcycle Trip Recap
A long stretch of Nebraska State Highway 12.
This latest motorcycle journey will probably be my last “big” trip of this riding season. For those of you who live in warmer climates, and don’t have snow and ice on the roads in Winter, be advised that up here in the Northland, we have a motorcycle riding season and it’s almost over for 2009, unless, of course, global warming is really that and we stay warm and ice free through March of 2010, but I doubt that will be the case.
By “big trip”, I mean having the full package. Clothing changes for any type of weather conditions, camping and cooking gear, maintenance tools and equipment, a stout roll of duct tape, pockets full of money and all the time in the world when I hit the road on my trusty Triumph Tiger. I’ll still ride the motorcycle, when conditions allow, or when I feel like it, and I might even venture hundreds of miles away from home and have an occasional overnight or two, but to leave home and put on thousands of miles like I did three times on the bike this past Summer, uh uh. No mas, for this year.
I say I’ve made three trips, but in actuality, it was two. The trip I started last June when I went to Oregon to meet my friend just ended. I took almost two months off between starting the trip and finishing the trip. Remember last June when Hal had to fly home to attend to his ailing spouse? He came back, finally, to get his motorcycle and finish the trip.
His original goal was to ride here and visit in Minnesota and Wisconsin, then head down to the Chicago area and see family and a special friend. Hal’s daughter Suzie passed away a year ago last July. They did the hospice right at home in their living room. Suzie is a breast cancer victim. Literally on her death bed, Suzie told her dad to go back East, a proposition he doesn’t like to entertain, and visit old friends and family.
My pal Hal and his 1992 R100GS BMW, loaded for the road.
Hal wanted to honor his daughter’s request and headed out on this trip. I had other plans for riding and wanted to get to Alaska, but I instead offered to meet my old friend and ride with him. So, when the first leg of his trip got cut short with his wife’s illness, I just waited and when he returned to finish the trip, I joined him again.
Hal got here and his motorcycle and riding gear was in my garage. He packed up and left here and proceeded to complete his journey. When all his visiting was through, I rode down and was to meet him in Iowa City, Iowa. There is a motorcycle shop, a BMW cycle dealer there, and Hal was going to meet me there and get a new rear tire installed. When I arrived at Gina’s BMW, Hal wasn’t there. I received a call on the cell phone and found out his bike was having problems.
I had spent my first night on the road alone in a small Mom and Pop place in Independence, Iowa called the Rush Park Motel. It was a nicely groomed place with a lot of flower beds. I remember distinctly that the crows were noisy and obnoxious early in the morning, and that was a very good sign for me this day. I try to find these places where a body can park right next to the door. I hate hauling the bike bags up and down stairs and through public hallways. These kinds of places are getting harder and harder to find. Like a service station used to have a repair bay, but now have gone to convenience stores, the hospitality business is all corporate, and has gone to the big box model. The small places along the highways and byways are losing ground. My second day on the road, I ended up doing much more riding than anticipated. Let me explain.
A pleasant flowery very clean Mom and Pop motel in Independence, IA.
It seems that in his attempt at pinpointing a drivability problem, he was inspecting the bike’s components and found a huge nest, probably from a mouse or some type of rodent, and some wires were chewed and frayed. He needed a part. He had called Gina’s and they didn’t have the part in stock. He did find it at a dealer in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois. I was on the road, so I offered to go get the part and bring it to him at his brother’s place in Princeton, IL. If I didn’t go get the part, Hal would have to wait days to get the part shipped. I know I could do it in about 6-8 hours.
Turned out to be 430 miles or so to go from Iowa City, IA to Champaign/Urbana, pick up the part and take it to Princeton, IL. I left at 9:30 a.m. And was in Princeton by 4:00 p.m. The part was installed and bike test ridden and deemed worthy of road tripping by 6:00 p.m. Here's a map of my route
Princeton is the home of Hal’s brother. He is quite a bit younger than Hal or I. His spread is a nice place, with trees and a big yard. In the yard, he had a large tent set up for the occasional summer sleep out with his children. Hal and I unpacked our sleeping gear and used the tent as our quarters for the night. Worked great. We didn’t have to dismantle and pack up dew moisture laden camping gear in the morning, and that morning we left and headed West was a wet one. Fog so thick you could cut it with the proverbial knife.
A foggy wet morning leaving Princeton, IL.
We were on the road the next morning, amidst all the dew and fog, after coffee and breakfast of course, and proceeded to the far western reaches of Iowa before stopping at a City Park campground in a small town called Mapleton. The sign I thought very humorous as it said “overnight camping only”. I mean, what other type of camping is there?
Sign at the Mapleton, IA City Park. You can only camp overnight??!! Makes no sense to me.
The next day took us to Valentine, Nebraska. In Valentine, we split up. Hal was determined to head home via the most direct route and finish his trip. I saw no need for me to race with him farther away from my home just to have to turn around and race back so I could get home and resume my duties as “the guy who gets the kids off to school and is there when they return off the bus.” (I need to come up with a word for the person that does this, help me here).
All in all, I logged 1977 miles and was away for six days. I had a great time riding when I was alone or with Hal. I usually don’t ride freeways, but I did a lot of freeway driving to go get the part in Champaign, for the simple reason that time was of the essence and freeway driving was the most expeditious.
My bike did fall over. I wasn’t on it when it did. It was overnight at that small town city park in Mapleton, IA. The grass was soft and sometime during the night, the kickstand sunk into the dirt and the bike fell over. I busted off a turn signal lens and the tip of my clutch lever. I used duct tape for the lens and put a little on the end of the broken clutch lever so I wouldn’t cut my hand on the sharp edge. There was enough of the lever to grasp and shift, so the bike was still functional. I ordered the replacement parts when I got home and they will be picked up Friday.
I didn’t much care for the city park in Iowa, but the City Park in Valentine, NE was a very nice place. We were planning on getting to Chadron, NE by the end of the second day and make plans for a foray into Wyoming or Colorado, depending on our whim and the weather. We were both just tired and at 4:00 p.m., called it quits. The parking lot we chose to discuss riding plans was that of the Valentine Visitor Center. We went inside and asked about camping and the attendant told us how to get to the city park.
A nice place to camp at the Valentine, NE City Park.
In many of my past travels, I passed through Valentine. There is a beautiful wildlife refuge there and it is the home for migration routes of the sandhill cranes. Valentine boasts to be the Northern edge of the beautiful Nebraska Sand Hills. Whoever thinks that Nebraska is just corn hasn’t been there. State Highway 12 in the Northeast is a beautiful winding hilly road, the Sand Hills are gorgeous and when teeming with the migrating Sandhill cranes, it is an awesome site to see.
Stock photo of Sandhill crane migration.
We had an early day of it. We set up camp and rode to town for dinner. The next morning, after a leisurely coffee and packing session, we returned to the same restaurant and had breakfast. I headed North for home and Hal went West. That will probably be the last time I see him for some time. As we spend time together, we always talk about trips we’d like to take in the future. This time was no different.
My Triumph Tiger, loaded and ready to go.
Next year, we are talking about me riding or getting out to the Oregon Outback, a wide open expanse of land in the Southeast of the state, and riding the roads there with a base camp to work out of. Another possibility is to ride the Magruder Trail and Lolo Motorway and make a big loop. Camping all the way. Whatever happens will be okay. Both of these trails are on the Idaho/Montana border area in the Bitterroot Mountains and the Clearwater National Forest.
We’ll see what happens. Nothing like passing time on a cold snowy winter evening looking at maps of places I’d like to ride to. One of the things about riding dirt and gravel trails is that my current motorcycle is not made to handle perfectly on such terrain. While passing through Gina’s BMW, we talked with some folks there and I test rode a BMW 650 GS dual sport bike. A bike made for such excursions as the Magruder or Lolo. Maybe there will be a new horse in the stable.
A new BMW 650 GS for the trails? Maybe.
Hal called me last night and reported that he is safely home and his sojourn complete. It was good to hear from him and I recalled the excitement we had before the trip last June, and how it’s over and how time flies and all that stuff. I told him that I had a conversation with a local guy who rides and we planned a short two day trip South of River Falls in a week or so to check out the beautiful colors of Fall as the leaves cast golden light. In the meantime, I’ll continue to ride as weather and time permit and save the memories of a 14,000 summer for the cold blasts of the winter wind, and to share with the crows in my life.