A Hell of a Ride - A military retiree meets the country he defended.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Setanta ADV, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. CJohn

    CJohn Been here awhile

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    Minnesota
    Manny- Thanks again for your Service to country... totally agree with your post above on forefathers.
    In your travels, observing and talking with people, wondering if you also think the decline of religion in society plays into how people are becoming more and more confrontational on issues today.
    Merry Christmas.
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  2. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Jul 20, 2017
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    Raleigh, NC
    Don't take this as a dodge, but as I was traveling around the country, in my attempt to take the pulse of the nation, I tried very hard to just observe people and remain neutral during my interviews, rather than debate people while I was talking to them. In order to find as much truth with the small sample size I was dealing with, I was very hesitant to inject my own biases into any conversations. I was worried the whole trip would become a matter of "bias confirmation" if I did that, and then would be of no value to me. I don't plan on going super in depth about the people I met along the way. I have to save something special for the film I'm working on. I hope that all makes sense.

    Now, to somewhat answer your question though; there were many people who I met along the way, who expressed the same concern with me that you have here. I would say that topic came up most in the Mid-West, Western, and Southern states. What you have voiced is certainly a concern of many people out there.

    In my personal observations I have seen religious people use religion as an excuse to look down upon other people. I have also seen secular / non-religious people claim that they can't stand the prejudice found in religions, and then randomly attack people based on their religions. I think it all comes down to; if people are jerks, they are going to look for ways to justify their unjust behavior toward others. Our flawed humanity may be more a factor in how poorly we treat each other, than any ideology.

    On that note, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!
  3. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 12

    Day 11, 8 September 2017.

    Today was going to be a test. It was going to be one of those days which had nothing to do with spending time learning about the country, and everything to do with putting miles behind me. These miles were to be the long, boring kind. They were the kind of miles that needed to be done, nonetheless. I had an appointment in tomorrow afternoon… In Chicago. Rexy and I needed to traverse around 600 miles by tomorrow afternoon. Up to now, I had put around 3,400 miles on my original Pirelli Super Corsa high performance tires, which had come stock on the Panigale. While these tires had performed far beyond their expectations, having traveled through a tropical storm, hurricane, and multiple rain and thunderstorms, they were becoming extremely square due to all the freeway driving I had been doing. In an effort to prevent any unexpected flat tire situations from occurring, I made a call to MCC Motor Cycle Center, located just West of Chicago, to help me swap out tires and give Rexy a good safety look. Tomorrow was Saturday. The store would be closed Sunday. I explained my situation to them and they said they would fit me in. If I missed this opportunity to get my bike looked after, I would have to travel over 1,000 more miles along my route before I came across the next Ducati dealership in Des Moines, Iowa. Those were extra miles I did not want to risk putting on my current tires. This was to be a forced march, and I had to hit my Time on Target.

    In typical fashion, I was running late. I found it difficult leaving comfortable surroundings and good company behind, and so I was dragging my feet in getting the necessary packing done. I needed to re-pack every single bag on the bike today. While this task was possible, I found it to be a major pain in the ass. Up and down stairs, in and out I went, collecting and carrying bags. Today was to have intermittent rain, again, as well. The drops had already begun coming down as I was packing up Rexy. Nothing deliberate. Just enough drops to tease me. Just enough to force me to put rain gear on, and get hot and sweaty when the rain was not coming down. It was that kind of start to the day.

    Helmet signed, I said my thanks and goodbyes to Gorge View and Jeff. It had been a short, but nice visit. Niagara Falls was one of those places which I knew today would not be the last time I would visit. It was one of those places I knew I would have to return to with those I care about, and share the experience. The falls are absolutely unique in this world. I made my way to the city center, stopped for fuel, and began the process of gaining access to the fuel cap so I could top off. Fueling completed, I was finally ready to get on the road and not stop for the next 2 hours. Then the rain started dripping… “Son of a B!tch!” I wasn’t in the right mood for riding today, but my timeline really didn’t care. So I got on with it.

    Reversing the course which had taken me into Niagara Falls, I headed back down my path along the river. Back through the outskirts of Buffalo and back on to the interstate freeway system. While riding on the freeway didn’t allow me to get up close and personal with Buffalo, I was able to get a glimpse of the city’s industrial heart along the way. Choosing again to not travel on toll roads, I was routed along the Buffalo Skyway, which later turns into Lakeshore Road. Along this route, you will witness both the industrial usage of Lake Erie, as well as the many ancient looking steel mills dotting the land, which give the area and it’s people much of their down to earth character. Leaving the city and surrounding area, I traveled along Highway 5 and the subsequent shoreline for quite some time, taking in the unique sights offered along the way.

    At some point, following my navigation, I was made to confront my nemesis again: toll booths. Like a good Soldier, I dutifully followed the left, right, left commands of my smart phone, and before I knew it, I was on Interstate 90 and reading warning signs of an impending toll booth encounter in my immediate future. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I despise toll roads. Again, anticipating that I would come across these booths of doom while on this trip, I had picked up an EZ Pass sensor prior to leaving North Carolina. Somehow the genius engineers who designed the EZ Pass module which is placed in your vehicle, have created a device which works 100% of the time. By “works 100% of the time”, I mean it universally plots against motorcyclists and makes them loose their ever loving minds! Amazingly, while the engineers have designed a device which can be read through metal and automobile glass, it is simultaneously incapable of being read through a Ziploc bag. Achieving that design feat alone must have taken years of trial and error! Well played, EZ Pass people. After reaching the booth and alternatively pulling up to the gate, backing up, holding the sensor in the air, moving it in circles, and putting it away again, all in the hopes of seeing that most elusive green light, I ultimately just decided to risk the judgement of the EZ Pass Gods, and I just drove off. Did I mention I hate toll booths?

    Under such conditions did I re-enter Pennsylvania. The rain that had been harassing me on my egress from New York had mostly broken up by now and had fallen behind me. I continued on my way down the Freeway until I noticed my dwindling fuel state and the numbness in my backside. An exit sign for “Erie” flashed by. “Erie”; another name I was familiar with but had no knowledge of. I figured a stop here would be as good as anywhere. Off I went, in search of fuel, vittles, and a vertical standing position. A place to the right called “Country Fair” seemed to fit that bill. So, pull up to the fuel pump I did, soon frustrating auto drivers behind me who thought a motorcyclist would be in and out quickly. They didn’t anticipate the onion like layers of clothing I would have to navigate through in order to get my wallet out, or the amount of effort it would take to get to my fuel tank. The harried drivers in the area that day soon learned a good lesson in patience. While this was going on, another driver took the opportunity to approach me and ask “Is that a Ducati?” I assured him “Yes, buried under all of this stuff, there is indeed a Ducati here”. He was a “Ducatisti” who had owned several Ducatis over the course of his life. Apparently, this was the first Ducati he had ever seen tricked out to tour the country before. We chatted briefly before heading our separate ways. Pulling around and parking Rexy, I headed in to the “Country Fair” to sample their particular cuisine. Lunch today would be – drumroll – Spicy chicken nuggets and a hot coffee. Truth be told, it didn’t matter what I was eating. I cherished the opportunity to get out of the wind and warm up a bit. The wind was blowing in, bringing the threatening rain along with it. The temperature had also been hovering in the mid to high 50’s throughout the day, chilling me to the core. I was done in.

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    Finished with my gas station chow, I hesitantly made my way back to Rexy, and prepared to get back on the road again. Today, I was chasing the sunset. In an effort to break the chill wind, I had left my rain jacket on, despite the sky having cleared up. I made my way along Interstate 90. Passing by intermittent towns and cities, I took little note of the landscape passing by. The fields and farms that passed by, between the towns, all faded into a blurring landscape. I slipped into Ohio, and somewhere past Cleveland, I pulled off the freeway again to do a quick “Splash and Dash”.

    Somewhere along the line, Interstate 90 also became Interstate 80, which also became a Turnpike, which meant the entire freeway became a toll road. Damn it! I just wanted to get as many miles done as possible, so I stayed the course. Thus, I became a night rider again. My memory has faded a bit, but what memories I do have of that night ride are intermixed with visions of open road, massive road works, glowing traffic barrels, and merging semi-trucks. This part had become a challenge. The night had degraded from “chilly” to downright cold, without the illusion of sunlight to warm my body and spirit. Whatever heat remained in my body was slowly being sapped away by the slipstream of wind passing around my body. I was suffering. Comfort wasn’t a factor though. I needed to get as many miles done today as possible, in order to set myself up for the final movement I would have to make tomorrow, in order to make my appointment. The cold was persistent though. It was absolutely sapping my willpower. The only thing compelling me to continue moving forward was an old familiar stubbornness, which some would call “stupidity”, and the comforting knowledge that the size of my fuel tank would not allow this leg of the trip to go on forever.

    Eventually, my fuel light was the deciding factor. By now, the hour was very late, and I had no intention of getting pulling off the toll road, dealing with that nonsense to go get a hotel, and then deal with getting back on the toll road again in the morning. Perhaps that would have been the more intelligent choice. I don’t know. In my hypothermic mind, I felt it would be better to suffer in the cold for a few hours and be ready to go first thing in the morning. I stopped at one of the well appointed travel plazas that are operated off of I-80 in Ohio, to get some fuel and then some food. Somehow, today had become “tomorrow” while I was on the road, and I hadn’t had a dinner yet. I was starving, but more important than that was getting inside to warm up a bit. The food was merely and excuse. The cashier at Burger King, and I, had nearly the entire travel plaza to ourselves. I staggered up to the counter, slurred my order to her, and waited the short while for my order to be completed. I chose a window seat near a pillar with an electrical outlet, so I could both keep an eye on Rexy, and take the time to download the day’s video while also charging my camera equipment. This took some additional sleeping time away from me, but it was one of the necessary things that had to be done, or else I would be unable to film at all tomorrow.

    Camera tasks, and dinner, finished, I knew I had to lay my head down somewhere. As warm as it was indoors, I knew some approach me within moments of dozing off, to tell me I couldn’t sleep there. I headed back outside to Rexy, and to scout the area. I noticed that there was an isolated area of grass with a tree growing in it, on the other side of the travel plaza entrance. There was a picnic table located there as well. What I saw was clutter and shadows which would break up the silhouette of my tent. Location decided and reservation made, I quickly set up my accommodation for the night. As I was making a trip back to my bike for additional equipment, a police cruiser passed by, the officer inside making her customary rounds of the travel plaza. I made sure to make eye contact, and offered her a wave of the hand, while I received one in return. Content with ensuring I had created enough complicity in the officer’s gesture, and hopefully sympathy, in case somebody wanted to roust me from my hasty sleeping location in the night, I finished erecting the tent and climbed inside. For a moment, I considered how briefly I would be staying there and imagined myself simply laying on the picnic bench for a few hours. This wouldn’t be possible though. The temperature had dropped to 40 F and a heavy dew was coating everything on land. I didn’t even bother with comfort that night. I was dealing with bare necessities. Relying on the tent to provide the slightest temperature barrier to the outside, I laid down without any kind of blanket or sleeping bag, and just crossed my arms to maintain core warmth. I knew from experience that I wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night. I also knew from experience that I didn’t require it. “Rest” would be sufficient. My last act before becoming uncomfortable, though horizontal, was setting my alarm to wake me before the rising sun. It was 2 AM. Sunrise was around 5:30 AM.

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  4. Steve_h

    Steve_h Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2016
    Oddometer:
    235
    Location:
    Spartanburg, SC
    Great RR! I too sometimes travel on something that wasn't quite designed for the use to which it was being tasked. Looks like it worked for you. From what I've seen, just about any motorcycle that's in decent shape will work for just about any task. I'm glad to see you rode your own ride. by taking to non-superslab routes, you saw much more of the country. I would love to take off on an adventure like that one day. I doubt I'll ever be able though.

    When you started out, I was thinking this might be a little late in the year to have really good weather for a lot of the ride. I'm in for the rest of the RR. Congrats on your well-deserved retirement.

    Merry Christmas
    Steve
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  5. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 13

    Day 12, 9 September 2017


    Since this isn’t a “live” report, I just wanted to take a moment and say to everyone who has been following along, “Happy New Year”! I hope you are all able to do something epic in 2018!


    Sorry for the delay. It’s the holidays and, well, life happens. Back to the ride!


    The alarm on my phone goes off. It’s near freezing cold and I’m not sure if I’ve slept a wink or not. The sleep I did have was the hallucinatory kind; a Morse code or sorts, where my unconscious sleep was interrupted by images and feelings of alternating bouts of discomfort where I would shift from my side, to my back, to the other side, in an effort to find a soft spot on the hard, cold ground. My fatigue was begging me to go back to sleep, but my mind was telling me that wasn’t even a possibility. At this point, comfort could only come from warmth, and the only place offering that right now was across the parking lot, in the Visitors center. Crawling out of my tent in the still dark morning, there was an appreciable difference in the temperature between the two environments. Despite my discomfort in the tent, I was damn well thankful that I had taken the time to give myself a bit of shelter last night. It was “hand stinging cold” out right now, which was amplified by the breaking down of the tent and handling of aluminum poles. I didn’t mess about today, packing my gear up. Nothing motivates you to go faster than being cold, with the prospect of warming up being dependent on how soon you finish the current task! Bags packed on my dew soaked ride, I checked the weather for the current temps and forecast. It was a cold 40F out, but the day would rise to a cloudless mid 70s range, by the time I arrived in the Chicago area. The sun was making it’s presence known as I headed back into a bit of comfort.

    Starbucks was my first acquaintance this morning. With a large coffee in hand (I refuse to say “Venti” or “Grande” or whatever their preferred cup size lingo is), heavy with cream and sugar, and some sort of egg and cheese sandwich, I took a seat, soaked up the heat, and filled the void that is my stomach. Despite the meager fare, I took my time with this meal. To scarf it down would provide me with one less excuse to stay inside and remain warm. My body was damn tired though.

    As I lingered in the rest area, and time ticked away, my mind reeled with algebraic equations for planning the day ahead. I had an appointment set for 2PM at The MCC Motorcycle Center to get some new tires for the bike and a good safety inspection. MCC was just outside of Chicago. Over the course of the previous 12 days, I had learned that everything takes longer on my motorcycle. Navigation was telling me that the time needed to travel to MCC was only 3 hours and 11 minutes. My instinct was telling me “Come on! This is Chicago!”. I was certain the trip would be closer to 5 hours. My dilemma was, understanding this was an appointment I HAD to make, how much cold was I willing to endure on the road vs how close was I willing to risk missing the appointment? I hedged my bets and waited until it warmed up to around 46F degrees, which was around 9AM. That gave me 5 hours, or so, to get there.

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    I needed to finish crossing Ohio, cross the entirety of Indiana, and traverse the Chicago Metro area, which would actually account for a majority of the time. Soooo, back on to the toll road / Interstate, I went. Much of my time during this trip was spent on roads traversing great swaths of the country, which I found interesting simply for the sake of their vastness, which was often a feature of each state’s character. The ride across the Ohio Turnpike will be mostly remembered by road works, featureless long stretches of straight freeway, and great service plazas. Being a toll road, which required the driver to go through the toll process every time they entered AND exited the freeway, I was completely disinterested in hitting an offramp to quickly explore any small towns along the way. Soon enough, I arrived at the final toll booth for the Ohio Turnpike, dealt with the task of paying with cash, and entered into the great state of Indiana.

    I had been across Ohio several times, so that familiarity may had increased it’s “boring factor” for me. This was my first time traveling into Indiana, so despite the similarity to the Ohio countryside, I had the added interest of seeing a new part of the country, as well as passing well known cities such as South Bend, which added a bit of real life to those locations, for me. The miles through Indiana passed quickly and easily. I believe I had to deal with tolls on this freeway as well, but I think I had become generally numb to them at this point. This was also made easier due to the low traffic flow I dealt with in the areas I had to exit to get fuel, food, and such. Due to one of those exits, which I can’t remember, I came across a beautiful lakes side town while I filled up my tank and grabbed some trail mix and a drink. It was both beautiful and peaceful there. I could imagine it being a sort of weekend vacation destination for the surrounding metro areas. Soon enough though, the moments of Zen were replaced by the 7th level of toll road hell. I don’t know if it was in the Western parts of Indiana, near Chicago, or if I had passed into Illinois already, or in both locations, but suddenly I found myself stopping and paying at toll booths on the freeway at least every 5 miles. Traffic, and tolls, were both reaching epic proportions. In my country / suburban mind, I was in riding survival mode, both searching for requisite exit signs, avoiding less cautious drivers in vehicles both large and small, and fishing for exact change each time I arrived at a freeway toll booth. I was reaching levels of exasperation when, before I knew it, I popped out from the freeway and arrived on surface streets near the motorcycle dealership.

    MCC Motor Cycle Center, Inc is located in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, and is the local Ducati dealership for that area. Google maps is great for both navigation, as well as conducting recons of the areas you are traveling to. Locating MCC was fairly easy, since it was well marked, and their signage looked exactly as it did in Google street view. Their parking lot is large for the area, so pulling in, I was thrown off a bit by having too much space to park in. I wasn’t sure which area was theirs, or if it was shared with other businesses. I was curious how I would be received at a boutique Ducati dealership, pulling in on my bug and dirt spattered, overburdened supermodel. I suppose I though the Ducatisti would look at my Rexy as some sort of hybrid monstrosity, or alien. Switching off my ignition, throwing my kickstand down, and doing my special dismounting dance, I noticed a group of people at the store looking at me, and then begin to make their way toward me. “Uh oh”, I thought, “This is the part where I get to hear how I ruined a Panigale”. I know I shouldn’t care what people think, but still, you don’t want to hear bad things about your bike. As they approached, the first thing one of them said was “Dude! That thing is awesome!”, and “You must be the guy on the road trip who called. Nobody else would be riding a Panigale in touring gear”. My mind was immediately at ease. I knew I was in good company.

    MCC was a pretty cool place. The guys from both sides of the shop all came out and began asking me about the journey. Beyond the typical questions of where I was from, how far I’d traveled, or what they project was about, they wanted to know about Rexy! Since nobody had ever seen a Panigale set up like this, they all wanted to know what it was like to ride a superbike with so much equipment on it. The owner of the dealership came out, and just thought the bike, and the journey, were awesome. Like everyone else, he wanted to know what it felt like to ride. The bike needed to get moved into the service area to get work done on it, and since I was pretty confident that could handle a bike well, I threw him the keys and let him check it out for himself around the parking lot. “Be careful”, I told him, “It’s pretty wobbly at low speeds”. The first word that came out of his mouth, after hopping on, was “Whoa!” So he took a few turns around the parking lot, to get a feel for it, and then brought it in to the service bay, and then further onto a lift. “That thing is crazy man! I can’t believe you’re riding this thing around the country. That is just awesome.”

    MCC pics Chicago 9 Sep 2017 - owner riding Rexy.jpg

    So Rexy went into the store, shopped around a bit, and bought some new shoes, with a bit more tread on them. She also had a thorough going over by “The Duc Doc”, a guy named Aaron. Aaron is a young fellow who has absolutely found his calling. You can tell he just absolutely loves his job, and enjoys coming in to work every day. He told me he is working on getting as many Ducati certifications as he can. I’m sure he’s working on the other bike brands MCC sells as well, but Ducati seems to hold a special place in his heart. Since everyone was so accommodating to me, I hovered around the lift, taking photos and video, while I was shown parts of my bike I hadn’t seen before. Aaron and I got along quite well. He and I still keep in touch, from time to time, on social media.

    MCC pics Chicago 9 Sep 2017 - wheel off.jpg

    While Rexy was getting her undercarriage checked out, I browsed around their showroom for a while and stuck up conversations with the sales people. They were all good guys, both older and younger, who despite being different phases of life, were all passionate about what they were doing. It was nice being around the positive attitudes. I soaked it in. I wasn’t going to have a chance to tour the city of Chicago itself, since that has been thoroughly covered by several movies and millions of people, so I asked opinions about that. Those opinions did vary. Being motorcycle enthusiasts, the biggest gripe from the guys there was a general lack of good riding in the area. Being the Mid-West, and thus flat, there was no reason for the people who had developed roads to make them anything other than straight. I was to hear about this complaint many more times while I was in this region of the U.S. Other issues were the same as what I had discovered on my own, the traffic. I wasn’t yet at my final destination, and I was dreading getting back into the traffic. While I was there, I also conducted an interview of the business owner. I figured that while I was on the road, meeting various people from multiple walks of life, why not highlight the businesses I meet along the way as well. After all, those businesses represent a very real risk taken by very real people, who have capitalized on the freedoms we have in this country, to make a living for themselves, and offer a way to make a living for other people living in the area. That spirit, to me, is the life blood of America. After getting my helmet signed by the crew, I thanked everyone for their hospitality, and made my way back out, this time in search of dinner.

    MCC pics Chicago 9 Sep 2017.jpg

    Ultimately, I needed to make my way back to one of my Army buddy’s home, near Munster, Indiana, to crash for the night. His wife and he had a wedding to me at this night, however, so I was in no hurry to rush over there right now. As it was now what I believed to be the height of Chicago rush hour traffic, I was not in a hurry to get out into that either. What I was in a hurry for was a good Italian meal! A quick check of my handy dandy modern mapping miracle showed me that there was a local place called “Dominick’s Pizza & Pasta” nearby. Yes please! I made my way the few blocks down to the restaurant, got myself seated, and then prepared myself for the coming feast. I ordered veal parmesan, and when it was delivered, I knew I would be hungry no longer. The food was nothing fancy, nor was it done poorly. It was just that good hearty kind of fare that doesn’t let you walk away feeling like you’ve paid too much and haven’t eaten enough. By the end of the meal, you could have stuck a fork in me. I was done.

    I poured myself out of the chair I had occupied, and got myself back on the road. It was about 6:30 PM now, and the sun would be fading soon. I chose to ride through the city itself, to get to my final destination, to at least get a glimpse of that famous skyline. The rush hour traffic, which I’m sure everyone wishes was an accurate description of it’s duration, was still going strong. Everything was stop and go, which, on a L-Twin Ducati is neither good for the bike, nor my nether regions. The temp was reading in the 220s and rising. This was one of the first times I had to be concerned with high temperatures on this bike. By the end of my journey I would have absolutely pushed the limits of what I thought this bike could endure! Eventually, traffic started flowing, air started flowing, and the temp gauge began showing a respectable 190F or lower again. I made it though the city, only gaining fleeting glimpses of it, before I found myself heading away from it again.

    I arrived at my friend’s empty house in the dark. I sent a text to let him know I was there and to take his time. He had left me means to get in, so I began unloading the bike for what I would need over the next 2 days I was planning on spending there. He and his wife were not far away, so they replied they would be home soon. Arriving home, big bear hugs and pats on the back were given to Nick, greetings and congratulations on the new family addition were given to his wife, and beers were cracked open. Nick was a former Soldier of mine. We had deployed with the same unit together twice. He had left the Army while I was on another deployment and it had been about 8-9 years since we had last seen each other. Much like Rexy and myself, Nick and I had a lot of ground to cover.
  6. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 14

    Day 13, 10 September 2017

    Nick grew up in the Chicago area, and knew the lay of the land well. Due to personal preferences, he, like many other from Chicago, had moved with his family across the border into one of the many Chicago suburbs just on the Indiana side of the state line. Nick and I had worked together in the Army for about 4-5 years. Like me, he had come from the 82nd Airborne Division. We served in Iraq at the same time, with the same unit, although on separate missions. He later served directly with me on another mission in another country. As a supervisor, I knew quite a bit about his personal life from that time. Nick had faced many personal, and physical challenges by way of various forms of injuries, during his time in the military. Chatting with himself and his wife throughout the night, it was obvious that things were coming around for him. His wife is very obviously a force of good in his life, and I was very happy to see that. We filled each other in on what had happened in our lives over the past 8-9 years, and complained about things from our old military days, as one does. It was nice being so “at ease” with good, well known company.

    Our conversations kept us up late the night before. Yesterday was a long day for me; starting at 0530, without any sleep worth mentioning, and ending after midnight. Wake up came later in the morning this day, for me. The took me out to a “local famous” restaurant called “The Wheel”. It was basically like any other large busy diner type setting, but with it’s own unique American dining spin, owed to it by the local Greek flavor of the area. The menu was appropriately “Greek flavored”, with local delicacies such as “lemon rice soup”, which I had never heard of, but was assured was a “must have”. I ordered an old standby, a Gyro plate, knowing that it should be “that much better” being cooked here. The atmosphere was great, which was amazing considering, it really didn’t offer any atmosphere other than authenticity. It had the busyness of a place in which you could tell the locals loved it. The waitresses rushed around in that manner that is chaos, but upon further inspection shows that they are utter professionals. Somehow, despite, or perhaps because of it, they were ever attentive to each customer there. This is what “hustle” looks like. I could see why people love the place.
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    On the way back to their house, Nick and his wife took me on the tour of the local area. I was shown the good and the bad neighborhoods in the area, and everything in between. It often surprises me, when people show me “bad” areas in modern America. As with areas I’ve been taken through, such as certain parts of Charlotte, NC, the “bad” areas are hard to discern without using a critical eye. In Charlotte, for example, the only difference I could see between “bad” areas, and typical middle-class areas, were the AC units were actually fenced in to prevent theft of components. The houses actually looked the same, or at least each had the same relative newness. I imagine part of that is due to “urban sprawl”, which is what the area I was in now appeared to me, to be. Other than palm trees and the individual names of small businesses and restaurants, modern small cities in America are almost indistinguishable from each other. The environment is the only thing that appears to significantly change, from one area to another. Various “chain” businesses add to the homogenized communities you see, at surface level. I found that rather depressing. I know that wasn’t always the case. At the same time, a little digging, rewards you with the occasional treasure, such as “The Wheel”. I suppose the additional effort at least keeps life for the traveler a bit interesting.

    It was early afternoon now, and Nick wanted to take me out and show me a few areas off the usual beaten path. He owns a motorcycle himself, but hadn’t taken it out for a spin in quite a while. My visit was as good enough excuse as any to go for a ride! His steed of choice is a Harley Softail Slim, configured in that matte olive finish, with the retro military star on the tank, that obviously would have been one of my preferential bikes, had I purchased a cruiser. I love the classic military look HD achieved with this bike. I’m not one of those guys that has to stick to one motorcycle category, and put down anyone else who rides something other than whatever I have under me at the moment. I can appreciate any purpose built machine that accomplishes what it was designed for, well. This was the first time on this trip that I was going to have the privilege of having a riding buddy with me. I preparation, I had taken the heavier bags and fuel off my top rack, leaving only the panniers and tank bag. Rexy was feeling absolutely athletic again, as I balanced her with a long forgotten lower center of gravity! Despite my acceptance for most things two wheels, this ride would show me that there is a big difference in how our two motorcycles cover the same distance.

    We mounted cameras on the bikes, so I could at least have a new perspective with his help, and rolled out of the driveway toward smaller America. It took us quite a while to be able to leave the “sprawl” portions behind, but soon we were rewarded with that nice country road feeling. The roads had a bit more left and right, a bit more up and down, to them. There was a bit more to look at on each side, rather than glass and concrete. As a funny aside; as Nick and I were preparing to leave, back at the house, he was putting some ear buds in his ears, which were connected to his phone so he could listen to his music and hear the navigation directions. He looked at me and saw that I was only placing simple ear plugs in my ears. “What do you listen to when you ride?”, he asked, with a quizzical look on his face. “The engine and the wind, my friend.” I replied. This was a question I would be asked many times in the future. People found it hard to believe that I went hours without listening to “anything” while I made my way around the country. Sure, it’s not exactly entertaining, all the time, but there is something to be said for getting back to basics and not “needing” to be entertained. I love the music this engine produces under load. I can’t get enough of it. In those times on the highway, when the sound of the wind overcomes the sound of the engine, I just got on with the ride. Seconds become minutes, minutes become hours, hours become a great stretch of miles. Besides, it’s not like I didn’t have anything to listen to. My thoughts were always there with me.

    So one of the places Nick wanted to show me was this garage a Veteran runs to help other Vets out, called “Operation Combat Bike Saver”. It turns out that the garage this place is run out of is only about an hour or so from where Nick lives. The gist of the operation is that the guy who runs it helps other veterans deal with various personal issues by focusing on building, or rebuilding, a motorcycle there. It was a fairly small operation, which was growing, but recently received a huge boost when Mike Rowe (from “Dirty Jobs”) came out to honor the man who runs the shop, with his new show “Returning the favor”. I was aware of Operation Combat Bike Saver now, but must admit, when I first heard the name a few months prior, I thought it was dealing with bicycles for some reason! Since it was in the local area, this was one of the places Nick wanted to take me to. I had agreed, because, well, I had no real agenda except for to see new things in the local area. Well, we finally found the location of the garage, missing the turn the first time and needing to come back to it. It’s a pretty basic set up, not even having a paved driveway to the entrance of the shop. I had to watch myself coming in, reminding myself that Rexy does not prefer gravel and pot holes. All was quite at the shop that day. As often happens when you plan something without checking first, we soon found out the garage was closed that day. The owner was participating in a charity ride in another town down the road that day, and the shop would be closed. Nick was apologetic, but I assured him there was nothing to worry about, as the ride out there had been so nice, and the company welcome. We did a quick map check to see what else might be of interest in the area. We soon pulled back out on the road, in search of a new destination. One which we hoped would not be closed!

    This time, we headed a further 20 minutes down the road, to a small town called Cedar Point, famous for it’s well kept old Court House, in the center of the town. Arriving there, it was apparent this is easily a well know destination for weekend riders from the surrounding areas. The Court House is the central feature of the town square, and rather than a typical “Round About”, it features a larger network or one way streets forming a “Square”, which serves the same function as a round about. We took a lap around the central Court House, then parked the bikes so we could dismount and have a proper look around. The Court House building is beautiful, and is beautifully maintained. I don’t know if the building is still used for court functions at this time, but it had signs up which clearly showed several small shops operated out of the ground floor. They were most likely seasonal, as they were closed today and the weather was also cooling down. We walked around a bit, took in a few of the restaurants facing the court house on opposite sides of the street, and then settled on one to get a bite at. This restaurant was owned by a friend of Nick’s, but he was out of town. Nick had told me that he had actually helped his friend refurbish the interior and install the bar there, so there was a bit of pride to be showed off. It was a nice, cloudless day out, so we decided to join the lone couple on the sidewalk dining area, and grabbed a table outside, ourselves.

    As Nick and I chatted, I took in the surroundings. Parked on the street, in front of the restaurant, was a well outfitted Harley Davidson Street Glide, complete with a “Get back whip”. It was a fairly safe bet that the bike belonged to the couple seated near us, slightly behind me. They were young, decorated in tattoos, and wearing a variety of black leather, though none in areas that would actually offer protection in a crash. Not being an MC club member myself, and not really caring about that lifestyle in the first place, it was up in the air whether they were the kind of people who wore the costume of a biker on the weekend, or indeed live the MC life. I took note of them, but didn’t really care one way or the other. The sun was beginning to get low, so I decided to get a couple of photos of the area, from where we were sitting, before everything was cast in shadows. It may have been a losing proposition, but I try. At the peak of the Court House, there flew the U.S. flag, which I have to admit is one of those images I have to capture whenever, and wherever, I find it. So I turned my camera towards the flag, which was over the heads of the couple, and I took a few snaps, anticipating that it may look odd taking a photograph over someone. “Were you taking a picture of the flag?”, the male portion of the couple asked. With the tone of his voice, I believed the question to actually be “Were you taking a picture of my girlfriend (but I’m hoping not)?” “Yes”, I answered the actual question, simply. “Why?”, he pressed. “Because I’m riding my bike on a lap of the country, and documenting the trip. I’m taking photos of the flag from all the different areas I visit. Here’s my card for the film, if you’re interested”, and I offered him my card. Easy enough. Everything changed after that. They both engaged us in conversation, asked about the project, where I had been, where I had started out, etc. They were an nice couple, and they eventually answered a few questions and signed my helmet – on camera.

    I was happy I had reached a point in my life where I really didn’t worry showing off to anybody or over react to how somebody spoke to me. I generally lead a good, no nonsense life, and therefore honesty really is the best policy for me. I know how a simple question with the wrong tone in the voice could lead to altercations in the past. I felt this older, more worldly, version of me could fit in with a much broader variety of people now because I made sure to be obvious about the fact that I wasn’t interested in challenging anyone. The ability to get outside my own ego, and present the attitude that others needed to see, to make them comfortable with me, had previously helped me overseas. It was helping me in my own country now. This paragraph may seem like much ado about nothing, and it honestly is, but it was one of those things that could have turned into “something” if the wrong attitude was presented. It was just one of those feelings you have when you’ve been around violence enough, and you can sense it in others. I’m sure it’s a skill many others here have developed over the past as well.

    P1000428.JPG

    The couple has long since departed, and Nick and I finished our meals and drinks. The sun was about to dip below the horizon, so we decided we should head back home before we had to complete the entire ride in the dark. We took a last stroll around the center of Crown Point, to soak in the sights. I love small towns that have maintained their town centers like this. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and Crown Point nailed that look. You could really get a feel of the town’s past there, even just from first glance. It was a pity we had arrived there so late.


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    So Nick and I departed Crown Point, IN, and headed for his house. It had been a really nice day, the best part of which wasn’t the destination, but was instead the two wheel camaraderie found in an old friendship. We really didn’t talk about too much that day. It was one of those times where words weren’t needed. It was just good company.

    Nicks wife, being the Saint that she is, had ordered a special treat for me that night, for dinner. She had called ahead to one of the premier pizza places in the local area to show me the crème de la crème of Chicago pizza! She was bound and determined to not let me leave the area without having had a real slice of genuine Chicago pizza. Let me tell you, when that pizza was brought home, and we dug in, it was no joke. This wasn’t that kind of “the pizza is so thin you can fold it in half like a napkin and eat it” pizza. This was the kind that seemed like each slice had it’s own loaf of bread! The sauce! Oh! The cheese! Oh! Yeah, I dug it… The only thing disappointing about it was the fact that it filled me up so fast I couldn’t eat more! Damn that was good pizza!

    Nick had to get up early the next morning. Unlike myself, he had a real job get to in the morning, and that job began in the dark and early. I waddled myself to the guest bedroom and took care of my nightly ritual involving downloads and batteries. That, my friends, was the end of a good day.
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  7. Micah.Berry

    Micah.Berry n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2016
    Oddometer:
    5
    Hi there, Setanta. I’m following the Setanta Adventures page. Thanks for posting up!
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  8. FangitAshmo

    FangitAshmo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    69
    Location:
    Brisbane
    Setanta. Although located across the Pacific, down-under, I just wanted to say that I am really enjoying this road report. First of all, respect, for the years of service to your country. Your eye for detail, the anecdotes and the ability to pull it together into an entertaining read is appreciated. For an outsider, you are providing an honest glimpse of the real America - and what an amazing country it is. I spent some time in Newport News back in the 90's - Yorktown, Jamestown, and the civil war battle-fields filled many a week-end. Looking forward to reading more of your journey. Ash.
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  9. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    Thanks Ash, I'm glad you're enjoying the read, and I appreciate the compliment. My brother-in-law is living "Down under" as well, in Sydney. Hopefully, I'll be able to make the trip across the pond some day, and enjoy a ride-about in your neck of the woods. I'd love to see NZ as well. I've always wanted to get down there. When I was in the military, moving back from Germany to the U.S.A., I had the opportunity to take a trip to either there, or Ireland. If I went to Oz, I'd have to spend $3,000 to get there, and live for 3 weeks on $300. If I went to Ireland, I had to spend $300 to get there, and live for 3 weeks on $3,000. Guess which one I chose! It seems to have been a good decision, but I'm still waiting for my next opportunity to get to my second choice destination. Cheers!
    FangitAshmo likes this.
  10. strom thingie

    strom thingie Lost and Proud!

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    552
    Location:
    Sumter, SC
    Great report. Thanks for your service. I'm somewhat recently retired from the Army after 22 years of service. Enjoy your ride!
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  11. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    Cool brother. Congratulations on retirement! :beer
  12. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,298
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Checking in from NZ, Manny.

    You welcome here at ours anytime.

    Really liking your report.

    Best wishes

    Shane
    Setanta ADV likes this.
  13. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 15

    Day 14, 11 September 2017


    I awoke to the sounds of Nick getting ready for work. Like many veterans, despite feeling like I can sleep forever, I also have trouble sleeping soundly in new locations. A person could speculate on the problem being paranoia, hyper alertness, an overactive mind, or even mommy issues. At this point, after 25 years of being this way, it really doesn’t matter. It just is what it is. This morning, it was also a matter of not wanting Nick to head out without first being able to thank him for his hospitality, and for taking me in over the past few days. I pried myself out of bed, made my way out to the kitchen, and made a cup of coffee to sip on, while Nick continued his work day ritual. We just BSed while he had breakfast and wandered around trying to find where he wife had hidden things he needed for work (AKA – she had picked up after him!), like most men. We both lamented that far too much time had passed since we had last seen each other, and far too little time had passed since I had arrived. That was the nature of this beast though – too little time was spent in each new piece of paradise I found along the way.

    Nick had asked me “Is it weird – staying with different people all the time, and moving all the time?” I had to think about the answer for a bit. My nature is typically to not ask for help, or even accept help for certain things. I strive very hard to maintain my independence, often to my own detriment. I feel that if I borrow something from someone, even if it is just assistance, then I am in that person’s debt. Being in debt is a status I do not care to be in. I understand that we should being more willing to help each other out, and I believe I am much better at helping than in being helped. Perhaps it’s that sense of possibly being taken advantage of, that has put me off potentially taking advantage of another? Whatever the reasoning is, I can also see that it’s also a self-imposed action that often keeps me from interacting with people. “Imposing myself” on others was something I needed to do, if I was going to get to know strangers, and their lives, as I made my way around the country. After a moment’s reflection, I answered Nick, “Yes, it is weird. But not as weird as I thought. The people I have come across so far have been much kinder, and much more accommodating, than I ever expected. I haven’t really asked for too much help from strangers so far, but even in just striking up a conversation with a stranger, everyone has been much nicer than I had reason to expect”. To this point, considering all the negativity you read about the public and crime in America, I was pleasantly surprised. I had yet to have a truly bad experience with anyone. Sure, there had been some oddballs or the occasional sour hotel staff member, but I hadn’t had anyone rob me, or steal anything from me, or even get into an argument with me. So far, the strangers I had met on my journey had been genuinely nice. I hoped that was a trend that I would see continue.

    Nick finished his preparations for the work day ahead. He had left the Army and become part of the hard working, noble masses now. His working fate was now intertwined with electricity, wires, tools, and industrial construction. He, and I, were now part of the protected class now. Nothing is important if it’s not worth being fought over. Our people are important. They make everything worthwhile in our country happen. Our Soldiers and Service Members instinctively know this. Nick was doing his part now, to leave a positive imprint on our landscape. As we said our goodbyes, I had him join in with the others who had already signed my helmet, and lend his signature to it’s surface.

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    Upon Nick’s departure, I went back and set upon the task of repacking everything I had pulled out of my bags over the last two days. I was moving slowly. Both, because I didn’t want to leave anything behind, and, as can be human nature, I was instinctively hesitant to trade this comfortable and welcoming environment for the discomforts of the unknown road ahead. But of course, that attitude wouldn’t get me to where I was going. I also had to acknowledge that I was about to cut my safety strap. So far, I was still close to the Eastern Seaboard, or groups of friends who could bail me out of trouble and get me home if a situation developed on the road. Beyond this point, there was no easy way to get home. I began to get the feeling those early explorers may have had, when they had reached the safe point of their provision stores, when they knew they could safely make it back to home port if they turned around now. They also had no idea what lay in store for them if they continued on. Like the successful ones, I took the chance and continued moving forward.

    My next destination was to be Kennett, Missouri, which I planned to arrive at in two days time. My wife, from the command center in North Carolina, had messaged me to let me know to keep an eye on developing weather, where I was heading. I was aware of another hurricane that had developed down South, since my interaction with Hurricane Harvey, that was affecting Florida, but I hadn’t given much thought beyond that, due to my travel preoccupation. To my surprise, the new storm, Hurricane Irma, had made it’s way through Florida, and rather than taking a typical coastal turn, it had continued to plow ahead into the interior of the central United States. I couldn’t help but to think to myself, “What the Hell kind of decisions was I making in life that were leading me into my second hurricane, while I was on a motorcycle, in only 2 weeks?” Best not to dwell on it too much, I suppose.

    Eventually, I finished cramming everything back on to my mule, despite my lethargy. There was nothing left to do but to say goodbye to Nick’s better half and the little man, and to have her sign the helmet as well. Suited up, packed up, leg thrown over Rexy, kickstand… kicked, there was nothing left to do but to plot a destination into the nav app and press the Panigale’s fighter jet-like starter button. I will never get tired of the sound of this bike on start up. If I had to settle on one word for what this bike sounds like, even with it’s stock exhaust, it would have to be “business”, as in the serious kind. I had ridden just over 4,000 miles at this point, and simple things like my shaking my head in disbelief at the sound this engine makes told me that I had chosen the right bike for this ride. Clutch in, 1st gear selected, rolling on the throttle, I took the right turn out of their driveway rather gingerly, allowing myself time to get used the substantial weight again. I was on the road again, but before I allowed myself to really go anywhere, I had to make sure my fuel tank was topped off. Three miles down the road, I made my first stop for the day.

    I saw the station before I realized where I was. I realized, as I pulled up to the pumps, that I was in one of those areas the locals would refer to as “not so good”. Ah well. I figured I wouldn’t be there long enough to get messed with, and besides, wasn’t I the one who said he wanted to see “the real America”? This was it alright, and this story needed to be told as well as all the others. Hopping off my bike, as ungraceful as ever, a gentleman just happened to be passing by, when Rexy caught his eye. Back he came, asking about what I was doing there as he noticed the load I was carrying and where my license plate stated I was from. I couldn’t blame him for coming back. Rexy, and her fellow Panigales, are one of the most striking motorcycle designs that have ever been created. I couldn’t imagine them being a common sighting in this area either. His smile, and the state of his clothes, both whispered to me that he was very likely down on his luck. We spoke for a good little while. He was interested in what I was doing so far from home, and where I was going. I filled him in on the film project and passed him a card. He asked if he was going to be part of the film and I let him know he had a good chance since the camera was running. Like most guys, he also wanted to hear what it was like to ride the bike around, and how powerful it was. He seemed pleased with the prospect of being on camera, and happy that someone had just spent some time talking to him. He thanked me for the chat, and just as quickly as he appeared, with a last glance at Rexy, he walked off the parking lot and crossed the road. I went back to my original task, and proceeded to fill up the tank. I thought about that encounter the gas flowed. Of the several topics we spoke of during the short few minutes, not one of those topics involved asking for money, or talking about anything going wrong with his life. For the time we spoke, we were just two guys sharing an interest in motorcycles and life beyond Chicago. It wasn’t the way most people would expect a conversation with the subject of this photo to go. Humanity had proven itself once again.

    Chicago 11 Sep 2017 - Homeless guy.jpg

    Back on the bike, I turned out of the gas station and sought the nearby freeway. Time was on my side today. I really didn’t have a firm destination in mind. I wanted to end the day as close to Kennett, Missouri as possible, but ultimately, that would just be wherever I decided to call it quits for the day. The one goal I hoped to accomplish though, was to see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Since I wasn’t racing to make an appointment today, I had set my navigation to avoid tolls. This would basically mean that I would bypass most freeways in the Chicago area and head across town on surface streets. That meant the ride on the freeway I was now on was to be short lived. Soon, I was “instructed” to exit, and I followed my given directions. I was simply in “do as you’re told” mode, and found myself traversing business areas, followed by residential areas, South of Chicago. When I do a map track now, of the location I was at then, I see town names of New Holland, Phoenix, Harvey, and Markham, though I don’t know where the borders for each town are, specifically. The following observations may come across as humorous, or even offensive, by people from these areas who read them. That’s a risk I’m willing to take because this entire trip was an effort in personal observation. My personal observations run the risk of being associated with my incorrect personal conclusions. These observations could also be absolutely correct, and locals may not see what I see due to our perspectives are from different positions. Or… all the above could be correct at the same time. It’s funny how that’s possible.

    I say all the above, because as I write this now, and refresh my memory of this leg by referencing online maps, I remember seeing what I thought were very poor looking neighborhoods. I didn’t get a chance to ride around the rest of the area, so the state of things, the condition of buildings, the apparent drabness, could all be due to harsh environmental conditions. I don’t know. It all seemed a bit depressing to me, as I rode through though. Businesses and strip malls all seemed to be varying shades of grey. Corner stores advertising “Liquor” were adjacent to empty lots filled with tall weeds. Residences, AKA “homes”, were… average, but were often found in varying states of decay. The homes were what most caught my attention, because a person’s home often reflects a person’s spirit. In the brief glimpses I gathered of each home, as I rode by, I saw peeling paint, weeds growing tall in yards, windows not just barred, but boarded up, and in some cases I even saw plastic sheets covering roofs that appeared to be set up for more than a temporary period of time. A school across the street from this was closed down as well. What I saw stirred recent memories of what I saw in Niagara Falls, only this time, I wasn’t in an urban downtown that had been abandoned by people searching for a more comfortable life in the suburbs. This was the suburbs, or at least satellite communities nearby a major metropolitan area. It’s one thing to see these iconic cities on film and television. It was another thing altogether seeing how people actually lived their daily lives with the granularity of actually being there, feeling, seeing, and smelling. What I find surprising about this environment now, as I study maps of the area, is this area I was riding through is in close proximity to several parks, and even country clubs. Now, I haven’t seen the state of these country clubs, but I don’t think I’m stretching to far here when I imagine that a country club located anywhere, is generally a pretty nice, upper class, environment. The discrepancy of living conditions in close proximity is the idea I’m struggling to reconcile right now. Several thoughts made their way into my skull as I passed through these areas. As I left them and rejoined high speed travelers, I tucked these observations away for future consideration.

    2018-01-11.png

    Back on the freeway, it wasn’t long before the scenery started to rapidly change. I had first connected with Interstate 80 heading West, and began my journey South by connecting with Interstate 55 South. To me, and I suppose many people around the world, the city of Chicago is Illinois, much as New York City is representative of the State of New York for most people. Of course, I was aware of other cities in Illinois, such as Decatur, Peoria, or Springfield, but frankly, I hadn’t given much thought to what the rest of the state was like. Seeing the transition from an urban, metropolitan area, to the broad, sweeping agricultural environment I was observing now, was a bit surprising. Everything about this area was new to me and I wanted to take it all in. Everything had opened up by now, and the horizon had become a broad 180 degree arc.

    As happens, Rexy was in need of some fuel and a break, as was I. A sign for a town called “McLean”, and a fuel station called “Ranger” and “Dixie” caught my eye, and I took the offramp to explore the exiting world of truck stops. The only “McLean” that I knew was in Virginia, and it has a world famous agency residing there. This McLean looked like a couple of truck stops and some housing areas for the residents. I pulled up to the pumps and began filling the tank. All of a sudden, and number on the side of the building, displayed in a logo that has become world famous, caught my eye. The road sign “US 66” was portrayed on the sign of the building. Apparently, without my knowing it, I had been traveling down the “Mother Road”, Route 66, for quite some time now. Now, by all appearances, I was just traveling down the Interstate, but as I would come to realize, Route 66 would both join and separate with various modern roads along the entirety of it’s route, as it makes it’s way to the California coast. I found myself on one of those “joined” sections now. This realization elicited more of a “Huh” from me, rather than a “Wow”. Tank topped off, I reattached the tank bag, briefly remounted my steed, and moved the 20 feet or so to a convenient parking spot outside the window of the Subway shop, from which I could keep an eye on Rexy as I filled my belly. After scouting out the retail portion of the truck stop, and perusing the myriad of “must have” trucker items for sale, including “Fantasy Swords” for some reason, I stepped back in to the attached Subway to order food and rest my bones for a bit. There, on the menu, I saw it… The sandwich to end all sandwiches… A toasted turkey sandwich with cranberry spread. It was like a turkey dinner all wrapped up in delicious sandwich form! It was like Thanksgiving in my mouth! Hell Yeah!!!

    Chicago 11 Sep 2017 - Ranger-Dixie Truck Stop - Illinois.jpg

    -Continued 15A -
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  14. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    812
    Totally with you on the "don't want to be in debt" to others deal. Understand completely, always try to "square" the account as soon as possible. And you are not alone on that mind set.
    bobw and Setanta ADV like this.
  15. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 15A

    Day 14, 11 September 2017

    While I was enjoying my sandwich, drink, and chips, all for a reasonable price, I noticed another rider pull in on a Harley tourer and park next to Rexy. The rider was a man, accompanied by, I assumed, his wife. I saw him dismount, then take a couple of laps around Rexy to check her out. By this time, I had seen several people come over to check out Rexy. Obviously, a loaded up Panigale from over 1,000 straight line miles away from North Carolina was not a normal thing to see out there. I did nothing but watch the reactions. I was exhausted, and my sandwich was good. I stayed put. Besides, didn’t I buy this specific bike so that people would notice it?

    The Harley rider came back out, started preparing to head out on the road again, took another look around Rexy, and then put his helmet down. I watched him come through the door and turn into the Subway. He turned and was coming towards me. “Excuse me” he said. “Is that your bike?” “Yes”, I replied. “Are you PCSing in the military or something?” A “PCS” is a “Permanent Change of Station”, a “move” due to a change in assignment, in military speak. “No”, I told him, “I just retired and I’m doing a lap of the country right now”. “Oh. I saw your ‘82nd’ sticker, the NC plates, and all the gear you are carrying, and I thought you were a Joe heading from Fort Bragg to a new assignment somewhere!” He told me he was a former military pilot, who had retired a few years back, and that his daughter was serving at Fort Bragg now, in a certain kind of unit. We played the game of “Is it this street”, “Is it this – insert word – kind of unit?” etc. Generally, just sniffing each other’s butts until we were sure the other was actually what he was representing himself to be. I had worked in the exact unit he was talking around, and that his daughter was now serving in, so once that was confirmed, the barriers came down. He went out and brought his wife back in. We talked about life a bit, and the film project a bit. They were interested in it all. As most people were, they couldn’t believe I was doing such a trip on a Ducati. Hearing, and seeing, people express that surprise when they saw I was bike I was riding, and heard the task I was undertaking, was becoming one of my favorite things. We talked for a few more minutes before he apologized for taking me away from my lunch. Obviously, I said that wasn’t a bother, and said goodbye to them. I finished up myself, grabbed my gear, and went outside. As I did that, I noticed another person checking out my bike. I said hello, and asked him where he had come from. He told me he was driving from Idaho, I perked up and said “That’s where I’m heading”. “You had better be careful man! The fires out there are out of control. The whole freeway is shut down in areas. It’s not a place you want to be stuck in.” “Wow”, I thought. I had been worried about hurricanes, and now I had epic wildfires to look forward to as well? There was nothing I could do with that information now, but I definitely packed that statement away in the recesses of my mind, for future reference.

    That was a good stop, but I needed to get more miles under me for the day. Pulling out of the truck stop, I hit the on ramp and headed away from McLean, once more on Interstate 55. What I was seeing now was the Illinois that I had never contemplated. Being unfamiliar with the exact geographic areas I was traveling through, judging by the completely flat terrain I was passing through, I wondered if I was in the “Great Plains”. I was not. Illinois makes up part of the region of the United States known as “The Great Lakes Region”. Cleary, I was riding through a “great” plain, though. The terrain was generally flat and featureless, but I loved the look and the feel of it. Left and right of the freeway, all you could see was miles of corn fields, interspersed with groves of trees and the occasional river passing through the land. This was the fabled America I had wanted to see my entire life. Being rather nostalgic, I appreciated the notion of hard working people, making a living from, and thus being connected to, the land. As I transited through this area, I took note of the evidence of days past – old farm buildings which were prevalent on family farms, and the new, industrial level of farming commonly seen today. I took the wide views in as I continued traveling down the road. This was just the beginning of “Fly Over” country. I was excited for what I would be seeing as I continued my long journey Westward, across the country.

    Chicago 11 Sep 2017 - Illinois - Road - old farm building and truck.jpg

    Chicago 11 Sep 2017 - Illinois - Road - Farm.jpg

    Onward I went, ever closer to the Gateway Arch and St. Louis. Along the way, I stopped off for another splash of gas. This time, the stop was much shorter. The sun was beginning to set, and I was intent on at least glimpsing the Arch before the lights went out for the day. I had no intention of staying the night in St. Louis. I had an appointment to interview a children’s foster care charity some time tomorrow, in Kennett, MO, and I knew that I might not have too much time to get there tomorrow. I coordinated an interview with the organization a few months ago, but I had yet to lock in the all important final coordination yet, for the actual meeting. The miles ticked by and the sun moved ever lower on the horizon. I was getting a little concerned that I wasn’t going to make it. My ETA was cutting it close, but as I drew closer to the city, traffic started backing up. Getting closer, I could see police and ambulance lights up ahead. There was a car wreck. It was on the other side of the freeway. Their side was closed down. My side was just backed up due to rubber necking. As I passed by the accident, it cleared up and traffic flowed freely again. I just might make it! Damn the sun was getting low though. I didn’t know where I was in relation to the city, so I really couldn’t judge my progress. The traffic was so light, I didn’t think I was anywhere close. Following the directions I was being given, I started moving along multiple interchanges and off ramps. I had to be close. Suddenly, there it was! That famous Arch, just over that artery of America, the Mississippi River, which provided much of the life blood for the history of our country. Looking over the river, seeing the Arch with the setting sun behind it stuck a pretty dramatic cord for me. The image cast in my memory is just downright beautiful. I still had to watch where I was going though, in order to get there. A few more turns after exiting the freeway, down the river front road, parking the bike and putting the kickstand down. In the last 5 minutes of setting light, I had made my target! I was too late to tour the monument, but just being there, just seeing this landmark in person, being able to touch the mighty Mississippi, was a bit of a moment for me.

    St Louis 11 Sep 2017 - Face Helmet_.jpg
    St Louis 11 Sep 2017 - Gateway Arch and Panigale.jpg
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  16. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 15B

    Day 14, 11 September 2017

    I didn’t stray too far from my bike at that point. I didn’t know the area and there were car going up and down the street, people wander up and down the sidewalk. It wasn’t overly busy, but behavior of the drivers suggested that this was the street where people cruised and dates were held. There was nothing overtly bad about the area, but I had loose equipment on the bike, and everything in my world, at that moment, was sitting unsecure on that motorcycle. I wandered around the area, keeping within range of Rexy. Just across the street lay the Mississippi River. Running through this relatively old city, the river had a manufactured quality to it. Rather than the natural mud or sand banks that a river would typically have, the banks of the river in this area were cobblestones for as far as the eye could see. Various debris, such as large logs had been washed upon the banks, but it was apparent that this was a waterway servicing industrial needs. You could tell that the area had been reinforced to prevent erosion which would be caused by hard use. I stood on the banks for a while, and despite knowing this wouldn’t be the cleanest water, I couldn’t resist dipping my hand in the water to end this chapter, so to speak. While I stood still, the Mississippi didn’t. The work horses of the mighty river, barges and tour boats, continued on their determined way, their wakes leaving evidence of their efforts behind them, and with the lapping waves on the shoreline.

    St Louis 11 Sep 2017 - Panigale at Mississippi River- street - Night.jpg
    St Louis 11 Sep 2017 - Panigale at Mississippi River - Night.jpg

    As I took in the sights and sounds of the river, my phone rang, the screen showing an unknown Missouri number. Answering the phone, I was greeted by a friendly female voice. This was my contact from the Delta Children’s Home, the foster charity organization I was to meet with tomorrow. We had never been in contact before. She explained to me that one of the people I had been in contact with was out of town for business, and she was asked to help me out with organizing the meeting. Times, locations, and contact details were exchanged. Though brief, we had a nice conversation and I looked forward to meeting her early the next afternoon.

    I set off again, night riding on the uneven, cobbled streets heading away from the St. Louis riverfront, an unnerving experience. Navigating my way back to the freeway, I was soon leaving the city behind, continuing my journey South in order to start my day that much closer to Kennett in the morning. Traffic in the city was surprisingly light. It was almost nonexistent. The air temperature had dropped since the sun had gone down. Correspondingly, despite having a notorious reputation for Panigale’s searing their rider, Rexy was producing less heat as well. There was enough of a temperature drop that I was getting cold on the bike, and the engine could not warm me. Intermittently, I came upon road works on the freeway which acted as a double edge sword. Since they slowed me down, the engine warmed up, and I warmed up. At the same time, the condition of the road in these areas was terrible, and I was making terrible time and distance due to the slow speeds. The road works cleared up eventually and my body temp dropped again. My body began shivering and my jaw was cramping. The sky began to mist. Despite the discomfort, I pushed on for around 115 miles. As I came upon a city called Cape Girardeau my fuel light came on. I waited for a busy looking area of the city before I decided to pull off the freeway and fill my tank.

    St Louis 11 Sep 2017 - Panigale cockpit - Night - Freeway.jpg

    Dismounting the Ducati, and breaking my riding momentum, I realized how miserable riding conditions were at the time. It was about 10 PM and I figured I had done all that was reasonably expected for the day. While I stood at the gas station, I could see several hotels in my immediate vicinity. I checked out rates, called up a couple of them and asked about availability, then left directly to go book one of the last available rooms. The restaurants in the area had closed, so a burger place “White Castle”, famous for their mini “slider” burgers, was my saving grace that night. Heading back to my room, I ate my food and turned the television on. What came on the screen didn’t matter though. I was beat. I set my camera equipment up to be charged and tucked in to my sheets, hoping for a decent recovery from the day.
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  17. goodquest

    goodquest Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    62
    Looks like some great fun, thanks for reporting.
    Setanta ADV likes this.
  18. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    Sorry for the delay folks. Life happens, of course, but I want to keep getting this story out there, and hearing your feedback as well. Thanks for sticking around!

    A Hell of a Ride – 16

    Day 15, 12 September 2017


    Kennett, Missouri was the next stop today. To get there, I would have to deal with the remnants of Hurricane Irma, which had already hammered Florida, and was now taking an unusual path for hurricanes by going deep into the central United States. I had parked Rexy under the protection offered at the front entrance of the Drury’s hotel I was staying at. Knowing I would be riding through the rain all day added an extra weight to my spirits. Having a nice warm breakfast in the lobby, including my proprietary mix of coffee and chocolate mix, was a nice start to the day. Though I had only spent a few nights in hotels by this point in my journey, I was becoming well acquainted with waffle makers which appeared to be almost universally available. Microwave or toaster waffles for breakfast? No sir! We are a high-class establishment and our standards, our clients, dictate that we offer only the best, cooked on the spot, waffles! All kidding aside, whoever came up with the idea, and the means, to safely cook self-made waffles is owed a debt of gratitude from millions of weary travelers.

    I hadn’t taken much off the bike last night, so packing was easy this morning. Bundled up, rain jacket zipped, and seams sealed, I mounted up, thumbed the ignition, and let Rexy settle into a steady idle while she warmed up a bit. There was a definite chill in the air this morning. I hoped that the often maligned heat produced by the design of the Ducati’s V-Twin engine would live up to it’s reputation today and prevent me from flirting with hypothermia. After a bit of maneuvering around some awkward intersections I made it back onto Interstate 55 and headed South. A crosswind blew across the road occasionally but was easily countered.

    So why Kennett, Missouri anyway? In Kennett, there is a charity called “The Delta Children’s Home”. The Delta Children’s Home provides foster care for children in the area who are caught up in when things go wrong with the adults in their lives. Obviously, that involves many variables. “Ok. So you are supporting this charity. Why?”, you might ask. Well, it’s a bit convoluted, but follow along if you might. Sheryl Crow, the musician, is from Kennett. My wife has been a fan of Sheryl since way back, before her career really even took off. She became friends with a few people who established a Sheryl Crow fan club early on. Several of the people running the club actually know Sheryl from doing this. Despite the baggage that comes with being an international superstar, Sheryl has never forgotten her roots. By way of recognizing, and supporting those roots, Sheryl has habitually provided support for this charity, The Delta Children’s Home. Sheryl’s fans, looking for a way to honor “the person who is not wanting for anything, yet is still having a birthday”, decided to launch an annual “Birthday drive” fundraiser in her name, with the recipient of the funds being the Delta Children’s Home. As a way to say reciprocate the gesture to her fans, Sheryl often offers a personally signed guitar, or some other memorabilia, to a lucky winner of the birthday drive fundraiser. When I conceived of this project, I had no commitments to anything or anyone. Being completely open to anything, and having contributed to this charity, through proxy, in the past, I figured, “Why not go meet the DCH and see if I can help them in person?” Reaching out to the board of directors, I was pleased to receive an invitation to come and meet with some of the representatives of the charity, and to hear more about how they help children in the area. The point of contact I was communicating with reached out to me while I was at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the night before this day, and asked if I would like to meet a local county judge who is the judge responsible for juvenile cases and appoints members to the DCH Board of Directors. I said “Of course. Just tell me where and when to meet up”. With that, the suggestion was made to meet at the Dunklin County Justice Center at 1 PM.

    Returning to my ride, I continued South on Interstate 55. Due to Hurricane Irma, the rain was steady, and grew heavier the further South I traveled, but thankfully, I was not dealing with actual hurricane conditions. A steady haze followed the roadway; mist created by the freeway traffic that I had no choice but to ride through. The land to either side of me had become farmland, soon after leaving Cape Girardeau, and was broken by interspersed forested areas. I couldn’t be sure, but the majority of the crops, from what I recall, appeared to me to be hay, which may have recently been cut and harvested. At this point in the year, the fields seemed to have been mostly cleared. Along the way, other farms seemed to be growing some sort of vegetable crops. Various farm machinery roamed the fields, even in the rain, doing their particular form of magic, which is feeding a nation as large as ours.

    Approaching a small town called “Hayti”, another sign appeared, directing me to exit from Interstate 55 and onto Highway 412, to get to Kennett. The rain, though still coming down, had been reduced to a heavy sprinkle at this point. The roads being wet and unfamiliar, I took the low speed turns with great caution. Heading down 412, the land to either side was strictly fields. The surrounding countryside somehow exuded this no-nonsense feel. This was a place where hard work was done. This was not an area where farms, and their crops, extended unchallenged to the horizon. People had scratched these farms out over the years. You could feel a certain connection to the earth here.

    Transiting through these fields, as sign flashed by. "Welcome to Kennett – Hometown of Sheryl Crow”, it proudly declared. The sign was posted on the side of the road, adjacent to a field. Soon, a home was visible. Also being passed by were a few old buildings which presumably housed some sort of roadside business, though whether they remained in business was unknown. I traveled for a mile before I saw a speed limit sign for 35 MPH, announcing I was entering the town proper. The first intersection was accompanied by the first traffic light. I gingerly took a right, again, hyperaware of the wet, changing road surfaces that I saw in the town. Greeting me at the first turn were the usual suspects of typical American fast food restaurants and strip mall grocers. Two more lefts, and another right, were taken, and I arrived at the Dunklin County Justice Center. The Justice Center housed a local jail and courtrooms, along with other government services for the area.

    Kennett MO 12 Sep 2017 - Entering Kennett Sign.jpg

    I had arrived slightly before the agreed upon 1 PM meeting time. My host had said she was scheduled for meetings through 1 PM, so despite the drizzle, I took the opportunity to stretch my legs a bit and check up on some email and social media. I would not be staying the night in Kennett. My next scheduled destination was to be in Kansas the next day. The ride would be long, and I wanted to get as close to the destination as I was able, so I began an initial map recon of the route I would be taking, looking for potential towns to bed down in tonight.

    I texted my host to let her know that I had arrived an was ready to meet, whenever she was. Almost immediately, I received a response telling that she was on her way out to meet me. A side door opened and a woman in business clothes stepped through, and into the light rain. I was sure I presented a much less professional appearance. I was tired. I was cold, wet, and shivering. I was covered in grit and muck from the road and the weather. She greeted me warmly and I returned to her as an enthusiastic greeting as I could muster. Removing my wet leather riding glove, I offered her what I’m sure was the coldest, clammiest, handshake she had ever received. My repulsiveness never registered in her demeanor at all. I knew I was in the company of a good person.

    I was brought indoors, through security, and into a vacant courtroom to await the meeting with Judge Preyer. Being in a clean, dry, environment for the first time in several hours, I attempted to not make a mess as I stripped off my outer layers and broke out my camera gear. My host and I exchanged small talk and got to know a little bit about each other. Before too long, Judge Preyer came in and introduced himself. A large man, you could easily imagine him crushing opponents on the football field in his youth. At once, you could tell he a force of presence, that certain air that some people have, that commanded respect, with or without his symbols of office.

    I was impressed with the amount of time Judge Preyer had set aside for me. More than an interview, we had a nice chat while I let the camera run. The conversation came naturally. There were no partisan talking points, no blaming others. He provided the unique insights of the surrounding community, which cut across all social strata, that someone in his unique position gains over the years. In court, you can try putting on a different face, but all information is laid bare. We talked about much in the community, about situations that affect families in such a way that there is a need for a children’s foster home to protect the most vulnerable. There was one particular element of the DCH that I greatly admired, and thought was worth sharing. Back in 1966, when the DCH was first started in Kennett, there was no government support for a local foster home. No funds were provided to the community for this endeavor, for whatever reason. The local community saw a need to protect local children that was being unmet. Rather than just moan because the government didn’t do something for them, at whatever level, the members of the community took it upon themselves to fix the problem. They established the DCH, set up a board of directors to manage the project, contributed donations to fund the DCH, and created ways to maintain this charity through the years. There is obviously much more to the story, but I thought it was a wonderful example of a community taking matters in their own hands and refusing to let an obstacle keep them from doing what they knew needed to be done.

    Another area of discussion I thought was interesting was immigrants in the local community. Living in a borderline rural community in NC, I am aware of the fact that there are a high number of seasonal immigrants around due to the agricultural industry and the jobs that industry needs fulfilled. I also had taken notice of people from urban areas making statements toward their belief that towns in rural areas “lack diversity”. In my home town, life was happening and I never really stopped to consider that. Now, that I was away from my home turf, I was becoming a keen observer of the environments I was passing through, and the humanity that dwelled there. In my brief time on the streets of Kennett, even on a rainy day, I observed more than one face peering through misty automobile glass that was a shade darker than white. I asked the Judge about the community in this regard, and he confirmed my suspicions; Kennett was far more ethnically diverse than people from outside the community would suspect, and the people who lived there were getting together fine. I would file this observation from the “Bootheel” of Missouri away, and compare it time and again as I passed through the “flyover” states of America.

    IMG_5196.JPG

    Judge Preyer’s time with me was at an end, and I needed to continue moving forward myself. I thanked himself and my host profusely. The conversation was enlightening, genuine, and sincere. They were the kind of people I would like to call friends. We said our goodbyes and I made my way back outside the Justice Center. The rain was falling still. I considered stopping to get some fuel before I got on the road, but the Panigale still had around half a tank left. I opted to get on the road quickly and sort out my fuel state along the way, rather that dwell in the area and find new things to occupy the day’s time. Glancing at the time on my phone, I noted that it was 3:43 PM. I needed to get to Kansas, but that was another 500 miles that wasn’t going to be completed today. I determined to push on and get as close as I could today. My body would tell me where the day would end.

    I took Highway 25 out of town, passing within a few miles of the Arkansas border. I considered passing through Arkansas on the way to Kansas, but with the weather, and several additional hours of time added, I begrudgingly decided against it. Leaving the larger town of Kennett behind, I began to see a different kind of Missouri than what you see from the freeway leading to St. Louis. There were other kinds of diversity out here. Houses provided bookends for fields of cotton balls, and mobile home estates sprung up from amongst fruit tree orchards. The “larger” size towns that I passed through, such as Holcomb, advertised populations in the 600s. It was in Holcomb that I branched away from Highway 25 and turned on to Highway 53, heading further West.

    I had already attempted to refuel the bike, but the first gas station, which also appeared to be the only business in the immediate area, offered only the lowest grade gas. I continued on. I wasn’t at emergency levels, so I thought better of slumming it with the cheap stuff, just yet. It wasn’t much further before I began to actually worry though. Happening upon a town called Campbell, I tried my luck again at finding some decent gas. The “Express” had it. It also had just about everything else imaginable, just in very small quantities. This was the kind of place that was independently run and tripled as a gas station, grocery store, and pizzeria, in it’s own rustic way. The town of Campbell was nice enough. The local high school was very nice looking. The town did have an odd feature. Odd for this day and age anyway. We have an old saying here in America about coming from “the wrong side of the tracks”. The town of Campbell literally had railroad tracks running directly through the middle of it, effectively splitting the town in two distinct “sides”. I didn’t explore enough to determine if the saying still applied or not.

    I couldn’t help but wonder what people did for work out here. There was obviously farming, and there was the occasional building for an independent business of some sort, or the local used car lot, but where were the businesses that could keep a town like this alive, not to mention all the people living on the outskirts of it. We weren’t near a big city that people would be commuting to anymore. The further out I traveled in the rural areas of Missouri, the deeper that mystery would become for me.

    Tank full, I assumed my familiar position on Rexy again, and continued on down the road, over bridge spanning the distinctive railroad tracks. I eventually left behind the “lush” farming fields, and began entering a denser forested area. This soon became the proverbial “back woods” that people talk about, and the living conditions showed it. More than once, I passed by trailer homes sitting by themselves on the side of the highway. They were always surrounded by forest, with no workable fields nearby. On occasion, I passed through small clusters of buildings which I assumed were the scaled down towns of the area. Scanning for clues which would allow me to understand the lives of the people in these areas, I saw something unexpected in 2017 America. Internet cafes. Internet cafes! These relics were actual businesses that were still operating in this day and age. In order for a business to remain in operation, it required regular customers. Why would people frequent an internet café unless they, themselves, were without computer or internet?

    In the larger scheme of events, this is a small detail. It did however, stand out as a significant detail to me. The further I went through this region, I had traveled far enough by now that this wasn’t just an anomaly, the more I was convinced that people in the “mainstream” of American society had no idea what was going on out here, and in other places like this around the country. It occurred to me that I might just be in a forgotten area of the country. There was no denying that for 100 miles around, this area was genuinely poor, but did anybody of significance even know about it? I had seen an heard of the plight of poor sections of major cities for decades, and rightfully so. People had taken up the cause for these people though. People were aware, they were just at odds as to what should be done for the plight of our cities. What about these areas though? Badmouthing the poor people in the “backwoods” of America has been almost a national past time for those “city people” who see themselves as so cultured and superior to the “hillbillies” and “country bumpkins” you would find out here. Has anyone come out to see if they could help these people? Where are the large scale government programs? Where is the incentive to get employers and factories into these areas to make sure people have jobs? Where are the “Rural American economic plight” awareness campaigns? Do the people here even want any of that?

    A saying exists that “Ignorance is bliss”. In this day and age, people are more likely to be informed than ever before, even if that is happening in an internet café. I had detected a sense of unease in rural parts of the country that I had passed through already. There was a simmering resentment at how people in cities always seemed to look down on them and assume the worst about the rural communities that these same people would never be inclined to visit. Putting myself in the shoes of the genuinely poor areas I was now traveling through, I could imagine that resentment turning into legitimate anger. Everybody wants to feel that they matter. Don’t believe me? Look at the comments under any random political posting. Everyone there is convinced they have the right answer to whatever the question is. Imagine now, how frustrating it would be if you were trying to engage in a conversation, but your comments were invisible. That’s how this place seemed to me in this moment, that this was an area of America that had just been forgotten. “City people” didn’t even know that the people out here existed.

    A theory began to form in my mind. We all know that the divisiveness we feel in our country right now is between the Republicans and the Democrats, right? That’s what seems most obvious, at least to the point that it’s not really questioned. What if those two parties are just two rich city kids, squabbling about things to keep themselves entertained? Perhaps a different divide exists that we don’t even know about. What happens when those two rich kids see the poor country kid show up in their school? We’ve all seen that film before right… The thought that occurred to me that day, as the rain picked up again and the light was fading, was that perhaps we are actually dealing with a larger, cultural battle, and we don’t even know it. Rather than being Republicans VS Democrats, we are actually beginning to see “City People” VS “Country People”. Of course there are political parallels as well, but when I think back to recent political news commentary, a common statement repeated itself in my mind; “People are tired of being ignored”.

    Did this constitute definitive proof of anything? No, of course not. It was merely the speculation of a guy who’s seen a lot in his life and was therefore trying to see life from another angle. The thought, and variations of it, bounced around in my head the rest of the night and kept me company. This was a new theory of mine. I couldn’t recall hearing it from anyone else before. I decided to keep the theory close to the surface of my mind and apply the idea to future communities I passed through in the future, to see if the idea held any water. My stomach decided it was time to pull over somewhere and get something warm to eat. The sudden glowing fuel light further drove that decision home. The first place I saw was a rural stand-alone gas station which doubled as the local McDonald’s. Mickey D’s it was then! While there, I started thinking about where the hell I was going to sleep that night. It was past 8 PM already and I was in the middle of nowhere, or at least a place doing a decent impression of it. I pulled out my phone and searched for locations that would let me get back on the road and make tracks efficiently, in the morning. Joplin, the city devastated by tornadoes a few years back, was an obvious choice, but the hotels there were more expensive than the nearby community of Carthage. I set my route to the Econo Lodge, finished “the best meal I ever had”, and stepped outside to continue my journey. It was pouring rain… Damn it!

    MO 12 Sep 2017 - MO - curvy road.jpg

    The pouring rain? Yeah, it didn’t stop for quite a while. I was at a point in the ride too, where I was getting some high speed freeway action through hill country and winding roads. Rexy was handling everything like a champ though, so I let her have her head. The speed was good, and easy. So much so that I had to remind myself not to get carried away trying to speed into my stopping point for the night, and the comfort of a dry bed. The rain continued on steady and the only illumination on the road was my headlight and the occasional light of my fellow travelers. There were many tractor-trailers hauling their loads along the road with me. I eventually came upon a fellow motorcyclist, braving the rain like myself. He too was riding alone, but he was on a machine that was much better suited to poor weather and terrain. He was riding a BMW GS, though his speed was much less than mine. He may have just been traveling more safely than I was, but there was something nervous about his riding that didn’t give me that impression. As dark as the night was, I figured I would ride along with him for a while and cast some light over his shoulder, to try to aid him. We carried on this way for a while, but he continued to ride at slow speed. Eventually, we began to be overtaken by the tractor trailers by a fair margin. I wasn’t comfortable with that. I decided to pull off, make my own way again, and pick up the pace. Before leaving, I pulled up along side him and gave him the “Thumb up / thumb down” sign, to see if he was possibly having any trouble with his bike. He gave me a thumbs up in reply. I gave him the nod and continued making my way alone.

    MO 12 Sep 2017 - MO - Night w MC GS rider.jpg

    I had come upon the Interstate freeway again, at some point after passing Springfield. Interstate 44. I was riding far enough today that I needed my 3rd fill up. This one would hopefully sustain me for the night and allow me to just hop on the road in the morning. I was somewhere, it was late at night on a Tuesday, and the streets were dead. Exiting, I had my choice of fuel stations this time, so my choice was made on ease of exit. Going through the usual routine, a car full of young fellas pulled up to the station from the direction of the town, to use the market it appeared. Their car passed by slowly on the way in. One of the guys took an interest in Rexy and offered a “Nice bike”. “Thanks” I replied simply. Keeping an eye on them, they wandered around a bit, didn’t appear to buy anything, then loaded up and left in the car. It was a bit out of sorts, but nothing that would keep me hanging around any further. Back on the road I went.

    Carthage, and the Econo Lodge, were another 30-40 miles down the road. I eventually pulled in as it was approaching midnight. I was wrecked tired and just wanted to get Rexy parked in a safe place where she could rest for the night. I pulled up to the first parking space near the office. Fortunately, I was assigned the room associated with this space. Not so fortunate was all the roof and siding renovation work that was happening directly over my room, in the demolition stage, and all the nails that had been scattered around the sidewalk in front of my room, and even better yet, into the parking space which Rexy was now occupying. Yes, I was pissed. For a moment, I considered moving her out of the space and into an area further away. The moment passed and I figured if any damage was done, it would be done already and there was nothing I could do about it. Best to let he stay put in case I had lucked out, and I would sweep up the nails in the area in the morning, when I could see properly. It was not the way I wanted to end the day though.
  19. FangitAshmo

    FangitAshmo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    69
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I thought this may happen once you hit the rural areas. I don’t want to sound presumptuous, and excuse me if I do, though speaking from Australian experience we have become a urbanised society - our historical heart and culture are founded in the “bush” but the connections between our rural pioneer past, and the present are becoming opaque, as our society haas become more urbanised. I see this in my kids, when I relate stories of my childhood in the 60’s. They cannot relate to that time. The “bushies” become more marginalised as the political power and influence centres around the urban centres - rural issues become subducted to irrelevancy by our elected representatives. Country towns wither and die due to the loss of jobs and opportunity for the young generation. The family farm is under pressure, if not a historical artefact. Technology is making manual labour, which sustained many, and the skills and necessary improvisation a memory. Those that cannot, or will not, adjust become marginalised. All this has occurred in my life time, and I can just remember Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. I am enjoying your quest. I am confident you may find the true pulse of your nation in the country. I sense our urban lifestyle corrupts. This is why I take solace in solo motorcycle riding. Regards. Ash.
  20. kojack06

    kojack06 Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,068
    Location:
    Temple, TX
    Amen. People know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    Setanta ADV, bobw and FangitAshmo like this.