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Posts Tagged ‘big sky country’

I keep forgetting to finish this series so it’s about time I do the last installment….

continued from part 6

After waiting a couple of extra days following the events of 9/11 and volunteering the back seat of my bike, when the woman who was semi-interested finally got a ride from her family, I decided that it was about time to resume my plans to head back to Detroit.  (among other things, staying the extra two days cost me more money and was starting to dwindle my bank-reserve that was set aside for a shorter trip)

Tire wear

Motorcycle tire wear

Whereas my trip out there was planned to include the stops in Kansas via a southern route diagonally through Illinois then across southern Missouri, I had planned on taking I-80/90 back through Nebraska, Iowa and on to Chicago before taking I-94 the rest of the way back to the Detroit area.

One of the things I noticed before leaving was that the trip out, not to mention the week’s worth of extensive riding through Denver had worn my rear tire down until some of the steel cords were poking out in a few places.  (I’m sure the sideways riding through Kansas didn’t help this much nor the 15 mile long construction SE of Denver on the way into Colorado)  To make matters worse, as I get on the eastward expressway in Nebraska, almost the entire way across the state is corrugated pavement and there is about a 20 mph headwind (which was bizarre in itself as the wind would usually be going east bound but I was sandwiched between two storm fronts in spite of the fact the sky was blue from horizon to horizon)

The ride itself was surreal.  As I mentioned, on the way out being on a motorcycle with out-of-state plates and with a backpack strapped to the back seat tended to be a conversation starter at the hourly stops for gas.  Well now you were commuting on the expressways with a number of people that had to make impromptu trips to Denver to pick up loved ones.  Truck traffic also spiked because planes were still grounded so there were a LOT of OTR drivers out and about working extra-heavy schedules with tighter deadlines.

News was still coming in on a daily basis and since a couple of days had passed, most of the truck stops and gas stations along the expressway had adjusted to accommodate the OTR and other traveler’s demands for up-to-date information.  Every stop along the way had TV’s set on counters and hung in every corner – at least half-a-dozen or more per stop.  Just about every single stop.  And it was quickly obvious why.  Every TV had at least 4-5 people standing around it, mostly truckers and the occasional person on their way to get someone or on their way back with someone.

Listening to the radio for news only got them so far.  Everyone wanted to get the various television network news when they stopped in to get gas or to get food.  They were listening to the news and needed to ‘see’ whatever had been reported over the last few hours.

a10 thunderbolt

A-10 Thunderbolt

To make things further surreal, I kept getting a weird sense that something was out of sorts.  Nebraska was still big-sky country being reasonably flat, even though there seemed to be a few more intermingled trees and foothills from time to time.  A whole lotta blue over head on such a nice fall day.  It didn’t strike me what it was that was wrong until I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was an A-10 Thunderbolt flying like a bat out of hell.  It suddenly hit me – no planes the sky, not a single contrail from horizon to horizon.  I saw one more A-10 before stopping for the night and the only other aircraft I saw was a blackhawk helicopter.

My hope for that leg of the trip was to make it to Omaha on the first day but by the time I was getting close to Lincoln, Nebraska the tires were showing significantly more wear than I had hoped.  I had to stop to try to get it fixed and wasn’t even sure if I had enough money to do it and still have gas money to get back home.  I had 2 checks waiting for me now when I got there, but they didn’t do me a lot of good when I was still three states away.

I pulled off in Lincoln after talking to someone at a rest stop and being told there was a cycle dealer off the second exit.  I saw a Motel 6 just as I pulled off and the cycle dealer was only a few blocks up.  Perfect!  I dropped the bike off and got an estimate on the tire then walked down to the Motel 6 with my backpack and laptop.

After getting a room I immediately hopped online and jumped into some of the chat rooms where some of the Detroiters I knew tended to hang out.  None of the regulars were in there, but there was someone I knew and when I explained the situation, she said she would help me out and that I could pay her back when I cashed my check upon arriving home.  When I picked up the bike the next day, we called her up and she put the cost of the tire on her credit card for me.

My other plan (besides trying to make Omaha) had been to try to get out extra early on the second morning but the process of getting the tire mounted held me off until about 11 AM Lincoln time (and I was ‘losing’ an hour of daylight by heading east this time).  To make matters worse, the second batch of cool and drizzly weather was starting to move in and I really wanted to get ahead of it as it looked like rather steady rain a day behind it.  When the tire was finally done, I hit the road and put the hammer down.

It had been cloudy since I woke up and the air was starting to cool down and there was an occasional drizzle of rain.  On my few stops, I kept doing the math on my gas.  The headwind in Nebraska had also used up a little more gas than I had wanted to use.  My budget was getting tighter and tighter.  I had so little money left that I was worried of not having enough gas to make Detroit.  My meal for the day literally consisted of a bag of chips and two cans of vienna sausages!  It was all I could afford with what cash I had left in my pocket.

I made one other miscalculation in my plans.  I didn’t realize that I-80 turned into toll-turnpike for about a 5 mile stretch before it joined with I-94.  I had no cash on me as I didn’t know I’d need it and I’d spent the last of what greenbacks I had to catch dinner in Lincoln and to get the vienna sausages and chips.  I had to sign a ‘voucher’ to the city of Chicago in order to be able to get through the toll booth and then send in payment after I got home! lol

Heat!

By the time I got into SE Michigan, nightfall was already creeping in and the air was cooling down.  Before I was even out of St. Joseph County, I had to pull over at the first rest area and pull some of my extra clothes out of my bag and layer up.  The temperature had dropped down into the lower 50’s and a mist was rolling in as night fell.  The combination of the colder temps, the moisture ever present on my skin and clothing and the air rushing by made it near intolerable!  By the time I was going through Albion I was freezing my ass off and had to keep stopping at every rest stop to blast the air dryers down my shirt and pants!  It must have been quite a site.

I ended up rolling into Wayne at around 3am.  I think I mentioned I was just staying in a temporary ‘motel’ at the time after a nightmare with a psycho-roommate.  I didn’t want to wake up the folks that ran the place so I just camped out in car until morning, got my checks and got back into a room.

I met up with my friend and paid her back a few days later.  A week or so after that, I moved out to my current residence in Ypsilanti.  I don’t remember if I ever sent the money to the Chicago turnpike or not!  lol

All in all, it was quite a trip that makes for quite a story!

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