The North East Color Tour

The North East Color Tour

OR

The Ride Goes On Forever

Over the years and rides we have seen many sites, some great, some not so great, most of them interesting. Among those, we have caught the Aspens at just the right time in the Rockies. Independence pass would be hard to top. One of the most overlooked views is the turning of the Cottonwoods in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. However, neither of us had seen the turning of the hardwoods in New England, specifically Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

So, it was that we decided we would venture out and see that event. After much checking we decided that the last week of September and the first week of October would be the best time. We adjusted schedules, assembled and prepared whatever was necessary and headed out.

I left OKC early in the morning of Sept. 24. I left early as it was a full moon and I dearly enjoy riding across the flatlands under a full moon, and it was a fine ride. After a gear check, great meal and a good nights sleep we departed Littleton at the crack of 7:30 or so. Other than a good breakfast in Ft Morgan the first notable stop of the day was to be Carhenge north of Alliance Neb.

But, as is often the case we found something a little interesting along the way. We passed a sign that IMG_1653said “Mud Springs State Park”, 2.5 miles to the west. Who could pass that up? So, a bit of dirt road riding and here is what we found.

At one time this site was a remount station for the Pony Express. This is all there is to the site. It is down a dirt and fairly deep sand road onto private land, all rather laid back.

SAM_0043This is Old Blue, or so we named him. He lives at the house next to the marker and apparently just wanted to say hi and make sure we were not up to anything we shouldn't be.

After that little side trip we moved on, heading foIMG_1656r Carhenge. This was my second stop at Carhenge. First off, I again re-learned not to trust all maps. It was only a 30 mile mistake, but we did find Carhenge. Carhenge has its own website, but basically it was built by family and friends of one individual on land donated for that purpose. It is one of several Stonehenge replicas around the country.

As a side note, there is an actual, although much smaller, replica at the University of Missouri in Rolla. Also, the one in Rolla is supposed to be placed exactly as the one in England. I doubt Carhenge is that precise.

After a short visit we saddled up and headed down the road. Out in this part of the country, covering lots of miles is not difficult. However, there are a lot of miles to cover. It was evident from the scenery that it had been a fairly wet summer as everything that should be green was and there were plenty of bugs out eating their veggies.

We crossed into South Dakota at Pine Ridge and headed east across the Rosebud reservation. The town of Pine Ridge looked a little rough but all in all the reservation was well taken care of. The road we were on did not cross the badlands part of this area so it was a scenic and pleasant ride. We were planning on making it to Pierre for the night, but as darkness approached, as well as a tired butt and lots of mule deer alongside the road, we called it quits in Murdo.

The next morning, it was cool, but not cold as we moved out, ever to the NE. The countryside was not what I had expected. I was expecting lots of wide open spaces and lots of cows all over. What we had was wide open spaces, lots of sunflower, corn, and soybean fields with miles and miles of irrigation systems and not all that many cows or people. We crossed the Missouri at Pierre (pronounced Pier as in where you tie up a boat), and headed out in search of Frisbee SD. Frisbee is on my National Geographic mapping program, but is not in Mapquest, Google Earth or the official South Dakota road map. For no reason other than the name, I wanted to see Frisbee, so off we went.

This part of the country has a very high water table as evidenced by all of the marshes all around. In addition, they recently had several inches of rain which was, as we rode through, causing a lot of flooding to the SE of where we were. As a result of that or some other reason, the road going by Frisbee was closed. It looked like a bridge was out, and if I had been on the BMW I might have tried to get through. While the Honda will handle mild dirt and gravel, it seriously does not like mud, so we turned around and missed Frisbee.

We crossed into North Dakota at Ellendale and headed east crossing into Minnesota at Wahpeton and almost immediately the landscape changed. It went from mostly flat prairies with large farms and fields to gently rolling hills with small fields and farms. All of this is related to the last round of glaciations which took a large part of Canada to Minnesota and beyond. On we rode enjoying the view until out of the blue with no warning signs or anything, we ran across a large foot on the south side of the road.

SAM_0059We were entering Vining Minnesota. There was no sign or anything and there sitting along the side of the road was a 10’ tall foot. Now, no way were we going to pass this up. It turns out that a guy, who the sign said was a retired construction worker, had a lot of time on his hand.

He obviously is also a very talented sculptor and metal worker. I did not count the total number of sculptures but there were a bunch. According to the signs, the sculptures were given to Vining. One would think there was some money changing hands somewhere, but who knows.

This one is of, as the sign says, Karen Nyberg an astronaut. According to what we read, Karen Nyberg is the sculptor’s daughter.SAM_0068

It is truly amazing what you can see if you ride along and look.

While we are traveling around we long ago decided that it made no sense to see how much we could suffer. With that in mind we try to end the day with a good meal and a drink. Finding a good restaurant on the road is seldom a sure thing. After exploring Vining we decided to spend the night in Park Rapids. The attendant at the motel directed us to a place on the north side of town, and it turned out to be a nice one. Bobbe had some walleye that she said was pretty good and mine was also good. All followed by another toast to a very interesting day.

The next morning was one of the coolest so far, and it was a little cloudy. It was a short ride down the road to Bemidji where we rode over the Mississippi River.

IMG_1663This is the whole Mississippi River, about 100’ or so across. It is somewhat smaller than we are used to a little further south.

As you might have guessed, it is not all that far to the Mississippi’s headwaters.

By now, it was overcast, cool, and really looking like it was wanting to rain. We stopped for gas in Big Falls and got into most of the rain gear, well, at least Bobbe did.

When we left Big Falls the clouds were looking rough but I was of the opinion the storm would go to the west of us. When it started with the lightening (lots and lots of lightening), wind and rain I was starting to think my opinion might not be correct. We pulled into a Subway/gas station in what I think was Littlefork and met the only unfriendly person we met on the whole trip. We were going to get into the rest of the rain gear, but not only could we not use the tables, we could not use the restrooms or anything else. Now, sometimes we are a little slow but we took the hint and went outside to put on our gear with Bobbe including the electric liner, for the first time. After that, true to form, it did not rain much.

We crossed into Canada at International Falls with little trouble, other than dodging the trains. This is pretty much a commercial crossing with pulp mills on each side. There were train tracks all over the place with signs saying watch out, the trains are automated. Meaning if you stop in front of a train you are going to get run over.

We successfully negotiated the obstacles, visited the money changers, picked up a couple of maps and headed towards Thunder Bay. We stayed in the rain gear the rest of the day. The rain was normally not heavy but heavy enough. One little place was interesting where they were working on the road. Riding the Honda on mud is always interesting.

One we went, the scenery was interesting. This is the Canadian Shield area with very little soil available. As a result, there is little agriculture but there are lots of trees; pines, beeches (called Aspens in Colorado) and bunches of others we didn’t know the name of. There are also lots of lakes, some small, some large. This is also the land of what Canada calls First Nation people (Native American) and their towns have very long names that hopefully someone can pronounce as we sure could not. The towns are also set back off of the road. You see a sign and there will be a road, but you have to pull off to see what if anything is down there. If you are looking for food or gas, you might get lucky or maybe not, as there will be no signs along the highway.

The road we were on, and look at a map and you will see it is the only one, was mostly good. But, Canada believes in low speed limits. Out on the open highway in this area, the speed limit was mostly 90 KPH which is about 55 MPH. In this area, most of the folks were staying close to the limit. When someone would pass us I would drop in behind them but they were seldom running much past 65 mph or so. We were getting into some color in the Beeches, but the area was mostly pines.

We had decided to spend the night in Thunder Bay. We pulled in and thought we would ride around the city to see if we could see the harbor. We didn’t get that done but we did see some “interesting” parts of the city. We pulled into a Travel Lodge motel, got settled in and then closed the day with another nice meal and a drink or two.

Let me give a word about motels in Canada. In the large cities you have the normal chains. In the small towns all you have are the small mom and pop motels. As near as I can figure, for anything that probably doesn’t have bedbugs you are going to pay over $100. The only exception I have seen to this is last year when I was in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the price was not much lower there.

The next morning we headed out of Thunder Bay for places unknown to the east. Originally we were going to go to Nipigon, which sounds Japanese but isn't, where the road splits and take the north road. However, at a breakfast stop we talked with a friendly trucker and his advice was that unless you just liked looking at trees we should take the south road. He also said to visit Old City Quebec, but that would come later.

As we already had lots of experience looking at trees and could recognize one most of the time, we took his advice and took the south road. As a glance at a map will show, the road runs along the north shore of Lake Superior and there were all sorts of view of the lake with scenic harbors and all. What we did not see, which we both thought strange, was little evidence that the lakes or woods were much used for recreation or for that matter, anything. Every now and then we would see a float plane or two, but no signs about sail or fish here or snow machine, snowshoe, ski tours or anything similar. Perhaps those things are there, but they certainly are not advertised.

It was a little cool and overcast with a few sprinkles now and then. Not cold, but after a period of time you get chilled and it makes riding not so much fun. So, we got into the electric gear and found something Bobbe considered important. Either her vest worked or her gloves worked, but not both. This was a bit of a surprise. With my liner I have one plug coming in and the vest and gloves work off of the one line. There is plug you can use if you have pants liners, but I didn't bring those. This plug will become very important soon.

With Bobbe’s liner you have two plugs coming in, one for the liner and a separate one for the gloves. Without a splitter of some type you had juice to the gloves or the liner but not both. Why it is designed this way I have no idea, it must make sense to someone and of course, as this was a new liner, we should have checked this out before we left. Now, remember the outlet plug on my vest? I had brought an extension cord for Bobbe so she could access things a little better. It worked out that I could plug the extension into my pants outlet and then into Bobbe’s second plug, and presto, everyone had warm everything. The only downside was it was a bit of a pain to get everything hooked up and once everything was hooked up we could not move much without unplugging Bobbe. This was not much of a problem to me, but it was to her.

After that fix, we moved along. The trees were showing more color, but it was mostly from the Beeches. As mentioned, it was also overcast so with no sun, the colors, while pretty, were pretty subdued.

We made it down to Wawa and then headed east on one of the nicest roads so far. There was very little traffic and the road just rolled over hill and dale. At one point an oncoming truck flashed his lights. I thought he was telling me about a cop and I slowed down. Off to our right were two moose, one a bull with a full grown rack. We turned around and went back, but they were reluctant to pose and ran back in the trees. Not too much past this we were following another truck when he slowed. I saw what appeared to be a grizzly running into the woods. So, the wildlife was around, they just would not pose. On down the road we went, Bobbe with her camera ready to shoot a photo of Bullwinkle. Alas, the photo op was not to be.

After a bit we started seeing signs of civilization, we were coming into the City of Timmins, which, if you didn’t know, and we did not, is the home town of Shania Twain as the sign just outside of town says. Timmins also has a couple of gold mines, possibly more. We later learned that this area has mines all over the place. The John Deere dealers do not stock tractors and plows but dozers and track hoes, big ones. We checked into a not so great motel and had a similar Italian meal and called it a day.

The next morning dawned cool with possibility of clearing. As I took the bike over to get gas I saw a sign about a gold mine tour and rode over to see what it was. It turns out to be an exhausted gold mine that you can tour, but before you can do the mine, you have to tour the Shania Twain museum. We didn’t do it, but it would be interesting to learn how that combination came to be.

As we went on it became obvious that the promise of clearing was not to be. We crossed into Quebec and several things immediately became obvious, one being that folks in Quebec do not pay much attention to the posted speed limits which was fine with us. We found a pilot fish and moved on down the road. Also, we started seeing signs of farming. This was interesting as the land has not changed; the people just started farming it. Another being that in towns, the people like porches, big porches. However, most of the economy appeared to still be based on the mining.

We stopped in Rouyn-Noranda for gas and coffee and were looking at the maps. The route we wanted to ride did not show a lot of towns along the way and we were wondering about gas. We decided if we could gas up at Louvicourt we could make it all of the rest of the way on what we carried. We did get gas and a good meal at Louvicourt and as we were leaving town there was a sign saying the next gas was 125 KM.

It was a very nice ride, although still cool and overcast. By now we were deep into Quebec and it was very obvious that English was the second, at best, language. We did not run into anyone who could not speak English, but it was obvious French was their first language and language of choice. In most of the rest of Canada the road signs are in English and French. Not so in most of Quebec, the signs were in French and that was it. So, with pretty much no options, we dealt with it.

The ride from Louvicourt was nice, but, there was not much out there, towns or otherwise. As we got back into civilization we ran across a La Quinta motel, which is on Bobbe’s approved list and we called it a day. They had a pretty good restaurant and bar so we didn’t have to get back into the gear for a meal. One interesting thing, when you order a Jack Daniels and coke there, they bring you a glass with the coke, and another with the Jack it in. You then either pour them together or not, as you wish. However, again I came up against adversity, assessed the situation, solved the problem and soldiered on.

Shortly after we left the next morning we hit the rain. After the conversation with the trucker back in Nipigon we were heading to Quebec City which, fortunately was not very far. We stopped for gas on the loop around Montreal, put on the rest of the rain gear, took a deep breath and headed out. There is not much to say about the ride, it rained and we rode. It was a mostly good four lane road without much traffic so that wasn’t too bad. That is, except the tar strips. When they repair the road they pour tar into the cracks. If those cracks go across the road 90 degrees to the way you are traveling there isn’t much affect. However, if they run in the direction of travel it gets interesting if you are on a bike. The friction co-efficient of wet tar must be right up there with glare ice. It causes the front wheel to slide around enough to get unnerving to say the least. You have to pay very close attention all of the time.

Several times in the past I have commented about the road signs, or more correctly, the lack of in Canada. Well, true to form, shortly after following the correct route, we thought. We found ourselves on some unknown road in the middle of Quebec City, and it was raining harder. We flopped around a bit, took a marked highway south and stumbled across the old city, which we wanted to see anyway, and (bless them) an information center. I went in and dripped all over their floor and counter and got some directions. We went on down a main road and there were the motels so we checked in early.

We were mostly dry, but only mostly. We arranged the gear to dry out and after decompressing a bit, went across the road for a meal. The place was mainly a meat market and the food reflected that, but the drinks were good. After that it was back to the motel to check out the weather forecast, and it was not all that good. It was supposed to rain all the next day and then clear, and, oh yeah; they were having flooding down in Vermont and New Hampshire where we were heading. The next morning, we awoke to the pitter patter of rain drops all over everything with the same forecast as yesterday. We occasionally make a good decision, and so decided to lay off a day and check out the city. With a choice of doing it in the rain, on the bike, we booked a tour that included a tour of the city and also, the Titanic exhibit. While I would not count myself as a fan of guided tours, considering everything, it turned out to be one of our better choices.

The bus turned up on schedule, and off we went.

Quebec is a very old city, one of, if not the, oldest in Canada. For most of Canada’s history it was the capital of the country. When it was founded they built a big wall around the city and built everything inside the walls. All of that is still there and that was mostly the tour.

IMG_1665This is a photo of the old capital building with the fountain in front of it. The city was founded back in early 1700 something, and there are statues all over the place to Lord this and that or General someone or other.

IMG_1674This is one of General someone. We took this from inside the tour bus, and we were dry. The interesting part is all of those people who were wandering around in the rain. I would be hard pressed to do that. Also, as I said, this is a very old part of the city, and the roads are not very wide. We were in a small tour bus, Ford F450, but there were all sorts of Greyhound sized buses driving through these very narrow streets and the traffic was a mess.

One of the places we visited was this high bluff where they had a IMG_1666battle for something in the early 1700s. It is the highest place in Quebec with a great view of the St. Lawrence River. Another name for the river is the St. Lawrence Seaway in that it does carry large ocean going ships. This is a photo of one of those ships, and, considering the conditions, is actually a good photo. I included it to give you an idea as to how hard it was raining. About this time I was patting myself on the back for being smart enough to not be riding or walking around in the rain.

We continued with the tour and it was all interesting, if not a little overwhelming. We were then dropped off at the Titanic exhibit. This is a traveling exhibit put on by the company that has the salvage rights to the ship. There are several tours going on in different cities. The exhibit was very interesting and well done. Part of the exhibit had to do with the construction of the ship and the voyage then it shifted to recovered items. It was very interesting to see the actual items they had recovered from the wreck site. They would not let you take photos, so there is nothing to show.

IMG_1671After the exhibit, it was close to two and we had not eaten so we went looking for something to eat. This little street was a short walk from the building. I thought this made a nice picture. Bobbe had found a soap shop. Not being into soap I had some time to kill and took the photo.

We had a nice lunch in a pizzeria type place and then, after a few hitches, caught the tour bus back to the motel.

The next morning dawned cool and sort of overcast. However, it was not raining so we loaded up and headed towards Bar Harbor, Maine.

Shortly after leaving Quebec City we pulled off of the 4 lane looking for gas and a place to eat. There was a little townSAM_0115 to the east so we rode over to see if there was a restaurant. There wasn’t but this was, I thought, a nice photo op.

We didn’t find a restaurant, but we did get some gas and headed on down the road. The sun didn’t last too long and evidence was all around as to the recent rains. The rivers and creeks were mostly running bank full, but the roads were dry. We stopped and had a nice breakfast in, I think, Beauceville. That is the first and only place I have ever had pork and beans served with eggs and hash browns. There was also an interesting tasting piece of something that we both tasted but neither ate.

We crossed back into the US at the top of a ridge. It was still overcast, but now was windy and approaching cold. The trees were getting more color but it was still dull due to no sun. As we headed south, we dropped off the ridge, it warmed up and the sun came out.

SAM_0120This is one of my favorite photos of the trip. As you can see, it has cleared up nicely.

We were on the road to Bar Harbor, which was Bobbe’s idea. When I ask her why she wanted to go there her answer was, nothing in particular, she just wanted to. It sounded like a good idea to me, so we headed SE. Plus, the idea of a nice lobster dinner sounded pretty good.

We used a Maine map to ride some very interesting back roads until we intersected Highway One. Along the way the views were interesting.

The ride down these side roads also brought up an interesting question. Namely, what do the folks who live in Maine do for money?

Obviously a lot of them try to make a living selling antiques, running restaurants and motels and all that sort of stuff. However, there are a lot of large houses and those cannot be cheap to keep up. There is not much in the way of farming, a large portion of the fields are not being used. I have seen more logging in eastern Oklahoma. If there is industry around we did not see it. So, do these people all earn their living off of tourists?

It was a scenic but somewhat slow ride on over to Bar Harbor. I was somewhat concerned heading down this way as I thought we might have a problem with motel space. But, we only saw a few motels with no vacancy signs and eventually wound up with a La Quinta in Bar Harbor. We settled in and then, armed with directions from the clerk headed out for a lobster dinner. I will say that lobster is a little pricey, but it was good. Bar Harbor is a pretty place and this was the view when we came out of the restaurant.

SAM_0139This is a sailing ship you can take a cruise on. I thought the sails were red because the sun was shining on them. However, Bobbe tells me that the sails are actually red. One way or the other, it was a real nice view. We walked about a bit, looking for a drug store, which was closed. There were a bunch of shops selling all sorts of stuff, but, all in all, just a place selling things to tourists.

Acadia National Park is right there at Bar Harbor so we thought we would take a little drive through on the way out, which we did. Essentially it was a ride up to the top of a rock. It is a pretty good sized rock, but still, a rock. You can get a good view of the harbor and surrounding area.

That done we were at our furthest east point and we then headed west for New Hampshire and Vermont. We followed Highway 1 along the coast until it got so crowded we could not make much time. Then, we cut inland andIMG_1681 one of the places we went through was Lewiston where we ran across this view. I doubt that this river usually flows this much as it had been raining a bunch.

Somewhere shortly after this we took a wrong turn somewhere. Where, we still are not sure and to make it even more strange the road signs were telling us we were still on the right road. But, we were not. When it became clear we were going the wrong way we stopped and figured out which way we should be going and made the appropriate corrections. The nice part about not going anyplace in particular, how can you get lost?

We saw something interesting on the way to the correct road. We went past a Lutheran Church and on the sign out front they had an advertisement for “Cabaret” night. Catholics have their bingo and most other churches have some form of entertainment, but Cabaret night????? Does the organ player wear a bustier and tights? Bobbe talked this over with some of her Lutheran friends. None of their churches had a Cabaret night.

We had talked with a local motorcycle rider at a gas stop that was from this area. He told us that we had to ride the Kancamagus Highway when we went through New Hampshire and that was where we were heading. After getting in a traffic jam in Conway we finally wound up for the night in North Conway and would do the Kancamagus highway the next day.

After a good nights sleep we took off the next morning to see what this highway was about. We rode a few miles along the road, and it was very nice then we took a secondary road which was even nicer which hooked us up with another road which was also very nice. The trees were somewhat turned, but not really bright. We figured that the trees were suffering from all of the rain the previous week.

It was in New Hampshire where we found our first covered bridge. We were riding behind the world’s only living brain doner and had to follow him across the bridge, but, in the interest in art, we did and got the photo. About this time, we were in no big hurry as we only had to make it to Burlington Vt. And that was not far. In fact, nowhere is too far in this area, but don’t figure on making much time unless you are on the interstate.

The rest of this day was devoted to just taking a nice laid back ride through the country. Even though the trees were not all that spectacular it was still a very nice ride. We had nice two lane curvy roads with not that much traffic and the temperature was not too hot or too cold.

We finally pulled into Burlington and went looking for the original Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop. Bobbe had found the address and wanted to check it out. But, it does not appear to exist any more. The site of the address is now part of the University of Vermont. Failing in that, we settled for dinner at a nice seafood place on the shore of Lake Champlain.

If you look at a map of this area you will see that New York and Vermont are separated by Lake Champlain. Also, there is a road that runs across a series of islands and eventually leads back into Canada. That is where we went the next morning, and in my opinion, was one of the nicest rides of the trip. We crossed back into Canada at one of the least used ports. We interrupted the woman reading her book and she made Bobbe take off her helmet, a first for the trip.

The plan was to go back into Canada and without going to Montreal, hook up with highway 401 leading to Detroit. Except for one problem it was a good plan. That problem being that there are only so many bridges across the St. Lawrence River and none of them were on the route I had picked. Nevertheless, it was a very nice ride on some back roads through a bunch of apple orchards with the apples being picked and other farms, and then, there it was, the US border with no other way to go. We crossed back in with the guard getting a chuckle out of us. He directed us a few miles south, make a right, and then shortly, we were back into Canada and on the 401. There is not much to be said about that ride, although we did find a nice place for lunch. The 401 was the only place in Ontario where the drivers were actually moving. We ran along most of the time in the 70-75 range, just staying with the traffic. Later on in the day the clouds closed in and the rains came. We called it a day shortly before London and had a good meal and nights sleep.

The next day started off cloudy, cool, but not raining. Shortly before we got to Windsor and Detroit it cleared off and became a beautiful day. We crossed the border for the last time and decided to do Greenfield Village instead of the Motown museum. That turned out to be a good idea. Greenfield Village was started by Henry Ford back in the late 1920’s and includes all sorts of things. We were there for about 6 hours and did not see it all by a long shot. They have agricultural equipment, steam engines of all types, airplanes, trains, and of course, all sorts of cars. There are several of the presidential limos; including the one Kennedy was riding in when he was shot. After he was shot, they put a top on it. Talk about closing the door after the horse is gone. They also have an actual village made up of all sorts of businesses. There are some sawmills, wagon factories, pottery, weavers, printers, all set up and running. Ford was a big fan of Edison and there is a bunch of stuff of his, including his Menlo Park lab and other items. For instance, in 1887 (?) on New Years Eve, using electricity, Edison lit several homes in a town in New Jersey. That was the first time anywhere. Several of those actual houses are there. And on it goes; we did not have time to see it all. Fortunately for us, it was a Thursday and there were very few people there. The place closed at five, so we headed west. Considering the time of day the traffic was not bad and we made it to Jackson before calling it a night.

Our tolerance for interstates and other four lane roads is not high. Over the last couple of days we had about all we could handle, so, we jumped back on the side roads. As usual, they were pretty nice with not a lot of traffic, nice views and interesting things to see. For instance, they must have some different type of tobacco laws in Michigan. At one place we stopped for gas they had a rather large display of cigarette making material including pre-rolled tubes with filters and a bunch of bags of different flavors of tobacco hanging on the wall. I would suppose you could roll all forms of tobacco with that equipment, but I didn’t ask. Actually, I did, but all it got was a couple of strange looks.

I have mentioned in several of these write ups about how we like to stop as often as possible and read the historical SAM_0177signs. Most of them are not of much significance, but every now and then you run across a good one, like this one for instance.

I knew that one of the things the Underground Railroad did was to smuggle slaves into Canada, but I was under the impression that most of that was done through New York and that area. Read that bottom part. Kentucky was and is the whole length of Indiana and more from here. So, slave hunters would travel all that distance to get the slaves back.

This one and another back in Nebraska sort of make you think. The one in Nebraska was about how during WWII they were going to build a camp for conscientious objectors so they could come help with the harvest and other farm work. This was not a volunteer type of thing. At that time, if you were not going to fight, you were going to help feed the fighters. I had no idea that the country did this type of thing. You live and learn.

But, I digress. We were heading to Naperville to visit with cousins. We did eventually make it back onto the interstate and into Indiana and then Illinois. As per normal, we did not take the direct route but, we did get a view of Chicago and only overshot Naperville by about 10 miles. We stopped for gas and a nice lady with an I-phone looked up directions and we made it with no further problems.

As Paul, Barbara, Bobbe and I had not seen each other in more than a few years we sat around catching up on thing and generally getting to re-know each other. They are also bike riders and the next day we were going for a little spin. Paul had laid out a route through NW Illinois and NE Iowa that sounded interesting. Bright and early the next morning, well, around 8:30, we headed out. It was somewhat cool, nothing serious, but the sky was clear and there was no wind. I have been in Illinois before, but not into the area where we were going. It turned out to be very pleasant. We did two lane roads along the rivers and ridges, not a lot of traffic and good views.

This is a statue commemorating (if that is a good word to use) the Blackhawk wars. It was just one of the many sadSAM_0182 tales about how the Indians got treated around that time. It was on a bluff on the east side of the Rock River by the town of Oregon. The ride along the Rock River was very nice. We rode through Dixon where both President Ronald Regan and the John Deere Company were born. Later on, we rode into Galena were President U.S. Grant lived before the civil war. I am not sure he was born here, but he lived here.

The place is now something like I am used to seeing in Eureka Springs or one of the towns up in the Rockies. There are a whole bunch of shops that will sell you pretty much whatever it is that you want. We did get some very good ice cream. After looking around a bit, we headed out, and Paul says that we rode over the highest point in Illinois. Eventually, we intersected the Mississippi River (considerably wider than at Bemidji and swollen by the recent rains) and followed it to Savanna where we called it a day. But, not without a good meal at Poopy’s, where if you are a biker type you can get pretty much whatever it is you want or need and get it put on your bike while you are eating.

The next morning it was clear and cool with a beautiful sunrise. We crossed the Mississippi a little north of Savanna and rode through some very nice parts of Iowa, parts that I had never seen. The eastern part is not near as flat as the western part, and for sure they grow a lot of corn. Except for the part where we detoured around the landfill it was a great ride. We pulled into the Amana Colonies area and stopped to have a look around. We got a drink, looked around, and it was time to head for Colorado. This was Saturday, and we had to be back in Littleton on Sunday. I had checked, and Iowa was not moving any closer to Colorado. Paul and Barbara were going to stay awhile and then hit I-80 east while we hit it west.

Having done that, we became reacquainted with something we had not had to deal with much for the last two weeks, namely wind. A headwind or a tailwind is not too bad; a side wind is no fun. A side wind is just what we had, and a pretty good one. We were looking around on the radio trying to find a football game and not having any luck. All we could get was a local broadcast which we quickly out ran and a NASCAR race. However, I-80 is I-80 and we were making good time.

Shortly after Des Moines Bobbe saw a sign pointing south of the interstate that mentioned Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne. Anything to relieve the boredom, we dropped off and headed to Winterset. After a few miles we came across a sign that said there was a covered bridge down this one country road. A very dusty, loose gravel much traveled country road. The traffic was a clue we should have picked up on. After 5 or so miles, we found it.  It is a covered bridge that has been restored and is not used for vehicle traffic. It was in Madison County but Clint Eastwood was nowhere in sight. We had seen the bridge, now, we were on to Winterset to see John Wayne’s birthplace. When we pulled into Winterset, we got the answer to the traffic question. It seems that Winterset bills itself as not only the birthplace of John Wayne but also as the covered bridge capital of Iowa, maybe the nation and they were having a big confab complete with floats, parades, food booths and a outside dance later on that night with a bunch of folks already there. We had to detour around the downtown area, but we found what we were looking for. Here it is, suitable for framing.

SAM_0195There is also the house he was born in as well as a second house that is a museum, and, if appearances are correct, there is the John Wayne memorial outhouse. This was in the backyard of his house. There was no sign, but the half moons give it away. We did not pay to go through the museum so we don’t know for sure what this is.

After checking out Winterset we could either go back north to I-80 or do something else. We did something else. We went west, but eventually we had to go back north, for one, the road was out, but, also, there are only so many bridges crossing the Missouri. Once back on I-80 we just made the miles. We crossed the Missouri in Omaha and stopped for the night in Lincoln.

The next day was interesting. When we left early in the morning it was cool and looked like it was going to clear off. We had breakfast in York and at Kearney we dropped off of I-80 and took to the side roads. The further we went the less likely the clearing off looked. Watching the clouds we could see a front coming through. That said it was a nice ride. It was along this road that we saw the sign I mentioned earlier about the

conscientious objector camp, we also read signs about big Indian on Indian battles and lots of battles between the Army and the Indians. We were riding along the Republican River, which isn’t much of a river, but, you have to go with what you have.

We also saw more than one of these. That is corn piled on the ground. I told you they grow a lot of corn out here andSAM_0212 there is a very good reason the University Of Nebraska is known as the Cornhuskers.

We stopped for gas in Benkelman which, as I am sure most of you don’t know, I for sure didn’t, is the birthplace of Ward Bond. Who you may ask? Ward Bond was an actor, one of John Wayne’s buddies and was in a lot of Wayne’s movies. He was also in one of the early TV shows, “Wagon Train”. He did get a little write up on the south side of town, but no statue, and no photo from us. We were looking for a gas station and, hopefully a restaurant and were not inclined to stop. We found the gas but not the food.

The food we found a little bit later, it was ok, but not 4 star. The thing that was interesting was the weather. The wind was now from the north, strong and gusty. As we went further west, rain clouds were popping up everywhere. One minute it would look clear and the next not. It looked as if the storms were forming as we watched. We didn’t actually get very wet, sprinkled on from time to time, nothing serious, but definitely it was some of the more strange weather I have seen. We pulled into Brush and gassed up. Bobbe was cold so she got into the electric gear. From there we were mostly traveling with a tail wind so that was not too bad and we managed to make it to Littleton without getting wet. But, the weird weather continued most of the evening.

I got up early the next morning and headed south. I put on the electric gear as I was going south, and that means over Monument Hill and I figured it would be cold. That part was wrong. The cold part was Colorado City and Walsenburg where it got down to 34. With the right gear, that is not a problem. All in all, the trip back to OKC was uneventful. I have made that ride a lot and pretty much have it down. I got out of most of the gear at Dalhart and was in shirt sleeves after Elk City and after about 10.5 hours I pulled into the drive.

As I rolled the bike into the garage I was a little sad to put a good ride to bed but glad to be home. We had covered a bunch of area, saw a bunch of interesting things, enjoyed good company, got rained on a little, caught in traffic a little and all in all had a good time. From OKC to OKC it was a little over 7200 miles. We had no problems, didn’t even burn out a headlight bulb which the Honda usually likes to do.

Now the problem becomes where to go next. I am the thinking about a winter ride to Key West. I am also thinking that there should be a road up to Hudson’s Bay and that I have not been to Newfoundland. Those are just ideas, and I have a bunch more. We shall just have to see what happens.

Those who ride are considered crazy by those who cannot feel the wind