Well, the thunderstorm in Peoria was EPIC. It thundered from midnight to 6 am and was right on top of us. Even though I didn’t get a ton of sleep, it was great to be inside a little tent enjoying the storm. And the best thing was my cheap $35 tent held up perfectly. It poured rain solid for 6 hours and not a drop inside the tent. Yes.
The following morning was goodbye to Jeff. I’m not an emotional guy but it got a little dusty. Without Jeff’s support I would not be doing this, and his riding out with me the first day meant a lot to me. Thanks.
It was weird going down that first highway without another bike nearby. But the miles roll away and eventually I stopped at Cathy’s Café. While ordering I noticed a contest to rename the place. I asked the owner and it turns out she is not named Cathy. That is two days in a row with an improperly named roadside diner. I love these places. I had a nice chat with a retired engineer from Chicago who said life did not slow down while retired and mentioned that Obama and all the politicians in Washington need to get out and see America to really know what is going on. Hmmm, that is what I am trying to do.
Wednesday was LONG ride. I met an interesting guy Tim at a gas station in Madison, MO. His son has a PhD in philosophy and his daughter-in-law has a PhD in political science. What a combo! We had a great talk. He was very interested in my trip and I gave him a card. After that I saw a sign that said, “DeWitt, pop 120” Really? I grew up in DeWitt, Mi so it was fun to see a tiny town in MO with the same name. I stopped again in Carrolton and immediately a guy came up to chat. He has a crazy story of an ex-wife who went to jail then divorced him and moved to DeWitt. Haha. Another guy pulled out of the gas station, then turned around just to come talk. It was great. I need those little breaks to keep going on these long rides. Kansas City seemed to never come, then my iPhone told me to go south of town to get to Patrick’s house, it was wrong. So by the time I pulled into his driveway the odometer said 390 miles.
Patrick is a good friend of mine from high school that I haven’t seen since the funeral of a close mutual friend in 2001. It was great to catch up and hang out with his sister and new wife. His niece and nephew were a lot of fun as well, they are both in high school and I enjoyed talking school with them. It made me miss my students back home. Patrick bought us pizza for dinner, so once again the kindness of friends and strangers is coming through.
Thursday morning Patrick took me out to breakfast at an awesome diner. When we got back to his house I did a few repairs on the bike and he called me over to the computer. “Do you want the good news or the bad news on the weather?” Yup, a huge storm system stretched from Kansas City to Arkansas, exactly where I was going to ride that day. Oh well, we got to hang out more and wait out the storm. We went to his parent’s house. It was great to see them and recount all the shenanigans we had in high school. Downstairs his dad has built the most amazing model train city I have ever seen. The streetlights lit up, the traffic signals worked, the stores had flashing neon signs. He also had a wireless remote that controlled 10 different locomotives around the entire city. It was really cool. I kind of wish it was in a museum or something so more people could see it.
After that, it was another long day to Fort Smith, Arkansas. The first hour I rode in rain and a little hail, but then it cleared up and the weather was perfect. I didn’t stop much at all because I left so late; I had to head south.
National Relief Network and Becky were in Joplin and I was riding right by there, but I just didn’t have time to stop. I have to get to Houston and get the bike ready for shipment. I was really upset about this, having a time schedule is terrible. Mark told me this advice before I left, “Walk slowly.” I know this, but I am not doing it yet. I could have stayed a few days with Patrick and NRN. A quick description: National Relief Network is a non-profit that leads trips of volunteers all over the US to do natural disaster relief. Interact Club (my high school service club) has done 10 trips with them. They are amazing and anyone interested in getting together a group of people to help should contact them now!! http://www.nrn.org/
After some back road, bridge out, dirt roads, road closed, directions from locals drama, I finally made it in to Arkansas. I did pass through 4 states in about 30 min. (southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas) The scenery dropping down on US 71 was the most beautiful of the trip so far. It was a nice change from the 900 miles of cornfields. Dropping into the valley the sun was behind me and I saw my shadow for the first time on the trip. It was a weird feeling knowing that silhouette was me on a motorcycle headed to faraway places. I had time to think about the events in my life that lead me to that moment.
I didn’t make it in until after nightfall, so it was another long day. The odometer read 341 miles. I am staying with Chase and Amanda who I met on couch surfing. What a great couple!!! Chase works at a BBQ joint and brought me home a huge plate of all different kinds of stuff. I was starving since I didn’t stop at all on the ride down. We had a great talk about different surfers they hosted, their careers and schooling, and interesting stuff in general. Chase works in a lab trying to find a way to clean the dirty, disgusting water that comes out of oil rigs when they pump out the oil. What a great thing. I am so grateful for the night’s stay. But all of us were exhausted so it is time to go to bed.
Now is a good time to explain couchsurfing.org. It is a worldwide project to connect travelers in a safe way. I have hosted before and this is the first time I have surfed. Join!!! Everyone wins because the travelers save money and meet locals, and the hosts get to meet interesting people and use extra space in their homes. This is one of the reasons I am doing this trip.
Tomorrow’s goal is Longview, TX. This will be my shortest day yet, 242 miles. I am so excited for a shorter day.