FIRST RIDE OF 2009
MAYBE I REALLY LIKE TO RIDE
January 1, 2009
As I roll out of bed just past 2 AM, I look out into the cold dark and begin to wonder just what it is I am doing. The temps are in the mid twenties and I know it is a long time til sunrise. I scrape the stubble from my face, grab a shower, then go into the 'computer' room where I have my heated gear laid out. Just what possesses a feller to get up in the middle of the night and go riding? Your guess is as good as mine other than he just likes to ride. And they say that what you do the first day of the new year will be what you do all year - whoever 'they' are. I take my time, get suited up in the heated gear, deciding to put on the heated socks for good measure and head for the garage. Sharyn is sound asleep, so I don't even wake her for a good-bye kiss. The Aerostich Darien is as stiff as a board in the cold, so I struggle to get it on over the heated gear. The clock on Frost tells me it is almost 3:30 AM.
As I swing out of the Holler, the cold slaps me in the face like an insulted lady. I pull at my head warmer to cover a little bit more of my face. At these temps, you can get frostbite from the windburn if you are not careful. With a full tank of gas, I figure I ought to be able to make Memphis on I40 before I need to refuel. Having made this run down I40 more times than I care to count, I just settle back and let the mile markers click off. Nobody out much except me and the truckers and I give them plenty of room. Even with heated gear, several hours in the cold wind begins to take it's toll. About 20 miles east of Memphis, I see a Cracker Barrel sign and gas, so I figure that will work just fine. When I'm roading it, I look for 'simple' exits that have fuel and food at one stop and restaurants that are 'safe' and predictable. This exit qualifies - no major 4 lane cross road, no cloverleaves - just a simple off and on ramp - so I take it. It's just a little bit before 6 AM when the Barrel opens up, so I gas at the first station I come to. There are two local sheriff cars setting there with lights going so there must be something going on. But I gas up, nod to them, and head for breakfast. After a few minutes, the manager finally opens the front door and I'm the first customer on the first day of the new year.
I get a table close to the fireplace and order some hot chocolate and my usual requisition of hen fruit and pig meat, with a little sweet milk gravy throwed in for good measure. Things are little slow, but I'm enjoying the heat and the seat. The manager lady that let me in has taken a table a little closer to the fire and is doing whatever paperwork it is that she has to do. All of a sudden there is this loud crash coming from the kitchen. As she looks up, and I smile at her -
"Well, sounds like job opening to me."
She just laughs.
"I don't even want to go back there and see" she replies with a smile and gets back to her paperwork.
Breakfast arrives and it's warm and tasty as usual. Nothing fancy at the Cracker Barrel, but their quality is usually consistent nationwide and their prices reasonable. After dispatching what is at hand, I pay up and head back out into the wind. Today I'm headed for Texarkana to dip my toe in Texas, then up through Oklahoma to overnight in Muskogee. At Little Rock, I leave I40 for I30 which takes me by Hope, Arkansas which proudly proclaims "Birthplace of President Bill Clinton". A few other famous and infamous people were born there also. As I arrive in Texarkana, I am a bit amazed that there is no "Welcome To Texas" sign. Highly unusual for an interstate, but there is a lot of construction so they may have taken it down. When I was studying this route, highway 259 north into Oklahoma looked pretty interesting, so I jump off on highway 82 which will take me through Dekalb and on to 259. I'm hoping that there will be a Texas stateline sign as well as an Oklahoma stateline sign at the crossing over the river and I am not disappointed.
|This location goes down as a 'safe' place to get two stateline signs without getting run over or arrested. I have sort of a mental 'file' of where you can go to take such pictures in case anyone else suffers from that peculiar malady and needs directions.
|Before long. I arrive in the town of Idabel, Oklahoma. It's most notable feature that I can see is a single four way stop right in the middle of town.
|Seems as if the city was first named Pernell, then renamed for the daughters, Ida and Belle, of a railroad executive who was given the task of renaming the town. I can see this town, like so many others I will pass through, has its share of closed businesses and abandoned real estate. This current economy is as tough as anything I have seen in my few years upon the planet.
As I move north on highway 259, I am very pleasantly surprised by the scenery and terrain. It reminds me a lot of the Ozarks and East Tennessee. Usually I cross Oklahoma from East to West or West to East. Today I will cross it South to North and this road proves to be a real treat. There are quite a few elevation changes, some great sweepers and many bends that I never expected. And traffic is practically nonexistent, so I can have a good run at it.
259 deadends into highway 59, which takes me through places named Stappe, Zoe, Heavener, Poteau, Shady Point and Sadie. I have a reservation at the Motel 6 in Muskogee so when I reach I40 again, I jump on for a little bit to get to highway 266 which will turn into highway 64 and take me to town. As I come to the edge of Muskogee, I see the Motel 6. I can either turn in early here or head a little further north to see if I can squeeze in the Kansas border before sundown. Judging by the looks of the town, there ain't nobody at home, so I figure
'Why not go for it?'
It's about another 180 miles round-trip but there ain't nothing waiting for me but an empty motel room. So I make my way northward, racing against the sun. I know it will be close, but then I always love a good challenge. As the sun drops lower and lower, the throttle gets opened more and more on the deserted backroads. Frost just rocks along between the small towns, eating the miles like her sisters back in the Holler garage. Sure enough, there's the Kansas sign and there's still daylight. But there's one miscalculation on my part - the road is slanted the wrong way for the sidestand to work. So I decide I will put her up on the centerstand just for safety sake. It was a great plan but it had a lousy execution. One leg of the center stand sinks deep and Frost does the 'ST drop' that I have experienced more times that I care to count. Fortunately the highway wings are out and they take the hit. So here I am on the side of the road in-between 'Nowhere' Oklahoma and 'OutofLuck' Kansas with a 700 pound motorcycle laying on it's side, the sun going down, and no stateline picture as of yet. The 'backward' pickup will not work because of the gravel and unsure footing. I decide the only thing I can do, is grab a root and growl. I get on the downside, plant my feet as best I can, and focus back on my days of weightlifting. With a loud grunt, I manage to get Frost partially upright using my legs and gut muscles, but my feet are slipping. All I can do is just give a shout and lift as hard as I can again. She uprights and I all I can do is just sort of stand there trembling. I say to myself -
"Well, old boy, you'll pay for that indiscretion tomorrow morning when you get out of bed."
I manage to straddle her, kick out a very serious hole for the sidestand and all is well again. I get my picture as soon as I can muster enough strength to hold the camera steady.
|I notice a safer place to park, so I move Frost up where I can put her on the centerstand. I gather up my scattered stuff and the few wits that I have about me, and inspect for damage. Other that a bent Highway Wing (which I easily bend back into place), Frost escapes unharmed.
|Now I have a decision to make - do I head back the 90 miles to Muskogee, or press ahead and see if I can hook up with my old friend, Dennis Martin, in Oswego less than 20 miles away. I'm still in the 'cancellation free' time frame for Motel 6, so if I can get a cell phone signal, I'm gonna go for it. Sure enough, I can get out and am able to cancel the room. Next I leave a message for Dennis, telling him I am close by and will call again in a little bit. The sun is sinking but I have snagged all of the statelines that I planned to get. I make my way into Chetopa where I'll stop again and make another call to Dennis.
|I pull into town right across from Pepe's - one of Dennis' favorite restaurants. I was hoping that maybe he would be there right now since the time was about right. It's the place he took me when I was headed to do the Sierra Passes in September of 2007.
|Unfortunately, all I get is his voicemail again and he is not at Pepe's. I don't remember exactly where his house is located and it is getting cold and dark. I know Joplin is the next nearest town of any size and it's about 40 miles or so straight out 166 to I44. I really hate that I am going to miss Dennis, but life don't always have a fairy tale ending. Most days you just gotta play the cards as they come. I figure I'll ride til I find a motel and restaurant to my liking. Nothing looks promising along 166 but once I get into Joplin, I see signs for a Super 8 and a Bob Evans at the same exit. Works for me, so it becomes my new destination. The motel is a little further from the eating places than I had hoped, but after 840+ miles in the saddle, a walk will do me much good. There's not another car in the parking lot, but the clerk puts me up on the third floor way back in the back. I just scratch my head, quickly pitch my stuff in the room and take the long walk to where the eats are. There happens to be a Outback Steak House there so I give them a whirl. It's a little underwhelming, but passable so it works out okay. When the server and hostess strike up a conversation, I explain them that I do a lot of riding and just finished over 800 miles in one sitting. You'd thought that I had told I had just landed in a space ship from the moon. I guess to some people one seems as implausible as the other. I finish up my grub and slowly make my way back to the room. Since I have a relatively 'short day' tomorrow - less than 600 miles - I decide that I will sleep in until I wake up. Sleep finds me quickly and I'm out for the duration.
January 2, 2009
|As feller that usually gets up around 4 AM, I really sleep in this morning. It's sometime after 7 AM before I shake the sleep from my head. The weather weenies had predicted rain for today, but the beautiful sunrise tells me different.
|The Bob Evans sign is lit up, so I make the hike across the road carefully to enjoy some more good hen fruit and pig meat. I really like the Bob Evans omelets, sausage and gravy, so that's what I get. But I still have a good bit of that steak from last night laying in the 'kettle', so I don't even finish breakfast. This will be the last meal I eat before I get back to the Holler, so I make sure I'm full without being miserable.
I settle up and wander back to the Motel to pack up and get out. I stop by the front desk and ask -
"Checkout - just leave the keys in the room?"
"Yes, that will be fine" she tells me.
I always check just to be sure, because some places want you to stop by one last time before leaving. It doesn't take me long to uncover Frost and get my stuff together. After I carry my first load down, I head back to the door and it will not open. Fortunately a lady just passes by and lets me in so I don't have to walk all the way around to the front. When I come down again, I pull the dust rug into the door so it stays open. With Frost packed, I head back up to the room and get suited up. No need for heated gear today cause it feels like it is going to be just right. When I get back down, the hotel manager is checking the back door. I explain to him as kindly as I can -
"Your back door won't open so I propped it open."
He wasn't from around here, so I don't know if he understood me or not. Maybe he'll figure it out, but I'm done and ready to ride and Frost is waiting.
|I wish Joplin good-bye, as I get on I44 to Springfield.
|Just before I get into town, I jump off on highway 60 which will take me across most of Missouri into Sikeston. Highway 60 is a peaceable 4 lane for most of it's run that passes through several small towns. You usually don't see a lot of traffic, but you do have to watch for the local constabulary in the towns. If you mind the rules, it makes for a nice journey - a lot less frenzied than the slab.
|Soon I'm through Sikeston, then on to I55 and I155 which takes me across the mighty Mississippi River into Tennessee. The iron girder bridges they used on this section remind me of some smaller version we had back home. The construction was the same, just the proportions were different.
|I155 turns into US412 which will take me through Dyersburg to I40 at Jackson. My planning works out, so I can gas at the I40 exit which will be my last gas stop of the day. I can't help but chuckle at the sign on the store's front -
|I've been to Hollywood, and this part of town sure ain't it and express ain't exactly descriptive either. Once I'm on I40, I settle in and just count the mile markers to the Holler. My biggest challenge is trying to pick a speed that keeps me out of the packs of cars headed toward Nashville. I don't understand why drivers like to bunch up like that, but I know if things get sideways, the motorcyclist will always lose in the pack. I also know that there are plenty of 'greeting' parties along this stretch with 'blue light specials' they are just aching to share with the motorists. Long about the I840 junction, a feller that blew by me like I was sitting still is receiving his customized greeting. Soon I'm back in the Holler after two days of good riding, a good start for the new year, and a few more stateline signs. Just what possesses a feller to get up in the middle of the night and go riding? Your guess is still as good as mine!