Day 2
June 7th, 2006
Iron Horse Motorcycle Campground
In the Ozark Mountains                                                                   
Near Eureka Springs, Arkansas     


I was up early striking camp in the early morning light.  I've got a long ride today and needed a early start.  I slept ok, but not the best.  I knew it would take a couple of days to settle to "on the road mode."

After loading the 1300 I stepped over to say good bye to the other riders.  The Venture guys were also heading out today.  I got caught up in conversation and hung around too long delaying my start till 7 am.  I wanted to be on the road a little after 6, but didn't make it.

Today is a 600 mile day.  Not that big a deal on I-40, but on Kansas and Nebraska back roads a significant ride.
The morning was sunny and warm.  I left the campground on U.S. 62 West.  My plan is to turn north for Missouri in Eureka Springs, mostly to avoid Bentonville, and the other reason it would take me to new roads.

Eureka Springs was still asleep when I passed through.  A touristy town full of motels, goofy golf, and fast food joints.  West of the city 62 is a fine piece of motorcycle road.  I leaned the Honda better than I ever had previously on this highway.  Most of the ride was downhill, which I find a little more tricky then uphill.  

It was early morning so I stayed on the lookout for deer, but saw none.

I could tell by the morning sun it was going to be a hot day.  The rays felt warm shining through the trees, and burned off the morning mist very quickly.

I knocked down the curves through the thickly forested landscape.  I crossed several bridges that took me over gorges and rivers.  Excellent riding.  It seemed it was taking longer than it should to reach my route change, so I stopped in a driveway to check the map.  "I'm ok, just a little farther west the map says."
​I took this photo from the spot where I checked my map
My route today was complicated with many changes.  Sometimes I'd be heading west others it would be north.  I was careful making my notes, and confident I'd be able to navigate my way to Grand Isle, Nebraska without winding up in Wyoming.

In Gateway I turned on SR 37 and went into Missouri, where for some reason it grew foggy as heck.  Visibility went down to about a quarter mile, but with PIAA lights blazing, I rode on.

I skipped the urge to gas up in Gassville (that's the name of the place), I still had 3 bars showing and wanted to combine my PB and J break with a gas stop.  I don't much worry about gas in this part of the country, and normally ride till the reserve light flashes before gassing up.

The fog shrouded much of the Missouri countryside, so I can't tell you much about it.  But it looked to be mostly farmland and pasture.

By now the sun was burning the fog off and I trimmed the screen to full down.  The warm wind flowed around me.  I love the feeling of being on a motorcycle, and one of the reasons I choose sport touring bikes in lieu of Gold Wings.

The route carried me over U.S. 60 and under I-44.  I finally turned west on U.S. 160, after 40 or so miles of riding north in Missouri.  I used 160 last year into Colorado when I took a more westerly route.

In Golden Point I found a Casey con store to gas up, then pulled to the side to eat peanut butter and jelly.  The town was like most mid west hamlets.  Quiet, non threatening, and friendly.  I was sitting by the air pump taking it easy and almost everyone that went in the store waved at me.

I was now on the Great Plains.  A place I have the utmost respect for.  Most loathe riding here because the landscape is so boring.  But I find a peacefulness here like nowhere else.  I don't worry about leaving my helmet outside or being mugged walking down the street.  These are hard working, honest folks.  Many have left these fields for a easier, different life.  I can't say better one, just different.  But those that remain love this land, and honor it by working it daylight till dark, and then some.
​Life is hard on the Plains.  Many have given up and left
When I finished my sandwich I called Debbie and checked email.  I sent my son a text kidding him he was working and I was riding.

It was a 30 minute break.  One of the reasons I prefer riding solo, I don't have to be anywhere, so I can take as long as I want.

U.S. 160 took me just a little farther north out of Golden Point before taking a hard left turn west for Kansas.
Just east of Lamar I overtook a pick up truck pulling a single cow on some kind of homemade trailer.  I thought the thing might jump out at any minute so I didn't stay behind it long.

I kept working my way west across the ever expanding farmland.  Acres and acres of all kinds of crops were appearing.  The area was much drier looking than last year.  The fields were dusty and the creeks either dried up, or drying up.

After crossing into Kansas I left 160 for U.S. 69 North and then made a quick turn on SR 47 and took off west across the plains.

The flags were flying half mast in Girard, Kansas.  I suspected the reason, but found a county mower operator on the west side of town taking a break from his grass cutting.  He was sitting in the shade on the side of the road with a cold drink, when I doubled back to him and asked-

"Why are the flags half mast?"

"A local boy was killed in Irag, and the funeral is tomorrow."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

The young man killed was Michael Bennet.  Please remember his family in your prayers.
​The flags were half mast in Girard, Kansas, for a fallen son.
Sobered by that news I left Girard and kept riding west to my next route change.  The population centers grew less populated the farther west I went.

I ate lunch in Fredonia. A sleepy place with grain elevators, and railroad tracks.  I found a local diner where I had grilled chicken and chips.  Several locals were in the place, and I could tell they were curious about me, but none approached me to start a conversation.  I was disappointed.

From Fredonia I went to U.S. 400 and bore down on Wichita.  I came this way in 2004 remembered little about it.

I easily overtook slower moving traffic on the long open straights.  The route in my atlas is marked as scenic, but I think that is being a little too generous.  I guess the map makers wanted to be sure Kansas got at least one green dotted line.

Wichita was pretty straight forward, and I hooked up with SR 96 and took a more northern path to get in position to ride to Nebraska.

From 96 I went to SR 14.  By now the temp was well into the 90s, but I didn't mind.  I like it hot.  I passed many empty farmhouses on my way to Nebraska.  Life out here is hard, and many a homesteader has called it quits, or been bought out by mega companies that cultivate so much of the land out here.  Their high dollar equipment and efficiency able to care for thousands of acres with just a few people.

Barreling north on 14 I over took a GL with a youngster in the sidecar, a pillion, and pulling a trailer.  They were from Arizona.  Talk about loaded down.  Noway the bike was getting better than 25 mpg with all that weight and drag. 

When riding the through the Great Plains I think about all kinds of things.  The roads out here are good for soul searching.  No traffic, and riding itself doesn't take much concentration.  I can't begin to remember what all I thought about, but I solved a lot of the worlds problems on my way to Nebraska. 
The bank temp gauge in Ellsworth matched the 1300's at 99 degrees.  Unlike the RTs ambient temp gauge (reads 4-6 too low) the ST's is dead on the money.

I came off the road to a con store in a town called Lincoln.  I bought something to drink and just rested in the air conditioning.  I checked a few messages, and chatted with a young man that came in on his bicycle.  He looked about 10 years old.

"So y'all outta school for the summer?"

"yes sir, got out a few days ago."

"so what ya got lined up?"

"my dad says we might go on vacation, but ain't said where yet."

"where ya wanna go?"

"6 Flags in Dallas"

A warm hot wind was now blowing across the Plains as I rode on to my next route change.  I was forced to counter lean the 1300 to my left.

By late afternoon I was turning onto U.S. 181 North and closing in on Nebraska.  The 1300 wiggled just a little bit at the intersection because the hot sun had melted down some freshly layed asphalt.  The annoying crosswind was now a friendly tailwind.

A line of 3 cars loomed up ahead.  I took the first, came back in, checked things, then got the next 2.  It was kind of fun.

The 1300 climbed to 90 mph on the long open road.  It was hopeless trying to hold it back with the nice tailwind.  I stuck my arms out to move air through the vents of the Roadcrafter, by now I was missing the cruise control on the RT.

I stopped to shoot some video of a farmer on tractor about 10 miles later.  I had an idea for a movie and needed the footage.

The miles went by quickly into Lebanon, the geographical center of the U.S.  When I'm in the area I always stop by for a quick visit.  The town is all but dead, but a few hardy souls still linger around.  The small business district is a shell of old store fronts and vacant houses. 
​The bleakness of downtown Lebanon, Kansas
The grain elevator sits in the distance, and the railroad tracks carry on to the horizon.  Lebanon is a lonely place to be the center of America.
​This old building in Lebanon looked it could fall any second
The geo maker is a few short miles north of town on U.S. 281.  I took the turn off for the local road, went over a few rises and found the small park.  I left the 1300 under a tree on this sweltering 97 degree day.

I looked around for John, the unofficial caretaker, but the place was empty.  The little chapel is still here as is the old motel, and covered picnic area.  I strolled around, made a visit to the chapel, captured some video and pics, and moved on.  It was getting late and I needed to get to Grand Island. (click here for more story and pics on the geo center)

The 1300 slapped the last miles into Nebraska down hard, as it brought me to my final destination of the day.  The Sugar and Spice cafe I ate it in 2004 in Red Cloud was closed down, looked to be so for several months.  I was saddened.
​Photo Op at the state line
It was going to be late by the time I found the KOA and set up camp in Grand Isle so I decided to eat something quick.  I pulled into a McDonalds in Hastings near I-80.  I avoid fast food as much as I can, don't get me wrong, I love it, I just don't eat it because it's so bad for me.  I ordered the lesser of all the evils on the menu, 2 of those small hamburgers, skipping the fat laden fries.  

When supper was over I made my usual phone calls, then went across the street to fill the gas tank.  It was after 7pm and I was already over 600 miles with still 30 or so to put down to get to the campground.
The road is 4 lane divided to Grand Isle so I made good time, but huge rain clouds loomed in the northern sky.  It was getting dark when I made it into the city.  I had trouble finding the KOA, and figured it must be a few miles east or west on I-80.  I went to a state park entrance to quiz someone-

"hey y'all know where I can find the KOA?"

"the what?"

The park looked pretty good so I asked the attendant.  "Y'all got showers?"


"how much to put my tent up?" 
"10 dollars"

"well heck, I'll just sleep here"

I left the guard shack and rode over to the tent sites.  I found a nice quiet site bordering the back fence.  Mormon Island State Park is neat and secure, and a good, cheap place to sleep.

The day ended at 654 miles.

After setting up my tent I made a quick run to a con store for a Mountain Dew and bag of popcorn.  I was back at the camp table when Andy Purmals called-

"so where ya at?"

"Grand Island, Nebraska"

"you gonna be in Rapid City tomorrow right?"

"yeah, y'all still coming?"

"we'll be there bro"

"Good, looking forward to seeing ya"

Andy and I had arranged weeks earlier to hook up in South Dakota to share a Motel 6 room.  Andy and Charlie Kingston were on their way back east after a 2 week trip to the Hotel.  I was looking forward to a little company tomorrow night.

It was getting dark so I got out my atlas and planned tomorrows ride across Nebraska to South Dakota, while eating popcorn.  Thunder still rumbled in the distance, but I was safe in my current location.

I was sleepy even before I finished, but managed.  I made a PB and J sandwich for the morning, placed it in my box and turned in.  The park was quiet and and dark, and the evening cooled off very quickly.  Sleep came quick.