I watch very little TV but I’ve become a fan of the Weather Channel. While sitting in the home of brother-in-law Rick and his wife Bev on the high plains of east-central Colorado, talking heads on the screen warned that heavy rain, thunder, lightning and hail were just over the western mountains, soaking Arizona in rain and covering the San Juans in snow. Hey, that’s where I was two days ago! The view to the southwest overlooking Pikes Peak and several of the “14-ers” that Rick likes to climb showed only blue skies. Yet the bad stuff appeared as a crescent-shaped swirl on the satellite map and it was moving my way at the rate of a speeding motorcycle. East of the Mississippi, another big swirl on the screen showed rain and temps in the low 40’s throughout Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. I was sitting in an atmospheric lacuna, a void of mild fair skies between two nasty weather systems.
The first thing Sister St. Thomas Mary taught me in 9th grade algebra was that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This “take-home message” came to mind as Rick and I pored over roadmaps of Colorado and beyond. Committed to traveling old two-lane highways through small-town America, I saw that US Route 36 was virtually a straight line from east of Denver all the way to Indianapolis. It followed an old rail line and was the route of the iconic Pony Express. I resolved to hang for a day and be off in the morning—a much shorter visit than I had hoped.
|Bev and Fatima|
caged cat live there as well. Sadly, this bit of cowboy heaven is now being threatened by the economic forces behind horizontal fracking for shale gas. “Progress” could potentially turn Elbert County, Colorado into a version of Williston, North Dakota taking Rick and Bev’s scarce well-water and their way of life along with it. (The hyperlinks lead to some background from the non-partisan Network for Public Health Law).
|The road through rural America is sometimes paved with stones|
|The Front Range|
|Blatant disregard for 2nd Amendment rights!|
|Ike's home in Abilene|
I like “Ike.” We could use a pacifist Republican today. Eisenhower’s son, John, wrote that war turned his father into a pacifist. It was Ike who warned the nation over the danger of the “military industrial complex” wielding influence over democratic processes. As president he kept the military budget as small as was consistent with the safety of the nation. Shortly after his inauguration, he made the following statements in a speech:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. . . The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. . . .We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed 8,000 people." Yes, I like Ike and a visit to the Eisenhower Library in Abilene was a worthwhile stop. But from there, it was cloudy and cold and I determined the best course was to make time on “the slab” and stay ahead of the weather. Interstate 70 got me through St. Louis and into southern Illinois by nightfall.
Greenville, Illinois is one of those towns where old farmers gather every morning at a diner and solve the world’s problems over coffee. Across from the EconoLodge was just that diner—LuBob’s Fine Foods, “Home of Home-Made”. The day's "specials” were all priced at $7.25:
- Fried Walleye
- Pork chops
…all with “choice of two sides”--from a list of 12 including pickled beets and a salad. The most expensive thing on the menu was “Tenderloin pony shoe”. Don’t know what that is, but next time I will try it for sure.
My last day on the road broke foggy and misty. Travelers up from Missouri described constant hard rainfall the entire previous day. Time was running out. I switched on the PIAA fog lights, the heated hand grips and the satellite radio. I thanked the gnomes of Bavaria for their excellent engineering and twisted about 85 mph out of the old K-bike. That put me just under 6,000 RPM in 5th gear, barely 2/3 of the way to its redline. For some reason, the speed limit dropped to 55 in Indianapolis. Diane Rheem was on the radio. A cop was in the right lane going 69 MPH. Or so he told me after pulling me over. The first words out of his mouth were, “I can’t believe you would pass a marked police car going 85 in a 55 zone. I just had to pull you over. Now slow down and get outta here!”
I should end my adventure here. This was not my typical police encounter and I can only attribute it to the smoke blessing I received on my birthday last March from the shaman at the Mayan equinox ritual in the northern Guatemalan jungle. So, with that, I’ll admit the rain finally caught me about 40 miles from home while taking a 2-lane “short-cut” through Hillsdale County to look at the turning autumn leaves. I had crossed the top of the country on Route 2, gone down the left side a ways on 101 and California 1, scooted to the bottom corner and Route 66, and come back up to the “north coast” over 5 weeks. The total was 7,577 miles, surprisingly just a bit more than half of what I covered over 10 weeks on last winter’s Mexico-Guatemala meander. I had to replace a leaky crush washer on the rear drive while in Seattle (a 40-cent part) and a worn out rear tire in San Francisco. I changed the oil and filter once and it consumed nothing in between. What a change from trying a similar journey last year in a 1953 MG!
|Start at the far right, go counterclockwise 75 mph for 5 weeks and 7,577 miles. In between, sleep on the ground.|
By 5:30 PM I was sitting across from Carol in our kitchen. Outside the barn cats were clamoring for food and it was drizzling. Everything in the garden was brown and wilted, having succumbed to several hard frosts. And no one had raked the leaves. Home sweet home!
A few of my favorite images from around the country--
|The "Big Mack" linking the two Michigans|
|Big Sky Country|
|St. Mary River, Glacier National Park, Montana|
|Jim and his R100 "Mini-Winnie"|
|Coulee City, Washington...upstream of the Grand Coulee Dam|
|Roadside, Eastern Washington|
|Seattle fog and the Space Needle|
|Pike Street Market, Seattle|