Sunday, May 10

Jesse's warning, getting out of Dodge, and a new daily record

I packed to stay overnight. But by the time I reached St. Louis yesterday I qualified as a battered woman! Upon leaving, I noticed the wind but optimist that I am, I believed if it did not worsen, I could handle it. It's one thing to deal with wind for a few minutes--even an hour. It is quite another to deal with it the entire trip! I said somewhere else on this blog that I didn't mind the wind. Ignorance will make us say things we only think we believe. An "assault," is the only word to describe how these winds treated those witless enough to ride a motorcycle in it.

Battered around and around, I kept hoping I was just traveling through bad spots and it would eventually die down; it never did. I admit to feeling challenged. I recognize that I have issues with letting go. So, I applied my training and counter steered and it did make me feel more able-and confident. Still, robust wind gusts, most of which were unpredictable and some of which whipped the bike in a way that made me feel it would swirl; several times, the ambush snatched my breath away. A clarion call to the ancestors was answered. After two hours, and no tangible end in sight, I settled down and concentrated on getting first to Springfield, IL and if there I had had enough, I would end my trip for the day, get a hotel room and return home on Sunday.

I stopped for gas and munching but remained on course. In Springfield I had a refreshing break at Oak Ridge Cemetery, where I visited the Lincoln Tomb. Getting off the bike for more than a few minutes, was the diversion I needed. I then made my way to the Lincoln Home NHS and collected my stamp. The slow speed required to navigate these locals streets seem to make the wind invisible. At the Visitor's Center, I spotted a Lincoln Harley-Davidson, called the "Circuit Rider" Lincoln Bicentennial Motorcycle. It's designer and builder, Kim Shirley created it in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.

About the wind...I was duped! The wind hadn't disappeared, it was there lurking, waiting to exert itself sharpest at speeds over 30 mph. Thus, my journey to St. Louis continued the previous beating and before getting out of Illinois Jesse, for the first time, got a warning. I'm not a speed demon--it just doesn't appeal to me on any consistent level. I will confess to having tried out Jesse's horse power but that was on an isolated, wide open road in the early morning hours and no one else was present and Jesse was newly broken in and frisky for fun. That thrill is memorable and I've had little desire for a repeat performance. Speed is not easy to manage in the wind, I learned. A steady speed slowed considerable when bucking a headwind. Wind that butts from behind requires an adjustment too. A sideways wind slap made me handle the throttle differently too. It is no wonder that my previously broken clavical throbbed more than usual. Probably the worst part of the trip was the beating I took from trucks. I stay away from trucks. Trucks on a windy day--there's nothing like it. The wind they stirred made me feel as if I would be sucked underneath or blown off the road. I shoke and rattled in their space. I stayed away even more than usual.

As I was watching their loads sway and passing on the left, I came to the crest in the road. Once beyond the trucks, I slowed and switch lanes. It was then that I spotted an Illinois State Patrol car sitting on the side of the road in one of those spots for "Authorized Vehicles Only." I continued to slow down. The posted speed limit is 65mph. I checked the GPS and I was doing 67. I looked in my mirror and saw the patrol car pull in behind me. No pulsating red and blue lightsnthat accelerates your heart when you see them in your mirror. He rode behind me and I rode on. Minutes later. I mean many minutes later, he turned on his light. ??? I figured he needed me to move to the next lane so he could pass me and get whatever criminal he'd had just been radioed to pursue. But when I pulled over, so did he. It finally dawned on me that I was the culprit he was gunning for. But why?

It took him seemingly forever to exit the car and tell me he had made a horrible mistake. When he approached me, he seemed hesitant. Then he said, "Sir, do you know why I stopped you?" In my most polite voice, I said, "I'm not a sir and I don't know why?--I wasn't speeding." He apologized rather profusely and said he was confused by the bike-- "even though I saw all the hair--"Is that your hair?" I told him the hair was mine. He smiled and apologized again. His eyse traced the bike from front to back. Motioning his head toward the bike, he said, "That's a nice bike you have." Again, he asked if I knew why he stopped me. I said I didn't and again said I wasn't speeding. "I was doing 67 mph." He said I was but "back there as you were coming over the hill, I clocked you at 76."

I said, "Way back there?" I put an emphasis on "Way" to indicate that it was some time ago to just now put your lights on me. "Back then, I was trying to get away from the trucks, I slowed as soon as I passed them." He agreed that I did. "Nice bike. Let me see your license and registration, please" Momentarily, I didn't know where it was. I check the luggage--no find. I checked another place on the bike--no find. I wasn't worried about not finding it, just where. I knew I had it. I found it in a bag I had on me. I turned over multiple papers. "Where are you going?" I told him I was headed for St. Louis. "I wouldn't be out here, it's windy." I agreed and told him that I was being battered by the wind and trucks, which is why I was trying to get away from the convoy." He said, "I'm not going to give you a ticket, just a warning. Let me check these and I'll have you on your way in no time." At every point, he was polite--even friendly. Still, I was pissed. It took him a very long time to return to the bike and sitting there, I was getting chilled.

When he finally returned to my bike, he said words that stunned me. "Ma'am, this bike doesn't show up on the computer." Huh? "There is no record of this bike when I put in the VIN." "Huh?" I had turned over the vehicle registration, BMWMOA membership number, insurance card, title info--everything--including the bill of sale (I carry everything with me except the dealer who sold me the bike--I am that paranoid, especially riding anywhere south of Chicago!). "I don't know why that's the case, this is my bike and it's legit." He said he believed me and suspected that it is an error at the Secretary of State's office. Still, he looked for the VIN on the physical part of the bike. We found it and it too checked out against all the other papers. Yet, the state's computers failed to bring up any info on the bike--as if it didn't exist. "I swear, this is my bike." He said, "I agree, Ma'am. Seems like a clerical error in the Secretary's office--just give them a call and have them fix it." He complimented me on having so much paperwork with me and said had I had any less, he would be suspicious. He gave me a written warning and told me to "be careful out there and have a safe trip." He was a kind, friendly trooper and I appreciate the questionably deserved warning Jesse received. ;-) In my dark hours, my greatest fear of solo riding is a town like this. I imagine being stopped in such a place never to be heard from again.

By the time I reached St. Louis I felt depleted and famished when I got off the bike. I munched and drank the whole way and had consumed a hearty breakfast at 6:30am that morning. My GPS led me to what was to be the Visitor's Center but it wasn't there--at least I didn't see it. I rode around the maze that is downtown St. Louis and wound up too far east of the city. I pulled into a gas station and after talking to several people, a man who first told me he'd take me but didn't have time, insisted in the end to escort me. "I'm going that way, just follow me," he said. He led me to the parking facility of the Arch along Memorial Drive where I parked and learned I'd have to pay $6 for what I should be a five minute visit to collect the stamp.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is a magnificent site. But getting to it is a huge pain in the gluts! I had to hike to The Gateway Arch, where I expected to get info about the stamp. I enjoyed taking pictures of shiny arch. A gorgeous azure sky with puffy clouds made the walk to the arch lovely--if I didn't have to haul my tank bag, jacket and helmet, which I had to since I left the lock behind that would have allowed to keep these items on the bike. Two rangers stood at the foot of the arch and told the crowd that the access was close and to get in required walking to the other leg of the arch. We hike there. That's when I felt my blood begin to boil. I got in line (stamping my Passport book takes seconds, literally) and waited. We were instructed to remove jackets, empty pockets of metal objects and prepare for purse and bag checks. A sign said they apply airport security techniques to get into the Arch. I stood in line for way too long; I started sweating. Someone, several people ahead of me, kept tripping the machine's siren. They searched him several times but couldn't figure out what prevented him for passing through. Eventually, they snubbed the machine and waved him in.

By the time I reached the Visitor's Center Information desk, 45 minutes had elapsed. It would take a miracle to reach Grant's National Historic Site before it closed. The Ranger said I could but probably had only 5 or 10 minutes to spare. I couldn't get my GPS to locate the place with an address. The Ranger said it's a tough one to get to. He gave me what he felt were good instructions--and it's really NOT in St. Louis as the Passport book states. I left the Arch without seeing anything of historic value about St. Louis. It's not my first trip to St. Louis, but seeing anyplace from the seat of a motorcycle always makes it a novel experience.

As I walked back to the garage I came to another Ranger. As a check on what the first one said, I asked how far the Grant site was. He estimated 15 minutes, 10 minutes LESS than his co-worker. I decided to call the site and wade through the annoyingly automated phone system before being able to select a live person. When I reached one, she told me that I would probably pull in five minutes before they closed and, "We close right on time." She gave me detailed instructions, which differed dramatically from the first set of instructions. This was a longer route? but more direct. She doubted that I would make it there on time and her instructions seemed to guarantee it. That was all I needed as I too had reached a similar conclusion. While inside the Visitor's Center, I had stamped my book a second time for the Louis & Clark National Hist. Trail. I don't know if this will count, but my goal was two stamps for St. Louis. I decided to scrap any notion of staying overnight. I'd seen enough of St. Louis--I wanted out of Dodge. The wind's beating and hunger had made me a tad moody. I needed to slow the pace.

I hit "Go Home" on the GPS and made my way across the Martin Luther King Bridge and found I-70E and I-55N, which I took to IL. It was now 4:45 pm and would mean arriving home around 10pm. I didn't care. If I ate a decent meal, I'd be good the rest of the way. I rode for 90 minutes before finding a place to eat. I had a light, good meal and relaxed for about an hour before leaving. The GPS said I would arrive home at 10:59. Times like this make having music a good thing. I dug out the Ipod, stopped only for gas and was in the house at 11:15pm. The miles peeled away. With the exception of the SaddleSore I completed (over 1000 miles in less than 24 hours), I set a personal daily for myself. Knowing I can go the distance--even under challenging circumstances, will serve me well should I decide to finish this National Parks Tour.

I had planned to go to Indiana this morning--there's an easy stamp in Chesterton. Instead, I'm going to hang around, read the newspaper, finally finish Levitt's book, Freakonomics, and celebrate my commercially expropriated holiday, Mother's Day, any way the mood strikes.

Saturday ride total: 620.3 miles