Unsurprisingly, we got off to a late start. Kay was futzing with the Internet in the morning, and I was, too, and my grandpa showed up shortly before 8AM to see us off. We were still packing and I was still dealing with Internet stuff, so I sent Kay down to check on the “continental breakfast” while I wrapped up the tasks. His report was uninspiring, so I made an executive decision that we were having breakfast at Cracker Barrel with my grandpa. Done. We called my aunt, who was also scheduled to show up to see us off, and advised her of the change in plans. So we met up and headed to Cracker Barrel, where the dogs waited patiently in the sidecar while I had breakfast with my family.
It was nice to have another chance to chat with them. I really felt bad about only having an evening to spend with them while we were in town - last year I’d come to visit for a week and still felt that wasn’t long enough because I hadn’t seen them in 4 years at that point - so it was good to be able to have breakfast with some of my family, at least. Kay was extremely patient - the time passed quickly and before I knew it 10:30AM had rolled around and we were just leaving Cracker Barrel. But he said it was totally worth getting a late start to be able to spend a bit more time with him. I feel really fortunate to have someone as understanding as he is.
Hit the road around 10:45 after a quick gas-up and it was slab, slab, slab. Slab into Indianapolis and then back out again northwest. I was glad to be on the F650 - the Ural’s performance quirks wouldn’t be driving me up a tree trying to figure out the root - and I could just kick back and relax. The morning temps weren’t too bad even though we’d gotten a late start, and we covered good miles.
Happily, somewhere around our second gas stop, we left the slab and found ourselves on state highways through Illinois. This was MUCH more pleasant. The speed varied from 30-55MPH, which was enough to keep you alert and to keep the bikes happy (particularly the Ural, which seems to care more about speed than the F650) and the scenery also just seemed a lot more pleasant. Even though we were driving through the same type of stuff. I guess it’s just because a state highway feels a lot more intimate than the Interstate - everything is up close and personal instead of far off in the distance, removed by an exit. And we really prefer traveling at this speed, which is one of the reasons the Ural feels like a good fit for our preferred travel style.
Kay’s note: I have a lot of trouble staying awake on the slab, but put me on a nice back road (or 90% of the roads outside of the USA) and I’m wide awake, and taking in everything. The Ural and I like the same kind of roads it seems.
At our second gas stop, where I spotted beer being sold by the can in a big ice chest in the middle of the gas station (what’s that about drinking and driving, Illinois?) Kay and I each knocked back a sugary drink to give us a jolt of caffeine and a burst of energy before hitting the road again. Neither of us felt like eating, as we’d had a big breakfast, so we just pushed on. But it became apparent pretty quickly after we got back on the road that I’d need an unscheduled stop soon. And then it became very apparent that my intestines were very unhappy. I announced that we were pulling off at the next exit, and I practically ran into the bathroom when we hit the gas station. I didn’t even bother to take off my helmet and gloves - it was an emergency.
Kay’s note: While walking the dogs at this stop I discovered this cool rusting car.
My intestines were, indeed, very unhappy. They hadn’t been this unhappy since the time in Argentina where we had to make an emergency stop on the side of the road to address my unhappy lower GI. When I finally freed myself from the clutches of the bathroom, I made a bee-line to the Immodium and popped two as soon as I got out to the bike. I announced that it was time to go, as I really wasn’t feeling well and my strategy was just to power through.
_Kay’s Note:_While Dachary was inside exploding I met a man, and later his wife, who came over and said “Got your best friend in there?” (People frequently don’t notice Bandido for a bit) and started talking.He’d just driven from Deleware where he got a new Monte Carlo. Apparently he buys and restores them. It would have been just another random encounter, except for the comment about the dogs and how “they don’t fight back. heh heh” which was a somewhat disturbing little insight into his world…
The next stretch is a bit of a blur. The riding was more pleasant, but my whole digestive system seemed unexplainably angry. I’d only drunk a Mountain Dew and some bottled water from my Camelbak at that last stop, and Kay had the same breakfast as me and he wasn’t sick so it probably wasn’t the food… I had no idea what I’d done that could have brought it on but it was misery. I really just wanted to be whiny and stop for the day but we had far too many miles to make up to give in like that.
By the time the Ural needed its next fill-up, I was feeling a little better. Had a minor revisitation from the unhappy intestines, so I popped another Immodium and bought a Gatorade and a cookie to try to keep me from getting dehydrated and to give me a shot of energy. At this point I had pretty much nothing in my system, food or water-wise, but the idea of eating anything just felt gross after my digestive system was so unhappy. That cookie was damn good, though. Casey’s General Store: if you’re all this tasty, I want to revisit your baked goods.
I was sitting with the dogs, drinking my Gatorade, while Kay was off taking pictures of a load of bricks (no, I don’t understand why, either… apparently they were “artistic”) when a woman came over and complimented the rig. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and then a guy came over to join her. He apparently recognized us - he’d followed our RR from Boston to Ushuaia and we’d met him last year at the BMW MOA rally! We re-introduced ourselves and I got to meet Terry and Connie. And they were on a BMW K-bike custom sidecar hack! Of course we had to compare hacks, and theirs seems very well built for comfort. I was really impressed. There were things about it that just wouldn’t work with our travel style, but it was clearly a well thought-out rig and I was a bit envious after some of the power issues I’d been having with the Ural yesterday.
Had a nice chat with them - it’s always good to talk bikes with other motorcyclists and like-minded travelers - but they were going the opposite way as they were coming home from this year’s MOA rally in Sedalia, MO. We were headed that way, where the heat was so intense that another canine in a sidecar hack was playing hopscotch to try to avoid burned paws on the hot asphalt - so it was time to part ways and hit the road again. But I hope we meet them again in our travels in the future!
Back on the road, where Kay commented that the air felt like a hot blast from a hair dryer. At least the landscape was more interesting, as we continued riding on county roads and backroads across Illinois. Eventually, we made it to our final gas stop of the day, just 6 miles from the “close” campground that I’d picked out. It was around 6:15-6:30, so we opted not to try for the “far” campground I’d found which was around 100 miles away. So it was just a short 6-mile jaunt to where we could set up camp nice and early, write up the day and maybe relax a bit.
I noticed a river on the map, and the state border seemed to be in the river… and then a thought occurred to me: “Is this the Mississippi? Are we crossing the Mississippi?” Well, you geographically-savvy people are probably thinking “Duh!” but it was the end of a long day and it totally didn’t occur to me. But then there we were, crossing the Mississippi and heading into Iowa! It was wide and there was a very impressive dam on it… and my GPS seemed to indicate that we’d be camping along the Mississippi! Score! How cool is that?
Headed up to where the park was supposed to be located… and no park. We went down a gravel drive adjacent to the green space where the park was supposed to be. It was just a driveway for a couple of homes. We went back and turned into the next drive on the other side of the green space where our park was supposed to be located. It was a country club. ACK! Where’s the campground? The next place was 100 miles away, and I was tired and hot and ready to be done - that ride just seemed too daunting. Especially with my stomach threatening to explode again. I said to Kay that we should just suck it up and grab one of the hotels in town, but he suggested that we ask the couple that was in the country club parking lot if they had any idea where the campground was located.
Success! They did, indeed, know of a campground. They gave Kay some directions, but then said that they’d be driving to the supermarket that was along the route so we could follow them that far and then navigate the rest of the way to the campground. We thought that was very generous, and Kay pulled over next to my bike while they finished loading their car. When they came around, the woman said that hubby wasn’t feeling well, so she’d drop him off and show us how to find the campground, but that she thought there was also camping by the river, and would we rather do that? Well, heck yeah! We were all psyched to be camping by the Mississippi and bummed that we couldn’t find the place - we’d jump on the idea of river camping! So she said to follow them while they dropped off hubby, and then she’d lead us to the river campground.
Apparently the plans changed along the way, because after a rather circuitous route, we found ourselves at the river! It was a municipal camping area. There were no amenities, but it was literally right along the river, and the woman painted a great picture of what it would be like to camp there, so we wanted to stay. We chatted for a bit and thanked them for their kindness - it reminded us of other places in the world where people went out of their way to be generous and helpful to travelers, but that has so rarely happened to us here in the US, so it was a really pleasant surprise to find that in Iowa along the Mississippi River!
After they headed out, we walked around for a bit pondering where to put the tent. I felt my energy flagging fast, and I told Kay that I was crashing and that we needed to get set up fast so I could eat the sandwich we’d bought and get some brain back.
(If you don’t already know from our SA RR, if I don’t get fed at least somewhat regularly, my brain just goes away. Imagine a diabetic on a sugar crash. I get kinda confused and easily distracted, and it takes me a long time to parse even simple things. I’ve talked to my doctor about it and been tested for diabetes repeatedly as it runs in my family, but apparently they can’t find any reason for this… it usually doesn’t matter but the end result is that I need to eat *something* at regular intervals or my brain vanishes.)
In spite of my best intentions of adventurous camping along the Mississippi river… I just couldn’t find a good place to set up the tent. In one spot, there were a ton of spider webs and ants and a pile of what looked suspiciously like vomit. Pretty much everywhere else, there was a ton of poop. I suspect geese, although there weren’t any there at the time. I’m not really that fastidious but I didn’t want to get goose poop all over our tent footprint. And on, and on… the endless litany of “how about over here” quickly boiled down to one simple thing: my tummy was still unhappy. That’s it. I needed a place to stay that had a bathroom. So we were going for a hotel.
_Kay’s note:_While the area was a little questionable, and potentially noisy, we both liked the idea of camping along the banks of the Mississppi river, and before Dachary’s intestines spoke up I grabbed a dog bag and cleaned a spot of all the poo. I’ve seen plenty of goose poo, and plenty of dog poo. Geese can not be blamed for this. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that the dog owners of Keokuk Indiana are thoughtless ass-holes. At least the ones who walk their dogs there.
_Kay’s note:_The Johnson’s however, were an example of what a difference a little bit of thoughtfulness can make. It’s also an example of the kindness you seem to find everywhere outside of the United States. So, if you’re in Keokuk IA looking for “Clothes for the Particular Man” check out Gary’s shop. Sending you there is the least we can do in return.
The GPS had several, including a Super 8, which Kay called to verify that they’d take dogs. They would. We hit the button and got a route. Just a couple of miles away. Along the way, Kay kept calling out to me over the headset to be careful and pay attention. My brain had become so depleted at that point that I was like a small child getting distracted over every little shiny. “Ohh! Sonic! Ohh! Wendy’s! Ohh! A Honda motorcycle dealer!” On and on. Kay kept trying to get me to focus on driving but I had so little brain that every thing my eye fell on became a big thing worthy of an exclamation.
At one point, a woman in a gold car pulled out from a left turn toward my lane, and I shouted because I thought she was going to cut me off or actually hit me, but it was clear to Kay that she had no intention of coming all the way over to our lane (it was a 5 lane road - 2 lanes in each direction and a turn lane in the middle - and she was going for one of the near lanes) but I was convinced that she almost hit us. I think that if we couldn’t have seen the Super 8 in the distance by then, Kay probably would have told me to pull over and would have ferried me there instead of letting me drive the rest of the way.
We made it without incident, though, and Kay pulled in to get us a room. And then he instructed me to go there immediately and eat a cookie. I didn’t want a cookie and wouldn’t eat one. I really do get into a childlike state when I get that low on brain power - it’s disturbing to think about in retrospect. Kay hustled me into the hotel room while he unpacked our luggage from the bikes and then went to go get us some real dinner at Sonic.
Kay’s note: I didn’t know what needed to be grabbed from the bikes, or where it lived since Dachary’s been heading up the packing this trip, and when I asked her what bags I should get it was almost painful watching her brilliant mind slowly pick items off of a mental list. I immediately instructed her to eat some of the pre-made sandwich we’d bought since she wouldn’t eat the cookie. I’m happy to report she’d done so by the time I got back, but it wasn’t enough. The Sonic was…
By the time we got settled in, it was around 9:30. We’d left the gas station about 8 miles away at around 6:30 for a campground that was supposedly 6 miles away, just across the river. Just goes to show that the best laid plans, and all that.
Whilst Kay was doing the heavy lifting, I checked the weather for where we’d be traveling next and discovered that they were under an extreme heat warning. Ack! Temperatures in the 103-105 range, and they were advising people to limit outdoor activity and get into air conditioned environments. It had been hot enough today - we passed a sign that said it was 92 when we were heading to the hotel - and I didn’t want to subject us or the dogs to that kind of heat. So I suggested that we get up really early and get on the road around sunup just to try to cover miles before it got too hot. Kay agreed, so we set the alarm for 5AM - I felt it should probably be 4:30 but couldn’t bring myself to say it - and as it was already after 10, it was time to get to sleep ASAP. Updating the RR and blog would have to wait.
Kay’s Note: She also instructed me to go do laundry, which I thought was somewhat insane at 10 PM when we were both wiped out, but it was not an evening where debating the validity of a course of action was even remotely a good decision. I went and did the laundry.
Quick note about the Kay’s helmet headset, though: my uncle disassembled it while we were in Anderson, but found he didn’t have the right battery to replace it. But he cleaned some connections while he was in there and said there were no signs of water damage. After reassembling and charging the headset, it appears to be working again! It was on for around 10 hours total today, I think, and it hadn’t yet died when we stopped for the day. So I don’t know what he did, but it worked! I’m thinking that if it keeps up this trend, we won’t bother to replace it - we’ll just keep an eye on it to see how it’s doing.
Kay’s note: For those wondering how the dogs fit / ride in the sidecar when they’re actually moving I offer you this:
For those wondering how well they get along inside there, or in general, I offer you this:
Ben’s head is rested across ‘Dido’s back in that one.