Took Rt 20 through Marshall and eventually wound my way back to I-70 and towards Kansas City. I had noticed before I left NJ that my front brake pads did not have a lot of life left in them, and now it seemed they were throwing in the towel - nasty dragging sound when brakes were released. I saw a m/c dealer (Stroud's?) from I-70 that looked open, so I swung in. To my surprise, they had 2 sets of brake pads for the Zephyr. They were also kind enough to install them immediately, ahead of other jobs in the shop. I was in and out of the dealer in about 45 mins, with my wallet only $60 lighter (actually my AmEx card $60 heavier).
Stopped in at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, used my ACE (American Coaster
Enthusiasts) card to get free admission (still had to pay $5 for parking,
sheez, even Great Adventure lets motorcycles park for free!), and sampled
the Timber Wolf and the Zambezi Zinger
. I spent more time there
than I had planned, and I had also lost time at the dealer, so I was way
behind schedule for the next leg of the trip, Kansas. I didn't get out of
Missouri until 2:30 or so.
Passed into Kansas on Rt 73 through Leavenworth, right by the US Penitentiary, which looks grand enough to be the State Capitol from the outside. I suspect the inside is not quite so elegant. Continued on 73/7 north into Atchison, then headed West on 73 until I picked up 9. 9 was great. Really small towns separated by 10-15 miles of nothing. I had visions of the Isle of Man as I blasted between the towns at 100-110, then putted through through the towns at the posted limit. Some of the towns had some really nice Victorian homes which looked somehow out of place. There was no one on the roads at all. My bike was getting terrible gas mileage at 100mph, but who cares? I was hunched over with my chin resting on the tank bag, trying to hide my body behind the speedo and tacho. What hedonistic fun. Occassionally, the straight road would be broken by a series of 2 25 mph right ninety degree turns to skirt someone's property. These were terrific in helping me learn to turn faster, as the sight lines were completely open, and there was no traffic. My steepest lean angles of the trip so far were occurring in Kansas, of all places!
At Frankfort I figured enough was enough, and I headed north on 99 until I picked up US 36. I had heard through the net that 36 is a good way to get through Kansas. I settled down on the speed to about 70-75, figuring the speed limit was 65. I was not on 36 for 5 minutes before I got nailed by a Marysville cop. Seems that the speed limit is 55 on two-lane, and I was clocked at 73. I was pissed off because I actually was trying to behave myself, and thought I was being close to legal. On the other hand, I figured this was payback for my super-legal trip on 9 that went unnoticed. Balancing the speeding Karma scales, so to speak. The cop was actually very nice, and we chatted bikes for a bit. Actually, he chatted, I just grunted yes or no while cursing myself for getting busted. Fortunately, the ticket amounted to $68 ($21 for the fine, $47 for court costs!), and I don't think it'll show up on my NJ license. Anyone know for sure?
Continued along 36, never exceeding 65, for many hours. I started to experiment with riding positions, as my butt was beginning to seriously complain. I had the sportbike-wannabe position: toes on pegs, butt back and up, chin on tank bag. I had the cruiser-wannabe: butt all the way up, back edge of heels on outer edge of pegs, hands on bar-end weights, back straight. Sometimes I would vary the s-w position by draping my left arm across the tankbag and resting me head on my forearm. Serious boredom leads to serious ouchies. I also noticed that people in cars were beginning to wave at me, something I've never experienced in the East.
Somewhere (maybe near Belleville, maybe not), I pulled over to take some pictures of barren Kansas and stretch my legs. In a few minutes, a couple on a Heritage Softail pulled up. I assured them that I was OK, but they wanted to chat for a bit. They asked me if I was on my way to Sturgis, like them. I had no idea that Sturgis was that week. That explains a lot of the loaded bikes I've seen headed West. I immediately began to covet his fairing, although I'm amazed he could see through the Jackson Pollack-like bugfest on it.
He was a typical(?) Harley guy, bearded, tattooed, grizzled looking. Wearing shirt, chaps, boots, and a bandana around his head. She was wearing a blue bikini, I can remember it as if it were yesterday. She was definitely going to be one of the best looking women in South Dakota in a few days. Small tattoo on her left breast, not that I was looking :-). Like him, she had a bandana on her head. He commented that he had a CBR1000 also, and did I want to ride with them for a while? I suited back up, and took my position 1 sec back and to the right (for some reason, I always fall into that group-riding position automatically when I'm near another bike).
For the next hour or so, I got to watch the bikini girl sun herself, occassionally leaning forward to smooch with her man. Suddenly I felt very far from home, and very alone. He was a good ride leader, pointing out hazards and also pointing to the few interesting sites along the horizon. Around Phillipsburg they pulled into someone's driveway and waved goodbye. I was sorry to see them go.
I continued on 36, until hooking up with 383. Originally, I had thought 36 was boring. Ha! 383 took me through the middle of nowhere, even worse now that it was dark. I stopped once or twice to look up at the stars and take in the emptiness. The first time I was ever in the desert at night, I was absolutely amazed at the clarity of the night sky - it was hard to find black spaces between stars. This Kansas night was pretty close to that, but there was some cloud cover forming.
I want a freight-train headlight. 383 parallels train tracks for a while, and I noticed a light shining along the tracks into the distance. I looked behind me, and saw the train coming, way way in the distance. His headlight was lighting up the tracks in front for what seemed like miles. That kind of candlepower would be very useful.
After about 50 miles of dark emptiness, I crested a hill (what passes for a hill in Kansas anyway), and suddenly I could see the string of lights that is I-70, from left horizon to right horizon, like an immense run of Christmas lights spread out before me. Got back on I-70, figuring I'd either motel it in Goodland, KS or camp it in Burlington, CO.
As I rode West on I-70, I could see lightning flashes off in the distance to the north. I didn't hear any thunder, but the storm looked pretty intense, so I picked up the pace. Stopped in Goodland for gas, and the motel situation was pretty pathetic, so I decided to head into Burlington. It was about this time that I started to notice the constant wind from the South. It wasn't gusting at all, like I'm used to, just a constant stream like someone had an enormous fan on. Although I had to ride with the bike leaned over a bit to the left, I prefer that kind of wind to the blustery, gusty any-direction-next stuff we usually get around here.
Crossed into Colorado about 11:30pm. I-70 from CO border to Burlington is Highway from Hell. One lane each direction (due to half the roadway being closed for construction), lots of trucks to temporarily block the wind, and poles sticking out of the road to act as a center divider, similar to the entrance to the NYC tunnels. Yucko.
In Burlington, I headed for the nearest campground, which the book lists as Bonnie Lake SRA. The storm still seemed to be raging to the north, and it was getting around midnight. I was beat. Word of advice: when you're beat and it's dark, stay away from places that have directions like this: From Burlington, 23 miles north on 385, then 3 miles on CR 2. There is nothing on 385 for 23 miles, just me heading north into the storm clouds. When I finally reached CR 2, it turned out to be a dirt road. Okay, I'm in the middle of nowhere, half an hour from civilization. I can handle some dirt. Somewhere along the way, the dirt turns to sand, and I come very close to dumping the bike. I fight my way through the sand, wondering how much longer this Road of Death is going to last, and how much longer until the rain descends upon me.
I finally reach the campground, and the place is practically deserted. I pick a suitable site, and start to unload and setup the tent. The wind has substantially picked up, the storm appears nearer, my flashlight chose that moment to die, and one of my tent poles broke a shock-cord. Also, the ground is too hard to stake the tent down. Joy! After getting the tent setup and chucking all my belongings into it, I finally begin to relax and try to sleep. The wind is blowing the walls of the tent pretty hard, and I'm concerned that I will tumble down into the lake. I arrange my saddlebags/tankbag/helmet into the corners of the tent for maximum advantage. Sleep comes fitfully.