Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 9 - The Long and (not so) Winding Road.

I was oh, so unhappy getting up this morning, but it was 745, so hopefully I recovered some sleep. If i get out by 830 I won't be that far off the norm. Yahoo maps says it'll be about 7 hours from here to Herbert Hoover's monument in West Branch, Iowa.

I packed up, saving the cooling vest for last. There is nothing even remotely hopeful in the next two days for temps over 75, so I don't see needing it for the rest of the trip. I'd used the heat lamp in the bathroom overnight to dry it out and I must admit that the room was a bit hot and dry even for me, Queen of the Sahara. I left at 845.

It was 57 degrees out when I stopped at the Walmart I'd passed last night to check for those Zhu Zhu's. Kinda in a hurry, I almost left my helmet on to run in and out, but I took the whole 20 seconds to remove it before going in.

STOMP STOMP STOMP... The vibrations from my hulkish strides ran up my bones and directly into my head. With my earplugs in I only hear parts of things, but walking with even less finesse than usual was gonna give me a headache.

No Zhu Zhu's near the My Little Ponies. STOMP STOMP STOMP... None in the next aisle, STOMP STOMP STOMP, or the one on the other side. Time to go. STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP... Back on the bike at 930.

Riding East now puts me facing the sun every morning and last week the wind unceremoniously snatched my handy-dandy sunsheilding strip right off my face shield, so for the next two hours I rode like Popeye, squinting deeply enough that my open eye looked partly through my eyebrow. And, for all that sun, I was still freezing! I decided that today I would go without music again. I've had difficulty seating my right earplug and on Friday (or was it Saturday?) between the wind noise and the music my right ear was buzzing for a while. Can't mess with the ears, now... So, that leaves me to my own devices, and yet I can't think of a single song not on the 2 gb chip I've been listening to for the last 4 days, never mind a way to bring about world peace.

One of the women from the conference in Colorado, Sara, texted me yesterday cautioning me about the 3 windy states I'd be traveling through. Wow, was she right! Earlier in the trip I'd discovered that I could reach the rear passenger pegs to relax my knees and give my butt a break. Today I used them to gain leverage against the wind.

The weather fronts have also been interesting. You don't usually get to see the beginning and ending of weather fronts, but I've seen several on these distance rides. This morning, the clouds began to gather, but after having checked the forecast again this morning, I was unconcerned about any rain. It should be dry for the rest of the ride home. (ha! now that I've said that out loud, there will be some freak storm.)

These clouds struck me as a herd, migrating. A herd of migrating cotton balls. Another roadside sign, with almost as many lights out as on, looked like it read 70 degrees and 1145 am. It was mighty cold and I started looking for a Walmart where I could stomp through the toys on my way to the fleece department, but a Cabella's appeared on the horizon and plan 'A' immediately fell by the wayside. I spent the best $10 EVER on what should be marketed as 'hi viz' pear, changed into it in the dressing room and, while by no means warm, was cool on the ride now, rather than cold. They did have the Road Toads rain gear, but they were about 5 inches shorter than I need and, without the threat of rain, I decided not to get them.

In the parking lot I strapped the long sleeve cotton shirt that I've worn faithfully for the last 2 weeks, hot or cold, onto the bike and noted some fascinating shades of grey. I checked the gps to see when I should arrive at Hoover: 521 pm, which probably means more like 6, really. I called just to check on the hours of the visitor center: 9-5, damn! Well, a picture will have to do for this one if I can't get to the stamp.

Booking it to Iowa against a frigid wind I am more tense than usual. Holding on to the grips for dear life brings me to periodically let go the death grip to shake them out or let them hang by my side for a moment. (yes, one at a time. :j) Getting them back on the grip from 3 feet away in that wind was a bit erratic and, after flexing my right hand a bit and forcing it forward against the atmosphere's will, I made contact with the grip in an awkward way...and the bike lurched back a bit. Son of a...! I'd hit the kill switch. AGAIN. Today saw the 4th AND 5th times that I've tagged the kill switch at speed. FIFTH! FIVE-ifth, I mean, come on! The first time was months ago and I was totally freaked at the prospect of blowing up the bike by pressing the button back into the 'on' position while the engine was running. (such a girl.) I did, and I survived, and I didn't blow up the bike. The second and third times it took me less and less time to figure out what the problem was and fix it. It's a sad statement that the first time I did it today there was no panic, just the annoyance that comes with an unwanted habit.

I crossed the bridge that separates Nebraska from Iowa and, hello, everything changed again. There are trees! Deciduous ones! In groups! Stands of trees...and hills! I had the rank and file of corn on my right and cows grazing on a hillside on my left. It might as well have been Maryland! The only apparent difference between Iowa and MD is the color scheme of the cop cars.

Those cotton ball clouds eventually took over the sky. There wasn't a speck of blue to be found in any direction I could crane to see. I was 5000 feet away from being suffocated by batting. About the time I was contemplating the sky quilt it occurred to me that my gps is still an hour off and I could still make it to the H. Hoover visitor center before they closed!!

Well, with Iowa's hills, the wind calmed significantly. Now it was a normal, if still cold, ride. I could again move my feet from floorboard to passenger peg with my usual Cirque-like grace. The next couple hundred miles were much easier and without the extra attention needed to stay upright, my mind was free to wander again and it occurred to me that James T. Kirk was born somewhere in Iowa, wasn't he? I thought 'shouldn't there be a monument?' and laughed out loud in my helmet.

Coming into Stewart the great batting in the heavens developed holes and became a Simpsons sky.

I did make it to Hoover 15 minutes before closing. I was alone, except for the ranger who pressed the play button for the movie, and was stamped, superficially educated, and out of the building by 6.

While I was in the theatre I'd gotten a page that a friend's dad had died and I talked to him for a bit. I had the company of the Hoover cat while on the phone and then planned my route from West Branch.

I looked at the map and did some fast gps button-pushing and realized that going south a bit to visit Lincoln's birthplace in Springfield, Illinois would add, at most, 2 hours to the trip including visitor center time. So I headed south.

I got to cross the Mississippi.

I had a Mexican dinner in honor of Anne Maria, maje extraordinaire, and found my hotel.

Now, I sit, waaay too late, in my hotel room watching Will and Grace and counting the loud, obnoxious trains that pass by my window, horns a-blowin'. This will test even *my* ability to sleep soundly. In the morning I'll check the route from Springfield to Dayton, Ohio for the Aviation Monument for one of my last National Parks of the trip.

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