The Return Motorcycle trip to Anacortes

Dispatch 1

Atlanta, Georgia to Wheaton, Illinois.


Jim and Joyce Peterson, hosts for a Morrison Academy high school gathering in Atlanta.

Saturday, Sept 15, 2007

Jim Peterson met me at the Atlanta airport and we hooked up with his wife Joyce at a Waffle House near their house. We spent the meal catching up on each other's lives. Jim is a miner, a technical miner. For years he traveled to the remotest parts of the world, including Siberia, Africa, and countries ending with ...zstan, trouble shooting their blasting equipment and making creative repairs. Joyce, just as resourceful, handled his calls from the field and ordered strange parts from her ample list of suppliers.  They now live in Atlanta, and Jim supervises the same line of business with far less travel.

By mid afternoon, some of our Morrison high school classmates started to arrive at the comfortable Peterson home for a BBQ.  As usual in such gatherings, we talked far longer than we expected, recounting memories and catching up on each other's lives. Such gatherings usually just whet the appetite to spend longer times together.


Margaret Tharpe, Dan Lawton, Jojo Nelson, Jim Peterson, Joyce Peterson.


I rode home with Doug and Jojo and Sunday morning was mostly spent getting my motorcycle packed for another long trip. Doug had already changed the oil for me, so airing the tires and checking the fluids was about all that was left. All three of Doug and Jojo's daughters, Millie Jo, Christie and Lindy were there, so it was fun to hear of their latest pursuits. Jojo prepared one of her famous southern dinners for lunch, a pork roast with sweet potatoes and green beans, so I was sent off more inclined toward a good nap than a motorcycle ride.

Starting out. Doug Nelson and Don Webster in Jacksonville, Alabama. 

It was a cool fall day with not a cloud in the sky as I rode out at 1:30. Doug and I had gone over the maps and decided that Hwy 27 would be a good scenic choice for riding to Chattanooga, TN. It was a great choice. While Alabama is hilly, I was mostly riding north between two north/south oriented ranges of hills. The secondary highway took me past horse farms, lakes, small towns and gave a much more intimate look at Alabama than a freeway would have provided. I had expected to see fall colors, but everything was still green. 

In Chattanooga, Virginia Cowherd Love, another Morrison schoolmate, had directed me to look for the tallest building downtown and she would meet me there at the site of her law office. I missed it the first try, but with the marvels of cell phones, we were soon catching up and reminiscing of days past. Having spent about six decades on this earth, by now we have all experienced some adversity, and we talked about Pat and my recent loss of our son, Brian. But, Virginia is no stranger to adversity, nor were her parents, and we talked of experiences spanning China, Taiwan and years since. 

Chattanooga is a beautiful city with exquisite architecture, some very old and some very modern. It sits on water, thanks to the Tennessee Valley Authority, and it is surrounded by lushly covered hills.  It is yet another place one needs to visit and spend time.

 Moving north on Hwy 27 from Chattanooga, I was once again I was riding on mostly four lane road, occasionally two lanes, with almost no traffic. Everyone automatically uses freeways these days, leaving the secondary roads mostly empty. About 100 miles north I had to cross a range of hills, so had an hour of wonderfully twisty road which puts a smile on any motorcyclists face. 

I have often marveled at how scenery seems to change when one crosses state lines, but soon after entering Kentucky I was seeing the classic horse farms, with their beautiful white fencing and manicured blue-grass pastures. Pick-up trucks pulling horse trailers became part of the assemblage of vehicles that I was passing, and the veterinary clinics in the small towns were clearly prepared for big animals.

Highway 27 running north from Chattanooga.

High clouds started impeding on the blue sky, and as I approached Lexington, Kentucky, it was truly dark to the west of me. I took the circle route around Lexington and rode through about ten minutes of rain, enough to wet the road without puddles. At highway speed, the rain mostly shoots over me, running down my helmet, but getting little else wet. Soon I was dry again, and grudgingly riding fast up Freeway 65 to Cincinnati in much heavier traffic. I took another freeway, 74, west of Cincinnati, and finally left it for the two lane splendor of Hwy 3, running north up eastern Indiana. 

I was in Midwest farm country. Corn and soy beans were brown and ready for harvest. I passed combines cutting down the corn and dumping the chewed up residue out the back along with considerable dust. I swung around tractors pulling hoppers of corn, and the roadway was dotted with tall silos, storing the bounty for market. It was getting dark as I motored into the tiny community of Cadiz, turned right onto Cadiz Pike, and was immediately riding a narrow road between farms. One mile later, I found the white farm house with the red roof, and I was at Dave and Esther Chamber's farm. Dave had just come in from harvesting "beans." Farmers never talk of soy beans, they are just beans. I could hear his cattle lowing and bumping noisily against the metal gate in the pen 100 yards away. Two dogs, perhaps Australian Sheep Dogs, matted with nettles, welcomed me, and cats came running as well. This was a real farm.

Esther was home from her psychiatrist duties in Indianapolis, and she had a pot of authentic curry ready to serve. Like most of the farmers I know, Dave has a dry sense of humor and he kept us chuckling with his off-beat comments through the meal. He described how three days after signing the contract on their farm in 1974, a tornado took out all the buildings except for the house. They re-negotiated the contract, and Dave built up a successful corn, bean and cattle operation. 

In Esther's free time from working as a psychiatrist, she has given time working with mission groups on the problems of living in foreign cultures, particularly emotional problems as they affect children growing up in a mix of cultures. 

Once again we talked late into the evening. Esther was kind enough to pass on some insights she has working daily with people who suffer the same mental illness that had taken our son Brian.  We digressed into common experiences that we, as children, shared as war refugees in China in the late 1940s.  The evening went by quickly.

This was a real farm, Dave and Esther Chambers' place.

Dave's cattle operation.

Dave got up at 5 A.M. to do farm stuff; I didn't. I said goodbye to Esther as she made her way off about 7:30, and then I went out to photograph the farm in the early light. A foot or two of dissipating fog lay on the cool damp earth. The cows watched me walk up toward the fence, then one flinched and they all dashed to the back of the pen. Then one was curious and moved halfway back, long streams of snot swinging pendulous from his nose. The others crept back with him.

I rode in cool morning air on deadly straight farm roads. It was various combinations of beans, corn, tractors, farms, silos and the occasional farm town that brought my speed down to 40 or even 25 miles per hour. Yet, it was more pretty than boring.  I stayed on farm roads all day and never went on a single freeway. I went west and north, west and north, jogging my way across Indiana and Illinois. Farm roads follow section lines between fields. They don't do diagonal in the Midwest. It's all right angles.

Morning on Dave and Esther's farm.

Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana.

 Moving grain in Indiana.

Passing through Lafayette, Indiana, I couldn't help swinging through Purdue University to take a look at that old, distinguished campus.  Football is big here, and highway signs were clearly evident, directing fans to the vast parking areas provided for their use.  

I moved on, and was soon in Illinois.  After a surprisingly authentic lengua (tongue) burrito in Kankakee, I found a park with big oak trees on the Kankakee River.  I stretched under one of these and put my head on my motorcycle jacket. The wind blew noisily through the leaves and the temperature was perfect. I had a great afternoon nap. I followed the Kankakee River northwest, at last a diagonal, and hit Highway 53, a road I knew, and took it north through Joliet, Woodridge, and then jogged left on up to Wheaton to the comfortable, country style home of Keith and Darlene Allen.

Kankakee River, Illinois.

Keith and Darlene are some of my best friends from Wheaton College days. Keith and I sold dictionaries door to door in the summer, and we both shared an interest in mechanical things. Soon after college, Keith formed a construction company with partner, Mike Getz, which has lasted nearly forty years. 

I spent one whole day with Keith and Darlene; I visited Keith and Mike as they readied a driveway for pouring, we toured Wheaton College to see the latest changes and we talked a lot about kids, and things going on.  




Keith Allen, preparing a driveway.


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