A Motorcycle Trip to Pensacola

Dispatch 3

Denver to Quincy, Illinois

May 12-16

 

Eastern Colorado, a cycling couple riding from San Diego to Maine.

 
Ron gave me directions for a road out of the Denver area, so I rode to a point about ten miles south of Parker, CO, and then caught Hwy 86 eastbound.  This was a two lane road of the kind I prefer, and the first twenty miles or so consisted of going through increasingly small suburban towns, until the road finally became a rolling artery through pasture and grassland.  I was descending imperceptibly, leaving the 6,000' elevations of Parker to a great plains altitude of something over 3,000'. 

I was on a very lonesome stretch when I came upon two bicyclists, one pulling a trailer and working a strong crosswind.  I stopped and took their picture and then pulled up to ask them where they were from.  They were a couple from San Diego, riding to Maine.  I wrote down their website and wished them well.

Farm road in Eastern Colorado.

 

In Limon, CO, Hwy 86 joined Fwy 70, and I settled in for 200 miles of freeway driving until I could find the solace of Hwy 24, which parallels Fwy 70 to its north.  I soon entered Kansas and noticed that here there were the prong horn antelope eating the rich grass on each side of the freeway.  The crosswind was very strong and I was riding in about a 5 degree list.  There is the old saying that you know you are in Kansas by the fact the when the wind stops, the cows fall over.  That was certainly the case.  My motorcycle seemed to hesitate occasionally in the gusts, and I assumed that the gust were getting strong. Then, the engine was cutting out more and more regularly and I became concerned.  My gas gauge suggested that I still had about 20 miles of riding left and there were services I had been planning to use just four miles ahead.  As I pulled to the side the engine stopped, and a look in the gas tank showed that I was out of gas.  Checking the log of my last fill up confirmed that I had ridden too far.  My gauge had always been deadly accurate, so apparently riding with a lean into the wind had given me a false reading.

I put the cover on my bike, and tried hitch-hiking, but no one stopped.  I then started walking the four miles to the exit.  A car had stopped a mile ahead and a couple were exercising their dog in the grass.  They were just leaving as I walked up, so I called and asked if I could get a ride to the gas station.  They hesitantly agreed, and soon I had filled my water bottle with enough gas to rescue my bike.  Then came the problem of finding a ride back.  Finally, a local loitering in the area suggested that if I were to put $10 of gas in his pickup truck he might be persuaded to give me a ride.  I immediately agreed and put $11 in.  We made small talk as he drove his tired truck at 40 miles per hour on the freeway and got me to my bike.  I thanked him and he waited until my bike sprang thirstily to life.  I was soon topping it off at the gas station, and making careful note of the mileage where I would next be due to fill. 

I was happy to leave the freeway and get back to the relative two lane solitude of Hwy 24.  Here there was a small town every 15 minutes, and I would come upon about three pickup trucks running the other way between each town.  I was mostly riding among cattle ranches, corn and wheat fields.  The wheat was a deep green this early in the season, and it was like riding over a giant lawn.  There were few trees except for those planted around the farm houses as wind-breaks.  Some houses had three concentric squares of trees planted, like castle walls with moats, to dissipate the wind.  I was still riding in a lean, so I appreciated their need for a wind break. 

It was decidedly warmer than the high Rocky Mountain country had been, and I exchanged my normal riding jacket for a vented jacket and my leather gloves for vented gloves.  Even so, I stopped about every 100 miles for a cold drink.  Invariably, a local person would admire my bike and come over for a chat.  I enjoyed these chances to visit, and found them informative.  It became clear that Kansas was enjoying an economic boom.  With the ethanol craze in force, many of the farmers were planting corn.  I was told that 70% of the recently planted corn had already been sold.
As evening approached, I started looking for a place to camp for the night.  I was told that one could often camp in the city parks.  Stockton, KS, had such a park, it had three camp sites sufficiently removed from the highway, and it had a hot shower.  I decided I would camp there and went into town to find a place to eat.  There were two choices: a somewhat dark looking bar and grill, and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars).  I decided to try the latter.  Several families were eating in their good sized dining room, and they were serving a fillet mignon, shrimp cocktail, soup, salad, and beverage for $19.00. That sounded pretty good, and it was.  One long wall consisted of a glass case filled with the American flags of the fallen from that Kansas unit over the many wars, and I took time to read some of the inscriptions.

The hot shower felt great, and I had the most peaceful night of camping of my trip.  I washed my motorcycle in the morning before I left.  The five hours of riding to Kansas City was much like the previous day, except that it was less windy. 

Hwy 24 became a series of stop lights for my last 45 minutes of riding, but eventually I crossed into Missouri, had four miles of freeway, and Hwy 24 dumped me off two blocks from David Hunker's place.

 

Camping in a town park in Kansas.

 

I did almost all my riding through Kansas on Highway 24.

David lives in a glass condominium overlooking downtown Kansas City.  For 35 years David worked for the city, eventually becoming the Comptroller of Kansas City.  For several different mayors, David had the job of ensuring that the city planning was conducted in a fiscally responsible fashion.  We met up with David's sister, Joyce Lynn, and started a tour.  I was surprised at what a beautiful and comfortable place this large city is.  David said that Kansas City has more fountains than Rome and more parks than Paris, and that appears to be the case.  It has all the amenities of a major city, without the crush of traffic that is  the norm of big cities.  I was suitably impressed.

I had asked that we try a restaurant which provided a representative presentation of quality Kansas beef.  Ambiance was not important.  We hooked up with Joyce Lynn's husband, Phil, and Joyce and David's father, Carl Hunker, and ended up at Herfords, probably the best known restaurant in Kansas City.  My prime rib was exactly right and the service attentive.  Phil was kind to allow the other three of us to reminisce about days in China and Taiwan, and the conversation passed into the late hours.  It was an altogether pleasant evening and I am indebted to Carl for dinner and to David, Joyce Lynn and Phil for their hospitality.

David Hunker and sister Joyce Lynn Maslin. 

 

Benjamin and me.

Downtown Kansas City.  More Fountains than Rome,

more parks than Paris.

 

 

 

 Once again, I worked through about half an hours worth of stop lights to get out of the city, but then I was in rolling farm land.  I detoured to a small county road which ran along the Missouri River. The high water level had flooded the road at its far end and I was forced to backtrack to Hwy 24.  The flooding was not major, but some of the fields had standing water, and the fetid odors were not particularly inviting.

Missouri River slightly above flood stage.

Back on Hwy 24, I soon came to the point where I expected to cross the Missouri River northbound.  The road was closed due to flooding.  A construction  worker described a 60 mile detour of county roads, and so I made my way on some farm roads which proved to be well suited to motorcycle riding, replete with meanderings and dipsy doodles.  I carefully stopped for gas well before empty, and again found very friendly people as I sipped my cold drink. 

The farms in Missouri tend to be smaller than those in Kansas, and more diverse.  Oaks, elms and willows occupy the countryside, resulting in compact views compared to the open country further west.

A Missouri farmhouse. 

 

Near the end of my Missouri traverse, I left Hwy 24 for Hwy 36 and rode the short distance to Hannibal, MO.  This Mississippi town is famous for Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain,) who grew up here and used this town for the settings of "Tom Sawyer,"  and "Huckleberry Finn."  I diverted into town to snap a couple of pictures, and then crossed the swollen Mississippi into Illinois.  It was only another fifteen minutes into Quincy, Illinois and to the Sorensen's comfortable brick home. 

Larry, and my sister, Darlene, are chemist and nurse respectively, and have lived in Quincy for the last thirteen years.  Their three adult children currently live in Quincy, and the festivity of the day was the celebration of Elizabeth's graduation from nursing school.

Becky Thatcher's house in Hannibal Missouri.  Becky was Tom Sawyer's girlfriend in the 

book of the same name by Mark Twain.  She was a real person and grew up here.

 

Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain), grew up in the white house.  

Notice the picket fence which he coerced Huck Finn to paint.

 

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