Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughts on the Road to Nebraska

Some of you that are more experienced and accomplished "Tourers" than I am may find some of the words in this post a bit simplistic. But my intent was just to record some thoughts, pictures and observances from the longest trip I have ever attempted on two wheels. So for posterity, here it is!
The final decision to take Max to Nebraska wasn't finally made until early Thursday morning. The weather forecast was just "iffy" enough to make me consider the possibility of taking the famous Canadian Subaru instead. But at 5:15 am I moved Max out of the garage and started getting the bags and backpack stowed. It was dark and there was some very visible lightning off to the east of town. But the radar indicated that the storm wasn't headed my way. I briefly considered putting on the rain jacket just in case, but didn't. We took off! I stopped briefly, a few miles away from home to check the packing a bit and was glad I did. I had purchased some new straps a few days before because I was worried that maybe one of the bungee cords would break. It happens, you know. The luggage bag I used was "strapped" to the bike and the small cooler I took was then bungeed to the luggage. The straps had come loose a bit and I needed to re-configure the straps a bit. Oh well, it was my first time using the straps, but I figured it out, got the straps re-positioned a bit better, and moved on again. I got gas in Newton, about 25 miles north of Wichita. Getting gas there was convenient because the next stop for gas would be about 70 miles from there, but after that it would be another 50 miles or so. Didn't think I could push it that far, and I was right. The sun was trying to come up when I got to Newton, but a lot of clouds in the east were obscuring the sun. I took this shot along K-15 about 25 miles north of Newton.
Max in the early morning sun
The next city of any size was Abilene, the boyhood home of Dwight D Eisenhower. His presidential library is there and I stopped to get a couple of pictures.
The chapel at the Eisenhower Center
As I slowed down while entering the city of Abilene, I heard a funny noise of what sounded like two pieces of metal clanging together. Not a bad noise, and not real loud, but it made me wonder. Was it me, or the car next to me? It was me. I didn't see anything right away and Max was running fine, so I didn't worry about it while I took these pictures.
The boyhood home of "Ike"
I needed gas in Abilene as well, and after I left the Eisenhower Center, I proceeded down the street to find a gas station. The clanging noise was definately from Max, and it sounded like it might be coming from the muffler area, but while riding, I couldn't tell for sure.
A statue of "Ike" The actual library where his "papers" are stored. I saw many people using the library.
Eisenhower was president in the 1950's after a successful career as a 5 star general and the commander of allied forces during World War 2. Ironically, he was the first president to coin the phrase of the "Military Industrial Complex". More recent presidents have huge libraries created for them. Clinton's, in Little Rock Arkansas, is immense. Ike's is modest in comparison. In my opinion, Eisenhower was an interesting person and was good for the country.
Max at the Eisenhower Center. If you look closely, you might see that the heat shield on the muffler looks crooked. It was.

While getting gas a little further up the street I was able to determine that the shield for the muffler was just about to come off and was the source of the clanging noise. There were supposed to be 3 bolts holding it in place. Two were missing and the third was loose. I tried to tighten it, but it appeared that it wouldn't hold very well, so the next solution was just to take it off. I did and put it in my backpack. I reminded myself not to stand too close to the muffler for the remainder of the trip. I thought to myself, if this is the worse thing that happens on this trip, then I'll be fine.

I tried to make one more stop in Abilene. I was a bit hungry and a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from McDonalds sounded good. But as I dismounted, I noticed that a tour bus of some sort had also stopped there, the lines inside were long, and I decided I wasn't that hungry anyway and rode on.

I am always interested in "The Wave" that motorcyclists give each other. I gave and received many waves along the way. But for some reason, I didn't get any waves in Abilene. I wondered if the motorcyclists were just sort of "stuck up" there. Oh well, no matter.

It was just north of Abilene that I hit a bird. It was a small bird and it just glanced off my left shoulder, but I hope I didn't hurt him. I wondered a bit about what it would have been like if the bird had hit my face shield. I went riding on, and I hope the bird went flying on.

My route was primarily along K-15 which I took clear into Nebraska until just west and south of Lincoln Nebraska. There was very little traffic. A few trucks here and there. I sometimes tried to predict how bad the "truck wash" would be when you passed one going the opposite direction. Got surprised a bit a couple of times. Not sure I will ever get used to it, and don't like it, but survived very well.

I was a bit anxious to "get there" and pushed Max fairly hard. For much of the trip to Nebraska, I had the speedometer pointed at about 65 to 70 mph. Now I know that Max's speedometer is about 10% optimistic, so I suppose my actual speed was 60-65 mph, but I was fine with that. That would get me there just fine, in plenty of time to meet Gary. I had told him I thought I might get there about 2:00 pm. I was very close in that estimate.

The next gas stop was in Clay Center Kansas. It wasn't all that far from Abilene, and I could have gone much farther, but there were only very small towns after that and it was a pretty good stretch to get to the next town of any real size, Fairbury, Nebraska, so I stopped for gas again.

I used to have this BMW 633csi automobile that had quite the funky gas guage. Now this BMW, my only experience with the famous Kool Aid some of us keep hearing about, was notorious for having the gas guage indicator stay up high for awhile and then drop quickly as the miles went by. I actually ran it out of gas one time, accidently. But because of this experience, I have developed a major distrust of all gas guages, no matter the vehicle.
In addition, I haven't taken Max on many little excursions like this and was unsure what kind of gas mileage I could get at highway speeds. I normally get about 75 mpg in town and Max has about a 1.8 gallon tank. But I assumed that my gas mileage would be worse at highway speed, and consequently I stopped to get gas more often than maybe I needed to. If the indicator got down to 1/2, then I started to get nervous. It turned out I was partially right. I ended up averaging about 60 mpg on the trip.
Helmet Hair!
There was this music playing in the McDonalds in Abilene. It was a relatively popular song maybe 20 years ago, and I knew the song well. As I ride I like to hum songs as I go, and I started to hum this song. Eventually though, I couldn't get it out of my mind and purposefully tried to think of another song to hum. It drove me crazy a bit, but I survived.
Clay Center, the county seat of Clay County had a very nice downtown area that surrounded a very nice county courthouse. I stopped again for a few pictures. I have a client that lives here, but I don't think I had ever visited this town. It wasn't a big town, but the people seemed friendly and I was relatively impressed.
The courthouse in the morning sun Some of the stores in the "square" surrounding the courthouse. A statue on the courthouse square
After Clay Center, I rode through Washington, Kansas. A former business partner of mine was from this area of the state originally. I didn't stop to take any pictures, but rode around a bit, and it seemed like a nice town. From then on I was hell bent for Nebraska. A little turn to the west and then back north to the border.
They say Nebraska is the "Good Life"
It wasn't bad to look at.
I stopped in Fairbury, Nebraska to get gas again, and by now I was getting hungry. After getting gas I stopped at a McDonalds and got a quarter pounder value meal. No pictures. Everybody knows what they look like. The fries were incredibly salty. Do they teach salting fries at hamburger school? I wondered. But it was quick and easy. I was anxious to move on, knowing that at this point I was over 2/3 of the way there. . There was a stretch from Fairbury to Crete, Nebraska, that was pretty boring and Max and I pushed on pretty hard. Both Fairbury and Crete were, to me, fairly non-exciting towns.
Helmets required in Nebraska, not in Kansas. I didn't take mine off.
The ride into Lincoln was relatively uneventful as well. I adjusted my route in an effort to find the hotel, and actually went right to the hotel. I was glad and arrived about 7 1/2 hours after departure. I thought I might be tired, but felt surprisingly good. It was nice to get into the hotel room and cool off a bit, but within a few minutes, I was ready to go again. Gary and I rode and walked around town a bit. I have to admit that Gary's Harley was able to keep up with Max fairly well. (grin) . After spending time with Gary and getting a pretty good sleep that night in the hotel, it was time to re-pack my stuff onto the bike. I discovered that I had two piles of really sweaty clothing that I had worn that first day. Since I am an amateur "tourer" my method of protecting some of my baggage in case of rain was to take along a couple of large plastic garbage bags. I could place the luggage in the bag and strap it to the bike if needed. But no rain occurred, and the forecast was for no rain on the return trip, so the plastic bag was used to house the sweaty clothes for the return trip. I thought that if I hadn't done this, then all the clothes in my bag would have smelled pretty ripe by the time I got home. . Day Two was predicted to be a bit wamer than day one, and I would take the same route home. The skies were a bit cloudy as I left Lincoln and the temperature was in the low 70's. Actually very nice. I was a bit surprised about how much cooler it felt when the sun wasn't shining directly on you. On day one, the sun shone the entire day, but the temperature was actually a bit cooler. Day Two was actually a bit warmer, but partly cloudy. Probably more cloudy than sunny for most of the ride home, and it made some difference in how I felt. It was still warm, but didn't feel bad at all.
I didn't push the speed as hard on the way back. I tended to ride about 5- 10 mph slower on the way home, but I wasn't rushed, traffic was still very light and I wanted to enjoy the ride.
I did. . As I re-entered the state of Kansas, I noticed a Highway Patrol car sitting near the intersection of K-15 and US-36. It ws at this point where I was due to turn back east a bit and approach the town of Washington, Kansas. The Patrolman was just sitting there, but I thought it a bit odd. I made my turn and proceeded east and about 1/2 mile down the road I encountered a funeral procession.
And this wasn't just an average funeral procession.
I became quickly amazed at the size of the procession. It went on for at least what seemed like 2 miles and was pretty obvious that the Patriot Guard was involved. I would guess that there might have been over 300 motorcycles and 100 automobiles involved. My only regret was that I wasn't smart enough or quick enough to even get the camera out and take a picture. You'll just have to believe my description.
It occurred to me later that the procession might have started at Fort Riley, a large US Army base near Junction City, Kansas which ws about 70 miles to the southeast. It was a darned impressive sight. I got a wave from almost every motorcyclist in the procession and felt honored to even see the procession occur. It's easy to take a lot for granted, but here is an instance where I felt a bit humble that someone had given their life in defending something they felt important.
And I was just out here having fun.
Then there was a stretch of road just south of Washington, Kansas that looked like this.
The "Scraped Roadway"
A section, totalling about 20 miles, had been scraped off in getting ready for a new layer of blacktop. Lines and lines and lines. Oh, it wasn't real dangerous on two wheels, but it did command some attention and the front wheel got a but "squirrilly" a couple of times. I slowed down a bit through this area. It didn't last too long, but was a bit obnoxious. I was glad to get away from there.
. The next picture is a bit out of order timewise, but the thought occurred to me about what it was like to "head for home" Kansas has always been my home.
Still many miles to go, but seeing this sign was somehow comforting.
As I rode along, I must admit, that I was getting a pretty sore butt. Day One didn't bother me a bit and sometimes my back gets tired on longer rides. But the way I positioned my bag and cooler for this trip, I had a way to lean back a bit and felt pretty comfortable.
But my butt was another story. I found myself doing things to try and change riding position, like leaning forward, to try and change things up and alleviate soreness. I thought about Jack Riepe's Day Long Saddle. The saddle on Gary's bike was really nice looking, too, and looked like it might be comfortable for a long time. At stop lights I would take a moment to stand up and stretch out the legs. Anything I could do, I tried. But it seemed that mile after mile of bumps from the roadway just added to the soreness. Okay, I didn't die, but it made me consider the fact that if I were going to do some longer touring some day, a different seat might help a bit. . Max is a great bike, perfect, even exemplary, for the commuting purpose I bought him for. And he was great on this trip, no complaints. It's just that if I do more of this touring "stuff" a bigger machine would help, definately with a more comfortable seat. That said, I still have no plans to be a longer distance tourer. But someday, maybe........
The only other mishap, mechanically, on the trip, again occurred in Abilene Kansas, on the way back. What is it about that town? Nobody waves either. As I got gas again, I tried the starter and nothing happened. Now I had experienced a small amount of difficulty with the starter for a couple of weeks before the trip. On occasion, it just seemed that the starter button would not connect. For awhile I thought that the connection with my brake lever was the issue. I have to depress the brake lever for the starter to connect. But then, I noticed that the starter switch itself seemed to be a bit loose in the handlebar shroud. I fiddled with it a few times and seemingly got it fixed. And it never acted up any time previously on this trip. But after trying it about 10 times, I was becoming worried.
I got out the screwdriver and fiddled with it again. I doubt seriously that I really did anything to correct the situation, but the next time I tried, it fired right up, and I headed for home, never turning Max off again, just in case. LOL. Further investigation is warranted when I get home.
After leaving Lincoln at about 8:00 am on Friday, I arrived home about 3:45 pm.
Total miles for the trip were 609 in two days. Not bad if I don't say so myself. Surely not maybe impressive or comparable to what other riders have done, but very significant for me.
The entire trip was a blast. A little shorter of a trip would be more advantageous for Max, but it's nice to know he can do it. He ran like a top.
I, however ended up with a sore butt, but a lot of good memories.


  1. great ride report! nice details/pics and some minor mechanicals dealt with....what's not to like?

  2. Jimbo/cpa3485:

    Once you get the taste for the open road you may be hooked. excellent ride report.

    it's nice to pass through all those little towns to visit, not to live there. When I took my scooter out of town I also took a 1 gallon jug of gasoline with me, "just in case" but never had to use it

    Wet Coast Scootin

  3. Charlie 6,
    It was a really special ride for me. Max may not be a highway cruiser, per se, but did great. We had a lot of fun.
    Thanks for visiting,

  4. Bobskoot,
    I can see the attraction to touring and maybe someday I'll do some more of it. I know that Max is well capable of longer trips, but sure could have used a more comfortable seat that 2nd day. Towns in my area are not too far from each other. I just wasn't real sure how far I could go sometimes, so erred on the side of caution. I know a little better now.
    A trip to BC would be monumental from where I am, but who knows, maybe I'll get another wild hair idea.
    Thanks for stopping by

  5. Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

    I read this ride report with great interest. At first, I thought, "What the hell is with this guy and his fear of running out of gas?" Then I read where you have a 1.8 gallon gas tank. Let me tell you, when I run my bike at 85 - 90 mph most of the day, gas consumption goes way up. On real fast slab runs, I'm barely getting 38 to 40 miles per gallon, and the gas light comes on early.

    I would credit 300 miles in one direction as a pretty ambitious ride. My arthritis wouldn't let me do that in day, fancy seat or not. And you did well to pull over and check that strange noise. I never hesitate to pull over and take a look if I think something is scewy. A body of mine ruined an expensive side case ($350) when it came free (following a drop) and rubbed against a tire.

    Any long-distance touring rider will tell you that bungee cords are shit. You might want to look at the Helen Two-Wheels lashing system, which is light years ahead of the bungee cord method. But it does entail having a couple of real mounting points on your frame. Mounting points are in short supply on my K-75.

    I have never ridden a scooter, but your ride reports have given me a yen to try. Ride on. Jimbo. But I can tell you this... If you like following the siren somg on the road on two wheels, there is a motorcycle in your future.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  6. Ike wasn't my first President but he is the first one I remember. History has been kind to him as it has been to his predecessor Harry Truman. Both under-appreciated during their time in office.

    The "wave" thing is interesting. I wave and mostly get waves back. It doesn't seem to matter what bike a person is riding. I get waves from them all makes and sizes; and I get ignored by all makes and sizes. That said, I do wonder what it was about Abilene?

    I hope you soaked your butt when you got home. Hot tubs are a great end to a long day.


  7. Jack,
    Thanks for the interest. I definately am a rookie at touring, but learn a little more each time I do it. I had bought a cheap set of straps at Big Lots for $6 and they worked very well. There was a little added confidence that they wouldn't break and the small suitcase never wavered on the seat the entire way. My bike has a good frame around the back part of the seat that is pretty good for attaching straps or bungee cords.
    You are right that there may be a motorcycle in my future, but that eventuality is well in the future for now. I sometimes look at bikes and dream about what kind or configuration I would like. Gary's Harley actually impressed me, but it was fairly loud and 1,500 cc is an awful big engine to me.
    Take care,


  8. Keith,
    I have planned for a long time to do a post about "the wave" but have never gotten around to working on it. Maybe I should think about it again. I enjoy waves.
    Have a good one,


  9. Jimbo, good on ya for hitting the open road. Three hundred miles is probably the outer limit on a scooter, unless you're really hardcore. But it was great seeing the territory you covered. I'm guessing the Eisenhower Library is smaller than the Clinton Library because there were a lot fewer lawyers when Eisenhower was president. Fewer lawyers = fewer documents...

    Scootin' Old Skool

  10. On a serious note, I appreciate your report for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's about the ride. What we feel, what we see, what we think about. Two wheels helps us more fully immerse in the journey.

    Secondly, it's the same whether we ride a touring bike or a scooter. It's all about two wheels. Period.

    On a less serious note, I can see the advantage of riding a scooter. If you're trying to figure out where a noise is coming from, simply pick the thing up and shake it! Need to do a repair? Hold it under your arm!

    Sorry, there goes my attitude, again.

  11. Orin,
    I actually felt like 300 miles was pretty strong, but could have been more actually. The bad part of doing that many miles is that it leaves little time for stopping and taking pictures, chatting with the natives, and generally goofing off. I like being lazy sometimes, and there wasn't much time to goof off on this trip.
    It was fun to get out and ride. It had been awhile since my last longer ride.


  12. Dan,
    LOL about carrying it under your arm. Gary and I even had a brief discussion about the weight of the respective vehicles we were riding. Max is supposedly just shy of 300 lbs empty weight. Gary wasn't sure about the Leading Ladies, but I am guessing 600 lbs at a minimum, probably more.

    You are right about 2 wheels being 2 wheels and I sort of appreciate it that most riders seem to recognize that. A few still seem to get a bit bent when they see a scooter keeping up with them.

    Thanks for the visit and comments.