Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 10

Home at last, home at last....

This morning we wanted to get started at the crack of dawn so we could enjoy as much of the cool air as possible. We were packed and on the road by 6:15. This was the earliest departure of the entire trip. Over the winter, I got lazy on my start times. Now that we are into the summer heat, departure times need to be earlier.

Since we were on Hwy 59 I didn't even look at the GPS and headed south. Once under way I told the GPS to take us to Wild West in Katy and it promptly told me to turn around and run up to I-20 and over to 259. I ignored the GPS and continued down Hwy 59 toward Carthage.  The air was crisp and cool, it was a great time to be riding.

In Carthage I took the loop around to the west and caught 317 over to Mt. Enterprise and Hwy 259. That saved me about 10 miles as opposed to continuing down 59. In Nacogdoches I caught up with Hwy 59 again and continued south to Diboll where we made our only gas stop for the day. It was the quickest of the entire trip as Reagan and I both wanted to get to Shepherd so we could have breakfast at Happy Days Diner.  This has become one of our favorite stops along 59 this year.

When we left breakfast we also left the cooler air. It was above 80 degrees as we left the diner. There's not much to say about the ride after breakfast. When we got to Beltway 8 we took it to get over to Katy a little quicker. We arrived at Wild West around 10:30, purchased Reagan's extended warranty plus some other parts we needed for the bikes, and sat on a few bikes. When we finally left it was almost 11:30 and Reagan was ready to be home so we hustled on down the grand parkway to the house.

Total mileage today was 261 miles and it took us a little under 6 hours including the stop of breakfast and a little over an hour at Wild West. Starting early made the trip easier.  Since Summer is here, that will definitely be the norm for the rest of the summer.

Total mileage for the trip was 2,858 miles over a 10 day period. We got to stop at several neat spots along the way. As always, we've just scratched the surface of some places and plan to return for further exploration in the future. Going to Memphis now may be a costly endeavour because I don't think it'll be same without staying at the Peabody hotel. And Reagan mentioned something about having a birthday party at the Peabody, I wonder how much an arm and a leg go for these days.

This trip sort of kicked off our summer. We've got another big trip planned for July and there's likely to be an overnighter in June in preparation for Reagan's SS1000 during the July trip. This trip gave Reagan some ideas for tweaking her bike to better fit her riding style and she found out riding without a hydration pack is definitely no fun. Check back soon to see where I'm off to next.

Monday, May 24, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 9

This morning we awoke before the alarm clock and were ready to leave by 7:15. We rode downtown for breakfast at the Branson Cafe with John and Lydia. I think this is the first cafe across the US to actually get my fried eggs cooked like I like them. Awesome!

By 8:30 we had said our good byes and were on the bikes heading out of town. The GPS said we'd be home by 7pm but that wasn't the destination. We planned to stop in Marshall, TX for the evening although I didn't make any reservations just in case we needed to stop sooner. So we headed down US 65 south and were surprised with some great twisites along the way, although traffic made it a little difficult to always enjoy.

At our first stop I mounted Reagan's hydration pack on top of her tank bag so she could keep herself hydrated. This seemed to help things by the next stop. The challenge however was that 50 miles later she needed a bio break.

Eventually we made it to Little Rock, picked up I-430 around to I-30 and continued toward Texarkanna. We stopped at a truck stop for gas and a bio break, but decided to look elsewhere for food as the place was a little on the lower end of sanitation standards. About 50 miles later we found a Travel America truck stop with a nice cafe. We spent about 50 minutes there eating and cooling off. We didn't fuel up since we had just fueled up 50 miles before.

When we got to Texarkana, we followed the detour to 59 south and kept going. Finally in Jefferson we made our last gas stop for the day. With full tanks and a bio break completed, we finished the ride through Marshall until we found the Super 8 on the south side of town.

Today's ride seem to run better with the hydration pak in easy reach for Reagan. Mileage for the day was 385 miles in 7 hours 50 minutes. That's a 49mph average, but I think we lost time today while figuring out the mount of the hydration pack and when we had to disassemble it to reload the bladder. At the end of the day, Reagan was certainly hot and tired but she wasn't nearly as dehydrated so we're making progress.

Tomorrow we'll be home after a short 233 mile trip. The plan is to get a very early start so we can hopefully get home before it gets so hot.

UPDATE: For dinner tonight we walked next door to a little building with the generic diner sign out side. We decided it must be open because the sign was lit. What a pleasant surprise this meal turned out to be. We met the new owner, he had just completed the sale today at 2pm. He was still trying to figure out where everything was and how to get things out together. But his enthusiasm was great. Next week he'll actually order his own food (as opposed to cooking the previous owner's inventory) and he'll be able to change the menu to make it his own. He told us he paid cash for the place and still has a little left over to remodel although he doesn't have enough to completely gut the place and start over. So at least in the beginning this place is going to feel like an old waffle house but I think he's going to make the place pretty special. So if you are heading to Marshall, check out the non-descript diner on the east side of 59 South between the Econo-lodge and the Super 8. Be sure to tell him you heard about his place from the internet. You'll likely be rewarded with a huge grin from ear to ear. And if he hasn't changed the menu too much, order the Fiesta Cheese sticks. They are very unique.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 8

Today we are going to Branson to meet up with our friends John and Lydia who have a place there. The goal was to get there after 4pm so we didn't hustle as much as we should have to get on the road. Reagan had a breakfast shake and I took advantage of the free continental breakfast before we left.

By 8am we were on the road and leaving the hotel. This departure was really later than we should have left because the temperature was already rising. It was over 80 degrees as we left. The route was simple, I-80 back over to I-39 and then south to I-55 south.

We weren't on the road very long until the heat started to plague Reagan. Unfortunately before the trip began we hadn't sorted out where she was going to keep her hydration pack and she found she didn't like wearing it on her back because it was hot. So as the temperature rose she found herself getting more and more dehydrated. Our stops started getting longer and it was obvious that she wasn't going to make it to Branson without some changes.

So we got some water in her, got her cooled off, and then covered her in water from head to toe. Then we rode 50 miles and took another break. This time she looked better and felt a little better but the effects of dehydration had already occured. We repeated the process and got back on the road. Unfortunately I pressed a little too far on the next stop and she really needed to visit the bathroom by the time we arrived. We took extra time on the stop as it was lunch time and I wanted to make sure she cooled off and got some fluids in her. Then it was time to get back on the road. We still had over 150 miles left on I-55.

By now, we had a system that was working to keep Reagan riding. So we continued toward Branson on I-55 until we got to Springfield where we turned south onto US 65. From that point we only had 50 miles to complete for the day. When we got into Branson, the GPS led us through downtown Branson before we got to our destination.

It was decided that we would order some Italiam delivery so we went across the street to the supermarket for some beer. Then we went to their place and called it quits for the day. Final mileage was 488 miles in 9 hours 55 minutes. That's an average trip speed of 49mph which is low for interstate travel but pretty good considering the heat got to Reagan and it was her biggest mileage day to date on the Spyder.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 7

Today the seminar ended around 5pm. It was a good seminar and I learned a few things about brain science that I didn't know before. It'll definitely change the way I do things in the classroom.

So with my business completed we hopped on the bikes and got out of town as quickly as possible. The route was I-94W to I-894 but some how I missed the 894 exit and we had to make a detour down South Moorland Drive instead. That took a few extra minutes but then we were able get on I-43S and resume the route as planned.

Eventually we reached I-39S and took that out of Wisconsin and into Illinois to our final destination for the evening, Peru, Il. We are staying at the Super 8, no surprise there. But when I made the reservation last night I failed to notice the web site switched me from non-smoking to smoking during the registration process. Oh well, just have to pay closer attention to that detail in the future.

We are doing laundry tonight as most of our riding clothes are dirty and there were no facilities for such an activity at the Hilton.

Just a note to riders in south east Wisconsin.... if you are a delusional Harley rider who thinks you don't have to be friendly to other motorcyclists... stay the hell out of the rest of the world. Honestly, HD riders up there won't wave at anybody and it's contagious to other brands as a result. If you can't celebrate the fact that other motorcycles (regardless of brand) are on the road with you then you've missed the fact of just how miniscule our numbers are (Less than 2% of vehicles on the road). We had to get into Illinois before riders started waiving again. That's just plain silly. Waiving is just good karma.

We only rode 163 miles in just under 3 hours today. But since we didn't get started until 5pm that worked out as planned. Tomorrow we are heading to Branson to meet up with John and Lydia. Monday we'll start the push toward home, either making it on Monday evening or Tuesday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 5

The final morning of the trip up and we got out of the hotel without much effort. Since we didn't have to be to the factory until 1pm we didn't rush so much and left the motel by 8:30 having already consumed a free continental breakfast.

The plan was simple, mostly interstate all the way up, and other than crossing the Mississippi on I-80 we weren't supposed to have any more interaction with the great river. Well that didn't work out so well. After leaving the motel and getting on I-74 we immediately saw signs saying I-80E was closed at the river bridge. Silly me, I continued on until I reached the bridge and then followed the detour signs all the way back down into Bettendorf almost to where we started. There we crossed the river on I-74 and continued until we found John Deere Rd. just before 280. In hind sight it would have been quicker to take 280 north to 80W and then catch I-88 but I was following the GPS which told me to go up John Deere Rd which eventually became I-88 as it crossed I-80.

From that point on we were on the originally planned route of interstate. We stopped for gas along I-88 near Ronald Reagan's birthplace. Just like every other stop on this trip, people had to ask about Reagan's bike. No one really cared about my old beat up BMW. It's just as well I guess.

From I-88 we took I-43 to Milwaukee. I was really bored with the ride, so Reagan was doing most of the leading with me in the rear handling navigation. When we got to town we went up to the Pilgrim Rd Power Plant Operations facility and took a tour. Folks up here don't know how to give a tour like they do in Kansas City. None the less, Reagan and I enjoyed seeing how the motors were made and assembled.

After the tour we got back on the bikes and headed downtown to the Hilton were the convention is. As usual, the attendee parking is on the street and highly disorganized. It's going to cost me $48 to park the bikes for two nights. At least the internet is free and seems to be of decent quality. We got a nice corner room on the 11th floor with a view of the city which means I probably won't need an alarm clock in the morning to wake up.

Here's a personal observation, I don't know if it's because we are on the east side of the Mississippi or because we are so far north or if it's because motorcyclists are afraid to take their hands off the handgrips but people up here don't wave. That's fine if they want to be rude, just so long as they keep their rude butts up here.

Today's ride covered 264 miles over a 6 hour 43 minute period from motel to hotel. That's not bad considering I got a factory tour and some customer crisis work in there as well. I'll be in the convention tomorrow so no ride report. Saturday we are leaving after the convention to save a few bucks on the room, especially with parking being $24/day. Sunday is the big day as we plan to put in 600 miles to get closer to home. Then Monday we'll find some back roads and possibly make it home. So check back here Saturday night for the next installment of the ride.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 4

This morning the alarm went off at 6:30 but I was already awake so it didn't much matter. This had to be the loudest motel I've stayed at while on the road. I think I know what it's like to sleep under an overpass now. Needless to say, I won't be returning to this motel again.

We skipped the free continental breakfast and went next door to the Waffle House. Service was fast and the food was predictable. We finished breakfast and left the motel 10 minutes before 8. We didn't know what to expect with St. Louis traffic so we wanted to allow for plenty of time to get over to the arch. Traffic was a breeze and we arrived at the arch by 8:15.

We walked over to the north entrance and waited with 3 twenty-somethings that had gotten there before us. We made small talk and got to know one another as we passed the time and when the doors opened we ended up riding up to the top of the arch together. Afterwards, Reagan and I wandered around until 10:30 so we could watch the Louis and Clark Expedition movie before we left. It was very informative.

Once we'd seen everything there was to see, we returned to the bikes and left. Getting on I-70 this time was much easier since I now understood how the traffic flows in the area. We headed west on I-70 out of town until we got to hwy 79 and turned north. We followed this road up past Clarkville. We stopped in Louisianna, Mo for a snack by the river then we continued on Hwy 79 until we came to our first adventure of the day near Ashburn.

There was a sign saying the road was closed. The general detour was to take us over to Hwy 61 via Rte B and far away from the river. Luckily while we were taking a picture of the road closed sign, the mail lady pulled up and started talking to Reagan. She told her of the local detour which entailed a gravel road around the block. After last year's adventure on the Dalton Hwy of course I was game for a gravel road if Reagan was up for it. So we took the gravel road and found some fantastic scenery along the way. And we were rewarded on the other side with the best twisties of the entire trip. Hwy 79 north of Ashburn is definitely worth the ride.

When we got to Hanibal we picked up Hwy 61 and followed it north through Alexandria where we crossed over to Illinois and took hwy 96 north. I remembered this section of roadway from last year's trip and knew it would knock Reagan's socks off. And it did. We were riding right next to the river, in several places a wrong turn could have easily put the Spyder into Ol' Miss.

When we got to Dallas City, Il we encountered our second major road detour. This time I was content to follow the "through Truck" route until we determined we must have missed a sign. So we ended up on another gravel road for several miles, only this time the scenery wasn't as pretty and we were gettting tired. When we got back to Il 96 we took a break for a little bit and then continued on to Burlington, Ia where we made the final gas stop for the day.

After Burlington we followed Hwy 99 north until it met up with Hwy 61 again. From that point it was just a matter of riding until we got to Davenport and our motel. We were tired and we were away from the river so the scenery was just that of farm land. At that point it was just mileage that needed to be completed. So that's what we did.

We rolled into the motel parking lot around 7:15 and checked into the room without much hassle. Then it was time to change clothes and go in search of something to eat. We decided a little walking would do us good and there were lots of restaurants about a mile away so we headed off in that direction. Our first choice was a Japanese Steakhouse where they cooked hibachi style. It was a little pricey but I was getting tired and hungry so we decided to give it a try. After they seated us however they seemed to ignore us and never came to get our drink orders so we left. There were 2 mexican restaurants across the street so we dined at the closest one and had a nice meal.

From the time we left the motel in St. Louis until we reached our Davenport motel was 11 hours 28 minutes. During that time we traveled 356 miles with a few miles being on gravel. We found some great twisites and only had one mechanical issue. Reagan lost one of her highway pegs, ooops! The day was long, and I'm glad to be getting ready for bed, but it was a fun day for sure.

Tomorrow we have about 220 miles to get to the factory tour in Milwaukee between 1 and 3pm. We are taking the Interstate so we can be sure to get there by 1 and be able to run a leisurely pace along the way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 3

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Reagan, Happy Birthday to you!

Today was Reagan's birthday, that's why we stayed in the Peabody last night. I have to say for a high end luxury hotel this place was great. Besides the normal taxes and fees there weren't any other unexpected charges on the bill. Even the internet was free, that's uncommon in more expensive hotels. I wish we had more time to enjoy the hotel and the Memphis area but it was only a stop over for the night. So we packed up and headed out. We managed to get on the bikes and get rolling by 8:45 which surprised me since we got a late start and had the hassle of getting over to the bikes.

We left town along the river front which took us right up onto I-40. Then we took Hwy 300 north onto Hwy 51. Just as the day before, the plan was to get out of town and find a nice little country cafe for breakfast. Well after an hour of riding the best we could find was a place called Breakfast Cove which seemed like a Tennessee version of Waffle House. Service was marginal, the food was ok, and the prices were a little expensive.

After breakfast we adjusted our riding gear for the cooler temps and continued north on 51. In Dyersburgs we headed west on I-155 to get over to Missouri and take I-55 north for a few miles. When we stopped for gas, we decided to just head up I-55 and skip our ride along the river so we could get to the Gateway Arch in time to take the Tram ride to the top.

About 30 minutes south of St. Louis we stopped at Cracker Barrel for a late lunch as we planned to skip dinner tonight. According to the GPS, before the stop we were to arrive at the Arch by 2:30. After the stop however, the GPS showed our arrival to be just after 4pm. Ooops! I knew we were in trouble when we had to break out the Sprint Wifi hotspot so Reagan could take care of a client.

We did make it to the Arch just after 4 and parked in the parking garage at $6 per bike. We walked over to the arch and entered. When I went to the ticket counter I discovered that they had already sold out all the remaining rides on the Tram for the day. Oooops! So we bought tickets to see the movie on how the arch was built and we'll return tomorrow to ride the tram and maybe catch the other movie about Louis and Clarke.

After seeing today's movie, we got back on the bikes and headed to the northwest side of St. Louis by the airport where our motel was. I had booked the room on this side of town as we are continuing the route leaving St. Louis from this area. Oh well, best laid plans and such...  Last year when I stayed in St. Louis I wasn't very pleased with the Super 8 because it wasn't close to any restaraunts and it was in a questionable part of town. But the rooms were clean and the property reasonably new. So this year I found another Super 8 on the same side of town. Well... this one is closer to a few restaurants and it's not in the hood, but the propery isn't in such great shape. The 2nd floor is missing carpet in the hallways. But the new carpet is rolled up in the lobby awaiting installation this week. So they are improving the place. I might give this place one more try the next time I come through town.

Today we traveled 326 miles over 9 hours 52 minutes. That included the 1 and a half hour stop at Cracker Barrel plus the visit to the Arch. With temperatures in the 60s and 70s all day long it was an easy ride. I wish I could bottle up these days and save them for rides in July and August when you are happy if  it's 80 degrees when you start at the butt-crack of dawn.

Tomorrow we are back tracking to the Arch and it doesn't open until 9 so we definitely won't be getting a really early start. But we will be at the Arch before 9 to get the first Tram ride and to save $2/bike on parking with the early bird special. Look out Davenport, IA we are coming to your town tomorrow night.

Monday, May 17, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 2

This morning around 3:30 am we awoke to wind gusts up to 60mph. I was sort of wishing I had taken the hotel proprietor up on her offer of letting us park the bikes underneath the carport. But since my bike was covered I figured there wasn't much I could do without getting wet so I went back to sleep.

We were on the road by 8am as planned and started looking for food since there was nothing nearby the motel. The route started on US 165 heading toward Monroe. As we motored down the road I kept wondering if we would ever find a place to eat. All we found were fast food joints in strip centers. But we pressed on. Finally as we rolled into Columbia Heights we came upon Frances' Family Restaurant. Breakfast was affordable, the food was tasty and the service was friendly and fast. I even got to meet Miss Frances. She was tickled that we stopped at her restaurant this morning. If you are heading up 165, it's worth stopping to eat there. Good food, good value, good service, that's everything I want when I eat.

So with full stomachs we resumed our travels. The goal was to make Memphis before 5 so we could see the ducks at the Peabody. When we reached Bastrop we headed north onto 425 and then continued on 165. In Montrose we took business 82 east to get back to the river. In Greenville we turned onto Hwy 1. This kept us closer to the river. This section of highway was part of the Mississippi Great River Road. Finally in Friar Point we headed East on 61 which eventually turned North.

In Tunica we stopped at Sonic for some cherry lime-aids and chilly cheese tots. Since we were so close to Memphis and time was on our side we filled up in Tunica so we wouldn't have to worry about it in the morning. Then it was on into Mempis via 61. Be prepared for lots of stop and go coming into Memphis via 61 as there are so many lights along the way. A short ride on I-55 and then we took the Riverside exit and rode along the river until we got to Union Avenue and then found the Peabody.

Just like any old high end hotel in a downtown area, parking was difficult. But we got unloaded and checked in, then moved the bokes to the hotel parking area. Next time we'll come in on 2nd Avenue so we can at least pull into the area where the valet pickup/drop off is. Even with the parking challenges, we managed to get changed into street clothes, go to the hotel bar for a beer and see the ducks march back to the elevator from their day time duck fountain in the lobby.

We are heading out to Beale street to listen to some Blues and eat some BBQ. Since Rendevous is closed on Sunday and Monday, we'll have to find another place to eat. I doubt we're going to have any problems.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

CIW 2010 - Day 1

May is here and this year I'm supposed to attend the Harley Davidson Riders Edge Continuous Workshop (a.ka. CIW) being held in Milwaukee, WI. The home of all things HD. Whoopee!
It's a road trip though and the last time I attended the CIW in 2008 I completed my BBG1500, SS2000 and road the Tail of the Dragon on the way home. So while the workshop may be necessary for my instructor certification, the trip to and from is necessary for my mental well being.

Willie Nelson's song "On the road again" was the furthest thing from my mind today as we traveled down the road. What was going through my mind however was the disorganized client who is trying to move data centers without much real planning, another project that I'm struggling with to make profitable, and the exhaustion from catering last night's wedding reception of a friend's daughter. None the less we left town today.

The goal was to leave by noon, well by 1pm we finally hit the road. It's just par for the course now it seems, no matter how hard we try something always comes up and we are late getting on the road. None the less, we got on the road finally and headed up 59. The plan was to take 59 to Livingston and the go east on 190 through Woodville. We stopped in Woodville for gas and a break, leaving so late in the day meant we were riding in the hottest part of the day but since we had so much to do this morning we didn't have a choice. After the break we continued east on 190 to Jasper where we picked up 63 east  When we crossed the Sabine river into Louisianna 63 turned into Hwy 8 and we followed it all the way to Leesville.

As we passed through Leesville, I kept an eye out for a red Suzuki Savage that used to be Reagan's. I didn't really expect to see it but it would have been funny if I had.  In Leesville we picked up hwy 28 and continued east to Alexandria. We headed north on 165 and circumnavigated the metropolis of Alexandria. The GPS was telling me we were getting closer and closer to the motel so I started watching for open restaraunts in case there weren't any near the motel.

When we arrived at the Max Motel I was glad I had paid attention to my eating choices along the way. Because the closest thing to the motel was a Chevron station and a church. In the lobby there was a menu for the Magnolia Cafe but it turns out they are only open for Lunch and only during the week. Shucks, if my cooking was that good I might just open a restaraunt too, then again it might one of those places that "daddy" opened to give his kid some sort of a job. Who knows, I doubt I'll find out on this trip.

The motel is clean and the folks are friendly. We unpacked the bikes, sat down for a few minutes and then headed back down the road to Ball for mexican food. Reagan had the idea to order Fajitas and that was a superb decision. Afterwards we rode back up the road to the motel, cleaned up windshields and covered bikes. Then I started working on my computer and trying to get the Windows OS to read the Linux partition so I could get a file off. That didn't work but rebooting a few times got everything copied to where I needed.

There's going to be 5 days of traveling on the way up and just 2 and a half on the way home. So the site seeing will be happening this week. Tomorrow we are going to Memphis to stay at the Peabody, eat at Rendevous and walk down Bealle street. It's sort of part of Reagan's birthday celebration since Tuesday is her birthday. For her birthday we'll be going to St. Louis to see the Gateway arch.

I'm carrying my new GoPro HD camera with me and if I can get everything working, I should be able to put together a little video montage of our trip. Unfortunately I don't have a remote start/stop button for it, so I have to start it when we stop for a break and let it run until the next break. I think when/if I find myself in some fun twisties I'll stop and turn it on. At least I hope I remember to.

Oh, and our stats for the day? 272 miles over a 5 hour 24 minute period. According to the GPS we left the driveway at 12:46 but I know I sat in the parking lot of Academy for a few muintes before we actually got on the road.  Tomorrow's route is 336 miles and estimated to take 7 hours. We are continuing up 165 to Monroe and then working our way over to the Mississipppi river. Then we are going to follow it up to Memphis while trying to stay close to the riverbank along the way. We'll see what happens. But the ducks walk at 5 and we have to be there for that per Reagan.