From Iowa to NC, Day 1: Deliverance Ride

So, it's time..somehow. I never seem to remember just how early you need to get to the airport, and I do a few meetings in the morning, probably past the time I should have..and check the weather...apparently, there have been some severe storms in Iowa lately. As in, sucky like a tornado took out a small town not far from where I was picking up the bike. Nice. Let's hope it's standing when I get there, as Iowa isn't my first choice of a one-way vacation destination. While moving things up a day had seemed like I'd have a storm at my back, but be mostly in the clear, the morning of flying out - you got it, Severe Storm Warnings all over Iowa and Il. Yay, me. Rain gear packed, fingers crossed. One of the very few reasons I liked the RDU airport is that it has a used book store. Which means, of course, that I didn't see it, was worried about running late, promptly paid the price of a weeks pay for sweatshop workers for a paperback, then 2 minutes later, saw the used book store. Ahh well...

On the plane and ready to take off….but not quite..

The safety movie starts to play. Right as she's talking about 'unapproved electronic devices,' the aux power cuts off to the plane. No more movie. Also, no more airflow from the vents. It's 95* F or so outside; this can't be good. I'm waiting with bated breath for three things things- to start sweating like a pig, and smelling my neighbors, and the word 'delay' that I'm thinking is inevitable.

Amazingly, it comes back on in 10 minutes, and we actually land on time in Atlanta, then arrive in Moline without issue. Surprisingly, it's clear skies, and nearly as hot and humid as NC was..go figure. I get picked up 45 mins or so later by the seller, and we head to the bike.

I'm not gonna dwell on this one, as he's a good guy, and I guess just busy, but..when I sell a vehicle to someone, it's pretty much 'ready to go.' I fix any minor niggles, and if someone were coming 1000 miles, I'd be sure it was ready to rock and roll - fresh fluids, tire pressure checked, 'jump on and go.' But, yeah, that may just be me..and I needed to bolt some stuff onto it yet, anyways, once we dug it out of storage first..

The bike - it's beautiful. It's a pretty sexy piece of machinery, and the Art exhaust can does indeed sound quite nice. Thankfully, no surprises on the bike - it's as stated. Yay for non-sucky people and no surprises :-) 

Getting her ready to head out


Meanwhile, the radio reminds me about the ronados and some seriously bad weather, and can see the sky dark and mad as hell, and heading this way...

The seat, GPS mount and cable, and Powerlet socket go on without much issue, following the OE harness for wiring, and adding a few zip ties. I'll need to check on them into the trip for sanity's sake, but should be ok. I don't bother with the radar detector at this point, as I'm sweating profusely, and the skies are now getting grey. The Icon tank bag is slightly bigger on the bike than I expected, but the Cortech goes on nicely. A few adjustments and it's mostly good. I needed to get to a UPS or FedEx to ship the 'extra stuff' back - the spare jacket and gloves, my helmet case, the backpack and the old seat. I shift gear around a bit, ask a few silly questions about the bike..didn't realize there was that much room under the rear seat, or I might have packed out differently. Then, away we go, to his place to pick up the owners manual he'd forgot, then Kinkos. I fire her up (thank God the kickstand safety switch is bypassed when in neutral; I hate those things), and get on her for the first time.

First ride and getting the heck outta Dodge..or at least away from tornados!

Ergos - ok, I WILL be replacing those bars. The footpegs are a bit further back than I remembered, but we'll see how it goes. It's not 'quite' standard control positions, but it can be made close with a bit of thought. I take off after the seller, taking it easy on a new to me unfamiliar bike. I grab some brakes to get a feel. They're not as touchy as my BMW with Galfer pads, at least not when cold. The throttle is twitchier than I remembered, and I'm a bit spastic taking off, and briefly wondering if a 1200 or so mile trip is the best way to start a ride on my new bike. Ahh well, what's done is done, and life's gotta have some adventure in it, right? :-)

The roads...well, let me put it nicely - they suck. Potholes galore. We stop half a mile away for some gas, then head on out into a nice section with gravel everywhere, for road construction. Oh, very nice - gravel on an unfamiliar bike. I lock up the rear tire in the gravel and slide a bit. Yep, they're not knobbies, and I need to get some time in to get a better feel for the brakes on this thing. We arrive unscathed at Kinkos, and I'm still looking at the skies. I want to be on the road, I basically leave my stuff with the Kinkos girl, and tell her to leave me voicemail with the tracking number so I can be on my way. That was nice, she packed it for free basically, and I was on my way.

The GPS of course, led me, well, I don't know where, but it wasn't great at a few slight forks as to which way to actually go, so I had a few minor detours, with the weather continuing to go south. When I'd been looking for odd places to stop by, and places to stop for food and lodging, and generally messing around with the GPS prior to the trip, I'd come across a pair of places I just had to stop. Apparently, the John Deere worldwide headquarters is in IL, and a bar called Porky's. With that name, I know I had to at least swing by, and a friend in NC works at JD, so...hell, why not, if just for a picture then onwards? I eventually come to the JD headquarters, on John Deere Drive. 

I kinda expected a huge tractor out front; no such luck. I pull into the parking lot with the skies gray, but no rain, yet..and do some parking lot fun - just some turns and more time settling in on the bike, and take a pic. And, notice the weather.  There's actually a ton of tractors INSIDE the building, so I take a pic or two of them for the hell of it.

A good ole boy comes out of the building and sees my shiny 'damned jap bike' or something; the look he gave me was priceless. I smiled, gave a half wave, and rode off.

I was still a bit uncomfortable on the bike. I'm sure there are people that claim, 'Oh, the second day I was doing wheelies and lane splitting.' And I'm sure they do. However, I'd kinda like to be around for more than another few days or weeks or so, and I ride my own ride, and want to be familiar with any vehicle I'm on or in. The twin engine is wonderful, and I find myself cruising along the highway around 6-7k as it's 'comfort zone.' From there, it's got enough power if I need it, and she sounds like she's barely working at all. I make a note to see how much she lugs later if I go up another gear for cruising.

So, I finally get the GPS to understand - ignore where I am, damnnit, just go to the next waypoint. Yep, I've loving their software, once again (total crap). I make it to Porkys, which is a tiny bar, with a Harley or two in the parking lot. I de-gear, have a smoke, and realize I'm damned thirsty. I try to loosen the GPS 'security screw,' in semi-dark, and must have screwed with it for 10 minutes. I go inside, and it's a normal bar, one that sadly, stopped serving food 30 minutes ago or so. I figure the odds of getting a decent microbrew are pretty low, and I'm right, so I have a half of a Bud, realizing I was REALLY thirsty (didn't fill the CamelBak up yet), a few glasses of water, and chat for a bit with one of the locals. It took a few attempts to get across to him, 'Yeah, I flew to Iowa to pick up a bike, now I'm riding it back to NC in a roundabout sort of route,' but he was pretty cool.

I headed out, and got the GPS to cooperate a bit better this time, except for, seems to want to take me straight into deliverance country. I check it again, and set it for 'fastest route,' and yeah, still in deliverance country. It's now around 10pm, and of course the plan was limited night riding, especially on day one. So, here I am, turning onto 'Lost Nations Road,' which is a bunch of widely spaced farms, no street lights, and oh, here comes the heat lightning; how ‘nice.' So, I ride along, glad to have my earbuds and tunes going. I thought it started to rain, but no..apparently, gnats aren't just a southern thang - they seem to be like a pack of wild dogs all over me, and I'm coated with them shortly. Thank god for fullface helmets.

I continue on for a while, then my gas light starts to flash. Ahh, that would be I slow down, I have alternating thoughts of how badly it would suck to have an off out here, and the chances of begging a farmer for gas while I'm on a 'not made in America' bike, while I try to remember how much gas is supposed to be left when the light starts to flash. This went on …. for quite some time, while literally seeing nothing in sight beyond very widely-spaced farms.  I’ll admit - a few thoughts of ‘WTF happens if I hit a deer or anything, out here literally in the middle of…nothing?’  

I finally do make it back to civilization of sorts, and onto a highway. Just before I saw the 'lights of humanity,' I was pelted in the face by something large - I'm guessing a locust. I guess that's a way of saying, 'Thanks, but don't come back soon now, ya hear?' Fine by me, although parts of that road would likely be a lot of fun during the day.

It looks like I'm finally on some sort of real road soon afterwards, and basically heading East towards Chicago. It's been dark out for a while now, it’s going on midnight or so and it looks and feels like it's going to storm, again.

Eventually, I come across a toll booth. A row of them, even, all of which were lit up, yet somehow I managed to go into the 'driveway' of one that's closed (yet still lit up). Damnit. So, I look spastic for a while basically doing a u-turn on a highway to go get back to the real toll booth that might not only be lit up, but will also take my money and let me move onwards. I ride for a while, and have been getting a few cramps in my hips of all places, as I adjust to the bike's riding position. I find an odd rest area, and decide to stop to stretch for a few. It's sort of a combination gas station, truck stop, and outlet mall all in one!  


Of course…it starts to rain


I hang out for a few to see if it's going to stop, but I've still got some miles to do, and it's not coming down too hard, so I jump on and keep going.

I had a rough idea of where I'd like to have stopped for the night, thinking I might take a train into Chicago proper, but it's going on 1am or so, and I'm more tired than I expected at this point. I blame the 'Deliverance Ride.' I wind up stopping in Aurora, IL, and pull into a Motel 6. Luxury is nice, but not needed when I'm on a solo trip.

The first thing I notice is there are signs all over the motel, something about 'we cooperate with local police on investigation of illegal activities.' Great, I'm at a crack motel..or something. This wasn't just a single sign, more like a half dozen of them, and I'd only been a hundred feet or so so far.

I check in, and ask if anything is still open for food, as I realize now I'm really hungry. I figured, 'hey, I'm near a real city; there's going to be plenty open. Not so. One pizza place that delivered was supposed to be open until 1am. I look at my watch/compass/altimeter/alarm thing (hard to explain, but it's great, and water/shockproof, sadly tested a few times now..) I keep clipped on my riding pants, and it's 12:55am..I run into the room and call them. No answer :-/ So, I unpack the bike and figure I'll find something..the desk girl (what do you call them in an overly PC world? Somehow 'concierge' doesn't really apply to Motel 6..let alone one with those posters all over it and thick glass..) said there's a McDs down the road.

There was a Mc'Ds, sort of. It was an inside the gas station one, which..drum roll..was of course closed. The gas station itself was open, though, so I have a dinner of some random meat product in a bag, microwaved, and some soft Oreos, and head back to the room to eat.

I'm greeted by another one of those signs, 20-30' from my room door, reminding me about being in crackville, or something, so I decide the bike's coming inside with me. Neither of us got lucky, but at least it wasn't stolen. :-)

I take a shower, try to connect to the motel's wireless, to find out you have to pay for wireless access, at a Motel 6 of all places. Lame...eventually I make it to sleep.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings..