Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

About the Route

 Gas stop in Kentucky

There are three main routes across Kansas, by road. I have traveled both the central and southern routes, in the past.

I-70 goes right through the middle of the state, and I have ridden and driven that route a half dozen times, or so. It is the route which prompts people to say, "The longest week of my life was the day I drove across Kansas."

The southern route follows US-50 and US-54 through Garden City, Dodge City and Wichita, eventually going through the Ozarks, in Missouri. It is flat, windy and hot (in the summertime, anyway), until you get to Missouri. I took this route the first time I rode a motorbike back to Tennessee to visit my parents, back in 1999. I rode a 1993 Suzuki GSXR 1100 on that trip; another motorcycle people thought I was crazy to tour on. But, I found it to be quite capable, out on the road.

On this trip, I didn't want to repeat the I-70 slog I've done so many times, and the southern route would have just taken me way too far out of the way. So, I took the northern route.

US-36 takes you across Kansas, 10 or 20 miles from the Nebraska line, continues across Missouri to the Mississippi River, then turns into I-72. Along the way, you pass through a small town every 50 to 100 miles, which gives you a bit of feel for the local culture, and the terrain is a lot more entertaining that that along the other two routes. It is actually a lovely ride, light on traffic, with a 65 mph speed limit between the towns.

One of the towns you pass through, in Missouri, is Hannibal, the birthplace of mark Twain.

That is, of course, where you cross the Mississippi River. I always feel a little bit of nostalgia when I see the Mississippi, having grown up along the Tennessee River and then having lived in Memphis, back in the mid-80s. The "rivers" in Colorado still amuse me, even after 23 years here.

Once across the river, I made about an hour's ride on I-72, then turned south. I wanted to avoid the St. Louis/East St. Louis area on the way to US-50, in the southern part of Illinois. I zigzagged along on a series of state highways, mostly lost, but always heading in the right direction.

I was lost most of the day, Thursday, because I apparently left my brand new Rand/McNally road atlas in the motel I stayed in on Wednesday night. For some reason, there were no atlases to be had in Illinois. Every place I stopped for gas was either out of them, or had no idea what I was asking for.

(I later got another R/M atlas in Ohio, which fell out of my map pocket on the tank bag as I was riding, on the way home. I bought a third atlas, but made sure it was another brand, since the Rand/McNally atlas curse was getting expensive. I got home with my "American Highways" atlas, with no problems, thank goodness...)

 Along the way, some of the small-town streets in Illinois, were still paved with bricks.

I eventually made it to US-50, about an hour later than I had intended, and set out for Indiana. I took the southern turn and hit 50 so that I could go through Bloomington, home of Indiana University, where the movie "Breaking Away" was filmed, and where my friends Sarah and Michael live. Sarah was out of town, but Michael hosted me for the night.

From there, I took SH-37 to Indianapolis, then ramrodded down I-70 to Columbus. That was my short day (about 280 miles), and I wanted to get into town with enough time to get settled before the rehearsal dinner. So, the superslab was my best choice.

High Street, in Columbus

On Sunday, I also opted for Interstate Highway riding to get to Nashville ASAP. Once past Nashville, I was on roads familiar to me from childhood through my late 20s. I went south, out of town, on I-65, then turned off on the Saturn Parkway, which takes you past the Saturn car plant, to Columbia, Tennessee. Eventually, I hit the Natchez Trace Parkway, in order to go through Meriwether Lewis State park, and the site of the Grinder House, where Meriwether lewis died. 

 Local legend has it that my ancestor, Robert Grinder, murdered Lewis, under the mistaken impression that he was traveling with a large amount of gold. The official verdict, a few years ago, upon exhumation and examination of Lewis's remains, was that he took his own life. Either way, my family is forever entwined within the events which led to Lewis's passing.

I exited the parkway and took US-64 into Savannah (Tennessee, not Georgia, btw), and spent the next couple of days visiting with my mom and my sister.

The cabin where my sister and I stayed, near Pickwick lake.

From the cabin, I took US-45 through Jackson (home to Carl Perkins). Then 412 to Dyersburg, where I jumped on I-155 to cross the Mississippi, once again. I flew up I-55 to St. Louis, in order to get a fresh rear tire, then headed north toward Hannibal, once again. I had enjoyed US-36 so much, going east, that I wanted to take it west on the way home.
Along the way, I realized that I was on the fabled "Blues Highway", US-61.

Bluesmen met the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi, and traveled to Memphis on this road. And, Bob Dylan sang about it:

Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man you must be puttin' me on"
God says, "No", Abe say "What?"
God say "You can do what you want Abe but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe said, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God say, "Out on Highway 61"
After my stop in St. Louis, I ran out of daylight in Macon, Missouri, after 500 miles on the road.
I spent the night in Macon, then hit the road early the next morning. US-36 was just as pleasant going home as it was heading out. I crossed the Colorado state line at 4:20 pm, feeling a bit melancholic that the trip was coming to an end. At about 7:30, after 700.1 miles on the road, I pulled up to Fermaentra for a beer and a wood-fired pizza from the "Wheels On Fire" food truck.

Unfortunately, "Wheels On Fire" actually caught on fire, after I had eaten, and the fire department had to come out and chop and spray the truck to put it out. Quite an exciting welcome home.

Frome there, I made the ride home, and parked the bike inside for the first time in 9 nights.

Goodnight motorcycle. Goodnight, moon.


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