19-Jun-08 I call Hwy. 83 “The Beef Road” . All along the way there were feed lots and ranches. Quite a few oil wells, too. I stopped at a motel in Oberlin, Kansas with a “no vacancy” sign and asked if I could pitch my tent. The people there said their company had bought the motel for the employees to stay at during their long term contract to repair electrical hi-lines. There was a vacant room which they offered to me. The price: a six-pack.
20-Jun-08 I left the luxury lineman motel in Oberlin and headed north on Hwy. 83. It was a beautiful day for a ride through the Sandhills of Nebraska.
21-Jun-08 My motorcycle doesn’t have a fuel gauge. I just wait until it sputters then change to the reserve tank. This works well unless, of course, you are in Arthur County Nebraska. There’s only one town in the county, Arthur (pop. 147) and it was closed. According to my GPS the next town was 37 miles away. Chancey.
Unfortunately, Arthur was closed on Saturday afternoon at 4pm. I asked some people coming out of the post office if there was another gas station and they said no but that they would ask the owner of the closed station to open up. I filled my tank. While I was there two Harley riders cruised up and asked if the bar was open. The lady who owned the gas station said she would call someone to open it up.
So, Arthur was closed when I arrived but the friendly folk there opened it up. I spent some time in the Bunkhouse Bar and decided to pitch my tent in the park across the street. I had a great time chatting with the bikers, the locals and the barkeepers.
Arthur, Nebraska goes on my favorite places list.
22-Jun-08 The Bunkhouse Bar was closed so I motored down the road to get breakfast. While I was there another rider on a KLR 650 pulled up. We talked for a while and found out we were headed in the same direction. Ryan is working as a wrangler at the riding stable in Custer State Park. He invited me to pitch my tent next to the bunkhouse. Along the way we stopped at Carhenge (a duplicate of Stonehenge made from old cars).
That evening we cooked bratwursts over a campfire and drank a few beers.
23-Jun-08 The next morning I enjoyed breakfast at Blue Bell Lodge. I met a long distance biker who had traveled Central America and had some great tips. I took off for Mount Rushmore. The road through the park was a world class motorcycle ride and the view of Mount Rushmore was spectacular. Then came the hail storm. Not fun on a motorcycle. It feels like bullets. But, mountain storms are brief. That night I stayed near Gillette, Wyoming at a campsite near the river. The road to the campsite was steep, rutted, rocky and winding.
24-Jun-08 On my way back to the highway I slid down a sandy bank into a ditch. I had to unload all of my gear and walk the bike out of the ditch. It was tricky because the bottom of the ditch was loose dirt and gravel and it was hard to get traction. I was glad that the KLR was designed for off-road use. Back on the road, I enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery. I stopped at the State Hot Springs in Thermopolis for a free 20 minute soak and a shower. As sundown approached, I looked for a campsite. I followed a sign to Brooks Lake near the Grand Tetons. Brooks Lake was about 5 miles off the highway and still frozen over. A black bear ran across the road. There was a lodge so I stopped and asked about a room for the night. They wanted $300 per night which was a bit over my budget. And, you could only get breakfast if you were a guest. I settled in a nearby free campground and built a fire. I stored all my good smelling toiletries in the steel bear box and settled down for the night wearing every layer I had. I think the temperature dropped below 40 degrees because there was frost on everything in the morning. I slept warm and no bears visited.
25-Jun-08 The Grand Tetons were a beautiful sight. I had some pretty good barbecue in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and then headed for Idaho. Towns are far apart and I had to ride almost until dark. This is a nerve racking experience because wild game tends to come out at dusk and I had to stay alert to avoid hitting something. I treated myself to a cheap motel to get a hot shower and a warm night.
26-Jun-08 My bike fell over again and broke the tip off the throttle lever. I decided to stop at Happytrails.com in Boise to get parts. I had bought my panniers from them and I was happy with their service so I decided to visit their store. Wow, what a great shop. They had all kinds of goodies for my KLR. I talked to Ed the salesman and got his recommendations for things that I might need for my trip to Alaska. I new grips, replacement levers and hand guards to keep the replacement levers from breaking if the bike fell over. I also found a plastic gadget that fits on the throttle handle which makes it easy to maintain highway speed without having to grip the throttle. I also bought a spare tube, a pump, and a patch kit. My great luxury was a set of highway pegs. The pegs allow me to stretch out my legs and change position. Ed was kind enough to let me use the shop to install all of my new stuff and John the mechanic gave me advice at key points. It took about three hours to install everything and I left with the Black Cherry it great shape for the road. I rode into Oregon and stayed at a campground in Juntura, Oregon.
27-Jun-08 Riding Highway 20 through the Oregon High Desert was like old home week. I’ve driven this road many times in a car but this was the first time to ride it on a motorcycle. The high desert was in bloom and the smell of the wild flowers and sage was wonderful. But, I kept flashing back to my trip down this road with Nee just a little more than a year ago. She is still on my mind.
The ride through Santiam Pass was challenging. The road is curvy and the pavement is rutted. This makes the bike a little squirrelly on the turns. I stopped at the Mountain House. It’s closed now but brings back memories of family excursions. We frequently stopped there after hikes for a cheeseburger and some pie.
The run into Corvallis was very familiar and the final leg up the hill to my ex-wife’s house filled my mind with memories. As I pulled into the driveway, Brentley came out and gave me a big hug. He’s tall and in great shape and has a wonderful smile. Diana welcomed me and showed me to my “room”. I’m staying on the deck with a beautiful view of the forest. Heather showed up a few minutes later and after a warm hug we all sat on the deck and chatted. It was good to see the people I love.Heather returned from a workout and looks healthy and beautiful. Heather is looking for a teaching job in Eugene and took off to chat with some potential roommates. Brentley caught me up on his adventures since I saw him a year ago. He’s been a fire fighter and a ski instructor. He doesn’t like to communicate with anyone by phone or email preferring face to face communication. So, I guess I just have to track him down to find out what’s on his mind.
26-Jun-08 to 8-Jul-08 Living with my family under the same roof after so many years is an interesting feeling. Diana has been a rock for the kids for years. In their tumultuous twenties both kids have accomplished many of the goals that our culture has set for them. At the same time, life for a twenty-something in America today is a challenge. Expectations are high but salaries are low. The party-herd mentality makes progress difficult.
It has been good to re-connect with my children and to talk with them about life goals and issues. I’m impressed by their intellects and perceptiveness. I feel some guilt for being absent during their challenging passages yet I’m confident that they will make their way. In Thailand and many of the other countries I’ve visited I have observed the strong “village culture”. Compared to the culture in America there is a lot of support. But that support comes with strings. The premium that independence and self-actualization in the American culture makes strong, creative individuals.
I’ve spent some time with Sam, who owns an internet based computer business. I’m amazed by his creativity and persistence in a market that changes constantly. As a small business in a sea of big, well-financed competitors, Sam has to dodge and weave to keep his business viable.
Corvallis is fascinating. The changes over the years since my trip began are very interesting. Someone told me that Corvallis is the most highly educated community in Oregon. With Oregon State University and a large Hewlett-Packard facility, people here are well-educated and politically aware. Everything here is incredibly well thought out. Reading the local newspaper is a revelation. The current debate revolves around sidewalk cafes. How much should the café pay? How much space should they leave so that disabled people can navigate the sidewalks? Yada, Yada. This level of thoughtful debate is evident everywhere I look. It seems every bicycle lane is perfectly placed. Every flower and bush is in just the right place. After the exuberant chaos of Thailand I can’t decide which approach is best.On the fourth of July the city sponsors the Red, White and Blues Jazz festival climaxed by a fireworks display. I walked along the riverfront with my son and enjoyed the amazing diversity of people sprawled on the green lawns. Old people, young people, families, students from around the world, aging hippies and farmers all mix in a peaceable kingdom. Ahh! The best of America.