Day 3

by Berck

So, it’s been a good trip so far.

I was pretty nervous starting out. It doesn’t help that heading east from Colorado Springs seems the wrong way. Everyone knows what Kansas is like, what not everyone knows is that half of Colorado is just like all of Kansas.

I started with a full tank of gas and sort of figured I could make Kit Carson without stopping. After passing the sole gas station in Ellicot, CO, then a sign that said, “No Motorist Servies Next 95 Miles,” realizing that would put me somewhere around 125 miles since I’d fueled, I turned around and elected to utilize that gas station.

Ellicot is a pretty lonely place. I looked around for a bathroom, but the gas station was unattended, so I went without.

I’ve flown over it many times, but it had never seemed so far away and desolate. From the air, every place is quiet, and you can always imagine that there’s plenty of hustle and bustle on the ground. I might have imagined a bit much when it came to Ellicot.

Back on the road, I was starting to get cramped, sore, and already worried about Yoshiko, my 38-year-old steed. I was maintaining about 65mph, the speed limit, and was getting passed now and again. I was, in fact, getting passed by everyone going in the same direction I was, but fortunately there weren’t many vehicles. I don’t think it had been quite an hour, and I was already seriously questioning my wisdom. I was probably only here because a bunch of crazies from the internet told me it was a good idea, and who was I to think I could take it? My ass was sore, the vibrations were intense, and I hadn’t gone anywhere yet.

And then, in my mirror, a motorcycle. I thought it strange there’d be a Harley rider out here in the middle of nowhere–they tend to hog the interstates and clog up the more interesting roads–rarely do I see them on the boring roads that go places.

As he approached, I saw that this was no Harley rider. I moved over to the right side of my lane and he slowly passed in my lane, on the left. I first noticed the big, square, panniers, then the round BMW logo, and suddenly I realized I wasn’t the only guy headed east across the plains this morning. In fact, this was probably one of the crazies from the internet that convinced me I should be out here. I waved, and he gave me a big thumbs up. I’m not sure if he knows it, but that simple gesture raised my spirits for at least the next 100 miles. [If you were headed east on CO 94 Monday morning on a BMW from a Denver dealer, thanks for keeping me from turning around.]

The transition from Colorado to Kansas would have gone completely unnoticed if it weren’t for some relatively minor signage. I pressed on, buying fuel where I could and taking relatively long breaks at gas stations. I would have liked to stop somewhere else, but I was already spending an awfully long time time at gas stations, and even though this trip was originally conceived with no deadline in mind, circumstances change and I really needed to get to East Tennessee before the end of the week.

I stopped for the night at Cedar Bluff State Park. It took me awhile to decipher all the signs and calculate that it was going to cost $12.70 to camp in the cheapest campsite. I had a $20 bill, a $10 bill, a $1 bill, and some pennies. I’d started the trip with a zillion $1 bills, but I’d used all of them buying gas or soda. (I bought a lot of gas a gallon at a time…) I decided, screw it, and put $11 in an envelope, filled it out, and dropped it down the tube. So, I shorted them $1.70. I left them my name and address. Maybe they’ll bill me. I really do believe in paying for campsites, I just can’t believe I forgot to carry more change. Also, campsites are getting a lot more expensive these days.

I rode down to the farthest campsite, and put my foot down in sand. I had fun digging a trench back to solid ground with my rear wheel, and finding someplace where I could actually set the bike on a stand.

I went to sleep pretty quickly, but the moon woke me up. Then the owls. Then the coyotes. Then the coyotes woke up the geese. The the geese woke up the other birds. Eventually the cacophony of a wildlife cornucopia burst into life making it impossible for me to go back to sleep. Fortunately, it only took another half an hour after that for the sun to come up.

I packed everything up and took a shower. As I was coming out of the shower, what must have been the only other soul at the whole state park said, “Wow, you must be pretty brave to ride that thing all the way from Colorado.”

Folks in Kansas are friendly and kind. I’ve learned that the only people who realize I’m crazy are motorcyclists. Everyone else just thinks, “Guy riding a long way on a motorcycle.” Riders notice that it’s an old, small, motorcycle. I’m not the most sociable guy, but I’ve enjoyed the comments.

At some point, I parked in the line of fire in Iola, KS:

The wind across Kansas was simply brutal. At times, wide open throttle in 5th gear got me all of 55mph. I could downshift and do better, but that seemed brutal. Eventually, I noticed some detonation, particularly from 5,500-6,000rpm in 5th gear, either uphill or when the wind was really strong. Downshifting would stop the detonation, but 7,000-7,500rpm for extended periods seemed unkind to Yoshiko.

I used only 91 octane gasoline, which was the best I could find, but clearly that wasn’t enough. I tried a bottle of octane booster stuff from the gas station, but it didn’t do anything. So, mostly, I went faster in 5th, or slower in 4th.

The speed limit on just about every road was 65mph except in town. At 65mph, I felt a bit like a rolling roadblock. I was being passed by everything. Station wagons, dump trucks, cattle trucks, a school bus and even a damn RV.

I also got stuck in construction. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, construction on two-lane roads in Kansas is not like construction on the interstate. There aren’t some annoying barrels that mar your otherwise uniform view of the uniform view… No, my friends, this is some serious construction. (Or, should I say, “Road Works”.)

I’m not sure what’s being worked upon, or if anything’s being constructed. What I am sure of is that every so often, traffic in both directions comes to a stop. At this point, hit the kill switch, flip down the kickstand, and dismount. It’s going to be awhile….

A long while later, traffic in the other direction will flow for awhile. At this point, it’s time to mosey on back to the motorcycle. I suppose that it’s possible the side you’re on will start before the opposite side. That will only happen if you happen to be on the side I’m not:)

When you eventually get to move again, it will be at an agonizing 40mph (during which time at least no one is passing me) while everyone follows a “pilot car” through the “dangerous” non-existant “construction”.

After the pilot car pulls off, everyone takes turns passing me until we get to the next construction site, which will be placed at a distance from the previous construction zone carefully calculated to install maximum frustration.

Eventually, I saw this:

A curve! And then, right after that:

A Hill! No way! I must be getting to the end of Kansas!

Sure enough, I was, and the terrain was getting absolutely beautiful:

(from the next day, which is today:)

I spent last night at Lake Pomme de Terre State Park. I guess “Potato Lake State Park” was taken, so they had to get all creative with the name.

The campsite was very pretty and staffed with a campground host. A couple answered the door of their gargantuan semi-movable palace with playing cards in their hands. I wonder how you get to be a campground host. I’m guessing that since it seems to involve a place to park your RV for a very long time, and old people have to drive all over the damn country looking for a place to park their RV’s, that this is a very desirable gig.

They needed my drivers license. And my telephone number. I wasn’t aware that you needed to be able to drive and own a telephone in order to camp in Missouri, but it would appear that’s the case these days. Since they were nice old folks who’d kindly pulled their RV the hell off the road, I complied without too much complaint.

I was a bit confused why Yoshiko was idling was idling at 2,000rpm. At first, I started to think that something was very wrong, then remembered the elevation. I pulled out my Droid to check: sure enough, 299 feet. That’s a long way down from 6,500ft where I’d last set the carburetors. I tried to set them at the campground, but realized that was simply bad manners at best, and really obnoxious at worst, so I went to sleep.

I slept well, and the $13 campsite came with a nice hot shower. I eventually got on the road and stopped at the first gas station I came to. I got out my screwdriver, tweaked the carbs, and and then adjusted the chain which had developed a bit of slack.

I enjoyed the most of today a lot. Riding through the hills of Missouri is a truly pleasurable experience. The weather is great, and after the wind in Kansas, pretty much anything is likely to seem like paradise. I took endless twisty backroads from little town to little town.

Yoshiko developed a bit of a sputter at about 50mph. It started in Kansas, as just the slightest hesitation, but has gotten consistently worse as the miles go by. It’s gotten to where while it’s still worst at mid-throttle, 5,000rpm, it will sometimes continue for a few seconds even at full throttle. Once I get up to about 6,500 rpm it’s perfectly smooth. It only happens sometime, and sometimes I can go a hundred miles without the hesitation. It’s sort of a surging motion, feels like it’s probably firing intermittently on one side.

I think it’s probably a fuel problem, but I’m not cracking open the carburetors while it’s still running. I’m not sure I brought a spare float bowl gasket with me, and those things swell to epic proportions in no time thanks to the damn corn lobby. At some point, I decided to check the points just case. Sure enough, the right point set had developed a bit of a calcification. I stopped at a grocery store and bought an emory board, which I used to file it flat again. I set out, and while it seemed okay for the first minute, it immediately got worse, then the engine died all together.

I pulled over to the side of the road and realized that it would probably work better with the fuel petcock in the “on” position. That done, I continued as before, with the hesitation no better. The points were just a red herring.

As I got closer the Mississippi, the curves straightened out, the hills got flatter, and the trees shorter.

It’s getting late, I’ve still got 300 miles to do tomorrow, and I’m falling asleep. I’ll leave you with a teaser for what’s to come, and why I’m spending the night in Missouri… in a motel room, and not a campsite:

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