Day 3, continued

by Berck

As I rode through the farmland approaching the Mississippi, I could tell that much of it had flooded recently, and there was still a lot of water in some of the low places. The very small country road I was on crossed the interstate. Before it did, I pulled off at a truck stop in order to top off with some 93 octane fuel. 93 Octane seems to be available at big gas stations on populated areas, but often 89 was the best I could find on the road. 93 octane did a pretty good job of preventing auto-ignition unless I let the bike get extremely hot. I don’t know if the issue is simply a lack of the proper fuel (the manual says to use 95 Octane Leaded Gasoline), or if there’s another issue. The timing is right on, and the carb jets are stock. I’m thinking I may swap to even richer jets for the ride back to see if that helps. I’m also considering buying and carrying a gallon of toluene for the trip back.

I went through my 20 minute rest/fuel ritual of buying something to drink, walking around a bit, cleaning the bugs off my facemask, checking/adding oil and so on. I also called the phone number for the Dorena-Hickman ferry across the Mississippi. A pre-recorded message indicated that the ferry was closed due to the high water. I wasn’t surprised, and had my back-up route planned already: I’d cross on US-60 at Cairo. I left the gas station, headed across the interstate, and found this directly on the other side:

That’s 20 miles west of the Mississippi. While I’d anticipated some flooding close to the river, it became clear that I was truly clueless as to the scope of the problem. This part of Missouri was flooded on purpose in order to save Cairo, something I was aware of, but that was two weeks ago! I didn’t realize the water hadn’t subsided significantly since then.

The obvious choice would have just been to get on I-55 north at that point, but I-55 North was a solid parking lot as well. Apparently all but one lane was underwater up ahead, and even that was intermittent.

Trying to figure out what to do was made absolutely miserable by the swarms of bugs who were the sole beneficiaries of all the flooding. The standing water made for great breeding grounds for millions of insects. It takes them about 20 seconds to start swarming me after I stopped anywhere, and I found it miserable even in full gear… If I left my facemask down, my glasses would fog up and I couldn’t see in no time.

I headed north to Sikesville, Missouri which, it turns out, was one of the biggest cities I’d seen in a long time. All of the campsites in the area were under water, it had now started raining, and the bugs were still pretty bad in Sikesville.

I never realized the unpleasantness of flooding. Water everywhere is dramatic looking, but assuming you don’t get swept away in flood waters, how bad is wading around in some water for awhile? Bad.

No one ever seems to mention the stench in news reports. Flood water that’s been sitting around for a week not only grows epic quantities of bugs, but it also starts stinking.

I gave up on camping and found a motel room. It was a lot more money than I’d have liked to spend, and it felt like giving up, but these were pretty unusual circumstances. A shower and bed were welcome, and I was even able to park Yoshiko right outside my window, which made me feel better. For once, I was able to leave the camping gear strapped to the bike.

I spent some time in the motel room trying to figure out where to cross. There were conflicting answers about whether the US-60 bridge was open or not.

That morning, I decided to give it a shot. I headed east on US-62, but the road signs quickly let me know that the bridge to Cairo was closed, and I-57 was the only option. So, for the first time on the trip, but with no other options at all, I hopped on the interstate and crossed the Mississippi into Cairo.

The crossing itself is a bit spectacular these days. You can see where the water should be, and also see that it’s just everywhere. Folks who built the interstates did a really good job of keeping the road well above the water, even in a 100-year flooding even like this one.

I took the first interstate exit after crossing, and stopped in the outskirts of Cairo to take a few photographs:

This is the US-60/62 bridge that was closed:

I’m pretty sure this is not a boat ramp:

Fortunately, the Ohio bridge was open, and I headed out of Cairo.

Flooding was evident for the next 30 miles across Kentucky. The water had obviously receded quite a bit, but there was still plenty left.

Things went fine until I got to Clarksville, TN. The highways in Tennessee aren’t terribly well marked, and I wound up heading north, and even just crossed the border into Kentucky again, briefly. I got headed back toward my planned route, but then I got to the outskirts of Nashville, and the signage got worse.

I wound up too close to Nashville with no good way to get out of it. I eventually took I-65 south to 155, where I was able to exit at “Lebanon Road”, which, I hoped, would take me to Lebanon the way that people got to Lebanon from Nashville before interstates.

That worked okay, but I was still moving a lot more slowly than I thought I would. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere, and for the first time on the trip, the weather got pretty hot. Yoshiko started detonating up hills. At some point, I found the road signs totally bewildering and stopped to figure it out.

A fellow with a long grey beard pulled over in his pickup truck and said, “You look like you might need directions, where are you going?”

“Er, well, Dunlap, TN, and I will admit I’m a bit confused.”

He gave me pretty good instructions and was thrilled to see a guy riding an old, small, Honda from Colorado out here. He handed me his card in case I got into trouble… He’s from the local Bikers for Christ chapter. I doubt we have much in common other than motorcycles, but he was a really nice guy and I’m glad he stopped. Maybe I should talk nicer about Harley guys, since it seems like a huge number of them rode little Hondas back in the day. I haven’t gotten a single, “When are you going to buy a real bike?” sort of nonsense on this trip… in fact, nothing but a whole bunch of support from everyone I’ve encountered.

The rest of the ride was pretty easy, and after 4 days, it’s been good to stop. I think I’ll plan on taking at least 5 days to get back.

My rear tire is very well worn, and I don’t think I’ll have enough of it left to get back home, so I’ve ordered another one. This was completely unexpected, and a bit disappointing. 1,500 miles is not a very good lifetime for a tire. More indications that a CB350 is not a touring bike.

I’ve also had Jonah send me carburetor gaskets so I can sort out the hesitation at 55mph. I hope.

In the meantime, Dad is doing well, and I’ve been moving furniture around so that I can move other furniture around. I’m making progress, though it doesn’t always look like it.

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