The Return Journey

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I’ve been too busy with school work to write, and this isn’t as detailed as I’d like, but it’s about time to get this up here.

Leaving Dunlap, TN on the first day, it was already about 90° in the late morning. Dunlap sits at the bottom of the Saquatchie valley, and I was pleased that I didn’t get any pinging on the climb out. That would wait until later after the bike got heat-soaked from a couple hours of riding. I had no trouble avoiding Nashville on the way back, thankfully. The heat as I headed west got to be pretty miserable, and I had to stop often to rehydrate and cool off.

I was wearing an Olympia GT Air Transition jacket, and it does a wonderful job of ventilation with all the vents open. There’s a lot of exposed mesh with everything open, but it seems a reasonable trade-off in the heat. I was also wearing Olympia pants that have a large amount of venting, and after this trip, I can safely recommend Olympia gear. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to scrub all the bugs out of it, though:)

At some point, I stopped at a combination cemetery and playground.

The Dorena-Hickville ferry was still closed. The US-60 bridge across the Mississippi was still closed, so I had to cross at Cairo on the interstate again.

I spent the first night on the return journey in Sikeston again, but this time at a “campground”, actually an RV park. Fortunately, they actually had some grass for me to pitch my tent, but I was reminded how much I really hate camping at RV parks. Shortly after I arrived, the family next to where I was assigned to pitch my tent engaged in an astonishingly loud domestic dispute. The insults being hurled back and forth were startlingly vile. I felt bad for their two poor kids who likely couldn’t sleep either.

Sunset in Sikeston, MO

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I don’t think the temperature dropped much below 80° that night. The mosquitos were out in force, so I had to stay zipped into my tent. I really love my tent, but it’s a 4-season tent that’s better suited to the winter than the summer, and does a really good job of maintaining heat even with the windows open. This is great when camping in Colorado in the winter, but not so great when camping on the Missouri during a heat wave.

It took awhile to heat up and the first few hours were pretty nice. I got to the Ozarks and once again had a wonderful time on delightful curvy back roads through the Mark Twain National Forest. As I approached Kansas, the temperatures got up to 100° again, and I had to stop fairly often. At some point, I stopped at a Dairy Queen for some ice cream and was actually shivering in the air conditioning.

I detoured south at Kelsey’s suggestion and spent that night in Kansas at Liz’s Uncle Randy’s house who was nice enough to provide an air conditioned bed for the night. I slept better than I had in a long time. That night, I pricelined a motel in Dodge City, KS for $40 for the next night. I just couldn’t stand the thought of camping in that heat again. The heat was really wearing me down during the day, and I worried about making the last day after a night of no sleep.

I adjusted the chain in their driveway before I left as it had acquired quite a bit of slack. The driveway was flat, but the rear tire seemed to just kiss the ground while on the center-stand, and that seemed weird. Because my hosts live on the end of a pretty substantial gravel road, I decided to wash the bike at a car wash before I left Independence.

After doing so, I wanted to lube the chain since I’d also washed the chain to get all the grit off of it. I found that I simply couldn’t get the rear wheel off the ground while the bike was on the center-stand, and finally I figured out that the frame was dented where the center stand rests, which was allowing the center-stand to over-rotate and the bike was then resting back on both wheels. I probably caused this by hauling the bike onto the center stand at every gas stop in order to check the oil… with all my gear strapped to the back. Apparently, it was more than the stand can handle. Since it’s the frame itself that’s dented, I’m not really sure how to fix it. I’m thinking something cheesy like welding a bit of metal on top of the dents should work. There’s no way to actually see that part of the frame without crawling under the bike, so it wouldn’t matter if it’s ugly. (While working on the bike after I got home, I just duct taped a nickel on each side of the dented part of the frame, and that worked great as a temporary measure. But I need a real solution… any ideas?)

That morning was strangely hazy. It stayed cool for far longer than I thought it should, probably a result of the sun cutting through the haze at an oblique angle. The wind across Kansas was intense, as usual, but mostly out of the south. The problem with a south wind while headed west across Kansas is that the wake turbulence off of all the eastbound trucks gets blown into my lane. Riding through it on a CB350 at 70mph with no wind screen feels like riding through a pile of bricks. It was bad enough that I’d get all the way over to the right side of the road and lie flat across the tank each time I passed a truck. The good part was that there was less construction on the southern route across Kansas.

The better part is that before long, I hit the Gypsum Hills. I had no idea that there was a part of Kansas that looks like this:

Runway 1, Cimarron, Kansas. That was on the road. The road I was taking home. I did not detour for that picture. There is no runway perimeter fence. I’ve never had to check for cars on final before! I took that photo siting on the bike, and it only looks like a slightly shallow approach. Had I stood up, I think I’d have been right on a 3° glideslope. Awesome.

The whole rest of the trip ended up being perfect weather-wise. I was extraordinarily sore by the time I made it home, though.

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