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Friday, July 17th 2009
Little Sturgis or Bust
Left the house at 2:55am toward Sturgis, KY and the ‘Little Sturgis’ bike rally. My trip almost ended before it began when 5 miles from home loomed a huge gator in the middle of the road. For you who don't know, a 'gator' is a semi truck trailer tire tread that has been thrown off a retread tire on the highway. The reason they are called gators is that when they are laying flat on the road they look like an aligator in the water.
This particular one was laying on it's side, thus keeping the shape of the round tire. It was 10 inches high and approximately 3 feet in diameter. If I would have hit it, I would have been wrecked on the road with another demolished bike. It appeared in my headlights and by the time I saw it I had to swerve drastically to miss it. As I tried to get my heart out of my throat I hoped that that was the worst thing I'd have to deal with on this trip.
Sun Came Up
The sun rose about 5:28am to reveal a clear blue sky with a few whispy white clouds. This is going to be a fun trip.
Thank God the weather man lied.
I was headed down Highway 60 west in Missouri. I was surprised to find that highway 60 west was 2 lanes in each direction with a median for most of the way. They were working on sections of the road where it was cut down to 1 lane in each direction. There were dump trucks headed in both directions which tended to pepper me with sand and dirt.
About every hundred miles I started looking for a gas station. I found that the gas price in Missouri was much less than in Northwest Arkansas where I live. Also, premium gas is 93 octane when the top I can find at home is 91 octane. I noticed a marked difference in the way my bike ran (that was great).
The Trip Continues
On Friday (July 17th) at Charleston, MO, hooked up with a group of bikers also headed to Little Sturgis. We crossed over the Mississippi River on one of the narrowest bridges ever built. Semi trucks had their outside wheels up on the curb and their inside wheels were over the center line. The wind current coming off the trucks as they passed us on the bridge felt like it was so strong it was going to blow us off the bridge into the Mississippi. Now when I say ‘bridge’ I mean a bridge 10 stories up in the air over the river. It’s a good thing I do not have vertigo.
I used to work on the tug boats on the Mississippi River so I was interested in looking over the side of the bridge to see the tug boats and barges, you know, reminiscing. But every time I went to look over the edge another semi would come across the bride so I’d have to stop site-seeing to pay attention to where I was and what I was doing.
When we crossed through the tip of Illinois there were corn fields as far as the eye could see. We got behind a caravan of Combines and were stuck for quite a while just crawling along in the hot sun. Then we arrived at Paducah, KY.
In Paducah, KY the guys I was traveling with wanted to stop and have lunch. We stopped at a local steak house and we broke bread and told stories of the road. We talked about where each one of us had come from and where we were headed.
Great couple of guys - I wish I could remember their names. It was truly a pleasure conversing with them. (If you guys read this blog, please add a comment or send me an email. Thanks for breaking bread with me. That means a lot to me.)
More and more - Falling into line
When we left Paducah we headed up highway 60 toward Sturgis, KY. We passed more corn fields and bean fields.
We started picking up more and more bikes all the way up to Sturgis. There were small groups, large groups, and individuals all along the way that just kind of folded in with us so our arrival at Sturgis looked like one huge group. There were at least 500 bikes in our impromptu group by the time we got there.
At Little Sturgis
When we arrived at the Rally grounds they fed us through a gauntlet of orange cones till we got to the place where we could pay and get our wrist bands. Then to get back to the main rally grounds we had to circle around through a large part of the camping area on dirt roads. This was very difficult for me because of my bad leg and my large bike. I found my way back to the main rally grounds where I parked my bike near to where they were having the bike show.
From there, with my cane, I hobbled in to the vendor area. It was an extremely large area with corridors of vendors heading off in different directions. My focus at this point was to get my rally patch and souvenirs (cap, patch, pins, etc…) I ran into several people, much to my surprise, that recognized me as The Biker Poet whereupon I did several impromptu performances of my poetry.
One of the people I met that I kept running across was a Minister who lived near the Mississippi River and ministered to several Merchant Marines. I’m sorry I forgot your name, so please get back in touch with me if you read this blog. I really enjoyed our talks and reading my poetry to you.
Much to my dismay, I was denied CRITICAL, NEED-TO-KNOW information. The county in Kentucky where the rally was held is a dryyyyy county. I saw several people walking around with beer at the rally and when thirstily asked them where they bought their beer, they said “Not here.”
In other words, you had to travel three counties away from the rally to find a place to buy beer. So after being over-heated and tired out from the rally, I started my sojourn to find such a place. I headed down highway 60 East, periodically stopping at convenience stores to see if they had beer only to be told that I needed to keep going until I reached Paducah. By the time I got near Paducah the sun had gone down and I had to traverse a very narrow, very tall, two-lane bridge with semi trucks charging toward me. I missed the sign telling me what river I was crossing.
As I came off the bridge headed into town, I aimed just to the right of the oncoming headlights, not being able to see because my windshield was so bug-splattered. Much to my surprise, my lane of the road veered sharply to the right and I wasn’t able to see this until the last second. I leaned my bike all the way over to the right and carved the edge of the road, almost going into a ditch.
When I finally got into Paducah there were convenience stores and ABC Liquor stores. I packed as much beer as I could pack on top of my luggage because my saddle bags and tour pack were already packed to the brim with camping gear and such, and began my arduous ride back.
Saturday, July 18th 2009
Full Day at the Rally
Arrived at the Rally grounds early and watched them set up the bike show. Took some pictures of some interesting bikes. Hooked up again with my buddy, Richard, who I found out he has other buds that call him ‘Tricky Dick”. Also met “Cadillac Bob”, “Wild Bill”, and a few other people.
Hobbled through the grounds with my cane and through the building where they were going to have Jello wrestling and concerts then back to the vendor area where I ate some food. They had every different kind of food you could think of available so I enjoyed some Greek food for a change.
Also did some impromptu performances of my poetry by request as I ran across people who knew me.
Came back to the bike show area and found out that Richard had won in his category with his Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter that he made up to look like an Indian Chief (sweet bike with lots of leatherwork that he did himself.) Then Richard talked me into taking a tour of the campgrounds. With helicopters flying overhead they had John Deere tractors pulling 25 ft trailers with benches on them through the camping area. It was very much like going on an African safari, looking at the wild animals, with cameras flashing instead of guns. “Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and do not feed the indigenous creatures,” but there was plenty to see - worth the price of admission!
Finished out the Rally
I met and talked to several Vietnam Vets who had a booth set up and did my 4th of July poem for them which they immensely appreciated.
I also went and saw the bike races they held on a dirt track behind the rally grounds. They had a bunch of small bikes racing up and down the dirt track. I went back to the main building and enjoyed part of the concert that was playing. Made one last tour of the vendor area and my hip and lower back were starting to hurt pretty bad. Though I enjoyed my time at the rally, I was beginning to be all ‘funned out’ and it was getting late in the evening again.
Knowing that I would have to go back to Paducah for beer, I headed out as it was becoming dark. By the time I got to the narrow bridge going into Paducah it was pitch black dark. Even though I was aware of the wild right hand turn coming up, it still snuck up on me and scared me but I handled it without scraping my floorboards. Loaded up on more beer and headed back to Calvert City and the hotel I stayed in. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy roughing it on these outings, but is sure is nice to spend a night in a cool and clean hotel room and take a long shower.
Sunday, July 19th 2009
Ride Home from Little Sturgis Rally
I left Calvert City, KY to come home and hit highway 60. It was a beautiful morning with the sun beaming down. I crossed the river again heading west and there was much less traffic. I was able to take more time and look at the tugboats and barges on the river which was nice. I stopped at Charleston, MO and ate a little food at a Country Kitchen restaurant then hit the road for the long ride back to NW Arkansas and home.
The ride back was fairly uneventful. Saw lots of bikers out on the road. It was cool to talk to all the different bikers when I’d stop at the gas stations to see where they had been. Then things got interesting.
Before I got to Springfield, MO, I had this big semi pulling a tanker trailer come up next to me in the left-hand lane. When he got abreast of me he pulled over into my lane. I had to speed up drastically to keep him from running me off the road. Then I hit the James River Expressway around Springfield and saw him in my rearview mirror again. He raced up beside me now going 80 mph. He pulled up next to me in the left lane and tried to do it again. I’m sure it was just a game to him, but I was pretty freaked out. I didn’t want to get a speeding ticket so I raced ahead a ways and slowed back down to the speed limit. He did the same thing one more time only this time there was a car in front of me and I had to shoot the gap between his front bumper and the rear bumper of the car. I looked at my gas gauge and figured it was a good time to get gas so when he raced up behind me again I switched to the left lane, swerved around the car in the right lane (keeping a car between me and him) and made the exit for the gas station. I stayed at the gas station for about 45 minutes to give him plenty of time to get on down the road. It felt like something out of a horror movie but I’m sure he got a big laugh out of it.
Got to the MO/AR state line near home in late, late afternoon and made it home by nightfall. I was so tired I just went straight to bed. Looking forward to the doing the Little Sturgis Rally again next year.