Gonzo and I left Hannibal a bit later this morning than I had planned. I had to wait to fill the gas tank in the morning. I usually fill up before stopping for the night, however, I wanted to adjust the front disk brake as I had installed new pads just before leaving. The front brake lever adjustment is done at the front master cylinder which is under the gas tank so I have to remove the gas tank and I wanted to do that with the tank close to empty.
After gassing up on the way out of Hannibal in the morning it was about two miles to the Mark Twain Memorial bridge over the Mississippi river where the state line of Illinois is about half way over the bridge. I stopped on the bridge in the break down lane to get a picture.
As I got back to the bike, I could smell gasoline. Looking down at Gonzo’s left carburetor, I could see he was throwing up his morning gas station breakfast all over the bridge.
I shut off both petcocks, pulled the left float bowl off and tapped up and down on the float to clear whatever was stuck in the float needle. I installed the bowl and turned the petcock back on, and no more fuel leaking, so Gonzo was feeling better. Then, for some reason, I happened to look just ahead of the front tire and low and behold, there was a 10 penny nail about a foot ahead of the tire and pretty much exactly where I would have ridden right over it. I picked it up and added it to all the other treasures on the bottom of the Mississippi river. Gonzo clearly wanted to make sure I didn’t get a flat, and all he could think of to get my attention was to throw up his breakfast in front of me :-). I gave him a “high three” because Gonzo only has three fingers, and we motored off into Illinois.
Right after I crossed the bridge, I exited onto Illinois 106 and wound my way through the country-side on shaded two lane roads that cut a tunnel through stands of still green trees; no signs of fall anywhere even though it’s mid-September. By this time, it was 9:15 am and already 83 F, so today is going to be another summer day ride through the humid mid-west.
I came to the Illinois river and, low and behold, it’s still a draw bridge.
There aren’t many of these left. I prepared myself for the fun to come and when I got to the section that gets raised, sure enough it was surfaces in “smooth as a baby’s butt” polished steel with all the limited traction that offers. A loose grip on the handlebars and light acceleration is the recipe for success and although Gonzo squirmed around a bit as he looked for traction, we got over that section without much drama. These can be a lot more exciting when it’s raining and there is cross-wind blowing, DAMHIK 🙂
I leisurely rode through a number of small towns and found one in particular had put American flags on every light pole. This scene captures the heart of middle America where people remember to be grateful for the privilege to live in this country despite the mistakes we have made and will continue to make in the future.
It’s now in the upper 80’s and as I ride through the middle of a mid-west canyon carved between corn fields by US-36, I come to the Indiana border and loose an hour as I enter the Eastern time zone.
The altitude is about 650 feet, so Gonzo and I are now about 5,000 feet down hill from our home in Colorado. I can see and feel the difference as the sky is more grey-white than blue due to the humidity and 5,000 feet of additional atmosphere on top of us. I always feel like I’m getting too much air when I get down this low, and so does Gonzo as his idle is about 200 RPM too high. I’ll fix that tomorrow morning when I check the oil and the tires before we head out.
I see a couple signs with Ernie Pyle’s name including on a sign for a roadside park. It made me wonder if he was born nearby in Indiana. It turns out he was born in Dana, Indiana, just a bit North of US-36. I knew he also lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1940, as the first branch library in Albuquerque is named after him. I passed it often when I lived in Albuquerque, and stopped in to look at the exhibits.
Who was Ernie Pyle you might ask? The Albuquerque library has a good biography about him.
One observation about this trip that I want to share is that Dollar Store is now America’s small town retailer. I have seen them in towns as small as 500 population. They seem to have a successful formula of opening modest sized general stores in all the small to mid-size American towns. Wal-mart on the other hand, which started as a small general store in Bentonville, Arkansas, is nowhere to be found in the smaller towns.
Gonzo has been making friends along the way. On the first day, when we were getting gas, an older fellow on a Harley came over to find out what kind of bike I had. He thought it was a distinctive machine and waited for me to start it because “I want to hear what it sounds like.” And the other day in the hotel parking lot, a fellow came over to look at Gonzo and to reminisce about his Yamaha that he sold several years ago. He was curious about the air tubes from the air box and wondered if they got in the way of my legs. I told him they don’t, but they do look as if they would bump into your shins.
Tomorrow we I end the day at the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania just outside Wheeling, West Virginia in a town with an unusual name, Tridelphia. So far, Gonzo is running well and we both are looking forward to wandering our way across the rest of Indiana and Ohio on US-36 and various state highways until we come to the end of US-36 in Uhrichsville, Ohio.