Monday, June 16, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Back on the road north

Amazingly, we managed to get out the door and on the road before 8:00 AM, headed from Memphis toward Lansing IL, our destination for the night. We agreed beforehand that we'd try to get started by 8:00 AM and that we'd get breakfast somewhere on the road.

I signed up for two AMA Grand Tours this year, after having an absolute blast doing one last year. For this year I'm doing AMA's Italy in America tour as well as the World's Largest tour. I've had less than a stellar performance so far this year on either of these. So it is with renewed effort that I have waypointed a few Italian-sounding towns and some "big things" into my GPS route for this trip. The first one we got to is the town of Parma MO, just a few miles west, off the interstate. The road takes us about 10 miles through corn fields and small farms then north for another 8 or 10 miles through the same landscape.

We arrived in Parma, a small, mostly boarded-up town pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I had entered the post office as a waypoint in my GPS. When I arrived at the location, I couldn't immediately see the post office, off down a side street on the left, but once I got my bearings, I headed in that direction. Right next door was the combined community center/town hall. Even better! As I positioned my bike for the photo, a woman at the post office asked Mike if we were lost. I'd guess that two people on BMW motorcycles wearing full riding gear head-to-toe would look a little out of place in this town. I got my photo, but then Mike beckoned me to follow him inside. By golly, if he was going to visit the town of Parma, he was going to meet the mayor! He barged in to the office and I followed, a little mortified. The clerk out front said he was in, and to go on in to his office. A tall, middle-aged, mild-mannered man sat at his desk as we entered, and seemed a little startled to see this oddly dressed couple walking in. He seemed a little on guard at first, but relaxed once Mike started talking to him. We introduced ourselves, I showed him my AMA Grand Tour flag, and explained what the Italy in America Grand Tour was all about. He relaxed some, then, and told us that they'd been contacted in the past by people from Parma, Italy. He'd even had a group of visitors from Italy come to this little town.

Those points in the bag, we continued north to where this little road intersected with US 60. This would take us right into I-57. I had the Boomland gas plaza stop in my sights, so pushed on to Charleston MO. I love this gas stop! It is one of the most bizarre, tackiest and wonderful tourist traps out there! I wanted Mike to see it. As it turned out, he'd stopped here once before, and agreed that it's a really cool place.

I had made plans to meet up with another MTF member for a late lunch as we passed near where he lived in Charleston IL. So I called him on my cellphone to give him an idea of when we'd arrive at the pre-planned meeting spot. When he took my call, he said, "Were we meeting today?" Uh oh! No problem. He told us we should expect to get there around 3:00 PM based on where we were, and he'd meet us there as planned. So we had a great lunch at Coles County Airport, so that Mike could have his first elephant ear sandwich. We visited for a bit, then had to get going if we wanted to make it to Lansing IL before dark.

We rode through a stiff cross wind as we headed north on I-57. I began to notice that my windscreen was starting to shake and wobble a little bit, something it never did before. I made a mental note to check it once we got to the hotel. Maybe just a loose bolt holding one of the brackets. When I-57 joined I-80, we got separated at the toll booths, since I have an EZ-Pass. But we knew that might happen so we agreed to just meet at the hotel. Mike caught up with me, however, at the top of the exit ramp at a red light, but then I led him on a series of U-turns as I tried to figure out how to get to the hotel from the main road. It's right there, but how do you get there from here??? Even the GPS was no help!

Once we checked in and unloaded the bikes, I took a closer look at the windscreen problem. The bolt seemed loose, so I pulled out a Torx to tighten it, but it wouldn't tighten. Mike gave it a try, but then pulled the bolt out to discover that the hole was stripped. Steel bolt in an aluminum hole. Mike jumped on his bike in search of some JB Weld to fix this problem. I pulled the bike up under the canopy at the front door since it was starting to get dark and we'd need the light. Well, we thought we had it fixed, but, overnight, gravity took over and the JB Weld along with the bolt slipped out so that the bolt was now nicely welded to the bracket but not to the bolt hole. Duct tape? Nah. How about a zip-tie? I always carry a few, so we zip-tied the bracket up snug against the steering head. Problem fixed. Possibly forever, given the age and high miles on this bike.

Next day: lunch with my sister Robin in Grand Rapids then on to Traverse City to meet up with my brother-in-law and his group.

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