Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Return from IBA Meet - Day Two

I awoke to rain in Wichita this morning, but expected it, so "sucked it up" and got back out there on the road at 8:00 AM or so. This morning's route took me west of Wichita to collect two Italian towns: Viola and Milan.

The road west out of Wichita was flat and straight, with nothing to catch my attention but my speedometer, careful not to speed. 30 minutes later I took the turn south into Viola and got a good photo of the city limits sign. My next town, Milan, would be another 20-30 miles south down a pretty secondary road, SR-49. The rain was now light and intermittent, for which I was grateful. It was cold... colder than I had prepared for since I only had mesh gear on. I carry a lightweight windbreaker on the bike and had put this on at the hotel, but it was not quite warm enough.

A turn west onto US-160 and a mile later I saw the turn south onto a tiny road into Milan. But what's this?? A sign that said, "road ends ahead" and I could see a gravel road beyond the railroad tracks which went into the small ghost town of Milan. Fortunately (!!) there was a green city limits sign just before the pavement ended at the railroad tracks. I stopped, took the photo, then considered whether I could make the U-turn on this road or not. Freshly mown, wet grass covered the road surface and there was not a single soul for miles around. I opted to do a 3-point U-turn, just to be on the safe side, and was soon on my way back to US-160 to I-35 south.

The rain had started up again in earnest as I got onto the interstate, and I was getting very cold. My next gas stop, I pulled out the long-sleeved IBA meet shirt and pulled it on under the windbreaker. This helped some, but I was really wishing I'd thought to bring the Olympia Airglide quilted, waterproof liner with me.

I stayed on the interstate for a few miles before exiting east toward the beautiful town of Pawnee. The road to Pawnee was a pleasant hilly route, but the town was the real surprise. The highly ornate brick buildings, store fronts and brick paved streets wrapped around a large courthouse square in the center of town. I wandered around for quite some time, looking at the buildings and enjoying the architecture and decor of the town. Pawnee is the home town to Chester Gould, creator of the Dick Tracy comic, and there's a terrific large mural in memory of him. I made a note that I must get back there to spend more time.

I backtracked to I-35 then headed south to Guthrie in search of a possible "BIG" bonus. Conflicting reports have it moved, closed, or for sale. I should have just skipped it, because the rains started up again, in earnest, and the road I was wandering down was very hilly, very narrow, and in very rough condition. I rode it from end to end and could not find what I was looking for. So, back on I-35, I continued south toward my exit for Arcadia. This would be in search of a large soda pop bottle and I easily and quickly found it, on the west side of town, so not too far off the interstate.

It was absolutely pouring when I got there, and there was a Cruiser rider with no helmet, only a do-rag and leather jacket waiting out the rain under the gas pump overhang. I parked my bike in front of the soda pop bottle, got off the bike, got my AMA flag arranged, my camera out and stepped back to take the photo. He watched me the whole time, but did not say anything. I packed my flag and camera back into the tank bag, got back on the bike, and took off again in the pouring rain, headed back toward I-35. Sorta reminded me of the similar scenario in North Dakota.

There was a long stretch of I-35 ahead of me, with no end in sight to the rain. I would not get off the interstate until well south of Oklahoma City, in quest of an Italy bonus point. It was right off the interstate and I rode around the block to get my bike in the best position, got the photo, and boogied back to the interstate again.

I cut over to US-75 at Sherman, where I would find another Italian-named town but would be unsure of what I would find in terms of signage, since it appears to be a very small town on the map. I followed the GPS directions to Ravenna and the post office, but it was tiny, with a mud parking lot and a narrow road with no shoulder in front of it. I did a U-turn and gingerly parked the bike in the sand and mud in front to get my photo. I was getting brave about handling this motorcycle, bolstered by its light weight, tight turning radius, and narrow seat.

The last stop of the day was another Italy town, possibly a ghost town, but it was on the direct route to the hotel, so worth taking the chance. The road to get there was a wonderful winding lane, FM 1377. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a large blue water tower with the town name on it, despite the complete absence of anything resembling a town itself. I pulled over and parked the bike at a spot that gave me a good view of the tower, and got my AMA flag and camera out to pose the photo. As I was putting things away and getting back on the bike, I noticed that a horse was making its way over to me in the pasture across the road. I could see another horse at the back of the pasture take note of me and start its way over to me as well.

Friendly and curious, the first horse watched me as I got my camera back out. I took a photo of the horse and my bike, and then I could see that the other horse had made its way to this side of the pasture so I took another couple of photos. That made my day!

Now it was an easy ride to the hotel in McKinney and I called Brenda to let her know I'd arrived. She, her husband Bruce, and another riding friend, Suzanne, met me for dinner that night at Hank's Texas Grill. Brenda brought her laptop and showed us photos of their recent Alaska cruise (wonderful!), we had a great dinner together, then walked back to the hotel so that they could see my FZ6 and talk motorcycles for awhile, before the rain sent them scurrying to their cars.

Tomorrow: beeline home to Houston in the rain.

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