Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Stamping and Then on to the IBR Checkpoint

The clouds had moved in overnight and things were a little damp when we started to pack up to depart the hotel in Moline IL. We chose to get on the road early and head straight west for Hoover's birthplace in West Branch IA and then catch the Putnam museum in Davenport on our way back east. This would get us in to St. Charles IL a little earlier.

"Damp" turned to "very wet" as we rode west on I-80 for 40 or so miles toward West Branch. Lucky for us, though, the rain tapered off just as we pulled into the tiny and cute little town. We parked, went into the visitor center and watched the video before venturing out onto the park grounds. The video taught me more than I knew about Hoover, including his worldwide humanitarian efforts and I saw a side of him that is rarely presented in others' assessment of him as a U.S. president.

The little 2-room house is very small and spartan. The on-site ranger told us a little bit about the home, how the stove would be moved inside for winter, to the outside kitchen in summer. The furnishings were not original but were of that era and typical of furnishings in a Quaker home of that period.

In threatening rain we got back on the bikes and began our trek back east on I-80 toward Chicago. The rains became torrential and visibility nearly zero at some points along the interstate. The weather service on my GPS, through the XM radio, was tossing up severe weather alerts onto my GPS screen until the list was a dozen long. Many were flood warnings and I wasn't surprised, because even the interstate was threatening to go under water. I happened to glance down and noticed a dim red light glowing on the dash. I'd never seen this light before and had no idea what it was, except that it seemed to coincide with the heavy rains, so I assumed something was shorting out.

At the next exit, I pulled off into a Pilot or Love's truck stop where we could get the bikes out of the rain and could investigate the problem. I had a hunch that there may have been a wiring problem associated with the Hyperlites installation. Looking through the BMW owner's manual, I learned that the light I was seeing was the "alarm set" light. When we installed the Hyperlites, we tapped into the alarm wire on the harness for switched power. There were two possible sources of the short: The routing of the Hyperlite wires up through the rear fender; or the tap itself into the alarm wire. I removed the seat and could immediately see that it was wet under there. Water was being flung off the rear tire and up through the small hole we had drilled through the rear wheel well. But the wire insulation was intact so there was no rub-through from that hole. I could see moisture accumulated around the EZ-Tap though. The cap looked to be cross-threaded. I dried the tap and used some electrical tape to make a temporary moisture barrier and when I did, the light went out. When I get home, I must remember to seal that small hole with silicone.

At Davenport we detoured into town to the Putnam museum where a Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Corridor stamp was located. I had also routed a couple of stops for I&M Canal stamps but with the rain, opted to delete them from my GPS and let it lead us to the Iron Butt Rally checkpoint hotel in St. Charles, IL.

As we approached the hotel, I could see the parking lot filled with motorcycles and knew I was in the right place. The front desk clerk said we'd already been checked in, but I knew that wasn't correct. Only the rally participants would have been checked in by the IBA staff. But debating that with him was pointless so we got back on the bikes and rode to the other end of the property where he directed us. Voni Glaves and Claye Curtis were waiting for us, cameras in hand and we parked our bikes and got big hugs from both. I walked back to the front desk, this time with my reservation confirmation, and magically he produced our room keys.

The first riders were starting to arrive, so I quickly unpacked the bike, dumped everything into the room, and changed out of my riding gear so that I could get back outside and start greeting and photographing the IBR riders. The photographs of the ralliers are here: 2009 Iron Butt Rally Riders

The riders all looked great! Many had big smiles on their faces as a good-sized welcome committee greeted them. I think they appreciated the familiar and friendly faces after the first of three long rally legs. By 9:00 PM all but one rider had arrived at the checkpoint. I was beat, so returned to my room to get horizonal and wait for Mike to return from dinner with a friend of his who lives in the area.

Tomorrow: Mike heads south toward Memphis and I head east through IN, MI and OH.

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