Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting Home from Wisconsin the Fastest Way

Wisconsin is a great place to visit, but I'm ready to be home... now!  I miss my cat and, in addition to that, I have a few things to take care of, including preparing for the arrival of my son's cat Cimmie.  Cimmie is flying in to Houston from Honolulu to spend the summer with Grandma Smith.  LOL!  She's coming to stay with me while my son and his family suffer the throes of relocation to their next duty station. 

I was on the road by 6:11 AM Sunday morning, departing the hotel in Chippewa Falls WI and heading west on I-94 toward St. Paul.  Microsoft S&T says this is the fastest way.  It was cool and very pleasant all across WI and into Minnesota.  I picked up I-35E and headed south. 

Just south of the Twin Cities area, I started to see many, many beautifully restored antique cars heading the other way on I-35.  all the way down to Des Moines, I continued to see them.  When I stopped for gas south of Des Moines, a fellow in a beautiful white vintage Chevy pulled up to the pump next to me, so I asked him where all these cars were going.  He said there was an event in Des Moine Thurs-Saturday, maybe close to 4,000 vintage cars in attendance, but now everyone was heading home.  I saw everything from Model T's and A's to late 50's/early 60's vintage cars, all in fine shape, all in good enough running condition to be blasting along an interstate.  Cool!!

Into Iowa, then into Kansas and I started to run into rain.  And thunderstorms.  South of Kansas City they were getting scary, the lightning bolts striking the ground regularly and the winds blowing the rain horizontal at times. I got off the interstate in Belton and looked for a likely place to lay up for a while.  I found a Burger King next to a Comfort Inn and decided I'd get a late lunch and see if things calmed down a bit.  Eventually I went ahead and checked into the Comfort Inn. 

I was prepared to stop here, even though it was quite early, 3:30 PM or so.  I knew, from previous research, that all of the hotels in the Joplin MO area are completely full, no doubt from all of the recovery crews working the post-tornado repairs and I was faced with getting past Joplin and into OK before being able to find a room.    But by 6:00 PM the sun was out so I checked out (actually I simply left the keys in the room and left) and got back on the road. 

But a couple of hours later I was running into more rain and more lightning.  It was getting very wild with some gnarly-looking blackness and lots of lightning bolts ahead of me so I decided to call it quits at around 9:45 PM in Lamar MO.  The exit had two motels:  A Super 8 and a mom & pop motel.  I took a chance on the Super 8 and boy, did I luck out!!  It was a sparkling clean, modern and very upscale Super 8!  The manager was on duty, she welcomed me, proudly pointed out their display case with numerous awards...it seems they're the #1 Super 8 in the country.  She put me into a beautiful suite for $80 and let me keep my motorcycle parked right where it was, under the canopy near the front door.  With a freshly baked brownie in hand, I went to my room, crawled into bed, and sunk back against the pillows, grateful this hotel had a room available at all.   Enough is enough...640 miles, half of that in strong rains.  I guess I should just quit for the night.

The next morning I enjoyed a really great breakfast - well above the standard for many of the more upscale chain hotels - and then was back on the road before 8:00 AM.  I knew it would be a long hot slog home.   And it was.  I took 71 south to I-44 west to US 69 south.   It was a little slow going until I got south of I-40, but then US 69 opens up and becomes limited access 4-lane and I could make good time all the way to Dallas, stopping only once in Atoka for gas and to buy a Gatorade.

By the time I was passing through Dallas I was really feeling the heat.  I stopped in Corsicana for gas and to buy another Gatorade.  The drink really seemed to help, its effects lasting for a couple of hours.  I needed to stop again at a rest area on I-45 south of Huntsville to finish off the Gatorade and so desperately wanted to find a cool shady place or an A/C building but I was so close to home!!

At 5:30 PM I was pulling into my garage, a most welcome site!!  First order of business was a tall glass of ice water, then I peeled off the riding gear and started to unpack the bike.   It was a long day...645 miles in 100+ degree heat! 

I'm home!!

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