Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Off to Ride Into the Hot "Wilds" of Missouri

Well...not that Missouri is wild, but the idea of willingly riding a motorcycle straight into the "hot cauldron" forecasted for the plains states of Oklahoma and Missouri seems a little "wild."  The BMW MOA rally is in Sedalia MO this year and it promises to be hot in Sedalia this year. 

I had the bike all packed the night before, but was still trying to convince myself that getting on the road before 6 AM made the most sense.  My stubbornly retired body, however, had other ideas. 

I didn't haul myself out of bed until close to 6:30 AM, which pretty much meant that there was no need to hurry, since I'd missed the "window of opportunity" as far as Houston morning traffic goes.  I ate a leisurely breakfast, checked my email, and then backed my bike out of the garage at 7:30 AM.  This put me into a bit of heavy traffic heading north into the city, but it was manageable and soon I was squirting out the north side of the city, with wide open road in front of me. 

Determined not to set a "hair on fire" BBG pace like I tend to do on any motorcycle trip, I relaxed and went with the traffic flow, even stopped for gas in Corsicana rather than my usual "nail-biting, watch the gas gauge" stop closer to I-20 near Dallas.  The timing was perfect for Dallas traffic and I breezed through and onto US 75 with hardly a touch of the brakes.

I never tire of the stretch of I-45 between Willis and Centerville.  I don't know why.  I'm plenty tired of the other exit routes out of Texas, including the maddeningly slow US 59 and the mind-numbing boredom of I-10 east toward Louisiana.  But this stretch of 45 is kinda pretty.  And just interesting enough to the eye to fend off boredom.   It was comfortably pleasant, not yet hot, and the air flow through my jacket and pants was perfect.

My mind had already been made up that I wasn't going to do the ride to Sedalia MO all in one day.  It certainly could have been done.  It was only 700 or so miles.  But I knew the heat would be dreadful in the afternoon.  Besides, I wanted to time my arrival in Sedalia for Wednesday mid-day.   So McAlester seemed like a reasonable destination the first day, so did Muskogee another 60 miles up the road.  There's a Hampton Inn in Muskogee and I wanted to beef up my Hilton Honors points balance, so Muskogee it was.

It didn't start getting hot until north of Dallas, somewhere around Durant OK or so.  Suddenly the switch was flipped.  It went from "this isn't so bad" to "OMG, I'm cookin'!" in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

And to make sure that I noticed just how hot it had gotten, traffic on this four-lane divided highway came to a complete standstill about 30-40 miles south of McAlester. 

So there we all sat, out there in the middle of nowhere, with no idea why.  I stopped the bike, put the sidestand down, and then eventually got off the bike, removed my helmet and unzipped my jacket.  18-wheeler drivers were out of their rigs, walking around, so I knew this wasn't just a momentary delay.  I walked up to a rig next to me and asked the driver what the problem was, but he didn't know.  Neither did the rig driver behind him.  Guess drivers no longer communicate with each other via CB's.

After about 45 minutes I could see drivers getting back into their rigs up ahead, and then brake lights appeared, and then movement.  We started to slowly inch our way forward.  Occasionally we came to another lengthy stop, once long enough for me to turn the bike off again and remove my helmet.  But eventually the forward movement became steady, and then we came upon the problem:  An overturned 18-wheeler lying on its side across both lanes.  A large tow truck had pulled the cab portion out of the roadway, which was allowing us to now pass, but a state police officer was directing traffic at the blockage to allow for an orderly merge into the left lane.  An 18-wheeler in the left lane made sure that he gave me plenty of room to merge in front of him before we got to the merge spot, for which I was very grateful, since cars in front of him, seeing my left turn signal blinking, were closing up their ranks to prevent me from moving over. 

What was worse than standing out there in the middle of that hot, shadeless highway was watching the projected arrival time on my GPS creep up from 3:39 PM to 5:00 PM.  Mentally, it was a killer.  Visions of getting to the hotel early in the day, getting into shorts and sandals and getting a nice late lunch in air-conditioned comfort were evaporating faster than the sweat trickling down my face and neck.   I was definitely thankful that I'd stopped for gas, snack, and bathroom break back in Durant!

When we finally got past that roadblock and I could roll through McAlester, I was sorely tempted to call it a day.   But moving along finally at highway speeds, the sweat accumulation on my body was actually cooling me down and it didn't feel so bad anymore.  So I kept going.  I kept my eye on the "miles to go" on the GPS, and kept watching the estimated arrival time and the time on the bike's clock slowly merge. 

When the Hampton Inn sign appeared, I was elated! 

Unpacked, into those anticipated shorts and sandals, my first order of business was to get lunch - which we'll now call dinner - and to get cool.

IHOP won my business this evening.  Actually it was the only thing within easy walking distance.  But I like IHOP.  A decent meal and a more-than-decent blueberry crepe loaded up with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream for dessert really hit the spot!


Tomorrow:  Sliding into Sedalia and scoping out the rally grounds.

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