There’s no place like home (Day 10: Iowa to Clay County, Kansas [Daily miles – 523; Total miles – 3,408])

[View my route for the day: Day 10 Track]

First thing in the morning, I headed out to the Wiebler’s Harley dealership in Davenport, Iowa.  I got there just before 8am (when they opened up) and started talking to the service manager about getting new tires and probably an oil change as well.  He told me:

Him: “No problem, looks like we can get you in tomorrow around noon-ish.”
Me: “No, no, no, you don’t understand.  The only reason I came to Davenport is because I needed to come to the Harley dealership today.  I need new tires.”
Him: “Sorry, we only have one technician working today and we have a bunch of other bikes we need to work on.”
Me: “OK, well can you help me find another dealership on the way that I can stop by later on or tomorrow?”

We spent about 10 minutes looking, until I finally asked him if there really wasn’t anything he could do.  “What if we forgot about the oil change?  I understand that can take a while, so let’s just do a quick tire change.”

What I didn’t realize is that the estimate to change tires is 2 hours – per tire.  Luckily, that didn’t seem to matter as I finally played to his senses and he agreed to do the work.  Awesome.

Now, I had read last night that I needed to check out of the motel by 11 or else I would be subject to another day’s lodging.  Not trying to push my luck (well, yes I was…) I asked the Harley guy if there was anyway they could speed things up and get me out of there by 11.  To my surprise, he told me that shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, 10am rolled around and it still wasn’t getting worked on.  Not only that, but the technician came out and told me that I also needed new rear brake pads (which was actually good, because last night I had heard lots of squeaking when I was braking).  “Will we still be able to get out by 11?”  “Yeah yeah yeah, we’ll get you out by 11.”

By 10:30 and I hadn’t received any updates on the bike.  I called the motel and sweet-talked the nice Indian girl into giving me some extra time to check out.  She was happy to help.

At 10:59, the technician came into the waiting room.  I felt like I was in an intensive care unit waiting to hear the news about a friend who was undergoing surgery.

Me: “So, how is she, Doc?”  Do you think she’ll make it?”
Doctor: “Well, it wasn’t easy, but we managed to save her.”
Me: “Oh, thank you thank you thank you!”

In reality, he came out, told me to get on my way, and shut the door.  Talk about punctuality!

I ended up getting back only about 15 minutes late.  As I pulled in, I saw the owner running up to me, hands flailing all about.  “Dan, Dan. Hi, how you doing?!” She stammered out before managing to catch her breath. “No problem you’re a little late, but we couldn’t wait for you so we went ahead and cleaned your room anyway.  We just left your stuff on the other bed.”

Hmmm OK.  What could I do?  Not a big deal, and none of my stuff seemed to be missing, so I shrugged it off.  In the end, the workers came back over to my room and gave me advice on how I should get to Clay County and what roads should be taken.  They told me to get on I-80 heading west, NOT east.  Nice people.  4 stars for City Center Motel!

The plan was to meet the cousins of a family friend in Clay County, KS by the end of the day.

Before leaving the motel, I found an email from one of them – Bill:

Bill (6:29am)

Dan: One alternate route might be down to Hannibal Missouri then across 36.  36 is a four lane a good share of the way but is not as busy as I-80 as it is not interstate.  I am also a Harley rider and I have nothing better this evening than riding out a ways to meet you.  Let me know how your service work is going and when you leave and an update or two on the way.


Me (11:22am)

OK that sounds good, I will take the route you suggested.

I just got out of the dealership and will be leaving by 11:45 or so and will keep you updated on my status.  It would be great if you wanted to meet up with me somewhere and ride along, just let me know where a good place would be!


Bill (11:25am)

10-4.  Probably something like Marysville, Kansas.  Keep me posted later this afternoon, like around 4pm.

I could tell it was raining farther south and you could definitely feel it in the air.  Nonetheless, it was hot in Davenport, so I took off the liner for my jacket just before heading out.

As I left, I waved to the help at the motel and then immediately went in the opposite direction from what they had suggested – East on I-80 (not on purpose, it’s just where my GPS took me).  I passed back over the Mississippi for the second time in the same number of days, and into Illinois.

Me (1:26pm)

Hi Bill,
Looks like I should be in Hannibal by around 3, and then I will pick up 36 and start heading West.

Dan Zinn

Bill (1:48pm)

According to the weather maps you will likely run into rain west of Hannibal around Chillicothe.  Check in when convenient.  If you proceed let me know when you are in the St. Joseph area.  Tomorrow is fine as well, be safe.


Me (3:20pm)

Hi Bill,

Just got to Hannibal.  Will let you know once in St. Joseph.


When I got into Missouri, it turned out that I had absolutely no service for the entirety of the state. (In fact, I didn’t regain service until 2 days later when I made it into Colorado).  I was very worried I might break down or run out of gas.  But that wasn’t all I should have been worried about.  Remember on Day 2 when I said riding over those bridges out of Boston was some of the scariest riding I had ever done?  Well, this topped that.  The gale force winds howling across the Plains from the north threatened to blow me off my bike or, worse, into oncoming traffic.  It was all I could do to lean to the right – into the wind – as if I was going around a turn to keep the bike upright and to keep me on it.

What’s more, in addition to the wind, I ended up riding through patches of rain and hail.  The good news was I could see the clouds from miles away and prepare myself for the onslaught of coldness and wetness.  The bad news was I was cold and wet, and it hurt!

About 30 minutes later, a sudden shutter from the bike snapped me to attention and made me realized that it had been quite some time since I had seen a gas station.  I had clocked 114 miles since my last fill-up and my main tank had gone dry.  I flipped it over to reserve, but since I had no idea when the next town would be I had to make sure I did everything I could to save on gas.  I slowed down to 50mph, hoping that would give me the best gas mileage.  I then pulled up as close behind a tractor-trailer as I possibly could to draft off them and use them to block the wind.  Thankfully, about 10 miles down the road I passed a beat up, old-school gas station and managed to fill my tank.

Bill (4:17pm)

I estimate your arrival in ST. Joe to be around 6:30 and Marysville about 8:00.  You will come into Marysville from the east, go all the way through town to the west side.  I will meet you at the Valero Convenience Store on your left side of the street.

Check in at St. Joe. Later.

– Bill

I was amazed at how accurate Bill’s predication had been.  By 6:23 I had made it to St. Joseph’s, Kansas but still with no cell service.  Thankfully, I found a McDonalds and was able to tap into their WIFI.  I took about 15 minutes at the McDonalds to warm up a bit and put my winter lining back into my jacket before continuing on.

Me (6:24):

Hi Bill, just got to St. Joe.  No cell service all the way through Missouri so I stopped at a McDonalds’s with wifi.  Will meet you at Valero!

I ended up being a little behind schedule, arriving at the Valero at 8:20pm.  When I got there, I saw his Harley parked in the lot and went in to find him in the store.  All the way in the back I spotted someone and assumed it to be Bill, so I walked over there, introduced myself, and apologized for being late.  He was as nice as could be and was delighted I had made it safely through the rain, wind and cold.  It turned out that he had only arrived a few minutes before me due to some issues with his mail server.  He didn’t receive the email I sent him from St. Joseph’s until after 7:30, so he had been worried I would get there before him.

We sat down and chatted for a little while before heading another 20 miles west and 30 miles south to Clay County, Kansas and his house.  The driveway was made of rock, dirt, and sand, so I had to be very careful and followed Bill’s tracks closely.  About ¼ mile later we reached the garage, I pulled my bike inside, unloaded my things, and went into the house.  There, I met Bill’s wife, Grace, and the three of us spent the rest of the night talking and getting to know each other.  Finally, at around 11:30 or so, we decided to call it a night so I could get some sleep in preparation for the next day – the day I would become a true cowboy.

Random Riding Realizations (and Thoughts) of the Day:

  • 12:20pm – What do farmers do in the winter?
  • 12:56pm – It must be harvest time.  Half of the fields are chopped down and the other half have people working on them.
  • 1:10pm – In case you’re not aware, motorcycle tires are rounded while car tires are flat.  What that means is, if you do a lot of flat, straight riding, the center of a motorcycle tire becomes worn down and becomes flat like a car tire – which is what happened to my tires and why I needed new ones.  Now, I don’t know if this is good or bad, but right now I’m on a road that is more or less perfectly straight, so I figure I’ll weave side to side to (a) even out the wear on the tire to have it go all the way around rather than just stay in the middle; and (b) because it’s a hell of a lot more fun.  I’m slaloming the center line at 75mph and creating “artificial curves” since there are no natural ones.  Fun stuff.
  • 3:30pm – I just crossed the Mississippi for the second time today, third time in two days.  I made it into the northeastern part of Missouri.  I’ve got over 300 miles to go to get to where I am going in Kansas and am driving straight across the state of Missouri before then going about 1/3 of the way across Kansas.  And it’s already 3:30 in the afternoon.  Still a long day of riding ahead and I’ve already gone almost 200 miles.
  • 4:37pm – Stopping to put my rain stuff on my bags.  I see rain up ahead.
  • 5:30pm – I have seen a gradual shift overt the past hour and a half or so from the fields of Illinois to the plains of western Missouri and Kansas.  It’s become a lot more plains and a lot less farming; you see many more cows out grazing in the grass fields.
  • 6:10pm – Missouri?  Ehh, not so much.  There wasn’t anything really interesting about it.  There were a few rolling hills that were nice. But I didn’t love it.  In fact, I didn’t make a stop there, so I’m not sure I should count it as having been there.  I did ride across the entire state though, so I’m going to count it.
  • 7:10pm — Wow, the sunset over the plains of Kansas is absolutely gorgeous.  I feel like I’m driving into the sun at the end of a long tunnel

If you build it, he will come (Day 9: Milwaukee to Davenport, Iowa [Daily miles – 232; Total miles – 2885])

Once again, let me offer my sincere apologies to my loyal fans (mostly Kyrill) for not posting sooner.  I’m now on day 16 and have made it coast to coast — I’m in Seattle!  This is only my second “day of rest” on the trip, so I’m going to take advantage of it and start posting some of the past few days.  I have all of the days narrated (I have a lot of time to think on the bike), now I just have to transcribe them for your enjoyment.
Without further adieu, here’s Day 9: To Davenport, Iowa…

If you build it, he will come

[View my route for the day: Day 9 Track]

I woke up this morning around 9 and hung out with Aaron/Marie at their house until 10.  Aaron then took me on a short driving tour of Milwaukee before getting into downtown and grabbing some much needed lunch.

We ordered the best Bloody Mary’s I have ever had (aside from those Jason makes, of course).  But not only do they bring you an amazing Bloody Mary, for some reason they feel the need to also give you a “beer chaser” with it.  A beer chaser is a 6-8 ounce glass of beer to go along with the Bloody Mary.  Neither Aaron or I were quite sure the reason (maybe to help with the spiciness?) or how it was meant to be drunk, but we appreciated it nonetheless.

As a post-lunch dessert, we had a Wisconsin specialty – Cheese Curds — which are kind of like mozzarella sticks but made with cheddar and they come in little balls.

After stuffing our stomachs, we raced over to the Lake Shore Brewery in order to catch the noon tour.  There, the tour guide gave us some interesting history lessons on beer (did you know it was invented by accident by farmers in Egypt or that we didn’t start adding yeast to it until Louis Pasteur “discovered” it in 1857?).  We were also given beers to drink while on the tour, which is a new experience for me for a brewery tour for sure.  We were allotted 4 beers, but since I was to be riding out of Milwaukee that day I donated my last one to Aaron and only had 3 myself (don’t worry, the beers they gave us were small.  I was OK).

After sobering up, I packed up my bike, said my goodbyes, and hit the road.  This was probably the shortest stretch of the trip.  I went a total of 9 miles before ending up at the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson dealership, who I had called earlier in the day and had told me that they had a battery cover for an ’04 Sportster in stock.  So I swung on by and picked it up.  The only problem?  It’s black.  It doesn’t really go with the bike, but it does its job and covers up all of the wires that were sticking out of the side.

While at the Harley dealership, I ran into another Harley rider who was asking me about my trip and then told me that when he got back from fighting in Vietnam he did something similar.  He drove a car across the country, covering about 40 states.  Along the way, whenever someone found out about what he was doing they were so thankful for his service that they ended up giving him free rooms and food all along the way.

While we were talking, he asked me if I had yet to “put on any new rubber.”  I didn’t exactly know what he meant, but I assumed he was talking about my tires, so I told him no and that I didn’t really know how many miles were on the tires (since I bought it used).  Well, he took one look at the rear tire and said, “Get some new ones.  Soon!”  They had less than 1/16 of an inch of tread left and were completely worn down in the middle.  He was amazed that I had made it through the Detroit rainstorm without hydroplaning and killing myself.

When I finally got out of Milwaukee, I took the interstate for about 15 miles to get out of the city and started to do something a bit new that ended up working out really well.  Today is the first day that I really have no destination at all in mind, so I decided to set my GPS to take me to Kansas City using no toll roads and no highways.  Turns out this works extremely well and I was taken to some gorgeous back country roads.  I figured I would just go until I got tired and didn’t think I could go anymore, at which point I would find a motel or campground to crash at and then continue on in the morning to Kansas.

Well, I couldn’t shake the advice the guy at the Harley Dealership had given me about my tires, so I called home and enlisted the help of my dad to do some research for me.  He checked out all of the Harley dealerships along my potential route for the next couple of days, and he found one that was located in Davenport, Iowa – which just so happened to lie directly in the path of where I was headed.  It was also far enough away that I would get some good miles under my belt, and close enough to where I was planning on going in Kansas to be able to get there the following day.  Perfect – Davenport, Iowa it is!

I got to Davenport at around 9pm, found a small local motel – City Center Motel – just outside of Davenport, and was assigned room #12.  I schmoozed with the new owners, a young Indian couple that had just bought the place, who insisted the rate they had quoted me was the best rate in town: $45 for the night.  Seemed a little steep for me, but I took their word for it.

While I was talking to them I asked for some recommendations on what to do for the night.  They ended up directing me to the fun entertainment center of the area – a riverboat casino.  Now, if you know me, I’m not one to pass up the opportunity to go to a casino.  Add the word “riverboat” to it, and I’m there for sure.  All I wanted to do was win back my $45 so I could say I stayed for free.  That didn’t exactly go to plan.  I got on the casino boat, and hand after hand of blackjack the dealer got 20, blackjack, 20, 19, blackjack, blackjack, etc., etc.  Eventually, my $100 limit was gone, so I decided to call it a night and check out the rest of the town.

While riding through earlier in the night I remembered seeing a few bikers in front of a bar downtown, so I figured I’d try to scope that out and see if it was still popping.  Turned out to be a pretty young crowd, so I went to the bar, ordered a nice large beer, and stood there for about half an hour watching ESPN.  I must have looked so cool.

Finally, I got up the nerve to talk to this girl who came up to the bar to order a drink.  I figured I’d ease into the conversation with a good, “so, you from around here?” line.  She wasn’t biting.  We had a lovely 20 second conversation, then she left to go hang out with her friends.  I’m so good at this.

A bit later on, I noticed a group of people standing around a table and decided I had to grow a pair and go up to talk to them.  And so I did – what the hell.  I ended up celebrating one of the girls’ 24th birthdays and interviewed them on some pretty hard-hitting topics in order to get some perspectives on life from a young adults point of view.  They were good sports about my questions and we had a fun time arguing about topics ranging from politics to the Ninja Turtles. Chelsea, if you read this, happy birthday to you.  And oh yeah, Naomi For President.

After bidding the birthday girl farewell, I went back to the motel and got some much needed sleep.

Random Riding Thoughts of the day:

  • 4:49pm — Wisconsin is just oceans of fields of corn, of a magnitude I have never seen before.  I’ve been going to VT every year since I was born, but those operations seem much smaller than what is out here.  Here it is literally oceans as far as the eye can see of just corn fields.  Beautiful driving through this country.
  • 5:31pm — I’m on a race against the sun.  I’m heading west, and every mile I ride west the longer the sun stays in the sky.  I’m just trying to keep going west for as long as I can and get some miles behind me so I can keep getting the light.  But I’m really not in a rush, not in a rush at all.  Still, I started late today because of the tour around town and the stop at the dealership, so I want to follow that sun as much as I can and ride as much as I can.  It’s The Endless Summer reincarnated in a motorcycle trip.
  • 6:23pm — There are no forests out here.  It’s all just fields and grain.
  • 6:44pm – The countryside out here is very different from what I expected.  I’m used to farms in Vermont, but this is not like Vermont at all.  In VT, there’s woods, there’s plot of land, but here there are oceans of fields of corn.  As far as the eye can see.  I actually saw the sun set over the ocean of corn
  • 7:50pm — I’m about to cross the Mississippi in 5 miles.  I ate at Dusty’s Pizza and More and will soon be crossing over into Clinton, Iowa and going over the Mighty Mississippi
  • 8:45pm — I’ve passed the Mississippi and made it into another new state – Iowa.  I’m driving along the nose of Mr. IMAL (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana).  I was following the river for a while and it was gorgeous.  I’m still following the river, but now it’s just heavy industry the entire way and you can no longer see the river.  There are some cool small towns nestled around the industry, and I wish it wasn’t dark out so I could see it all.  Hopefully tomorrow that will happen