Day 2
October 2, 2017
Wayne Fitzgerald State Park
Near Benton, Illinois

We stumbled out of our tents in the early morning light to break camp.   Having done this for a long time I have a system;  Repack and square away the tent, then the sleeping stuff, and last any clothes or miscellaneous items.  From out of the sleeping bag to on the road I’m good in 30 minutes, about 15 longer than from a motel room.  If the room is on the second floor call it a wash.

Gus on the other had no system.  He had stuff all over the table and campsite.  He’d work on this a few minutes and then move over to something else.  “Look here, you gotta get organized, and stop bouncing around.”  Some things you can’t teach, it has to be learned in the field, and breaking camp is one such item, because everyone has a system that is unique to the individual.

I just got out of the way.  Finally, 30 minutes after my bike was loaded we were clear to ride out.  I booted up the Garmin, and clicked on the Sena.  “Can you hear me”

“Yeah I got ya.”  As we idled away from the campsites.

I pointed out a nearby empty tent.   “Man I ain’t seen anybody at that tent at all.  I wonder what’s goin on?”  It just sat empty in the woods.

​Morning at Rend Lake Campsite.
​ “Man I ain’t seen anybody at that tent at all.  I wonder what’s goin on?”
The ride back to the main highway was a couple of miles.  Along the way, we noted a lot of deer in the nearby fields and roadway.

My helmet speaker perked with Gus’ reminder.  “Man, keep you’re eyes peeled, these deer have absolutely no fear of people.” 

“I know it.”

Back on SR 154 we rode over the Lake Rend bridge and then north on SR 148.  I waved at 2 guys in a fishing boat on the lake as rode above them on the bridge.  The GPS took us from the highway over a couple small local roads.  Gus asked me what was going on.  “Apparently the GPS sees this as the shortest route.”

We promptly to SR 10 West and a few miles later went to U.S. 51 North and then SR 15 to Nashville.  Today’s route would be complicated with many route changes.  I double checked the route before downloading it to the Garmin and was confident no out of place waypoints were out there.

Illinois is a contrast of 2 states.  You have the Chicago area, and then the rest of the state.  Southern and West Illinois are heavy agricultural areas.  Lots of cornfields, grain elevators and small towns, to see and pass through.   It was something Gus was going to have to get use to.  On a ride like this you give up the miles to see things and experience the land you are in.  It is the soul of Long Riding to me.  It is not for everyone. 

SR 15 offered all those things as we rode into Nashville, which sits at the crossroads of 15 and SR 127, where we once again changed routes and rode north on SR 127.  My brother was impressed by the miles of corn.  Our conversations mostly things about home and being on the road, and seeing things not ever seen before.  I knew where he was coming from.

In possession of excellent communications we worked as a team passing the slower moving traffic on 127.  Whoever was in the lead would make the pass and give the report, “Come on around, nothing coming.”

I passed a 6 wheel truck was coming back over when an intersection came into view with a car coasting in for a stop.  He made his stop, and then I thought, “Sure as hell he’s gonna let me and this truck by and then turn out South, about the time Gus pulls out to make the pass.  He’s not going to see him, truck is going to block his view.”

I went by the intersection and told Gus, “don’t pass, stay right there, there’s gonna be a car coming your way, just pulled from the intersection coming up.”


That’s exactly what happened.  Gus came back.  “Nice call, I was in the middle of the pass when I got the report one was coming so gassed it to make the pass quickly.  I got back in plenty of time.”

That was probably the most exciting traffic encounter of the trip.

The McDonald’s in Carlyle appeared so went in to take our morning break, and established the pattern for the tour.  My brother lifts weights and stuff and must eat 5 times a day.  So it was out in the morning and ride 2 hours or so, take a mid morning break.  Back out ride another 3 then lunch, ride another 2 mid afternoon break, and then in for the night.  I only snacked mid morning and mid afternoon, no big meal.  Most any town of substance would have a Mickey Ds for the morning break.  But we never ate lunch or supper there, we’d do local for those meals.

It was at this break we learned of the Vegas shootings. 

I made a few phone calls and checked messages, while I ate a cookie, Gus had the pancakes.  Every Mcdonald’s we stopped in this part of the country, was clean, well staffed with friendly people, and efficient.  That is not the case in Alabama.
​"Every Mcdonald’s we stopped in this part of the country, was clean, well staffed with friendly people, and efficient"
We mulled around for about 35 minutes and got back on the road.  The weather was still warm and I continued to wear the summer gloves with vents open on the Klim.

In Litchfield we changed routes and went west on SR 16.  The homes there were getting in the Fall spirit with pumpkins and hay bales on display.  The traffic on 16 was next to nothing so we made good time into Jerseyville.  The Connie needed gas, and we were now getting a sense of things.  When Gus’ reserve light came on, the RT was just above quarter tank.  I just gassed up when he did.  After gassing we took a short 15 minute break in a nearby McDonald’s.  Needed something to drink and a restroom, it was a quick stop.

The best thing about today’s ride we avoided St. Louis.

Out of Jerseyville we continued west on 16 to SR 100 and turned North.  For the balance of Illinois we would parallel the Mississippi River North.  The farming communities along our route were quaint and friendly.  People waved at us constantly as we passed through. 

By the time we arrived in the Hannibal area it was lunch time.  I spotted a Country Buffet near I-72.  “Lets do that buffet right over there, that should fill you up for awhile.”

We ate big.  “Won’t be hungry tonight,” I said to myself.

When I created today’s route I purposefully plotted a course around the city of Quincy.  That is a sizeable place and I was sure it would be congested.  We rode up to I-172 and then U.S. 24 rode back to SR 96, and put us in position to cross the river at Fort Madison.

The riding had been good, but I was ready to leave Illinois.  The towns and villages would thin out on the Iowa side of the river, and that we speed things up for us.

Fort Madison is/was a busy place, making a good living from the fact they are located on the river.

In Iowa the route turned to SR 2.  For whatever reason I wanted to visit the American Gothic house in Eldon.  Don’t ask me why, but it had been on my list for a few years.

With afternoon coming on we motored west through the cornfields.  It had been a long day, and we didn’t have that many miles to show for it, but that was ok.  I had no days in the Garmin that called for more than 500 miles.  Given the reduced daylight this time of year, and the nature of back road riding, not possible to do more.

“I better get some gas.”  It was our policy to avoid ma and pa gas stations in his part of the country.  Gus is in the petroleum business and knows the low maintenance employed on most of these kinds of operations.  Things like clogged filters, low octane, and water in the mix.  So we looked for stations pumping high volumes of fuel.

I saw a Casey Con store in Farmington.  Casey’s are everywhere in this part of the country, and in many places the only game in town.  “How about that Casey up ahead?” 

“Gonna have 93?”

“No, you’re not gonna have that in this part of the country.  You might not have anything over 89, but I believe Casey will have 91.”  From now until we returned to the South we didn’t let the Connie get into reserve.  It went to half tank or little less we started looking.
I put just over 3 gallons in the RT.

We were now in the heart of the American bread basket.  These folks feed all of us, with enough left over to feed our cattle, put ethanol in our gas, and export bread to all those sandboxes in the Mideast.

With gas tanks full we swung north on SR 1, along the way I saw some kind of farm tractor or picker dead in the field.  It was burned to a crisp, and set off a large grass fire all around it.  It was a total loss, probably costs 100,000 to replace it.

We cut our speed back on the less improved SR 1.  Corn swayed in the Midwest breezes, it was a nice afternoon ride into Eldon and the gothic house.

Gus was in front on SR 1, I instructed him to “turn left on SR 16 about a mile ahead.”  “ok, then what?”

“Just follow it into Eldon, I’m not sure exact location of the house but should be well marked.  It can’t be hard to find, not much there.”

“You know, I always found that painting creepy.  I wonder what the deal is on it.”

“Well we’re gonna find out.”

Eldon is a typical Midwest town.  Slow and easy.  The sign pointing to the gothic house was right on Main St.    It diverted us through a neighborhood of  modest, but well kept wood frame houses.  I saw a man cutting his grass, he had a pick up truck and Ford Focus in the driveway, and the smell of the cut grass caught in my Shoei it seemed.

From my vantage point it didn’t look like the gothic house was paying the bills around here.

Arriving at the gothic house we found a small museum on the scene.  It closed a hour prior to our arrival.  We dismounted and walked the area.  “Is someone living in it?”  My brother asked.  “I dunno but it looks like it.”

“Man how’d you like folks riding up and staring at your house all hours of the day.”

We took a few pictures and stretched our legs.  We read about the house on the markers posted in the front.

“Mission accomplished, lets see where we’re gonna sleep tonight.”

“You know, I always found that painting creepy.  I wonder what the deal is on it.”
 The plan was to camp out in a park 25 miles away, but it was too late in the day, so we opted for a Super 8 in Ottuma.  I pulled it from the GPS and tapped it.  “Course layed in, lets ride” I said, as we made our way out of Eldon.

Iowa Corn
A Ride in the Heartland.
Shortly after getting back on SR 16 to Ottuma we took a side road to capture a few pictures of the bikes and corn.  Gus wanted a picture of Iowa corn.  We got our pictures and continued our ride to Ottuma, and as we were approaching SR 34, she caught us.  State Trooper.  She clocked me at 71 and Gus at 74.  I had just got back on the highway and was running through the gears,  I never saw her coming the other way.  We were within sight of the expressway to Ottuma and freedom.  In fact I noticed her lights as we were getting on the entrance ramp when I checked my left mirror looking to make sure my brother was there.

“Man this sucks,” as we spoke through the com system.

“Maybe just a warning?”

“depends on how fast we were going, but I gotta bad feeling.”

She gathered our paperwork and went back to the car.  She asked me if I knew how fast I was going.  “no I don’t.”  “It was 71 in a 55, any reason?”  “I saw the expressway, and was heading that way.”

“Ok.”  She came back, 2 tickets in hand, for a 2 for 1 deal.  Had to be the highlight of her week.

She wrote us for 65 and saved us a few dollars, but that didn’t make us feel any better.  It was my first ticket in over 13 years, despite all the miles I ride.  Oh yes, I’ve been stopped, but always managed to get out of jail free.  Not this time.  I was overdue.  Way overdue.  I ride A LOT of miles over the speed limit, but there you have it.  I told Gus to just roll with it.  “You ride enough, you’ll get one.”

It was a short ride into Ottuma, where I checked us in to ground floor room.  It was growing darker by the minute but we were off the road after a 390 mile day.

We unloaded and plopped down on the beds.  I put my phone on charge.  Both of us have 12v plugs on our bikes.  The Sena’s were giving us almost 8 hours on the battery.  I didn’t have to plug the cable into mine till late in the afternoon when left the Casey’s in Farmington.

I went outside to tend to the RT.  It was covered in bugs.  We cleaned off the screens and fairings with Plexus.  I also took care of the Shoei.

Gus announced he was going out for supper; it was 6:30pm.  “I’m going to let you have all that fun; I’m still stuffed from lunch.”  While Gus was gone I took a shower and a shave.  Felt human again.

Upon his return I put a few notes in my app about the ride, called home, and looked over tomorrows ride.  Watched a little TV and had some laughs also.  Switched the lights off around 10pm, fell asleep quickly.

Next - Into Nebraska