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Day 3
June 13th, 2002
Meade, Kansas


Once again the threat of rain woke me up.  This time it was the rumbling of thunder in the distant plains.  I stuck my head out of my tent to see a dark, scary morning.
 
For the second morning in a row, I rushed to pack and load the ST before getting soaked.

I packed in record time, and left the park on a dark, drab morning.  The few RVers in the park were still sleeping.  I have learned a few things in all my traveling, one of which is RV guys seldom get started early. 
 
The sky to the east was only slightly lighter then that in the west.   The impending sunrise was having little effect on the dark overcast skies above me.

I got back on SR 23 North and began the ride to Northern Nebraska.  I traveled but a few miles, and it started raining.  Hard.  Not as hard as Oklahoma, but hard enough.  My PIAA lights rolled back the darkness, but the rain drops on the Arai shield were overwhelming my eyes and it was hard to see.  It was a lousy way to start the day.

I recall from the afternoon ride the day before for supper items, that 23 had 2-3 hard 30 mph curves before reaching Meade.  I kept that in mind as I made my way north in the driving rain.  It would be bad to miss a curve and wind up in some farmers field.  I was slow and cautious.
I saw signs directing folks to the Dalton Gang Hideout.  I decided to skip that tour.

It was still raining when I reached Meade but the skies looked better to the north.  It was too early to call anyone back home for a weather report, so I pulled into the local PD office.  I stuck my head in the door and found a round, robust officer with a wrinkled uniform on.  The office looked right out Mayberry.  Memos and wanted posters hung from a cork board over the radio.  I asked-

"hey what do ya know about the weather north of here?"

"not much"

And on that note I left.

Five miles north of Meade, the rain stopped and I brought the ST up to highway speed, on this long, straight, desolate road.  I looked all around me and it was raining everywhere but in the place I was in.

SR 23 is a good road.  The kind of road that allows you to be alone with your thoughts.  It does not take much concentration to navigate it.  Just point your bike straight.

The sky begins to darken again, and the rain returns.  If nothing else, I have been successful in ending the drought this area has been in for months.  If you are a farmer, and need some rain, email me and I will plan a trip by your farm, it's a sure way to end any drought that might be plaguing you.

I arrive in the crossroads town of Cimarron in a steady rain.  I find a car wash and pull in for some shelter.  Car washes always make good shelters on a rainy day.  I drink a coke and wait for my friends back home to get to work.  At 7:30am I call Neal again for weather info-

"hey brother need a weather report.  I am in South Central Kansas, go tell me what you see"

"I see a narrow band of rain extending from Nebraska into Oklahoma."

"Don't tell me that, I'm heading north to Nebraska"

"On your present course, you are going to ride in rain all the way to Nebraska, you need to turn west, when you do you should ride out of it in about 10 miles."

"are you sure? It looks awful dark over there"

"trust me, I'm looking right at it, if you can get west of this band you will have clear sailing the rest of the day"

I finish my coke and saddle back up. 

I get out my atlas and plot a new course.  I will take US 50 west out of Cimarron, ride till I bust out of the rain, then turn north.  I will shoot for SR 27 near the Colorado state line.  I want to make sure I get well west of the front before turning north.

The sky is dark as I ride west, and the rain is heavy.  I would never have turned west without the info Neal gave me, but ten miles later I clear the rain, and look out over partly cloudy skies. 

My bike turns over 50k miles in Garden City.  I honor the occasion with a picture, then called Dennis Ryan.  Dennis is in Scottsbluff on his way to Jackson, Wyoming.  He is 1 day ahead of me.  I tell him I am on schedule and will see him in Yellowstone tomorrow afternoon as planned.
All along US 50 I pass feed lots of cattle.  The smell is awful.  These lots are huge, some covering hundreds of acres.  I wonder how they keep track of what cow belongs to who?

I hated it when I met eastbound livestock trucks, no telling what was coming off them in the road spray.  I hugged the right as much as I could as they approached.

I turn north on SR 27 and settle in for long ride through Kansas.  The road is empty and vast, and I bring the ST up to 85 and begin to knock down the miles.  I sing songs, and ponder why things are the way they are.  I see the occasional farmer on his tractor, and wonder what it must be like to spend your day plowing fields.  What is it that makes these guys so loyal to the land?  If I get the opportunity I am going to stop one and find out.






















          The Vastness of the American Plains.  Kansas SR 27



In Tribune I pull in for gas and a snack.  I remember this crossroads from last year.  I was on SR 96 that time heading east.  A great ride that day.
I purchase gas with my card then pull the ST away from the pumps and go in.  I procure chips and a coke and go sit in a booth along the window.  Locals are coming to and fro, most are talking about the recent rain.  Weather is always a popular topic when farmers gather.

The gas mart has a little bit of everything.  I see videos and DVDs along a nearby wall.  They appear to be in no logical order, only that the new releases are on the second shelf. The newest release is in the number 1 spot, and the rest just follow.  So if you want to know what the new release was for 5 weeks ago, just count down 5 spots to the right.

With the sun out, I leave Tribune.  I ride north at 90 mph through the wheat fields and range land.  The wind is back.  The wind always howls on the Plains.  I sway back and forth in the gusts.  I guess these people just get use to it.

I am having a good time.  I love riding out here.  Coming from Alabama, I have no wide open spaces to enjoy the ST.  I like how these roads just let you ride without having to do a lot thinking.  It's as if I am on auto pilot.

I gassed up in Goodland.

North of Goodland I turn east on US 36, to hook up with SR 161.

I see a sign advertising the Blue Bird Cafe in downtown Bird City, and decide to eat lunch there.

 Two boys are walking down the sidewalk, they wave at me, and I wave back.

Turning right from the highway I idle into the faded looking town.  It is nothing more then 4 way stop sign with a handful buildings.  I park the ST out front and go in.  A teenage waitress tells me to sit where I like, so I go up the bar.  I am on the only patron in the cafe.





















                                       Blue Bird Cafe.  Bird City, Kansas

I order the chicken fingers, and chat with the young  waitress.  She has stringy hair, with a bow on top.  Her ear rings look out of place on her small oval face.  She asks where I am from, I respond-

"guess"

"Australia??"

I laughed out loud, "not hardly baby"

The 2 boys I waved at come in and sit at the bar.  They knew the waitress, and do their best to hit on her, but she's not having any of that from 2 thirteen olds.

The boys tell me what little they know of Bird City.  I ask them what they plan on doing when they grow up.  One says he is going to join the army, the other says he is going to rodeo.  Either way, both are leaving Bird City.

I kidded the waitress about the class ring she wears around her neck.  She said her boyfriend lived up the road in Nebraska.

I hit the road on SR 161 and close in on Nebraska.

A few miles south of the state line I meet a south bound BMW RT.  Blue in color.  We see each other coming in the distance, and we both give the low wave.  We hold it for a long time.  As we meet I can see he is a long rider.  I don't even have to ask what in the world a long rider would be doing on such a forgotten road as 161.  I know why he is here, and he knows why I am here.  The long low wave our way of telling each other,
"carry on brother."

In Nebraska my route changes to SR 61, but the landscape is more of the same.

The surrounding farm land is dry and dusty.  Perhaps, I will bring them some much needed rain.

I was riding along singing songs when I see my opportunity to take a tractor ride.  I said I was going to quiz a farmer and here's my shot.  All he can say is no.  A south bound John Deere comes into view, and I see it pull off to a field.  I pull in behind, and find a 60ish man coming out of the cab.  I make a little small talk, abd take off my helmet.

"I know this is going to sound crazy, but can I have a ride on your tractor?"

"well I don't have time but my grandson is on the way to "rip" this field, he will take ya for a ride.  In 50 years of farming never had anyone ask for a ride."

"I'm a city boy, just want to see what its like, and find out a little about farm life."

Soon his grandson drives up and I introduce myself.  His name is Chad, and just recently graduated from the University of Nebraska.  He is a typical farmers son.  Rugged and weathered looking.





















                    Chad and his John Deere

I climb in the cab of the Deere and we take off across the field.  Chad tells me why he loves farming, and that one day the land and farm will be his.  The big Deere rumbles across the long field.  We are enclosed in a glass cab with stereo and AC.

He answers all my questions about the gauges in the cockpit, and what handle does what.

I tell Chad, "A farmer has to like himself, because he spends so much time alone out here huh?'

"that's a fact, and if he's lazy he will starve to death"

"so where's ya phone to call the women?"

"RIGHT HERE", as he pads his hip.


















                 The view from inside as I plow a Nebraska field

The ride takes 30 minutes.  It was fun and I learned a lot.  I tell Chad if he ever makes it to Alabama, I will give him a ride on my fire truck.  In just a short time I made 2 good friends.  Chad and his grandfather, are typical of the people of this region.  I think the harder and dirtier a man works for a living, the nicer they are.  Hard working people have a tendency to be more appreciative of things.

With my curiosity satisfied I continue north.

I take a butt break in Ogallala and see a man walk down from the highway with a dog behind him.  He is loaded down with a back pack.  He goes in the store and buys crackers and water, sharing them with his dog.  I go over to him and introduce myself.

His name is Jerome and his dog is Gwen.  He has been bumming the country for 25 years and he shows it.  He is old looking beyond his years. He is from Maine, but has not been back there in years.  Gwen has been with him for 7 years.


















                                         Jerome and Gwen


I wish him luck and head back out.  I am shocked when I see a sign noting Scottsbluff is 170 miles away.

I stopped for gas in Lewellen.  My light was not on, but this is the part of the country you have to keep a eye on things.  I did not see any signs telling me how far to the next town, so I played it safe.

The ride into Scottsbluff is uneventful.  Just lots of wind.

I rolled into the KOA at 6:30pm, showed my discount card and set up camp at site number 4.  The temp was a balmy 65 degrees.  Good camping weather.

I rode 525 miles today, 526 if you include the tractor time.

I noticed a Gold Wing couple accompanied by a guy on a Harley.  I introduce myself to Bob and Carolyn Watson, and their son.  They are from Arizona.  We spend a few minutes chatting, and I borrow some ice from them.  Great people.

I noticed 2 young ladies pull in and set up a BIG tent, and when they finished they got in the car and left.

I took a shower and washed a load of clothes.

I called home and reported my whereabouts, then went to look for something to eat.

I found the Whiskey Creek Steakhouse and had 2 great center cut pork chops.

It was dark when I returned from eating, so I sat on the table and worked on my journal.  I reveled at having so much solitude.  I am in the groove now and feeling good.  It takes a few days to get in the "on the road mode".

Before going to sleep I hung my wet clothes around the table.  The wind and cool air should dry them out rather quickly I thought.
I curled up in my sleeping bag about 11pm and slept well.

Tomorrow I ride across Wyoming to hook up with Dennis Ryan in Yellowstone.  I'm looking forward to it.
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