Day 17
June 21st, 2006
Motel 6
Amarillo, Texas

It had been a good stay in Amarillo, but it was time to get back on the road.  It was nice to see Heather again on the TWC.  She reported rain in south Oklahoma, and north into Kansas.  "Well that sucks, cos I was planning on goin into South Oklahoma today.  I'll make a call on it when I get further east."

By 6:30am I was loaded and heading out the ramps to I-40.  Threatening clouds were all around me.  The rain that moved in last night hadn't budged.  There is so much going on in this city on/ near I-40, that it made my head spin.  Service roads are on both sides and not well organized, but because I've been around a mile or 2, I was able to figure it out.

I quickly cleared the city and could see what Heather was talking about.  It was raining north and south of me, but I-40 looked ok.  It seemed to split the systems in half.  The south looked especially dark and nasty.

By this stage of a long tour, a lot guys just buckle down and get home.  I try to avoid that.  I've done it 3 times over the years.  A thousand miles from home, and just go the distance.  The first time was in 2001 to get in the Iron Butt, the 2nd home from Philly, why I don't know, and the 3rd Chris landed a job out of college and I needed to get home to celebrate.  But mostly, I remember none of those rides as fun.

I try to pull within 300 miles of home and stop, it keeps me in a good frame of mind.  It goes against my nature to ride just to get somewhere.  If a rally is one day by interstate, I'll leave a day early and take 2 days, so I can ride back roads.

With all that in mind I find myself on the Plains of the Texas Panhandle on I-40.  My plan was to leave it and ride south when I crossed into Oklahoma, but the weather is not going to let me do that.  Because of the topography, I could see I'd get wet in just a few short miles of riding south.

I overtook a long convoy of military vehicles.  Hummers, supply trucks, water tankers, and others.  Probably regulars and not National Guard, this was mid week.  About 30 in all.  I waved at a few of them, and gave a thumbs up.  It reminded me why Eisenhower sanctioned the interstate system in the first place.  So military vehicles could move quickly around the country.

The 1300 settled on 85 mph, and after 50 miles its was still raining in the south.

McClean, Texas, seemed nothing more than an old con store in the open fields.  I came off 40 and went to the gas pump.  The wind whistled through the canopy, and my hair blew to my left side.

Some kind of bird had a nest in one of the supports overhead.  I saw her darting around from post to post.  A guy in a old pick up took the pump next door.  I went inside to eat my sandwich, and found a booth in the middle.  The store had a small deli where they served biscuits and eggs each morning.  The clerk was also cook, cashier, stocker, and janitor.  One minute she could be cleaning the crapper, and the next she's out there frying eggs or mixing bread dough.   I kind of didn't like that.

Country music played on a boom box radio on a shelf.  The outside windows were so dirty a plant on the floor had dried up and died from lack of sunlight.

"No thanks sweetie, I'm just gonna eat this peanut butter and jelly, I'm still full from the Big Texan last night."

"You ate the 72 oz?"

"Not hardly baby, I wimped out on the 15 oz strip.  Dang good though."

While I was eating a lady came in complaining about all the rain they were getting in south, while they were getting none.  I wanted to her the same thing Ray Holder use to tell me, "Don't wish for something too hard, ya just might get it."

I called Chris-"well I could be home late tonight if I really wanted to be, but Iron Butt rides are not fun."

"well just ride to you're ready to stop and finish up tomorrow, ain't like a bunch going on here you have to rush.  Take your time and have a good trip."

"I will don't forget about Mexican tomorrow night"

I feel comfortable in Texas, always have.

After spending time with Debbie and Chris I got back on the road. 
I crossed into Oklahoma, and soon arrived at my planned exit, but it was still raining big time in the south.  I was not going to be able to ride back roads.  I could, but they are not much fun in bad weather, and it was more than just rain down there, so I remained on I-40.

Today I was going to get a dose of how the other half rides.  Those that ride with a schedule and time table to keep.  I was condemned to I-40, I could not escape.  I resigned myself this would be it all the way home.  Thus, no pictures or interesting stories.  Such is life on the interstate.  There are no sagas to weave aboutt I-40, only so many ways to describe riding 300 miles, stop for gas, then do it again.  Never seeing anything of interest, like a city park, a courthouse, a quiet meadow, or peaceful lake.  No, I'm out here with the 18 wheelers, RVs, and fast pick ups. 

I'll do the best I can to make the last 2 days worthy, but I can only do so much.

A fast moving SUV from New York passed me, I gave him some rein, and fell in behind my sacrificial rabbit.  We flew along at 90-95 for almost 50 miles.  The fun ended when a west bound trooper lit him up, I saw the cruiser peel off and come across.  "Dang don't get mixed up and take me!"  But he had his man.  I went to the right lane to let him by, and a mile later he had the SUV.  Most exciting thing all day.

I love being on the road, making my way on my own, stopping when I want, going where I want.   Meeting people and riding.  Being on 2 wheels is so addictive.  I revel in the speed, and agility my bikes give me.  Moving east on I-40 I passed worn out 18 wheelers, timid RVs, salesmen in rental cars, and vacationers trying to get somewhere.  None of them know the world I live in.  At anytime I could make a move and leave them far behind in my wake, or I just might pull in a small cafe to see what's going on.

According to the signs, Truxton is the hometown of Garth Brooks, and as a result a boulevard is named in his honor.  I traveled down it a few miles when I left I-40 looking for something to eat.  I wasn't hungry but I was so bored I just had to stop.  I settled on a Ci Ci pizza buffet stuck in a shopping center.  I'm a pasta addict.

For 5 bucks I got all the pizza I could eat, all the Diet Pepsi I could drink.  "Man I'm gonna have to stop so many times now."

In the middle of my meal I had to go out and get my sweatshirt out of the left bag.  Talk about COLD, the place was a ice box.

After lunch I got back on the road.  I went through Oklahoma City without any problems.  "Well halfway across now."  That made me feel a little better, but not much.  I kept checking the skies to the south, it was still dark and rainy over there.  "Even if it does clear up, no need to leave I-40 now."  My original idea was too hook back up with 40 east of OKC, to enter Arkansas in the Ft Smith area.  (but if I had to do again, I'd go further south, and ride home across the Mississippi Delta, because never been there, despite the fact close to home.)

I was beginning to see green undercover again, and I liked it.  The browns of the Western U.S. can get old for a Southern boy after a time.  In Seminole I topped of the tank, went to the restroom, and back on the road.  Just gas and go now.

Folks, I-40 was just mind numbing.  Nothing could kill the boredom.  I sang, played the hold your breath game, and toggled the computer over and over.  What I really wanted was a heads up display for a DVD player so I could watch a movie.  I'm thinking a book on tape might be good out here, but if I have to listen to books while riding, then I have to question why ride in the first place, take the car.

The only thing a guy can do in my situation was speed.  That way you have the thrill of the ride, and the excitement of dodging state troopers.  I put the ST on 85 and kept a lookout, and worked my across Eastern Oklahoma.

Fort Smith finally came, and on the east side of town I found a shiny new Shell con store, and topped off the tank.  This place has a rest room like the lobby of some fancy hotel.  Counters, sinks, and toilets were a glossy black.  The walls were slick and the floor sparkled.  Then I realized, "they probably use black because somebody finally figured out the color doesn't show the bad stuff in these places."  It also had a motion thing on the sink.  Now somebody tell me how your suppose to wash your hands while waving one in front of the sensor?

Modern con stores have come a long way.  This store had all kinds of coffee paraphernalia, a drink bar, huge coolers with every kind of drink imaginable.  Shelves were well stocked with anything a Long Rider might need.  Two TVs for your viewing pleasure, with several high top tables.  It surpassed luxurious.  The one thing it didn't have was a nice lady to talk to, like the old store in Marr, Ohio.   She sat around a pot belly stove and chatted with all the folks that came in.  It was homey and and real.  

I pulled a Mountain Dew out of the cooler, bought a muffin, and grabbed one of the high top tables near the coffee stuff.  I watched ESPN and took a nice break.  I called my sister and spent time with her. 
My thoughts turned to home.  I was 600 or so miles from the barn.  Arkansas is a lot like Alabama, if you blindfolded me, and dumped me in the middle of the state, I would swear I was still home.  It was still early, "Ill ride on to Little Rock, that much less to do tomorrow."  With that decision made, I got back on the road.

Traffic increased and I had to adjust.  Long lines of cars kept the right lane packed.  I kept one eye on them and the other in front of me.  I was vigilant about a idiot coming over on me.

I came through Little Rock and didn't know it.  I guess it looked different coming in from the west side.  When I started looking for motels,  I was already on the east side.  When I realized it, I was too far gone to turn back, so kept riding east in the late afternoon sun.

I was ready to get off the road, and each exit I passed I checked for motels.  I wanted a unit with a cafe nearby at decent price.  I scanned the signs on the interstate, trying to get a idea.  I spotted a sign that told of a cheap motel in Brinkley, so I took the exit to check it out.

The signs directed me away from the interstate to the business district.  Old homes and stores lined the way.  It was a hot summer afternoon and folks were walking around in tank tops, shorts and flip flops.  Five miles later I found the motel in question.  "Man, I ain't stayin here."  Talk about a sleezy part of town.  I made a quick getaway the way I came in, and got back on I-40.

I wanted NO part of Memphis, so if I didn't find a place soon I was committed to going into Mississippi.  I really didn't want to do that.  I was over 700 miles and wanted no more part of I-40, counting the day before I'd been on it almost 1000 miles.

Thunderstorms popped up in the north but I managed to stay dry riding east.

I was about to give up when I took the Forrest City.  The exit was a busy one, with several cafe and motel options.  I went to the Econo Lodge, and after showing my Choice card, got a room for 49 dollars, ending a 732 mile day.

My room was around the side and the parking situation called for a long walk up a grassy hill.  Not that big a deal, but old folks and ladies have a hard time with it I'm sure.

I still had 30 minutes or so of light so quickly changed into running gear and knocked out 3 miles on a out and back run.  My legs were stiff the first half mile after a 700+ mile day in the saddle.  But after I got the blood moving I loosened up and had a good run.  I would be home tomorrow this time, and back on routine.  I wanted to get a early start.

From there I grabbed a shower and took a look at my supper options.  Several places were on the other side of I-40.  I was going to have to get the ST back out, not that the almost half mile walk would bother me, but it was getting late, and I feared the restaurants would start closing.
When it was said and done, I decided to eat at a Bonanza, probably not the best choice but there it was.  I ate the hot bar, loading up on chicken, vegetables, and bread.  A young black girl, tending the dining area kept me entertained.

"just got back from California baby, home tomorrow"

"well glad to have ya in Forrest City"

Two kids moaned because the soft ice cream dispenser was worthless, it was just oozing out some kind brown gunk.
I usually eat steak my last night on the road, but I did that last night.  I guess my next one will come in the Blue Ridge next October.  I called home.  "Leave the garage open baby, I should be there shortly after lunch."

On the way back to the room I stopped for popcorn, and Reese Pieces.  

Back at the room I watched a little tv, and pondered my last day on the road.  I didn't need to make any notes, I knew the way home from here.  I decided to go with U.S. 78 out of Memphis instead of the fancy way in on west bound leg.  Cutting south Memphis out really didn't help much.
While watching TV I heard a back up beeper outside.  I jumped up and ran to the door.  My fire department years taught me whenever you hear one, better go check.  I've seen boys back into gas pumps, fire trucks, bay windows, cars, and air compressors.  It was in realm of possibility someone was about to back over the ST.  The guy had a spotter and that made me feel better.  They were backing up some kind of delivery truck.
 I called out the spotter- "Hey keep a look out for the ST k?"

"Yeah we see it"

"just checkin"

The thought of someone backing over my bike is the stuff of nightmares.

I got sleepy watching Fox New and rolled over about 11:30pm.  Looking forward to getting home the next day.

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