Three Generations – 18 States – 21 Days – 12,200 km My father has spent much of his adult life as a motorcycle enthusiast. He has traveled extensively throughout Canada and the U.S. and has been through most of the areas this trip was going to cover. His trusted steed for this journey was a 2005 Kawasaki, Nomad. I started riding off road at age 12 and other than a small hiatus from riding when my children were young I have been riding for over thirty years. The longest trip prior to this that I had ever been on was when I took off at age 21 and went to British Columbia and down the west coast to California on my own. It was a little over 11,000 km, nothing in the way of what I would consider a long trip since that time. My ride of choice on this epic adventure was a 1997 Honda ST 1100. The third generation in this family adventure was my 18 year old son, Nathan. No motorcycle license and no interest in going on the trip up until about a month before hand which created a tense moment or two as I scrambled to secure a passport for him and rethink how to redistribute everything we needed to carry. The vision for this trip began long before the journey. Conversations started a year before and researching the route in earnest about 6 months before. One goal I had was to document the trip extensively, influenced in no small part by Ewan and Charlie and their epic adventures in “A Long Way Round” and “A Long Way Down” which I watched during the winter leading up to the trip. I didn’t quite have their resources but I had my Panasonic FZ50 digital camera, a small handheld JVC Everio video camera and a recently acquired GoPro Hero camera which I mounted on my helmet. Knowing that this route could have afford an abundance of potentially amazing sights we set a goal to visit at least one major point of interest in each state. Using maps of each state I plotted a GPS route which, as it turns out, was very helpful. Having said that let’s face it, the GPS is great, it is compact and convenient, unbelievably handy when it comes to finding food, lodging and fuel (especially fuel) but it does have its limitations and when it comes to picking a route there is no substitute for a good detailed map that you can lay out in front of you. As I selected the route I used the detailed maps to connect one recommended scenic road after another. Stringing these roads together in this fashion made for a trip filled with days that were almost an overload to the senses. There were a number of days where we passed scenery so unique that I remember thinking, “well that’s it, that is my favourite part of the trip, it can’t possibly get more beautiful than that”, only to be proven wrong just around the next turn. For me this was particularly true in Utah, a state I will most certainly return to. By now I’m sure some of you are thinking yeah great, got it, nice back story what about the trip, the route, the miles under your belt, get on with it. Patience is a virtue you know but yes the trip:
Day 1, June 20th, 2009 saw us up at 6 am and with a couple of unexpected matters to resolve, mostly associated to the rain we hoped wouldn’t come, we were on the road about 7:45. The rain stuck with us as we left London, Ontario and traveled west and crossed over into the U.S. at Sarnia/ Port Huron and from there south west toward Indianapolis. As we plodded along in the rain we were passed by the University of Western Ontario, Mustangs Football, tour bus. Then we passed it. Then it passed us. The last time we saw it was around Fort Wayne Indiana. Interesting only because my dad worked at the university. The next day we learned that the bus was carrying the London Silverbacks semi pro football team and it had been involved in a serious head on collision with a SUV not long after we passed it. Passengers of the bus sustained minor injuries but unfortunately the driver of the SUV died. Around 11:00 the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the temperature rose to 95+. It was became a very pleasant day. We bypassed Indianapolis and took Highway 36 west. A route dotted with small towns and scenery not unlike Ontario. We eventually arrived in Rockville, Indiana a very pretty town in Parke County best known apparently for the numerous (31 if anyone is counting) covered bridges that occupy the nearby countryside around Rockville. If fact of the 98 historic covered bridges in Indiana 51 are in Parke County and the surround 6 counties. We traveled a little over 800 km; a good first day. We found very nice accommodation at a place called the Bubble Gum Bed & Breakfast. We would recommend this one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indiana_covered_bridges
Day 2, June 21st began with a wonderful country style breakfast and a bit of an embarrassing moment. I ladled out myself some cream of wheat porridge, I then had a spoonful of the worst tasting porridge I had ever experienced in my life. It was just about that time when our hostess entered the room carrying a nice little basket of biscuits, being a bit of a student of body language; I immediately identified the look on her face as one of confusion, wondering why on earth I was eating a spoonful of gravy. I had never had biscuits and gravy before and as good as it was, out of respect for my coronary arteries that will also be the last time. Our bellies full from a great breakfast we set out and toured around Rockville on a wee tour. After a couple of photo ops we drove across one of the covered bridges and then we were off, west on Hwy 36 into Illinois and then across the Mississippi into Missouri. We stopped just after we crossed the Mississippi at Hannibal and took a moment or two to look at a monument about the journeys of Louis and Clark. We crossed Missouri and turn southwest at St. Joseph’s on Hwy 59/4. For a short distance out of St Joseph’s we road parallel to a railway track with quite possible the longest freight train I have ever seen.
Day two drew to a successful conclusion with our arrival in Topeka, Kansas, we traveled 833km under mostly sunny and increasingly warmer skies.
Day 3, June 22nd we got an early start and headed south on the Interstate only a short distance then got off and headed southwest on Hwy 50. Once we got a few kilometers under our belts we stopped for breakfast. The waitress told us about a fully restored old courthouse in Cottonwood just a short distance away so we checked that out. It was a very nice town with some of the original cobblestone streets in the core of the town. Then back on 50 we took a short detour north on 177 to check out a bit of the Tallgrass Prairie Natural Reserve before continuing west on Hwy 50. We passed by Hutchinson where there are massive underground salt mines. Not sure how they compare to the salt mines under Lake Huron at Goderich, Ontario. We traveled west to Pratt where we took 400/54 west to Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg was the scene of an EF5 Tornado on May 4th 2007. This tornado was 1.7 miles in diameter and had winds of 200 miles per hour. It “swallowed the whole town in one gulp destroying 95% of the buildings in Greensburg. Twelve people, out of 1,400 residents, died”. I have never seen destruction like this. Imagine a town with streets lined with large mature trees and minutes later nothing, completely flattened. Within the city limits not a tree in sight. They are rebuilding but this is a massive undertaking and it is a slow process.
Greensburg had already been famous for the “Big Well” at 109’ deep and 32’ across. This man made well dug in 1887-88 is a story unto itself. As they dug out the well they put the dirt in wagons and on the 12 mile journey to the location where they got the rocks that line the inside of the well they pulled the boards from the bottom of the wagon one at a time and dumped the dirt along the trail. We continued west to Dodge City, Kansas. Very built up and a long way from the Dodge City Wyatt Earp knew. We had traveled between 5 and 6 hundred kilometers today and it was time to rest. We passed by a number of chain hotels before arriving at the Dodge House Hotel, an interesting blend of old and new. We hit the bar and got a bit of a history lesson. Apparently the counter and mirror behind the bar were from the original Esslington Hotel pre 1873. The owner Mr. Esslington was shot dead by his cook and the hotel was eventually sold. Wow, if that bar could talk! There was actually a bullet hole in the bar pointed out to us by the staff. This is a great location and we’d highly recommend a stay-over if in this area.
ROUTE DAYS 1 TO 3