I packed up the next morning and headed west, stopping in the next town I pass through for a mediocre meal, a stop at the post office, and a gas fill up. Here's where I have my first real encounter. You know, the people that really make the trip. The guy on the next pump over strolls on up and starts looking over the bike and gear, nodding to himself and asking me about the NY plates. “Yeah, I rode it the whole way.” He tells me of the '08 he just picked up, and offers me the use of his shower. It'd been a few days, and the dude seemed alright, so why not? Turned out to be a solid guy. Kevin was his name, out of Lena, Il. I grabbed a quick shower and had a beer as we looked over the new KLR. I even got to take it out on some back roads for comparison. I still prefer the old school design. A quick introduction to his wife and daughter as they arrived home from work and I packed up to head out. Couldn't find my phone, however. I checked my gear and even made a last minute pass of the house, but to no avail. Finally, I just assumed it'd gotten wrapped up in the luggage. Being the lazy SOB that I am, I moved on.
Kept heading west, keeping the sun in sight. I hit the Mississippi river just before nightfall and turned north along the Great River Road. Made camp behind some random cornfield after hitting my first cat of the season. Kinda bummed me out. I had planned on burning through the midnight oil, but after smacking that damn barn cat dead center and hearing it squawk, I just wanted to get off the road, smoke one, and pass out. I followed the road as it went from asphalt to gravel, gravel to dirt, and the dirt ended at a T intersection. I went straight, down into a field and along some double track. Before long I found myself pitching camp in the dark behind a tall row of corn. Good times, good times.
Got up the next morning and evaluated my situation. Brewed up a cup of coffee and some instant oatmeal and had breakfast while surfing the GPS. I had always heard that the badlands of South Dakota were worth a look, so I figured that this would be my very next target. It's always good to have goals, right? Route 14 seemed to be a straight shot west into Rapid City. That works for me. Wasn't long before I was Baja-ing down the access road back to the Great River Road where I continued north until hitting route 14. I remember finding it fairly interesting how big the holes in the concrete wall to my right were. Debris barriers, I assumed. I amused myself during a smoke break trying to figure just how much energy would have to be crashing down the cliff-face to take out Volkswagen sized chunks of concrete. Yeesh. Anyhow, made that left and crossed the Mississippi. On to Rapid City.
I never did find my cell phone. That's worth mentioning. Apparently, I left it at the post office just before meeting Kevin. It would later get shipped back home, leaving me to find a replacement. I hit half a dozen Wal-Marts along the way in an effort to snag a cheap Verizon throw-away phone, but they don't seem to exist in this part of the country. Where the hell am I? I suddenly find myself feeling a little uneasy. It's like some time warp where it's eternally 5 years ago. Stopped at a Cabelas along the way and scored a nice Brunton dual-fuel stove. Not a bad little MSR substitute. Runs on 87 octane, what more can you ask for? Out of Cabelas, I took the nearest dirt road. Route 14 from here on out turns out to be fairly high speed interstate, which I'm not yet a big fan of on such a tall bike. I stumbled into Lake Benson, MN a few minutes before dark and head for the nearest green blob I've now come to know as home. The road ends abruptly in someone's front yard where I find the owner standing beside his truck watching me roll up like a fool-on-wheels. He was pretty cool, though, and recommended the next lot up to pitch a tent for the night. There was a house there at one point, but no longer. It burned down. People died. I slept well.
Sooo... yeah. Windmills.