Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Back in PDX again!
8/5 Sterling, Colorado to Belleville, Kansas
We again had a great night's sleep but awoke to a soaking wet campground. After unzipping the rainfly and crawling out of the tent, we surveyed the damage. The water that surrounded the tent the previous night had disappeared but left behind a high water mark on the tent and our Ortliebs. One factor we didn't consider when we chose our lightweight and highly packable backpacking tent was exactly how little space we would have inside. We can get ourselves, our helmets, our daypacks and some odds-and-ends in the tent, but out other gear overnights in the vestibules of the rainfly when it is on the tent and hides under the partially attached fly when it isn’t. Our Darien Lights, however, have spent nights cable locked to the bikes. Hey, they're Goretex, they don't get wet, right? Wrong. The torrential rain and high wind of the previous night combined to completely soak our jackets and pants. Fortunately the laundry room/romantic dining spot was only about 100 feet from our front door, so we pitched the Dariens and our Yampas into the dryers for a quick tumble. We also moved our tent and footprint into the sun to speed their drying while we ate a breakfast of leftover bread and peaches and coffee. The bikes required some attention, too. Both bikes again needed a big chain adjustment, literally the chain adjusters had to be moved about half of one of the set of notches on the swingarm. The adjustment, a squirt of lube, and a quick prayer to the gods of tensile strength would hopefully get us to the middle of Kansas that day. All tires were about 2 psi low, and one of Re's exhaust header nuts was loose. After fixing those issues, I also adjusted both of our front brakes and pronounced them good. Both of us seemed to be working in slow motion all morning. Between the wet camp and the unpleasant ride of the previous day, neither of us felt very enthusiastic about getting back on the road (or doing anything, really). But with everything finally dry and packed up, we eventually got on the road at about 9:30 am.
Once we started riding, our moods began to improve. The roads were smoother, the traffic friendlier, and the morning air was cool and sweet. We could both feel our spirits lightening and were soon smiling in our helmets once again. As we headed into the morning sun, we both appreciated the tinted sunshields in our Nolan N-90s. As the morning went by, we found ourselves at the Nebraska border and were glad to put Colorado behind us. Nebraska was a welcome surprise- the roads were even better, the other drivers gave us room to live, and the gently rolling hills were much more to our Symbas' liking. In fact, the mighty SYMs were now cruising at an indicated 50 mph or better, up from our previous cruising speed of 45 (which is actually about 43 on the GPS). We were happy to see the better speeds as we had set for ourselves the ambitious goal of 750 miles in the next two days. We didn't realize the effect our higher speed was having at that time. Nebraska gave way to Kansas as we rode down US 83 towards Oberlin where we headed east once again, this time on US 36. US 36, our constant companion for the next 440 miles, was a revelation to me. We have driven all the way across Kansas a couple of times on I-70 and always found it to be eye-gougingly boring. This route, however, was made up of rolling hills through varied farmland, punctuated by small farm towns every 30 miles or so. Early in the afternoon, we stopped for a lunch of Clif bars and apples on a bench in front of a grocery store in one of the pretty small towns (whose name I forgot to write down). The afternoon turned warmer, but we unzipped all of our vents and were comfortable enough as long as we were moving. Mankato, Kansas was our original goal for the evening, but because of our new found speed, we reached it earlier than expected. The sun was low on the horizon, but we decided to head for Belleville which was about 35 miles farther down the road.
We rolled into Belleville sometime after 8 pm and started hunting for a place for the night but soon found there was no room at the inn. The two campgrounds that we found were both full?? We discovered that Belleville is the home of the “Belleville High Banks – The World's Fastest Half-Mile Dirt Track. And it was a race weekend. Whoops. Re soon spotted the billboard that let us know that this was also the weekend of the free County Fair. Double whoops. We split up and started canvassing all the hotels and motels in town, but there was only one room available – and what a room it was. The room was at America's Meth Value Inn, but the A/C was broken. We were offered this room and a fan for the low, low price of $51+tax (and that price included the AAA discount!). At this point, Re asked the manager if there were any other campgrounds in the area and I watched his eyes glaze over as he gestured towards an employee by the pool. She wasn't much help- she was obviously tweaking hard, as evidenced by her constant hopping form one foot to another, arms flailing in random directions, and inability to string five words together coherently. Meth – not even once. Our rapidly sinking hopes were suddenly buoyed by a man in a pick-up truck who was watching this bizarre spectacle. He called out to us to follow him to a campground and we fired up the Symbas and chased him into the fading evening light. A few twists and turns later, we arrived at Rocky Pond County Park and a beautiful campground near the lake. We waved our thanks to this kind stranger and quickly unloaded the bikes. It was extremely humid that night, but the temperature rapidly dropped to a more comfortable level and, thankfully, there were no mosquitoes. As I began setting up the camp for the night, Re took off to find dinner. It was already about 9:30 pm, and her choices were limited to Dairy Queen and Pizza Hut. When she returned, she had a large pepperoni pan pizza strapped to her topcase and two oil cans of Foster's Lager hanging from her handlebars. I love this woman. We sat down to dinner and only saved one piece each for breakfast the next morning (which she hung in a tree in case of marauding raccoons). Manna from heaven! Stuffed with food and beer and exhausted from the day, we happily crawled into the tent and crashed.
375 miles in about 11 hours. The bikes are running better and better, I fattened up the A/F screw and additional ¼ of a turn and had to adjust the idle higher a few times. It seemed like we stopped for fuel more often than usual. The chains are audibly dragging and the clutches are grabby.