Day 5 - Keokuk, IA to Holton, KS
We adhered to our plan and got up at 5AM - Kay walked the dogs before it was even light outside, while I worked on packing stuff up. (Kay tends to wander around inefficiently when he's doing an open-ended thing like packing, so it just works out better if he has a series of tasks, like walking the dogs, taking some of the luggage out to the bike, etc. while I do things that require more fuzzy logic.) When Kay came back, he reported that it wasn't too bad outside. He was right! Even though the weather said it was already 80 degrees, we were pleased to find that it felt fairly mild.
The Ural still had about 3/4 of a tank so we packed up, checked tire pressures and hit the road without further adieu. I was pleased that we were rolling out right around sunrise, at about 6:10AM. We skipped the hotel breakfast and made good time on state highway type stuff. After about 45 mins or so, we hit the interstate, which unfortunately was the order of the day for the rest of the day's ride.
Ran a tank (about 80 miles or so), gassed up without taking a break, and ran another tank before breakfast. By 8:45ish, we'd covered around 150 miles and the weather was starting to get hot. Gassed up again, and Kay wanted McDonalds for breakfast so we sat at an outdoor table with the dogs. I was displeased that there wasn't any shade - I was already starting to feel overheated - but Kay seemed oblivious so I didn't try to get us to move.
Breakfast for us, breakfast for the dogs (they each got an Egg McMuffin, because they'd eaten all their kibble last night like crazy hungry beasts, and we hadn't dug more out of the trunk yet), bathroom for us, bathroom for the dogs and then packing everything up... took longer than I'd hoped. And Kay suggested that we run to the Wal-Mart just down the road to buy an oil pan for this evening, since today's going to be the day we need to do the 5,000km service on the Ural. I sent him in to fetch it while I waited with the dogs, shielding them from the direct sun so they could relax in a shady sidecar. Of course that took longer than expected, too, so by the time we got back on the road, we'd been stopped for an hour and a half and it was HOT.
Ran another tank, and when we stopped for gas, we decided to play it by ear. We added fresh cold water to our Camelbaks, rolled out the Frogg Toggs Cooling Towel for the dogs, and soaked them down with some of the cold water to help them cool off. And then we had them drink some of the water, too. And we drank some. So much cold watery goodness. We felt sufficiently refreshed to run another tank and see how we were doing at that point. This was around 11:30-11:45, and the temps were probably in the mid-90s.
I ran in, bought 5 liters of water, ran out, and did my best to immitate those efficient Nascar crews. Unroll the Frogg Togg thing! Water the dogs! Pour remaining water over dogs! Attack dogs with chilly bottled water! Rub water into fur! Open Camelback! Squeeeeeeze! More water! Open Camelback! Squeeeze! More water! Squeeze! Go Go Go!
By the time we'd run another 40 miles down the road, we were getting pooped. Kay said over the headsets that he was having trouble staying awake in the heat on this boring road, and I wasn't much better. And it was officially hot with a capital H-O-T! (I know - I declared it at 12:03 PM. Right before I declared that people in Missouri were worse than average at merging. Really? Merge does NOT mean come to a complete stop and/or force someone into the next lane! Speed up or slow down appropriately to fit into a slot in traffic! Geez, how hard is it, people?)
I peeked in at the dogs and Ben was panting - the first time I've seen him panting whilst the sidecar was moving on this trip - so I decided it was time to call it a day. I checked the GPS for lodging and saw a few no-name local hotels in the next town about 20 miles away. Or there was a Super 8 about 25 miles south. We'd stayed at Super 8 already with the dogs on this trip, and Kay had postulated that perhaps the whole chain was dog-friendly, so I decided it was better to go with a semi-known quantity and adjusted our route on the fly to the Super 8.
Along the way, I hit reserve - at about 120KM, which is much earlier than I've ever hit it on the Ural - and I was concerned that at that rate, I might not have enough gas to make it all the way to Holton. We carry a RotoPax with a gallon of gas in it, so I knew I could add that to the tank if we needed it, but I didn't want to stop in the middle of the direct sun and expose the dogs to that kinda heat while I topped up to get us into town. So when we saw a gas station on the left side of the divided highway, I pulled in.
Unfortunately, it wasn't operational. I don't know if it was still under construction or out of business - it looked fairly new but it wasn't clear what the status was. We started to pull out again, but I expressed my concern about the gas to Kay who suggested that we pull into the shade at the gas station to top up the tank and that way we wouldn't have to worry about it.
So we did that (with a quick detour for Kay to go pee) only to discover that we couldn't get the darn RotoPax nozzle to pour properly. It's one of those ridiculous government-compliant things that you have to turn and push down on or some such garbage, and I'm better with this kinda thing but I wasn't able to get it to work. Kay, who had successfully used the RotoPax last time (back in Boston when we ran out of gas around town) also wasn't able to get it working. In the end, we took the nozzle off and aimed as best we could at the gas tank, and got about half of it in there. The rest spilled all over the Ural and on the ground below. But we were too hot to care - we just wanted to get to Holton and get the dogs into the air conditioned hotel. While Kay was splashing the dogs with some more water to cool them down again, and refreshing their cooling towel, I took the opportunity to check the temp - officially 100.
I had to pee SOOO Bad. I pulled over by a tree, hobbled slowly under the shade, and peeed, while Dachary got off the bike, removed the rotopack, connected the funnel, tried to get it working, failed, tried to pour it, spilled some... and pee was still coming out. Eventually I hopped back on the bike, and came over to help. I wish I'd thought to take some pictures but I was so concerned about the dogs in the heat that I just wanted to get everything moving as quickly as possible.
On the last 15-mile leg to the hotel, it was clear the Ural wasn't happy. 4th gear had long since given up the ghost - way too much up-and-down today and 4th gear was no longer able to get me to 60MPH, and frequently fell to 50-52 MPH when going uphill, so I was cruising along in 3rd gear. By the time we got into town, even in 3rd gear, the Ural didn't want to go much more than 50 - everything was just too hot. I prayed that we wouldn't have a soft seize (or a full-out seize) before we got to the hotel, because we had to get the dogs out of the heat.
Made it to Super 8 with much crossing of fingers and careful effort not to idle at stoplights, and discovered that they don't take dogs! Ack! This 25 mile detour in this heat was for naught! There was only one other hotel in town, which meant I'd probably have had better luck with the no-name places on our direct path instead of detouring another 25 miles south. Crossed our fingers even more and went across the street to the Red Roof Inn, where we happily discovered that they'd take dogs. JOY!
Dogs and essential luggage went into the room, and I took the Ural down the street to Burger King to score us some lunch. I was too hot to be really hungry, but I didn't want a repeat of yesterday so I knew we had to eat. After far too much time, I got back to the room with the food and was able to finally relax in the air conditioning. Not a moment too soon - I was dizzy and a bit confused and I think I was in the early stages of heat exhaustion.
As I write this, it's around 4 o clock and we're waiting until much later to do the 5,000km service on the Ural. It's far too hot out there to even consider doing something like that now. I'll probably wait until 7 or 8 and try to find some shade around here as the sun sets where we can do the service.
In addition to the normal 5,000km service items, I'm also gonna check the valves again. I don't know what else could have caused it to lose so much oomph but its performance today made me more certain than ever that something isn't right. I'll probably also change the air filter again - as I was riding today, I noticed a fine sheen of dust coating my Camelbak bite valve. Made me at least consider the possibility that even though we've been riding pavement, there might be some fine particulates on the air filter causing some issues. It's probably a vain hope, but I'm not really sure where else to go, diagnostically speaking. The performance is just so inconsistent, I feel like there's some sort of issue with air or fuel flow.
Plan for tomorrow is more of the same. Get up even earlier than we did today, get on the road at first light, and make miles before it gets too hot to ride. But I think we'll try to find a place to stop before it gets as hot as it did today - we felt rather critical about getting the dogs out of the heat ASAP by the time we stopped because I think we'd waited too long.
So much for my carefully-planned campground route.
I thought that yesterday afternoon was like riding into a hair-dryer. I was wrong. It was like riding into a poorly functioning hair-dryer on low. Whenever I opened my visor to scratch an itch this afternoon I was hit with a blast of hot hot air. It was horrible. I didn't know it could be that much worse with the visor open.
My headset has survived a second day without cutting out. Maybe it was bad connectors. Maybe the circuit board and the battery just needed some time apart. I don't know, but fingers crossing that it stays working. the sound quality has been somewhat crappy since around the same time Dachary got her G9 (lots of distortion) so I do want to get a new G9 anyway, but with these unplanned hotel stays it's nice to not have to spend that extra money right now. Keep your fingers crossed folks