Friday, May 9, 2014

Coast to Coast: Day 2: Terre Haute, IN - Kansas City, MO. Friday, May 9, 2014

     Although the rush of the wind against the trees was peaceful during the night, I was overwhelmingly concerned that someone was going to steal my stuff. I had maybe two hours of shuteye before actually going to sleep. An hour after that, I was awakened by heavy rain. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to sleep through the rain, I got out of my tent, packed up my equipment, and left the campsite. I was up at 1:30 am, and I was on the road by 2:30 am. The rain was miserable, but I thanked myself for having waterproof gear and a bike that could handle anything. I just wish that I was a little more waterproof myself.

     The first few hours of the day’s ride, I was wet, but it was manageable. I stopped at a Marathon gas station to fill up my tank after passing into Illinois in a small town. The pump didn’t want to take my card, so I tried my dad’s card, which also didn’t work. I tried a different pump, and had the same issue. Then I realized the gas station was not open for 24 hours- something new to me. I went a few miles down the street to a BP, which by now seemed to be my savior of the trip.

Illinois border 

Closed Marathon gas station 

     The inside of the BP store looked more like a gift shop than a gas station. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Stuffed animals and strange novelties made up most of the stock of this store, but there were still the standard gas station supplies as well. The walls were well decorated (for a gas station), and there was a green highway sign painted on the far wall which depicted the distance of nearby cities from the gas station. It was kind of cool. I only bought some jerky for the road and a tank of gas.

BP gas station

AK-47 lighters 

The highway sign painted on the wall depicting the distance of nearby cities from the gas station was pretty accurate 

The cold rain I endured for about 4 hours 

     By the time I was half way through Illinois, the continuing rain started to freeze me. I was shivering so hard that I was having trouble keeping my hands on the handlebar grips. My options were limited, so I just pushed through the rain and hoped I would warm up when the sun came out later in the day. I had no time to waste getting warm in a gas station somewhere.

     It was interesting watching the night transform into day. I was isolated on the roads under a pitch black sky when I began my ride. As the sky grew lighter, more cars appeared on the road, and nearby shops and houses gradually illuminated as people began their days. It was the only thing I noticed that morning, since I was so cold and wet to pay attention to any minor details.

     It wasn't until I was on the other side of Illinois near St. Louis that the rain stopped and the clouds began to part. By that time, I was chilled to the bone and soaking wet. It was only around 6:30-7 in the morning, and I still had a long way to go.

     My original plan was to make it to St. Louis by the end of my first day on the road and stay with my mom’s fiance for an evening. Travelling nearly 600 miles was an impossible task, and my dad convinced me a few days before to limit my distance. I am glad I heeded his advice, but I could have really gone for a plush, comfortable bed at that point. Either way, I couldn’t afford to take a break since it would have pushed my schedule back too far.

     I didn't see the heart of St. Louis. My GPS took me on a route that went around the city. Maybe it was for the better. I didn’t have to worry too much about city traffic clogging up the roads as road raged drivers fought to work. I stopped at a visitor’s center just on the other side of the Mississippi River, filled up on gas, and got a shot of the river from the west side. Then I took a few roads here and there that got me to Route 61, which took me straight back into the country.

Mississippi River 

     The Missouri backcountry was the lushest area I had ever seen. Every leaf and blade of grass was a deep green. There wasn’t a spot of brown in sight. The sun was out, and I was finally enjoying my ride again. Missouri was such a sight to see.

Lush Missouri

     I wasn’t on Route 61 too long before I saw an old general store with old fashioned pumps. I wanted to fill up on gas, but they only had regular unleaded. Instead, I stopped inside to fill up on Gatorade. To my surprise, the inside of the store looked more like a hardware store than a gas station. There were rows and rows of shelves stashed with fittings, hinges, nuts and bolts. It was essentially a Home Depot crammed into a tiny old country store. I didn’t need any hardware, so I left the store with some Gatorade, checked my luggage straps, and I was on my way.

Old fashioned general store 

     I took the rest of 61 through Troy and Bowling Green, then some other small roads that brought me north through Mark Twain Lake before hitting 24. By then it was about 3:00pm, and I was almost completely dry, but still very cold. I took 24 and hit 65 for a short time before following 224. I was running out of fuel, so I searched for the nearest gas station. The only one I could find was a Casey’s General Store. My trip wasn’t to end here, but I was running on fumes. Casey’s was better than being stranded, so I filled up my tank with Pepsi.

     I was on the road for a few more hours until I started feeling hungry for the first time that day. I pulled off the main road onto a side street and started snacking on beef jerky and Gatorade. While I was eating, I watched the traffic go by. I noticed that different vehicles had different tires that made more noise than others. It wasn’t that interesting of an observation, but there wasn’t anything else to do on the side of the road.

     Time passed, and I was really enjoying the perfect weather and the lonely back roads. The Missouri landscape, like Indiana, was covered in farms. However, these farms were populated by countless farming machines. I found myself becoming more familiar with the different brands and models of tractors since I had seen so many, as well as the purpose of different types of farming equipment since I was watching them in action. I wondered what life was like as a farmer; using these extremely powerful machines to utilize the natural resources of the earth. It had to be a hard life.

     I had just passed Lexington when fate decided to pull the trigger. A bug flew (astonishingly) under my full face helmet and straight into my eye. I was in an extreme amount of pain, and pulled off to a nearby gas station. I was in the parking lot for forty five minutes and managed to get a lot of the bug out, but some of it was stuck in my eyelid and it caused severe pain every time I closed my eye. The nearest urgent care was back in Lexington, so I ended up having to use one eye and no depth perception to get me twenty miles back to the town..

     The urgent care was completely useless. They told me I needed to go a mile and a half up the road to the hospital. It was dangerous enough that I got to the urgent care with one working eye and another in extreme pain, but luckily there was a stranger who said that he would take me up the road. I was extremely grateful, and we took his orange work truck to the hospital. He said I would have to walk back to my bike, but it wasn’t parked very far away and at least they could fix my eye.

     Paperwork, eye pain, unnecessary questions, and more paperwork later, I finally got to a room in the hospital. By that time, the piece of bug stuck in my eyelid had worked itself out. I thought it might be a good idea to have the doctor look at my eye, but she wanted to numb it, give me shots, and essentially have me bedridden for the next couple of days. I couldn’t sacrifice the trip, so I just walked out, but not before paying for the visit. It was a complete waste of time.

     As the day went on, however, my eye became more swollen and goopy. It was starting to get infected. I called my dad, and he convinced me to stay the next day in Kansas City and go to another urgent care. He even offered to pay for the next night in a hotel, which I gladly accepted. Since I felt I only needed antibiotics, at least the doctor wouldn’t send me to the hospital again. It could have also be a blessing in disguise, since it was too late that day to get some famous Kansas City BBQ, and I had to use one of my extra days to see another doctor anyway.

     I arrived at the campsite just outside of Kansas City at about six in the evening. I didn’t make a reservation, since the receptionist at the previous campsite seemed to be surprised that I made one for a tent spot the morning I left for my trip. As expected, the campsite outside of Kansas City had plenty of open tent spots, so purchasing a good place to settle down for the night was easy.

Campsite just outside Kansas City

     This campsite definitely felt more open than the one in Terre Haute. In addition to the wonderful facilities of the previous site, there was also a volleyball court right across the gravel road from my tent spot. There was also much more activity at this campsite. I was too tired to do anything too physical, so I just set up my tent.

     At the tent spot next to mine was another motorcyclist a few years older than me who was in the process of setting up his own tent. I introduced myself and we ended up having a conversation about our trips. I was on my way from Columbus, Ohio to San Francisco, California. He was from New York City, and was trying to get to Los Angeles. Like me, he was camping the whole way, but he was taking the Interstate Highway. He moved from New York to Los Angeles because his girlfriend was moving there, but he seemed to think the relationship was going downhill.

     We were very similar. We both had Hondas, Eurika! brand tents, and a similar thirst for adventure. We rode together across the highway to a McDonalds, stopped in a liquor store for beer, and made a quick stop at the gas station next door so I could fill up my bottles full of Gatorade. I was warned by my family not to make any friends on the trip, but by the end of the evening we were knocking back brewskies in front of a fire and sharing our life stories. I really didn't think there was anyone who would be crazy enough to go on a trip like mine, but I was proved wrong. We had a long conversation about our bikes. He asked if I had named my bike, as he had named his motorcycle. I said I had not. It seemed kind of silly to me, giving a human name to a machine, but I didn’t say that. He let me borrow one of his phone chargers since my outlet charger wasn't working too well and I didn't want to drain my bike's battery. I made a few calls and sent some pictures to my family with the help of the charger before going to sleep. The camp was right next to the roaring highway, but I slept like a baby.

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