Paul and I got to his place on a soggy Saturday early evening, we’d ridden all the way from 3 Step Hideaway in Utah to there mostly on interstate 70. Now, interstate travel along big high speed tarmac and concrete are not the usually reported routes used by adventure bike riders, but big heavy adventure bikes are big and heavy and complex and comfortable so they can do exactly that. This attribute comes in handy when as Smokie and the Bandit had, “a long way to go and a short time to get there”.
I spent four days visiting relatives and friends around Denver, and missed out on catching up with more than a few. I could have used another week. But, I had made the decision to ride on to Iowa to visit my brother and a few folks out that way. And that meant crossing Nebraska. I’d originally planned to use two days to do that along mostly US highway 30 and small roads. A route used by my parents back in the days before interstates. My brother and I had rattled around in the back of big Chevrolet station wagons in those days asking if we were there yet.
The weather was turning from warm to hot in Denver and the heat wave extended from the Sierra Nevada through the mid-west. I was not too excited about weathering 100° degree heat in my poor choice of gear and certainly not enduring humid nights in a tent. So, I decided to cut both my Denver visit and Great Plains crossing short by a day. That would get me to my brother’s farm two days early. Thursday morning I headed off.
That gear choice I made the morning Paul and I left the beach was to gnaw at me a good deal beginning this day. My usual commuter gear from decades of practice is fine for an hour or so through morning or early evening urban traffic. It is no match for a long day in the saddle. Heavy pants and hiking boots don’t work. The KLIM jacket has airflow, but at 100°F that is borderline. And this old version of the Latitude jacket is large around the middle and upper arms such that cinching the belt to nearly touching in the back still allows the wind pressure of 75 mph speed limits to push and pull the lower part of the jacket up above my waist. Billowing and blocking off airflow through the garment. Hiking boots are OK on the motorcycle for short periods, but lack the instep support for long hours in the saddle. This leads to foot cramps. The sole of the boots are too flexible and matched to my OEM foot pegs makes for sore feet. Wearing my Sidi Cross Fires I never noticed these shortcomings. After three hours that first day I noticed. My pants don’t breathe much. And not at all compared to my Adventure Spec Atacama pants. By the time I got to the I-80 intersection, my feet were sore, I was near sweltering in my kit and the temperatures were hitting 90°.
For me the interstate is about getting somewhere as fast as I can on the ground. It is quick pitstops for fast food and fuel and a restroom. Rest areas along the way provide the usually much needed stop between fuel stops.
A burger eaten in the sparse shade of a tree along the parking lot, thanks to the pandemic closing the inside dining.
One last rest stop in Iowa before exiting the interstate and heading into the countryside to my brother’s farm.
As the sun set I pulled into my brothers garage, unpacked what I needed for the evening along with laundry to wash, changed clothes and handed a cold beer.
One day in the heat done. Tomorrow is a rest day but, I’m going with my brother to watch him ski dive. Well, not watch the actual dive into the sky, that would require me getting in the plane and to do that I’d have to agree to jump in tandem with one of the tandem jump folks. I was tempted, but remembered how the indoor sky diving session we did a few years ago hurt my back. Instead, I hung out in the hanger and watched landings.
My brother just before landing.
And the crew of sky divers.
I met some cool folks and it was fun. I had comfortable enough seating to rest up from the near 700 mile ride the day before. Cold beer at the end of the day worked too.
Then back to the farm. Figured to deal with watering the prairie plantings the first couple of days as well as cleaning up the last of the broken trees and limbs from the derecho they had August of 2020.
We would spend two days watering and clearing damaged trees and limbs, creating a burn pile that kept going for four days.
This was my set-up for watering. I used the bucket with the rope to pull water from the stream at the bottom of the property then fill all the buckets and watering can then trailer them behind the mower tree to tree. There were a few bushes as well. All the plantings are from the National Audubon Society. This field has been returned to prairie, but not necessarily indigenous species. There are plenty of odd trees the society sends. We drive on a mowed path that in winter is used for cross country skiing by the family and friends. We planed another nine seedlings in the nursery area so now there are around 59 plantings there.
An example of the plantings. There is a small screen around the base of a small tree then this big heavy wire fencing around the whole to ward off the deer.
The burn pile.
Looking back up toward the house.
And when we were done after two days out there in the gathering heat wave that had followed or rather chased me out of Colorado.
About three miles in the direction this photo looks, there is the intersection of a Rails-to-Trails trail that runs down to Des Moines. That trail traverses the River on a high bridge. We rode some of it a few years ago after riding most of RAGBRAI.
The morning of the day we went to watch my brother sky diving, we had taken a walk about the farm to look over the various tasks we had. In doing so, my brother and I climbed to the top of the corn crib and surveyed the work there. Not many people have seen these following views from this vantage point. These are shots from the top of the grain bins in the corn crib.
This first is looking west back at the barn through one of the two windows.
The second shot is looking south back toward the house through the removed side of the cupola.
And the reason we’re not removing more of the cupola or roof is once this end was removed it was my brother noticed the swallows had already taken up residence.
Not wanting to disturb the families of birds, we opted to remove the elevator part of the crib. Part of what drove this decision was the the dump trailer needed to be empty in a week for other use, so we needed to fill it with scrap iron and metal for the scrap yard. The elevator is a constructed of two chains in parallel with long V-shaped buckets That travel below the floor, up the south wall and back down the north wall. The area under the floor is a deep channel where the corn cobs are dumped from the wagon that follows alongside the harvester. The cobs then are directed by means of a rotating sleeve up top to the bins along either side of the crib. These are where the corn dries to the desired moisture content.
Here we are part way through the work. We have already removed much of the sheet metal covering the up and down shafts along with the drive motor, controls, gears and electrical.
We have also removed the trapdoors that cover the deep channel along the floor. Here those doors are in the eight foot loader bucket on the tractor.
One of the problems we faced, well actually three were a family of raccoons.
A little closer look at these critters.
They have come down from above and into the dump area where the bucket seen Lowe right would in the old functional days, scoop up corn cobs. Here we see the mother and two babies. In the video below the two babies can be seen. This slowed us down a half day.
The mother raccoon had climbed back up the elevator side and when we got to tearing away the sheetmetal for that, she came out and left the building.
After tearing out the return side of the elevator, we were able to use the loader to lift the lower part of the structure. One of the babies had left, we presume with mom, leaving the runt to cower. We chased this one back away from harm and lifted the structure where we could block it and get and tearing it apart enough to cut it in half so we could lift the parts out.
We got all the elevator buckets and chain out along with all the scrap metal and the lower piece cut in two pieces then disassembled and the metal into the dump trailer and the junk wood to the burn pile.
This is the company who made the elevator.
The wood is heavy and still like new full dimension planed lumber. Hard and really heavy.
And that last baby raccoon? Safely transferred to the culvert where mom found him. My brother used a long handled shovel to coax him out of the mechanism into the shovel and hauled him out to the culvert by the road.
That day the temperature had hit 100°F out there on the farm and we could feel every bit of it. I knew I needed to get back on the road to home. Besides I wore through my work gloves.
I headed out the next day after breakfast and shortly after adding a couple of gallons of gas in Madrid, I ran into rain and a lot of wind on 17 north to US 30. I filled up with real gas in Boone then headed west on 30 into the rain. I would ride for another two hours in the rain that came and went. Just enough to keep things cool enough to warrant using the heated grips.
I made my camp for the night about Grand Island a KOA off the interstate. It was warm, but not hot.
A cold beer and an ice cream sandwich were dinner enough. I was pretty tired and knew I wanted to get an early start for the next leg come morning.
Shortly after sunset I was in my sleeping bag asleep.
Come morning, I woke not as early as I’d hoped, mostly thanks to a group of very loud motorcycles arriving in the wee hours of the night, making piling into the campsite behind me then a few hours later gathering up and leaving. Lots of blipping of farting throttle sounds.
In the morning I headed north to catch back up to US highway 30 to find fuel, breakfast and head west to Cheyenne Wyoming where I had reserved a KOA tent site.
Just east of the intersection of I-76 and I-80 I dropped back onto the interstate to make the high speed run to the finish for the day. It was hot with cross winds at times, but not terrible. I would find hotter temperatures soon enough.
The subway just down the road provided a wrap for dinner, my campsite providing no shade or protection from the wind or the noise of the interstate as trucks decelerated down the hill all night long.
The camp is pretty new with small trees, the shower stalls/rooms are tight, but clean and in good working order. A long cooling shower made quick work of washing the heat and grime of the last two days off. I needed to be up early to make the long run down to Salt Lake City where the expected temperatures were topping 100°.
When I woke in the morning it was to soaking low cloud cover. Packing soaking wet tent fly was a mess. But the Big Agnes set up makes this pretty easy. I knew I’d be able to dry things out more come SLC.
The thick, low clouds hung on for about an hour out on the interstate. Very creepy with very limited visibility. When I did finally break through I found a fuel and food stop in short order. McDonalds for breakfast and a small coffee then back on the bike.
Dropping into Salt Lake City from the northeast the heat wells up at me. I stopped at a east area trying for some shade, water and a natural break. I had about an hour left of the days ride to the KOA. I’d been here before back in 2018.
This KOA is almost completely shaded thanks to old trees. The sites are well established, the showers clean and roomy. The store has enough snacks to make a sort of meal.
I knew that the next day would be not only the hottest of the ride, but the longest distance. I’d be riding all the way to US 395. Crossing the bulk of Utah and all of Nevada to get south of Tahoe in one day. Up early and gone was the plan. I managed to more or less stick to the plan. I woke about 5AM, packing quickly and heading off in search of fuel and food.
I made Coleville KOA about dinner time as I’d expected. The crossing had been hot and harder thanks to most rest stops not having any water and little in the way of shade. I made it. It was also noticably cooler here tucked up against the mountains.
My tent backs up to US 395, but this far north there isn’t that much traffic. The restrooms have showers and are set up like individual half bathrooms in a house. Very nice set up. Friendly folks too. Mostly huge motorhomes and adventure vans.
I made a meal of what I found in the small shop at check-in.
My last night on the road.
I woke before dawn, packed and set off in the direction of breakfast in Bishop.
Granola in oat milk yogurt. Never heard of such a thing, but it was tasty. I also got a pain au chocolat and a Latte’. Far too much food for me, but I ate it anyway. Rode off to find fuel then on down the road. One more stop for water and fuel and I was home. The heat was up in a big way. 109° in places. When I got on the toll road I began seeing a drop down into the mid-90’s. As I dropped to the beach and home from Mission Viejo the temperature dropped twenty degrees.
I was soon home, the bike unpacked and backed into its spot in the garage. My wife and I walked to the pier for a sunset cocktail.
With that travel was done and maintenance could begin. I’d travelled a bit less than 5,000 miles over a bit less than three weeks.
The next trip will have less interstate and fewer KOA’s. Oh, and no work.