Omaha (or, how I terrorized the IBA)

Everybody was complaining. Oh the horror of rain and cold. I get up roll out of bed around 8AM and realize this is what it means to be done with the school year. Finals are done and today is a day to ride. Spousal accessory unit Sydney is taking care of our munchkins while I roll the bike out onto the driveway to do the pre-trip checklist. A few hours later all of the kiddo stuff is done and noon is rolling up as we are rolling out. Today we get to ride.

The GPS says right at 509 miles from Porter, IN to Omaha. Not a long distance ride, but not a short ride either. We ride down past the Duneland winery home of the states best Chancellor Wines. Onto the Interstate headed west with the innocence of the first long trip of the year. My young and beautiful bride perched on the back seat of the bike can almost discern the world around my rotund melon covered in helmet. She often complains and has determined a few ingenious inventions to solve the scenery issues. Perhaps a camera mounted on the top of my helmet with a screen on the back so she can a virtual view through my head. Perhaps a computer terminal so she can surf the web and update out wandering travels in real time.

The 80/94 corridor between I65 in Indiana and I294 in Illinois is a maligned chunk of billion dollar pavement. The constant work is supposed to make it better, but how much pain will it cause in the meantime. I shouldn’t complain we travel on whispers of the k-bike sailing through and never slowing. One toll booth on I80 and a wide open road full of promise lies ahead. As I snick through the gears increasing our velocity to comfortable and sedate we queue up some music on the MP3 player. 150 miles later we are getting near theIllinois and Iowa border and the world is changing.

The sun has disappeared behind a cloud, the temperature is dropping, and the wind has kicked up, and an ill wind of discontent is blowing. Feeding the ravenous beast I call tummy wife version 2.0 informs me that lunch is needed and since it is late I find a nice little place to gas up us and the bike. The 20 minute lunch is accompanied by a similar drop in the temperature and the electrics are put on for the rest of the ride. The steel gray sky, the impending storm, and well of emotions rattle around the cranium instilling an awesome internal dialog.

Sometimes as I wander around the national highway system I think about how it mimics my own wandering around my self. What way through my self will find some new vista of my own making? Where will the next highway bypass, viewpoint, or side road will find a place to enjoy in a new way? Why do we ride motorcycles? What danger lurking in the future is crawling out of hell to spew injury and pain in the path of my family and me? Is there a safer way of life just as fulfilling and filling the deep need for adventure and challenge? The weather mirrors my mood and the sky opens from gray to steel and the pelting droplets of mist coalesce into rain and drench my wife and I instantly. Steel hard rain rips into the bike. Electrics to full, grips on high, and my wife thanks me again for buying the soft touch heated electric seats, and the wider vest just for her.

Iowa corn fields roll past, with Iowa rain falling, with Iowa water on the highway. Then the sky closes the spigot of rain that had been following us and the cold crunches into our ride and the gas light illuminates telling me I’m running out of energy. How apropos for this point in the ride today.

Sneaking in behind a tractor trailer rig I ride inside the bubble and fuel economy goes from the mid 40’s up into the 60’s. A few minutes later Stuart Iowa appears and I’m off the interstate and fueling. Each fuel stop has been four or five minutes. With dispensing time being the primary factor of how long it takes to get done. Every stop I make on the bike is a rally stop. I’ll learn the next day this is just what I should do. I also grab receipts and check them rally wise when I get fuel for the better-half’s truck. I count the stopped time, but I think I should start counting the time from exit to entrance of the highway. A fuel cell definitely would impact my riding time, but my co-rider would complain if she had to give up her seat for a fuel cell. I only fight the battles with her that I can win. In other words I just don’t fight.

I used to like riding in Iowa. I lived in Iowa for about 18 months until my college closed. I tried to escape to Iowa in an effort to evade wife version 1.0 also known as the raving lunatic witch who causes me to scream and curse ravenously. In an effort to escape and evade said now ex-wife I moved out leaving no forward address or hints, but was soon found and my lapse in communication detailed extensively. I soon learned to hate Iowa and moved to South Dakota. It wasn’t Iowa’s fault.

When you roll into a hotel rally usually there are a bunch of cronies hanging around rating the riding disasters of the participants as teams of eager camera hounds wait for the tilting and falling to begin. Not so the Omaha event for the Iron Butt Association. Riders engrossed in the latest gadgets fed well by a dinner I and my lovely bride missed wander through the parking lot. A check in to the hotel and a walk around the venue to meet people has me seeing some great people. My pretty blue eyed passenger and I fly way below the RADAR. We fade into the background whenever possible. We take pictures, listen to people who know what they are talking, and giggle at those with no clue.  For the next two days we get a double dose of reality and good information.

Unfortunately the darned and double darned goddess of “lacking mystery” and “evil doer of no good” makes us wear pins with our names on them. People now can attach a face to the name. I think about escaping back to mother Interstate but we stick around. The seminars were awesome. The people were spectacular. I couldn’t get over the shock of somebody walking up and saying “HI SAM!” Well dang how do you know my name? After the fourth or fifth person pointing at my nametag I started to get a clue.

Lisa Landry the despot of the Iron Butt Association and mistress of pain and cruelty who made me wear a name tag was casually pleasant. I wish I could get to know this great lady better as she seems like the kind of person you can count on. Other than that incredibly despotic evil quirkiness that makes her the mistress of pain. I got at least within 100 feet of Mike Kneebone. No matter how hard he tried to duck and hide from me I found him. The court order says I have to stay 25 feet away, but you never know where I will show up. There are few people I feel sorry for, but Mike would be one of them. But that is a separate story.

If you want to have interesting discussions find Tom Austin. When I talk to Tom Austin I feel like rodent in a game of cat and mouse. He has this eerie ability to scrape your skin off and take a look under the hood. I know I’m a social reprobate full of angst, anxiety, and lack any credibility. A great mentor of mine named Bob said surround yourself with people smarter than yourself and you will become smarter. Obviously the opposite must be true too. I saw Tom hiding under the bar. Hi Tom! He must have heard the same truism and been keeping my influence in check.

Don Damron tried to run and hide but I tripped him and plied him with drinks. Well actually after I talked is ear off he went and got a drink (or several). You can only hide so long and we enjoyed a pleasant and inane conversation. Don was pleasant and I was inane. Actually I find myself chewing on my tongue a lot in the presence of people like these.  Poor Don Arthur wandered into the conversation and almost got roped into one of my hair brained schemes. With the greatness of a trained diplomat he escaped my entangling web of enthrall and was never seen again.  Dr. Arthur did have a discussion with the lovely and talented Sydney and I will be indebted to that forever.

Riding home was a non-event other than we didn’t leave the hotel until nearly 10ish. Not a bad ride at 500 miles in seven hours and 30 minutes. As I watched a rider coming up in the mirror somewhere in Iowa I noticed it was Mr. Egan. Of course I’ve met and talked with Mr. Egan in several venues, but I’m such a non entity he had no clue who the two blue M&M’s on the BMW were. Without a name tag I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t know who I was. I though I might learn something so I tried to follow at a discreet distance and watched. I learned one of the reasons this guy is an Iron Butt Rally winner. One word describes his riding style. Smooth. Maybe you could add controlled, but I think smooth is the best description. I put the cruise control on and just watched the show. After awhile we needed gasoline and obviously he didn’t.

Arriving home the kids were climbing all over us. Dinner was waiting. There is just something about getting home to a gaggle of curtain crawlers and sullen teenagers that makes coming home an event. Mom and dad got their romantic weekend riding motorcycles. Mom and dad had fun. Mom and dad can’t wait until next year to escape, or um go adventuring again.

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