Day 7: MS Takes on the Rough Grand Army of the Republic Highway

WARNING. This daily report contains rather coarse language.

The first day of the return trip. Before-breakfast test of MS’ moods. Nothing less predictble than a woman. Not a single drop of fuel on the ground – she shed a few tears around her petcocks, no more. And at first touch of the starter: all still sleeping hotel guests definitely awake. Even Dave goes totally blank when I report this. One morning the battery is dead and fuel is leaking to the ground. Next morning battery is fully charged and just a few tears visible on the engine. As a technical nobody I come to a logical conclusion: if pretty bad fuel leak and dead battery happen together, there’s got to be a cause and effect. David is polite – just saying that around the petcocks there is nothing electric. Still I wonder….. So triple experts, if you think you know what is going on, don’t keep it to yourselves. BTW, MS consumes hardly any oil.

Time, elevation and climate change in the morning. Climate even dramatically. Take-off is in cool Mountain Time, about 50F or so. At lunch time it is over 90F. The first 150 miles or so we take again the boring freeway Interstate 80, there isn’t much of a reasonable choice out there. We pass trucks more often than they do us. Listening to MS’s engine and feeling what throttle she wans, I am remembered of the beginning of an airplane descent: suddenly the plane’s engines seem to go to no more than a bit over idle. Same for MS. We are gradually descending from the cool high plains of Wyoming to the hot low plains of Nebraska thousands of feet (=30 cm) lower. Riding west I had not noticed we were going up so much – neither did MS judging by the uphill power she was and is mustering on all steep and long inclines. She doesn’t lose speed going up. Amazing.

Target is US6 east, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, another American traditional highway anywhere between 50-100 miles south of the Lincoln Highway. See the internet for details and an active association. The conditions are desert-like. The strong scorching winds from the south west provide hardly any cooling. Even when I follow David’s example and put my mesh riding jacket over my bare naked body. And MS is naked, too. So I get the full force of everything that comes our way. (Note for non motorcycle riders: naked means that there is no windshield protection whatsoever on the bike. This is not the coarse language I have warned you for.). All kinds of bugs torpedo my helmet’s windshield and need to be washed off at every fuel stop.

US 6 (later 136 we take) is a narrow rolling and curving 2-lane highway. It is still prairie, but different. Not only grass but also cornfields with their mastodons of silo’s and elevators showing from a far distance where human presence lingers on. A popcorn factory. Lincoln Highway is the rugged and barren west without trees or anything else to soften up the landscape. US6 scenery is very wild west but more Mediterranean. Trees here and there, especially along creeks listening to names as Frenchman Creek and Big Deer Creek. Landscape is more friendly. Farm houses at large intervals. 90% of cars is pick-ups, notable numbers really from the 60’s and 70’s not seen elsewhere sofar. Front yards of houses even offer 70’s cars for serious sale – and I am not talking about the all-over present junk cars around people’s houses; each junk car creating its own mini habitats for plants and flowers growing around and out of them – the grass around them carefully mowed. People live in mini towns by names that testify to once held high expectations. Orleans, Oxford for example, with now – so say the signs – a few hundred of at best thousand people. Riding through them I feel the numbers could better be changed to words such as ‘not nobody’ or ’some still do’ or equivalent.

At a fuel stop I tell David: “I really like all of this, this is really great to ride through”. He looks rather dubiously at me, at a loss for words for just a few seconds. Then replies hesitantly: “This is over the Styx, this is the boon dogs”. He is right and that is what makes these trips so unique.

Fuel stops so far have been standard at 100 miles to be on the safe side; a triple may go max anywhere between 120 – 150 miles on a tank depending on terrain, load, speed etc. Today that was changed to 80 miles. You never know where the next pump is. Or in what condition. Very small town with Indian name: Arapaloe Nebraska. A fuel pump so old, primitive, rusty and beaten-up that I must take a close-up picture of it. A true museum piece that actually works.

It is there that happened what my warning above is about. So you may stop ready here.

I am putting on my helmet after fueling from this historic beauty when somebody starts talking to me in a rural Nebraskian English. No idea what he is saying. I look. Short rawdy man in his 70’s I guess. Face sun-leathered. His car dusty and dirty, dents all around, maybe 30-40 years old the car is. How does that get through inspection? His ragged clothing shows tough farm life. From his mouth flows brown chewing tobacco – some of it dried up since who knows how long ago. His few teeths left brown and rotten. One word I was able to pick up first time: Obama- and it is about the cost of his job plan it seems. I kindly tell him I didn’t quite understand him. He steps forward and says even more angrily: “’I said: that son of bitch Obama! I wouldn’t let him drink the sweat of my balls if he were dying of thirst”. It is rough on the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.

I warned you.

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