Day 3:Open Heart Surgery, Blood Transfusion and Other Remarkable Recoveries

This isn’t my day” I tell David at the end of the afternoon. “It IS your day” he replies. Come to think of it, he is right. The brand new crisp and sunny day starts off with reconnecting MS’s battery. Reconnect, ignition on, press start button ….and “click”. Try again: click. Battery dead despite having been disconnected overnight – and it is brand new. Complete heart failure. A lifeline of jumper cables bought yesterday comes in handy: MS starts immediately with one try off Pristine’s battery. David wouldn’t be David if he wouldn’t carry a meter to check charging. A reading of 14.5 units of some kind he says is absolutely perfect. Diagnosis #1: install a new heart. While at it, oil is checked, a bit too high a level. Foul smell, fuel in there. Petcock paranoia becomes reality. Maybe not too bad – I have already added about 800 miles or so in leaking condition. Diagnosis #2: complete oil change required and stop the leak somehow. Engine seizure risk immanent. We are in a nowhere little town in Iowa. Surprisingly the local Napa store has the required battery in stock, the last one. QuickLube around the corner allows us to do the oil change ourselves. “Those bikes were real good in their time” says owner Franky, himself a HD rider. David’s patience in taking the mechanical lead is proverbial. I make myself useful by occasionally handing him whatever he needs. Mid-morning the outdoor Intensive Care Unit is finished.

Two triples roar away on Lincoln Highway. Navigating is easy. LH is well marked, unlike Route 66 and the Dixie Highway. Map reading is more validation than solving: where to? MS is purring contently – a very smooth even and reassuring sound she produces. What us worry, she sings? Lincoln Highway in these areas is partly gravel and dirt, a dark mediterranean yellow. On both sides corn and corn and corn as far as the eye can see – and on and on and on. An occasional white farmhouse with chacteristic barns. Elsewhere the road is a straight grey ribbon towards the horizon; once there: copy paste. Then LH turns into a quiet winding country road with bumpy concrete slabs leading over vintage rusty one lane bridges, next to the road in the fields the big iron rusty carcass of a bridge that once carried LH traffic over a wide river. Small towns featuring historic downtowns of 2-3 blocks or so, sometimes rather dilapidated, sometimes in the process of complete restoration. History shows up in murals and road markers, in period buildings and local history centers. Except for an occasional near ghost town, life on LH is very present.

“Our circulation is about 5500 combining the paid newspaper and the free advertising paper” replies the office manager of the Sun, the newspaper for Mount Vernon and Lisbon Iowa. I walked into the paper’s building as it is a classic-looking good old local newsprint outfit on Main Street western style. “Schools, school board meetings, sports, elections, churches, festivals is what we cover” she explains the key of the Sun’s success. Fed by a mini network of editors and too large an influx of crowdsourcing-type input. Strictly local. Nothing national or international. Newspaper economics is a bit my professional trade. So we talk. The owners are buying all local newspapers they can get their hands on and make all a financial success. Actually we are talking weeklies with a surprising volume per issue. Field research conclusion nevertheless: old journalism has future and lives on in rural America.

So all seems quiet on the riding front again. Except. Suddenly Dave throws out his anchors. What is amiss? His GPS-unit is bouncing around on top of his fuel tank. Recovery #1: it hangs onto its power cord and is saved before it hits the asphalt and disintegrates into smithereens. Then: I sense something amiss with my luggage, we just adjusted it to a more comfortable back rest. At a stop sign: check. Panic: smaller backpack is missing with my computer in it as well as all kinds of other things I can’t afford not to have on this trip. Follows a dual very fast throttle-open return run ignoring all speed limits, racing through the many curves on the small winding country road, eyeing the ditches, miles and miles we dash back. Recovery #2: a speck in the middle of the road: a trash bag with my backpack in it, did a car run over it? And MS? Recovery #3: to cure her petcock failure: while she is sleeping for the night, her fuel lines off the petcocks are pinched tight and closed with hemostats aka forceps a local hardware store miraculously produced.

It was my day, indeed.

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