Day 9: MS Came in from the Cold

Alarm at 6.30, up and awake. Dark outside. And something else, unwanted. Rain. David’s joyful organized and well-prepared reaction to the nonstop drizzle from dark grey heavens: “I’ll put my rain covers over my lugguage bags and put on my rain coat, my riding pants are waterproof.” My reaction is a more primitive ‘oh s***’ as I carry no rain gear at all for myself, just the oversized plastic dustbin bags for my two backpacks. These will stay dry, not me, I know. And it is cold, probably under 50F. MS is not looking for revenge having been sitting out in the rainy open all night: no fuel drop shed and start at first touch of the button.

First dry stop is just minutes away. The Shenandoah Depot, the old train station now converted into a restaurant and, as local word has it, serving excellent breakfast. Ham & eggs & toast to prepare for the wet onslaught to come. The Depot and the bar across is where the Everly Brothers started their carreer. The Depot’s interior offers an overdose of nostalgic pictures, radio’s, band recorders, prehistoric game machines, you name it: a museum all by itself.

“Don’t eat sand” advises the guy admiring the triples with a bit of jealousy; his 1983 Honda just got ripped off a month ago, also in Shenandoah. Well we won’t, we wil drink water for the foreseeable hours to judge by the rain systems on the local television news.

To make a long story long. I get totally soaked in no time. My windbreaker is designed to do just that and doesn’t put much in the way of rain. Neither does my mesh riding jacket it covers. So the waters’ final destination is my double T-Shirt, which means: me. The airy summer gloves and riding shoes suck in every drop that falls on them. And my pants are designed to let the air through. You get the picture. At max 50F or so, that won’t work if this rain & wind continues for the rest of the day. We ride at a somewhat lower speed than usual. These are country highways with all kinds of agricultural machines on the road that may leave muddy and slippery patches and tracks.

Nevertheless the wind chill factor adds to the untenably cold riding condition. Now, if the clouds would break, the sun come through and the wind stay on: then there would be hope as nature would offer an effective dryer I know from experience. Not so: the big skies have turned an even grey 360 degrees around. Stopping to put on an extra dry sweater offers relief for just 15 minutes and then starts aggravating the situation even worse. Headline in the local paper: ‘undercooling dumps foreign motorcycle rider in ditch’.

Follows an emergency visit to a have-it-all outfit Farm & House in a miniature town in mid-Nebraska. The rider who came in from the cold. On the shopping list: rain coat & pants, high rubber boots, heavy duty crew socks, waterproof gloves – the latter for David as well. My feet are sloshing in the soaked riding shoes leaving footstep tracks wherever I walk. Farm & House has it all. In-store transformation with the rain gear over everything that is already wet. Crazy? Not entirely: the wetsuit effect I have experienced on Rout66 materializes again. And with warm & dry feet and hands: go east my partner! – who shows remarkable patience with it all. Except, within a few miles the new Tsjernobil-yellow rain pants tear open over the full length on one side. It is pretty thin material, frontal protection stays in place. So what me worry? Only thing required is handling the gusty northern winds coming in at 9-10 o’clock and the turbulent misty-rainy clouds the oncoming (pick-up) trucks leave in their wake. And that is fun.

Rural Nebraska left and right shows signs of serious decay. Houses, businesses, churches in total disrepair, abandoned, boarded up, collapsed to the ground. The occasional exception, such as the grand and largest-I-have-ever-seen town square of Centerville which isn’t much more than that square. In very good classical western condition and with a deli that for the first time in the trip can get me cappuccino with lunch early afternoon.

The last 50 miles together follow. We are on Highway 2. At the junction with Highway 1 we stop on the shoulder. Shake hands, embrace, share in words what was and what we hope will be again. Pristina’s special sound – she’s got made-in-Australia stainless pipes! – I can hear disappearing in the distance for a long time, being blown back by the northerly winds coming from the direction of Davids hometown Appleton Wisconsin.

The rain has stopped. Sun is breaking through. The yellow plastic skin is packed away. Nature can starts its drying process. For a fast in-between boost of the home stretch I am heading east to pick up I74 at Galesburg Nebraska where one of David’s daughters goes to school; there is no coincidence. ‘Do not pick up hitchhikers’ say the signs? First time, wonder why. Over the hill: watchtowers, barbed wire, prison. Of course. Over a new concrete bridge across the Mississippi and over much more impressive old iron bridges across the Illinois River. Both rivers have filled their overflow areas. The countryside resembles southern Indiana.

Dirty as if she just finished Paris- Dakar, MS is back in the mid-West.

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