Day Fourteen - September 16, 1997
The Back Nine
Benton Harbor, Michigan - Dubuque, Iowa
Monday I took Rex to Kalamazoo for an oil change and general checkup before we start back. I did my farewells with Jim, Lyle and Tom, who were headed back to O'Hare to catch flights home. Mark and Carl took a bike ride, the plan being to meet me in Kalamazoo for lunch.
Al the Mechanic at Perry's the Harley Davidson Shop serviced my bike. It was pretty routine - I had no complaints, and he found nothing wrong, so it only took an hour before he was finished. I asked if it was OK if I watched over his shoulder while he did the service, and he smiled and pointed to one of those signs that says "Labor - $50/hr, $75 if you help, $100 if you fixed it before." But I hung around anyway. While he's changing my oil and checking various levels, all the Kalamazoo wannabes are drifting through the shop, making motorcycle small talk. Every one of them notice my Washington plate, and ask where I'm going, when I'm going back, etc.. "Two-Forty-Gordy" comes by, looks at my very clean bike up on the lift (remember, I cleaned and polished it a few days ago) and, in a loud voice, asks "Did this bike come here on a trailer?" I swear at him and inform him that my bike has never seen a trailer. I should point out at this point that some bikers will trailer their bikes to an event like Sturgis, stop 30 miles out of town, kick some dirt on the bike, and then ride the rest of the way into the event. These bikes are known as "trailer queens", and these bikers are known as posers. Rex and I are neither. After "Two-Forty-Gordy" walks away, Al the Mechanic tells me that Gordy is the ultimate poser, and that he's probably up to 320 by now. He also tells me that he has to be at the courthouse by 3:30 this afternoon to get his second divorce finalized so he can get married for the third time this coming weekend. Al has some interesting tattoos not suitable for a family audience.
I meet up with Mark and Carl for lunch at Steak 'n Shake, a great burger place that simply doesn't exist on the west coast. We all head back for the cabin for a final cleanup and goodbye. Carl heads back to West Lafayette; Mark and I head for Benton Harbor for the evening.
This morning we're on the road by 7am, heading for Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago. My favorite sister Susan (well, OK, she's my only sister) lives here with her newlywed husband Steve and kids Evelyn and Joe. I promised Susan that we would try to make it by 8:30 so we could see Evelyn before she went to school.
We have been dreading the leg through downtown Chicago since the beginning of the trip, since we knew it would be bad roads, lots of stops, bad drivers, bad air, and very slow. We pretty much had it right. We took the Skyway through downtown, and traffic crawled from downtown out to Park Ridge. But it was all worth it.
Susan had a sign in the window, "Hot Pasties". We knew we were in good hands at that point. She had prepared a magnificent breakfast feast for us with fresh fruit, a quiche about 4" high, and muffins. Whoa. Susan wins the "Best breakfast or brunch during JerkQuest '97" award.
Susan's daughter Evelyn is my niece, but I insist on calling her "Aunt Evelyn" just to be an annoying adult. When Evelyn comes out to look at the bikes she forgives me for calling her Aunt Evelyn as she says, "wow, is that for me?" Fortunately for Uncle Greg, she was satisfied with me taking a picture of her on the bike.
Susan takes Evelyn to school and we prepare to continue on our way. When she returns, she wants to sit on the bike. Must run in the family. Mark obliges and takes a shot of me and my lovely sister. Crop me out of the picture and my sister has a new career as calendar cheesecake.
We bid farewell to Susan and Park Ridge, and by this time, traffic on I-90 has thinned out, so riding is a bit more pleasant. But it's hot - 80 degrees, and humid. We jump off I-90 as soon as we can and adopt US highway 20 as our main route for the next couple of days. We go through Rockford, and then take an ice cream break in Freeport. This town has two claims to fame. It was the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858, memorialized by a life-size set of statues of the famous men in action. The other claim to fame is the Union-Daily Ice Cream Parlour. We enjoy both.
Mark orders a 'Twin Treats'. I catch him mid-scoop as he's savoring it. I go with Honey Nut Yogurt. Mmmmm.
There's some more tough riding the rest of the afternoon - it's hot, humid and windy. We land in Dubuque mid-afternoon. The Weather Channel predicts heavy thunderstorms tonight, but clear tomorrow. It looks like we should have clear conditions into Jackson and Sun Valley. My guess is that our major problem on the return will be cold weather as we return to the northwest.
PS - It feels as if we've 'done the turn', golfing lingo for finishing the front nine. Following the metaphor, we're on the back nine, hence today's title. But it won't take us nine days to get home. The bikes (and riders) are smelling the barn. That's another metaphor, for another day.