Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Giddy up and gone

When I return to Anchorage, sometimes it’s difficult to finish my blogging for my trip.  But when colder than cold weather sets in, it makes it easier to sit in front of the computer and complete my mission, or at least get a bit further on with it.  So here goes.

By Friday, Oct. 9, I was back on the road and making miles.   I’d gotten a bad sunburn the previous afternoon as I’d not “sunscreened up” when the sun came out in the afternoon, but today I was better prepared for that. It seems as though I start out the day in cloud cover and it clears by about 2 in the afternoon and by then I don’t think about sunscreen.  That needed to be remedied.

I’d gotten somewhat behind due to being lost a few times, and wanting to go see things.  I’m easily sidetracked (It’s called squirrel syndrome.), and now had to buckle down to the mission at hand … getting to Phoenix.  So, ride, no photo stops. 
I'm always up for a photo of a train.
But I did have something important to do.  My friend, Ruth, lives in Topeka, so while I was stopped I called her to see if she wanted to have lunch.  She asked where I was.  Once we determined how far each of us was away from a specified destination, the answer was “You bet”.  We met at a gas station.  I got there a little bit before she did and was just hanging around, drinking some water and watching people.

A vehicle pulled in, and while I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it, I heard someone get out of the driver’s side.  I heard footsteps go along the walk and around the side of the building.  Then these words were quite clear, “Hey, Goofy.  Did you know you’re smoking right next to a propane tank”?

Whoa.  Who does that?  A young man came toward me from around the side of the building and I chatted him up a bit.  His name was Taron, a service tech for Wiese in Kansas City.  It turns out that he’s done studies in safety, he works for a company that values safety, and he works at being safe and helping other people be safe.  He tries hard to make others aware that they’re doing unsafe things, but in a way that they won’t be offended.  I believe this young man hit the mark.  I spoke with him for a bit, and he was clever, engaging and committed to working with people.

Then Ruth appeared and it was time to ride for lunch, and then to a shop in Junction City.  I’ve been trying to stop at shops I’ve not visited before so that I can collect dip dots or dealer pins for my map.  I’ve gathered a few, so the mission is going quite well. 

We had to part, and I headed to Salina, Kansas, arriving just before sunset.  While it wasn’t a big-mileage day, and I’d not crossed an entire state like I’d mostly been doing, I’d still managed to do 411 miles, and I was on my way to getting out of Kansas. 
These are out in some field in Kansas.  I've passed them more than once, but they always intrigue me.
They must go on for abut a half mile, and continue around a corner.  They appear to be recycled items, and some are quite artistic.
The next was another shorter day as I needed to get a new front tire … safety says do it.  I ended up in Guymon, Oklahoma, with 345 miles under my belt.  

The stench was upon me ... coming at me, attacking me from all sides.  This was the largest area of feedlots I've ever been through.  Remind me to stay out of Oklahoma.
I got brave on Sunday, Oct. 13.  I didn’t wear long johns and figured I’d pay for that.  Yep, I sure did.  Froze for quite a while, but once on the road I’m too stubborn to stop and put on chaps or anything else.  Oh well.  In this country it usually warms up pretty nice, and I was counting on it. 

It was still a good day.  It was sunny, making it way easier to get up and ride.  My knees were in the breeze, I was feeling good and I was moving out.  I was running harder, and could tell that just by gas mileage.  When I’m running more conservatively I get anywhere from 45-55 miles-per-gallon.  Running harder?  Not so good … 31-35 miles-per-gallon.  I’ve figured out it’s not very practical to run 80 mph or better with the big dogs on the Interstates.  Which is another reason to try to take secondaries most of the time.  My guardian angel was running hard, too, but I was keeping up with her.  They say don’t ride any faster than your guardian angel can fly.  This one can fly, believe me. 

I stopped in Tucumcari, New Mexico, for gas.  I turned down a main street.  In two miles there was one gas station and no public restroom.  I did not gas up there as they didn’t need my business if there’s no place to “rest.”  It was an interesting stretch of road.  It was part of the old Route 66 and there were more hotels on this stretch of road than I’ve seen anywhere else.  They were all set to the 50s and 60s themes.  I should have stopped to take a photo but a restroom somewhere was loudly calling my name.

The highway had another gas station.  I stopped.  There was a line of women 10 deep.  A tour bus.  What?  I told the lady last in line to look for me peeing alongside the road and wave to me.  I’m sure she thought I was a nut case.

Across the highway there was a different as station to which I had immediate availability. 

Around Vaughn, I hit Highway 60, which is the one that will take me on into the Phoenix area and through some of my favorite Arizona riding.  But for now, near Vaughn, I saw a big dust devil and slowed down to avoid it hitting me crosswise.  That was the beginning of the worst wind of the day.  New Mexico stayed windy until I got into the mountains in Arizona, and heading toward the last leg of my journey. 

Sometimes you see the strangest vehicles pulled up at the hotel.
I’d decided to not try to get into Phoenix during the heat of the day and stayed in the high country of Arizona, riding down and into Phoenix on Monday, Oct. 14.  It was nearly over, this trip.  There were some friends to have lunch with, laundry to do, and repacking the bike for the next trip.  But now, I truly was finished riding for the season.  It had been a good one, logging more than 33,000 miles this year.  And a new year is coming.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where am I?

On Thursday, Oct. 8, I got up and got on the road.  I could not find the highway I was looking for, so rather than head west into what appeared to be some crappy weather, I took a road south that ended up somehow taking me to the road I had originally wanted.  Then I saw that the previous night I should have crossed the river.  There were all kinds of places to stay in McGregor … great-looking ones.  I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

I don’t know why I’m having trouble navigating.  It isn’t the usual, except for exiting parking lots, and while I’m irritated by it, I’m not troubled.  I guess I’m just not ready to go home yet.

These last several days are all about riding … so I’m not stopping a lot, but once in a while you come across something that you have to make an exception for.  I rode by this field that had all of these flags flying, so I turned into a gravel lot and parked.  There was a sidewalk, the flags, and some crosses.  I walked over to see what it was all about.

The site is called the "Welcome Home Soldier Monument."  Located in the Heartland on Highway 34 (which, by-the-way, was named after the 34th Infantry), near Albia, Iowa, it honors all veterans, living or deceased, in all wars.  The idea is that no veteran should be forgotten or abandoned.  Built by veterans, it has a wall of honor that reminded me of the Vietnam Veteran’s Wall in Washington, D.C., and paths leading to areas that are being developed.  The flags are paid for by donations to honor your veteran and the location of the flags is called Humble Hero Hill.  You can also donate and have your veteran’s name put on the wall.

Humble Hero Hill, with all of the flags proudly flying in the breeze that day.  It was a beautiful sight in my eyes. The  Welcome Home Soldier was organized by veterans and is a wonderful tribute to many who might have been forgotten. 
There are 21 crosses called the 21-cross salute.  It was a moving display and I was glad I’d stopped to see it.  Sometimes you just come across these things as you go along and it’s always worth the time to see.

This display captured my heart as it was just so incredibly touching.

But it was time to move on.  While I’m trying to keep to an informal schedule of crossing a state a day, once again I got sidetracked.  This time it was due to a sign that said “covered bridge.”  Located near Winterset, Iowa, there was also a sign on the other side of the road that said “John Wayne’s birthplace.”  Which way, which way?  I figured I’d been to the Duke’s birthplace, so a covered bridge was calling me.  It was only eight miles out of my way, and that’s not a really big deal.  Down the road I went, on my way to see the Roseman Covered Bridge.

The first four miles were great.  Then I followed the sign and turned down the next road.  Uh oh.  Gravel.  A narrow gravel road, and this gravel was not bike-friendly.  But now I was in … it was a narrow road with nowhere to turn around, so on I went.  It became worse with more pea gravel and I was thinking I sure hope there’s a turnaround spot, if I make it without going down.  I only passed one other vehicle, so I probably couldn’t count on much help coming by if I needed it.  There weren’t even many houses as this appeared to be all farmland.

Finally, the last four miles was done and there was a turnaround with no other cars in it.  I had clear sailing to get turned around and parked heading out of the parking lot.

I saw a sign that said gift shop, but it was closed.  I was there by myself.  I got off the bike and grabbed my camera and walked over to the bridge to read about it.  Off to my right I then spied a lady coming down the path toward me.  She said hello and turned the closed sign around to open.  She asked if I'd come in on the road with all the turns?  Yep.  She said to come into the shop and I'll show you an easier way out.  I was all for that, after I checked out the bridge.

The Roseman Bridge was built by Benton Jones and B.K. Foster.  It's 106 feet in length, not counting the approaches on either side.  It uses a covered lattice Town truss, named for its designer, but is overlaid with a Queenpost frame .  They were built of northern white pine, and construction costs for the bridges usually ranged from $900 to $1,900.  This particular bridge cost $2,930, perhaps due to the additional Queenpost frame?  It carried traffic for nearly a hundred years before being bypassed due to a bridge to the east that was built in 1981.
The Roseman Covered Bridge, constructed in 1883, is one of the last two built in Madison County (yes, the Bridges of Madison County movie area) and goes over the Middle River.  Madison County is named for the fourth president, James Madison, and the county is called the Covered Bridge County of Iowa.  Originally claiming 19 bridges, by 1983 there were only seven left,  one of which is this one.  The likely reason is that Jones, who was probably responsible for the design, strengthened the truss when he added the Queenpost frame, thereby creating a redundancy.  This bridge has stood in place while nearly all of the other timber trusses in Iowa have since been demolished.  What a tribute to workmanship that is, and I was excited to have seen it even if the weather did not lend itself to a great photo.

The Roseman Bridge was brought into prominence by the movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.  In 1992 it was renovated at a cost of $152,515.

After I’d finished taking pictures, I wandered down a quaint little wood and stone path to the gift shop and spoke with the lady about getting out of there and back to the main road.  As it turned out the road was still gravel going out, but it didn’t have the hairpin turns and actually was nearly a mile shorter.  I could have hugged her.  I hate gravel.
From there I had one more stop to make for the day … the Freedom Rock.  I followed the road I was on, and got to the main road.  Yahoo.  No mistakes, no problems, no drops. 

I got to the little town of Greenfield and had to ask directions, twice.  The first was a lady walking her dog and didn’t know where it was.  But she steered me in the right direction, quite by accident, I suppose.  Luckily, the second person was a guy with a Harley shirt (I’m sure that’s why he was so helpful.) and he knew exactly where I wanted to be.  Just go north on this road, Highway 25, about 10 miles, and you’ll find it about one mile south of I-80.  You can’t miss it.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before. 

The road stretched out before me, and it was getting on to late afternoon.  I’d seen quite a bit, and wanted to get to the rock and then a place to stay before it got dark.  Finally, I came to the Freedom Rock.  The guy was right.  I couldn’t have missed it.

But in my defense, the Freedom Rock is shown as located near Menlo, Iowa.  That didn’t show up on my map, and the rock is probably closer to a little town named Stuart that is on I-80.  It’s actually kind of out in the middle of nowhere.   However, it was worth the search and the stop, and is a thing of awe, that will provoke thought and emotion for those who see it.
Previous scenes on the rock have included Washington crossing the Delaware, the MIA logo, a plane launching from an aircraft carrier and the rubble from 9-11.
The Freedom Rock is a 12-foot high rock painted yearly by Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II, to support veterans.  Sorenson began painting the huge, granite boulder in 1999, and creates a new patriotic scene on it each year, by Memorial Day, using paint that has the ashes of vets mixed into it. 
Each side of the rock depicts a different scene, and all are well-done, blending in with the rock's contours.

This is an amazing piece of art, appearing to be three-dimensional.
While the rock had been used for graffiti in the past, Sorenson’s scenes have mainly remained untouched, with the exception of 2001.  There’s a rumor that the vandal then repeatedly beat a Vietnam vet’s fist with his nose, so you can only imagine who got the worst end of that deal.  Supposedly, that also discouraged any further incidents. 
Many who have come have left mementos.  I chose to put a little Alaska state flag pin on the post to show my respect.

Vietnam ... remembered ... and posted at the Freedom Rock.

There are numerous mementos.   I couldn't begin to show them in the light I wish I could have, with the respect I wish I could, with the honor I wish I could have ...  It was a moving display from those who have passed through here.
I posted a photo on Facebook and Biker Bill told me to contact a friend of his, who is also a Vietnam veteran.  When I did, the gentleman sent me a poem he had written and is allowing me to use it on this blog.  What a wonderful tribute to the veterans, to the rock that is painted with memories and the artist who uses his skills to create something for others to enjoy.


(Written by Randy E. Richmond)
In the heartland stands a huge old boulder
Just off a prairie pavement’s shoulder
Nothing special its first billion years
To be cause these days of proud shed tears
Dressed now in colors so bright and grand
Created by an artist’s hand
Remembrances of freedom and liberty
In red white and blue… a history
Stories on stone of sacrifice
Pictures in paint that describe a price
There are words included of those who have died
Of the strengths of a nation tested and tried
His palette sends thanks to all vets, the old and the new
Recognizing them and what they’ve done and do
This year marks a decade that he’s honored us all
With lumps in our chests but still standing tall
I’d like to offer this young man my sharpest hand salute
His heart is here for all to see, a patriot beyond dispute
So for what you give to us on each Memorial Day
America would like to just say thank you, and also…
you rock Ray!

Randy and Jan Richmond at the Freedom Rock, Rural Iowa August 30, 2008
Author’s Note: For Ray (Bubba) Sorensen II

Monday, October 19, 2015

South by southwest ... maybe

Wednesday, Oct. 7, came, and along with it, frost.  No matter, I could delay a bit, but I still had to pack all my stuff on my bike and get on the road today.  Sometimes I wonder how I get it all on there.  But I do.  We went to breakfast and in that time the frost was gone, and then we had to go our separate ways.  It’s always sad but it has to be done.

The colors have gotten brighter as I head back to the barn.  Maybe next time I'll see them at their peak.
I rode through some places we’d been through two years ago, and remembered that trip.  It’s always fun … especially when I saw the place we’d stopped that had a lot of wood cut outs in the yard.  This was the place Biker Bill got me the Beagle cut outs … two big ones and two little ones … a whole Beagle family that doesn’t pee, poop or throw up on the carpet.  They also don’t eat much or require a sitter when I’m not there.  Or get up on the table and steal food.

The ride was awesome, although I was still cold.  The mornings have had cloud cover and then it dissipates and warms up in the afternoon and I can remove several layers. 

Spooky place.
The best part of the day was going through Fall Creek, Wisconsin … I passed a house that was the most-decorated one I’ve ever seen when it comes to Halloween.  I had to turn around and go back to take some pictures. 

This photo doesn't do this place justice ... for a spooky house, that is.
It’s the Bates Dead and Breakfast, and it had it all … stuff on the roof, in the yard, a hearse, a graveyard.  There was a lady on the porch and I spoke with her.  She told me to come on in the yard and look around.  There was even a guest book to sign. 

This is the entrance to the graveyard.

Ghouls, ghosts, skeletons.  This place has it all.
The hearse was my favorite.
It was a great ride, except I was enjoying it so much I never turned onto the road I was supposed to follow and ended up in Menomonie.  I was supposed to be going southwest not northwest.  And that, folks, is how I get my miles.  Hahaha. 

So, it was time to really turn south and I ended up following a part of 35, which is the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.  Jaz and I had taken a part of this when we rode down here earlier this year, so it wasn’t all bad.  I actually followed it a bit further, ending up in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, for the night at a not-so-great motel.  But it was getting close to dark and I’d not seen anything else. 

The best part of staying here was that it was right across the street from the railroad tracks so there were trains going through.  I only heard the first two, but it made me think of the movie, “My Cousin Vinny.”  His sleep had been disturbed during the night because of the trains going through.  So the next morning he asks the front desk clerk if the train always goes through at that time of night and the desk clerk says, “no.”  The train comes again the next night.  He’s irritated, and goes back to the desk clerk.  I thought you told me the train doesn’t go through here at that time of night all the time.  The clerk says, “It doesn’t.  It was late that day.”  I thought it was funny and enjoyed my trains.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Great White Deer Hunters

On Monday, Oct. 5, I was up and my bags were packed.  It was time to get them loaded onto the bike but wait, I didn’t need to do that.  Actually, I loaded the one on the back seat as I also use it for a backrest, and the other went into the truck.  Biker Bill would be driving as that’s how we’d be doing our hunting.  Off we went; I let him lead. 

We took our time as we really didn’t have all that far to go … and I’m glad as the day was overcast and there was a bit of a drizzle here and there.  It seemed further than we really went as I just don’t have the riding gear here that I have at home.  The temperatures are in the 50s and sometimes 60s, but it feels colder due to the dampness in the air.  Suck it up.  Okay.

Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, was our destination for the day, and we got there pretty early.  We got checked into the hotel and then we waited as closer to dusk is the best time to hunt.
This one looked like she was in jail.

Hunting was good.  The little one was so cute.  And only a little curious.
Off we went … hunting the elusive white deer.  Some here are albino with the pink eyes; others are just white with light eyes, but they aren’t a true albino.  It doesn’t matter.  A white deer to me, is a white deer.  They’re spectacular, they’re beautiful, and I love seeing them even if I can’t get the perfect photo.  The one tonight was a true rare one … a white doe that had a white fawn.  Most of the ones we’ve seen in the past have had brown fawns, so this sighting was a treat that had me laughing and practically jumping up and down.  I would have except I was in the car.

This one was part of a group of about 14 deer that we saw in someone's yard.
We drove around some more, and while we saw about 18 deer, we only saw the one white one and her baby.
Butt shot ... mom and baby.

I never got a shot of them together that was that good.  She mostly stood between us and her fawn, and it was nearly dark by now.

The young one was ready to run.
And wasn't nearly as graceful as mom.
Then it was time for a bit of dinner … and back to the hotel for the night.

We were up again and out on Tuesday, Oct. 6. 
There are some colors here but I never did see the ones we had hoped to see on this trip.
This time we saw 27 deer.  Most of these run in a herd, and there was even a little spike buck.  He was so cute.  And we saw a different white doe who had a brown fawn.  So my visit here to hunt the white deer was complete.  Some people never see them, but I had a guide who knew how to give me what I wanted.  Yay!!!
Off in the brush to the right you can see her brown fawn.  It really blends with the foliage.

In this one she looked like she was saying, "What you lookin' at?"
It was time for our good byes.
You're leaving?

We're so sad to see you go.

And we even saw a 7-point buck.  That's the biggest one we've seen.

Just go ...
Then it was time to head down the road again toward Park Falls, Wisconsin, where we’d spend our last night together and I’d then head south and west, back to Phoenix.

It was a pleasant ride.  There were some beautiful colors, and the riding today made me think of Alaska, except here you look for deer rather than moose and the road signs don’t have multiple bullet holes in them. 
Beautiful colors were around this little lake although they still didn't seem quite as numerous as when we were down a couple of years ago.
Near Park Falls we were going to drive around looking for the place to walk in to where there's a deer stand that a friend of Biker Bill's has. 
In preparation, we stopped and got a couple of pumpkins to put out for the deer.  This guy had a good system.  You figure out the size of the pumpkin and pay according to size as shown on the sign, and put the money in the mailbox.
We found the place, although we weren't sure of it until later.  We didn't walk in.  The mosquitoes were terrible, so I was glad.  So now he gets to keep the food he got and take it back to Michigan.

Still more colors.  My favorite place to photograph them is along an old dirt road.

This was out in the middle of nowhere.  It looked like a lady sitting in a chair.  She's even wearing glasses.  Very strange. 
And then we saw the biggest buck of the trip ... no hunting here, though.
The day was good, and it was time for a good night’s rest before pushing on for the final legs of this trip.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Getting dirty isn't my thing

Well it truly is time to work and it’s been a busy several days between Tuesday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 4.  The one reprieve I got was on Thursday, Oct. 1 when we rode to Marquette and I got the bike serviced.  It was a cold ride as it was a bit drizzly here and there, and we had cloud cover all day, so it added to the dreariness and dampness.  But we were riding.  So I can’t complain too much.

Along the way when we were gassing up, for some reason I looked at Biker Bill’s license plate.  His tag was expired.  What?  Both of us?  Except his had expired in 2013.  Haha.  I covered for him.  But the funny thing was that his 2013 and mine that’s good until 2017 are both green, so they looked the same.  Unless we got stopped, of course.

We were able to get safely back to the lake house and get the bikes back into the garage.  He later found the tag for the bike.  That was pretty funny.  He’s ridden way more miles on expired than I have.  But we’re both legal again.  Yay!!!

The other days were spent running working and errands:

Getting the television hooked up

Putting up posts, no trespassing signs and cord on our property

Measuring the size of some deer stands for the new one Biker Bill’s building

Setting out trail cams, changing memory cards and looking at photos

Separating out apples we’d appropriated on our trip, big ones and bite-sized

Buying corn, sugar beets, cabbages and pumpkins

We put all the apples into crates for easy access.
The food is for the deer who might eat better than some people.  But then the works begins as after you get the stuff, most of it has to be cut up and then bagged for easier storage, except the corn that has to be taken from 100-pound bags and poured into metal containers.  Big knives and hatchets were involved but no injuries occurred.  

The farm where we got the pumpkins had hundreds of them, in the barn, in front of the barn, in front of the house, in the yard.  It was very cool.  I also learned that they hand pick the pumpkins and they pick them green.  They ripen after being picked.  I love all the different colors.

The cabbage folks have a machine that goes through and cuts the head from the ground so all you have to do is put the pitchfork under it and pick it up.  The whole thing was too much for me.  I just ended up picking them up and tossing them onto the trailer.  That worked out way better.

Biker Bill does it the correct way. 

The fields of cabbages just went on and on.  In a way, they are quite beautiful.
The cabbage involves more work as we took off the outer leaves, cut off the cores to make it easier to cut into large pieces before putting it out, and bagged it all in separate bags. 

The trailer was full, and I didn't think we'd ever get finished.
Then you put what you’re feeding for the day in buckets, load it onto the four-wheeler (or I held onto the buckets) and haul it out to the areas to put it down for the deer.  We did this in multiple areas, and when we’d go back to put out more the next day, I couldn’t find a single kernel of corn.  What piggies these deer are.  Of course, they aren’t the only ones eating … squirrels, birds, raccoons.  You name it.  They all eat.
One evening we’d put the food out and hung out at the deer camp, but the deer didn’t show up.  However, when we were driving back into town we must have seen a couple dozen of them.  They were in a huge pasture area and just watched us go by, mostly.  They hadn’t gotten the word that the buffet was open.

The deer are pretty skittish, though, if they're close to the road.
We’ve also seen two families of turkeys most days when we’ve gone to the cabin.  They’re pretty funny, walking along, following their moms.  They don’t linger when you come by, though, so it’s not easy to get a photo.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Both families were together for this photo.  It made me hungry for a turkey dinner.

And in my spare time I made some turkey chili for him and put it in the freezer, what was left, that is.

We hauled the stakes out, pounded them in the ground and then hung the no trespassing signs and strung the cord across.

But I did get to drive the four-wheeler, so I was rewarded for my work.
I’ve also kept watch on the lake, looking for birds, but none appeared for days.  The guy next door has been out duck hunting most mornings, so I think the others have been spooked.  Oh well. 

The sunrises have been brilliant.

If you just wait a while, you get a different look.

There have been a couple of awesome sunrises, so I practiced using my tripod on those.  One morning I was outside and there was a light frost on the bench on the deck.  Ugh.  I didn’t like seeing that as it seems to indicate how my ride out of here will be in a few days.  And then a few days before I left, there was a bald eagle circling and scoping out the area.
Different day.

But taken from the front of the lake house.

A favorite because of the light above the clouds.

There was also time to go to dinner with friends Bill and Teresa, who took us to this great rib and prime rib place.  The wind was howling on the lake when we got home that evening and the waves were ocean-worthy, and something to see.

We went to the store one day and there were all these pumpkins for sale.  Look at all the different colors.

Somehow this just doesn't seem right.  Pumpkins should be orange.

And then ... there was this ... also a pumpkin, or so I was told.
My final night at the lake house was Sunday.  My days of being worked like a dog were finished for this trip.  We looked at the route that we’d take the next day, Monday, Oct. 5, as we were going south and west into Wisconsin, hunting the white deer.  It would be a worthy hunt.