Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thunderstorms and more kind strangers

The smile wouldn't last long...
We got up Thursday morning after a good night's sleep, packed up the bikes, and headed down to the only gas station in town, where we happily filled up the bikes' tanks (and ours on breakfast burritos) and started out for Colorado.  The riding today was much less enjoyable than any other day until we got well east of Ft Collins, CO.  The roads were rough with lots of expansion joints (they are hard on the butts!), the drivers were the most aggressive of the trip so far, but at least we lost altitude, and the bikes ran better and better.  Our destination for the night was Sterling, CO, but as the day wore on and we got closer, we could see a giant thunderstorm ahead of us, and the road was taking us directly toward the biggest, darkest thunderstorm I've ever seen.  While there was sunshine to the north and the south of the storm, straight ahead it was black and stormy from cloud to ground.  I thought it looked like Mordor from Lord of the Rings and half-expected to see Sauron's eye gazing down at us.  As we got even closer, the storm just got bigger, and later, when we checked the radar, it was about 50 miles wide. 

Tank Cat might have been even a better choice for this trip!
I know Boromir said that "One does not simply walk into Mordor",  but he didn't say anything about riding Symbas!  Just before we got to the edge of the storm, Re and I stopped to zip all of our vents and said our final goodbyes (just in case).  Shortly after we started riding again, we were passed by three Harleys and noticed the jeans, t-shirts, and no helmets on all the riders as they headed into the same storm.  When we got to the edge of the storm, we first encountered strong winds and pea-sized hail, which quickly turned into giant raindrops.  The hail and rain stung even through our riding gear, and later we both remarked how painful it must have been on bare skin.  After about thirty minutes, we exited the other side of the storm and rode into Sterling, CO, arriving around 7:30pm.  Accommodations were the first order of business, and we had to decide between camping and another night in a hotel.  I checked the radar on my iPhone, and it appeared the storm would pass north of Sterling, so camping it was.  After we got to our campsite, the sky continued to darken.  We hurriedly set up the tent, and Re set off for the grocery store.  While Rebekah was gone, the wind picked up, the sky grew darker, and it began to rain.  Re returned from the grocery store, and the skies opened up.  We ended up heating up our food under the overhang of the bathhouse roof and ate dinner in the relative comfort and dryness of the laundry room.  After forty-five minutes of intense rain and the absolute closest lightning strikes either of us have ever experienced, we ventured back to our tent through two inches of standing water, dove inside, and slept like babies.  Three hundred and twenty miles of hard riding is the best sleep aid we have found!

Nebraska roads were much kinder to us!
Friday morning, we woke to a soaking wet camp, and it took nearly three hours to get on the road.  Our Aerostiches and sleeping bags took a quick tumble in the dryer, and we had to wait for the sun to dry the tent before we could pack it.  We finally made it on the road by about 9:30am and set our sights on Nebraska.  It was a beautiful day for a ride, with blue skies and relatively cool temperatures.  The roads were smooth and took us through pretty, rolling farmland.  The same scenery greeted us in Kansas, and the bikes certainly enjoyed the lower elevations and gentler hills.  We were able to raise our average riding speed to closer to 50mph (little did we realize what the faster speeds were doing to our fuel mileage)  and covered more than 335 miles before rolling into Belleville, KS at sundown.  Again, accommodations were the first order of business, but there were no rooms at the inn.  We soon discovered that Belleville, KS not only has a famous race track, but it was being used this weekend, and it was also the weekend of the county fair.  We could not find a campsite, and all hotels were full.  Re asked at the last hotel if there was another campground where we could pitch our tent.  A nice gentleman in a pickup truck said, "Follow me."  We fired up the mighty Symbas and chased him down the road to a campground several miles away, where he waved goodbye, and we set up camp by a beautiful lake in a county park.  Re took off in search of food since it was already about 9:30pm and returned with manna from heaven (a large pepperoni pizza and two oilcans of Foster's lager ).  We ate pizza for dinner (and breakfast the following morning).  After the pizza and beers, we happily crawled into our tent and again, slept soundly. 

The bikes ran better and better with the lower altitude.  I adjusted the A/F screw fatter as we descended and frequently had to adjust the idle speed.  The bikes were also using a little bit of oil, and the chains were stretching at an alarming pace.  I've been adjusting the chains every morning as part of the daily routine maintenance, and by the end of the day, you can hear them dragging.  Something will have to be done soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment