July 27, 2005 – Wednesday – Day 32

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 444 – Total Miles: 8016 – Average: 250.5 (travel days)
9:30AM-9PM (12.5hrs) (back into Central Time)
(-staying at a Days Inn) NM,TX,OK,KS (30/48)

In eerie reminiscence of our first day on the road at my cousin Leslie’s place, the phone rang at 2am! It was the room phone this time and woke us up out of a dead sleep. There was no one was on the other end when I picked up the receiver. I called the office, and they said that someone in another room must have called the wrong number! Arghhh…

When I looked out the motel room door from that second floor deck the sky was roiling, full of dark clouds covering the whole of the atmosphere above. They started clearing away around 9ish. We very rarely have the tv on in the motel room, but this morning Karen checked out the weather channel. The map there showed that there was rain behind us and below us and north of us, and in fact it was predicted to be wet everywhere but where we were headed!

It’s interesting how on a trip like this little inanimate objects can have a real pull on one. My little camera, the second of three that we have along, was missing. And we searched high and low, but somehow it got out of my thigh bag and was gone. It can be replaced, of course, but the feeling of missing it after all these days of companionship of sorts, was intense.

In the parking lot this morning as we were packing up, a fellow from San Antonio came over and chatted with Karen. He and his wife were coming back from the Albuquerque area where they had met their son. The son had flown in from Washington State where he was on leave from duties in Iraq. His folks had asked him what he’d like to do, and his reply was that the one thing he’d like to do is some fly fishing in New Mexico. They said that if the kid could get to Albuquerque, they would meet him and do some fishing together. With great sadness in his eyes, the dad said that now the boy was headed back for his last tour in the Middle East and strongly implied that we as a country shouldn’t be there in the first place.

The same San Antonio guy said that the day before he had met a retired school teacher woman who was horseback riding from the Canadian border to New Mexico. She was taking all back roads, of course. She told him the story about how to get out of the rain one day, she had ridden her horse right into a service station bay. (A bit like us back in Vermont, you faithful readers will recall.)

What a fabulous day of riding this was! The day began in complete cloud cover and ended 444 miles later without a cloud in the sky. It was clear, sunny, fresh breezed, gorgeous, and totally cool throughout the day. For much of the time through this mid-western area it felt like a San Francisco cable car hook was underneath and just pulling us along.

For most all of today we traveled up roadway from grain silo to grain silo that I had bicycled upon on that 25-year ago cross-country bicycle journey. Again, nothing much seemed familiar except the museum that will be mentioned a bit later here, but the town names were warmly and well remembered and it was good being here again. Later in the day I would read to Karen from my journal notes of 25 years ago and that flooded back a lot of those quarter century ago memories, and correct other misremembering.

Today as most days, it was all good road to travel upon. A few spine-crunching bumps and holes here and there, but basically fine highway. And I was thinking, as I do on many days, that the good system of roads in this country is surely what helps make it great.

Just as we turned off I-40 and headed northeast on Route 54, the land changed dramatically. It went from the butte and mountain scene to flat agricultural areas. And that’s what we traveled all day with good winds and blue skies. The clouds at first were impressive to me. There were lower little cotton puffs of clouds scudding along swiftly layered under larger clouds above. And we had good winds today, too. Mostly at our back.

Most of the speed limits throughout the day were posted in the four states we were in as 55-70mph. But all the roads were built for faster than that, and it was a rare vehicle that wasn’t cruising at around 75. We sailed through the empty countryside at about 80-85mph most of the day. There seemed more trucks than cars, but not many of them either. Passed plenty of semi’s, and all were friendly, most moving over a little as we passed. The roads were long and mostly straight, the mirages of water at the end of them seemed real and palpable. Coming the other direction, the mammoth trucks would appear to rise, shimmering out of those mirages, headlights like two monster eyes.

I am most appreciative of the drivers who were pulled over by the police ahead of me. By their sacrifice we were able to soar along throughout the day without a delay of having to chat with a patrolman.

In Tucumcari at our first gas stop we had a close one! Karen was pulling the straps around the back bag a little tighter and, not realizing her new-found strength, almost pulled the Shadow over on to herself. And to make matters worse the gas tank top hadn’t been closed yet so gasoline would have spilled over. I caught the bike just in the nick of time.

We came into farming-type areas where there were long stretches of road – maybe 30-50 miles with nothing there other than barbwired-off land, and then little towns sprouted on the roadside. Along the way, occasionally, one would see a little farm house pocked into a small valley.

There was a monstrous fire on the short distant horizon just outside of Dalhart, TX that had smoke plumes billowing up way into the sky – and there was a single white cloud there that was being dirtied, and shortly consumed by that smoke.

There was a $10,000 Reward poster in the gas station in Dalhart and the I thought it was a joke one. The man in the picture looked like the little man with the big moustache who was taking my money. I asked if it was him. He said that no, it was his great uncle and that it was for real. “Black Jack” Ketchum, around his grandfather’s time, was hung nearby, he said, and was in the books at the museum.

A train leaving town, and others during the day, at our urging (by moving our arms in the manner of pulling a cord!), gave us a huge bellowing of it’s horn. It was energizing and brought big smiles to each of our faces.

Tracks traced beside the roadway most all day once we hit Kansas. And in one of those magic moments a train was going in our direction, on our left. We started at the end and, going 80, caught up with the engine and then took the lead. It was like a scene from Superman when he was running alongside and beat the train.

No trains have cabooses any more. Haven’t seen a one yet. Karen said that she heard they were outlawed for some reason a few years ago. I miss them.

Into Hooker around 3pm, I recalled the sign that I saw 25 years ago – “Hooker Pig Sale – Where Champions Come Alive!” But there was no sign of it now. The town got it’s name form the Civil War general who passed through here. At our gas stop here, we got a couple new matching do-rags, and we were 250 miles into what we hoped would be a 500-mile day.

We both had a few small, hard, sharp stones hit our legs out on the roadway today. Even through the Aerostitch thick material they caused bruises on our lower legs. And once, Karen had something fly by and just graze her helmet. She didn’t have her shield down at the time so she felt fortunate the projectile wasn’t over a few inches.

We flew into Kansas and wanted to stop in one of the first towns there, Liberal, for a late lunch. Liberal is the home of my fabled pancake story. Here’s the tale from my journal notes of 25 years ago, April 20th, 1980:

Came to a terrific pancake place on the main drag where I had two orders of buckwheat and wheat germ pancakes. The big platefuls were for only $2.00 each. And the owner couldn’t believe it when I wanted more. Finally, with amazed customers looking on, I downed twelve plate-sized pancakes. I imagined that I heard bets being taken on how many I’d eventually finish. The bike tires were a little flatter with my pancake-bloated belly weighing things down a bit. (Note: Bicycled 71 miles that day!)

In Meade, KS, we stopped at the history museum. We met Deb, the lady in charge, and I told her how I was there 25 years ago. She checked on some records from the past which had just been found within the last couple of weeks. Sure enough, there scrawled on the paper, was my name where I had made a Life Membership donation 25 years ago. Karen and I walked around the museum and enjoyed the many well displayed artifacts there. Deb played a piece on a player piano for us which was delightful to hear. Here’s what I had written in my journal when I bicycled through in 1980:

Despite the lateness (it was about 3:15), and the distance to Dodge (which was still considerable), I lingered in Meade. That’s the home of the Dalton Gang Escape Museum, and the small, but really superb Meade County Historical Society Museum. Lottie Bisbee of the Historical Society was a warm and wonderful woman who I enjoyed listening to immensely. I decided that when I came home, I would send the Society a donation. The whole town of Meade really impressed me with its cleanliness, quietness, friendliness, and beauty. I really lingered at the park there – it has a beautiful patch of flowers, trees, color, and greenery. It was rich in beckoning and warm in friendliness. I wanted to stay, but had to move on. But still lingered. Pulled in by the indescribable quality of peace.

Around 6:30 or so we pulled into Dodge. I well remembered my time there back in ’80. The town had grown quite a bit, but there was still the Boot Hill area of ‘old Dodge’ in the middle of town. The backdrop of old time stores was now replaced with some real ones, and the old hangin’ tree (which I had posed by so long ago) was gone and it was much more touristy now. I don’t recall having to pay anything, no less the $8 fee they now imposed, to get into the area. The entry was now through a “museum” which was really just a gift shop. We picked through the shop and I was content because of the fee and the lateness of the time of day not to go into the main area. But when the young girls went to ring us up the computer was down, and so, as a courtesy she let us go on to Main Street and see the ensuing gun battle, for no cost.

Neither of us were impressed with the somewhat loosely acted out sophomoric gun battle, and we left before it was over.

We traveled long and hard today. This morning we had an IM session with Steve again and it began the day with good humor, encouragement, and good-natured prodding. The session went a little like this:

Steve: finally getting an early start
Steve:(8:22:49 AM): well if you were still on pacific time anyway
Joel perlish (8:23:07 AM): yes, we hope so, but not as early as we hoped. a call came into the room at 2am by mistake!…. arghhh…
Steve: (8:24:05 AM): so how far did you make it yesterday
Joel perlish (8:24:48 AM): 380! caught by the cold actually.
Steve: (8:25:27 AM): i had you pegged pretty good again.
Steve: (8:30:33 AM): based on your current habits and past performance 422 is the best you could possibly do today. honestly i’d be impressed to see you get to 400.
Steve: (8:31:00 AM): at the mirage the odds are posted as follows:
Steve: (8:31:40 AM):
under 200 miles —— 20 to 1
201 to 300 miles —— 10 to 1
301 to 350 miles —— 4 to 1
351 to 400 miles ——- even money
401 to 450 miles ——- 2 to 1
451 to 500 miles ——- 7 to 1
501 miles or more ——- 15 to 1

We thought about and smiled about that during the day. I was determined to get to 500 today, but as we pulled into Great Bend, with still about 100 to go, and darkness falling fast, I realized we didn’t have the time to get in before dark. Steve had pegged us right for another day.

As we had passed into Great Bend we went by a Days Inn that advertised “Wireless Internet, Waffles in the Morning, and $39.99 Lodging.” We sailed by to the other end of town to get gas, but it was then we realized that the wise judgment would be to stay here, so we doubled back.

Author: Joel Perlish

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