Although the main reason for this trip was over, there was still a few things I wanted to see before this great trip would be called finished. One of them was to see some of the country and deserted towns in the coal mining areas of West Virginia. After leaving the fogy, misty, Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia I dropped down in elevation to some fairly good back roads heading north into the West Virginian town of Princeton. Here I enquired at the visitor centre for directions to the historic coal mining towns, only to find the lady in charge to be an unhappy person who explained how poor West Virginia is. Her visible unhappiness is what was to become my experience with meeting other people in this state, as they all seemed to be quite unhappy with their given lot in life. She explained how the coal barons and lumber barons of past generations had raped the land and then left leaving the people and the state to cope with the environmental and social damages. She reluctantly gave me directions to a highway that would travel through old semi deserted coal mining towns, with a comment that these towns were not pretty and there was other attractions tourist should see (read spend money).
Well, she was partially right as the majority of these towns that I travelled through were very depressing and certainly not scenic. I again curtailed my desire to take some images home with me, as it was truly troubling to see where so many hard working people had given up on their dreams and moved away, or simply, just given up. The local landscape, of what I saw, seems to have mostly cured itself as I saw no great scars as I travelled through. I cannot say the same for the man made structures or the perceived outlook of the remaining residence.
The following is a few pictures I did take to kindly remind me of the poor state of West Virginia.
Upon leaving a disappointing experience in West Virginia I reentered Kentucky and headed for Louisville to obtain a new set of tires at the BMW dealership. To say I was shocked to find that the BMW dealership was also a Harley dealer is a gross understatement. The dealership was quite large and seemed fairly well organized, but as you can well imagine leaning more to the harley line then to the manufacturer of the greatest motorcycle in the world. Upon entering the service department, and saying I was traveling through and needing a set of tires, I was gruffly told by the tattooed fellow behind the counter that I would need to come back in a couple of weeks, as they were busy. An assistant manager overheard this and asked if he could help, which he did with a little more enthusiasm then his harley work mate behind the counter. He found the tires I needed and said he could start work fairly quickly, and seeing the next dealer was some hundreds of miles away I agreed. Bad choice. Not only did I wait wait over five and one half hours, I was charged almost double of what I was charged only a few weeks earlier in Phoenix for exactly the same service. My experience here makes me believe that joining two totally different motorcycle types together in one dealership is a mistake. I have never in all my motorcycle travels, been subjected to this kind of overcharging and lack of understanding for the touring motorcyclist.
Having a somewhat sour taste in my mouth for the latest experience in Kentucky I found Interstate 64 and after crossing the Ohio River rode east into Indiana and then Illinois. I spent the rest of the day and the following day reminiscing of the journey so far, as I sped down the interstate with the local farms and small communities as a backdrop.
The second item that was on my list of places to see is was the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. This is located just north of St Louis Missouri and I arrived there after a very hot and humid ride with the normal thunder clouds brewing up from the west. There is a little town just north of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi called Hartford, that built a 150 foot tower complete with elevator to view the two rivers meeting. This area went down in the history books as the starting place for the cross country trek of Lewis and Clark to there destination at Astoria, located at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. The view from the top was great and they had a fair display of artifacts and a video at the visitors centre at the base of the tower,(and it was air-conditioned) where I and 3 BMW guys from the bay area, were given a 20 minute talk on the Lewis and Clark departure area. I was also told that back down the road a bit there was a recreation of their fort, so after wishing these BMW guys safe travels I journeyed down to see the fort. They had a very good cut-away of their river boats they used to travel upstream on the Missouri River. All in all a very good stop and another location I can cross off my must see places.
I left Hartford at about 3 pm figuring I could ride easily up to Hannibal Missouri for my motel that evening. Along the way I actually got to ride on the famed Mississippi River road that had been my goal in Mississippi much earlier on my journey. It was very enjoyable ride even if the road wasn’t real twisty, it is a very scenic road with the river in full view for most of the way and not too much traffic. I was quite pleased to get to see a Mississippi river boat going up the river pushing a very large set of barges. I was told that these barges can be over 1200 feet long and seeing that the river has many islands and channels, the captain of these boats must be quite skilled.
That night after again just beating the storm clouds to Hannibal I sat along side the river and thought of what it must have been like here in the days of Mark Twain, for this was his boy-hood home and the location was the setting for his Tom Sawyer novel and others. The towns motif as would be expected was all about Mark Twain, and even if was a bit over done it was still a place I will remember fondly.
Leaving Hannibal I spent a very pleasant day riding across northern Missouri on local state highways with a brief ride through south western Ohio before crossing over the Missouri River into Nebraska. Even if the roads were not going to be entered into the “must ride roads of North America” they were quite enjoyable and it was nice to be in an area that was not so economically depressed. The weather was also changing, as the next couple days would prove, to that of a cooler and little less humid air. When entering into Nebraska I even dug out my riding coat from my duffle bay were it had been stored for many days.
Nebraska City located in the south east corner of the state was to be my stay for the night and while watching the weather on Tv I was certainly glad I wasn’t about a 50 miles north in Omaha. They had a tornado touch down and then a great down pour of baseball sized hail with as can be imagined, caused immense damage to cars, houses and other structures. In one car dealership alone, they figured more then 1.5 million dollars worth of damage just to the cars.
The next day dawned cloudy and wet and so after talking with my other motel motorcyclist I dug out my rain gear and departed for what I had thought would be another boring trip across a plains state. My route was to be from the S.E to the N.W. of the state along mostly backroads and it proved to be very enjoyable. When the storm clouds disappeared and the sun came out, although it was cool, the route followed miles of corn crops over a rolling hilly country-side. Later I was to climb to an elevation of about 2,000 feet and encounter more trains then I have ever saw in my life. The trains that were heading east were all filled with coal from very large open pit mines mainly from Wyoming and South Dakota. There was so many of them that they were parked nose to tail waiting for the track to open up from west heading empty trains. The next time I need to cross the USA plains I will definitely choose Nebraska over Oklahoma or Kansas, for the ride was very enjoyable and again easy on the eyes.
My first day of riding through Wyoming was not overly eventful or even that enjoyable has I encountered strong winds and light rain near Gillette and a stint of Interstate 90 to Buffalo. But I had arrived back in the west with all its mountainous glory. Left Buffalo on a cold early morning and headed to what I thought would be a great road through the Big Horn Mountains on highway 16. The Powder River Pass is just shy of 10,000 feet and when I crossed it the temperature was down to 0 C. with fresh snow along side the road. The road, even if I had to be watchful for ice, was great and I will need to do this road again but a little later in the year. My plan also was do travel over the famed Bear Tooth Pass just to the NE of Yellowstone Park but having travelled it before I now realized that snow most likely would be an issue, so again it tells me I need another trip this year, maybe in August.
At this time I decided that my route should take me up into Saskatchewan to visit my aunt and uncle in North Battleford, so I headed due north through Montana and entered back into Canada at a little town called Climax. After travelling for close to 17,000 kms in the US and getting quite used to their speed limits and relatively good roads I was ashamed when I rode into Saskatchewan and found the road so bad I could hardly do 100 K.P.H., especially after doing 150 to 160 riding up to the border crossing on local state roads.
The 2 days spent visiting my relatives in North Battleford, where I experienced typical Canadian June changing weather, was very enjoyable and was great to visit with the last of my relatives from the previous generation.
As an old horse will do when he is heading back to the barn after a ride I did not waste any time getting home and travelled the 1140 ams home in about 12 hours. After starting out with wind and an overcast sky, heavy downpour of rain in Edmonton, the weather changed to warm and sunny once entering B.C., one thinks there is a meaning in this, which is British Columbia is Still the Best Place on the Continent.
This ride which will probably prove to be my last long distance ride (more then 15,000 kms.) but was also one of my most enjoyable. I was able to travel many old favourite roads and many now, new favourites. The time spent with my good riding friends from California was exceptional and will not be soon forgotten.
The time spent in the south, learning about the american civil war and what has transpired since then was both very educational and also quite depressing. To actually meet people who are still after 150 years, reliving that time and disparaging about what happened and what could have been, one wonders how united theses states actually are. The facts of this war are not always remembered, and myths or just plain exaggeration are what colours many people’s thoughts on what happen. I, as a book lover had to buy a couple books that told the story of the everyday people and their lives during and after this time of conflict between the states, and from between the covers of these books I gained a new understanding of the horrors of what a civil war brings to any country now or in the past.
On this trip, as with others I have taken in the past, the stark difference in our country and the USA is always present. From their liberal gun laws to the visible canyon of the rich and poor, you can see this is the land of the free, where we believe in Peace, Order, and Good Governance. Having said that I have always had a great time in the USA and find the people more open, friendly, and helpful to a stranger then most of our more conservative Canadians.
I as a motorcyclist also enjoy their many, many great roads that they build right over the top of the mountains, compared to ours in the valleys.
Here is a few facts of my journey.
Travelled 19,136 kilometres over 42 days. Low of 233 kms. to a high of 1140 but most days were around 500 kms. 2 days of non riding ( 1 rain day & 1 visiting day )
The weather was for the most part warm and sunny, but to enjoy those times a few days of cold, rain, and wind were needed.
2 full sets of tires and 2 oil changes. The kill switch repair in Asheville was the only unforeseen issue
Motel cost were from as little as $35.00 (Marysville Tenn.) to a high of $138.00 (2nd time at Asheville N. Carolina)
Cost for mid range fuel averaged $0.85 per litre Canadian money and I averaged 56 mpg. (Canadian Gallons)
Restaurant food was on average a good 20% lower then what you would expect to pay in Canada with helpings considerably larger.
I hope you have enjoyed this recollection of my journey, and overlooked some of my tardiness in the postings. I hope to undertake another good trip this summer into the northern part of our province and will report on what I find.