Saturday, July 31, 2021

Day 49 - Back on the Road!

We woke up this morning in yet another hotel as we wait with fingers and toes crossed to hear the latest on the RV repair.  We were able to sleep in a bit as there was no need to rush to Coffman’s and sit in the waiting room drinking more Folgers coffee.  Besides, we were looking forward to the continental breakfast advertised.  As we walked to the lobby we saw that the chairs in the dining area were curiously still on the tables.  “Will there be a continental breakfast?” I inquire.  “Yes, with limited selection due to COVID.” Is the reply.  At that moment the employee reaches behind the front desk and hands me a box of Frosted Flakes and a small carton of milk. Yep that is a limited selection.  

When we arrived at Coffmans, the RV was still sitting comfortably in its bay it had become all to familiar with.  The current advice from the GM consultants was to run some cleaner through the valves and injectors.  While sitting in the waiting room, again, another victim of vehicle repair hell joined

us in purgatory.  His name was Iman and he is a truck driver who immigrated from Iran.  He was a very nice guy who used to live in Aurora and warned us to get out of town quickly. “When I moved from Iran I was excited to come to America and when I came to Aurora I thought that this is no better than Iran!”  By the way, he has since moved and loves America.

The minutes turned to hours and soon it was 3:30 pm.  We had seen the RV leave the bay for multiple test drives.  Finally, Jeff comes in like a doctor providing a patient diagnosis.  Well, its running “better” he said.  Bottomline is they could not 100% identify the problem but at this point the check engine light is not flashing and the misfires are minimal.  They put cleaner in the fuel tank and suggested a couple tanks of premium gas.  Hmmmm, a week in the shop and that’s the solution?

Though I am not happy there is no smoking gun, ultimately, Coffman’s was very fair with us.  I did pay $1600 for a fuel pump I probably didn’t need, but they spent hours working on the RV and ultimately didn’t charge us as they recognized they didn’t completely “solve” the issue.  Jeff and I shook hands and we were back on the road. 

We drove 180 miles east to Syracuse IN where we left off with Kyle and Casey. For a biking trip sure feels like I’m doing a hell of a lot of driving.  The pucker factor was very high and I focused on the check engine light like Zuri focuses on a bone.  Fortunately no check engine light and the RV ran well.  We found a nice little spot in an old Shopko parking lot that will be perfect for tonight.

Tomorrow I am back on the road!  I can not wait.  It seems like forever since we were back in the riding “routine.”  My how I miss the routine!  I plan to get up early and put in a lot of miles to get back on schedule.  Not sure what “a lot” is but I will be pedaling east and that’s all that matters!

Until then....

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Day 48 - Maybe I should shave.

 Short entry today as there isn't much to say as we are Still. In. Aurora.  

After a spectacular thunder and lighting storm that would make the Imagine Dragons take notice, we woke up at 4:45 am to make sure we got Kyle and Casey to O'Hare on time.  I sure will miss those two.   Though certainly not what we had planned, I thoroughly enjoyed these past 6 days and appreciate them taking the time to join our journey.  A successful airport drop off complete, Cheryl and I immediately returned the truck without issue (BTW, we put 800 miles on the bad boy).  She didn't think I noticed, but I saw a few tears as we returned the keys of the monster truck.  Spirits were high as we drove the RV and watched the city of Aurora fade away in the rear view mirror.  And then about 60 miles out it happened..... the horror of the flashing check engine light.  I didn't need any help from Siri as I knew we needed to "take a U turn."

We called ahead to Coffman's and Jim the technician was waiting for us.  He found a bad ground connection to the pump and was confident that was the problem.  I mean, I already paid $1600 for a new fuel pump, but if a bad ground connection is the issue then cool.  We got 5 miles away and.... Check Engine.....Check Engine.....Check Engine..... What is happening???  All I can say is that Cheryl and I spent 8 hours in the waiting room of Coffman's Truck Sales drinking Folgers coffee and eating M&Ms and Hot Tamales.  It was painful.  The worst part about it is the uncertainty of it all.  Jeff the Service Manager told me they had even engaged GMC corporate for assistance.  Sheesh, are problem needs consultants!  Since I was bored to tears I did some internet research.  The new technician on the job, Brent, wasn't particularly happy when I walked into the service bay and said "did you do a camshaft variation relearn?" At 4:30 pm Jim suggested we make arrangements for a hotel.  He didn't particularly like my suggestion that we sleep in the RV in the shop.  I'm not making too many friends at Coffman Truck Sales.  

So here we are, back in Aurora, in a hotel, hoping for a solution to the P0300 error code on our motorhome engine. I can not believe tomorrow it will be a week since the problem was first discovered.  I'm not necessarily saying I'm superstitious, but I want everything in our favor so I decided to shave tonight to hopefully change our luck. We are ever optimistic that we will be back on the road (aerodynamic) riding toward Portland ME tomorrow.   

Until then....

Day 47 - One Final Blow

One thing that this trip, and especially the past 5 days has taught me is to be patient, flexible and optimistic.  Today is no different and we woke up in our Home2 hotel room full of enthusiasm ready to pick up the RV and
get back on the road.  I had an indicator that we've been away from the RV too long in that my electric toothbrush lost it's charge.  Definitely time to get out of Aurora!  We did get a continental breakfast, not as good as Cheryl's breakfast but it will get us going.

For those of you still following us and keeping track of our "Nightmare in Aurora," the latest logistical summersault we are working toward is we will drive back to Syracuse and get in a twilight ride today (~40 miles) and a short ride in the morning to Defiance OH (36 miles).  That way, Kyle and Casey can still, remarkably, catch their flight out of Detroit.  We still have a shot at this!  We are supposed to hear from the shop at 11 am so we hung out at the hotel and caught up on emails and relaxed.  This is a rest day so might as well take advantage.  
My phone rang and I saw the all too familiar number for Coffman's.  I quickly answered and it was Jeff, the service manager, on the line.  "We hit a bump in the road" he said.  I didn't here much after that but did catch "We ordered the wrong fuel pump."  

We have done everything in our power to stay on schedule and sometimes there are things out of your control.  Time to call it.  There still is a chance that the RV will be fixed today if they can get a new pumped rushed in, but it will be too late for us to get back to Syracuse.  Kyle and Casey changed their flight to leave from O'Hare and we will continue our stay in Aurora.  I must admit, this one hurt.  

We no longer need the bike gear so we decided to head back to Coffman's, disassemble the bikes and load up the bike gear in the RV so it's easier driving around (I've hit my limit on the load/unload every time we stop).  Once the bikes and gear were back in the RV we hit Lazy Dog pub for lunch.  Though we all enjoyed it, Zuri, the spoiled princess, was in heaven and got her own doggy meal.  Amazing marketing Lazy Dog.  Sucked us right in.  

We arrived at Coffman's at about 4 pm and miraculously the RV was done!!!  Let's pick it up, pay the bill and get the #$@% out of here!  OK, now what, more logistics to figure out.  Since it was past 5, we were stuck with the rented truck for One. More. Day.  We called the rental car company and found out that since we've had the car for 5 days, it's cheaper to switch to a weekly rate and essentially get the next two days free.  What? Good news?  I'm speechless (well let's not exaggerate).  OK, lets drive to and campground close to O'Hare, use the truck to drop the boys off for their flight and then return the truck tomorrow morning and be on our way.  

We set up camp at Paul Wolfe Campground about 30 minutes from O'Hare.  It was really nice to be back in the RV and let Kyle and Casey experience our life on the road, even if for just a second night.  Mid West humidity and mosquitoes were in full force but that didn't dampen our spirits (maybe just a little).  Bratwurst over the fire, a couple beers (some things always remain constant) and the Olympics.  A nice last night with Kyle and Casey.  

We are up at 4:45 am tomorrow to provide plenty of time to get to the airport for a 7:30 flight.  Will get us to Syracuse sooner so I can get back on the bike and forget about the "Nightmare in Aurora."  

Until then...

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Day 46 - Heading Back to Aurora

After a wonderful evening at Dan and Connie's B&B we woke up to soaking wet bike gear in the bed of the truck.  We didn't feel the need to bring everything in last night but also didn't plan on a blanket of dew dropping like Niagara Falls on our stuff.  We have a new step in our routine this morning and that is using the hair dryer to dry our stuff.  Fortunately we had another round of Connie's muffins to lift our spirits.  

We loaded all of our gear (some f it still damp) into the truck for what we hope will be the last time and headed back to Trusty's, not for another Zombie Dust, but because that's where we left off yesterday.  We expected to (and did!) put in 72 miles to Syracuse today which will got us within 80 miles of our end goal of Defiance OH.  The day was fantastic.  Vacant country road after vacant country road.  Casey and Kyle are phenomenal route planners.  I think I will put them on retainer to text me the next days route whenever I need help (which will bed everyday) the rest of the trip.  We were smoking on the adrenaline that we may get good news about RV later today averaging over 17 mph for the route.  I need to make up excuses to get these guys to slow down.  "hey up there, I need to stop for a second and take a picture of this wire fence!"

Not having the RV has turned this adventure into a long Hood to Coast activity but instead of running with 8 people we are biking with 4.  The truck has been our home on the road.  Gear thrown all over the place, Clif bars, water bottles and stinky bodies.  Fortunately, we stop at a hotel every night to take care of the stinky body aspect.  

Once the ride was complete we loaded everything back up and head back to Aurora (I can not believe we are going back there!)  Siri's route has us within 15 minutes of South Bend so we decided on a little detour to see Notre Dame University.  We grabbed some sandwiches at Penn Station Eastern Subs and sat near the "Golden Dome" building for a picnic.  The city of South Bend was a little underwhelming, but I was impressed with the little bit we saw of the campus and sport facilities.  It was beautiful.    

As we approached town, I got a call from Jeff, the maintenance foreman at the shop (I think Cary is tired of me), and he informed us that the RV will not be completed until tomorrow morning.  Ugh! but not a total surprise.  "Hello Lexi? We need a room for one more night!"  We walked into the room and realized we were all still full from our sandwiches, the Olympics were not on yet and we didn't feel like exploring Aurora (been there, done that).  Next thing you know, Kyle has the bright idea to play quarters.  Yes, you read that correctly, play quarters.....the drinking game.  Not sure where that came from but Casey, Cheryl and I look at each other and figure that sounds good, let's go for it.  I hadn't played in probably 30 years but I held my own.  We only had a few cans of CL so it didn't get too out of control.  

A little Thai for dinner, watched the Olympics and time for bed.  It almost felt like Christmas Eve as we get the RV tomorrow!

Until then....

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Day 45 - Fresh Blueberry Muffins!

 After a terrific weekend it was time to get on the bike.  We are also anxiously awaiting the diagnosis for RV.  Seems like forever ago that we were sitting in the RV Friday afternoon frantically calling places to explain the alarming flashing check engine light.  Come on Cary, pull a rabbit out of a hat for us!

We started the ride at Northwest Purdue Campus as that is where we left off Saturday.  Riding conditions were again, spectacular.  Casey has settled in as the lead navigator and came up with a great route to North Judson Indiana (don’t worry I didn’t know where it was either).  Kyle is in the middle facilitating conversations and backup navigator and I am in the rear just trying to keep up and taking pictures when I get tired.  My other job was to call the repair shop every 2 hours for status (unfortunately the answer was consistently “haven’t looked at it yet”)  

We made great time and after 64 miles behind us, rolled into North Judson at Trusty’s Route 10 Bar & Grill.  Of course first things first, it was time for a beer.  All of us settled on a Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds Brewing.  Delivered in ice cold mugs it was wonderful.  When deciding what to order, we went to the expert, our server Brittney.  “What do recommend?” we asked.  “Poison Fries” as an appetizer was the reply “They’re delicious.” We asked for other recommendations.  “Italian Beef, it’s delicious.”  “The Chicken Philly, it’s delicious”  “Oh and our pizza, it’s also delicious.”  I guess we picked the right

place!  Brittney was not exaggerating.  Everything was delicious, especially the Italian beef.

Turns out Brittney is the owner and she and her husband bought the restaurant 3 months before COVID hit and were able to power through and now things are looking up.  Trusty’s has a nice feel to it.  A sports theme with pictures of the local high school sports team on the walls dating back 100 years!  As a bonus, Brittney's best friend Sarah is the bartender.  Love this!

With a great lunch and a couple beers down, it was now time for status check #3 on the RV.  If I hear “haven’t looked at it yet” one more time I might lose my sh*t. Well, that’s what I heard and yes, I lost my sh*t.  Time to become an a$$ and escalate, this is too important.  I talked with Mark, the manager, and he was able to free up a technician to run some diagnostics.  

OK, next priority is to find a place to stay in North Judson.  Not many options and one of them got 2 stars on Google.  No thank you.  Lexi, our daughter, works for Hilton and has been a life saver this week calling ahead for reservations and great rates but unfortunately, Hilton has not tapped the North Judson market yet.  What to do….. Kyle found an amazing farmhouse B&B on AirBnB that would be perfect, but it was not dog friendly.  We tried to convince Dan and Connie (the owners) that Zuri really isn’t a dog.  “Come on Dan what will it take?”  Kyle pleaded.  “Hmmmm, well we are short Dasani water.  How about stopping at the Dollar General and picking up a case of water?” Dan suggested. Pretty steep Dan but OK.  Deal. (We decided to throw in a gift certificate to Trusty’s).

It was a picturesque B&B on 40 beautiful acres that Connie’s great grandfather bought in 1880.  Dan also delivered muffins at 10 pm with blue berry’s picked this morning that just came out of the oven.  Are you kidding me?  Where is Norman Rockwell?  

I know all of this banter about the cool local pubs and muffins has you all enthralled, but you’re dying to hear the diagnosis of the RV right?  OK, I got a call at 5:30 pm with good news and bad news.  They know the issue (good), it’s a failed fuel pump and they are not sure they can get a part for tomorrow (bad).  

OK.  Here is the new plan…… We will ride to Syracuse tomorrow and drive 178 miles back to Aurora in the afternoon.  If we hit the lottery and the RV is done, we will pick up the RV and drive back t Syracuse.  If not, we stay in Aurora and stand over the mechanic Wednesday morning until it’s done and drive back later in the day.   Sounds simple.  Somehow, we still have options to get to Defiance OH and get Kyle and Casey to the Detroit Airport Thursday afternoon.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m worn out.  I don’t know if it’s from trying to keep up with speedsters Kyle and Casey on the bike or the stress of this damn RV repair.  There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Until then….

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Day 44 - 3 for 3

Sorry folks, I'm sure you're looking for another entry from the award winning pens of the Kyle/Casey duo but your stuck with me at the keyboard.  I want to thank Kyle and Casey for taking over the blogging duties for a day and appreciate their perspective and kind words very much.  We were talking today that we are only on Day 3 of their leg and it feels like a WEEK.  They have been tremendous partners providing great insight and keeping the days fun as we tackle this stubborn RV issue.   

Realizing that it will realistically be three more days before we get the RV back, we need to balance continuing east and making progress with getting too far from Coffman Truck Sales because we will have to comeback to return Cheryl's monster truck and get the RV.  So we decided that it made sense to take a day off and enjoy Chicago.  It was a very good decision indeed.  

As Kyle and Casey mentioned, we stayed in Wrigleyville last night and I was moving slow this morning due to a little too much liquid fun at the Laugh Factory.  Being close to the stadium allowed us to use this as a home base so we could leave our bikes in the hotel lobby for security as we drove around Chicago and pick up everything after the game (the hotel staff was terrific).  We had three primary objectives for the day: 1) walk downtown and visit Millennium Park, 2) watch a Cubs game at Wrigley and of course 3) get a hot dog at Redhot Ranch.  We batted 1000 hitting all three out of the park.

The game started at 1:20 pm so we went downtown first.  We did the first of what would turn out to 5 transfers of gear from the bed to the inside of the truck (park mode) and from the inside of the truck to the bed (drive mode).  It's a major pain in the a$$.  Downtown Chicago was amazing.  I was impressed by how clean the city was.  With prefect weather, the sun reflecting off all the skyscrapers, the town was really showing off.  Swing and a hit!

From there, we rendezvoused with Geoff Scoones a good friend of Kyle’s who I also coached for three years in basketball.  He and his wife Rachael live in Chicago and I have not seen Geoff in probably 10 years, so it was great see him.  As noted over and over again on this trip, we are not the best planners.  We assumed that we would get to the game late, so we’d just get tickets cheap on the street. Oh wait, its Sunday, and perfect weather.  Bad plan.  There were no tickets left on-line and slim pickin’s on the street.  Since we needed 5, we were SOL sitting together and now I'm just hoping we can get in.  Fortunately, a bunch of the resellers worked together to get us 5 cheap tickets to get us in the door (these guys were awesome!) then we could take our chances in finding some vacant seats together.  Wandering aimlessly as we walked into the stadium, one of the ushers actually helped us find 5 vacant seats together two rows up in the 200 level down the 3rd baseline.  Freaking incredible.  All the people we encountered at the stadium were super friendly and helpful to us Wrigley newbies.  Swing and a hit!

Redhot Ranch is a very popular “chain” of three stores that have a limited menu of hot dogs and hamburgers and fries (think In-N-Out Burger).   Their dogs are old school and come with EVERYTHING on them.  Burgers were delicious too and we devoured everything, even going in for a second round (hey its a ride day tomorrow)  Swing and a hit!

From there it was back to our hotel near our last finishing point as we are back on the road tomorrow.  Empty the dang truck one more time, do some laundry and hit the sack.  We hope to get an early start tomorrow as it is expected to be 90 in Hamlet.  

It was a very good day today and though the late Harry Caray would have said Cubs win!, Cubs win!, Cubs win! (which they did 5-1) for today at least it was Winklers win!, Winklers win!, Winklers win!  Lets hope that luck carries over with the RV tomorrow.  

Until then…

Day 43 - Guest Blog: Under the Hood

My Dad / Uncle Chris thought it would be a good change of pace to hand the blog writing reigns over to Casey and I. He thinks he’s doing US a favor. However, after last night’s 2:00am comedy show, his whiskey hangover might be an underlying influence. NONETHELESS, we appreciate the opportunity to recap the ride, and provide some insight on an outsider’s perspective on how Chris and Cheryl are living day to day, stop to stop, ride to ride.
Day 43 (Day 2 for Us): The first stress of motorhome living, is routine. Waking up in a hotel, eating a continental breakfast is a far cry from their ride routine. After launching from Big Rock RV Campground, getting back on the bike was a much-needed sense of normalcy. Saturday’s ride picked up right where Friday’s ride left off -- sun was shining, roads were smooth, and cornfields as far as the eyes could see. Little did we know, we we’re kicking off our 5 hours cultural endeavor through various Chicago suburbs. We got a full breath of Chicago, riding through affluent suburbs followed by poverty stricken South Side of Chicago. Fortunately, we had both bases covered with Casey and Chris in Red, and Kyle in Blue.
The long day of riding concluded at beautiful Purdue University Northwest – not to be confused with the Boilermakers main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana – the satellite campus in Hammond, Indiana. Nevertheless, we were glad to be done riding and back in the Ram 2500 Big Horn with Cheryl. With the ride complete, time to trade simple South Dakota living, for the bright city lights of the Chicago metropolis. Cheryl’s first time in Chicago, and Chris’ first return in 50 years. We were greeted by a classic Midwest cloudburst. A torrential downpour, flooding the streets causing for a healthy traffic delay. No raining on our parade as we sipped road beers and adored the skyscrapers. I could hear Chris and Cheryl from the back “Where’s the John Hancock? Whats the Sears tower called now? How big is the Michigan OCEAN?” Love it when the parents get liquored up! After dinner, drinks, and a late-night comedy show, all in all made for a great day! Wanting to keep the daily recap short, it’s time to take a peek under the hood. Pun intended; however, this wound is still fresh as the RV sits in the repair shop. As much as we were looking forward to experiencing life in the motorhome, the audible in plans has put a unique strain on Chris and Cheryl and they are handling the challenging logistics wonderfully. No solutions are off the table. We’ve legitimately considered renting an RV or purchasing bootleg parts and fixing it ourselves in the parking lot. We knew the severity of the situation when we jokingly mentioned purchasing a new RV, and Chris googled directions to the nearest RV dealership. Above all else, the ride must go on. We’ve gone from stressing routine, to stressing flexibility. This change in mindset is a testament to how they’ve handled this unfortunate situation with such grace. As we sit in this bustling Chicago coffee shop reminiscing back to beers on April 20th when this whole adventure was merely a dream, this was not an opportunity we were going to let pass by. Now being here, in the thick of it, the time we’ve spent has far exceeded our expectations. Looking at what Chris and Cheryl have accomplished and have yet to overcome, we are filled with gratitude and pride. We are grateful to share the road, create memories, and help write a short chapter in their long adventure. We’re proud of how far they’ve come, their ability to overcome obstacles, and once again, being examples of model partners, parents, and humans.
Until then…

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Day 42 - Nightmare Scenario

It was a memorable day in many ways.  As I write this I am sitting in a Home 2 hotel room in DeKalb IL.  Yes I am aware I'm supposed to be in an RV Park.  Why you ask?  Its a long story that you'll just have to read to find out.

The day could not have started out any better.  Kyle and Casey took to Cheryl and my daily routine like a fish to water.  We wanted to get to a Cubs game at Wrigley so we needed to get up and att'em early so we were ready to roll by 7:15 am.  Kyle and Casey surprised me with a new jersey (yellow to match the Tour de France leader of course) and Lindsey's friend who works at Smith noticed my "well worn" helmet and hooked me up with a new one.  Boy, looking good and feeling good.  Let's roll!

The bike gods must have been happy to see Kyle and Casey as they welcomed them with some of the best conditions seen so far.  Cool temperatures, awesome roads and NO traffic.  We road side by side for a large portion of the ride.  We even met up with Bob, a local who was getting a ride in before his 50th High School Reunion.  An absolutely amazing ride.  Kyle and Casey showed their strong legs and made it difficult for me to keep up but I'm hoping old, callused butt, beats youthful legs later in the week.  After 56 miles, we arrived at camp at 11:30 am excited to head into Chicago for a afternoon of fun. 

From there, things went south in a hurry.  On the way into Chicago, Cheryl and I noticed that the RV was "surging" but didn't think too much about it.  Probably needs new plugs or fuel filter.  We'll get to that in a few days.  Suddenly the check engine light FLASHED.  I've never see that before.  Cheryl, look that up!  "Engine misfiring, stop immediately" she warned.  Yikes!!  We found a Chevy dealership within 3 miles and took a chance and drove there.  They were not helpful.  "Can't fit you in until Wednesday of next week."  Now it was all hands on deck (or on phones as the case may be) frantically trying to find a shop to help us out.  We called literally 20 shops including visited 2 (so much for not driving). Long story short is we couldn't find any of the "normal" auto repair shops to clearly diagnose the issue and recommended a truck repair shop.  Of course by now it is Friday late afternoon and we are pretty much screwed because it's the weekend.  Oh, and all strongly recommended not driving the RV.  Perfect.  I have a spare bike but we don't have a spare RV.  Having this happen to start the weekend is truly the nightmare scenario.

Think team, think, think.....We knew we needed a vehicle to at least get around so we have to rent a car.  Oh and it needs a hitch too which means a truck.  We found an Enterprise outlet that had one and they close at 5 pm.  By now it is 4:30 and the shop is 30 minutes away.  We begged the manager to stay

and we took another chance and drove some more to get the RV there. (Yes we tried Uber).  One bright spot was that this truck is awesome.  A RAM 2500 Hemi crew cab, brand new!  It's a monster.  

After many conversations throughout the day with Cary, the service manager at Coffman's Truck Sales, he graciously agreed to fit us in Monday.  That's still two days away though.  So here's the plan.  We will leave the RV there and continue riding for a couple days and stay in hotels and return Monday evening to hopefully pick up the RV.  So we dropped off the RV, grabbed all of our gear, loaded up the bikes and headed to the hotel.  We tried to keep a positive attitude and put together a nice dinner in the room (by now it's 9:00 pm and no one wanted to go out) plus we wanted to clear out the fridge as much as possible.  

There are a million things that still need to go right for this plan to work, but at least we have a plan. 

That's what this trip is all about, being flexible.  Kyle and Casey have been awesome members of the team!  Bummed that this happened on their leg.  This is definitely the biggest challenge yet and there were tough moments today but I know we'll get through it. 

It is on to Hammond tomorrow.  Cheryl has a new SAG wagon and I look forward to seeing/hearing her roll up in that 6.4 L Hemi.  Here we goooo!

Until then.... 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Day 41 - The Peloton is Back

After 15 days of riding solo and Cheryl desperately looking for someone new to talk to, we have 2 new riders joining the team.  We have a peloton back!  My son Kyle and nephew Casey arrived safely in Chicago (their bikes made it too!) but more on that later.  

As for the ride today.  What difference 24 hours makes.  Yesterday was one of the best rides of the trip

while today was definitely lower third.  There were a variety of reasons, the biggest of which I think was the road conditions.  I was on a lot of different highways and backroads today and none of them were in good condition.  I guess I'm now in favor of the infrastructure bill!  In addition to the 74 miles, there was also 2560 feet of climb and that didn't help much. Fortunately for me, I again had some beautiful scenery to watch go by (I know, I sound like a broken record).  More importantly, I also have Cheryl and Zuri as inspiration.  What was special about to today, though, is that the corn is high and close to harvest (it look more like corn) and looking out over the horizon the cornfields stretched for miles.  It was spectacular.  The other significant happening was that we made it to Illinois, the Prairie State.  We were a little bummed that since we were on a back road there was no "Welcome to Illinois" sign so we had to make do with a road sign that said Illinois on it.  Poor substitute I know.  

But of course the big news of the day was Kyle and Casey's arrival.  I must say that even though I boasted how I would keep on schedule and there was no need for flight insurance when they bought their tickets months ago, I will admit I had doubts.  To travel 2430 miles on a bicycle, over 42 days and be at O'Hare airport picking them up the day we agreed is a little shocking to me.  

Cheryl and I set up camp, got the RV ready for 2 more bodies, did some shopping and were off to O'Hare airport. Kyle suggested they Uber a few miles out of town to avoid having to take the RV into the chaos of the airport arrival terminals.  "Nonsense!" I shouted.  "That's why we got the smaller RV."  Later, as 4 lanes of traffic were trying to fit into 3, horns were honking and "12 foot clearance" signs were flashing, I got to thinking he might be right.  We crept along (I followed a taller rental car shuttle just to be sure I could clear) and were able to successfully load them up.

Delicious pizza from Giordano's and a couple of beers were in order to celebrate the new team and build up strength for the most important task of today...... putting the bikes back together again.  Unfortunately Danny and
Robbie at Coulee Bike Company are a few miles back on Onalaska and can't help us.  Since it was 9:30 pm we had to work under the dim light of the shower building.  All three of us were already in the dark on where to begin so less light didn't really make a difference.  

Kyle and Casey did the majority of the work and I occasionally repositioned the iPhone light and before you know it, the bikes were in riding condition.  I was very impressed.  Reminded me of a couple of surgeons "Kyle, can you hand me the 5 mm stat?" The real test will be tomorrow as we make our way to Batavia IL.  I am confident the newly formed peloton will make it without a hitch.

Until then....

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Day 40 - Calm Before the Storm

Today was one of the best rides of the trip so far.  The weather was cool and we only had about 55 miles to ride to Dayton.  I was a little concerned that the first 15 miles or so was on HWY 12 which is a busy

4 lane HWY, almost like an interstate.  The shoulder was 10 feet wide, clean and smooth so it was very nice and being early in the morning, traffic wasn't bad either.  After transitioning from HWY 12 we were on back roads and it was just fantastic conditions.  Of course I have to include a couple more barns in my picture cluster.  I have received some off line comments that there are some other closet barn lovers out there which makes me feel better.  Like it or not, they will keep coming.  

Cheryl scouted ahead and and turns out Dayton isn't much of a town.  One restaurant that appeared out of business and a city park that didn't allow dogs.  Note to all city councils - If you want to get on Cheryl's bad side, restrict access of dogs anywhere, but especially parks!  We decided to spend the afternoon in Belleville WI (population 2556).  There is not campsite close by and since the
temperatures are cool (no need for generator to run the AC) we decided to dry camp.  The question was where?  Though we could probably plop down anywhere, to avoid any midnight "rat tat tat" we went to the police station for advice.  I decided to stay in my riding gear as I entered the police station as I think it made my story more believable and request more legitimate.  Its not the first time on this trip I've had to sacrifice some dignity for the good of the team.  I was successful and they thanked us for asking and directed us to a vacant lot next to a grain elevator.  Not quite as picturesque as we've seen to date but safe and secure.  

We had lunch at the corner cafĂ© which didn't look like much from the outside but was really good.  From there we simply spent the afternoon in the community park relaxing.  We even found time to watch a couple episodes of The Crown.  We started it before we left and expected to complete it on this ride as we thought we would have quite a bit of down time.  Well, we know how that has turned out so far!  It almost felt like a true "rest day."  I figured this was a good thing as Kyle and Casey will be joining us tomorrow and it is going to be a WILD seven days.  If the riding doesn't kill me the evening activities will I'm sure.  We have a lot planned.  

Had a nice dinner, went for a walk and now it's time to get to bed so I'm ready for the storm that is brewing in the Northwest and heading this direction.  It's going to be really fun and Cheryl and I are looking forward to it.  Riding to Rockford IL tomorrow (67 miles).  Another state checked off the list! 

By the way. I've wanted to ask if there are any Blogger experts out there who can help with the comments in the blog.  I reply to every comment and as you can tell, some go through, some show up multiple times and others don't go through at all.  It's frustrating as I appreciate the 5 of you that are reading the blog and would like more two way communication.   Feel free to contact me off line with suggestions.   

Until then....

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Day 39 - No Clowning Around

The bike is back together, cleaned up with new handle bar grips.  Everything is back to normal

(including my breakfast routine) and fortunately, Cheryl is firmly back in the RV driver’s seat.  Beautiful morning for a ride.  I’m finding I’m becoming a barn guy.  Every time I go by one I say “that’s cool,” “that’s a neat one,” “that would be a good picture.”  They really are fun to look at and are literally around every corner.  We have noticed some Amish working in the fields and I also saw a young boy driving his horses during my ride.  I'm getting pretty serious about some of these pictures and actually got off my bike to take them.  It was a really nice ride and fortunately it wasn’t 87 miles! 

When I put together the route plan, I did take into consideration major attractions like Mt Rushmore, but didn’t get into the details on when the car show in Dayton WA was or the Rockin’ Robbins concert series in Willmar MN or Rock in the House in Fountain City WI.  We just stumble on things.  Today was no different.  Little did I know that Baraboo WI is a “Circus City” in that there is a city theme around the circus.  This is primarily driven by the fact that Ringling Brothers started here in the late 1800s where they have created the World Circus Museum.  Yes, the World Circus Museum in Baraboo WI.   

We decided to set up camp south of town at Devils Lake State Park. We had a quick meeting to discuss our plan of attack focusing our attention on visiting the World Circus Museum.  The route from the state park has us take county road DF which includes a brewery, a winery and a distillery.  Boom! The trifecta!  We started at Tumbled Rock Brewery for a beer and lunch.  I had the Sarrington Road English IPA which was delicious.  While there, we discovered that the World Circus Museum closed at 4 pm so we would need to rearrange the schedule and go straight there after lunch.  As it turns out, this museum is a THING.  Shows, elephant rides, multiple buildings and they recommend 5 hours to see.  Good thing as the tickets were $20 a pop.  Since we only had an hour we decided to regroup.  I did have time to stick my head in the mouth of an alligator (or was it a crocodile), We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Clown Hall of Fame was only a few blocks away.  You kidding me?  Clown Hall of Fame?  We’re there!

We were the only people there (surprise) and were fortunate to receive a 1-1 tour by Greg the manager of the museum (a clown himself for 30 years).  He was very pleasant and knowledgeable, and Cheryl and I learned a lot about clowning and had a wonderful visit. Did you know there are only three types of clowns?  Look it up!  Greg also mentioned that there is a Ringling Brothers Brewery around the corner where beers have a circus theme.  We were excited to check it out but unfortunately it is closed on Monday and Tuesday.  Damn, that early week closure thing again. I was so looking forward to my Strong Man IPA or the Bearded Lady pale.  

It was pretty hot and we didn’t like leaving Zuri in the RV so we decided against the winery and distillery (shocking I know) and went back to the State Park.

We had a delicious dinner of chicken tacos and watched the Bucks win the NBA finals then it was time to get some rest for tomorrow. Heaven knows I need it!  Heading to Dayton WI.  Not sure what surprises wait for us there, but I know it will be something.  

Until then….