We charged all electronics and packed our bags the night before, shared dinner, were in bed by eight o’clock and – thanks to Ambien – asleep shortly thereafter. When the alarm went off at three the following morning we were well rested and ready to go. I untarped the rig and clicked the last three unsecured bags into place, suited up, helped Barley get settled and set out…
for the McDonald’s across the street. It was one of those 24 hour establishments and, at that hour, about the only place to get a bite. We didn’t linger as the temp even at that hour was in the high nineties, but headed directly north to pick up I-70. I normally avoid the Interstate and in normal conditions would have taken US Highway 50 to the east, but concerns about nocturnal animals on the road and the fact that in the dark there wasn’t much in the way of scenery convinced me to make an exception.
By 4:15 we were on the Interstate heading east across land so flat the more garishly illuminated billboards were visible for miles. We crossed the Missouri River in the dark, and the Mississippi at dawn. We’d ride for ninety minutes and take a fifteen minute break, then another ninety minutes, refuel and take a half hour break. My goal for the day was Indianapolis, but as lunchtime loomed we put that huge city behind us. I pulled into a large rest area where Barley and I took an hour power nap in the shade of a gazebo. It was cooler by then, only the mid-nineties, and looking at the map I decided Columbus, Ohio would make a nice destination. Using my iPhone I found a room at the Best Western.
We pressed on, feeling refreshed.
We reached the Columbus hotel just before rush hour. I considered pressing on, but the number of cars on the road and several incidents of road rage I had witnessed that afternoon convinced me to call it a day. We had come 607 miles from Sedalia, and Barley was demanding pizza and air conditioning. An hour later having showered and shared a pizza in air conditioned comfort I had to admit his plan had been better than mine.
Pouring over my maps that night I decided to continue on the Interstate just a few more miles to Zanesville, switching to secondary roads at that point heading generally northeast. In the morning that’s just what we did. While still on I-70, however, I came up behind a minivan doing the speed limit in the left hand lane. I followed for a couple of miles before signaling and switching to the right hand lane to pass. As I came abreast of the minivan the middle aged woman behind the wheel accelerated to remain in front of me. Amused, I rolled on more throttle. She did likewise. Curious, I raised the stakes again and again she sped up. At ninety I just laughed and reduced speed as she sped on. It was a behavior I had seen multiple times during this trip, but only within the borders of Ohio. But this one left me smiling inside my helmet. As I crested a rise several minutes later I passed the minivan; the driver had been pulled over by a state trooper!
Northeast from Zanesville through some lovely and quite verdant farm country. Gone was the drought. We crossed into Pennsylvania, threading the needle between Youngstown and Pittsburgh, continuing mostly eastward now. On one delightful stretch of sweeping curves a Harley rider tried to match us curve for curve. I live for curves, so picked up the pace and using considerable body English soon left the Harley far behind. We dropped into a shallow valley and pulled over at a charming village green. I removed my helmet and riding suit, watered myself and my dog, and was sitting with him on the cool grass when the Harley pulled up with a mighty roar. The bearded rider stopped right next to our sidecar, the many buttons and pins on his leather vest shining in the sunlight as he spotted us. “Holy #!$&,” he shouted. “You ride the %*&@ out of that thing!” With a nod, he roared off.
We continued east on PA 6, taking a break in Coudersport, then again in Wellsboro. By five o’clock we pulled up once more at the Tioga camp of our friends, Dennis and Linda. Barley jumped into the pond, killed a frog and a mouse before our hosts arrived, then spent most of two hours trying to sink his teeth into a birdhouse that had been hung in a tree frustratingly just out of reach.