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May 20, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 1: Moline to Peoria

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Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the farmlands of Peoria, Illinois.
Miles Driven Today: 100
Total Trip Miles: 100

Somehow, my neighbor and I figured out we were both flying to Chicago today. So we carpooled to the airport. The TSA got all excited about my Givi motorcycle case. They called me out at the gate and told me I'd have to come back and unlock the case. I told them they could keep it, as I didn't want to miss my flight. I'm not clear really if the case would even mount onto the KTM. All it had in it was some tools, fix-a-flat, motor oil, etc.

Nothing that can't be replaced. The main thing is to get onto the bike and get rolling. That's the real thing. That's the plan. Everything else can be picked up along the way.

So we fly to Midway. I rent a car on the plane, a one way rental from Midway to Moline, Illinois. At Midway, we meet her daughter, and then go our separate ways. I follow Google Maps on my cell phone and find my way from Midway to Moline, Illinois. So far, so good.

I find the little motorcycle dealership, and walk in. I've been texting them throughout the day to let them know I'm on my way. I end up rolling in at about 5:30 p.m. They close at 6:00 p.m.

"Nick, I finally came to get my bike, man!" I bought the silly thing back in December, and I've just been trying to find the time to get out here and pick it up. Now, I'm finally here. I look around the shop, hoping to spy my magic beast. Finally, I see the lovely glowing orange beast out back. They're leading it out of a corral of motorcycles like a prized horse.

I look at the bike, and I have no clue. I know zero about it. So they start laying it all out for me. It's a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 990cc twin five-speed, with front and rear disc brakes, ABS, and a digital dashboard. Insanely nice. Way better than any bike I've ever owned. Zero miles on the speedometer. It's a brand new 2010 that's never touched the road before.

I'm outside, admiring the beast. Picking pieces of plastic from the new chain. Fresh tire nipples. 0.0 miles on the odometer.

This bike is a thing of beauty.

We check the oil. It's full. And with that, I'm off. Top off the gas at a Shell station. It has two gas caps, and I have to fill each tank for reasons that still aren't clear to me yet. But I fill up both tanks and take off down the road, following I-74 towards Peoria, Illinois. This seems like the most direct path at this point. I'm just trying to get some miles on the bike on Day 1. Trying to get somewhere down the road at least.

I pull onto the road, trying to get the feel of the bike. I pass a highway patrol and he turns on his blue lights and I look down. I'm going 85 in a 65 and I'm like "Shit. That didn't take long."

But the pig never turns around to come after me, for whatever reason.

The problem is that the bike is so smooth, it doesn't feel like it's going 100mph. It feels like it's going 65. But I look down and, instead of 65, I'm going 95. So, I have to sort of get used to the feel of the bike. It has almost zero vibration. A small fairing breaks the wind, so I'm not nearly as beaten by the wind as I was on the XR.

They installed a little wrist-throttle type of contraption, like the one Doug showed me in Alaska. I'd sort of forgotten about them, but you get tired of holding the throttle wide open for hours at a time, and this little contraption allows you to control the throttle with the palm of your open hand, essentially. Which is way more relaxing.

The weather is bad. Enormous thunderheads rise like malevolent beasts above flat fields. Lightning strikes all around me. Somehow, it's not raining on me. I'm not clear why. I'm heading roughly east. I figured that the storm is moving east also. I nearly chicken out and stop, but I decide that I'll be OK and I just open the throttle and run 90 for a while to try to thread the needle between the thunderheads.

When I'm about 20 miles from Peoria, it starts to rain. I pull over and try to break under an overpass, but the brakes are way different than what I'm used to. Suddenly, I'm aware that the ABS system is activating, so I let up on the brakes a bit, then exit and fill up the tanks with gas. I talk to some other people at the station. They assure me it's raining cats an dogs just a few miles down the road. So, I sit there for a few minutes cooling my heels.

I haven't had a bite to eat all day. I'm tired and thirsty. I have zero rain gear, as the TSA goons have stolen my Givi case, along with my tools, and my rain gear.

But I still want to get to Peoria tonight. I have to get at least 80 miles down the road or I just feel useless.

By the time I roll into Peoria, it's solidly dark. I've driven only 84 miles for the day. But at least the adventure is under way.

Something great is about to happen. I've hedged my bets. Either I'm about to get married, or I'm about to drive a KTM down to Panama. Either way, I'm going to have a great time. :)

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 20, 2013 at 7:42 PM


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