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May 21, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 2: Moline, IL to Blytheville, AR

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Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on the banks of the Mississippi River in the town of Blytheville, Arkansas.

Miles Driven Today: 414
Total Trip Miles: 514

Stayed on the phone last night for 2 1/2 hours. Didn't wrap up the call until like 2:30 in the morning, I think. Slept in until 9:30 a.m.

Waking up in the morning alone in a motel in a strange town is not an uplifting experience. I don't really like being alone, it's just that no one with any sense wants to be around me, I think.

I lay in bed, wondering if I'm sane. Wondering if I'm going to get married, or if I'm going to Panama. I really don't know. If I had to wager money on it, I'd say i'm going to Panama. And not by choice, mind you.

I think about how odd my life is, bouncing across the planet like a stone skipped across a creek. I don't want to get out of bed. Don't know what happens when I get to Monticello. I really don't.

Crawl out of bed, pack up my gear. Go out into the parking lot. The bike is still there, surprisingly. The problem with this bike is that it's nicer than any bike I've ever owned. Newer. More expensive. More attractive to thieves, I'm sure.

As I'm driving through Peoria, I'm struck by the architecture of some stunning buildings on the town's east side. I want to stop and shoot them, but I'm more concerned about getting down the road, so I just hammer down and head South.

Eventually, I pick up I-55, and this goes within 20 miles of the town I grew up in, so I'm good now. All I have to do is stay on this road and head south.

The problem I'm having is keeping the bike at the right speed. Every time I look down, I'm doing 90 mph in a 70 mph zone. I have a little trick on my speedometer that I learned from Doug a few years ago. It's called a "cramp buster"...essentially, a little piece of plastic that wraps around your throttle and provides a flat piece of plastic that you can rest your palm on. Your palm is then essentially the throttle, so if you get it adjusted properly, you can ride whatever speed you like without hardly even touching the handle bars. This is way better than holding the throttle wide open all day with your hand.

After I've driven about 50 miles, I get pulled over by the Illinois State Police. I'm pretty much in a panic, as it's not like I have insurance or registration or any of that stuff. But, essentially, the cop is upset because I drove past him when he was parked on the right shoulder without moving over into the far left lane.

"What kind of motorcycle is this?"

"It's a KTM 990 Adventure."

"Is it new?"

"Well, it's a 2010, but it's never been out of the showroom before. I just bought it yesterday," I offer.

"Can I see your driver's license, please?" he asks.

I give him my license.

"Do have any firearms or any weapons on you?"

"No sir."

"And can I see your proof of insurance and registration, also?"

This is the tough part. I'm sure I don't have any of those things. I pretend like I'm looking for them in my wallet.

"Why don't you take off your helmet, and come back here and have a seat in the car," he offers politely.

So I go back and start to get in the back seat. Like, this sucks, but I know the drill. I don't like where this is going.

"Front seat. Front seat," he suggests.

That's way better, of course. So now, I'm sitting in the front seat. I stop pretending to dig through my wallet. I pull out a piece of meaningless paper and hold it, against the bottom of my wallet, as though it's something relevant.

He calls in my driver's license.

"What were you arrested for in Colorado?" he asks.

"Ah, they found a loaded weapon in my console and got all excited. But it's not illegal. I have an attorney. My court date is June 28th."

"Why did they arrest you if it wasn't illegal?"

"You know how cops are. They can't stand for people to own guns," I replied. And this is true. It's no different than the way he asked me if I had any firearms when he stopped me. Cops don't give a Tinker's Damn about the law. They don't want the citizens to be armed. And if they have to break the law to confiscate them, then so be it.

The cop is actually pretty nice as far as cops go. He gives me a written warning, and we talk about the changing laws in Colorado and Illinois. Apparently, they're about to legalize pot in Illinois. And he's hoping that the judges will really enforce the law properly, because some judges just throw it out if it's related to pot, apparently.

The system is kinda funny because what happens is that the police are always bringing people into the judge to see how much revenue they can get out of them. But then, if the judges just throw out the cases, then the pigs don't make any money.

So, the pigs sit out in the median of I-55 on a fishing expedition of sorts. They chase down people that are speeding, write them citations, and search their cars to see if they can find anything else that will get them bonus money in front of a judge. It's a racket.

A wall of clouds forms as I'm rolling south in I-55. It looks like I'm riding into a monsoon. But I don't want to stop prematurely, and I feel like if I keep going, I might can skirt the front of the storm.

I roll south and then, at St Louis, Missouri, we cross over the Mississippi River for the first time, so I'm now on the west side of the river in the state of Missouri.

This is sort of a prototypical late afternoon thunderstorm system, I think. These form over the middle of the country nearly every day in the summer. I want to get in as many miles as practicable today. I'd like to get to Memphis, if possible.

So, I drive south all day, stopping every 120 miles for gas. Finally, I get outside of Blytheville, Arkansas and the bottom drops out of the clouds. They're dark and they stretch from horizon to horizon so I pull up under a bridge. It's raining so hard, and the wind is blowing so hard, that I leave the bike and climb up under the shoulder of the overpass to the very highest point to get out of the monsoon.

Thunder, lightning, pouring rain. I sit and wait it out, surfing the internet on my iPhone. About 30 minutes later, it's let up enough that I start out again, south on I-55 as always. But 10 miles down the road it's pouring again, so I decide to call it a day.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 21, 2013 at 6:09 PM


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