a.k.a. Let's see how it works...
February 20th, 2003 in Chicago offered the opportunity for a rare (somewhat) warm ride in the month of February. I took the opportunity not only to give the recently modded KLR a test run, but also to take some pictures with my new HP Photosmart 850 camera.
When I saw the temperature hit 45 degrees before noontime, I knew that there was no doubt that I had to get out on the road. I stopped working at about 3:00 and immediately headed out west into the barren February farmland of Illinois. I began following one of my normal "get me to route 47 without much traffic" routes which takes me through Plato Center, and then a series of lefts and rights on roads that I neither know the name of nor see a lot of traffic on.
Crossing route 47, rather than head towards Burlington, I veered left onto yet another unknown road. The air was crisp, but I didn't feel the need to flip on the hot grips or vest - yet. It felt awesome to be on the bike, the wind purring across my helmet, the bike vibrating and chugging along. It almost felt like springtime, but my hands were getting cold, so I did flip on the grips about 25 miles into the ride. Ahh, much better.
I continued on heading due west on whatever road I was on, making another right-left combination when the road ended, and continuing due west into the sun. Low on the horizon, at times it was difficult to see, but the sun was my friend this day, and I knew in the back of my head that when it decided to go away, the temperature would drop quickly. Coming up over a hill, the road turned to gravel, and I was in a higher area, so I locked up the rear, came to a stop, and snapped a few pictures. I wanted to test out the camera's ability to take pictures of the bike, see how it handled distant views, and see how the direct sunlight affected it. After seeing the pictures, I'm pretty satisfied at this point.
Pictures from the first stop:
KLR from the left back
KLR from the left front
KLR from the side
KLR from the right front
KLR with the road ahead into the direct sun
The road ahead into the sun
A view of the barren farmland....and some remaining snow
Another view away from the sun
I continued down the dirt and gravel road, wondering where it would lead. The KLR felt pretty good on the gravel despite the rear tire that I really need to replace yesterday. I was able to spin the rear wheel very easily, but the front end with the new springs and fork brace felt great. I could feel the grooves in the road, whereas before, the entire front end was vague and what is was doing was a mystery. I plodded along at 55 or 60 MPH for a while, enjoying the few times where the road turned, working on that whole "steer with the rear" concept. What fun! Ye-haawww!!
I continued to throw up dust for some distance, as the dirt and gravel road seemed to go on endlessly. After a few more miles, I started to feel a chill, so I plugged in the heated vest. The location of the switch is perfect, and it's easy to do this while moving. I felt the warmth growing after only a few minutes, and as I continued on, I started to see the tell tale signs of the nuclear power plant up ahead. The smokestacks are visible for about 30 miles or so, and cresting every hill gave a closer and closer view of them. I stopped roadside again to snap some more pictures and try out the zoom of the camera. Here's some pictures from the second stop.
KLR roadside next to a tree
KLR roadside with farmland in the background
The view of the road ahead and the nuclear power plant in the distance
Same point, with 8x optical zoom used on the camera
KLR with the road ahead and cooling towers in the distance, looking into the sun
I really thought that this dirt road would never end, and I was glad that I had happened upon it. Best of all, I had no idea where I was. I would cross over paved roads every once and a while, but my exact location was a mystery to me. I didn't expect to get lost on a couple hour ride on a day in February, but I was happy to have stumbled across this place. Man, this is so much better than working. With a quick flip of the hot grip switch to high, and a quick turn of the thermostat to full, I was toasty warm again, and following the endless dirt road towards the cooling towers. I crossed another paved road that looked a little familiar, but continued on straight. I was going to ride this thing to the end. And that I did. Just as the road approached I-39, it ended. Oh well, I guess this means I turn around and head back home before it gets too dark and too cold. Hey, on the way, I get to hit those puddles of water again. Ye-haaw!! Man, this is so much better than working.
I eventually made it back to a paved road and turned North, hoping to find another east-west farm road that would take me back home. I passed one before I saw it, and then saw a horrible sight up ahead. Traffic. There was a small town with a traffic light, and I guessed it was Route 72. Yuck!! After a quick u-turn, I made it back to the farm road that I had just passed, turned left, and started heading back east. My mind was in a very peaceful state, and as I turned onto this road and saw the rising road ahead of me, the words "may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back" popped into my head. While it wasn't the first (nor the last) time that these words appear in front of me, even though this was just a couple hour ride, their meaning was as clear as ever.
I continued along for a while, enjoying the farm scenery, and the fact that the sun was behind me. It was much easier to look around and enjoy the sights and smells of the Illinois farmland while heading east. The sun was setting and it was getting colder, but I was doing fine. The windscreen does a great job of deflecting a good amount of wind over and around you. A farmer stood at the end of his driveway watching me approach, and right on queue we both waved at each other. I wonder what he was thinking as he watched me disappear through the dust. It was probably either "Man, that guy is nuts" or "What the heck kind of ugly-ass motorcycle was that??"
The dirt road ended again, this time at route 72. "Well, at least I avoided it for a while," I thought as I turned right, increased my speed, and hit the throttle lock. "Hey, cool. It works!" I threw my feet onto the forward pegs, leaned back, and watched the scenery go by. I made a few turns here and there on the way home, eventually running into Big Timber road - I still don't know where this road is on a map, but I always seem to run across it. It was dark by the time I got to the intersection of Routes 47, 72, and 20, so I jumped on 20 and rode the last 20 miles back to warmth. I had put on my winter gloves just a few minutes before, but overall in the now 40 degree weather, I was pretty comfortable.
This really was a treat to have a day like this in February, and so much better than working.