First Long Ride - Not just long, but boring
This isn't going to sound like much to most of you guys, but for me as a new rider it was a mile stone. Over the weekend my xg750 needed to go from where I work in central Iowa to the dealership in southwest Iowa for a belated 1K mile maintenance. Down and back with limited touring was about 400 miles, which is a tad further than my daily commute. It was my first long ride, and other than the daily commute, really my first ride with a mission to be accomplished.
I've done the trip from my apartment to Ames on I-35 a couple of times and spent a little time on US-30, but other than those short trips on rural four lane highwayas I keep to the two lane roads. This trip would be my longest outing on high speed roads, which up to now have been a bit out of my comfort zone. High temperatures meant that I was leaving at first light Saturday morning, so I figured traffic would be light. I would take I-35 and I-80 as far as I could before switching to two lane highways. A lot of my trip planning revolved around knowing the various bail out points where I could catch back roads going my way.
Leaving Roland, IA just after 05:00 was kind of a stumbling start. Despite the best of intentions to have the bike ready to go on Friday evening, tire pressure had not been checked for a while, so I made a stop to do that. After much fumbling and some not so cool yoga type moves (I'm an old fat dude) to reach the rear valve stem, everything was in order. No sooner than I hit the highway the fuel light came on. Surely I had topped off the tank after the last ride, at least I thought I had. The gas stop in Ames, IA was not so quick due to highway construction forcing me onto some city streets to reach the gas station of choice. I was finally on my way. I decided not to get off on US-30 and take the back roads from this point.
Although Des Moines traffic is hardly intimidating in a car, I haven't tried to tackle it on the bike until now. Due to the early hour it was a non-event, so I passed on the opportunity to jump onto US-6 and continued west on I-80.
All was smooth sailing until shortly before 07:00 as I was passing Stuart, IA. The side wind from the south was really kicking up as the day warmed up. Keep in mind that this is the land of wind farms, so sustained 17 mph winds gusting another 10 mph is what I'm talking about here. I decided to pick up US-6 after stopping for fuel at Adair. At that point I would have done 100 miles of freeway riding and could retire to the country roads with honor.
Alas, it was not to be. As I topped off the tank I noticed the orange and white barricades with signs tellimg me that due to bridge work in Adair you can't easily cross the railroad tracks to get to US-6. Back onto I-80.
Yea, I could have gotten off at the next exit, but hey, I was beginning to get accustomed to hanging on for dear life! The ride continued that way for the next 50 miles. As each bail out point came up, I kept deciding to get off the interstate at the NEXT one. Then, at Neola, I-80 starts swinging south. Now I had a head wind instead of a side wind and the ride smoothed out a bit. I had one short stretch of the legs at a rest stop, but the final 40 miles were uneventful. The DOT even failed to throw any surprise road relocations at me going through the demolition/construction site in Council Bluffs!
The bike was turned over to the techs at Loess Hills H-D by 08:30, which was 90 minutes early. They found nothing noteworthy, so they turned it back over to me around 14:00. They were hosting a poker run and other events, but I felt like I had enough quality time with my bike for the day.
The temperatures in the 90's were still with us. LH H-D had done nothing to improve the air conditioning on my bike, so I did very little local riding while I was home. A couple of trips into town to visit with my father was about it. I did find that the fresh gravel the county put on my road made for an exciting begining and end to each outing. I can't complain, though, since I'm the one that asked them to put it there.
The fuel light lit solid with 95 miles on the trip odometer. I guess that fighting the wind and passing a few cars with wide open throttle on the trip had really cut into my fuel economy for the last leg down. To make sure I would make it back to town I splashed in about a quart of 87 octane gas that I had on hand and then filled up with 2.8 gallons of 91 octane when I got back to town.
My family suggested heading back to the apartment early morning on Sunday to beat the heat. What's the point of making the long haul home if I don't get to stay around for a bit and enjoy it? The return trip started around 16:30 on Sunday with the temps still in the mid-90's, but with the wind picking up a bit.
I rode I-29 back north to Council Bluffs and I-80 east. Going north and northeast wasn't too bad, but when I turned east at the I-680 interchange the quartering tail wind got really ugly. I was bouncing around pretty good. The traffic was a mix of people driving differnet speeds due to the wind, which wasn't making it any easier.
After an hour of that I reached Avoca and this time I did decide to take to the back roads. The bike and I both drank deeply at that stop, and it felt good to get out of the gear for a bit. I had to use 87 octane gas again, which surprised me considering the size of the filling station. I really need to start packing some octane booster on these trips.
The ride 30 miles north to IA-141 came with a tail wind, but then I turned east again. The wind was definitely still a hindrance, but slower speeds and less traffic helped. The leg from Avoca to Coon Rapids was a bit over an hour at the speed limit. I like this stretch of road because I'm a railfan and it parallels a section of former Milwaukee Road trackage now operated by the BNSF. At Coon Rapids I had a long stretch of my legs because the convenience store with 91 octane gas also has lousy service, giving me a good long while to lounge in the air conditioning while waiting to pay.
Perry was only another 35 miles or so down the road. On this short leg the wind was dying down and I was noticing a lot of oncoming cars with their headlights on. I stopped for a burger and lots of hydration as well as some more time out of my gear and a switch to the clear visor on my helmet.
The last 56 miles went fast because the first bit out of Perry is four lane highway again. After that I got off onto two lane roads the final push through Ames to Roland. I avoided getting back on I-35 due to heavy traffic and a couple of construction zones I wanted to avoid. I didn't quite get home before the street lights came on, which is another first for me on the motorcycle.
Central and SW Iowa