Day 12

Grinnell, IA 13436.7
Ogallala, NE 13987.7
551 miles

Hit the road about 8, 8:30, even though I got out of bed at 6. What’d I do for 2 hours? Checked the oil again, it was fine. I stopped in Des Moines to get it looked at. I called Honda Rider’s Club, they could only find a phone number for me. I called it, got the address, at the other end of town. I didn’t think Honda [Motorcycle] Rider’s Club would give me the info for a Honda car shop, so I didn’t even think to ask. Except for the towing service, Honda Rider’s Club has proven themselves useless to me. I never did get the trip routing info I requested [note: when I got back to my apartment in Portland, the Trip Planning packet was waiting for me in my stack of mail].
     A salesman at the Honda car dealership gave me the address for the Honda motorcycle shop. As soon as they heard the sound, three guys said it was the chain. I got it adjusted and lubricated, 10 bucks, 15 minutes.
     Though it probably has its charms, Des Moines isn’t much to look at.

My energy was majorly flagging, so I stopped 20 miles west of Lincoln to take a nap on a plastic bench at a gas station. I didn’t set an alarm, so my 15-20 minute catnap lasted almost an hour. I didn’t think I had even fully fallen asleep, I was surprised. It was that daylight-hours hallucinatory feverish sleep. I still got some rest though, so back on the road.

Never pass a semi truck on the right. They’re not looking for you there. Even if he’s not getting out of the left late, just wait for him.

Nebraska is big. I was hoping to make Wyoming today, maybe Cheyenne, but it seems unlikely. I’m stopped for rain about 150 miles from the western border, loitering at a gas station with eating tables. My bike is parked by the pumps, out of the way and dry.

The distance was non-linear today. I lost a lot of miles tooling around Des Moines. I’ve got 530 miles so far today, but not all of them headed west. Thankfully Nebraska has a 75 mph speed limit, I’m making up time going 80-85.

The rain’s getting worse. I want to ride more before giving in and getting a room at the Day’s Inn attached to the gas station. It’s getting dark now too. I wonder how far the next town is.

No music on the way back west. All of Leg 3, just using earplugs. I lost a little rubber bit on one of the headphones, so now they’re pretty much useless for riding. I have replacements at Portland, but that doesn’t help at all. Anyway, the music was too loud, I hate to think of the possible hearing damage. The noise is bad even with earplugs. When I stop riding, it’s hard to be in a silent room—the noise from my head is roaring. Air conditioners seem to be at the same frequency though, and they sort of cancel it out. Now, without music, I’m curious if I’ll eve get some quiet. My head, my mind, won’t stop. The closest I’ve gotten is memory of songs, playing by themselves, and almost nothing. But it doesn’t last, and my thoughts go wild again. I was hoping for meditation, but I got Times Square. I want to just listen to the wind, and see the road, and nothing.

When I say that the journey is important, for me that really means the traveling. Not the people I meet or the places I stop (the waiter the other night asked if I had “seen a lot, like attractions.” I was too tired to explain myself, so I acquiesced). The movement, the visions, the sounds, the going. Motion.
     There’s very little relaxing about any of this. I know that’s because of me.

I was told that the next town was about 20 miles away. I went outside to take some pictures, heard birds chirping. Fuck it, hit it.
     The rain stopped after a couple miles. Absolutely beautiful sunset. I felt great, wanted to keep going. Hell, getting dark, going slow, rest early. Maybe I’ll actually rise early tomorrow. Call it early.

My rain gear—Coleman camping rain set, made of PVC, about $10 at Target—not for motorcycle use.
     The first time I put them on, I gave it about 30 miles before the heat from my pipes disintegrated them. The wind tore apart the left leg in less than 20 miles, in-town riding. I wore them again tonight, now the right leg’s gone. Maybe I’ll get lucky and it won’t rain the rest of the way back.
     Thinking about the ride back is still daunting. Including this state, I’ve still got 5 states to go.
     Why’s Nebraska so big? Why’s America so big?

Sometimes I think—okay, often I think this—that it’d be nice to be an underdog. To have an opportunity to prove people wrong, to prove myself wrong, to show that I could do it, damnit. Instead I’m in the position of everyone believing strongly in me. I’ve got the duty of fulfilling expectations, including my own. Which is also nice, I suppose. I do have love and support this way.

This is the first holiday I’ve had that will require physical recovery.

Now I’m at a shitty Mexican restaurant drinking a strong margarita. The gas station deli sandwich was enough, for food. ¡Ole!
     …and I am now the only customer in the joint. ¡Caramba!

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