Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nebraska and “Hawthorne” (a.k.a Plainview) 2Aug - 8Aug 2014

All five of us were totally exhausted from the heat and the continuous stop&go of following the sights of the Pony Express and Oregon trail. We entered finally the campground at Rock Creek Station Historical Park were we found a decent place to pitch our tent. The sanitary facilities were as good as new, clean and the showers had high pressure with perfect temperature. With the last energy we had we managed to pitch our tent, take care of girls and make some food. Then to bed and seconds later we were all snoring.

The next morning we spent some time at Rock Creek Station before leaving the Pony Express and heading north to Plainview, Nebraska – a city in which most of the movie Nebraska was shot. The days got hotter and Skippy had some trouble to stay focused. She was still riding in her normal gear. She needs to overcome her shopping-phobia and get some protective gear for hot days.
Preparing a building for moving.
Yeah - a different view besides corn and soy!
Rock Creek Station.
Interior of the house.
Rock Creek toll bridge and ruts in the steep hill from all the wagons.
We "upgraded" from 1/2 quart to 1 quart sized ice cream (about 1/2 l to 1l) :D
It was difficult to find a campground in the area of Columbus. We decided to stay one night at the free municipal camping which offers electricity, water, a vault toilet but no showers.
We stayed two nights at the Chilvers park in Plainview where camping is for free (they even offer free electric hook-up and restrooms). We got lucky and could take a shower for free in the municipal swimming pool at the first day. The second day they closed early due to a severe thunderstorm! We got once more wet, cool lightning show and our tent got a free wash. Lucky for us no tornadoes (the following slogan came to my mind: “Roadlife ain't for sissies”).

Pilger – a neighbor city did not get lucky. On the 16th -18th of June it was hit by a rare twin tornado which caused two deaths and many injuries (source: Wikipedia).

We became famous in Plainview after one of the city workers (Candy) “discovered” us and got totally excited about what we do. So she called the newspaper guy which was out of town and then got hold of the city administrator. He came the next morning and gave us a free tour through the city and highlighted some of the movie scenes and their related shooting locations. That was pretty cool! Thanks Michael. Let's see if we made it to the Plainview newspaper :D

Thanks to Neil from Arkansas for helping us out with cooking. By the law of Murphy we run out of camping gas in the middle of our cooking and I could not find a new bottle in Plainview. When we left our campsite on the next morning one of the locals a relative of Michael (sorry we forgot your name) who stopped by "taught" us a Nebraskan tradition – he took off his shirt and gave it to Skippy with the words " we take our shirt off for you" :D
Plainview, Nebraska.
Camping in the municipal park.
Hawthorne city sign.
Main street. Fred Astaire used to visit this hotel in his younger years (story).
Plainview reality.
Hawthorne in the movie Nebraska.
Skippy always finds those little creatures :) This one was in the end of its metamorphosis, really cool looking!
Many colorful butterflies.
"Woody's brother's house" at the corner of Plum St and Pilcher Ave.
Country style truck parking in the center lane to grab breakfast ;)
The Klowndoll museum at Plainview.

Is that so?
It was 13:00 when we were ready to leave the city – a pretty late start and then Skippy's bike stalled! The battery was again low. This Li-Io battery did not like the rainy weather and the stop-and-go in the morning after the rain. Well, we were already well trained in jump starting the Suzi and 5 minutes later we left Plainview towards south back to Pony Express. 
Lyra was bored.
Monsanto - a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate (from Wikipedia).
We saw plenty of those signs along the road.
It was good to have a plan and it was better to let go of it, when we realized that we would not make it to the desired campground. We were both tired and the only accommodation nearby were motels. Bad for budget and good for comfort :)
Great outfit on the sidecar and Ural typical, transport by trailer instead of own power?
Walmart's definition of ripe bananas (and Skippy said: they are still raw!).
Real ripe bananas have plenty of dark spots and no green at all! These are much better for digestion and also taste better!
Like in the movies - American style mail boxes.
Really??? a warning sign for this ENORMOUS downhill - LOL!
Oregon trail marker.
Following Pony Express, Oregon and California trail on the back country roads.
US Meat Animal Research Center - a place of outmost animal cruelty!
If two-headed pigs and 6-legged steers fascinate you, consider an educational visit to the US Meat Animal Research Center. They probably don't have those oddities, but you can get an inside peek at the complicated world of keeping America fed with meat. Tasty, healthy meat.

There are thousands of cows, sheep, and pigs at this government facility, where scientists fret about... Spoilage bacteria! Foodborne illness! Contamination! Carcasses and pathogens! More efficient breeding!
(source here)
These billboards totally pissed of Skippy! There's no need to intimidate females like that! We saw also much worse ones, just didn't get pictures of those yet...
We saw plenty of these irrigation systems with up to 14 elements. "Nearly half of all water used in USA goes to raising animals for food! 70% of grains and cereals grown in USA are fed to farmed animals." Just think about how many humans those grains and cereals could feed and how easily we could save our only planet by going vegan!!!
Here is a really good infographic about the facts how animal agriculture affects our planet:
Veganism by the numbers.
Infographic by

The last picture of the Suzi and Skippy with a black helmet.

And then it made KABUMMMMMM!

Our track
Typical Nebraska road layout - a gravel road (dotted grey) every mile and a bigger asphalt road once in a while (distance HWY92 to HWY34 is 20mi = 32km). Please note the breath-taking S-curve on HWY 69 in the middle of the map north of Gresham!
The same spot via Google Earth.
The patterns created by the circular irrigation systems can be seen easily when zoomed in.

And another travelogue:

 Click here if you have trouble to watch the video in youtube.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas 27. July - 2. August

After we spent almost two weeks at St. Paul we got the urge to have some kind of fast forward. For the next few nights we had only one night camping stands and since our riding days were not that long it was still enjoyable. We rode along the Great River Byways along Mississippi where we met a few Beemer riders from the rally.
Found a good spot for our award :)
Skippy all in blue - sponsored by BMW MoA (thanks!)
Hello Tracy! - we met her again on our way along the Mississippi
and "The Honey Badger" :)
We took the smaller roads and passed by places like Stockholm, Pikes Peak SP, Scotland county and saw several very long trains (I counted one to have 116 wagons). We decided to ride asphalt roads even though they were mostly boring, but better then interstate and faster then gravel – typical for the Mid West.
Stockholm - with significantly less inhabitants ;)
A few impressions from Goose Island:

We had a break at Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa.
Where is mom?
Mississippi river.
Those hummingbirds were fascinating to watch.
Amazing birds!
Plenty of those around.

The "curves" in flatland :)
Skippy relaxing.
My second puncture - both in the USA :(
Ulpu always want's to be in the tent, no matter is it ready or not! :D
Our campground in St. Joseph was not well located as it was directly besides an interstate. On the other hand they had all the infrastructure we needed (laundry, Wifi, power), the tent was all day in shade and we could play with girls on the nearby lawn. We were again quite behind with our travelogues and blog, so time to catch up.

It was Friday morning and I wondered what was happening. Maybe hundred of bikers passed us already (I could see them riding the interstate during our breakfast). After a quick search I figured out they must be heading for the motorbike rally in Sturgis. Last year there were over 400.000 people attending.

On the one hand I was curious to see such a mass of bikes and on the other hand, I can easily stay away from there. A short look at Skippy's face made it clear that this was not for us, her dose of biker rallies was more then full! Too many people, too noisy and certainly no place to stay with three little dogs! Since we were heading towards that area anyway, I needed to check that we come there after the event.
REALLY???? I mean whattheheck?
One big question to me was, which route to take towards the wild wild west. Route 66, the TransAmericaTrail (TAT) or which one? Route 66 offered the flair of “Born to be wild” and open roads, where as based on some comments we received earlier the myth was gone and the road would be really dull riding on our bikes. The TAT – a gravel only trail – offered much more adventure and variety, however since it was raining so much the past weeks (when I recall right, many areas got their yearly dose already by July) and the experiences we had from the UP Michigan, the TAT did not sound too inviting either.

During my search I came across a great ride report from an inmate called Canonshot. He rode with a big bike along the Pony Express and documented his journey very well in text and pictures. Besides this he shared the route in downloadable format with tracks and way points. The story fascinated me and Skippy did not object either and so we left from St. Joseph and followed the footprints of the legendary Pony Express on our way towards the wild west.

We started of on the HWY 36 and crossed via the Missouri river into Kansas. Soon after that we followed my own route of riding instead of highways rather some gravel roads of which some turned into mud roads and low maintained ones. We preferred gravel roads, they were easier to handle for both of us.
Pony Express monument in Saint Joseph.
Pony Express National Museum in Saint Joseph.
Ready to ride...
Pony Express saddle with four bags for mail
Oregon, California, Mormon and Santa Fe trails on an old map.
Pony Express riders.
Pony Express, Oregon and California trail crossed here.
Various trails and Pony Express on a modern map.
Chuck wagon loaded with household stuff and food for the journey.
Jacket of Buffalo Bill.
Plenty of chuck wagons along the way.
Jesse James's home in Saint Joseph.
Missouri river (check the railroad swing bridge in the background).
As I learned the Pony Express Trail went initially along what was called Oregon trail and California trail – a route which many settlers took in the 19th century on their way west before the rail road was built. To visit historic sites, monuments and parks brought a little variety in the otherwise monotonic landscape which offered basically four options:

A) the left side was soy whereas the right side of the road was corn fields

did I already mention that we saw plenty of soy and corn fields :-o

B) the left side was corn whereas the right side of the road was soy fields

C) on both the left and the right side of the road were corn fields

D) on both the left and the right side of the road were soy bean fields
 - sorry no picture as this was mostly in Iowa and Missouri -

The trees and grass fields were statistically not significant enough to make it into this list :D

Days were very warm, temperature in shade was just below 30C and riding in straight sun made us all sweat a lot! Lucky for me I had my summer gear which I did put on. Skippy gave in and change the following day to her very light jogging outfit – not the safest gear to ride, but at least the temperature was manageable for her.

Kansas Indian Monument (Tall Oak) in Troy.
Davis memorial in Hiawatha.
And again plenty of wildlife during our break at Hiawatha lake:

Next points of shooting in Marysville:
Sod house.

And various flowers along the road:

Really more pictures????
Broadway in Marysville.
Another Pony Express monument in Marysville.
Union Pacific decorated many many places in the west with their old locomotives ;)
 Replica of the Frank Marshall ferry crossing Big Blue River.
Hollenberg Ranch (Pony Express Station)
From here one could have seen the settlers and riders pass by.

The "romanticized life with chuck wagon and camp fire" (more later)
Our track 1300km in 5 legs
Another travelogue by Skippy

~ Wolfi