Diary Of A Transcontinental Motorcycle Ride Continues
Department of Sanitation Worker Ed Shevlin is on his way across America, riding his Harley from Rockaway Beach (New York) to Rockaway Beach (Oregon) to raise funds for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. He is also doing it for Anthony Smith, a baby with the disease, whose father, Erick, will soon begin his second deployment to Iraq.
Shevlin promised Rockaway that he would keep in touch, providing something of a travel diary as he went. Last week, we published the first days of the ride. Today, we pick up Shevy in Iowa.
Thursday, July 19: This was the best day of riding I have had in a long time. Early this morning, we left Dubuque, Iowa on Route 61. Two hundred yards down the road, we leaned into the first turn only to have the mighty Mississippi River revealed to us in all its majesty. What a thrill to cross the "Old Muddy" on an old steel bridge. As we headed up the road into Wisconsin, a blanket of fog hit us, obscuring the road for a time. The weather forecast was for clearing later in the day, so we pushed on and were not disappointed. The Wisconsin farm country is gorgeous. The many grain silos that dot the landscape reminded me of Ireland's round towers as they bore silent witness to the majestic bald eagles soaring overhead, looking for their next meal. Continuing north, our route took us to the Great River Road that parallels the mighty Mississippi. The Harleys that we were riding took us at good speed, saluted by railroad engineers with their whistles and followed by the eagles. Lunchtime found us at a small roadside restaurant that was supposed to have the best barbeque this side of the Mississippi. That is quite a boast, but the truth is, the food was pretty good. Continuing North, we reached the town of Superior, the last town that we passed through in Wisconsin, as we crossed a bridge over Lake Superior and entered Duluth, Minnesota. Ending mileage was 38,243. That means we have come 2,570 miles since leaving Rockaway on July 14.
Friday, July 20: Today was a muchneeded day of rest. After putting in some 400-mile days, it was great to hang around Duluth and to relax. The local Harley dealership had a party for us and we had a free lunch and a bikewash. My beloved "Saoirse" needed it. I named my bike after an Irish word for "freedom," and I couldn't think of a better name for a bike. The lack of any serious riding gave me a chance to do my laundry and explore the city a bit. Tomorrow, we'll be back on the road and headed for Fargo, North Dakota. It's amazing what a clean bike, a clean set of skivvies and the rest can do for a guy.
Saturday, July 21: Mike and I had a fantastic ride through Minnesota today. We left Duluth at about 9 a.m. and went west on Highway 2. After picking up Highway 200, we soon entered the Chippewa National Forest. I have always loved riding through national parks - with the exception of our own Gateway National Park, which is so filthy - and this forest did not disappoint me. There were miles and miles of pristine forest. It was great. The forest carried us almost to our destination in Fargo. Upon our arrival at the local Harley dealer in that city, a familiar aroma reached us - barbequed beef. In fact, it was a pitchfork BBQ. Beautiful, big steaks were skewered on pitchforks and thrust into a roaring fire. Nothing better. We devoured the steaks with the satisfaction that only a true carnivore can appreciate. Tomorrow, we saddle up and head for Dickinson, North Dakota. Finishing mileage today was 38,567.
Sunday, July 22: Interstate 94 shoots out of Fargo as straight as a Sioux warrior's arrow, all the way to Dickinson. We crossed the plains at the 75-mile-an-hour speed limit. The Great Northern Plains are impressive. Gone are the grain silos of Wisconsin, replaced by the rolling grassy hills of the plains. Modern-day posse riders roar across the plains in their Harleys, overtaking 18-wheelers, motor homes and those silly, little minivans driven by cell phone-yakking numbskulls. Bits of blown tires litter the highway, evoking images of terrible accidents, while road-killed raccoons and prairie dogs fester in the noonday sun. It seems all wrong for the concrete, the numbskulls, the road-kill, even for us to occupy this space and time. Peace and quiet should reign supreme in the Great Northern Plains. Instead, modern society's madness has hit the plains, infecting the countryside with noise, pollution and dreaded cell phone idiots. Tomorrow is another day off from riding, but it's supposed to be 104 degrees, so it's good that we'll just have to take it easy. Finishing mileage today was 38,952 - gone almost 3,300 miles, with some more to come.
Monday, July 23: Not much news to report today. Due to the intense heat [106 degrees] we stayed close to the air-conditioned hotel. I did venture out for a short ride to run some errands; post office, lunch, UPS store. You get the picture. The sun was so strong today that it heated up my wristwatch to the point that it was uncomfortable to wear. Because it was a slow news day, I'll just give you a few miscellaneous tidbits from the trip so far. While riding through Minnesota the other day, we ran through a swarm of bees. One of the little buggers went down my shirt and stung me twice on the belly. If you know me you're laughing now. Another bee went up my pant leg, fell down into my boot and stung me on my ankle. Passing through Wisconsin, I observed a sign on a restaurant advertising lobster tails, wild rice and fireworks! What a combination. A gas station clerk in Minnesota told us that the road outside the station would lead us to a great scenic ride and that it was only a short deviation from our intended course. It was very scenic, but short it was not. More than 100 miles later, we were back on track. Tomorrow we're heading for Billings, Montana. Aiming for an early start to beat the heat. Talk to you again from Billings.
Tuesday, July 24: Montana, the "Big Sky Country!" Now I understand. Scooting out of Dickinson, North Dakota early this morning, I noticed a distinctly different feel to Route I94. Its significance as an intruder on the landscape was somewhat diminished. As we pressed ever westward, the country itself began to change. Thirtytwo miles outside of Dickinson, the highway begins to curve and curl, like a bullwhip before it cracks. The prairie grasses we saw previously were replaced by the strange rock formations that we easterners only see on the TV. I half expected the Roadrunner to appear alongside and offer a challenge! Crossing into Montana, I began to notice how vast the Northern Plains really are. There is nothing to obscure your view of the landscape and the big, big sky. How majestic this place is. It is no wonder that the Indians fought so hard, for so long, to remain in their ancestral homeland. Speaking of which, no trip to Montana is complete without a visit to the Little Big Horn. This afternoon, we took the opportunity to do just that. Entering the Crow Nation, we motored our way to the site of the most famous battle of the Indian Wars. After visiting the museum, Mike and I climbed Last Stand Hill and stood on the site of the 7th Cavalry's defeat at the hands of 8,000 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Seeing General George Custer's marker among those of his brave soldiers raised some very solemn feelings in this American patriot. To stand in this place atop the hill and look out across the hills that were covered by 8,000 braves, one is struck by the futility of Custer's plight. Whew! Well back to reality. We threw our legs over our steel ponies and skedaddled to Billings and a well-deserved rest.
Tomorrow we hit the trail for Missoula, Montana. Looking forward to the ride. Finishing mileage today was 39,347, so we have come some 3,823 miles since leaving Rockaway, enough to cross the nation as the eagle flies, but we have not been going in a straight line.
More on Shevy's epic ride coastto coast in next week's Wave.