I’m working on longer rides and Wichita, Kansas is about 550 miles round trip from my home in Lincoln, Nebraska. The road is good and it’s a nice ride.
A friend said I should try the One-Eyed Cricket Saloon. It’s a great little dive bar with good food. So, it has been decreed as the goal for this ride. We looked it up online and had trouble getting it to come up. Finally, we found its address and checked the Google street view, which shows its front door.
I put the address into my bike’s navigation system and it registered. Enjoying a nice 550 mile bike ride in a single day involves some planning and having a distinct destination isn’t necessarily one of the prime objectives. I mean, I often change directions on a whim, however, it’s no fun to get lost and have great difficulty actually locating the place you want.
I’ve already checked the weather and, while Lincoln was supposed to be cold, Wichita’s forecast was 90 degrees and sunny. I planned to leave at 6 am the next morning.
I awoke to the sounds of thunder. How far off, I sat and wondered. No need, as I could hear pouring rain right outside my window. Terrific. While I CAN ride in the rain, I wanted to enter my bike in the Women’s Bike Show at Frontier Harley Davidson the next day. My Harley has more nooks and crannies to clean after being ridden in the rain than a fine china shop has after a heavy dust storm. I can clean and detail a 35 foot bus in less time than it takes to wash my bike.
I waited until the pavement was dry, which was around 8:30am. It was 53 degrees, windy and cold. The lure of sunny skies spurred me to action. I jumped on and hit it. As I was heading out of town, I could see a very nasty black cloud directly in my path that extended to the ground. Fine, I’ll just head south and drive around it. After another mile, it seemed that the cloud had moved south and another had popped up back to the west in its place.
There’s only one way I know to prevent rain. Stop and spend 5 minutes putting on a rain suit. I’ve seen bikers riding in the rain before and they always looked cold and wet to me. After doing this, I found that with the right gear, I can ride all day at 80 mph in the rain and arrive as dry as a cheap piece of truck stop toast.
Step one is to sit on the ground and put on rain boots. They extend nearly up to your knees. Then, you slip on the rain pants over your existing clothes and draw the elastic waist band well above your natural waist. The bottom of the pants has 4 velcro fasteners to make the legs nice and snug to reduce flapping in the wind. Finally, the outer top rain jacket goes on. It has Velcro at the end of the sleeves for a snug fit. More Velcro secures the full length flap covering the zipper and it seals tight around the neck. Waterproof gauntlet cloves slip over the ends of the sleeves.
While I said 5 minutes, it’s more like 10 minutes. This particular outfit is a brilliant fluorescent pink that makes me highly visible a quarter mile away. The only problem is, now I have to pee.
I set off once again to conquer the storm, weather the elements and show mother nature that I’m not easily deterred. It was cold at 53 degrees with high humidity. A rain suit does a lot to keep you warm and I’m moving right along I-80 at 78 mph. The clouds seemed to dissipate a little. I never got a drop of rain and soon it was time to turn south on Highway 81. That goes right through Wichita and if you keep going, it will take you 1200 miles straight south to McAllen, Texas and across the border to Mexico.
The black clouds seemed to come and go, as if to tease me into dropping the suit. I’m not falling for that old gag and the bike and I were still untouched by water. The weather gradually warmed up and the stiff north wind started to die down. Halfway to Wichita is Concordia, Kansas, 147 miles from my start. I stopped for my only gas stop on the trip down. I like to get gas from 140 to 180 miles and not waste time or run out of fuel.
When I pulled into the gas station, the sun was out, sky was blue and the temperature was 73 degrees. Wooooohooo. I took off my rain gear and packed it away. I took off my heavy black leather jacket and my also heavy inner liner jacket. Those and my very heavy gloves went into the rear touring pack (trunk) of the bike and out comes my lightweight, highly vented leather jacket for mild and hot weather. I filled up, used the facilities and drank a bottle of water. Water is a necessity at every fuel stop and those are about 2 hours apart. It’s important to take a break then, as well. 10 minutes is all I need, but I have to remember that 550 miles in one day is not a sprint, it’s closer to a long distance run, so pacing is important.
I get back on the road and can now just enjoy the ride. It’s lovely to see the little cowlets and horselets close to their moms. Spring is a great time to ride. Everything was very green and all the ponds were full. Life is good.
In seemingly no time at all, I’m getting low on gas again and pulling into Wichita. I follow my route and stop to get gas, so that’s out of the way. As I get off the freeway and start into the residential territory of the One-Eyed Cricket, I’m noticing a little graffiti, then fences around businesses and parking lots. Soon, bars guard the windows and doors. Oh, my. I’m a little concerned about my element. Sigh of relief, I’ve arrived at the address. However, the One-Eyed Cricket has passed on to oblivion and no longer exists. It now has a different name and even THAT isn’t open right now. I was relieved. I dodged the broken glass in the parking lot and hit the gas.
I got quickly got back on the freeway and headed for home. I began my search for lunch, as it’s now 3 pm and I haven’t eaten yet. I was saving myself for the Cricket. I rode about an hour and saw a sign for a sports bar. As I was exiting, there was another sign for a different brew pub. Oh, boy.
The first place had 2 cars in the parking lot, so I continued on past. The next place didn’t have many more. My Dad was a travel expert and sage seeker of quality diners and dives. He had several rules for food. The first one is to never stop at any diner that doesn’t have cars in the parking lot. He said if the place is empty, the food is usually the reason. Although 4 in the afternoon isn’t exactly prime dining time, it was Friday afternoon and these were sports bars.
I found one of my reliables, Applebee’s. I ordered my favorite, cedar-planked grilled salmon. From a nutrition standpoint, salmon is at the top, as evidenced by the size of the bears that catch them in the river.
It was 91 degrees and sunny, with a stiff tail wind out of the south. Flat level ground and a tail wind meant I could use 6th gear on the Harley. At 78 mph, the engine seems to be barely into operating range and the low rumble indicates it’s not working hard at all.
The route home was just the flip side of the trip down. I had to stop and put on my heavy clothes. The forecast said no rain, but there soon was heavy overcast and the sun went on break. The cold north wind checked back into weather’s tag team match against me. I’m not getting into the rainsuit again. I kept thinking I felt a drop of rain, but I never had any visual verification.
I arrived home with a clean bike and a full stomach. Final miles: 573 for the day. I felt good. This was the most I’ve ever ridden in one day on a motorcycle. I gain more confidence as a biker chick.
This was an exercise in preparedness as a biker. I started with cold weather, switched to rain gear and wet, cold weather. As the temperature went up, I switched to mild weather, then to serious hot weather. Each of these changes requires different clothing and equipment. The very reason I ended up riding a touring bike is to enable me to carry the gear I needed for each of these situations. I had 4 different jackets, 2 pair of pants, 2 options for boots and 3 different pairs of riding gloves.
I’m worn out just thinking about it. Having all this and being the ultimate prepared Girl Scout made this ride extremely enjoyable. This is today’s lesson for bikers. Be ready for weather and safe in your travels.
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