Day Fifteen by Dave Schultheis
Sunday, June 3, 2001 - Mt. Olive - Dorchester, Illinois
At 6:41 a.m. I was aware of birds chirping outside the motel, so I got up, got dressed and packed, and walked down to the office while the Road King was warming up. I had thought I would be staying three nights but was anxious to get going. I was successful in convincing the woman to credit my charge card for the third night's stay.
In the parking lot I talked briefly with Larry from Kansas City, who was also preparing to leave.
I rode back through Sawyerville and Wilsonville to Dorchester to the farm and took my second-to-the-last ride on the long gravel driveway.
Lots of folks had already left and many left while I was there.
I wandered the grounds and said goodbyes to many, helped a few people by staying out of their way as they were packing, and helped carry the picnic tables and benches to a place where they could be loaded onto a truck a couple days later. Everything else looked like it was under control.
I left Butch and Pam's farm about 8:45 a.m. and made the very last trip down the long gravel driveway. There is no truth to the rumor that I stopped and kissed the ground when I got back onto the pavement. Just like a lot of you didn't do, too!
I took a few pictures in "downtown" Dorchester, then proceeded generally west and south. I don't remember all the route numbers, and by now, they're not important, but I headed out of Illinois and crossed into Missouri on Interstate 270.
I stopped at the Missouri Welcome Center, took a couple pictures, and spoke to the (married) couple who staffed the desk. They gave me state maps for Illinois and Missouri.
Now you might think it strange to get a map for a state that I've just left, but I would recommend that you stop at Welcome Centers and Visitor Centers to pick up said maps, because (a) you can pretty well assume that a state will print a map with EVERY city and town in their state on it, (b) if you want to retrace your steps to tell the story to your friends and family, you can do it, and (c) if you ever want to go back there again, you can have a good idea of where you want to go to see the places you missed and the places you want to see again.
It was a short distance into the St. Louis area, and I had been directed through a very industrial part of town, so there wasn't much traffic, especially on a Sunday morning. I passed Busch Stadium and then The Gateway Arch.
There was no place to park to look at the arch. When I say "no place," I mean there was no "free" place to park. I can't see any logic in paying a whole bunch o' money to park and walk around, or even go up into the Arch for a little while, then leave. But then, it may just be me.
So I enjoyed the majesty of the Arch and continued west on U.S. 50, which was also Interstate 44, and seemed to be going in a southwesterly direction.
And then it started raining. And it kept raining. And then there was a sign along the highway that said "Caution When Wet." No kidding, Karl.
Somewhere around Mile Marker 285, parked at the side of the highway, in the pouring rain, was a yellow and white Honda motorcycle, with a drenched rider in an orange and white helmet trying to get it started.
No, I did not stop to tell him that his helmet colors and his motorcycle colors clashed, but I did stop to see if there was anything I could do to help him. He said that the bike was running very rough when he could get it to run at all.
He had evidently awakened that morning intending to go on a ride with his local group when he was overcome with stupidity and decided to take a poorly-running motorcycle onto an Interstate highway in the pouring rain.
He called someone on the cellular phone but that person had evidently looked out the window and wasn't interested in coming to help him.
He kept trying to start the Honda and was eventually successful, but it ran very poorly. We waited for a big break in traffic and then I followed him, with flashers going, to the next off-ramp, where he pulled off and parked at the side of the road.
He called someone else, who must have looked out the window and agreed to come anyway. Maybe it was a blood relative, or someone who owed him money.
Since he was off the freeway and in a place of relative safety, he didn't need me any more, so he said his thanks, I said goodbye and continued westbound (the sign said) on Interstate 44.
Rain. Rain. Rain.
I turned west (really west, this time) as U.S. Highway 50 peeled off the Interstate, and in a few miles found myself in the thriving metropolis of Union, MO. The city limit sign was erected in a place where it was not safe to stop for a picture, so I set about finding a city building or the post office.
But first I found a vacant gas station and took refuge from the rain under the canopy. It continued to rain. My boots were wet, my socks were wet, my pants were wet. Did I mention that I had no rain gear on this trip? I decided to wait a while. I'd heard good things about "waiting a while." In this case, it's didn't go any good.
It was just about noon and I was directly across the street from a Domino's Pizza franchise. While I wasn't particularly hungry, I sure wanted to use the porcelain facilities. So after a long while I went across the street and into the shop. The guy behind the counter said he'd been watchin' and wonderin' when I'd come across to see them.
I ordered their cinnamon bread sticks and asked if I could use the bathroom. He said that I didn't have to buy anything, they'd let me use the bathroom anyway. I guess things are like that in small towns.
While waiting for my bread sticks (which, by the way, weren't all that good), the guy gave me directions to the post office. So I paid for my order, trooped back across the street and got going in the direction he had indicated.
In between the huge raindrops I found their brand new post office building but there was no sign on the building saying "Union." The lettering on the door was too small to see very far away and there was no way to get the motorcycle up the walkway to the front door.
As I was looking around from the parking lot, I discovered the Social Security Administration building across the street, so I went over there and was successful in finding "Union" on the sign, so I took a couple pictures between the raindrops and *poof* I had my "U" city.
I continued west of Hy 50 and about an hour or so later pulled into Beaufort, MO for fuel. It was still raining.
I stopped somewhere to change from the smoked visor to the clear visor and was able to see a lot better. It was still raining. And once in a while a passing truck would create enough vacuum to blow my visor up.
About two and a half or three hours later I got into Jefferson City, MO. It was a nightmare finding a motel room in the rain. I checked several places for vacancy and reasonable rates. I settled for a great big Ramada Inn at about 4:30 p.m.
I squished as I walked across the lobby floor from the front door to the front desk. I must have looked like a drowned rat.
The front desk person was polite enough, checked me into a non-smoking room with two queen beds, and gave me the key.
I rode around to Room 419 and parked in front of the door, opened the room and carted my stuff inside. Shortly after I had secured the bike for the night and brought all my belongings inside, I discovered that the room had no heat.
It was cold and rainy, but when I called the front desk, the clerk said that "the system" was off - no heat and no cool.
I found a letter in the room from the General Manager, trying to explain away the problem. I wish the General Manager was there to see me trying to dry my socks, boots, pants and gloves by hair dryer!
I even got to the point of hanging my socks over the light fixtures. It sort of worked, although I singed a couple socks in the process.
At 6:00 p.m. I called the front desk again and asked to talk to the General Manager. They said she was no longer employed there. They said they'd have the Manager on Call phone me. He did. He said that it was an older hotel and that their system can either run heat or cool but not both. The last few days had been hot there, so they had turned off the heat.
He said there was a maintenance person on site and he would try to persuade that person to turn on the heat but (a) they might not do it and (b) it might get too hot. He could not explain either of those possibilities.
I asked about the possibility of a refund. He said "no problem," but by that time I had everything off the bike and wasn't too thrilled with the idea of repacking all my wet stuff and finding another motel.
He said that the hotel owners are aware of the problem. I'm sure that they are, in their nice, warm suburban homes, watching television with their families on a cold and rainy Sunday evening.
I mentioned that the room had a burned out 40 watt light bulb and would they bring me another. A little while later the night manager brought a 100 watt bulb but could offer no further assistance regarding the heat.
At 7 p.m., there was no heat.
At 8 p.m., there was no heat.
At 9 p.m., there was no heat.
Having dried my stuff as well as I could with light bulbs and a hair dryer, I took a shower, watched some television and went to bed.
Miles for the day = 216.
Rainy miles for the day = most of them.
Miles for the trip = 5028.
What I learned about carrying rain gear while riding = plenty.
Believe me, there is more to be said about this miserable hotel, their management, and their response to my letter, but it will have to wait until later.
Tomorrow: more rain, then less rain, and the Great State of Kansas.