A windy ride to Freedom Rock

by on May 23, 2010
in Iowa Rides

Friday night we traveled down to Indianola for the monthly Bike Down to I-Town event (can ANYONE take a guess as to how many bikes and people attend this thing? I wish I knew – but it’s huge!), and decided that on Saturday we’d go up to Big Barn for the annual “Demo Days.”

As it turned out, the weather on Saturday was a bit iffy – Accuweather was saying it wasn’t going to rain, but the big dark clouds to the north said otherwise. Steve and I headed up to the Barn where we met up with Garry and Howard (the latter being accompanied by Einstein, the Wonder Biker Dog).

Plan A had been to hang out at the Barn for awhile, then head out for an afternoon ride to Gladbrook, Iowa, about 70 miles northeast of Des Moines. But, given the northerly direction of the moving storm clouds, I quickly conjured up a Plan B ride over to Freedom Rock near Greenfield, to the west and south.

Our route took us northwest from the Barn to Johnston, where we picked up Highway 44 heading west. Now I have tried very hard on this blog to get across the point that Iowa is not all flat and corny – it’s often curvy and corny, even HILLY and corny, and dotted with lovely small towns and even the occasional larger city. But folks, Highway 44 from Johnston to Panora is flat. Straight, and flat.

Now make no mistake, things are lush and green right now so it’s still beautiful – but it’s a stretch of highway that looks like what folks who’ve never been here think our whole state looks like. And of course, along with straight and flat comes what?

That’s right, wind. And on this day, probably worse wind than any day we’ve spent crossing South Dakota. The kind that blows your bike around to the point of pushing you into oncoming lanes, and gets under your helmet to the point of sucking your do-rag out from under it.

After about 40 miles of straight, flat and windy, we stopped for gas and beverages at the Casey’s General Store in Panora, then pressed on a few more miles west to Guthrie Center. In Guthrie Center we picked up Highway 25 heading south, which took us through to The Freedom Rock just south of Interstate 80.

In 1999, a nineteen-year-old art and design student from Creston, Iowa named Ray Sorensen II saw the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” It gave him an idea: there was a large boulder near his hometown, situated at the entrance to a former quarry, that local kids had been defacing for many years with graffiti. Ray decided to paint the rock with words and images to say “Thank you” to America’s veterans, past and present. The finished mural meant so much to those who saw it that Ray was asked to continue painting year after year.

Ray now paints The Freedom Rock each year with new words, new images, and an unwavering commitment to thanking and recognizing the gifts of liberty and freedom earned for each of us by our military. (Visit the Freedom Rock website for the full story and to see all the murals from years past.)

As we arrived at the Rock, I was delighted (and honored) to discover that we were there at a time when Ray was present, paint cans spread out at the foot of the boulder and working to complete this year’s mural in time for Memorial Day. He is a talented young man, and his decade-plus commitment to this project is inspiring.

We took several pictures (including one of a Pattonesque Einstein, looking down from his biker dog perch), then decided to head a few more miles south to pick up Highway 92 at Greenfield for the ride home.

The wind, of course, was just as bad heading east as it was going west, but we soon reached Winterset and stopped again for a break at a Casey’s. (I should start a new blog: “Casey’s to Casey’s Across Iowa.”) The final leg of the trip took us east on 92, north on 28 at Martensdale, through Norwalk and on into the south side of Des Moines.

The total trip was about 140 miles. As for the rain? Well we did catch a few drops, but an actual shower never materialized. In fact, the storm clouds broke up over the first half-hour or so of the ride, giving way to a clear, bright blue sky – just right for taking pictures of a patriotic rock out in the middle of flat, straight, corny, curvey, hilly, beautiful Iowa.

Tips for car drivers on sharing the road

by on May 20, 2010
in Riding Tips

Hat tip to Rippin-Kitten for the alert on this link!

Here’s a link you can share with the cagers in your life – information from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) on sharing the road with motorcycles, found on their new website www.forcardrivers.com

I don’t know about you, but riding a motorcycle has actually made me a better driver overall: I am more watchful, less likely to take up a distraction like talking on the phone, and I make a conscious effort to look for bikes year-round (because you never know when we’ll get a nice day in January!).

I do think, though, that most drivers forget over time whatever information they may have been given during Driver’s Ed regarding motorcycles. That’s why the MSF site is a good one, especially the Quick Tips page.

All the tips are good, but this one strikes me as something a long-time cager might “forget” over time:

Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

I’ve had direct personal experience with drivers crowding me, or members of my merry band – in fact, last time our daughter joined us for a ride on her dad’s bike, some asshole scared her to death by following way too closely and way too aggressively. And I thought, “Are you serious? You would risk killing a dad and his daughter because you thought we were going too slow? DO YOU NOT SEE THE SLOW-MOVING CAR WE ARE ALL FOLLOWING??” (There was more to this thought-stream, but I’ll spare you the details.)

I’ll have more soon on another of the tips (the one about motorcycles and their stopping distance) – but for now, just wanted you to be sure to check out the site and use the comment section below to offer your “share the road” tips and stories.

Blog behaving badly

by on May 20, 2010
in Site News

Flickr image by wstera2A new “real” post is coming up shortly! For the moment, if you’re reading this, please take a moment to attempt to leave a comment on this post. I say “attempt” because I’ve had reports from some readers that comments they’ve left are not appearing on the site. (And, I’m pretty sure a few comments that WERE here – are no longer here!) I have no idea how to begin trouble-shooting these issues, but thought I would start with a quick test to see if I can isolate the symptoms. So – click on the “comments” link and write something, and we’ll see if it shows up! Thanks!

Bits ‘n pieces

by on May 6, 2010
in Misc Updates

Been taking some time to apply for new jobs this week and today I realized it had been a LONG time since I blogged about anything! Then I actually peeked in here, and to my relief discovered it had only been a week. It sure FELT like a lot longer than that! Anyway, just a few notes to share:

First, I took Kitten (plus hubby and his bike – LOL) out to a long-standing bike night event last Thursday and had a neat experience: we were standing at the bikes and a man came up who I didn’t know and said, pointing to Kitten, “So is this the new Dyna?” When I said yes it sure is, he told me his name was Tim and that he is a big fan of the blog. I always get a kick out of being “recognized” from the blog – it has happened maybe four or five times over the past few years. It’s an absolute delight to meet people who read and enjoy what I post here, and learn more about their motorcycling adventures! So I wanted to be sure to say THANKS to Tim for introducing himself and making my day with a very nice compliment!

Also, I sure hope you aren’t getting sick of me linking out to Chessie’s blog yet – I just think she writes the very best “make you wanna be there/ride that” ride reports, and always has stunning photos to go along with the wonderful stories. Here’s the latest, a VERY inviting write-up about a leisurely trip along NC state road 209.

Finally, Friday May 7 is International Female Ride Day – so, as I’ve said before, if you are a woman who rides her own, get out there and make a spectacle of yourself! (I’m not sure I will have a chance to ride, but maybe I can at least pull Kitten out of the garage and clean her up a bit!) Be sure to leave a note in the comments and tell us if you plan to ride, and where!