Trip Report: Heartland, Twisties and Rollers
by Joe Tokarz
My lust for a long range touring bike with sport like tendencies got the better of me after being brain washed by Pistol (George Tuttle) the Svengalli of motorcycle attribute descriptions. It started when I decided to upgrade the BMW's place in the shed (a R100RS) with a more modern mount. Since my research lead me to the later model R1100 RT's, I asked the Pistol how he liked his. That was it. In seconds I was under his control. He put me in a trance that had me lusting for the RT, there wasn't anything I could do. After the usual amount of research new and used, I found a chap in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area that had just what I wanted. A metallic green 1999 with 3500 miles and some nice extras.
I made it to Cedar Rapids thanks to frequent flyer miles. Getting the bike to Texas was a no brainer. You don't ship a road cruiser like the RT. Besides, Cedar Rapids is only around a grand of miles a way. This bike was invented for that. For the next day and a half, I would play race on some great twisties and rollers through Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The trip was fine until the sore-butt / right-leg- nerve-pinch set in at about 650 miles. It was torture until I got home.
Randy, the BMW's owner, picked me up at the airport. It's been a few years since I visited that part of the country. What a place. Lush green everywhere. The Heartland of America for sure. The fields were tilled for corn and the sprouts were coming up. In a few weeks the corn will be as high as a elephant's eye or something like that. One of the things you get for free in the Heartland, is smells. The odor coming from the Quaker Oats plant, suggests you stop and have a good warm breakfast. There are the feedlots, pig farms, the dairy farms with cattle and cheese, and silage. All have their distinctive signature odor. When I lived in Minnesota, a friend of mine said he prefers those farm smells to industrial pollution. At the time I thought he was nuts. Now 30 years later, I think he's right. The smells may knock your socks off but they won't kill you or turn your skin to mush. Nope, human body odor is a non-issue in the Heartland. Oh yeah, did I mention the Iowa climate in May? Well, it was like Dallas in December. One of those friendly reminders of why I left that part of the world some years go.
At his place in Cedar Falls, we did the deal. I suited up and was on my way by 2pm. My plan was to make it home by Sunday afternoon, Mothers Day. I had a bunch of maps yellow high lighted to accent the back roads to take. I wanted the return trip to be fun instead of burning up the highway. So I headed out South, looking for the lights of Big D.
Pull Over Son
Just outside of Marshall, MO, just before sundown, the ride was interrupted by one of Missouri's finest. According to his radar I was near take-off speed. He was right but I was glad we didn't meet earlier up the road where my speed was a bit more. To save my wallet, I rolled out my best groveling act but I think it was his sympathy for the rider, that got me off with a firm warning to slow down. Disguised by the Euro full riding suite regalia, I think he expected to see a young hot-shoe pup, the likes of Fogarty himself. Instead what he got was a guy old enough to be his dad, struggling to drag a tired leg over the seat, then slowly straightening up. The noise from my creaking body was so loud I'm surprised he didn't call for the medic's right then. He was a curious fellow with questions about why I came from Dallas to buy a bike in Iowa; what kind of riding suit is that; did the ear plus really do any good. The usual stuff. At least he didn't call me old timer.
Pretty Bike, Mister
Everywhere I stopped the Beemer got a good dose of attention. Outside restaurants, kids and adults stopped to turn their heads. Some stopped altogether looking at the green machine from headlight to license plate. On two occasions attractive young ladies went out of their way to say, "Nice bike mister." "Where are you going?' It all flashed in from of me. I was in Arkansas, the home of Bill Clinton, the master of working over young things. Here's my chance to be a dirty ol' man. Naww, I couldn't do it, so I just did my aged lone-rider Bronson schtick. You know, the father figure version.
Prior to 650 miles I was making very good time exceeding the speed limits on the back roads and passing cars like they were standing still. The grin factor was set at maximum. After that mile marker, I looked at my self in the mirror and the grin was all but gone. I realized I was slowing down. I was getting tired and too sore to ride that fast. My right leg was really bothering me. It's a nerve pinch thing and unfortunately I didn't pack any pain relievers. As I'm writing this, I didn't even try to get something at a rest stop. Dahh!. So I stopped and reassessed my route home, I wanted to get to the nearest four lane headed south and try out the Throttle Meister option.
* When you're riding for along time on a super-slab, your mind has to keep occupied. For me, it takes several forms. Calculating MPG in my head. Playing music in my head, of which I only can remember bits and pieces except for 100 bottles of Beer on The Wall. Making a to-do list. Looking into cars as I slowly pass them. Waiving to kids. Pumping an arm, so the trucker blows his horn.
* I'm going to look into an after market seat that will be more accommodating to my bum and pack a pain killer kit in the panniers.
* In the first 200 miles of the journey I was fantasizing about riding the 3 Flags Classic with Ward Hoge, you know ol' Iron The thought of riding with road master Ward for 8 days, Texas to Mexico to Canada to Texas was just plain cool. Well after 600 miles, the euphoria wore off, I realized that I'll have to soak my butt in brine to toughen it up if I ever hope to ride behind Ward.
* The RT is a fantastic blend of technology and performance. However it has one major fault. It is inconsistent in its ability to make the correct decision at a turning point. A couple of times the Beemer made the wrong decision and I had to take control and backtrack to get us back on route.
* If you want to learn about the science of motorcycle seat design look up Sargent's Cycle Products. The Road to Comfort and the ATOMIC Theory www.sargentcycle.com/csroadcom.htm
Iowa Route 1, Iowa City to Fairfield
If your roots are in the Midwest, this is the road to personal renewal. Lots of low rolling hills marked with farms and corn fields as far as you can see. Lush green everywhere, even the ditches have superb looking grass worthy of a Scott's endorsement. This section will slap your sense of smell silly. The best methane gas producers live here, silage, pigs and cows. If you have any gastrointestinal problems leading to flatulence, you can hide right out in the open and no one will notice. Like my Daddy used to say, "there's more room outside than in". It's a good thing too, because there's probably 10 megatons of explosive energy produced there everyday.
Missouri Route 11, Kirksville to Brunswick
This is a narrow two lane of close spaced roller coaster blacktop with just enough turns and sweeps to make it even more interesting. Over and over again, the sensation was like riding a dirt bike over whoop-dee-doos. If that don't make your eyeballs open wider, nothing will. While stretching the Beemer's legs I came up on two Honda Acura's with tinted glass. One white, one black. In the distance I could see they were negotiating the road like bikes, keeping a space of about 2 car lengths between them, running about 60. Slowly I reeled them in like a couple of bass. I felt pretty hot when I passed each one with gusto. I pulled ahead and they were gone in my mirrors. About 10 minutes later I stopped to check my map and to my surprise there they were again. 2 car lengths spaced and haulin' ass, headed south in the whoops. I wondered if I was in a Honda car commercial. Naww.
Arkansas 59 and US 59, Noel MO to Siloam Springs OK to Poteau, OK
This route has lots of twisties and some straight places to relax before the next group of twisties and sweepers.
Oklahoma 270, Wister to Haileyville
Nice scenic ride. To add some spice, look for the Talahena road signs and ride the ridge to some beautiful sights.
Oklahoma 63. (The short cut to US75) Haileyville to Kiowa
This is essentially a by-pass road around McAlister, OK connecting 270 to 75. It reminded me of the country roads in central Virginia used to connect the dirt bike enduro's. Lots of land, few homesteads, narrow blacktop with three, one lane, wood planked bridges to cross. Riding the planks sounds like all the boards are loose. They clunk loudly as the tires roll over them. There's a feeling of relief when you make it through and the bridge didn't fold.
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Revised: January 05, 2018.