Wednesday, October 20, 2010

End of summer

This time of the year always makes me wonder what happened to the summer. After the winter we had, and the late spring, we jumped right into hot weather. I heard a lot of grumbling about how hot it was, but I did not have to shovel the heat!!

We did get some riding in on the Gold Wing. Not as much as what I’d have liked to have gotten, but still a fair amount. We were able to take a short weekend trip to St Joseph, Missouri in June. We did that between thunderstorms and a flood on the Missouri at St Joseph. We made several short trips over the summer, and the big trip to Billings. A week before I left, Mikayla asked if she could go with me. She’s never been out of town on the motorcycle, and I tried to talk her out of going. I think a 13-year old doesn’t realize exactly how far 1,000 miles is, or how hot 100 degrees is when there is no air conditioning. She knows now. By the time we got home, we’d covered 2,994 miles and saw a lot of great scenery. I got to spend 12 days with Mikayla, and will always remember the time we spent together. I hope she does, too.

I missed the Blue Knights Fall Conference in Grand Forks. I took a trip to Chicago with Dad & Mom the week before for Dad’s World War II re-union. Except for some time spent in the suburbs of Chicago in the early ’80’s for automotive schools through K-Mart, I’d never been there. In addition to Dad getting together with some of his fellow surviving WWII heroes, we rode the subway into downtown Chicago and took one of the trolley tours of the city. Somehow, I neglected to take the camera, but I was able to get a lot of pictures with my cell phone. I have the pictures all posted on my Facebook page.

For the most part the weather for this trip was decent. It was breezy and cool, but tolerable. If you ever happen to be in Chicago, taking one of the trolley tours is a great thing to do. A 2 or 2 day pass can be purchased so you can spread your sightseeing out over s couple of days. Our greatest difficulty was in finding our way around downtown and finding the right subway to take back to where we started.

The racing season in this part of the country is all but over. With my work schedule, I raced at Beatrice Speedway every other week. On the Fridays that I worked, either Jeremy or Jason drove the car. At the end of the season, I finished 13th in points and Jeremy finished 14th in points, just 4 points behind me. We knew we wouldn’t be racing for a top 10 in track points, but it was fun to race against each other for track points. If it hadn’t been for an opening night mishap, Jeremy would have finished ahead of me in points.

I also made the trip to U.S. 30 Speedway at Columbus several times. The weather didn’t cooperate as it started to rain on 3 different nights before I finally got to do more than hot laps and a heat race. I really like that track and would race there more often if I could find somebody willing to pay for the fuel in the hauler.

The last trip I made to U.S. 30 Speedway was for the Abe Lincoln Memorial on a cool damp Sunday in September. With 28 street stocks on hand, I missed out on making the A Feature. I started 3rd row in my heat and finished 6th, missing out by one spot. That put me on the pole for the B Feature. I fought an inconsistent, ill handling car for the entire race and didn’t make the A Feature. When I started to load the car, I found that a brake must have locked up on me as the car wouldn’t budge. Once the car was back in the shop and on jack stands, I found the right rear caliper had almost no pad left. Apparently the caliper was hanging up once the brakes were warmed up.

Fantastic weather greeted Beatrice Speedway’s Octoberfest. What a difference from last year when we had snow! The factory stocks raced on Saturday and we had 17 cars in our class. Not all of the Beatrice regulars showed, and we had a few cars show up that hadn’t previously been at Beatrice Speedway. I hope that the track can tweek some rules for 2011 so the pro-am cars can race with us. I think it will put more cars on the track and more butts in the grandstands if that happens.

I felt like the car was pretty good and had a 10th place finish going with 2 laps left. However, I had the right rear go flat before taking the white flag and dropped out, finishing 13th.

The final race of our season is this weekend at Junction Motor Speedway at McCool Junction. Jeremy will be taking the wheel as it’s my weekend to work. He’s been looking forward to this weekend since he raced there last fall. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and Jeremy won’t have any problems with the car.

We’re already looking forward to the 2011 riding season. Blue Knights International Convention is at Chesapeake, Virginia and we’re making plans to attend. We want to stop in Nashville and hopefully attend the Grand Ole Opry. I have a rough schedule worked up, going through St Louis, then on to Nashville. From Nashville, it’s just less than 500 miles to Roanoke, Virginia, then the 4th day we’ll be at Chesapeake for the Convention.

We’ve signed up some new Blue Knights in our area and hope the new members will be enthusiastic about attending regional and national events. I sponsored a new Special Honorary member who is a local pastor, and he has already recruited 3 new members and wants to make the trip to Chesapeake.

Final days of our trip

We decided to not do a lot on Sunday. There was laundry to do, and I wanted to clean the Gold Wing up a bit. When I went to bed on Saturday evening, my feet were a bit swollen, but I figured when I got up in the morning, they would be OK. However, the swelling had actually gotten a bit worse, so I tried to pretty much stay off my feet as much as I could. It didn’t seem to help much as when I went to bed Sunday night, the swelling actually seemed worse. However, when I got up on Monday morning, my feet were back to normal.

We decided to go to Estes Park on Monday. Mikayla still had some souvenir shopping to do and I told her she could shop all day in Estes Park if she wanted. Besides, Hwy 34 from Loveland to Estes Park along the Big Thompson River is one of my favorite rides and every time I’m at Greeley I find time to take that ride. It’s 20 miles of curves along the river and an absolutely beautiful ride. Leaving Estes Park, Hwy 7 back to Lyons is also a great ride.

Once we found a place to park in Estes Park, we browsed through some of the shops, then decided to eat lunch. After that, it was back to shopping. Once all the stores were ravaged, we rode to the edge of town to where the go-kart track is and spent an hour or so riding go-karts. Final score - we each beat the other at least once. After giving Mikayla some driving tips, she learned and with some practice she could be a pretty good racer!!

Tuesday we took in Pike’s Peak; however, it was in a “cage.” I was happy we did it that way as it ended up being over 300 miles round trip. We took in the Garden of the Gods along the way as well as Manitou Springs. In 1972, I’d spent a weekend pass at Manitou Springs and as I remembered it, I don’t think it’s changed much in the years since then. The last time I’d been on Pike’s Peak was in 1974, and the road to the top hasn’t changed a lot. Parts of the road to the top are still gravel. We also ran into a little rain, so we didn’t get wet this way. After a lot of pictures, we made it all the way to the top and back down. As we were headed back into Manitou Springs, it was already 4:30 and a stop at Cave of the Winds was out of the question.

As we got closer to Greeley, conversation turned to how soon we would be leaving for home in the morning. I made the point that Mikayla would have to be sure to set her alarm so she would be ready to go when she wanted to. Back at the house, we finished packing, loading the trailer and cleaning the bike up a bit.

After a light breakfast, we were on the road about 8:30. The trip back to Nebraska was warm, but not nearly as warm as going to Greeley. We were sure to drink plenty of water on each stop. Our first fuel stop was just off I-76 at Sterling. From there, our next stop was for fuel & lunch at North Platte. As we continued east, I told Mikayla that we may be a couple of miles short of having 3,000 miles and maybe we should take a little longer way home. Her comment? “Just get me home!”

We were back at Beatrice about 7 PM, having covered 2,994 miles. Asked if she would go again, Mikayla told me “If we don’t go out of Nebraska!”