Thirty-six days in, thousands of pictures taken and a million memories already made… I’d says it’s about time we fill you guys in a bit, eh?! It’s hard to put into words what 6,000 miles of vivid landscapes, volatile weather conditions, vivacious strangers turned friends will do for your soul, but I’m going to try.
Though Jeff and I have traveled off an on since we met, this journey, our biggest haul yet, “officially” began in Kentucky on May 23rd. The one and only thing we had planned out in any way was to make the ‘Dust to Dawson 2016’ motorcycle event in Dawson City, Yukon on June 16th. Otherwise, no plans were set and we’ve just be figuring it out day to day.
Thus far, we’ve ridden in six states (which we will visit again in more depth), and five provinces of Canada. We’ve now planted ourselves in Alaska for the summer. Ok, I think that gets everyone up to date in a nutshell. Now if you care to know about our individual days of travel in more detail, please proceed. Here’s a breakdown of week one on the road with MotoHippies.
P.S. Check out our MotoHippies Facebook Page for even more pics.
Monday, May 23rd… a week later than anticipated, but the day of departure is finally here! Our bellies were full of good ol’ homecooking, thanks to my sweet aunt Lisa who brought a smorgasbord of country goodness for a breakfast send off. As we prepared to depart from my mom’s driveway in southern Kentucky, the excitement of this adventure had’t yet hit me, as I was a little preoccupied with how ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ my bike looked. As I started to mount my moto, I found myself in an all too familiar predicament, with my KLR slowly laying over for a nap. Oh, no, I thought, our trip can’t be starting like this!
Jeff picked it up for me, as he always does, and with frustration I began unloading, realizing that I shouldn’t have waited to the last minute to pack for such a big trip. After a several minutes of cutting weight considerably, I finally had things down to a more manageable mess. At last, we were all smiles again, and on our way… to where? We really weren’t sure other than general direction of ‘north’.
My small hometown of Glasgow, KY had never looked quite so lovely to me as it did today. It will always be home, and though it already holds many memories, it was now also the starting place of our biggest adventure yet!
Jeff and I said from the get go that we wanted to avoid the interstates and take the scenic routes as much as possible. From Glasgow, we let 31-E lead us to Elizabethtown and then took 31-W to Louisville. We stopped on Dixie for a protein packed lunch at Zaxby’s before bidding adieu to the Bluegrass. From Louisville we hopped the bridge to Indiana and continued to follow 31 up to the town of Nineveh, where we spent our first night camping.
The way the backroads braided themselves through the small country towns and farmlands was so serene. We couldn’t have asked for a more picture perfect day of riding. The sun shown bright and the air was warm and refreshing. It was an ideal first day on the road.
Upon reaching Edinburg, Indiana, we decided to call it a day and scoped out a small secluded campsite bordering the river. We were bummed to find out it was for RVs only, but we soon found an even better place just up the road in Nineveh that had some great primitive camp sites. We had the primitive area all to ourselves and found a cool animal skull and an arrow tip at the space next to ours. #souvenir
Our first trip to the grocery store ended with dinner being a fresh PB&J with a tall glass of cold milk. It was a perfect end to a hot day as we set up camp and reflected on our new simple life.
We awoke to sunshine in our face, a great indicator of another glorious day for traveling. Breakfast at camp included donut holes, coffee, and deliciously cheesy shrimp and grits. We weren’t exactly sure where the day would lead us, but we sure started it off right with a delicious breakfast.
As we headed in the direction of Indianapolis, we stopped to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There wasn’t any action on the track that day, but we did get to ride through the tunnel and inside the track when we visited the museum. This made for great trackside moto photos! It was interesting to see the elaborate transformation Indy cars have made in a century!
We caught a flick about the history of the track and were surprised to learn that their first event was a balloon race, soon followed by the first motorsport event held on August 14, 1909 – which was not cars, but motorcycles! The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the highest capacity sports venue in the world.
After an informative day at the historic track, we continued our plan of beautiful backroad riding and found ourselves only a couple hundred miles up the road in Elkhart, Indiana when we decided to call it a day. As we pulled into a shopping center parking lot to check the map for camping, a local guy approached us to chit chat. Little did I know, this gentleman was only the beginning of the crowds we would draw along the way. He kindly offered us a bed in his house when he found out we were looking for camping. Just as we had decided to accept, he explained we’d need to put some locks on our bikes overnight. As nice as the offer was, we decided to seek out a place where security wasn’t so much of a concern. He was very understanding.
It was only our second night on the road and we splurged for one of those fancy KOA-type places. We certainly hadn’t set out for that type of upscale camping, but it’s what we came to first, so we took it.
We were the only tent in the whole campground and quickly caught the attention of our RVing neighbor, Mark, who is also a rider (of a stunning Victory). He was in the states for some customizations of his sweeeet Slingshot that he was trailering behind his RV. Mark invited us over for coffee and a campfire, where he and Jeff talked all things Canada while I sipped my freshly ground cup of Joe and took it all in. It just so happened our new friend was from Ontario, so he had lots of great advice for two motorcyclists who were headed to Canada. His coffee was the best I’d ever had.
Our day began in Elkhart, Indiana, home of the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame Museum. There was no way we could pass up seeing the evolution of RVs. We just got into the toy haulers a few years ago and now we enjoy learning about campers of all sorts. It was amazing to see how RVs and motorhomes have evolved since the 1916 ‘telescoping apartment’.
After a quick lunch at Micky D’s, we hit the westward backroads. The cottage homes of Elkhart lined the water’s edge, making for a charming display on our way out of town. It was quite a nice town after all. Our choice of route skirted us around Lake Michigan, never actually allowing us to lay eyes on it. As we approached roads for Chicago, we decided to see Chitown later on. This would turn out to be a good decision, as we later learned they got the bulk of the storms that were rolling in.
As the day went on, the sky grew darker. At our last fillup somewhere in Illnois, we decided we should probably seek shelter nearby and wait for the approaching storm to pass. Dinner time was nearing, so we whipped into a Popeyes and covered the bikes. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As soon as we were indoors, the sky unleashed. We had dinner, checked the weather and looked for a place to camp.
The skies remained dark, but the rain had passed, so with a campsite in mind we hit the road. We made it to the town of Morris, Illinois, where we found primitive camping in Gebhard Woods State Park. The campsites were all nestled next to Nettle Creek, and as night fell, we had the whole place to our selves. As lovely as that sounds, it meant we were the only mosquito bait around, and boy did they know it! We set up quickly, essentials only, and hit the hay to escape the mosquito madness. It rained calmly off and on throughout the night.
The morning brought dryness for a little while. Usually we make our own coffee, but the mosquitos were relentless. We packed up and found a local java house, Brewed Awakenings, for our morning fuel. Their slogan is “life is too shot for bad coffee”. Boy did they deliver! I had a Black Squirell and Jeff had their Dare Devil Dutch. Both were ahh-mazing, as were their pastries!
The morning sky began to look dark. We checked the weather to find rain headed straight for us. The coffee shop was so accommodating, allowing us to hang out and get wired on coffee refills until the rain passed. The small doctors office next door even allowed us to park the bikes under their eve to keep them out of the rain.
While at the coffee shop, the helmets in the windowsill intrigued the customers. Where are you guys headed? Looks like you might get wet. Where are you riding from? Jeff talked Mexico adventure riding with another moto enthusiast while I kept an eye on a weather and made plans for the day.
Once the sky cleared, we hit the road with idea of seeing Antique Archaeology (from Discovery Channel’s ‘American Pickers’). LeClaire, Iowa was our next stop, where we hoped to see Mike, Frank or Danielle from the show, but of course did not. It was still SO COOL just to be there. We have a little bit of that picker blood in us, and we love the show, so this stop was a must.
We just visited their Nashville store a few weeks back and got some stickers for our panniers. The only souvenirs we took away this time were some cool pics of their notable space with our bikes.
Riding along the glorious Mississippi River was just stunning! The towns were small, but the smiles were big. We had a ball in the sunshine. The flowers filled our helmets with the sweetest perfume. The cottonwood filled the sky like giant snowflakes. It was a beautiful day to be on two wheels.
We reached Pikes Peak State Park in McGreggor, Iowa and decided to call it home for the night. We had just read about this place and how it has the best views of the Mississippi, so we had to see for ourselves.
Upon arriving, we decided to set up, grab some groceries, and make dinner. We still hadn’t seen the views, yet. What we did notice is that nearly every campsite had a reserved card in place for the upcoming weekend. That’s when we realized it was Memorial Day Weekend. Would all the campsites up the road be full for the holiday, too? Probably so. We spoke to the camp host. He explained they only had a couple of vacancies left for the weekend.
We checked the weather. Rain was coming, so we slapped our names on a reservation card and decided to hunker down for the long weekend and wait out the rain. This turned out to be an awesome decision! Iowa is beautiful.
We enjoyed our tasty campfire dinner of grilled brats and onions, toast, and hand mashed potatoes (with ham bouillon) #secretingredient. It was time to relax and unwind, knowing this was home for the next few days.
We have settled down in McGreggor, Iowa. Memorial Day Weekend was beginning and the campers were rolling in the by the dozens! We were pleased to see that even a few tenters were there, despite the wet weather. We enjoyed our camp coffee and biscotti as we watched everyone fill in around us and get set up.
We took the walk around the grounds to admire everyone’s setup, and found ourselves at the Pikes Peak overlook that the park is known for. Trough this pleasant discovery we quickly realized we were higher above the river than we thought. We could see up and down the magnificent Mississippi for miles and miles! While hiking a few of the trails, we saw our first little waterfall of the trip where the springs feed into the river, and we even and caught a glimpse of our first wildlife of the trip – a whitetail deer.
We took advantage of a lengthy break in the rain to go explore the little towns near us. It turns out McGreggor, Iowa is where the Ringling Brothers are from and the town was celebrating the 150th anniversary of their circus.
Marquette was another tiny town just skip up the river from McGreggor. The railroads squeezed right between these towns and the river. Watching that Canadian Pacific chugging along the mighty Mississippi looked like it was straight from an old timey picture.
We noticed Marquette had a small river boat casino. Upon returning to camp, our neighbors informed us of the good casino buffet with crab legs. Our dinner of grilled pork chops, potato cakes and toast wasn’t quite so elaborate, but it sure was good.
We started yet another day in the time capsule little town of McGreggor, Iowa. Instead of cooking, we opted to check out the cafe downtown, which turned out to be what we call a ‘Sysco restaurant’. We had hoped for small town, homemade goodness, but most things were straight off the truck and just heated up. Aside from breakfast, we enjoyed waking around downtown, window shopping at the arts and crafts festival, exploring the nooks and crannies of old buildings and reading historic plaques. We were surprised to find caves right in the middle of town. So much history in such a small place! We loved it.
We ventured on up he road to National Historic Monument of the animal shaped tombs called Effigy Mounds.
Later, we crossed the bridge into Wisconsin where yet another old little town called Prairie Du Chien was waiting to be explored. We found a beautiful park by the river, grand old buildings and gnarly old boats, a really nifty thrift store, a tiny local health food store, and a legendary burger joint called Pete’s that you could small from anywhere in town. It reminded me of Dovie’s in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. This little town had something for everyone!
We returned home with bacon to cook for dinner, as we knew the rain was about to hit again and confine us to the tent… so bacon sandwiches it was.
Later as we were coming out from hiding, our neighbors, Guenter and Rosie, came over with firewood and wine. We enjoyed their company around the fire, talking about traveling, Germany and genealogy. They’re retired and enjoy traveling the country with their fifth wheel camper. We had a blast exchanging stories, and we made plans to stay in touch on facebook.
Our last full day in McGreggor, and we have survived the downpours. Out came the sun and it dried up all the rain!
The American flags were flying high everywhere. Patriotism was displayed all over each town we passed through and at many neighboring campsites.
We took advantage of this dry day to get a few things done. First up, laundry – our first load of laundry on the road. Next, we found a Cabella’s and bought a few supplies. We were refueled, refreshed and ready to hit the road tomorrow morning.
Our last exploration was up to Yellow River State Park where we shared the gravel roads to the tops of the hills with only horseback riders. The overlooks were so peaceful.
After leaving Yellow River, we took the long way back to camp and passed through Hapers Ferry, Iowa. There were these precious handmade turtle crossing signs all over this tiny town, but we didn’t see any shelled slowpokes on our path. #saveaturtle
It was wonderful meeting Guenter and Rose, and there was a lot to see and explore in these little river towns that we may have otherwise missed had we rode straight through. Our night ended with a fabulous Italian dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.
Stay tuned for our second week! Spoiler alerts: we make it to Canada, Jeff takes a spill on the road 😦
We love your comments and questions, so please don’t hesitate to leave them. We are loving this life and thankful for the opportunity to take this adventure. The outpouring of love and support from everyone is amazing! If you have any suggestions for must see places, please share them with us. Here’s our MotoHippies Facebook Page. We’ll also post additional pics there.
Family, friends, and even strangers have expressed interest in wanting to know what we’re up to. We had planned to blog once a week, for you all and for us to reflect back on. However, we soon realized that time spent with new people and exploring new places consume our days. In addition, our off grid days won’t allow for posting. I could only use my phone on wifi while in Canada, so online time was very limited. We will continue to post snippets on our MotoHippies Facebook Page as often as we can and will to try to update this blog frequently while in Alaska. We are also working on getting our YouTube and Twitter accounts going so we’ll be able to post GoPro footage.