Scottsdale / Montrose
July 2002
Day 1


Saturday June 29th, 2002
Start: Dearborn, Michigan
End: Troy, Illinois
531 Miles

Almost ready...
Waiting to go...
We had a lot of concerns about this trip... We'd planned two weeks to go to Scottsdale and Montrose, which meant several 500 mile days at least. That's about Sharon's limit based on our trip to Daytona in 2001 - but now Sharon had a broken foot that wasn't quite healed. Phoenix was having a heat wave, there were wildfires and road closures all along our route, and the West was experiencing a long-term drought.

We finally figured that we could deal with whatever came our way as it happened, that the authorities would close any roads that were too dangerous, and that our odds of actually seeing a fire were pretty slim.

To deal with the expected heat, we bought two matched sets of Joe Rocket mesh summer gear, pants and jacket, and a pair of MSR 2-liter water bladders with bite valves. The bladders have a large opening for filling with ice, and after being filled they were carried in the left and right pockets of an Eclipse tank trunk (no longer in production, I bought it used), which is a huge tank bag and perfectly proportioned for a Concours.

Just for fun, I went shopping at Aerostich prior to the trip and bought a fake oil slick (more on this later), an Avocet watch that includes an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer, and a magnet that shows a motorcycle in a pickup truck and then has a circle and a slash through the it, depicting "No motorcycles in pickups." It seemed appropriate...

After a late night on Friday, we slept in a bit. We packed the bike in the morning and left Dearborn around noon, headed for St. Louis. We motored down Telegraph to I-94 westbound, simply making time in the 90ºF heat, glad to have our mesh gear and cold water.

One hundred miles later, we stop at a McDonalds to get some water, and are told there's no charge for water or ice at McDonalds restaurants. And thus begins the habit of stopping at McDonalds' along the way to fill the MSR bladders with free ice and water..

Then a stop for dinner in Paw Paw Michigan, at Coyote Creek restaurant across from the winery. A sports bar, but a nice one - I eat there sometimes on business trips to Whirlpool corporate in Benton Harbor, if the timing is right. We watched trucks racing up Pike's Peak while waiting for our food, but we were really checking out the scenery in the background of the racing coverage; I was, pointing out the Colorado scenery in to Sharon.

In Gary, Indiana; we run into the tail-end of a traffic jam so we jump off the Interstate for fuel and to refill the bladders with ice. After getting gas, we get back on the Interstate to experience the joy of a 6 mile traffic jam in Gary in summer. Not fun - no scenery, hot, no way of knowing how long the problem will continue, and our progress is measured in 2' increments. Two feet, stop. Two more feet, stop. Two more feet, stop...

Then I noticed an odd thing in the stop-and-go traffic - while braking, it felt as though the steering was sluggish. Off the brakes, the steering felt OK. Hmmm. Rain grooves? Some swerves and visual checks of the road say no. Steering bearings? Gosh, I hope not... but the bike does have 60,000 miles on it so it's certainly possible - that's about what I've gotten out of steering bearings on other high-mile bikes I've owned. I decide to simply keep an eye on it. No point in going crazy over it right now - if there's a detent the steering will degrade, but slowly.

After about 6 miles of stop-and-go Interstate, the traffic jam resolves itself and we're rolling again. It feels so good to be moving, to have air flow over you, after you've been sitting in traffic for a long while.

We make it through Gary, and then clip the edge of Chicago, and the suburbs; and then grab I-55 southbound to St. Louis. Our plan is to rack up a series of 500 miles days, possibly arriving in the Phoenix area with a 4 day trip, and Dearborn to St. Louis is the first leg.

We motor on - rural Illinois doesn't look much different than rural Indiana or rural Ohio. Large farms, traditional red barns, and flat land that only a farmer could love...

In a rest stop, we meet a kid on his way to Springfield aboard a yellow 600 Katana. His dad owns the local Honda-Suzuki shop, and he's going to visit friends in Springfield. We make a bit of small talk, but we don't have much in common. Sharon and I are both thinking several days down the road and aren't all there mentally... So we get back on the Interstate, crank it up, and it's a long while before he finally catches up to us and passes us, with him all contorted into a really strange position on that Katana.

Sharon later asks me how that could be comfortable - I tell her it's not.

Supper in the Parkway Café in a small town north of St. Louis. After supper, we took in several small towns' fireworks displays as we motored down the Interstate in the heat. We worried that we might not see fireworks since we'd be on the road, but we got to view at least three displays just in Illinois, so that worked out alright.

Nearing St. Louis, and it's very late when we try to get a room. At the first two hotels we try, we're told about a baseball game and a soccer tournament, and that there are no vacancies anywhere. At the third place we try, a Red Roof Inn, we get the last room available.

We check in and unload our gear from the bike. Then I put the bike up on the centerstand, and confirm that the steering bearings are going bad. I'll figure out what to do in the morning, after a good night's sleep.

I'd also hoped to call Penn in St. Louis when we came through, but it's midnight and that's just too late. We're asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio