Beyond Kansas

We rode out of Kansas on I-70 heading for Pennsylvania. As we rode further and further east we noticed that there were more and more town names ending in “ville” and “burg”.

This will be my first visit to Pennsylvania. We are headed for Lancaster County, the home of a great many Amish and Mennonite people. With ranching backgrounds (horses and cattle) Lana and I are anxious to see the horse drawn carriages, wagons, buggies and farm equipment that the Amish and Mennonite’s use.

From Kansas we entered Missouri and camped at Oak Grove, where we were able to catch up on laundry and a hot shower.

On the road again we rode east. The next challenge was getting through St. Louis Missouri. Not being city folks, big cities are usually a bit of a challenge for us to navigate. As an example, just the city of St, Louis has a population of 317,419 people and the entire St Louis Metro Area has a population of 2,878,108 people. Now some of you who are city dwellers are saying “Yea, so what?” Let me put this in prospective for you. As you know we are from Alaska. Alaska is about 1/3 the size of the entire continental US. The entire state of Alaska has a population of a mere 736,732!! So when we are riding through geographically small and highly populated area like that, which you could hide in Alaska (and it would nearly take a search and rescue team to find it) …….well let’s just say that we feel like things are a bit crowded. Have we ever been where it is more crowded than that you ask? Yes, in fact far, far more crowed. But it does not change how we feel. We have talked to city people, who were visiting Alaska, and they were not even in what we call the “bush” (very remote fly in only areas). They were on the road system. And more often than not they have a hard time because it is so quiet. Many can’t sleep without some noise going on so they turn on the radio all night. It all boils down to what you are used to.

One of the things that we noticed as we were approaching the St Louis metro area is that the drivers have the very dangerous habit of tailgating the car in front of them down to an art form. We have never seen it that bad! I am talking about the kind of tailgating where there is far less than a car length between them and they are doing 65 to 75 MPH!! It looked more like a qualifying lap for NASCAR and everyone was drafting everyone else!! When they are tailgating our bikes like that it is a little nerve wracking. As you know or can imagine, if you are rear ended on your bike by a car you come out second best. The lug nut rule applies here……And that is: In an accident the guy with the most lug nuts wins.

I had a very close call in St Louis Missouri…which was my fault. I had been watching a very erratic women driver who kept doing dangerous moves right next to, and directly in front of us. The traffic was thick and we couldn’t seem to get away from her. On minute she would show up right beside me and then swerve into my lane and miss me by a couple of feet. The she would drop back and get behind us only to repeat the same thing again. I was very concerned that she was going to either hit us or someone else and we would wind up in a multi car pileup. So in my keeping an eye on her I missed the exit that we were supposed to take to cross the river into Illinois. We took another exit trying to find our way back to where we were supposed to go in the first place and found a sign to get us back where we needed to be….albeit through a questionable part of town.

We were setting in the left lane at a red light on a one way street. I made a left turn from the far left lane onto another one way street going to our left. Out of seemingly nowhere a car comes flying up behind me at way over the speed limit. The first that I realized I had screwed up big time was the sound of car tires screeching as the driver hit the brakes (instead of me) and Lana in the SENA helmet coms asking if I was alright. I thank GOD for His divine providence and angels for keeping me unscathed!!! And thank you to the driver who missed me. (And if by some miracle you are reading this please forgive me of my colossal blunder!!) That was way too close for comfort.

We got back on the right road and crossed the Mississippi River on the Stan Musial Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (I-70) and into Illinois.

We rode through Illinois and as it got late in the evening we were looking for a camp ground. Right at dark on Labor Day weekend we saw two signs for campgrounds and we made the exit off I-70 at Mulberry Grove. One sign said go north for three miles and the other said go south for one mile. We choose the camp ground that was three miles away, hoping it was further from the freeway noise. (Remember, it all boils down to what you are used to…and we are used to peace and quiet!)

We wondered around for a while following signs, some of which were cleverly hidden in the brush along the road intersections, and eventually found the place. It was back off this side road and we rode on in looking for the office. The further back in we got the more people we saw. It looked like there was a golf cart convention going on! All shapes, sizes, makes, and models. Some appeared to be custom made. There were literally hundreds of them and no mention or sight of a golf course.

The people were less then friendly, to put it mildly. We would wave and they would just stare at us! We finally found the office and two of the guys who worked there were coming out the door and one of them asked us what we wanted while the other one kept trying to look like some kind of a bad ass. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. I had already taken my helmet off and removed my ear plugs. I said we were looking for a place to camp. His immediate reaction was, “There is no place for you here”. As they started to walk off I asked him if he knew of any other place we could camp and he said, “Get back on the freeway. I doubt if you will find anything”. And away they went. The guy that was with him just kept giving us the “I’m trying to show you how mean and tough I am” look. I put my ear plugs in, donned my helmet and asked Lana through or SENA coms, “Hey Babe, do you hear any banjo music?” (In reference to the movie Deliverance).

As we rode back out to the highway I made it a point to wave at some people and only one guy made a feeble wave back. Now I don’t know if they were ALL just having a bad day or they just hated bikers. I would suspect it was the later.

We found the place on other side of the freeway and got a camping spot there, to the noise of what sounded more like a brawl than a party. It went on until the wee hours. The next morning some guy comes staggering by our camp carrying a burned up lawn chair, nothing left but a blackened frame. I said that it sounded like some kind of party last night and he allowed to how it was. He looked about as miserable as you can be and still be walking upright. He had a little boy following along on his bicycle, I presume it was his son…..We felt sorry for the little guy. The example that he has to grow up by is not good.

I have been informed that the “s” in Illinois is silent in the pronunciation. However at this point I pronounce it Illi-noise……there is a lot of noise in Illinois (at least that part of it) and not much peace and quiet.

We rode out of there and headed east.

Excerpt from Lana’s diary:

We were on the road by 9AM. We rode 100 miles before stopping for food. We bought gas and went to Walmart. We got [the next] 3 meals for about $40.We had a picnic in the Walmart parking lot and got back on the road. [Randy: A truck driver parked his semi near where we were eating, climbed out of his truck, said hello and headed for the store. He was in poor health and very overweight. I estimate that his age was 45. Pretty soon he came back carrying some junk food, heading for his rig. I asked him how he was doing and he said “I am getting old.” I told him it beat the alternative. It is too bad that people are killing themselves one bite at a time].

Excerpt from Lana’s Diary Continued: I-70 was not too busy; it is Labor Day and not much traffic. We rode through Indiana (my first time in that state) and clear to Cleveland, Ohio. 391 miles today. Long ride but we have finally figured out that by stopping every 100 miles and taking on food, and hydrating it is much easier on us. We finally found a KOA about dark--$47 to pitch a tent on very hard packed ground—amazing, but the bathrooms and showers are very clean. Salad for dinner and a $7 fire and I am ready for bed.

Tuesday, Buckeye Lake, Ohio. I paid the phone bill this morning before striking camp. I had breakfast ready to cook but the stove wouldn’t work. So we got a late start (noon) and left hungry. We rode I-70 again through Ohio and into West Virginia. A few miles later we were in Pennsylvania. It cost us each $23.75 to ride [on] the Pennsylvania Turnpike (which we were both dreading). It turned out to be a wonderful stretch of road. Very few exits, therefore not much merging traffic. End of Lana’s Diary

The only exits off the PA Turnpike (unless it is to a major city) are for a gas station / convenience store complex every so far and there is no way to go any further off the Turnpike than that complex. It is a straight shot through to the next city where you pay for your ticket stub that you received when you got on. The further you go the more it costs.

We had one rather bazaar experience on the Turnpike. I was in the lead with Lana riding behind in the same lane. A guy driving a Peterbuilt truck and pulling a semi trailer started acting rather strange. It was getting dark and everyone had their head lights on except this truck that was following us. He finally turned his lights on then he got right up on Lana’s tail pipe then he would back off. It was not because he was getting a run at a hill or anything of the sort. There was another lane to pass us in… fact at times there were two other lanes to pass us in. We were rolling at about 70 MPH to keep up with the traffic. But this guy refused to pass. He would drop back and turn his headlights off for a while and then he turned on his headlights and got back up on Lana’s tail pipe again. Then he shut off his headlights and dropped way back out of sight most of the time. I thought we were rid of him….. But not to be. There was a tunnel coming up that turned out to be rather long. We were riding in the right hand lane. As we disappeared into the tunnel his head lights were off and we could no longer see him, still thinking he had dropped way back. All of a sudden he turned his headlights on and was right on Lana’s tail pipe! We got out of the tunnel and I told Lana to pass me. (It was not safe to pass in the tunnel). I moved to the fog line in our lane and she passed on the yellow line of our lane and got in front of me. I slowed down and he must have thought that things were about to turn out bad for him and he backed way off and we never saw him again. Bizarre behavior in the very least.

We arrived at our friends and hosts home near Lancaster, Pennsylvania a few hours after dark. They wish to remain anonymous so I will refer to them as D and his lovely wife N and their two absolutely terrific kids S & L.

D. has known about the Travessilla Expedition since its conception and has been of great council, guidance and direction in all matters.

What a whirl wind visit this has been!!! D & N are our two most ardent supporters (and their daughters S & L have agreed to give up their birthdays in lou of gifts they are asking their friends and family to donate to the Travessilla Expedition!!!!! We were stunned by this...........especially coming from two young girls age 12 and 10. This is very rare in today's narcissistic, me, me, me society of selfies!!! This family has done more to help this expedition than everyone else combined! They have introduced us to a great many people and made contacts for us in an unimaginable way. D. knows everyone that is anyone that can supply, make or find just about anything we can need. From legal work, to a dentist, to the shoe repair man, to a very professional videographer, to a Lexan product builder, to a computer guru, to the president of a local CMA chapter, to a church pastor that is a biker with lots of experience in Africa, to people that live in Africa, and the list goes on and on and on. Lana and I are simply overwhelmed by their love and gracious generosity. We would not be as far along without them.

Here, in no particular order, are some bullet points of what has happened in Lancaster County:

  • We met the President of the Glory Road Riders, George Anderson, which is one of the local chapters of the CMA. He is going to bat for us with the CMA for sponsorship…to the point that he is riding to Arkansas to meet with the head people about it. George does not take no for an answer

  • We met with Pastor Bud Stillman and his wife Karen at a CMA chapter meeting. I was asked to speak at Bud’s church the next day. It was a great event! Thank you Bud!

  • A videographer, Bob Weidman, that D. knows filmed the talk at Pastor Bud’s church. At the end of my talk Bob came up with tears in his eyes and said I had no idea how big of a deal this is and what you were going to do. “I want to be your videographer”…..we readily accepted. Bob is a consummate professional at his work and goes to great lengths to make first class videos. Thank you Bob!!!

  • We attended three local CMA chapter meetings where I spoke about our mission, and Lana and I answered lots of very intelligent and thoughtful questions afterwards.

  • We met with Chris Snyder from CSH Tech Support , another contact of D’s, for about three hours discussing all of our computer and communication needs. He was an amazing help. This guy is a computer genius indeed. He got us on the right track and agreed to partner with us for all of our computer problems and got us four--2 terabyte ruggedized external hard drives to download photos and videos to. Thank you Chris !!

  • Thank you KC for building the Lexan camera box! It works terrific.

  • Thank you Jay Domdac forshaping the foam for the camera box!!! It is a perfect fit. And thank you for the two Nikon lenses that you so graciously gave me. Lana and I are still a bit stunned by that! They will be put to good use.

  • We attended Church with D & H and their kids. About 2,000 people were in attendance. What a great service it was! The sermon was about keeping our focus on Jesus and not just the blessings. We needed to hear that.

  • Later we felt very privileged to be invited to attend family devotions with D & H and their kids. We are so impressed how they interact with their kids, reading from the Bible and teaching them biblical principles to live by.

  • Lana and I had an interview with a reporter from the Lancaster County paper. The reporter, Christopher, just couldn’t seem to wrap his head around what we were setting off to do! He asked us several times why we were doing this. It was as if he did not understand charity. Lana and I were a little taken back by that. He finally said that it just sounded to him like a long camping trip. And he could not see why anyone in Lancaster Count y would want to read about it as it had nothing to do with Lancaster County. I was stunned by that remark. I know that from all of the positive experiences and feedback from the many, many people in Lancaster County that we have spoken with, and the overwhelming support they have shown us, that Christopher has not a clue about his readership!!! He did not publish the article, even after several people called him requesting that he do so. His ignorance of the significance of this expedition is stunning in the very least! I cannot understand at all how he keeps his job.

  • We did have an interview with a women reporter who completely understood why and what we are doing (whom I will not name because of the next sentence). As soon as I started talking about treating kids with dysentery she interrupted me and said that when her son was a baby he almost died from dysentery caused by Rotavirus. So she was on board and fascinated with our story from that moment on. Thank you George Anderson for setting that up. And thank you Ma’am for a wonderful interview!!

  • And then there was Dr. Dinse and his staff. He graciously partnered with us for all of our dental work! (Another contact from D.) Thank you Dr. Dinse and crew!!! You do outstanding work. Please see the right up on him on our Partners page.

  • We rode our bikes to a local county fair where D. had a booth. D wanted us to include one of our bikes at his booth where we handed out flyers and talked to many people about our expedition. We met some great people while we there for three evenings. We prayed for some people while we were there and some prayed for us at the booth.

  • The last night of the fair we had taken D’s booth down and everyone else was packed up and gone. I was getting my ear plugs in and about to put my helmet on and ride my bike out of the building as D and Lana were waiting for me. I heard a small voice and looked behind me to see a little Amish boy about 7 or 8 years old. I asked him what he had said and he said “I like your motorcycle.” I said thank you and was in a hurry to leave. Then I got this clear word from GOD to take my ear plugs out and listen to him…..which admittedly I did so rather reluctantly. (And I am very glad that I did!!!). He asked me where I was from and I told him Alaska and I asked him if he knew where that was. He said no but his sister had traveled to Alaska once. Then he asked me where I was going and I told him, and why we were going and what we were going to do, treating kids like him with dysentery. He couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that we were going to travel around the world or what that even meant. Then he asked me something that was so startling that I couldn’t believe my ears at first, so I got down on one knee and said “pardon me?” He said. “What is it like out there? Is it all dirt?” Oh my!!! So I tried to explain to him what it was like “out there”. It broke my heart that he did not know anything about what is beyond his own little world.

  • We attended two BNI meetings with D. We met some great people who were, and still are, very interested in out expedition and some who supported us.

  • We installed an IMS 10 gallon tank on each bike. IMS Products partnered with us by providing the tanks.

  • I got a new doohickey installed in my bike and the valves adjusted on Lana’s

  • We were loading our bikes to head for Michigan to see our youngest daughter Tanisha and her husband Shannon. George Anderson and one of his chapter members Hap were there to ride out of town with us. George noticed something wrong with my back tire. On inspection we found that it was weather checked (rotted out) with one inch and longer cuts in the casing all the way around the tire. The front tire was nearly as bad as the back. There was only 3,800 miles on the bike!!! So that was the end of that start. I found Heidenau Scout at Revzilla in Philadelphia so I ordered them and heavy duty inner tubes for the next day delivery. When they arrived we tied the rear tire to my already loaded bike and the front tire to Lana’s. We headed for B&B Yamaha to get the tires changed. On the way there Lana’s bike coughed and died on the freeway. We were right next to a guard rail with a very narrow shoulder. I had a few ideas what might be wrong with it but the traffic was real bad and we had to get it off the freeway before we got hit. A guy pulled up in a van and recognized us from a motorcycle rally we attended at the church D & N go to. He wanted to follow us but I told him not to as his van was sticking out in the traffic and there was a good chance that he would get hit by another car. I can’t remember his name but if you are reading this…. thank you for stopping to help!!! Long story short, it turned out to be a problem with using gas that has ethanol in it. Ethanol acts like a dry sponge and causes water in the gas. The carb was full of water when they took it apart. I applaud B& B for all of their help. I highly recommend them to anyone in the area!! The service managers name is Al and he is a terrific help…working on a Kawasaki in a Yamaha shop. Thank you Al and your mechanics.

  • And the list goes on and on and on.

Here are some random photos we took at some of the events that we attended

The pop up camp trailer that D & H let us use at their place. Compared to our little tent, we were living in the lap of luxury.

When we were finally able to leave, a bunch of bikers from George’s Glory Road Riders, along with D & N and their two kids showed up at B&B Yamaha to see us off. Thank you everyone!!! George, along with Ronnie and Debbie Deim rode with us for about an hour. Debbie gave Lana and I each a neck warmer that she made for us. We were very glad to have them the next morning when we could see our breath and it was a bit cold riding. Thank You!!!

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