Thursday, July 1, 2010


From Colby, I had two options-- back to I-70 a few miles south, or continuing along route 24, passing through all the small towns, and their corresponding drops in speed limit. I decided to try the slower route. I could always drop back down to 70 if it looked like I wasn't going to make it through Kansas that day, which was my goal. Much as I would've like to stop again with Ross and Kelly in Kansas City, I wanted to make it farther than that.
One of the factors in the failure of my chain on Pikes Peak was my own failure to clean and lubricate it, so I was now performing that ritual every night or morning without fail. When I stopped for breakfast along route 24, I realized that I had forgotten it that morning, so I jacked the rear tire up on my makeshift stand. As I spun the wheel, I noticed that the clip holding the chain's master link together had gone missing. This was bad, and could have turned out to be catastrophic if the chain had let go somewhere in the 400 miles since I had last checked it.
I didn't have another clip, so I went to the small engine repair store next door, hoping that some lawn-mower or ATV used the same part. They were closed, so the best I could do was a piece of wire I found in the parking lot, which held up so well as I looked for a motorcycle shop that I left it on for the next 300 miles or so, when it broke. In the meantime I had found two replacement links at a shop, although I had failed in my attempts to get someone to rivet it properly.
I checked it at every stop, and often as not found that the clip was missing again, so I either replaced the link or used more of the precious bit of wire I had found, while I tried to figure out what was causing it.
Because of the uncertainty with the chain, I stuck to the smaller road. In my mind, the possibilities of chain failure ran to rear-wheel lockup and holing the engine case (perhaps because the latter was a common problem on early editions of my other bike, the Honda CB750. I am uncertain whether this is a danger with the KLR).
In case of the former, I would rather it happened on a sparsely-traveled country road than an interstate with semis bearing down on me.
I had made a joke to Rod, that the trip would've been longer without him there because I would be stopping at every "World's Largest Ball of String" in America, so when I actually came across it in Cawker City, Kansas, I had to stop and pay my respects.

The entire town of Cawker City seemed mainly devoted to the ball of twine. A banner announced the upcoming twine festival, and there was a gift shop across the street. The shop showed all the signs of being open-- a neon sign proclaimed it so, and the door was unlocked. There was no one inside, though. I left the cash for a Ball of Twine t-shirt on the counter with a note, and continued on.
I made it through Kansas and halfway across Missouri, losing and picking up new chain clips every few hundred miles, and rejoining I-70 somewhere around the border.
I stopped near Fulton, MO, mostly because of the promise of a place called "Panhead Billy's Smokehouse" and the idea that there would be campsites nearby. Outside Billy's, the parking lot was filled with chrome cruisers, and a young man was staring at my bike.
Traveling on a purposefully ugly motorcycle in a world of candy-colored dream machines elicits some odd reactions, from the guys outside the Hotel Nevada who wondered that it moved at all, to the young man in Kansas who took offense when I came out to remove my key-- he sniffed "You don't have to worry, mine's nicer anyway," then seemed to want to fight me in front of his pretty blond girlfriend, who looked somewhat embarrassed about the whole thing.
The kid outside Billy's Smokehouse, who apparently worked there, had a positive reaction: "That's great! I have a CB550 rat bike myself."
It was nice to be appreciated for a change, and I think my bike (which at this point I had taken to calling "Lizzie") liked the attention.
Billy's brisket was good, but my ideas about campgrounds turned out to be misguided, so Lizzie and I spent the night in a motel near the interstate.

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