Cross Country Day 4 – Chicago, IL to Lincoln, NE

Liz had to leave very early for work. She crept out around 6 as I slumbered like a well-fed zombie. She left her vintage BMW boots out because I wanted a picture of them. We had an action packed time last night and I was in a great mood. I started to pack up my belongings and as I was cleaning some trash out of my toiletry bag I felt a slice on my thumb. My old-style safety razor had cut a chunk out of the chubby digit. I applied direct pressure and I as finally able to get the red flow to quit. It didn’t hurt but it was certainly inconvenient. Fuel, road grime, and everything else were going to get into the gash. I looked around Liz’s place for a band-id but there were none.

I futzed around downtown Chicago in search of a gas station and was lead astray by the Yelp! app to a few empty lots.  I finally asked a local and he directed me to an overpriced station right around the corner. Sometimes opening your mouth beats technology by a long mile. I juiced up I left town a little after 8a.m.

I headed out on 290 and there were a few stops and starts, but nothing too damming in the traffic realm. As I approached route 80, the cars and trucks dwindled even further. It looked like smooth sailing for the Brick and me, but this was not to hold as foreshadowed by the thumb injury.

While zooming along, a chunk of slung tire tread shot up from under a truck like a black high-speed spud pummeled at me through a time portal from the great potato famine. It hit my left shoulder hard and gave the bike a good wriggle. I shook it off but a few miles later; another tire mortar hit me in the helmet hard enough to snap my head back. I decided to back off the speed and give the traffic in front of me a much wider gap. I had pushed my luck too far by taking two projectiles; the next one could be fatal.

I was making good time and stopped for fuel and a break about every 100 miles. I swerved off at one exit for a fueling and looking ahead I noticed that the gas station had been abandoned. I was going to pull into the parking lot and turn around when white Ford F150 came barreling from the other direction. I grabbed a handful of front brake and my front wheel caught some gravel. In what seemed like a nano-second the mighty Brick fell to her side. I got up and I was astonished. Did I really just crash? I stood confused over the bike lying on its side. The guy in the F150 rolled down his window and asked, “You aright?” I said, ‘I’m OK just a little fall” as my back tire spun above the ground like the quivering leg of a shot deer. With a burst of adrenaline I jerked the 500-pound bike to its wheels. Traffic was avoiding me as I pushed the injured bike to the side of the road.

I took stock of myself first and no part of me had touched the ground. I was no worse for the wear. I was going to be sore from lifting the bike so violently, and my right shin took a small bonk, but overall I was in good shape, no blood, no missing limbs. I inspected the damage to the bike. My left side case was dangling from one of the latches. I unhooked in and placed it on the ground. My left side turn signal took a good shot and was cracked badly. There were small scrapes on the valve cover and fairing but nothing major. The USB cable that connected my iPhone to the dash was ripped in two. These minor items would do nothing to stop the journey. My biggest worry was if the luggage would clip back on and be safe. After fiddling with the case latch a little bit it seemed to be fine and I clipped it back onto the bike.

I fired up the Brick and the motor fired right up and purred just like it always does. I hopped on and slowly pulled away and back onto the highway. I took the next exit that wasn’t far and pulled into a Subway to get one of their assembly line sandwiches. I pulled the Brick up onto the center stand. I started to get concerned. Will the knock to the valve cover cause a leaky gasket? Did I damage any fuel lines or water hoses? I sat and ate, eyeing the bike looking for any dripping liquids. I saw none.

I finished my Cold Cut Trio and climbed aboard. I was a little shaken mentally but I have wrecked so many times before that I don’t even go into shock when an incident occurs. Again the motor fired right up. I checked the turn signals and taillight. The impact caused the left front signal to blow and I removed a piece of the lens for later gluing and taping. I don’t think I’ll find a 1988 K75C taillight lens at any truck stop.

I put some miles under the bike. I felt embarrassed and my confidence was shaken. I try to keep incredible focus when driving but long monotonous hours on the road make that a difficult task. I realigned my brain to focus even harder. The Brick and I have a long way too go. Like me, she’s a tough old buzzard that just keeps moving. I thought about the relationship between a cowboy and his horse, travelling along the road together with a trusty steed, experiencing ups and downs. The relationship between man and animal seemed very similar to the bond between man and machine. I was thinking of selling the Brick upon returning to NYC, but after the things we’ve seen and the trials we have risen above I don’t think I will be able to do that. Today she proved herself a trusty and tough companion. A workhorse. We have a long way to go. We’ll get there. You cannot stop us.

I arrived in Lincoln after 4 more hours on the road. I pulled into the Horizon Inn, a 40-dollar flophouse I booked at 3 in the morning. It was a simple place but clean. I walked around and found a BBQ joint called Luckie’s. I had a few beers and a steak and thought about the day. Did the motorcycle gods try to stop me today or were they simply testing my will? Things could have turned out far worse – way worse. The cut on my thumb could have been deeper, the tire chunks could have knocked me off of the bike, and the wreck could have ended the trip in more ways than one. I survived the day and now here I was sitting in a bar stool in a place called “Luckie’s.” My pen could not have made up a better outcome.

Click for larger versions:


Nebraska sunset

Starting mileage Liz’s BMW Boots Sliced thumb
Chicago train Dekalb Oasis Valve cover scuff
Scratched side case Severed USB cable Cracked turn signal
Inuendo Casey, Iowa Abandoned
Giant windmills Desolate Lonesome highway
Bugs Cheap hotel Room with a view
I break things So very lucky Steak
Ragged glory Dr. John’s Lingerie


Chicago to Lincoln – 533 miles

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11 Responses to Cross Country Day 4 – Chicago, IL to Lincoln, NE

  1. Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist says:

    Having a “down”, even a minor one, and I’m glad it was a minor one, can still have a huge effect on your mental state, but it also puts into perspective all those long miles when it all goes right, and you’ve got lots more “good” miles ahead. Travel safe.

  2. Kathy says:

    Yikes, what a day. I hate those tire bits. I’ve often feared being struck by one but, knock on wood, haven’t so far. Those boots are VERY cool. On a helpful (not critical) note, the Chicago train image link is missing the “.jpg” at the end so is broken. Thank good you and the Brick escaped relatively unscathed! The first time I saw one of those gas stations was in North Dakota. I was a bit mystified (and amused!) by the name, too. I can’t believe how much ground you are covering. Stay safe. Perhaps your time at Lucky’s has restored your luck. Besides, it seems you have experienced your three (as in the old adage bad things happens in threes), so all should be uphill from here.

  3. fuzzygalore says:

    Soooo… judging by your off and the faucet, we should never get on a plane with you? 😉

    I’m glad you & the brick made it through pretty much unscathed. A couple scuffs here or there don’t count – on people or on bikes. That’s the patina of living.

    Love the big turbines!

    Did you get yourself anything nice at Dr. John’s? 🙂

  4. Liz says:

    Aw, Joe. I have a first aid kit in the white bin in the bathroom. You are making me think that I should leave it out in the open whenever I have guests around.

    Glad to hear that you were able to shrug off the tiny setbacks. If anything it seems like it’s helping you to re-focus. Travel safely, friend!

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