Cross Country Day 16 – Boulder, CO to Kansas City, MO

I didn’t sleep very well as my sinuses were so dry during the night. I felt like a fish that had leapt from his bowl for a better life only to choke on the gravelly air of freedom. I’m sure inhaling 7 hours of diesel fumes while on the road didn’t help my situation either. I walked to the bathroom in Pete’s basement and looked into the mirror. I don’t know if my appearance was due to the long days on the bike, too many beers the night before, or the ravages of aging, but I looked like jackhammered cow dung. My eyes were sullen and the wrinkles in my face appeared deeper than the crevices of canyons of Utah. I reflected on my condition, feeling older than ever. I heard Pete stirring and getting ready for work. I exited the bathroom and he wished me a good morning. Pete always has a slight smirk on his face. It’s not a wise guy kind of smirk, but a smile of a guy who has life figured out. He never seems to let things get to him or at least he hides it well. I thanked him profusely for letting me stay and he once again reiterated the idea of passing it on. He was proud of me for taking this trip and reminded me that I was more than halfway done.

Pete left for his job and I packed up my belongings. I kicked my tires, checked my oil, and determined that everything was in order with the Brick. I said farewell to Edy and thanked her again as well. I enjoyed getting to know her better over these past two visits. She seems to be the perfect match for Pete. She is sweet, funny, and calm and her sense of wit is razor sharp. The bike fired right up on the first start as usual. I found a gas station and topped off the tank. My dash clock read 7AM and we had over 600 miles to roll. Today was not a tourist day. There were no t-shirts to buy, no quirky roadside attractions, and no large rocks to visit. Today was about laying down some serious rubber across the entire span of the state of Kansas.

When I said Nebraska was flat, that was before I met Kansas. It’s just as flat if not flatter. The only point of interest is the occasional large turbine spinning her gossamer wings in the warm high winds. These beasts seem like old friends to me now and remind me of the manatees in Florida floating aimless in shallow waters. Being on such a flat and uninteresting road gave me a lot of time to think about my arc. My reflection in the mirror this morning reminded me of how time is a non-renewable commodity. I have this anxiety that I am never doing enough, but when I look back and recount my accomplishments, I realize that I have done so many great things. I am old now by pop music standards and I know I will never be a rock star, as was my plan since I could remember. I recall my visions of becoming famous as a 5-year-old boy. I would jump up and down on the bed playing a broom making twangy electric guitar sounds while watching The Banana Splits or The Partridge Family on television. I would passionately sing the hymns in church as the sunlight beamed through the stained glass window that became my multicolored stage lights. It was all I ever thought about, yet the dream never worked out the way I wanted.

I must admit I am luckier than most. I have performed for great numbers of people and sold more than a few records. I’ve opened for great bands and written cutting-edge theater adaptations that have been critically acclaimed and well attended. Perhaps not making it saved my life. I tend to be overindulgent with food and beer, so who’s to say I wouldn’t have been addicted to more expensive temptations if the cornucopia never ceased flowing. The roar of the wind and the thumping motor at 75 miles an hour helped me to reconcile these complex ruminations. I have lived a life few people get to live. Calling my life charmed would be an understatement. Yet the anxious demons of underachievement rear their heads every now and again. They bring bouts of depression, self-doubt, and lack of ambition. When I have the time to think clearly, like while driving on 600 miles of I-70, I can batter them back into their vicious dens – at least for a length of time.

The hunger pangs began to stab so I pulled in for breakfast at a McDonalds. I have a weakness for their sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits. I ordered 2 and sat quietly watching the families pull in and out of the convenience area. These rest stops all look identical. I imagine that is comforting to some folks but to me it just turns the entire world into the town of Stepford. I drained my coffee and gunned the Brick back onto the highway. The roads were clear and uncluttered which made the miles bleed away quickly. This kind of driving would seem boring to many folks, but to me it is a form of meditation. I must concentrate intensely on the driving, yet I can still be lost in thought.

I didn’t take many pictures along the way. The scenery was unchanging like an antique arcade driving game in which the car rolls over a spool of terrain that keeps repeating as it spins around. I had covered a lot of miles so I decided to stop in a small town named Russell for lunch. I found a quaint place called Meridy’s and ordered bacon wrapped pork tender loin and a baked potato. It was a delicious treat after a long time in the saddle. I consumed what seemed like gallons of half sweet/half unsweet tea. I needed the break. I still had 5 hours in front of me and I wanted to be well fueled.

Back on the road the miles went by quicker than any part of the journey so far. My back never ached and I didn’t seem to tire out. I recalled the days when I toured with my old band dogs on ice. We actually drove cross-country in my old Ford Econoline van. The van was too old and should not have made the trip, but somehow we did. We fried a wheel bearing in East LA, and I changed a starter myself behind a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, but we made it. I thought about how living is based on patterns. We are creatures of habit and we tend to repeat events over and over, some wise and some not so wise. 3 guys and a tour manager in a 12-year-old van with over 150 thousand miles on it just isn’t a wise idea. Now here I am on a 25-year-old motorcycle with 55K on the odometer attempting the same crossing. I smiled and laughed inside my helmet causing the shield to fog for a moment. I rationalized that I’m not crazy, but gutsy – believing any thought needed to keep the throttle twisted open.

I pulled into a gas station and when I removed my helmet my left ear had a strange sensation. It felt like it was clogged with water. I banged the side of my skull to no avail. The ear was stopped up with something. I could not figure out what the problem was, but I didn’t waste too much time thinking about it because I still had a long way to go. While fueling the Brick, A man walked up to me and saw my New York plates. “Where you heading?” he said. “Kansas City, I’m going cross country. I started in New York, went to California, and now I’m going back. I’m stopping in Indy for the MotoGP motorcycle race.” His eyes seemed to get wide and then well up a little as if tears were forming. “Well, I think that’s just great. That sounds like a trip of a lifetime. You be safe out there you hear!” He walked away with a new bounce in his step and a smile on his face. I somehow brightened his day just by telling him where I was going and where I had been. I finally realized what an amazing thing I am doing by journeying across my country. The man’s eyes told me so much. I could sense that he probably wanted to do a similar journey and never did. Or perhaps he took that journey and he was happy for me to be experiencing such a life-transforming trek. Whatever the case, the few words by this well-wisher made me happy. I zipped up my leather jacket with a new energy and plowed onward. The winds were intense and the state troopers were out in force with radar guns ablaze so I did the speed limit for the rest of the drive.

I rolled into Kansas City, MO just east of the Kansas border at 8PM. I was disappointed that my Motel 6 was far from the downtown hotspots and barbeque places, but I was on the road for 11 hours and all I required was a cold light beer and some food. Before checking into the hotel I stopped by a Kmart and picked up some Swimmer’s Ear. I thought this would surely unclog whatever gremlin was impeding my hearing. After a few tries of holding the alcohol in my ear, I just gave up and decided to figure out the problem later. I checked into the Motel 6, hung up my gear, and walked to a strip mall behind the lodging to forage for bar food. I stumbled wearily into a place called Dirk’s that was having an open mic night. I let out a small internal groan and readied myself for bad music, but the hunger was beating my thirst for culture to a pulp.

I bellied up to the bar and started with a Bud light and some wings. They weren’t astounding, but the were better than decent. They did not slake my vampiresque thirst for raunchy bar food, so I chased them with a stack of orange tinged nachos. They were also very serviceable. As my hunger was erased, I tuned into the band that was onstage for open mic night. They were actually incredible musicians. They ran through a bunch of cover tunes and sprinkled in some of their original music. I thought about the fine line between fame and poverty as these guys spanked their acoustic guitars with authority. I arrived at the notion of luck. Yes, talent, looks, and aesthetics are important, but these guys could have been all of that and they will still never be discovered. Record executives just don’t visit the strip malls behind motel 6s to scour for new talent. This gave me a new perspective and once again I felt lucky to have achieved what I have achieved.

I felt like roaming so I went to another pub next store called Arthur’s. It was Karaoke night, which I knew was going to be bad. But after seeing some great musicians, I thought I might be entertained and possibly surprised by some of the performers. I was very wrong in this course of thinking. A man commandeered the mic and sang a song about Jesus as the patrons chain-smoked and swilled strong drinks. Everybody in the place was loaded and I was on my way there with them. Jesus couldn’t save us now. We were all on the highway to hell – at least for the night. Everybody’s pitch was horrible, but I found a sort of perverse beauty in the whole scene. A little person and a very overly made up girl sang “Islands in the Stream” placing me firmly in a cel of a Fellini film. But my bike was parked at the motel and my belly was full, so I sat back and enjoyed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. One highlight was a singer who continually burped on every “yea” break of the Collective Soul tune “Shine.”

After too many beers I looked down at my gut. It had grown since I started my trip. I decided not to worry about the food baby until I was back in New York. Can bar food, cheap beer, and thousands of miles on an antique motorcycle cure depression, self-doubt, and lack of ambition? I’ll let you know in 2500 miles.

Starting mileage Pete and I Pete’s cool house
Flat Flatter Flatterer
Flatterest Welcome Meridy’s
Pork and potato Turbine Turbines
Yes, more Land manatees Airport Motel 6
Gear Great band Course 1
Course 2 Jesus singer Odd couple

Boulder to Kansas City – 627 Miles

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