I was returning home from a couple of days of zigzagging around the Ozark Mountains with a friend of mine. We had parted ways the previous morning as he went further south and I aimed for Polaris heading north into Missouri.
Everything on the trip had been going great. Machines were performing with precision, the storms that were rolling thru the country had stayed to the south, and a metal staple that was found in my tire a couple of days earlier had not punctured the liner.
Even the law looked kindly upon me when I (allegedly) came out of a corner at just over 80 mph. I did receive a stern look but no citation. I rewarded my good fortune with a cooling dip in Missouri's 2nd largest natural spring, Greer Spring. — at Greer Spring Trail.
I returned to the meandering and undulating Missouri Highway 19, a natural roller coaster. — at Mark Twain National Forest.
The second time I showed off my conservation of energy thru a corner to another law enforcement officer it didn't even warrant a glance. Another amazing day to add to the string of days I was having. I pulled into Hermann, Missouri as the sun was setting. What could possibly go wrong on this trip? — in Hermann, Missouri.
I woke early the next morning in Hermann Missouri to find the sun creeping up to chase the fog off of the river. Hermann is named after Hermann the German, the warrior then known as Arminius, who led an army of northern Europeans against a Roman invasion in 9 AD thus changing the course of civilization. It should be noted that Europeans fought harder back in this time in history because America wasn't there to bail them out if they lost. — in Hermann, Missouri.
Back to the story. Herman is a beautiful city on the southern bluff of the Missouri River that looks like a German village from the video game Medal of Honor, a village that I have frequently visited and cleansed of Nazi soldiers with my sniper rifle. — in Hermann, Missouri.
The quaint little town is surrounded by vineyards, has a winery in town, and contains many romantic inns to stay at. When my mail-order bride arrives, we'll spend some time here walking the streets holding hands, darting into boutique shops, and visiting the many B&B inns along the river (with my sniper rifle on my back just in case). — in Hermann, Missouri.
As the sun crept to the west, so did I as I rode along the mighty river to the state capital, Jefferson City. — at Missouri State Capitol.
It was here, on a bluff overlooking the river, that I met the hitchhiker who would bring me misfortune. It was here that I met the Evil Monkey. — at Missouri State Capitol.
He was just sitting there on the stone wall that protects visitors from falling off of the bluff. — at Missouri State Capitol.
He was sitting there enjoying this view. Or was he waiting, waiting for his next victim? He looked so cute that I decided to bring him traveling with me and he decided to make me his next victim. — at Missouri State Capitol.
My new friend and I packed up and again turned north, into trouble. As I left the capital city the skies turned a deeper gray with each passing mile. It was during a fuel stop that the first hint of trouble appeared, the wrist strap on my jacket comes apart. But one problem on a road trip is nothing to be concerned about. There is always some minor thing that goes awry and if a motorcyclist wanted an easy trip they would drive a car.
29 miles from the Iowa border while stopping to replenish all of the liquid I had sweated out I notice that a tail light is out. Two problems in one trip. Coincidence right?
Less than 5 miles to leaving Missouri behind at the border, I pull over at a roadside rest area to escape the heat in the shade of a large tree. I turn away from my bike, lay back on a picnic table, close my eyes, and sleep away the fatigue. Yes, the table was chained down as table slavery is still practiced in Missouri. — in Lancaster, Missouri.
Feeling refreshed after my nap, I get up and hop on the bike with the excitement of knowing I'll sleep in my own bed tonight. Twist the throttle and click thru the gears and no sooner than adding my next mile do I notice the bike suddenly feeling strange; the rear tire has gone flat. I quickly find the hole, no nail, it is a cut 3/8 to 1/2" long. No worries. I have ten tire plugs in my repair kit that I've successfully used before so I confidently plug the tire.
Now I just need to air it up and I'll be back on the road and home by 9 pm. Rotating the tire to locate the fill valve, the air compressor wires get caught and pulled apart. I perform some crude surgery to splice the wires back together. That is the fourth problem. Hmmm...
I inflate the tire and can hear that the repair didn't work. I try another plug, a hallucinogenic mushroom shaped rubber plug, and it still leaks. Is this a fifth problem or still the third? I think I better stop counting because it is about to get worse and I've run out of fingers on my counting hand. Is this some bad luck or is it something worse than that? — in Lancaster, Missouri.
I have to get off this busy road so I inflate the bleeding tire and limp into a gas station on the border where I fill it with a can of stop leak. It continues to leak and bleeds out the stop leak all over the parking lot. The next town, Centerville Iowa, is 30 miles away and my only hope for finding a tire so I inflate the tire and jump back on the road hoping that I'll make it. I don't. I go about ten miles before the tire is flat so I pull over, inflate, and repeat. — in Lancaster, Missouri.
Centerville, Iowa. The only motorcycle shop in the area that is open tells me that they wouldn't be able to get a tire for me until Friday, today is Monday. I'm losing count of the things going wrong. My little air compressor has started to get louder and pump less so I buy a bigger compressor to take over. I also pick up some more tire stop leak just in case this compressor dies and I need to get another 10 miles down the road. It is a humid 90 degrees and what I really need is an AC compressor. I'm soaked in sweat. — in Centerville, Iowa.
I fill the still bleeding tire and head north...right into a wall of water. Normally this wouldn't be an issue because I have rain gear. But the rain came suddenly and my clothes were stuck to me from the heat and would have prevented me from changing gear in time as my tire continued bleeding to death so I just kept riding. This wasn't a sprinkle; cars were pulling over but this idiot kept riding, soaked to the bone. Water pools up in my crotch and reminds me that I need to use the restroom. I think about the movie dumb and dumber and wonder if I should. Did I?
The rain cascaded down and filled up my boots, and they stay filled because they are waterproof after all. I later develop trench foot and am left wondering how Aquaman can spend the entire day in the water. The storm was heavy but brief but the damage was done, I was soaked. No time to dwell on the negative when I needed to put on some miles. At least I wasn't sweating anymore.
Every pit stop became a well orchestrated dance between me and my dancing partner, the bike. Visor up, bike on side stand and then up on the center stand. plug in compressor, fill tire to compressor max, quickly throw air compressor into tank bag while mounting bike, push bike off of stand and hit the gas. I would barrel down the nearly arrow straight county roads in a race against time as the tire lost 2 psi/minute. I'd ride 10 miles as fast as I could and then pull over before the tire lost so much air that the plug would pop out. — in Knoxville, Iowa.
Eight hours have passed since the tire puncture and the sun is starting to go down. It will be dark soon and things are looking bleak for me. I know I won't make it home tonight and I don't even know if I'll make it to the next town. After only logging one mile since the last inflation, another tire plug fails. Only three of the original ten plugs remain. I won't make it at this pace. I stood there watching the sky blushing towards darkness and wondered why I was okay with this, why I'm not yelling or crying. Shit has really gone down hill and it is getting worse with the sun going down and my tire plug supply dwindling. Should I cry? Sometimes I enjoy a good tear jerking movie or a touching story that brings me to tears because it feels so good afterwards. I look at my situation and decide that I should cry but when I try, I can't. I laugh instead. Sure it would take me a day to reverse the dehydration that turned my urine orange (No, I didn't do the Dumb and Dumber) but I was secretly loving this. I was loving the challenge. I was loving the adventure. — in Nevada, Iowa.
No matter how much pain he caused me, it was sad to say goodbye. When we met I was full of dreams of all of the places we could see together while traveling the country. The relationship was so full of potential. Part of the sadness in letting go of someone is from losing that person but another part comes from letting go of all of the dreams you created with that person. I let go of the Evil Monkey on the edge of a corn field in Iowa. I apologized for taking him away from his view of the bluffs above the Missouri River and then said goodbye.
I looked back and saw him sitting there gazing west at the setting sun with his bright eyes and welcoming embrace and he truly looked happy. And my tire held air the remaining 180 miles to home.
Yamaha FJR1300, Honda RC51 (the 51), BMW F650 Dakar, and a Yamaha WR250F. He is always looking to go on another adventure including dating your hot sister/mom/friend/goat/etc. Electronic reprints of this story are available by refreshing your browser and sending the author a good bottle of Riesling. Ride on.