Before officially leaving Milwaukee, we stopped by to see the Harley Davidson Motor Company, which was closed since it was Sunday. We took a few pictures of our bikes in front of the building. We also rode up on the sidewalk to get a pic in front of the H-D sign out front.
As we rode the back highways, we came to the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, where there was a pizza shop at the intersection that straddled the border. I couldn’t snap a photo because we were at a red light that quickly went to green with traffic behind us, but it was pretty cool with the signage out front that showed that one half of the building was in an Illinois area code, while the other half was in a Wisconsin area code.
After awhile, we crossed into Iowa, where we saw some billboards encouraging people to vote Republican. There were tons and tons of farms, and the scenery was pretty. We went to Iowa City, Iowa to pay respects to my great grandmother’s grave, where she is buried with her family and our ancestors. She died when I was only one year old, and it is my understanding that she didn’t feel confident to hold me (because of age/strength), but she adored me. I know that my dad and Gram were very close, and he has shared some of his fond memories with me. She was good to him, but he was also good to her. Some of the tombstones included family members who lived from 1850 – 1890. They were all of German descent, and there was scripture, in German, on the tombstones. There was a baby that died in the 1800’s. Another child died as a toddler, and the tombstone had a little lamb on the top. Across the generations, the name Caroline was very popular, and I imagine that would get confusing in conversations.
We stopped at the McGrath Hawkeye H-D store, where they were friendly and asked about our journey. On the wall, they had photos enlarged on huge canvases that were taken by their employees of their bikes in different places around Iowa. There was one of a cool, painted barn, so I asked how far it was, and they told me only about 30 minutes. They printed some directions for us, and so of course, we had to go! It was actually in the opposite direction of our destination, but it was WELL WORTH the detour! These serendipitous discoveries are what make this road trip so fun!
In the evening, we went to a Mexican Restaurant called La Casa Azul, which was next door to our hotel and had a large crowd. We figured with that so many patrons, it had to be pretty good, and it was! It turns out, it is family owned by people from Guerrero, México. My dad enjoyed some enchiladas and a beer, and I had some delicious chicken fajitas. That was a nice father’s day meal.
The next day, we continued on to Burlington, Iowa. They have the Heartland H-D store, which we stopped at for t-shirts and poker chips. The owners/employees had a little chihuahua in the store who came over to said hi. A man with three little female terrors came into the store, and he did not supervise his children, who terrified the dog. They were all screaming (no exaggeration) and chasing after the dog. The dog ran behind the counter area, which was enclosed by counters on 4 sides with a small swinging gate, and the girls ran in there too! The cashier picked up the dog and told them that they were not allowed behind the counter. Then, the girls ran around the store, knocking things down, screaming and hollering, and just acting wild. The poor dog was still shaking, even in the arms of the cashier. I know they say it takes a village to raise children, but I don’t believe that means the village is a substitute for parenting.
We got on the road, and eventually crossed into Missouri. Missouri is also a lot of farm land, and the houses seem to be a bit more modest. When we were were about one hour away from Kansas City (our destination), we had to take a detour because the town was flooded a week ago, and some of the roads were still completely under water. I felt bad because the front yards were destroyed and you could see the damage to the homes. We stopped to ask a local for directions, we ended up having to head north and around a few towns, which added at least 45 minutes to an hour to our trip. We wanted to get gas, but this little town did not offer the 93 octane gas (only regular unleaded or Diesel), so we had to keep going and hoped that we would make it to the next town for gas. Luckily, about 40 or 45 minutes later, we did come across a major gas station, where we were able to fill up.
As we headed to south to Kansas City, the clouds were rolling in. We knew they were supposed to get rain in the evening, but we hoped to beat it. We were trying so hard to make it to the H-D store before they closed, but we weren’t sure if we would make it. Most of them close by 6:00 pm, but we looked, and this one was open until 8:00 pm. The rain caught up to us as we rolled into Kansas City, but we made it to the store. They have a HUGE inventory collection, and the staff was very friendly. We were int the store for about 15 minutes, and when we left, the rain was heavier. Luckily, the hotels were less than a mile away, so we hunkered down for the night. Both of us were exhausted and sore from the long ride of at least 350 miles, and I slept like a rock!
After a long, 400-mile ride the next day, we arrived to Dodge City, Kansas. We passed a lot of pro-life billboards, and we saw several billboards telling motorists to look twice for motorcycles. We did make a stop along the way in the Twister City H-D (in Wichita, KS). My dad got a shirt there, and I got a poker chip. One of the guys talked our ears off, and we eventually had to tell him we needed to get back on the road. As we traveled west on highway 50, the winds got more intense. We stopped for gas and a cold drink about 60 miles away from Dodge City, and the owner of the store told us, “if it ain’t at least 40 mph winds, it ain’t nothing here in Kansas.” Our bikes were pushed around on the road, and the draft off of the cattle trucks is the worst. It shakes the entire bike, despite moving as far away in our lane as possible and slowing down before we cross paths. Once we arrived to Dodge City, we stopped at their H-D store, where we took a silly picture. Unfortunately, their t-shirt supply was wiped out from an event the previous week, so my dad will be ordering a shirt to be shipped.
Dodge City is the cowboy capital, and we went to the Boot Hill Museum, where we learned about various cowboy legends and how difficult life was in the 1800’s. They had old guns, Victorian clothing, tidbits about saloons, gambling, prostitution, law enforcement, and information about the cattle drives. My dad grew up watching cowboy shows and movies, so he really liked that. This evening, we went to a BBQ dinner and a western variety show, which is the oldest running one in the country. At dinner, we met a couple from Charleston and a couple from Arizona. On the way out, we met some other Harlistas from Texas.
Next, we went to the Kansas Teacher’s Hall of Fame. It is the first in the country, and it was worth the visit. A proud, retired teacher (41 years of service) gave us the tour. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1977 by a school superintendent who believed teachers should be honored and respected. Since then, there are teachers inducted annually. To be considered, they must have 25 + years of teaching experience in Kansas, a certain amount of documented volunteer service, and they must be nominated. A committee of representatives from the different districts across the state make the final decision. In addition to learning about these teachers, they have a lot of teaching memorabilia, including teacher contracts dating back to the 1800’s, teacher rules of 1872, memory books, old schoolhouse desks, and old teaching resources and technology that have been donated. The memory books were given to students by their teachers in the 180o’s, and they had a picture of the teacher, some poems, a statement or quote about the importance of education, and a list of all the pupils in the class that year. I thought they were very sweet. Out back, they also have an old one-room school house that has been restored with fresh paint. It still has original desks, and old chalkboard, a piano that was in the classroom, and original hardwood floors. The flag was old enough that it didn’t have all 50 stars; at that point, Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma were not states.
It was great to see teacher appreciation. Imagine if all states honored and respected teachers.