So we reached Ann Arbor and found a motel and food. Not the nicest part of town, but well positioned for an easy escape the next morning. We got on the road and blasted through Michigan pretty easily, turning south to dip under Lake Michigan before heading north again into Chicago. At some point I decided to let the Garmin guide me into the city, since I could plug in the address of the hotel it would be a lot easier than reading a map while riding. As we got closer to the city it was looking like rain was inevitable, so we put on rain suits after paying one of the innumerable tolls, and were rewarded with a pretty steady hard wind and rain all the way into the city. I was nervous about the Garmin getting wet, but I couldn't navigate without it, so I risked it and left it up. No problems, it worked fine and got us to the hotel with minimal hassle. We then discovered that the hotel (Hyatt Regency) was not accustomed to, or equipped for motorcycles. After a little standoff with the Valet parking manager (who turned out to be very accommodating after all) we were able to park in the VIP area (all it took was money).
Once we dried off, the rain stopped and we were able to walk to the Navy Pier and enjoy some typical tourist stuff, including a 90 minute sail on the "Windy", a steel schooner plying the tourist trade business along with about a dozen other types of power boat/yacht. It was fun, and when we were cast ashore we headed back into the downtown area to look at architecture, and we saw some really neat buildings too.
The following day was our mission to see Whitewater Wisconsin, where my dad was born. We got there and had a very nice lunch at a little cafe in the downtown area. It's a pretty little town surrounded by agriculture and golf courses. I think my dad would have been proud of the place.
Then it was off to Iowa, following Rt. 18 west from Madison. If you've never done it, it's a pretty amazing thing, riding through endless miles of corn. Nothing but corn, except for the occasional soy fields, then more corn. Two days of it actually, with a stop in Mason City Iowa, where I got carded at the "Prime & Wine" restaurant and had to go back to the hotel to get my ID, which I dutifully did. Then found out they only had one cut of well done prime rib left, so I had the salmon. In the middle of Iowa.
The next day was pretty much uneventful. We stopped for gas in Spencer IA, which is a pretty little town, it has a divided 4 lane main street with lamposts hung with flower baskets. When I went back into the gas station to see where they put the recycle bin the young lady behind the cash register didn't know what I was looking for. Not a clue.
We pressed on to reach Murdo SD that evening, which was about 70 miles past Chamberlain (which is where we crossed the Missouri River, having crossed the Mississippi at Prairie Du Chien, WI).
There was a Super 8 right by the highway so we checked in (with a little tedious and unneccesary drama trying to get a room key that would unlock the door) and rushed off to find some dinner. After dinner we were back in the room playing cards when I thought I heard some thunder. I opened the window and the wind was blowing really hard, leaves and litter just whipping around in the parking lot. We ran out to the lot to see how the bikes were, I was afraid they'd be knocked over because we'd left the top cases on. Luckily they were still upright, but the wind was rocking them pretty well. We were able to move them around to a safer spot for the night, but the storm never really reached us anyway. A weird thing about Murdo, there were thousands of crickets in the parking lot and around the motel. You couldn't walk without stepping on 'em, and when the wind picked up they were just getting blown all around. The next morning there were dead crickets everywhere. We weren't sorry to get on the road.
The Badlands of South Dakota were next, very scenic, and so was Spearfish SD, with a really entertaining riverside road with beautiful views and sweeping turns, worth the side trip out of Sturgis. We stopped for lunch in Wall, which is another roadside tourist trap where you can spend money on all kinds of stuff. We made it all the way to Buffalo that evening, nervously glancing from our fuel gauges to the threatening skies and back down to the blinking fuel gauges. That was the longest single no-stop leg, 211 miles.
Aboard the Windy
Bright lights, big city
We're in cowboy country now