The long long road to Chicago

Trip Start Mar 20, 2011
Trip End Jun 05, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Thursday, May 26, 2011


Yesterday was to be one of the longest journeys I have ever done in one day on a motorcycle. As I said in my last blog I stayed overnight in a wonderful hotel in Cozad, Nebraska and my plan was to make it to Chicago the next day!!! Well little did I realize that Chicago was about 700 miles away and not only that it was freeway all the way which really makes for a boring journey.

However there was something else on my mind and that of course was that there was a steam train due to pass through Cozad in the next few hours. Was I going to stay and watch it or was I going to head for Chicago?? This was the big question spinning in my head!!

Well, me as always made the wrong decision and will regret it for the rest of my life. I decided to forget the steam and make my way to Chicago. I was worried about getting held up and not getting my bike to New York on time for the shipment back to UK.

The other thing I just did not realize was just how far Chicago was from Cozad.

After making my decision I left the hotel at about 8am and headed for route 30 which runs next to the Union Pacific Railway for mile after mile. It may only be boring modern day diesels which run this railway but the sheer amount of traffic and the massive size of the trains is enough to impress anyone with a mechanical mind. 2 or 3 big diesels up front, now and again one in the middle and just about always another at the rear and about 200 wagons in between. The whole length of these massive beasts must be about two miles in length. I followed the line for about 20 miles where about 8 trains passed me in the opposite direction. After that I decided to hit the highway and get some speed up.

Mile after mile was as boring as hell on this route 80 interstate. There was next to no cars on this road but quite a large number of trucks. My first hundred miles was made in good time but the weather was not very warm and soon I just had to stop for a cuppa. Again this is my downfall and once I stop and get warm I just do not want to get back onto that bike and face the cold again.

However one has to do just that and so I made a rule that I must do at least 100 miles between stops.

A terrible cold wind was howling towards me making it hard work for my little Honda to maintain 85mph. With the engine working so hard it not only made the bike vibrate a bit more than it should but the fuel gauge was also racing down at quite a speed. Sometimes as the road changed directions the strong wind would come from the side and passing trucks in these conditions was hell. As you pass the wind would suddenly stop but after you have passed the truck a mighty strong turbulence sends you and the bike all over the place. Other times I could ride up behind a fast moving truck and would virtually have to close the throttle as the turbulence behind the truck would simply suck me along behind it. A great way of saving fuel but too slow for me.

As the day wore on the weather warmed up slightly but this journey to Chicago was just not getting any shorter. Riding on a highway really makes me tired and by 11am I was just about falling asleep and had to find somewhere to rest. It was off at the next turn off and into the first petrol station. Here I parked the bike up and lay down there on the grass and within minutes I was asleep!! I think after over 8 weeks of riding and not much sleep my body is telling me to slow down and give it a rest.

20 minutes kip and I was wide awake again and time for another coffee. I walked into the shop where I was welcomed with the words "Hi Sleepyhead". The shop workers had been watching my head nodding off outside and were having a laugh at me!!

After a good chat I filled up my tank and continued onwards to Chicago. This road and wind was just doing my head in and I was not enjoying it one bit. I was so tempted to head off the highway and take one of the more scenic routes but on the other hand I just wanted to get closer to New York just in case something happened.

With the wind getting stronger and becoming more of a side wind I just had to reduce speed. It was no longer just a constant side wind but would come in big gusts and would just about blow me and my bike off the road.

After about 200 miles I finally arrived into the city of Omaha. I passed along the highway through the city without knowing that some of my friends live here and it was only the next day I realized this!! Oh how I could kick myself now for not stopping there for the night, especially that I was so tired.

As I left Omaha I looked back and there was a mighty big steam locomotive with a large sign placed under it saying "Welcome to Omaha". Do I turn back or do I continue?? was my big question!! Like a fool again I made the wrong decision and continued. For some reason I just wanted to get to Chicago!! Later looking on the internet it turns out that that very large steam loco I saw is one of the worlds largest ever Big Boy locomotives!!! Why did I not stop??? Another decision I will regret for the rest of my life!!

As the miles went on I just kept getting more and more sleepy and was simply struggling to get even 100 miles between stops. Finally I stopped at one of the rest areas which are located all along interstate 80. Here I had about 15 minutes sleep and then continued. However that did not last long and I had to stop about 80 miles further on at another rest area!!

I think simply being on a boring highway for hundreds of miles and struggling against this wind just makes one rather tired! It could also be 8 weeks of riding with not much sleep catching me up.

I stopped somewhere along the road at a petrol station and as always had another coffee. I thought to myself "it can't be much more than another 100 miles to go" or at least I hoped not and I was all up and ready to see Chicago in the next two hours or so. With the tank full I jumped onto my bike and headed for interstate 80 East yet again.

As I race along at slightly above the speed limit I'm thinking "not long now, I will be there in a hour or so". Well again I was wrong and not long down the highway I saw my first sign for Chicago. It had written on it "Chicago 263". "Oh no" I thought, how I was ever going to do all those miles I just did not know and I decided it was time to look for a hotel. 263 more miles in this cold freezing wind was not for me tonight.

I took the next off ramp and headed towards the services. First thing was one of "Wendy's" great burgers for dinner and then to look for a hotel. I pulled up at a few hotels but all were fully booked and so having woken up a bit by now I decided I'm going to just head for Chicago.

It was getting dark and the road was full of roadwork's which made it even harder. The other problem I have riding in the dark is my bikes headlight. as my bike is a UK model and built to run on the left side of the road means the headlight is directed to the left which in the American countries means it shines directly into on coming vehicles. This of course means I get a lot of cars coming the opposite direction putting their lights onto high beam at me and so I have to put mine onto high also!! Of course they soon switch theirs to low again once they realize just how bright my light is as its facing to the left!!

Finally after over 14 hours since I left Cozad that morning I arrived at Letta's house in Chicago. My body was really feeling the pinch. As the bikes motor was working so hard into that wind the extra vibration had penetrated my whole body and I felt like I was shivering all over. How I ever managed long distance on my older bikes when I was young I just do not know. I must be getting old!!

This last week has really taken its toll on me and my back and arms have really been hurting badly. At the beginning of the trip I packed loads of Ibuprofen painkillers which I believe are good for sore muscles etc. However I never needed to take these at all during the early weeks of the tour. Now 9 weeks later my back and arms really are feeling it now and I have been taking the painkillers quite often.

My bike has high up handle bars which means I need to keep my arms up and stretched forward. I find myself riding with my head tilted back slightly to see over my tall screen. This however appears to be taking its toll on my body also. Riding with my head tilted back slightly for so many hours a day means that when I sleep at night with a pillow my head is the complete opposite from when im riding and due to this I waken up every morning with a terrible headache and im sure its all caused by my neck muscles.

Here today at Letta's house in Chicago has been a absolutely great. I have simply done nothing but sleep and relax. I watched loads of my photos taken on the trip and even they brought back many memories.

During these last 8 weeks or so we really have done a lot. In fact we have crammed so much into that short but long period of time that the mind tends to struggle to remember what we have done and where we have been. Looking at all the photos (about 12000 in total) really brought back the good times we had.

Villages, restaurants, people, mountains and all, they are all there as a memory. I for sure took more photos than anyone else on the trip but some folk I believe never even brought a camera with. I simply could not come without my cameras!!

Even though I'm much closer now to New York and the end of my journey I still have a few more miles to do. On Sunday I plan to head up to Wisconsin in search of steam and sometime next week its off back along interstate 80 to meet up with my friend Jim who I should have called into when I passed Omaha. All this means there is well over 1500 more miles to put on the clock of my little Honda.

That's about it for now!!
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Geoff Hall on

Hey Rich,
betta get ya butt moving to NY. Don`t miss the flight.!

lekker ry !

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