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Leonard's First Tour Part 4

Motorcycling articles by Leonard R.

Leonard - Motorcycle Touring contributor

Continued from Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Day 7 Friday.

The next morning was beautiful. The sun was out, the air was cool, but not cold. The group of bikers were quietly milling around with a few doing some cooking. About this time a different guy walked over to our site. He still looked mean, but younger. He asked us if we had eaten breakfast yet? Why, no we haven't. He then insisted we join him and his buddies for breakfast. Since he seemed friendlier and we hadn't gotten killed during the night, we took him up on his offer.

As it turned out, they were not really a hard core gang as we imagined, but still tough and rough looking. The name of their club has become lost in my memory with time, but they were on their way from St. Louis, Missouri, where they lived, to Memphis, Tennessee for a large rally. But, they were friendly, asking us where we were from, what kind of bikes we had. (We apologized for riding Honda's, but explained that was all we could afford.) The guys we told this to, laughed and several had ridden Jap bikes before getting Harley's or the rest of the mix they rode. Not all had Harley's, but some had Triumphs, Matchless and BSA's. We hadn't seen a Matchless before and marveled at their beauty, which made the owners real happy.

Breakfast consisted of a lot of things. A few that we had never tried before. Grits. We ate some out of polite consideration, but to this day, I can't stand them. The eggs and fried potatoes along with the bacon was real Iowa food and good to us. Although we weren't coffee drinkers at the time, we drank our share of that too.

They asked us more questions then we asked them. What does your gear consist of? Do your parent know where you are at? Are we eating good? Do we need anything fixed on the bikes? About two hours after our arrival to the breakfast table, the group started breaking camp and we advised the men we had to do the same.

Our goal this day was to make it to Lincoln's New Salem State Park, in Illinois. The roads there took us through some really pretty countryside. Very hilly with lots of curves. We didn't have any incidents this day and the weather was good.

It was this day that I met my first woman on her own motorcycle. The gas station was old by those days standards and you did not fill your gas tank. Instead the old stations had "attendants" who did it for you. While we waited for the man to finish filling the pretty girls bike, we engaged in a little flirtatious conversation. Her name was Gloria and she was riding a Gilera. I remember this, because I have never met a Gloria on a Gilera since. I don't remember the size of her bike, but we marveled at the single cylinder engine and the neat noise it made. She was a student on her way to college, farther south somewhere in Kentucky. Although she was a couple years older then us guys, she still tickled our fancy. She too, had her motorcycle well packed, explaining to us that her parents would be following the next day with a lot more items for her dorm room. It would have been nice to have been able to talk to her longer and get more information as to why she picked a Gilera and when did she start riding, but time to her was more important then to us, so she had to scoot on down the road.

1965 Motorcycle touring gas station
1965 Motorcycle touring in the USA Red Owl store We rode on North to Decatur, Illinois and then swung west to Springfield, Illinois. Springfield was a nice larger town, but not huge. The buildings were still old and main street didn't seem to have changed for 100 years. We stopped at a large Red Owl grocery store to purchase supplies. It was one of the largest super markets we had ever been in at the time. After getting food and things, we got directions to the park and rode on. This would make our days mileage to be about 200 miles.

When we arrived at the park we asked some people walking, where the check in office was. They were amused at our packed bikes, but pointed us to the park office. The people at the office were nice and told us about the Old Village in the park. After setting up camp and eating, we took the park officer's advice and went sight seeing.

Twelve log houses, the Rutledge Tavern, ten workshops, stores, mills and a school where church services were held have been reproduced and furnished as they might have been in the 1830s. There was also a old fashioned out door theater being restored. The furnishings include many articles actually used by the New Salem people of President Abraham Lincoln's time.

We were told that Lincoln spent his early adult hood in New Salem. Working as a rail splitter, clerking in a store and as the Post Master. By the turn of the century, New Salem had fairly died as a village goes, and restoration wasn't started until many years later. Now the village is a working village, much like it was in the early 1800's.

Most of the buildings were open, with the blacksmith shop in operation and curio shops to sell you things made in Japan. The grounds are beautiful and heavily wooded with hard packed rock pathways to the various buildings and picnic areas. After spending a couple of hours of walking, doing the visual tour and making the phone call to Mom, we retraced our steps back to our camp site and settled in for the evening.

Day 8 Saturday.

Since our maps showed us that this day would be a longer day riding, we opted not to make a breakfast mess and ride into the nearest town, fuel up and get some donuts. We hadn't had any donuts since leaving home. We filled our tanks and our tummy's and headed on north.

We rode through the twin towns of Bloomington and Normal, Illinois. We really couldn't tell where one town began and the other left off, except for the sign that said Normal. Of course we made several jokes between us about the name "Normal." Are the people in Bloomington not normal? Normal does seem like a normal town.

Incline railway After going through Normal, we turned west a bit through Peoria and Galesburg, Illinois. At Peoria we saw the plaque telling us of the French explorers Louis Jolliet and Pere Marquette who lived here briefly in 1673. We saw the Metamora Courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.

Turning North again from Galesburg we rode on to Moline, Illinois. The town of the tractor factories. We found our way to the John Deere factory, but couldn't get past the front gate. We did see some new tractors on trucks in a yard near the building, but couldn't look inside the tractors at the modern stuff, which disappointed us a bit. Moline is part of what we, in the area refer to as the "Quad Cities." Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. All four cities were famous for something. Moline for tractors, Rock Island for ammunition production, Davenport for Indian artifacts and museums and Bettendorf for Buffalo Bill Cody's Homestead.

We continued North to Iowa's beloved Dubuque. For a small city, the town is beautiful. It rests on the hill sides of the Mississippi river, with no level or straight streets. One street is so steep the city has an incline railway so people can get from the bottom of Dubuque to the top. But, we didn't ride the train. We did ride out to look at the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of New Melleray Abbey. It is a beautiful Catholic monastery of old stone, having been built in the middle 1800's.

We crossed the long iron bridge at Dubuque, Iowa over the river into Wisconsin. Yellowstone State Park, in Wisconsin, was only another 45 miles.

Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of New Melleray Abbey
motorcycle touring in 1965 Just before the park, we stopped to get a few groceries and fuel. There are two tiny towns called , New Diggings and New Diggins, about two minutes apart. Why two towns would elect to have the same name, but spelled slightly different, was beyond us. But, there you have it, another quirk of man's intelligence.

A half hour later, we arrived at the park. It was early evening by now and fairly dark. So, one of us put up the tent and stored our gear, while the other made supper. We were up on a bluff over looking Yellowstone lake and had a great view of the lights of small boats and their owners fishing. We didn't do any sight seeing, but turned in. We had logged about 260 miles this day.

Yellowstone lake park on a motorcycle tour in 1965

Leonard's First Tour Continues: Part 5

Back to Leonard's Two Wheels by the Campfire page

Leonard's First Motorcycle Tour in 1965 - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Leonard's One Pot Camping Recipes - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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