After a short day on the road for the first day of my trip I got up right as the sun was rising for day two of my adventure. This day would end up being the longest I would ride on the entire trip by covering just short of 400 miles and riding through portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Most of the trip would continue to be on the Great River Road before heading east into Illinois and finishing the day at Slioam Springs State Park.
Breaking down camp was fairly quick and probably took a total of thirty minutes. Heading out of Great River Bluffs State Park that morning was pretty neat as I was able to see the area for the first time in daylight since I arrived the night before in the dark. The access road for the state park is a narrow gravel road that cuts through the tops of some river bluffs before cutting through an apple orchard and linking up with I-90. At the on ramp for I-90 was a KwikTrip gas station which was the perfect place to stop for fuel and breakfast. Fuel stops were always interesting because most people don’t know what to think when they see a loaded down KLR. This stop was no exception as a couple people came over and asked about the KLR and where I was going.
Luckily its a short ride down I-90 to link back up with the Great River Road and cutting down the road early in the morning was pretty nice since their was hardly any traffic. This part of the Great River Road had some nice windy turns as the road followed the course of the Mississippi River along with the ridge lines and bluffs. After about 40 miles I crossed the river at La Crosse, Wisconsin to ride the eastern side of the Great River Road. I really wish I could put the riding in Wisconsin into words and honestly I can’t and I’m still in awe many months later. The Great River Road in Wisconsin follows the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and has a lot more curves and elevation changes then Minnesota. The Wisconsin side of the river seemed more rural and desolate with small towns that time seemed to forget. These towns had nothing more then a small post office and a one truck fire station and a whole lot of canoes and fishing rods outside houses. At times I kind of forgot where I was and thought I was back in my old stomping grounds of Maine.
This section through Wisconsin was by far one of the best parts of the entire trip and on a bike like a KLR it was a blast to ride. However, all good things must come to an end and right around noon I crossed into Dubuque, Iowa. This is kind of where the day started to drag for me for a couple reasons. First, when I crossed over the Mississippi River and worked my way back to the Great River Road on the eastern bank I somehow got diverted onto Highway 61 which was now a four lane highway. Now this was something I was trying to avoid at all costs because I hate riding on the highway mostly because of semi trucks and the wind plus it’s not really scenic. The second reason why the day started to drag was the heat. Since I left early in the morning the temperature was around 60 degrees and very comfortable however as I rode through Dubuque the temps were in the low 90’s and the sun was beating on me pretty good. While being stuck on Highway 61 I drained my Camelbak in no time and it seemed like the venting in my jacket and pants wasn’t quite cutting it anymore. Part of my issue with the heat was I was wearing black riding pants, a dark colored jacket, and the KLR was mostly black so I was soaking up a ton of radiating heat.
The ride through Iowa was one of the hardest stretches that I would face on the trip, not from difficulties navigating or from technical riding but from the heat, sun, and the fact that my Seat Concepts seat felt like I was sitting on a piece of wood. However, once I got to Davenport I had to stop and take an extended break, I just couldn’t ride anymore. After I fueled up I pulled the KLR up under an awning at a KwikTrip and had the amazing lunch of two brautwursts and a Gatorade along with a water. I stayed there for about 45 minutes and let my body loosen up after being cramped up for so long. I’m a firm believer those 45 minutes saved the day.
After resting up for a bit I got back on the road for the final 150 miles. I jumped back across the Mississippi River for the last time at Burlington, Iowa and met back up with the western side of the Great River Road, getting off the highway and busy roads had never felt so good. My time on the Great River Road was brief before I started travelling along gravel farm roads on the way to my stop for the night. These farm roads were a breath of fresh air as I rode alongside corn fields and wooded areas, it was nice to leave civilization behind at least for a little while. I pulled into Siloam Springs State Park after riding for 8 hours and just under 400 miles. I was beat and I’m sure the KLR was tired as well.
As for the park it was kind of a surprise, when one thinks of Illinois they think of cornfields and the metropolis of Chicago, dense forested areas and lakes don’t often come to mind. Siloam Springs State Park was a lot larger then I expected and since it was after Labor Day weekend it was pretty much deserted. I had a nice flat site and since I got there with some daylight left I walked around the area and took a much needed shower at the bathhouse before I made a fire and dinner. Once it got dark and my fire died down I called it a night and prepped for day three. Little did I know that the next day would be my most interesting day on the road by far due to weather.