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Marble Hill, Missouri - ATrial Run for Spokane

Written by  June 30, 2004

I’m learning quickly that packing gear to go on a motorcycle trip is a fine art — a REALLY fine art!

This summer, Bill, Darren and I are going on a two-week trip to Spokane, Washington for a national BMW rally. Bill and Darren are riding their BMW’s while I tag along on my Honda Magna.

When a recent BMW rally was scheduled for Marble Hill, Missouri, we decided it would be a great chance to do a trial run for the big trip in July. The only hitch was how to get me and all my gear on the bike! By the time I was done, I was loaded down pretty good. Bill wanted to know if I had included the kitchen sink. Although I thought I had done pretty well, Bill, a veteran motorcycle traveler, thought otherwise.

“If I were you,” Bill, who is the motorcycle maintenance instructor at Johnson County community college, said, “I would lose the folding chair and a couple of bags.” Hmmm! I'd purchased three waterproof bags: one to keep the camping gear in, one to pack my clothes, and one to keep my sleeping bag dry. I also had a leather bag to hold things like chain lube, extra oil and cleaning stuff. Tools were in my saddle bags along with my rain gear.

“Why do you have extra oil?” Bill asked.

“In case I need to add some oil during the trip,” I said.

“You’re riding a Honda; they don’t use oil,” he said. “And if you need oil on the trip, just buy some. Same with the folding chair; buy a cheap one once we get to where we’re going and then just throw it away when we leave. Those are two less things you need to carry.”

I told him I would try to do better when we go to Spokane. But on this weekend, our focus was Marble Hill, just northwest of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Despite cloudy skies and the threat of rain, we rolled out and headed down I-435 to I-70. Songs from Easy Rider were echoing around in my helmet. I was Captain America and the road was rolling along under my feet!

We traveled I-70 to St. Louis, took I-270 south to I-55 to US 67 south. We picked up Highway 72 east to Highway 51 south and the Castor River Campground next to the Castor River about 15 miles northwest of Marble Hill. The last hour of the ride was dark and there was a wet fog. Visibility was difficult at best, so I was relieved when we reached the campground. Bill and Darren slept in Bill’s pop-up trailer he towed with his sidecar rig. I picked an elevated spot to pitch my tent, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I made on this trip.

Not long after I pitched the tent, it began to rain. It was still raining the next morning as we rode into Marble Hill to eat breakfast. I watched it pour as I ate my Egg McMuffin. When the rain let up, we rode down Highway 3 through Cape Girardeau into the tip of Illinois and a town called Cairo (Pronounced like Karo Syrup. Don't dare pronounce it like the Egyptian city!). Here is where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers come together and head toward New Orleans.

The sun was out and the pavement was dry as we headed back toward the campground. The curves were excellent, and all was going well until a dog darted out after Darren. In an instant, the dog was under Darren’s front tire. How he maintained his balance, even he's not sure.

Within a half hour of reaching the campground, it began to rain . . . and rain . . . and rained well into the night. Throughout the night, I could hear people packing up and heading out. My tent began to leak sending water all around the edges. The only dry spot was in the middle where a drop of water occasionally splattered on my face.

The next morning, the sun was shining. As I looked around the campground, where there had been tents, now stood bodies of water. As it turned out, my slightly elevated spot was just high enough to keep the tent from becoming engulfed with water.

We packed up and headed to town for breakfast. We stopped at a place called The Woodland Steakhouse in the middle of town. It was a home-cooked breakfast buffet, and it was delicious. It had some of the best biscuits and gravy I have ever tasted.

Heading north to St. Louis and then west to Kansas City, it was windy. By the time I got home and began putting up my tent to dry out, it was 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.

'Did you have a good time?' my wife asked.

'It was the best,' I said.

'Yeah, it looks like it,' she said while picking up some of the wet stuff. 'What are you going to do if this happens in July?'

'Get a room,' I said.

Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz