By T.J. & Stephanie Thompson
Photos by Stephanie Thompson
Our bags are packed and the bike is loaded. Our journey is really starting! The morning of July 26th we rolled out of our driveway in Harrison, Arkansas, and busted through our sleepy little town. With dark clouds on the horizon, we had checked the weather and we felt certain that we would be able to skirt around the rain. Day One would take us to Hillsboro, Illinois, to a guy who we call our friend, even though we had only met once six years ago.
It was a five hour estimated ride with a total of 348 miles that we had planned for this first day. We stopped in Rolla, Missouri, to fill up the bike with our spare change that we had saved for months. Little did we know that our GPS recalculated and took us along the “scenic” route to our destination.
It was this scenic route that added miles and some additional hours to our trip. We were now heading straight into stormy weather along the side roads that were narrow and slick. We pulled into the county road department and took shelter underneath their awning with the bulldozers and gravel piles.
Right in the middle of the rain storm, we suddenly discovered that Verizon cell phone service does not work in this area! We were not able to check the weather apps, or use GPS to find our current location. After the lightning and rain slowed down, we knew we needed to hit the road and try to cover more ground but we did not make it very far.
The little town, of Belle, Missouri, had one lonely café so the choice was easy. We were hungry and soaked from the rain! We pulled up and threw a tarp over the bike. As people already inside watched us, we walked in and grabbed a booth; the first comment an older gentleman made was, “You sure did choose a nice day to ride!” We knew he was just trying to be funny and start conversation but it really set the mood. As we were looking at the menu and
making a puddle on the floor beneath our booth; our waitress arrived. Of course, she told us the most tragic horror story of her boyfriend’s motorcycle wreck years ago on a rainy day just like today.
It was moments like these that just made us want to get away; such a strange feeling wanting to get in a safe dry place, but the safe dry place made us want to get back on the bike and ride through the storm.
As soon as we ate and paid for our meal, we quickly made our way to the car wash that was just down the street. It was here at the car wash that was a safe, dry and quiet place so that we could wait out the storm.
After a few hours passed, we headed to Hillsboro, Illinois, which was still a three hour ride, and the new halfway point was the St. Louis Arch! We flew by the arch and snapped pictures from a distance because we had another black cloud behind us. Heavy on the throttle, we made good time arriving at Hillsboro around 7pm. Our total spent tallied up to $63.89 for the day. This included food $27.39 and gas $36.50 with 368
miles. We didn’t have to worry about dinner that day thanks to our hosts Greg and Marissa in Hillsboro.
McDonald’s breakfast was quick, easy and cheap for our budget on Day 2. From Hillsboro, Illinois, to Indianapolis, Indiana, was a quick 200 mile ride with great weather ahead of us! We had several Instagram and Facebook followers suggest must-see stops along our route and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was on the short list! It was here in Indianapolis that we met up with our Instagram buddy John who showed us the speedway and a quick tour of his town.
With the great weather and our spirits high… we wanted to keep riding and decided to continue down the road towards Cleveland. We left Indianapolis and rode on into Springfield, Ohio adding 135 miles for the day. Crossing the Ohio state line was huge! There were now three states between us and our home in Arkansas. Day Two totals were: for food $39.04 and gas $13.28 with a grand total of 348 miles.
Saturday morning, we woke up with our second wind! Ready to be at the Fuel Cleveland Show and meet our Instagram friends in Wickliffe, Ohio. Mike and Missy were only three and a half hours away from us! Saturday, Day Three was going to be a short ride but a long fun filled day. With a quick shot up Interstate 71 we arrived with plenty of time to relax before the show.
Knowing that we were going to hit the hooch that night, we grabbed a Lyft to go downtown for the chopper show. This short ride downtown was the scariest moment during this whole trip… another example of when I feel more comfortable on my bike. This was a point in our trip that we knew we were going to let our hair down and get a little ornery. The Fuel Cleveland Show really hit the spot for us with bikes, art, live music and the amazing community and venue at Skidmark Garage. We have a full length story about Fuel Cleveland on our Facebook blog page we would love to share with you. Day Three totals are 231 miles with $128.92 for food, beer, and gas.
We woke up Sunday morning with a throbbing headache and an urge to head west! Putting midtown Chicago in my GPS, we set out for this next adventure. Somewhere along Interstate 90W we grabbed gas and lunch, and to our surprise ran into a few buddies that we had met the night before at the Fuel Cleveland Show.
Our highlight of the day was the little town of Gary, Illinois. It was advised for us to avoid this area due to something about it being the murder capital of the US, but of course we had to stop and explore. We don’t know if it was due to the massive hangover, the relentless speed bumps every mile or the two times we almost got run over…. But we quickly decided that downtown Chicago would be skipped and saved for a different journey of its own. Day Four ended in Owatta, Illinois, with a total mileage of 420 and $74.15 spent.
Feeling the need for a little history, Day Five consisted of downtown Owatta checking out the Lincoln Douglas debate memorial. Standing in the exact location as these two great men stood, it really took us back and gave us an appreciation of our nation’s history.
With miles to put behind us, we threw our legs over the bike and continued west to our next stop in Webster City, Iowa. Along the way, we met up with our Facebook friend Scott where we all grabbed lunch and for the first time, Steph and I got to eat at a Culver’s! We filled up our tank along the way making a total spent $11.32. We were eager to meet our social media friends John and Kim in Webster City, Iowa, where we were treated to a tent already set up and a welcome garage to park and examine the Road Glide. Although our day was filled with time spent with new friends and lots of
history, 311 miles was the total with hardly any money spent with lunch and dinner provided.
John and Kim actually took this day off work and they were able to share the road with us. Day Six was a day filled with corn and exploring Dolliver Memorial State Park. We traveled and made our way up to Highway 90 to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which gave us a straight shot into Sturgis. A total of 287 miles for this day and ended up with a total amount spent: $48.40.
Day Seven was the most dramatic, drastic day for us. The day started out with high hopes of amazement at the Corn Palace of the World,
and fifteen minutes later we decided it was not for us and we headed farther west. The Badlands grabbed me by the collar of my soul, I wasn’t ready for it. I thought this was going to be short simple ride, another hill, another curve, another prairie dog. But, it hit me! Hit me like a June bug in mid-flight running 60mph. All five of my senses were heightened with the magnitude of our life events playing out in my head. For me, these 306 miles from Sioux Falls to this moment, were the most spiritual magical time of the entire trip.
We rode an additional 77 miles to Jeremy’s house (Instagram friend) in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he had a room already prepared for us. Our spending for the day included protein bars that we packed, brunch at the Corn Palace $18.50 and $30.00 in gas. Jeremy and his family took us out to eat in the heart of downtown Rapid City. They showed us all of the must-see stops around the square including the incredible Art Alley. The Art Alley is a unique art community that changes and evolves each month. One of the highlights of the trip was strolling through the Alley several times and finding new art each time.
This is why you find the locals! Locals can lead you to the myths, legends, and hidden treasures of their hometowns. If it wasn’t for the connections and amazing hosts that we have had the privilege of meeting, there would be so much undiscovered. Continue to follow our journey as we make our way into Sturgis on Day Nine during the Part Three of our Shoestring Budget Road Trip.