1050 To Milwaukee

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Article And Photos By: Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The November 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

I reached under my oil tank for the third time that night and started my motorcycle under the fl uorescent lights of the gas station parking lot; my fuel tank topped off to the brim. A handful of other blurry eyed road warriors, more suitably stationed in their station wagons and minivans, a gaggle of children asleep in the back, reached for there coffees tucked neatly in well-fi tted cup holders, took a sip and started their motors. This was the late night crew, the ones not weary of the interstate cloaked in a veil of darkness. The church bells rang loud, twelve times to be exact, midnight. It was now tomorrow, yesterday just moments ago. A storm had been threatening to overtake me from the rear for the last two hours. Time to go, I thought. I don’t mind riding at night, and I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I could do without both at the same time. I wasn’t terribly concerned mind you, though I was being fl anked on three sides by the dramatic show of lightning I could see stars and a crescent moon dead ahead. Roll it to 90 and don’t let up I told myself, and that’s precisely what I did. Not a single raindrop obstructed the view through my visor that night.

I had started late, that’s what prompted this 1,000-mile escapade, taking place predominately in the darkness on my route to Milwaukee and the 115th Anniversary celebration of Harley Davidson. Work had gotten in the way, as it so often does, and left me exiting my driveway, not until nearly 7 pm. I watched the sunset in my rear view mirror. I’m asked all the time when the best time to start a 1,000 mile day is, I, without hesitation, reply with 4 am and warn of the dangers of starting later. Only an amateur would start past 4 am, I would think arrogantly to myself. Clearly, my own advice was thrown out the window; all caution tossed to the wind and my cardinal rule broken. Let this be know as the last time I make that mistake. That all being said, things could have been worse. The temperatures, for the most part, were pleasant as the blazing sun had long since dipped below the horizon, the winds had dissipated as well. My only real concern was that my headlight had taken on a life of its own and chose to light my way only when it felt up to the challenge. Fortunately, that was most of the time, but when it did decide to go on break for a few seconds, it left me in total darkness, not a pleasant feeling I will have you know. Not a pleasant feeling at all. One moment enjoying the music piping through my helmet while watching the zippered center line unravel before me, the next, total darkness and wave of terror coursing through my veins…then music. Literally an emotional rollercoaster.

It was about 3 am when coffee no longer worked its magic, and I was forced into a roadside rest area, my eyelids heavy with exhaustion. I’d just lay myself in the grass for a couple of hours; I was halfway there anyway making it a good time for a quick nap. I pulled into one of the many open parking spots, not far from the rumbling 18 wheelers and a handful of cars, dropped my kickstand into place and stumbled into the grass. Fully clothed, boots still on, I fell deep asleep. It wasn’t until the sprinklers turned on that I awoke in a frenzy, quickly grabbing my phone which had been laying next me and sprinted out of the fi eld towards the parking lot, out of reach of the precisely aimed watering source. I must have looked like a crazy person to an outsider, fl ailing around, and perhaps at the moment, I was. Regardless, I was now wide awake and just an hour from watching the sunrise. Back in the saddle, I went. My abrupt and frantic awakening had sent me sailing into a second wind, I was feeling good. Though I hadn’t slept but two hours over the previous 24 hours I felt surprisingly sharp, it was futile to think that would last. I was still six hours from Milwaukee and even more hours to a bed. Press on, I told myself, the hard part is over, and it should be smooth sailing from here. Across Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois I weaved my way through the ever-increasing traffic.

Other motorcycles had begun to appear as well, cleaner and fresher looking I could see that they had opted to sleep the night before and were just this morning beginning their ride, whereas I was approaching the end of mine. No matter, I was happy to be nearing the Wisconsin border, and all that Milwaukee had to offer. I passed the “Welcome to Milwaukee” sign and smiled inside my helmet for two reasons. First, and most importantly, because I knew I was almost at my destination and would be soon be in the company of my wife and friends. Secondly, this would mark my 9th thousand mile plus day. For a mileage nerd such as myself, I tend to keep track of these sorts of things. This ride also careened me closer to rolling 200,000 miles on my odometer, a number I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a while. But ultimately this ball buster of a ride was for one purpose, to join in the activities of the Milwaukee Rally. This year also marked the 115th anniversary of Harley Davidson which proved to draw larger crowds than ever before. Kayla and our friend Hyletje had a booth set up at the Harley Davidson Museum where I went straight away. The place was bustling as I pulled into the parking lot. Blurry eyed, weak and tired I parked my motorcycle, removed my helmet and reveled in my days accomplishment. I had arrived, 17 hours and 1050 miles after my departure, in one piece.

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