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Wi-Fi Blogger Awakes From Hibernation … The Ride Home

August 30th, 2014 · Tags:Cities · Sports · Wi-Fi

 

 

At some point in my childhood, viewing the world through National Geographic, I learned about bears storing up calories and body fat before they winter in a cave — only to come out lean and even more mean when hibernation is over.

 

For me … just the opposite.

 

I spent a couple of months underground on The Dirty Gig in Columbia, Mo. and still bare the extra tonnage — a combination of doing most of my lifting with a fork and/or a forklift … oh and that little ice cream three times a day habit that I acquired in Mizzou.

However, I did master the dormant part of being in a cave. Dormant from a blogging standpoint. Seems I can’t bring myself to think of a word to write lately. Maybe I needed closure. You see, after my team boxed and trucked 300,000 books to Texas for cleaning, the job wasn’t finished. I had returned to Texas, but still had Missouri and the cave in my subconscious as we worked on the books in Texas.

 

So … this is an attempt at closure … the last thoughts on the Dirty Gig at Mizzou:

 

One of my BFFs recently told me that this blog is evolving into a motorcycle diary. Is that so wrong? No seriously, PingWi-Fi is and will always be a Wi-Fi/travel/rock music/sports/art/food/photography/motorcycle blog – Ha!

 

But to her point … The job in Missouri was greatly enhanced by the two-wheeler. I was fortunate enough to fly back to Fort Worth from Columbia, Mo., after a few weeks on the job and then ride back to Missouri on the Triumph. Quality time! Pretty sure I have ridden every backroad from Columbia to Jeff City a time or two, and every other direction out of Columbia — and I have ridden up on some interesting stuff. Missouri is not filled with rugged mountain beauty, but the rolling hills of farmland and rivers and bridges and salt licks and country homes with perfect multi-acre yards is very relaxing and appealing.

 

 

On one such ride, I turned off to visit a little river hamlet, only because it’s name was interesting. (Ha … and yet I cannot even remember it as I write, nor can I find it on the map???) That is when I discover a tiny music festival — a combination of tie-dye, hillbillies, music fans, junk cars in yards, and nice people on the banks of the river.

 

MIZZOU Music Fest sized

 

In Columbia, you could usually find me slurping on a green tea frappuccino at Starbucks … but most significantly, sampling the free Wi-Fi from Which Wich next door to Bux … WW had a better Wi-Fi hotspot. I intended to write about WW from inside their store, because just prior to the trip, I had brunch with one of the WW field operations executives. I was shocked to learn that the CEO of WW is Jeff Sinelli, a Dallas entrepreneur and once an acquaintance back when he had Genghis Grill and I had PingelPR … seems like yesterday that Jeff and I shared lunch at his first chain, as I tried to win his PR business back in the day. He has done well! Is it just me … or is there something subliminal in the name and logo for WW? (I always think of witch … and think the triangles in the logo are reminiscent of witch hats … but maybe that is just me???) I digress … but while on the topic, also want to note that in Nashville, I saw two WWs on the same street a few blocks apart. Interesting …

 

Which Wich

 

Churchill & Geoffrey

 

The Triumph motorcycle also took me to Fulton, Mo., home of the National Churchill Museum — on the campus of Westminster College where the visiting British leader coined the term “Iron Curtain” in his “Sinews of Peace” speech. My client/buddy and I rode our bikes to the museum one weekend, dodging rain storms here and there along the way, reaching the museum just as a wedding party took over the place.

 

Churchill Museum

 

It’s a picturesque site with great architecture and a swatch of the Berlin Wall … but frankly, Winston, I found the Keep Calm t-shirts cliche and lacking. My goodness. Churchill has one of the most well known mugs in history … and not a single t-shirt with his likeness. Really?

 

Mizzou Jefferson sized

Beyond motorcycle rides, Columbia offers only the things of which college towns are made. So of course I partook in hippie coffee shops, the Magnetic Zero concert … stuff like that, and an all-encompassing Wi-Fi hotspot that covered the entire Mizzou — even the picturesque Francis Quadrangle with its icon columns – the only remnants of Academic Hall that had a little meltdown in 1892. I tweeted and updated and enjoyed great people watching from the Quad — in the shadow of the Thomas Jefferson statue, at the very heart of American journalism … or what used to be objective journalism.

 

Francis Quad

 

Elsewhere on campus, the PingWF Tour was fortunate enough to catch The Tigers play the eventual World Series champion Vanderbilt Commodores. Baseball, hotdogs and Wi-Fi!  This project also allowed me spare time to ride over to two of America’s favorite pastimes — The College World Series and … Ha! … The National Quilting Museum.

 

Mizzou Vandy Bunt sized

 

 

Yes I had the obligatory hamburger at Booches — a Mizzou institution with beer, burgers and billiards. Pretty awesome. Darn near worth the wait at the bar, and the rude waitress, as the bearded guy sweat over a hot grill near the entrance, cooking them as fast as he could.

 

During many rides over to Jeff City (as the locals refer to the capital, Jefferson City) I frequented a little ice cream shop near the capitol for waffle cones and Wi-Fi. And yes, the Triumph was always a conversation piece. I was approached by a nice professional couple who were sporting a very space-age looking, ultra-aerodynamic Victory cruiser. Very cool, sleek, modern. We traded pleasantries and Web sites … And on another visit to the same location, I was approached by a middle aged guy riding a blueish, almost purple Harley.

 

The Harley dude shared a few suggestions about scenic backroads and then he shared one of the more interesting stories I have heard in a while. He is a minister, who fairly recently had been fired from his position of leadership, then was hired back … after he purportedly pistol-whipped one of his parishioners (… get this, the beaten one happened to be an ex-lawman). The pastor is said to have learned of the second man making improper advances toward another member of the flock. A fight ensued and everyone was packing that Sunday … apparently. The pastor was reinstated after more details came to light about the ex-officer’s history. Pretty wild. (You can Google this and find some of the information.)

 

More Mizzou Images

 

So any who, after a great visit to Missouri, there was another opportunity for a long ride — home. Riding from Texas to Missouri, I had travel the fastest route — taking the major freeways and the toll road through Oklahoma … with little scenic relief until I hit the beautiful Lake of The Ozarks area about an hour southwest of Jeff City.

 

On the return trip to Texas, I portioned a 10-hour ride into two days through The Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas and down through the Ouachita Mountains. Columbia to Jeff City to Springfield, then down to Hot Springs and then over to Mena. As luck would have it, I hit rain at sunset, juts south of Springfield, Mo. Slow rain at first … then horrible from Branson to Clinton. Eventually, it was totally blinding, so I pulled over at a gas station in Arkansas. I probably could have continued, slowly, but it was the cars around me that were more of a threat than the lightning … I think.

 

So, I pulled over, parked and walked inside some gas station store, me being the subject of lots of stares and comments about being a fool out in the rain … and nice concerned comments too. Criticism accepted, but hey, I needed to get home. Once out of the rain, I ordered up whatever the fried food was at the counter and a Gatorade when there was a huge lightening bolt nearby. All power went off. The cashier was helpless without juice for the cash register and she felt sorry for me, so she gave me the food and drink. I told her the price was right, so “How about a hot coffee too?” She obliged and told me I was welcome to stay there out of the rain … for about 15 more minutes when they closed. Luckily I had already gassed up before the lights went out. I waited as long as possible and got back on the wet bike and wet road. The rain had let up a bit. It was still a little hazardous, so I took “’er easy. “

 

Ten miles up the road, the rain lifted, but the road twisting up and down and around the mountains was covered with those low hanging clouds and/or fog. It was pretty surreal on its own … but then as I rode further the fog began to turn all sorts of colors, in bright quick flashes … This ride was just before the Fourth of July and throughout the Ozarks people had taken a break from their homemade distilleries and meth labs and were firing off do-it-yourself pyrotechnics shows of patriotism. Ha … the colorful, flashing skies looked like that one seen in “Apocalypse Now” where Martin Sheen and company reach the end of the river in their quest for Marlon Brando, the rogue officer hiding out in the jungles. Ha! I will take an “Apocalypse Now” scene over a “Deliverance” scene in backwoods Arkansas any time.

 

That night I made it to Hot Springs at midnight, a trip that normally would have gotten me to my hotel by about 10. Lucky for me, the hotel clerk whom I called could not even tell me how to get to her hotel. (No GPS as I move on the bike.) She said … “Oh it is a major rode that you need to turn on, but I can’t think of the name. It is by one of the two Walmart stores … “Well that helped.” …. I was pretty amused (not) when I figured out she couldn’t recall the name of Airport Road … you know, the road named after that little thing where airplanes take off and land. I digress …

 

I took a hot springs-like bath to ward off hyperthermia, slept like I invented the concept, and rose early to get back on the bike just after sunrise … and on this the final day of the ride, ended up with nothing by sunny skies through some of the prettiest country I have seen. Around Mena near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border their is a scenic route that crowns the very top of a steep mountain range, for several miles. Awesomeness. On 270, Albert Pike Road — near Mount Ida I think it was — i spotted a scenic overlook and slowed down for a quick “smell-the-roses” moment.

 

As I pulled to a stop, I noticed that there was another motorcycle already perched on the side of the hill … a black Harley, stripped down and chopped out so to speak — a little more hardcore than my touring bike. And as the owner turned away I noticed the “colors” on the back of his leather vest. Early on in the blog, back in Winston-Salem I had the fortune to ride the hotel elevator with several Hell’s Angels. (It’s all there in the Ping blog if you care to search for it …) And on this day, I met my first Bandido. Ha … what to do? “Should I hop back on and ride away?” “Should I tell him black is my favorite color?” I decided to just chill and say hello and fall back on our common denominator — motorcycle road conditions. He told me the road was clear behind him, in polite enough terms. So we talked for a minute or two — when feeling more inquisitive than I should have — I asked him a little bit about his motorcycle clan. Then — for the life of me, I don’t know why — I tried my hand at humor. I asked him, “Say, you’re not going to kill me or anything, are you?” There was a moment of silence, allowing ample time to rethink the wisdom of the joke as my life flashed before my eyes in my imagination. After a couple of awkward silence seconds, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Nah, I don’t have a shuffle to bury the body.” We laughed — me a bit nervously. I wished him luck with whatever it is he does, and rode on.

 

The back road was dotted with antique cars, restored or abandoned and ripe for pickers. I took a photo in some hamlet with my Triumph Thunderbird juxtaposed with a ‘60s era Ford Thunderbird (thinking my car collector friend Derik would love it). I made a mental note to take a phone number off of several ‘50s era houseboats, land locked on the side of hill, for sale. And rode on, marveling at the scenery … mountains, trees, oh the smells, birds bridges, lake after lake … so different to take it all in … in the wind, rather than from a car.

 

There were several hours of Oklahoma backroads with nice farms along 70 from Hugo to Durant — a natural progression between the mountains and Texas.

 

Finally I reached Texas and soon found myself being challenged by bad-attitude drivers at top-speeds on 75 north of Dallas … a rude welcome back to Texas. But, thank goodness for the George Bush turnpike, I got out of the haters and enjoyed a more peaceful cruise to the mid-cities and then on to Forth Worth. Home. Safe. Sunburned. Content.

 

Know what I sayin?