Sorry about the delay in posting. Some of you knew why ahead of time, some probably didn't, but I probably should have tossed something up in between to let people know what I was up to and why I hadn't posted for a while. Be warned: long break in posting means a lot happened, which means this post will be rather long.
Since Thursday, I've been back in the Midwest visiting family and friends. This trip back was a planned break at about the midway point, in large part because of a family vacation that my mom's family was planning on taking. So while the last week and a half before getting to Vegas was rough, part of what made it tolerable was knowing that I had a break on the way. Granted, that break has so far included 700 miles of driving with another about 200 on the way - but 900 miles in five days is still less than what I usually do on the bike in that period (by about 100 miles).
My last post was from a Starbucks in a northeast L.A. suburb on my way up to Vegas. The weather there was pretty hot - I've been riding right next to the ocean for the few weeks before that, so it stayed cool, but once I got inland it heated up quickly. I wasn't quite prepared for how uncomfortable it was to ride in heat like that. Imagine driving down the road in 90 degree heat with your windows down... but the heat on full blast.
Because of the shape of my windshield, the air comes under the bottom of it and then goes up to fill the low-pressure space behind the windshield. Unfortunately, that path takes the air right past an extremely hot engine, before carrying it up over my chest and into the gap between my chin and my helmet, right over my face. So the air that hits my face is actually warmer than the ambient air. And once the air gets past body temp, it no longer cools you off at all to have a breeze blowing on you.
Well, partly because it was so hot outside and I didn't want to go back out in it, I ended up staying a little longer at Starbucks than I probably should have and getting a little behind schedule, so I didn't really have time to stop for dinner - and lunch had been a bag of chips and a Kit-Kat at a gas station earlier. I got to Vegas around 10:00 or so, and met up with the guy who had offered to house my bike in his garage for the weekend. He gave me a ride over to the airport on his way down to the strip to party, and I planned on getting food once I got to security.
It turns out that even in Vegas, the airport shops close down before 11:30. The slots were still open, but no food anywhere. No newsstand with candy bars, no vending machines, nothing. (Although there were Best Buy vending machines where you could by cell phones, chargers, headphones, and other electronics. Nothing edible, unfortunately.) So after wandering down every terminal discovering this, I gave up and plopped down in a chair until we started boarding at 1:00am.
Due to the plane being at a chilly 50 or 55 degrees the whole trip, I didn't sleep all that much - maybe an hour. So I arrived in Chicago at 7:00am local time with an hour of sleep and a very angry stomach (and it was making noise to let me know it). I grabbed some pastries from a Starbucks stand before catching a bus (and about half an hour of sleep) back to Rockford and then running some errands. One hour of sleep later in the early afternoon, I headed to my Grandma's to visit with my dad's family. We had a nice dinner, and it was nice to get to see everyone again, especially since I'll be missing the reunion in August, which is when I usually see my dad's family.
Friday morning my mom and I headed to Lake Mills, WI to meet up with my aunt after stopping through Milwaukee and picking up my sister and brother-in-law from the airport. We went to her trailer (a misnomer, for the surprising size of this place), and then met her at the beach to hop on the boat and go out on the lake. After a few mishaps, my cousin met us out there with the Jet Ski and I rode around the lake on it. It was odd riding it because of how differently it handles from the motorcycle. On the motorcycle, when you turn the bike "catches" and cuts through the turn. On the jet ski, when you turn it seems to slide around the turn. After I got used to it, I floored it and had a pretty good time riding it across the lake, even if it was relatively smooth out there.
Saturday morning we got up early and headed over to the Wisconsin Dells to go to Noah's Ark, where we met up with the rest of my mom's family. From when I was pretty young until I was in junior high or so, the family would make a trip to Noah's Ark for a day, so this was pretty nostalgic in a lot of ways. We actually got pretty much the entire family together - which sometimes doesn't even happen on Christmas. The day had gorgeous weather, marred only by a 15-minute storm in the middle of the day, which cleared out quickly to perfectly blue skies.
Once we all decided it was time to go, we went over to the Ho-Chunk hotel and casino, where we had rooms for the night. Or at least, thought we did - I mean, they had been pre-paid, and confirmed over the phone that day. But when my grandpa arrived at 5:00pm, one hour after check-in started, the nine rooms he had paid for were gone. We then spent until about 7:45 haggling with the front desk to try to find rooms for all of us, and when they finally did get rooms, trying to get some sort of compensation for them wasting almost three hours of our family vacation. They supposedly didn't have a manager on duty (on a Saturday night at a booked hotel?), and it took 6 calls to get a manager on the phone, who then offered to comp half of our meals for the night. And told us we could get the other half comped if we got 12 people to sign up for rewards cards in the Casino.
Well, the rewards cards required going over to the Casino part of the building (a smoking area), waiting in line, and then giving them your driver's license and setting up a card. Then you were supposed to go back over to the hotel desk, wait in line, give them your name and the card number... basically, a huge hassle.
While we were over in the casino signing up for cards, we talked with a security guard there. It turns out the hotel and casino are two separate entities, so she listened to our story and was as incensed as we were at the treatment we'd gotten so far. After a while, she had an idea, and called someone who was apparently the "building manager" or something - I'm not sure exactly how the organization works, but it seemed like she would have been someone they could have called from the hotel desk. She immediately offered to comp the other 12 meals, and told us she'd leave them at the desk to the restaurant upstairs.
After that whole ordeal, we did get a nice buffet dinner at their restaurant - normal price $22 each - for all 24 of us. And having not eaten since a small (but expensive) meal at the waterpark, we took advantage of it.
The next day, after a breakfast at the hotel, we went down to the Madison Zoo. It was really fun going with the kids - one of the disadvantages of not living in town is that I don't get to see them very often, so I enjoyed getting to spend time with them, and with the rest of the family too. After a lunch at PF Chang's (including 20 minutes to get one beer, and a drink spilled on my Grandpa - our luck continued), we all went our separate ways and headed home.
Originally when I booked my flight back from Vegas, I intended to fly to the Midwest on Thursday morning, and back Monday night, but the first time I tried to book it, I got all the way to the end before it told me that the flight had changed and I had to start over. So I went back through, but apparently didn't pay enough attention and accidentally booked a flight for Tuesday evening instead of Monday. I'm currently taking advantage of that with a rented car which I took down to Peoria to see friends, and then I'll head back to Rockford tomorrow morning and hang out with Stephanie, grab lunch with my mom, and then head back over to the airport.
One sidenote - like I said above, I drove quite a few miles when I was back. I was sure, when I got off the bike, that it'd be nice to ride in a car for a while and have a break from the bike. But honestly, every single time I saw a motorcycle on the road, my only thought was that I wish I was still on mine. Even after 10,000 miles in 48 days on that seat - an average of 200 miles a day - all I could think of was how I wanted to be back on it. When I left I wasn't sure how well I would handle spending so much time on the motorcycle, having only done short trips. But I'll take this as a sign that not only can I handle it, I thrive on it.