With the city of Omaha behind me, I crossed into Iowa. Being in the Midwest, a strong wind blew. Like my earlier route west, I leaned the bike into the wind to keep the path true. And just like the earlier route, the wind came from the left, which I thought was odd since I had traveled in the opposite direction then.
Countless miles blurred together as traveled east across the state. Gone were the snow-capped mountains and red rock mesas, replaced by the familiar sight of green farmland. With a few more trees, I could’ve even imagined myself back in Virginia. But this wasn’t Virginia, and so I kept on riding,
For the second time, I took a new route across the Mississippi, this one taking me through the town of Dubuque Iowa and into Wisconsin. A wooden sign welcomed me to the state, and I reflected on how much more I enjoyed the personality of the unique state signs compared to the generic stamped steel ones so many states had. A short while later, a second realization hit me. A few days earlier, I had noticed that out of all the cows I had seen, none looked like the traditional dairy cow. But here, in America’s dairy land, every cow I saw was spotted black and white, nearly identical to the ones seen in milk commercials or on Chick-fil-A billboards.
Once or twice throughout the day, I had the sensation of a missed-shift. I’d pull in the clutch, pivot my foot to hear a ‘click’, and would find I was still in the same gear as I had been. On the northern outskirts of Madison, it happened once more. As I tried again, I felt my foot having to move further and further. I took my eyes off the road to watch my foot as it rotated the shifter about the shaft. Knowing I probably just needed to clamp the lever a little tighter, I pulled off onto the shoulder and began my repair. It wouldn’t take more than a minute, so I didn’t feel the need to remove any of my gear, but the sight of a man laying on the side of the road next to the side of his bike was probably an odd sight to most drivers.
One Harley Davidson rider pulled alongside to offer some assistance, and the use of his tools. I thanked him, but declined. I had been on the road for nearly a month. I knew my bike and had everything I needed to do what needed to be done. Unfortunately, the shifter was clamped as tight as I could get it, and was still too loose to engage on the shaft. “Well, I’ve gone longer distances without a shifter” I thought to myself, knowing I only had 50 miles to go before reaching my friend Joe’s house. So, I swapped my shifter for the vice-grip’s single gear, and set off once more.
The Scrambler has enough grunt that, on level terrain, it can move from a dead stop in its highest gear pretty easily. The problem was all the stop signs in Joe’s neighborhood were on hills, and there conveniently seemed to always be another car at the intersection. I slowed as much as I could, trying to time everything so that I could safely cross without needing to come to a complete stop. I now only needed a new shifter. I didn’t want to replace a burnt out clutch too. But, luck was on my side and I managed to carry on until I saw the same black Chevy Cavalier that I had known him to drive years ago when I last worked with him. I punched in the code to his garage, and pulled inside.