March of 1986 was a moment of great expectation for me. Madisonville KY at that time had a Honda Motorcycle store on East Center St. For several months I had been going to Madisonville Honda to make payments on my new, not yet ridden motorcycle, a Honda VF 500F Interceptor. I opted for the smaller 500cc motorcycle as opposed to the much larger (read that as faster) VF 1100 F. I new I would come closer to killing myself on the “big” bike than I would on a smaller one. This really does not make any sense…a crash at 80 mph is deadly regardless the size motorcycle. However, my reasoning was sound: the 1100cc bike would “do” 180mph off the show room floor, faster if one pulls the leads from the rpm limiter. As for the 500cc bike, well only 135mph!!!
It was 27 degrees when I pick up the bike and rode it home…cold. The salesman said if I change the oil every 1000 miles and leave the rpm limiter hooked up, it would last forever. I did, some weeks during the summers I changed the oil twice, I rode it that much.
The little bike was quick, nimble and a blast to ride. I was often times riding in and out of the dashed lines of a two way road…at 80 mph, any faster and I could not cut each line. And of course the back wheel was on the ground a lot more than the front. Soon I tired of “just tooling” around town and began to make a few long trips. One was on hwy 62 from Nortonville to Louisville KY. I made it as far east as Leitchfield KY when I came upon a derailed IC/P&L train at the viaduct just east of town. I stopped to photograph and soon realized it was late. I needed to get home. It was about dark when I hit the West Kentucky Parkway westbound. For once I was not prepared. I always had a few tools, camera and a jacket in my tank bag. That day I left the jacket behind for some reason. Needless to say after the sun went down it was cool, very cool and I do not like to be cold. Well my theory was: the sooner I get home the sooner I will be warm again. From the Leitchfield exit to the Dawson Springs exit…27 minutes.
I have many stories such as that trip to tell but the one to tell is the great Nebraska trip.
In 1989 I was still working for Cimarron Coal Company in their parts department as a parts chaser. A great job it was. I had a new Ford one ton truck every two years and I drove around town picking up parts for the coal company. My hours were 4:00 AM to 12:00 noon on day shift, 12:00 noon to 8:00 PM on nights. I rotated shifts every two weeks. Now those are some great hours. The best part was ever other two weeks I worked off at noon on Friday, and returned at noon on Monday.
It was on one of these long weekends in 1989 that I decided to go to Nebraska and see my buddy Kelly Martin. I have written about Kelly before, we met on a Frisco 1522 trip in 1988. He lived in Kearny NE and I visited him several times. Well I set out for Nebraska with Kearney as my destination. After one rides long enough his butt becomes numb as does his brain! At Kearney I find Kelly is not home and I wasn’t about to just “sit”. I headed west on U.S. 30. Hwy 30 across Nebraska is the railroader’s dream as most of the highway parallels the Union Pacific Mainline from Columbus NE to Cheyenne Wyoming. After leaving Kearney I began to build an idea in my head. (Danger signs for sure). I calculated how much time I had before I had to be at work, how far I had ridden, and at what time I would have to turn around. With this formula in my head I decided I could make it to Cheyenne. Well best made plans be as they are I forgot to include the intake of fuel, food and the obligatory calls of nature. Thirty minutes before my turn around time I was in Chappell Nebraska 126 miles east of my goal of Cheyenne, at a road side picnic table watching UP trains go by. At the magic thirty minute mark I turned east to retrace my steps. More times and figures in my head. If I ride fast enough on U.S. 30 which again is a two lane road, I will get home and stay off the I-80 four lane. The goal of all this, I will see more trains. If I get behind I can jump over on to the parallel I-80 and “go”.
Then it happened, possibly the dumbest idea to date, (very little sleep and a very tired butt/brain did not help this). If I do this not only will I make up time, but I will be able to stay on U.S. 30 the whole way to Lincoln NE. Lincoln is where Highway 30 turns north east and I-80 continues due east to Omaha NE. At Lincoln I would have change roads and start my southerly trek to Kansas City. This idea was: to ride 100mph for 100 miles.
I did just that. I had to slow down for a few towns but as soon as I was on the “other side” I pulled the wick back on the bike and right to 100mph again. I honestly do not remember much else of that trip. I did stop at a DQ in Ogallala NE for a bite to eat. I remember watching for the Cozad NE. passenger station and the big grain elevator with COZAD spelled out across the bins, but little else. I did make it to work and I proved to my coworkers once again: when I get on a motorcycle, I get a bad case of “Super Stupid”. Unlike a few friends and acquaintances, I managed to see a lot of what I wanted to see, trains AND stay alive.