May 30, 2004 GMT
Going West

I have made it – to Chicago and on. The trip across the Atlantic was smooth. Even immigration in Chicago was such that within under 1 ½ hours after touchdown, I was in the hotel near O’Hare airport (and that included certain disorientation problems of the taxi driver). The hotel (Best Western in Des Plaines) even offered free internet access. Everything up to that point had gone surprisingly smooth – what did I miss?

Well, the answer came later that day when I called my contact person at the freight forwarder, merely out of kindness and because I like to think that in critical situations Neumann’s Law, a variation of Murphy’s, applies (Neumanns’s Law: “Murphy was an optimist”). I had been working on the assumption or better on the statement my by contact in Frankfurt that my bike would be ready to be picked up a day after my arrival.

Imagine my surprise when I learnt that my contact at DHL was surprised that I would want to pick up the BMW the next day -- the paperwork with the customs authorities had not be initiated. After that we had several telephone conversations, and after some nail biting on my part, I received the bike one day later than planned. – Oh well – large organizations and their internal communication…..

The positive of the unplanned delay: I avoided a series of thunderstorms and heavy rain in Illinois. On Saturday, May 22 my trip really began.

The first leg led me to Madison, WI. My former colleague in Frankfurt, Renate Labak, had arranged for me to meet with friends of hers who live in this beautiful location. – Thanks to Kris and Fritz Gruetzner, for a wonderful “coffee and cake” treat at their home. And also for Fritz’s ad-hoc tour of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. The visit to the campus of the University of WI (incl. the replica of the Munich “Hofbraeuhaus”) and the thrill of a real tornado warning (loud sirens in the whole town) while checking out the family’s sailboat on Lake Mendota were memorable and exciting. (N.B.: the tornado, luckily, decided to go another way.....)


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"In front of the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin"



The next day I moved on west, and following Fritz Gruetzner’s advice, I went along the Mississippi river (towards La Crosse, WI). A very scenic ride, somewhat similar landscape at the Rhine river near my hometown of Frankfurt, but much bigger. I stayed for the night in Rochester, Minnesota.

My next stop was Sioux Fall, South Dakota. On the way there I got my first impression to the vastness of the North American continent. The straight highways for miles on end, along seemingly endless fields is something to be experienced. I took some comfort from an extra gallon of gas carried in a canister; it was quite surprising to see the change in the general infrastructure. In the metropolitan areas one will find a gas station on virtually every street crossing. In the countryside of the Midwest, it is not unusual to ride for 30 or so miles until one can fill up again.

Next on my trip was Pierre, the capital of South Dakota. It meant more long stretches along vast fields (e.g. corn, wheat). It was in Pierre that I had one of those encounters, which makes motorcycle travelling so interesting.

I was checking out a campground on Lake Sharpe, near Pierre, and testing the restaurant when I was greeted with in German with “Guten Tag”. The greeting came from Judy and Kirk Miller, residents of Pierre who had come to the restaurant for drinks. Judy and Kirk run a small family business “Weston Air, Inc.”: Kirk is a veritable crop duster and Judy helps with the administrative side (she had been to Germany some 25+ years ago, hence the greeting – they had seen my bike parked in front of the restaurant).


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"My ad-hoc hosts in Pierre: Judy, daughter Drew, Kirk Miller"


“Click for a larger version on this photo”

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"He, too, dropped in at the Miller Residence"



They were interested to hear about my undertakings and generously offered me to stay in the garden house of their estate nearby. Kirk turned out to be a real aficionado of anything mechanical. His vehicle collection included – among others - two VW Kuebelwagen, two vintage Toyota Landcruisers, and a 1959 VW beetle is in the process of being restored. We also ended that day with a little trip around his estate on two quads.

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"Kirk Miller – proficient on a quad ..... "



As I left the next morning for the Black Mountains in South Dakota, I was really overwhelmed with the Miller’s hospitality to a total stranger. Kirk, on his way to work, flew over the house, to wave good-bye.

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" ..... and in the air"



Food Feature - No. 1

This is an experiment within the experiment. Following the suggestion of my friend Annette in Frankfurt, I shall attempt to write about “food” in each of my trip reports - “food” in the widest sense. It could be about special types of food, or drinks, or restaurants, or recipes or whatever could be summarized under “food”.

I shall start out with this:


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"Starting the culinary trip"



The place directly across form my hotel in Des Plaines. It is a tradional American diner and seemed to have been in this condition for at least 30 or 40 years, with very little renovation apparent. But the food, all diner classics, was amazing: the half pounder hamburger was good, but the hot pastrami on rye was perfect (the rye bread slightly toasted, the meat lean and the right quantity – not too much, not too little). A perfect beginning to the culinary trip.

Posted by Heiko Neumann at May 30, 2004 10:10 PM GMT
 

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