About Me

My photo
Hello, I'm Bearnard (a.k.a. Bernie) B. Behr. I travel around the United States with my human Gary, who is a professional tour guide for California Sunriders motorcycle tours. We both come from Conifer, Colorado, a nice little town in the Rocky Mountains. We travel all over the country finding beautiful places and meeting all sorts of people from around the world. I keep Gary from getting in trouble and help him keep the guests on his tours happy, not an easy job! We have a lot of fun together and see a lot of really great places, and since Gary is a professional photographer too, we have some great pictures too (usually starring yours truly). Gary also likes to write a lot, (he's a little long-winded but tells a good story) so there's usually a lot to read. It's a good thing too, I can't type very well with these paws, so I'll have Gary do most of the writing. Keep coming back and enjoy the blog. Feel free to post a comment or make suggestions (like how to keep these crazy humans in line!) and we look forward to reading them. Sincerely, Bearnard B. Behr And Gary Fleshman

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day Three…the midwest beckons!

Into the Heartland

Our third day on the road, another day of riding through the heartland of the United States. This is the day we get a real good look at the small farming communities found across the country. We begin with a brief breakfast at the hotel, load up and hit the road.

Our first stop is in Carlinville, Illinois for an up-close look at a typical small town plaza. With it’s cobblestone street and gazebo in the center of town, it’s a perfect example. Also a great place to get a mid-morning coffee to combat the jet-lag many of the riders are experiencing. This stop also allows everyone to meet the locals, friendly, good-natured people who tipify the typical midwesterner.

Afterward we continue our zig-zag course through the heartland passing family farms and miles of farmland.
We continue through the rolling hills until lunchtime and stop for something to eat and another chance to share our observations with other. Then it’s back on the bike in the mid-day heat for more riding.

Just when it starts to become uncomfortable we stop again at one of the attractions along the route, Meramac caverns. This was the hide-out of the infamous train, stagecoach and bank robber, Jessee James. It’s cool, sixty-degree constant temperature is a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun beating down and slowly roasting brains in helmets. Along with the cave tour, there’s a very popular Ice-cream counter in the gift shop and cafeteria, the perfect way to cool off. After the caverns it’s time to get back on the bikes and go to our hotel, take a long shower, have a few beers, eat dinner and get a good night’s rest.

Day Two…Chicago!

Picking up our motocycles at Eaglerider of Chicago…get ready…get set…let's ride!

Day two is a busy one, we begin with a group breakfast and rider meeting to introduce ourselves, go over the rules of the road, riding etiquette, and other important information. Afterwards it’s a short limo ride to Eaglerider motocycle rental of Chicago to go pick up our bikes for the journey across the country. This is where we are assinged our rentals, check them thoroughly and go over basic operation of the bikes by model. We then load them with everything we will need for the day and take a quick jaunt around the block (or two) to get a feel for them. Most of the riders have never ridden a Harley and are unfamiliar with how the bikes sound, feel and handle. Once everyone feels confident on thier respective bike there’s a quick rider’s meeting and we’re on our way.

The first trial is getting the pack out of the hectic traffic of metropolitan Chicago, not an easy task for all concerned. Once on the outskirts of Chicago we pick up the origional route where it seperates from interstate 55. This is where we begin to see the “real America”, small towns, manufacturing, and farming communities, what makes the United States function as a nation.

Our first stop is for a quick rest break and to see one of the many giant statue-advertisements found along the route. The “Gemini Giant Rocket Man” is one of many garish advertisements which were to be found along the route, selling everything from gas and food to cheap trinkets and overnight lodging for the weary traveler. Many of which have fallen into disrepair, been stolen or destroyed, or just plain forgotten and left to the elements to slowly decay onto obscurity.

After a brief stop it’s back on the road to the first of many roadside diners for luch. Then it’s on to see one of the origional Standard Oil Company gas stations on the route.
Once in complete disrepair and about to fall down, but due to a resurgence in the route’s popularity the local residents have restored and opened it as a museum. From there it’s on to Springfield for dinner and finally our hotel for the night.

Day One…Chicago!

Check–In at the hotel with Andy & Petra, Directors of Eaglerider Guided Tours.

Our Trip began in the “Windy City” of Chicago, home to the Sears tower, Chicago Cubs, Al Capone, Jerry Springer, and Lake Michigan. Day one is the arrival day for everyone, a chance to get into town, clean up and rested before the tour begins As well as a chance to explore the city and see all the things Chicago has to offer. Also an opportunity to get acquainted with everyone else on the tour they would be spending the next two weeks with. Route 66 began here at the intersection of East Adams street and Michigan Avenue. At the end of the road you can find the marker showing the beginning (or end, depending which way you’re going) of route 66 in front of the Art Institute.

The Mother Road…The Beginning

Riding Route 66, The Mother Road

It was the first of it’s kind, the automobiles’ equivalent to the great intercontinental railway. Possibly the most well known road in the United States if not the world. A simple two-lane road from Chicago Illinois to Santa Monica California, the first highway across the United States of America. The road also became a symbol of the United States, and of the people who built and lived on it.
Just above my head is the "Begin Route 66" Sign
It's located at E. Adams St. & S. Michigan Ave.
Downtown Chicago!

The road that led the way across the farmland of the midwest, the great plains, and the deserts of the southwest, from the freshwater of the great lakes to the salwater of the Paific Ocean. Truely an American icon if there is one…the mother road.

Before route 66 was born the nation did not have any one trans-continental road, but rather a patchwork of state, county and rural farm roads. To go across the country by automobile was still a novelty, as was the automobile. Driving was still in it’s infancy and roads were nothing like they are today, mostly unpaved, rutted and often muddy farm roads and wagon trails was all that existed making travel by car difficult if not impossible. To go from Illinois to California was a navagational nightmare, no established routes, roadmaps or guide to go by. Navigating your way down farmroads that abruptly ended at a stream or river, changed direction or just ended was an exercise in frustration.

The condition of the roads were equally disturbing, where there was actual road-bed it was usually poorly maintained and often unmarked. Most of the time the established roads were only near a large town or county seat, and ended where the city, county or state just ran out of money and reverted to the rutted wagon trails they were to begin with. The unpaved roads were a nightmare, typically nothing more than deep ruts of compacted barren soil made by years of horse-drawn carrages and wagons. Whenever it would rain they would often turn into sloppy mud-holes, sometimes waist deep and completely impassable. To get stuck in one usually meant hours, if not days of digging, pulling, and pushing to free a car from the adhesive-like muck. Some of the roads out west were nothing more than remnants of the great westward migration, wagon and cattle drive trails, worn into the dry soil by those who first settled the area.

On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, an avid motorist himself, signed the Federal Aid Road Act, setting the groundwork for the national road system and it’s funding. Also known as the “good roads act” it was instrumental in the genesis of the United States’ highway system. Soon after it’s enactment all types of highways were under construction, with such names as the Dixie, Lincoln and Old Trails Highway, construction boomed, and soon highways with all sorts of names began crossing states. In 1925 these names were replaced by federally assinged route numbers to easily identify and administrate them.

The idea fo a Chicago–to–Los Angeles highway began with Cyrus Avery, an Oaklahoma highway commissioner and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri. They recognized the need for a offically designated interstate road connecting the nation. They actively lobbied the government, and in 1925 Avery spent most of the year working with an appointed committee to establish one. Then on November 11th, 1926 Congress authorized and designated the road, officialy beginning route 66. An efficent, safe way to move both the people and the goods they produced across and throughout the country.

This summer I was fortunate enough to be a tour guide on route 66, escorting people from across the globe down the infamous route on another well–known American Icon, the Harley–Davidson motorcycle. However I was not able to ride one, I was “the man in the van with a plan” following them with luggage, refreshments and trailer with a spare motorcycle if one were to breakdown. It was my job to work with the leader of the pack Stuart, to make sure that we made it the entire length of the route safely and comfortably as possible. These people had opted to spend thier vacation riding across the country on the mother road, all 2449+ miles of it, or at least what was left of it. We had a long way to go and many trials and tribulations along the way but that’s what makes it an adventure. These were no ordinary road-trips, but rather an up-close examination of the “American dream” and those who pursued it along the way. We were to see the “REAL United States of Ameica” not the usual tourist destinations, or Hollywood’s version of what it should be, for good or ill we were out to experience it, not just “see” it.