Ahh, Memorial Day Weekend, the ‘real’ start of the flat track racing season!
Pam and I headed down I-55 Saturday afternoon, after a short visit with her dad. He is looking pretty well after surgery. The TT race was Saturday evening and the Blackhawks were playing the first game in the Stanley Cup finals, so the ‘Hawks won out. We stopped at Smokey Bones in Springfield for some ribs and to watch the game. The Blackhawks won.
We checked some motels around the restaurant, but they were all full. We tried the State House Inn by the Capitol, and they had a room, even with being packed with contestants for the Miss Illinois Teen pageant.
The next morning we got up and headed to Charlie Parker’s for breakfast. Located in a Quonset hut, it is a pretty popular breakfast spot, well known for ‘horseshoes’ and pizza pan-sized pancakes.
After breakfast, we headed to the fairgrounds for the Mile. On the way, I noticed that Mel-O-Cream had the OPEN sign lit. Mel-O-Cream is a donut place that I have good memories of from childhood, so we stopped in. They only had about six or eight donuts left, all regular old donuts, none of the cream filled long johns! We tried a cake donut anyway and headed for the race.
At the fairgrounds we parked near the Food-O-Rama and strolled toward the grandstands to buy tickets. We saw a couple of these interesting trikes: With built-in cup holders: Near the grandstands, there was parking for vintage bikes, with a few old beauties on display.
There was also a ratty-looking Honda chopper that we had seen rolling in. It had some nice touches: an air suspension that lowered it to rest on the frame when parked, and a kinda cool sight-glass for a gas guage.
There were long lines for tickets; it was a good crowd.
The AMA has been trying for years to adjust the rules so there will be some competition for the Harley XR750. This year looks pretty good for the competition: Kopp won the inaugural Arizona Mile on a Ducati, ex-Harley mechanic Bill Werner has been working on Kawasaki flat trackers, the Aprillias have been making a lot of races, and Triumph and Suzuki are still trying hard. The rules and restrictors are having some effect: the Kawasaki, two Ducatis, a Suzuki, and a Triumph are in the main. After the time trials, heats, and semis, the riders that made the main roll their bikes out to the grid.
Jake Johnson (#5) has the pole on his Harley, with an unknown lined up next to him. PJ Jacobsen, a road racer, is riding in his first Grand National final, and is second fastest through the preliminary races! Next to Jacobsen is Brian Smith (#42), on Werner’s Kawasaki, with Kopp (#3) next to him on the Ducati. This is a pretty unusual front row for a GNC main event!
There is a slight hold-up after they give the riders one lap to check the track condition: Sam Halbert pulls into the hot box and his crew tightens his front end.
The riders get lined up again, and the light goes green.
Johnson jumps out front immediately, followed by Smith and Jacobsen, with Halbert chasing them. After a few laps, Johnson has a sizeable lead on Smith, who is a little in front of the pack. The real racing is from third on back: Smith seems unable to close on Johnson, although he is trying all kinds of different lines through the corners. A pretty exciting race, with the mainly pro-Harley crowd cheering on underdog Smith on the Kaw. At the end of twenty-five laps it’s Johnson, Smith, Coolbeth, Mees, and Kopp. A Kawasaki on the podium and a Ducati in the top five!
We split after the final, and head for the Mississippi to run it back north toward Chicago. On the way out of Springfield, we find this old Maid-Rite, but it is closed on Sunday. Signage tells that it is the first drive-through in the country, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. We’ll have to try a Maid-Rite there another day.
We cross the River at Hannibal and run up the Missouri side, stopping in Burlington, Iowa, for the night.
The next morning we bum around Burlington, an old river/railroad town. Like Grand Rapids, it has an old section full of big beautiful houses, so we roll up and down the streets checking them out.
Then, we take the US 34 bridge back into Illinois and run 34 into Kewanee. I wanted to see Pluto in Kewanee. There is a scale model of the Solar System in Illinois, centered on the Sun in Peoria. Pluto is in Good’s Furniture store in Kewanee.
We were going to take an extra day this year, leaving on Thursday after Charlie’s baseball game, and coming back from Gene’s on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. Things were not looking good for me as the time of departure drew near: a job for a health center was spinning out of control, with schedules and materials being changed daily. Finally, about 10 PM on Thursday, I got a call saying things were held up for a while, so I called to see if Scott and the boys had left.
I headed over, and we hit the road close to Midnight. We stopped for a nap in a rest area before St Louis, and woke as the sky was getting light. We crossed the river and headed down I-44 to Rolla, US 63 and the Coffee Pot, our new ‘traditional’ breakfast spot.
We pulled into Gene’s early in the afternoon, ready for a few days of fishing, Stanley Cup playoffs, eating, and relaxing. Dorothy had called the boys earlier, and taken pie orders. Charlie and Sam had chosen cherry, lemon, and apple pies this year, along with cake and homemade ice cream. Gene had the dinner schedule set. Seafood buffet, quail, and ribs for restaurant dinners, Gene would cook Road America style brats one evening, and Dorothy was hosting a pork roast dinner another evening.
We got ready for the ‘grind’ of the daily schedule. On the lake at first light, back to Gene’s for lunch and TV (hockey, fishing programs, or movies) and naps, dinner, desert at Dorothy’s, and hockey playoffs until our eyes couldn’t stay open.
The boys were ready for hanging around the pond, playing catch, and playing with Bear and Buddy. Sadly, Bear was gone to chase rabbits in the sky, old age had finally caught up with him. Buddy was happy to see the boys. Gene had three horses boarding in his pasture, and his neighbor had one. Sam immediately became friends with the horse in the neighbor’s pasture, naming him Wheel, and visiting him every afternoon. All the rest of the usual critters were hanging around. Deer, hummingbirds, bullfrogs and tree frogs, and ducks. A whippoorwill joined the usual bird noise before sawn, and a heron visited the pond.
Fishing was a great, but catching was a little sparse. Sam got the only keeper, Gene cleaned it, and Sam and I split it for lunch.
DEER BY THE POND
EARLY MORNING HORSES IN THE PASTURE HERON VISITS THE PONDGENE, CHARLIE, AND SCOTT
SAM WITH LUNCH GENE SHOWS SAM HOW TO MAKE THE FISH LOOK BIGGER DOROTHY, THE BOY'S FAVORITE PIE LADY
Jessi, Jaiden, Julian, Pam, and I took a trip out east. Our first stop was Niagara Falls. We did a little walking, first to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, then to the Aquarium. Then we walked back to ride the Maid of the Mist to see the falls from below.
Then we took in the American Falls from the Visitor Center, and got a bite to eat in the snack shop.
The next morning, we headed for Boston, Stopping in Syracuse for lunch. The little diner downtown that had been closed and for sale, the last time Pam and I were in Syracuse, was open as the Miss Syracuse Diner, so we went in for lunch.
After eating, we walked over to admire the Niagara-Mohawk Building, an Art Deco masterpiece, then headed east again toward Boston.
We got to Boston in the evening and made an immediate stop at Faneuil Hall, looking for a street vendor with some Italian sausage sandwiches. There was not a street vendor to be found: someone told us they were all at the ballpark for a game. We made do with sandwiches from inside the Hall, not quite as tasty as the ones from street vendors, but they would have to do.
Then we looked through a gift shop, and Jaiden bought a Venus Flytrap.
Then we explored the area, ending up at the dancing waters fountain on the Greenway. It didn’t take too long for Pam to convince Jaiden and Julian that they could dodge the water, so shortly they were soaked and having fun.
The next day we again explored Boston. Walking through the Financial District, and to the Aquarium. We took in a movie at the OmniMax Theatre there, then spent a few hours exploring the rest of the Aquarium.
It was nicely laid out, a spiral ramp around a central column that served as the main aquarium.
After the Aquarium, we walked along the harbor to The Barking Crab and had dinner.
Then back to the Central Wharf for a trip on the Duck. The Duck tour goes through a couple of historic Boston neighborhoods, and then cruises on the Charles River. Julian got to pilot the Duck on the river. After the Duck ride, we strolled into the north end for some gelato and bakery.
The next day, we headed to NYC for some sightseeing and a Yankee-Red Sox game. We stopped at another New England diner for a BLT lunch, and took the Merritt Parkway into the Bronx. We checked into our motel, and made it via the train to Yankee Stadium for the game.
The following day, we drove down the New Jersey side of the river to Hoboken to catch the ferry to Manhattan. We tried first to get a ferry at the Hoboken Terminal, but the ferries were not running, either because it was Saturday or because there had been a collision between a helicopter and airplane over the river. We jumped in a taxi upriver and caught a ferry from the 14th Street Terminal in Hoboken to Pier 79 in Manhattan.
We took a Grey Line bus tour of Lower Manhattan, got off near the World Trade Center site, and walked around the area, through the Wall Street area, and caught the Grey Line again at Pier 11 on the East River side of the island.
We took the bus back to the 30 Rockefeller Building, another nice Art Deco structure. We had some slices of NYC pizza in the neighborhood, then walked over to Times Square and caught a bus back to Pier 79.
Back in Hoboken, we strolled from 14th street down Washington Street to the parking garage near the Hoboken Terminal. What a great street, lined with restaurants with sidewalk tables and little Italian delis. We stopped a couple of times for Italian Ices on the way.
We retrieved the car and headed for Philadelphia, stopping for the night just east of the city. We were headed into Philadelphia for one thing, Philly Cheesesteaks. Stomachs full, we headed for home.