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Diary 5

21 July

Short hair is strange - well this short is.
Last night while washing it I got an image of the emaciated prisoner of war with a shaved head - disturbing.
Also it makes me look like a thug - and the bike gear doesn't help.

Anyway - Onwards to Mid-Ohio.
Doing the 'avoiding interstates' thing I continued west.
US 250 across the WV panhandle is interesting.
Not much chance of falling asleep on that one.

Stopped about 5 miles short of the circuit for the night so I can get there nice & early tomorrow.

Another word thought - Here the word 'river' is usually after the name, e.g. Ohio River as opposed to River Thames.

22 July

Huge storm overnight, not that I noticed until I looked out the window in the morning.

Into the circuit & the tent set up by 9am.
This is a big and well organised place. Met the neighbours and headed to the core of the circuit.
Wandered through the paddock - amazing access. I think I could have walked down pit lane during a race (but I didn't try it).
The pit layout is different here. There is the track, wall, pit lane road, wall, teams awnings, road, fixed garages. (In the UK it's track, wall, pit lane road, fixed garages). There was a viewing platform at the front of the fixed garages where you could see into the team awnings and, on the other side, into the garages below.

Into the 'shopping' area. I got the only hat with a brim all the way round.
My neck is getting hot and I'm turning into a redneck as it is ...

Walked round the inside of the circuit. The 'Esses' look evil.
Sharp left over a steep blind hump.

By lunchtime I could hear the blood pumping in my ears and felt faint, so I found some shade & drank water.
I later realised it wasn't so much dehydration as sunburn.
Mid afternoon and cloud cover and a breeze were luxury.
I thought my arms were brown enough not to burn - wrong.

The program has a questionnaire about you & the amenities.
Had a lot of fun filling it in.
Distance travelled to get here - Over 201 miles
City close to where you came from - London, England (I thought about Salisbury but guessed that London would provide instant surprise)
Other circuits you've been to that you liked - Brno, Silverstone, Donington.
If there was something you could change about Mid-Ohio - The Weather !!

Back to the paddock. Had a brief chat with Neil Hodgson and wished him luck (like I said - amazing access).
I don't know how many Brits are here to support him so I felt I should show some solidarity.

End of the day and back to the tent.
The neighbours are an extended family who live 2 hours either side of the track so this makes a good meeting place.
A couple, her brother, their mother and two kids (I think that's right and I can't remember all the names - sorry)
After a few beers and tales of derring do and mishaps (and laughing at the guy next to us who spent 3 hours cleaning his Aprilia only to ride back out through mud then dust) us boys went for a wander to check out the antics of the campers.
Some folks had a couple of planks of wood on the dirt that people were doing burn-outs on until the police broke up that party.

I crashed after that, with ear plugs in, but apparently the later gatherings had numerous women exposing themselves. "They just needed a few more beers". I'm hoping to receive some photos of the later events - just to help complete my immersion in the 'American sporting event' you understand.

23 July

Managed to sleep somehow.

The tent was dripping on the inside by morning.
I'm considering not staying Sunday. The heat is killing me. I know I've paid for the ticket already and this is a serious event but I'm not sure I'm actually enjoying myself. Huge crowds and sunburn aren't my idea of fun.

An aside - and talking about 'big events' - After this I'm going to take a couple of weeks to head across country to the Dakotas - which will get me there almost exactly when 'Sturgis' happens - Oh joy.

Stopped in to say hello to Tom Bartel and to warn him that I might not be there for the 'Burger-Burn'

By 08:30 the infield was filling up with loads of bikes arriving. Dress Harleys, Wings and lots of sports bikes.
I noticed a GSXR750 ridden by a woman in a bikini, although I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed her.

There's only so much 'bikes going round in circles' that I can take when the heat is so uncomfortable.
I'm not watching the bikes, I'm hunting for shade.
I'm also spending a fortune. Water for about $4. The same bottle in a gas station is $1.50.

Lunchtime and the tent is dry. I'm going to take off after the Saturday Superbike race and head a couple of hours south.

I noticed a large 'Hooters' balloon in the paddock and realised that I hadn't explored that area properly.
It turned out to be on a teams truck as a sponsors advertisement.

In my grandstand seat for the Superbike race.
Most of the competitors got a cheer during the parade lap, well the big names did - but with Mladin there were shouts of "It's the bike" and "Go home". To be honest I think it's the fact that his presence in the championship means no-one else has a chance that pisses people off. That and the fact he didn't wave to us :)

The race was semi predictable in that Mladin pissed off at the front from the start and was never seen again.
Neil came past first lap in 9th (not great for a former World Superbike champion).
He ended up in 5th, two overtakes and two riders dropping out.
Mladin, Spies, Bostrom, Duhamel, Hodgson.
Three foreigners in the top five.

Packed up and headed south for the night.
Everyone I had spoken to saying 'It's hot' said 'No - but tomorrow will be'
Not upset about leaving early.

24 July

Heading south to pick up David's route.
Pretty quiet day on the bike.

It was reasonably cool first thing till the cloud cover had burned off by lunchtime.

Left OH at Ironton, crossing the Ohio river into Kentucky at Russell.

Picked up David's route at Grayson and headed West till I was too hot and tired to continue.

Booked into a motel and turned on the TV to find the British MotoGP on TV.
Rossi in the wet was on another level to the others.
This means I haven't yet missed a GP. I watched a recording of Assen and caught Laguna Seca live in Columbus.

Need to find a laundry tomorrow.

It also looks like I'll be passing Fort Knox and Mammoth Cave National Park tomorrow so a couple of side trips.

25 July

The hottest area of the hottest day of a record breaking heat wave.
Oh joy.

Rode till it got too hot then stopped at a Laundromat.

Rode some more then gave up at 3 and hit an air conditioned motel

17:30 - step outside & the heat instantly hurts !

26 July

Can't say that I really enjoyed yesterday or this morning.

Opened the motel door at 07:30 and my glasses steamed up.
It was like walking into a tropical greenhouse.

I found a Honda dealer in Princeton KY & got a replacement headlight bulb.
Taking the old one out was a nightmare - working by touch while looking at the manual - and the picture of the clip that holds the bulb in obviously didn't match what my bike has.
The new one went in so easily I was convinced that I'd done something wrong - but it's still there and still working.

Crossed the Ohio River out of Kentucky into Illinois at Cairo.

The difference is quite stunning. The state of the housing drops like a stone. Hell - there were boarded up shacks.
The road from the Ohio bridge to the Mississippi bridge at Cape Girardeau was almost dead straight and hotter than hell.
I stopped at a view point to take a picture of the Mississippi and drink some water but I swear I sweated more than I drank.
My eyes were stinging from the sweat and I could taste the salt on my upper lip.

And the insects were making a noise like 200 remote control aircraft.

Across the Mississippi into Missouri and picked up Route 72 - this is a lovely riding road.

Wearing a mesh jacket I find myself being far more sensitive to changes in air temperature.
Sometimes you drop down hill to cross a river and you can feel the temperature rise a couple of degrees then drop as you climb out the other side.
At about 11:30 I started seeing the first clouds of the approaching cold front and the temperature dropped from 36 to 32 (97 to 90) and I could feel my heart rise. I'm going to survive this.
OK - so it went back up to 34 (93) for the rest of the day but I know that good times a coming.

Road Report

For the next few diary entries there will be a road report - I'm writing this for David Thomson who supplied the route I'm riding.
Please feel free to ignore it if you're not a biker.
The road reports will be in italics.

I joined the route in Kentucky at the junction of Rt1, Rt9 & I-64 about 30 miles from the WV border having entered KY at Russell.
Rt 9 - A big wide well surfaced 2 sometimes 3 lane blacktop. The semis don't have to slow down for the corners on this road. Straight and fast, they moved hills to build this road.

Rt 10 - while it runs with 9 it's dull & busy Once it separates it becomes real fun, wanders through a couple of towns before becoming a 4th gear series of tight sweepers.

Rt 22 - split into sections - Start to US27 - 3rd gear road along ridges. You can't relax on this section. Serious fun.
US27 to Williamstown - still 3rd gear but not so many nasty blind tightening corners.
After Williamstown - OK but nothing special - still a good riding road but not like the earlier stuff.

Rt43 - wasn't going to mention this as it's a brief connecting road, but it is lovely. Get the rhythm right and you glide from one corner to the next.

Interstate round Louisville.

US60 - dull but I did find a Laundromat.

Rt1600 - looks dead straight on the map but it does have a few corners & some up and down.

Rt920 - isn't signed off 1600. At that point it's called 'Salt River rd' and I didn't see a sign saying that either. I found it coz I'd waypointed it. Also it's a 1600 diversion at the moment 'road closed 5 miles ahead'
Best so far.
Not technical like bits of 22 but pastoral, undulating, curvy, swooping - could ride roads like this all day. Just enough gravel to stop you from riding fast so throttle back a bit and enjoy. After it joined 86 I should have taken 406 then 259 but the next bit of 920 came up first so I took that and ended up on 62 about a mile from the 259 junction. This bit of 920 was almost as good until after crossing 720 when it got flat & straight - but that's over the time line and out of the hills

US62 is dull dull dull - picked up some interstate to avoid red lights & stop signs in 100 degree heat.
Actually it was OK between Dawson Springs & Princeton - but that's only 14 odd miles. And in Princeton there's a Honda shop that sold me a replacement headlight bulb.

Rt286 I cannot remember - so it must be better than 60.

IL3 across the bottom of IL was dull & straight. In that kind of flood plain I don't imagine you'll get anything better.

Rt 72 in MO is an almost perfect travelling road. Curves & reasonably fast. Of the KY roads it mostly resembles 920 except 920 was narrower.

Rt21 - see Rt 72 immediately above.

Diary 7