Long Way ‘Cross

Illinois to Oklahoma on a BMW GS.

I’ve been wanting another GS since my first BMW motorcycle experience a few years ago. That bike, an R1100GS, was one of my less stellar eBay finds and turned out to be “well worn.” But it did show me some of the virtues of the big boxers. Since then I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good deal on another GS. Hopefully one not quite as well worn as the old 1100 was!

Turns out I came across a candidate while trolling the motorcycle section of Craigslist. It was a 2005 BMW R1200GS. The price was right (most 1200s had been out of my price range), the bike had moderate mileage, sported a few extra goodies and even matched my yellow helmet! The one downside was the location: just outside St. Louis, Missouri.

As seen on Craigslist.I contacted the seller and got more info, full-size photos and details on the bike’s history. It sounded like a winner so I started saving my pennies and made a serious effort to sell my R1150R (offers still being accepted!). After several emails a deal was agreed upon, a Paypal deposit was sent and I began scheming on how to get the GS home. Jackie and I discussed cheap airfares, Greyhound, shipping services and such before deciding that driving up and ferrying it home would be the best solution.

We headed out on a Sunday and decided to take our time, hit some tourist traps and visit one of the most famous Route 66 attractions. We made our way across Missouri, stopped in Springfield for lunch (turns out they have a Which Wich- currently my favorite choice for Franchise Food).

The non-rocking rocking chair.Our first tourist trap was in Fanning, Missouri. This curiously static structure is called the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. We pondered where the largest rocking chair that actually rocks might be located.

Later we pulled off in Stanton, as instructed by numerous billboards, to visit the Mother Road’s best known attraction. All of our lives we’ve seen those billboards painted on barns and wondered about the wonders that await in Stanton, MO. Inexplicably neither of us had ever been to the Meramec Caverns, so this was actually a treat. Turns out the place is very cool. Well, of course it’s a cool- it’s a cave, but it really is worth a visit. Even the surrounding area is a nice campground along the Meramec River, and an adjacent hotel offers rooms for $50 a night. But for some idiotic reason I left my camera in the car, so visit AmericasCave.com to see photos. Or better yet take a drive and stop in person!

Back on the road we headed on to our rendezvous in Festus, Missouri. We eventually got in around dark (perfect time for looking at a used bike!) and checked into our hotel. After putting on jeans and unloading our helmets we headed over to inspect the bike.

Jesse boxes can store tons of stuff.The bike was in good condition and ran great. Like many GS’s, this one had been customized with a slew of accessories, or farkles in the parlance of motorcycle geeks. The most obvious being the huge black aluminum Jesse Luggage hanging on each side (Jackie noted that nobody calls them saddle bags or boxes- they’re always referred to simply as Jesse’s).

Less obvious add-ons included Wilbers shocks, a Scorpion muffler, Sargent seats, a Kaoko throttle lock, BMW cylinder heads guards, Touratech crash bars, a Cee Bailey windscreen, Wunderlich lifting handle, auxiliary fuse panel and the GS Adventure nose trim. All this was making a good deal even better.

Since the title had a lien we had to make the deal at the credit union. It was nearly an hour away and across the Mississippi River in Illinois. The owner was nice enough to take off work and lead the way. We shook hands and agreed to meet first thing the next morning to take care of all the paperwork.

Can you guess why I'm smiling?We all three headed out in separate vehicles the next morning. This was my first solo ride on the 1200 and my initial reaction was, “What the hell’s stuck under this brake lever?!?”

The BMW’s brake system incorporates a servo assist that requires a tender touch on the front brake. I’m still getting used to it. But it was the Go Stick that really caught my attention! Throttle response is crisp and immediate compared to the 1100 or 1150. That torquey grunt is still evident, but now seems to be on tap at a wider range of engine speeds. The rasp from the Scorpion muffler seemed to magnify the effect. After I settled in I realized just how comfortable the Sargent seat really was. Over the next 10 hours that would become increasingly important!

Ready to roll. With the deal done, extra parts loaded in the Volvo, and rain gear at the ready we headed west out of Waterloo, Illinois. But before heading home Jackie had one request…

VIP parking...stop at Trader Joes!

St Louis is the closest one to T-Town. Trader Joe’s is a chain of grocery stores that are known for good stuff at cheap prices. Sorta’ like a cross between Aldi and Whole Foods.

Then we hit I-44 and headed back to Tulsa. The sky had been cloudy most of the morning and the forecasts called for rain in St Louis later in the day. We stopped for lunch in Rolla and still no weather. I could see clouds to the west but I resisted putting on my rain gear since the temps were still warm. Then we got back on the highway and it immediately started pelting me- right through my Mesh Tex jacket!

I forged ahead looking for the first overpass- then the rain stopped. That cycle repeated a couple of times. About 20 miles later the sky really got dark and I could see the weather was getting serious. We pulled off the highway in Waynesville and I started pulling on my rain pants. Before we could get back on the road the clouds began lowering and gust front hit us.

Ominous clouds in Missouri.Jackie watches the storm roll over Waynesville.

Eventually the rain slowed and we resumed our journey. Fortunately the precipitation remained fairly light, but continued non-stop.

Droning along a superslab in the rain is never a fun event, not on any bike. But the GS paid it little heed. The spray from passing trucks was really the most irritating problem I had to deal with. The sure-footed Michelin Anakees never once felt like they hydroplaned, and the heated grips are a godsend once the rain soaks through your gloves. I doubt there’s any motorcycle in the world better suited for traveling in the rain.

Just outisde of Springfield the rain finally stopped. Around Joplin the western sky began looking ominous again. After we crossed the Missouri-Oklahoma border the sprinkles started. This time the showers were light and intermittent. We pressed on until we reached the Glass House at Vinita. A light rain continued to fall, but ahead of us the sky was looking bright and blue. At that point Jackie was getting road-weary and anxious to get home. Since she had the Pikepass (and I didn’t) I sent her on her way while I donned my soggy jacket for the last time.

Pit stop at the Glass House in Vinita. Note the rainbow!And snapped a picture of the rainbow now visible to the northeast…

After the toll plaza the rain stopped, the sky cleared and it was a beautiful day. Rolling into Tulsa it was almost hot. But I was too tired to stop and take off my rain gear at that point.

When I got home we parked the bike inside. Emptied the trunk of the car and stumbled inside. We were almost too tired to drink a cold beer. I said almost.

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