I had been told not to bother trying. I was told it couldn’t be done. I was told of Mike, from Montana, who had tried time and again only to be foiled by the weather. But I’d been checking the forecasts and was hopeful the meteorologists were on my side this year. I had made it to the event. Now I had to get home.
I recognized the eery green color in the swirling clouds overhead as I got off the bike to refuel in St. Louis. I had previously witnessed similar tinting and angry sky prior to the deadly Black Friday Tornado ripping across the eastern side of Edmonton on July 31, 1987. I didn’t waste any time with my gas stop and was soon back on I-70 heading west.
The reason I was riding my motorcycle across the American Midwest in the middle of April 2014, was the 10th Annual Moonshine Lunch Run. The passenger pegs were down as there were two guys riding with me.
In 2004, Terry Hammond, a farmer from Casey, Ill, wanted to do a little motorcycle socializing before it became time to sit in his tractor and plant his crops. He posted a note on a rider forum asking people to show up at nearby Moonshine, IL (Pop. 2) and he’d buy them a burger. One rider from Kentucky showed up. In 2005 there were 30 riders from 6 states in attendance. The event grew in numbers and in legend because in early April the weather often wasn’t ideal for motorcycling. Terry passed away in 2010 and, though I had never met him, the few messages we had exchanged online made me feel we were kindred spirits.
Since many riders who did make the annual trek came across great distances, Curt Gran, a two-time finisher of the Iron Butt Rally, got the IBA to pre-approve Iron Butt rides that attendees could tackle en-route and, with minimal paperwork, get their certificates at the rally. Curt also created the FZ-1 Fuzeblock to allow safely connecting electrical farkles to bikes. I bought my first Fuzeblock from him in 2009 and have had one on all my bikes since. They are still available. After Curt passed away in 2012 I knew I had to have a Curt Gran Memorial Moonshine 1000 (CGMM1K) certificate hanging on the wall with the rest of my Iron Butt certificates.
My last minute decision to go came after the weather forecasts for the next 10 days looked promising. With an overnight in Bismarck, ND, any route to Casey, IL was at least 1,000 miles and would qualify for the CGMM1K. My plan was two days to get there, two full days in attendance, and two more days to get back home. I was gold with a clear 10 day forecast. It didn’t quite work out that way.
The roads were bare and dry and the sun was shining when I left Edmonton early Wednesday but the temperature only climbed above one degree Celsius after I got past Saskatoon. On Day 2, the temperature didn’t start to climb until I was past Fargo, ND but it turned out that Minneapolis would be a bigger concern than the weather this day. While skirting the northern edge of The Twin Cities, a taxi decided he wanted my portion of I-694 and it was only quick action on my part that prevented an ugly crash as he blindly dove across three lanes of traffic. Shortly afterwards I spied a full sheet of plywood laying prone in the next lane just before a wicked gust of wind picked it up vertical and flung it across my lane, missing the rear of my bike seemingly by inches. Honest, I was already awake!
These two incidents notwithstanding, I knew my day would be a success 40 minutes later when I passed Wisconsin Exit 16 for County Route T to Hammond, WI. Thanks for looking out for me Terry Hammond.
Some light rain welcomed me to Casey at the end of my Iron Butt ride but the high for the day had been 23 Celsius so I didn’t mind. But, the weather forecast on the morning after my arrival was now calling for tornadoes across the Midwest and a snowstorm in Saskatchewan! Putting that out of my mind I grabbed an early burger for lunch on Friday and met some new friends for dinner. I had a great time at the Moonshine Lunch Run, enjoyed another burger (a new record was set with 3,251 Moonburgers sold on Saturday), was able to put faces and voices to lots of people I knew from online, and helped raise funds for a new fire hall in Casey.
It was 20 degrees Celsius at 5 a.m. on Sunday when I began my ride home, and it was still 20 Celsius three hours later when I fueled up under those eery skies in St. Louis. Three and a half hours later, after I had turned north at Kansas City, the temperature began to plummet, the wind picked up, and the rain began. In mid-afternoon I called it a day in Council Bluffs, IA when the temp hit 4C with no sign of better weather ahead. I awoke the next day to ice and snow in the parking lot, and on the bike, but with the promise of nicer weather for Tuesday. I let people know I’d be late getting home and settled in to my hotel room.
The parking lot was clear and the road reports said I-29 northbound was bare when I got up Tuesday morning. The forecast called for improved weather by Fargo. The forecast lied. Rather than warming up from 4 degrees Celsius as I got to Fargo the temp started falling so I pulled in, looked up the nearest U-Haul location, and rented a rig to get me home without further delay as Mary and I had a weekend getaway starting on Friday.
Light snow started drifting across the road within 30 minutes of me heading west on I-94. The intensity picked up once I turned north at Bismarck, and from Minot to Estevan it was near whiteout conditions. I called it a night. The blizzard had been limited to southern Saskatchewan because, within half an hour of my departure on Wednesday morning, the snow disappeared and the roads were bare and dry the rest of my way home.
I’d made it. Sure, I had to trailer the bike home, but I’d ridden the furthest of any of the attendees to get to the 10th Moonshine Lunch Run and had a great time. When it was announced that the final MLR would take place in April 2018, my riding buddy Norm decided to join me and rode over 3,600 km from Grande Prairie, AB – the furthest distance ridden for a Moonburger by anyone in all the years of the event. Mike even made it from Montana, but he was driving his car.
While the MLR has ended, the Moonshine store is still there, serving burgers til 12:30 p.m. Mon-Sat. I learned from my experience in 2014 so Norm and I didn’t head for home in 2018 because, winter weather. Instead, we headed south and caught MotoGP in Texas before spending a week in California, all the while dreaming of the next time we could ride for a Moonburger.
- From R. Bruce Thomas