Something Worth Doing

 

As I indicated I would do last week (see For the Love of Poopy’s), I met up with a couple of friends last Saturday morning and rode out to Poopy’s in Savanna,  This post is going to be short on pictures and videos because (a) the only pillion photographer who matters was not on board to take the road shots, which I only wish I could share with you and (b) it never strikes me to take advantage of some photo ops when they arise. But in lieu of excellent visuals, I will share my story, if only because it seems to be worth telling.

IMG_9050

The two gents I rode with are experienced riders whom I got to know from two different facets of my life on two wheels. “Johnny B” is a retired music teacher who lives in the next town over from mine but whom I met as a regular attendee of the Midwest Motorcycle Rally, which is held hundreds of miles from our respective homes. Still, I’m glad we met. John has a knack for knowing which roads to take and where the good food is to be had. this is something that comes from experience. He may not be one to smile and pose for the camera but John is an asset to any riding group and has helped me out on more than one occasion.

IMG_9049

Mark and I go back, not only in terms of years but also in terms of our previous lives. He was a motorcycle mechanic — and a darned good one — at Fox Valley Cycles, the best Honda motorcycle dealership in west suburban Chicagoland and also the sponsor of the Illini Free Spirit Riders, of which I was once president. Mark and I have both moved on since then but have somehow managed to remain friends for the decade-plus that has since followed.

IMG_9048

We met up at a gas station, where I introduced my two friends to each other, and then headed out on US Highway 30, aka the Lincoln Highway, toward the Mississippi River and Savanna, home of Poopy’s Pub and Grub. Skies were sunny and the temperature was seventyish, with just the slightest cool breeze.

Folks, this was the first ride of any real distance I have taken this year. I could get into why but that would detract from the real story here. Just know that I went, that I needed to go, and that it was wonderful. There’s just something about being out on the road with friends. I can’t begin to tell you how quickly my day-to-day concerns faded away as I motored on, cool breeze in my face, iTunes blasting out on my sound system. As I am known to do, I greeted all the farm animals as I rode past..
“Hello, dairy cows!”
“Hi, horses!”
“Well hello there, beef cattle!”

There was this one point along US 30 where a group of turbines from an upcoming wind farm seemed to have been set up perfectly along our line of sight as we approached, the huge blades moving to some unheard symphony of flowing air mass. As much as I wish I could share photos or a video clip with you, I was equally glad nobody was there to hear me moments later when I’d caught my self singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever song had been blasting out on my stereo. I probably wasn’t singing in tune but what can I say, I’d been caught up in the moment.

IMG_9056

In what seemed like no time at all, we’d run the 115 miles or so to arrive at “Illinois’ Biggest Biker destination.” Interestingly enough, Poopy’s wasn’t all that crowded when we pulled in, right around the 11:00 hour, which made it easy for our merry trio to claim some prime seating along the main outdoor bar. Perched upon our padded toilet seat bar stools, we ate, drank, traded stories and people watched. It just felt so great to be alive!

 

IMG_9054

All the while, more and more bikes were pulling in, but the area never felt overcrowded, mainly because there is a lot of room outside (and even in) at Poopy’s. Nobody was wearing a mask but then again, nobody was in my face, either. I was okay with that.

IMG_9052

As we sat there chatting and admiring the young, beautiful bartenders who were working harder and harder to take care of everybody, I spotted Andy Pesek, who had organized the “Poopy’s COVID Relief” event, enjoying what looked like a fine cigar while seated at a card table that had been set up by one of the big garage doors, all of which had been opened on such a pleasant, sunny day. I walked over and introduced myself before dropping my donation envelope into the bucket on the table.

That’s pretty much it as far as the “event” goes. There was no big, formal parade, no raucus anti-tyranny rally, no political ranting of any kind that me and my half-deaf ears could pick up. What I did hear was plenty of laughter. I think most people understood why we were there — to enjoy the day and enjoy life while supporting a unique business that we had come to love and appreciate.

IMG_9055

One highpoint of my day occurred while I was walking across the premises and spotted a face that I had seen before, on the news as well as social media. He smiled as I look at him and so I felt compelled to ask, “Are you Poopy?”

His smile grew as he nodded at me, responding, “I’m Poopy.”

We chatted briefly and I thanked Mr. Promenschenkel for having shared my last blog post the week before. He seemed pleased to give me a moment of his time and came across as being quite genuine. Just as we were about to head our separate ways, I asked if we could get a quick photo. Poopy clapped an arm on my shoulder and exclaimed, “Sure, let’s do it!” The resulting selfie came out a little blurred but mere words can’t express how much I appreciated our chance meeting.

IMG_9053

All the while, more and more bikes rolled in. We departed well before mid-afternoon. Part of me wanted to stay and check out the live music, maybe see if the bikini pool bar next to the stage area would liven up, but a larger part of me wanted to ride home sober. And that’s what we did.

My only regret? I did not reapply sunblock before making the return trip. My face, neck, and especially my arms got a little burned but not so bad. I think John, Mark and I had a nice day together. Things being as they are, I’m just not sure what the rest of this riding season holds for me but if I can get even a few more rides in like this one, I will be so grateful.

Thanks for hanging with me.

For the Love of Poopy’s

Located on Illinois Route 84 near the southern edge of the city of Savanna, Poopy’s bills itself as “Illinois’ Biggest Biker Destination” and for good reason. The place is huge. The place is fun. And the place has earned its reputation as a worthy venue for motorcyclists to visit for food, beverages, and a wide variety of entertainment. Its owner, Kevin Promenschenkel, earned the nickname “Poopy” at a young age when a wayward bird let him have it, twice, during a Little League baseball game. The name stuck and the rest, as they say, is history.

Dubuque26

Well it seems history is being made again. Promenschenkel has been busy doing everything in his power to keep his business afloat during these trying times, including participating in a lawsuit against the state, asking his loyal customers to support him by ordering Poopy’s merchandise online, and most recently, opening the venue for Memorial Day weekend — a major weekend for his business, filled with events and entertainment. This was a violation of our governor’s current stay-at-home order, but with the support of county and local authorities, not to mention many loyal bikers who came from miles around, Poopy’s did indeed open. In addition to all this, a motorcycle fundraising run has been organized to provide direct relief to Poopy in this time of need.  I intend to participate in that fundraiser, assuming Mother Nature cooperates and I have people willing to ride out to Savanna with me. I am doing this not because I have excess cash to give away but because I have a great deal of respect for Kevin Promenschenkel, am sympathetic to his situation, and feel compelled to help him out in this small way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been stopping at Poopy’s since September of 2011. That’s the year my son went away to college in the Quad Cities area. A week or two after he left, I found myself missing the kid something awful and so decided to pay him a visit. My ride at the time was a silver metallic 2007 Honda ST1300, a sport touring rig that made short work of my 130-ish mile run out to the Mississippi River. After picking up my son, I asked if he had any interest in checking out this “Poopy’s” place that we’d heard others talk about. At the time, he wasn’t yet old enough to have anything stronger than a coke but the allure of visiting a real biker bar must have pressed his button that day. “Sure!” my son exclaimed and within minutes, he was onboard and we were headed north toward Savanna.

I should pause here and mention that Poopy’s is anything but a typical biker bar. Poopy’s is a destination, an experience unto itself. Sure, it has a bar — several, in fact — plus a restaurant featuring numerous namesake-themed items (e.g. “The Big Poop”), a gift shop, a parts counter, and more. They even had a tattoo parlor on the premises back when I first began going there. The outdoor portion of Poopy’s includes a sizable entertainment stage with overhead catwalk, a pool bar, even a campground. They host vehicle shows, combat sports events, and many, many concerts. As I said, Poopy’s is an experience unto itself and I have developed a deep sense of appreciation for this venue — and the man who built it — from the first time I set foot on the premises.

My son and I had ourselves a grand old time that day. Using my phone, our waitress took a great photo of us while we waited for our lunch. We walked the premises, admired the unique decor and ambiance, bought a few souvenirs, including my lucky Poopy’s bottle opener, and vowed to return.

And so we have returned a number of times. Not nearly often enough, because I don’t live nearby, but whenever the opportunity presents itself — and always with friends. I’ve made lunch stops, brunch stops, and “you just gotta’ come and check this place out” stops. And Poopy’s never disappoints.

My last trip there was a few years ago. My most favorite pillion companion in the world and I had ridden out to Iowa over Labor Day weekend to meet up with some friends from a few different states. During a wonderful all-day ride that we took, the group  had planned to visit Poopy’s for a mid-afternoon lunch. As we approached and entered the parking lot, my beloved friend rolled video, creating a very nice memento. We sat outside for quite some time, enjoying the live music, good food, and each other’s excellent company on that fine late-summer afternoon. Indeed, it’s been too long since I have enjoyed such a time at Poopy’s.

99098496_1570356153113364_3819369057459634176_n

And so on Saturday, June 6, 2020, I hope to join whatever companions I can assemble and ride west for the day. My motives have been questioned on several counts by different individuals. Without naming names, here are their questions and my answers.

  • Aren’t you afraid of getting sick… or worse?
    No. As the result of having worked in an essential service industry, I never stopped working during this pandemic. I have taken reasonable precautions, both at work and at home. And yes, I wear a bandanna face covering every time I go to the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. I will not likely go indoors on this trip and if I do, I’ll just don my bandanna. Also, as an avid motorcyclist, I am accustomed to tolerating a certain amount of risk. Believe me, it’s not that I don’t care whether I die. It’s that I dread not living during whatever time I have left on this earth.
  • But Poopy is a blatant Trump fan! Are you one, too???
    Does it matter? This is a fundraiser event for Poopy’s, not a political rally. Okay, here’s the plain truth: As an admitted member of the exhausted majority, I despise both the Democrat and Republican parties with a passion and in all candor, my opinion of “45” is less than glowing right now. But I am a real Poopy’s fan and therefore a fan of the man who has put so much of himself into that institution. Although I have never met Poopy in person, I like him and I suspect that if we drank together long enough, we would depart as friends. In short, I respect Kevin Promenschenkel and given that I, too, would not have been prepared to go more than a few weeks without an income stream, I am inclined to help him.
  • You’re just a badass biker with no respect for authority. I hope you get sick!
    Good day to you, too, ma’am! Yes, I am a biker. No, I am not. Okay, it depends on whom you ask and how that person defines the term. I am an avid motorcyclist and I have ridden across the country. My current ride is a 2012 Victory Vision Tour, a big-inch “full dresser” American V-twin, and I am no more loyal to any one motorcycle brand than I am to any political party. So there we are. If you fault me for riding a motorcycle, for respecting other riders regardless of what they ride, or for advocating for motorcyclist rights in general, then I am guilty as charged and your opinion does not move me.

In the end, I think it would be a dirty shame if Poopy’s were to disappear as the result of this horrific pandemic event and the shut-down of our economy — indeed of our society as we know it. I’m sure many businesses will not return as the result, through no fault of the independent owners themselves. So if I can help out one of them, this one in particular, by riding with friends for a few hundred miles on a Saturday and dropping some money in the till, I will gladly do so.

Whether you agree with me or not, I respect you for having read this far. And as always, thank you for hanging with me.

Epic Journey Day Seven — Mt. Hood and Much More


Day seven had us back on the motorcycles for a mix of riding that ranged from urban streets to mountain roads. For openers, we rode into Portland proper to check out a unique coffee bar and motorcycle shop called See See Motor Coffee Co. This is a unique place and a must-see for any motorcycle enthusiast who finds him/herself in Portland.


Bikers of all denominations come here to drink coffee, eat breakfast or a light lunch, buy cycle parts or novelties, and perhaps most of all, talk about motorcycles. We stopped in for breakfast when coffee bar was open, but the shop was not, so we ate, drank, and planned to return and buy some See See merchandise.

By the time we left, the number of bikes parked outside had multiplied, as had the number of people hanging out, both inside and out. As I approached my own ride, a gentleman in a cowboy hat walked up and began asking me about Miss Scarlett, my ’12 Victory Vision Tour. He also shared stories of the bikes he has owned and/or built over the years. As we talked, I tried to figure out the gentleman’s accent, which seemed at once western and eastern. Turns out he was originally from the Bronx, but had not lived there for many years. I enjoyed talking to that guy. Even though we had never met before, we were not total strangers. That is, we knew something about each other by virtue of where we had found ourselves hanging out that morning. It’s a biker thing.

​​


From there we headed out of the city on US 26, toward the mountain we couldn’t even see as we rode past it last Thursday in the pouring rain. Today we saw Mt. Hood in all its glory. Had a great time riding toward it and around it via Highways 26 and 35. We also enjoyed the roads and scenery afforded us in the Mt. Hood National Forest. But the high point occurred when John led us off the road and down to this paved (not a given around here) scenic pull-off.

Besides being able to see the top of this majestic snow-capped mountain, we also happened upon a mountain stream that was tracing the path of a massive avalanche that had occurred here in 2006. That turned into a thing in itself, but we had to be cautious getting to and from the rushing stream, as most of the rocks were quite loose, having only been placed there about ten years ago by said avalanche, which had been set off by a storm called the Pineapple Express.

Then there were the few other people, some with dogs, who stopped while we were there. John and Eddie spent some time talking to a man who had been in these parts back when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and watched it happen—from a great distance, of course.

What was intended to be just a quick stop turned into quite a visit, but nobody seemed to mind. Me, I was happy as a clam (assuming clams are very happy), because to me, things like this feel exactly like a vacation should. I love it!


Next stop, lunch. My son John has developed this uncanny ability to pick great places at which to eat, and this was no exception. We were running along on 35 when John suddenly slowed up, signaled right, and pulled off toward what looked like a small logging operation of some sort. But before we entered their unsaved lot, he veered left and led us into a small, paved lot for the Saw Tooth Roadhouse.

How did he even see this place?! Tucked away in the middle of nowhere, this place serves up some awesome food. We all ate our fill, talking with the owner from time to time—a great guy, by all indications. Had John been there before? Nope. He pulled off on a whim. We were amazed.


The next leg of our day trip was pretty amazing, too. We rode up to a visitor information center on the banks of the Hood River. Just across the river lay the state of Washington. One of the staff members suggested that we could cross the river via the toll bridge, just beyond where we were standing, then ride west for about 20 miles on the Washington side, before crossing back into Oregon on the Bridge of the Gods. We thought that sounded like a cool idea, so we did exactly that.

While running west on the Washington side, I noticed a freight train motoring east between us and the river. As the engine passed John’s position and approached mine, I raised my right arm in the direction of the locomotive in a friendly waving gesture. The engineer responded with a single blast of the train’s mighty horns. I found out later that the horn blast had started my son almost to the point of jumping off his motorcycle. I found that rather amusing. John, not so much.


We returned to Portland and stopped at See See Motor Coffee Co. about a half hour before closing, to check out the shop and buy our souvenirs. The atmosphere was still the same—people outside, people inside, all talking bikes in some way, shape or form. On my way in, two tattooed guys sipping iced drinks at a picnic table outside struck up a conversation with me, first about me and my bike, then about the differences between Chicago and Portland (one of them had just been to Chicago). We were strangers, but not. It’s a biker thing.

On my way out, I noticed my son John talking to one of the two guys with whom I had chatted on my way in. I went to the street to get a closer look at a custom (pictured above) that had caught my eye on the way in. Within moments my son calls me over. Turns out the guy he’d been talking to had built the bike. I asked him a few questions, which he gladly answered.

From there we ran back to the hotel in Lake Oswego, freshened up, hopped in the van and went back into Portland for supper. I couldn’t help but notice Mt. Hood in the distance as we drove over one of Portland’s many bridges.

On this day, supper was not just a lucky pick. The My Thai Bistro is a favorite restaurant of John’s, and we soon found out why. The food was excellent, and so were the staff, who seemed to know John on sight. Karen snapped a photo of John with the owner.

This had been an awesome day.