What do monkey pants, Corona beer, the best catfish in the Midwest, awesome desserts, a journey of hundreds of miles, competition of which restaurant to eat at for dinner, and good friends equal when you put them all together? HOG RIDE! More specifically, the Catfish Caper!
The 2011 Catfish Caper is now over. As a reminder, this is the name assigned to the ride by our HOG chapter director, Ken…and it’s perfectly fitting. Ken led the way through the Indiana and Illinois country-side for a weekend ride, and everybody had a blast…even if the weather did its best to drown out our spirits (which it did not). I promised a more detailed ride report, so here we go.
Saturday morning arrived with forecasts of rain throughout the day. Bonnie and I decided to meet a few other members at a Bob Evans for some hot coffee and breakfast, arriving there about 7AM. Others trickled into the eatery, and our table grew larger as the waitress continually kept adding tables together so we could all sit together. After in-taking our fair share of some of Columbia’s finest, and eating a hearty breakfast to ensure energy was available in the bodies for the ride ahead, we left the restaurant to go to Harley Northside down the street and help one of our fellow HOG members with any ride registration or sign-in needs. A number of people arrived at Harley Northside at the staging location for the ride reporting that they had been rained on on their way in; and a quick look to the skies convinced everybody else to don their rain gear as well.
Members were still trickling in as the ride meeting came to a very informal order. Ken passed out directions should anybody get separated ( not needed, as he did a great job making sure the pack got back together when it got strewn out too far apart), and a quick reminder of the rules of the road were given to keep safety fresh in everybody’s minds.
9AM arrived quickly, and the command was given by Ken to mount up for the Catfish Caper. Not sure how many people started the ride, I had heard it was 29 or 30. That’s a great turn out for a ride that is scheduled over the entire weekend. We easily navigated our way out of town, heading I465 West to I-70 West for a spell until we connected with SR39 South. Traffic was average for a Saturday morning, and we did get caught in the construction on I-70 West which slowed our exit from Indianapolis, but at least traffic was moving slowly instead of at a standstill. The rain that others had seen earlier in the morning had appeared, albeit light enough to just be noticeable without being extremely dangerous to visibility.
Once we reached country roads, we navigated many left and right turns, too many to list here. You can see the route for Saturday in my other blog entry for the Catfish Caper, which allows you to zoom into the route and get an idea of how serpentine the riding was. Ken had picked a great route, finding some curves, straightaways, and even canopy coverage at times.
The rain had become an on and off-again drizzle at times, and our first stop in Cloverdale for fuel claimed it’s first dropout, who decided to head back home due to the rain. This first stop also afforded the riders who did not visit Bob Evans or another establishment the ability to grab a hot cup of coffee.
Graysville, IN was the last fuel stop in Indiana before proceeding into Illinois. Fuel stops are fun for the group, giving everybody a chance to critique the riding just done, as well as gives us all time to mingle and talk while grabbing some refreshments. It is almost comical to see such small gas stations out in the middle of “nowhere” go from having one vehicle in their parking lot, to having a dozen 93-octane hungry hogs pull into the lot from nowhere. This usually brings out some of the neighbors who are curious to the visitors to their towns, and either brings about appreciation or dislike from the attendants or owners working the stores.
All were starting to get hungry for lunch, so it was time to keep riding onward. One rider had a problem getting her bike started at the pump which only delayed us for a couple of minutes, and after getting some help in disabling her kill switch, found her Harley roaring to life with the rest of our bikes.
The Silver Moon in West Union, Illinois is a one-story building on the north edge of town, without many markings. The small sign at one edge of the parking lot advertises the business name, while another sign on the end of the lot indicates that this may just be a place get a cold beer if so inclined to stop.
Want great tasting catfish? The Silver Moon is the place to get it…everything we had been hearing was accurate. The catfish fillets when ordered were piled high in baskets, and with a golden brown batter hiding the perfectly cooked flakiness of the actual meal. Together with their gigantic salad bar, with many different types of pasta salads and breads also available, made this a meal that will be remembered for some time to come. It also guarantees that all of the riders who participated will be willing participants whenever another ride is organized for this destination in the future.
Ken had made it clear to all riders at the initial ride meeting that he had a dessert surprise in store for those that came along. Those that had done this ride in the past with him knew that this is near his home town where some of his family still lives, and that he enjoyed having everybody over to their home for desserts that are out of this world. Nearly carrying our heavy stomachs back to the bikes, we proceeded back out to the asphalt to head for this next destination. For those of us whom this was the first ride to Ken’s backyard, we were soon to be treated to treats that rivaled the best bakeries in Indianapolis.
A leisure ride to his sister’s home in Palestine, IL took us down a nearly deserted, very wide country lane, with a number of different curves at just the right places, which seemed to go on for miles. We used the opportunity to clean out our fuel injectors and made great time to the location, where his family greeted each of us on our arrival as if we were members of their clan.
The desserts that awaited us were delicacies of cheesecake. Chocolate, red velvet, and others. I personally do not care for cheesecake, but I couldn’t resist trying the red velvet that my wife had chosen. A bite later, and I absconded with her plate and fork…but shared when she caught up with me. It was a perfect ending to a great meal, and the hosts made sure that we all had a perfect rest stop. Getting late, the decision was made to climb back on the motorcycles, and to head towards Evansville, our final stop for the day.
The rain clouds (as seen in the photos above) guaranteed that we checked the radar applications on our phones, which showed that we should pull out the rain gear once more. The journey to Evansville was a long leg, with one stop in Vincennes, IN to allow those needing fuel to top off, as well as to allow everybody that had not previously put on their rain gear to get theirs on, as the rain had reappeared and become more steady.
We eventually out ran the rain, as we left US-41, circled around I-64 to I-164 South, and exited on Lloyd Expressway to make sure that everybody fueled up for the next day’s journey. Across the street sat the Marriott Fairfield Inn, which each bike ambled toward to complete their check-in once each fuel tank was topped off. Evansville is on DST (daylight savings time), whereas the Indianapolis area has progressed to using the Eastern Time Zone for all of their clocks. This continually threw some people into confusion, trying to figure out what the local time was. Sort of hilarious to watch as conversations would end up “are we meeting at 7PM local time, or our time?”
Arriving to the hotel on overnight stays causes us all to drift in many different directions immediately once check-in is completed. Some people wander up to their rooms to fall down on the beds to take a quick nap, some people pull out the cleaning rags and get the day’s grime off their bikes, and other people jump back on their bikes to find a liquor store or department store to pick up either adult refreshments or things that they forgot to pack for the trip. My wife usually drop our bags off in the room, and go back outside or down to the lobby to mingle with our friends as they come and go.
Two very popular restaurants were located on the ends of the hotel parking lot, Texas Roadhouse and Bar Louie. Usually dinner is “on your own”, which means go wherever you like. A number of people decided to not go out, and the remaining people seemed to gravitate to one or the other of these eateries. We decided to eat at Texas Roadhouse, one of our favorite regular restaurants, and easily talked 7 or 8 other people into joining us. The lines were extremely long, over an hour wait, but Dan, one of our friends, managed to go in and clear out room for all of us at the bar…which guaranteed us a seat bypassing the others outside waiting. In the few minutes before Dan proceeded to muscle us some room inside, we were treated to one of his favorite dirty dance moves. While this would quell the hunger of most, Harley riders are known for their veracious appetites and we were not in the last deterred.
The 9 or 10 of had an absolutely wonderful time at the bar, and 90 minutes passed by quickly as we enjoyed the fine food and camaraderie. The food portions were enormous, but bigger than what we typically get back home; and all agreed that the food was perfectly prepared. The staff of this restaurant should be commended, due to the fact that service was excellent, even though they were at maximum occupancy most of the night.
Going back to the rooms, my wife and I took our items out of traveling bag, and placed them within easy access within the room. For this trip, we decided to do something different than what we normally do. A few weeks ago, we had heard that rooms at this hotel were hard to get, and an offer was given to us by our friends John and Shiz to split a room with them. The two queen sized beds were plenty big for each couple, and it allowed both of us couples to split the cost of the stay. Rides are fun to do, but they can get quite expensive over the course of the year with the number of day and longer trips we have been doing. So, Bonnie puts on her now infamous “Monkey and Nanner” lounge pants, and proceeded to find out what’s going on in the hotel.
There’s always a party in the lounge or a few of the rooms when we all do the overnight rides, as this night was no exception. My wife and Shiz disappeared for an hour while John and I were content with vegging out and watching the new Orange County Choppers off-shoot, Senior vs Junior or whatever it is called. Eventually, they showed back up to the room, only to drag me back to the small party they had found with about half-dozen other riders. Time flies when you are having fun with friends, and it came to the point where it was time to get some sleep for the next day’s ride. It was easy to fall asleep, as fatigue from a long day had finally taken its toll on this aging body. The next day, Sunday, would also test all of our abilities to endure less than ideal situations, as we had to choose between continuing the Catfish Caper ride, or to head back north to our homes.