Background. Last year, a mate Neil and I decided we would fly to Chicago, pickup 2 Harley’s and ride to LA using as much of the old R66 as we could find. We didn’t want the rigidity and certainty of a guided tour, nor the hassle and faff of being in a large group. We wanted the 'road trip' experience, with just the two of us, able to go with the flow and do it our way, mistakes and all. Except for the first night, we wouldn’t book any hotels, so we had maximum freedom. And that’s exactly what we did, we would decide where we would ride to the next day and book accordingly day by day, sometimes we would get to a place and search for hotels, Basically, we did little or no planning and made decisions on the fly. Day 0 - 2: DAY 0. 9th Aug. Arrival in Chicago. We kicked off with a Champagne breakfast in the lounge at Heathrow, had a trouble free flight to Chicago, and a long, but hassle free passage through immigration. We got a hotel close to Eagle Riders, where we would collect the bikes from. Taxi driver from airport serenaded us with Motown most of the way, and couldn’t get his head around the fact that we had come all the way from England and were going to ride motorbikes all the way to Los Angeles. We had dinner in a rather upmarket looking restaurant. We felt a bit underdressed in our bike gear, but this was America after all so ‘no praablem’! The waiter appeared with a tray loaded with huge sample steaks, Alaskan lobsters, etc and proceeded to explain, in detail, each item on the menu and recommended we had half portions. The steak was to die for and even on half portions, we still couldn’t finish it! We couldn’t avoid staring as we watched one bloke consume a huge starter, an even huger main course and then the biggest ‘slice’ of cake I’ve ever seen, it was ¼ of a cake in diameter, but a foot high, he polished it all off with no apparent difficulty! We met Rick, a teamster Union rep from Canada, with whom we had a lively and informative discussion. Rick was also a motorcyclist (Harley) and saluted our travel plans. We had a G&T back at the hotel and I remembered that Americans just cannot be trusted to make a half decent G&T and even I decided to stick to beer only henceforth! DAY 1. 10th Aug. Collect bikes and ride Chicago – Springfield, Illinois. We got to Eaglerider’s depot at 9.30. We were both supposed to have Softails, but they only had one left and tried to ‘upgrade’ me to either a Street or Road Glide, which I didn’t want. They eventually upgraded me brand new Road King, which I was very happy with, although, at the time, I didn’t realise how bloody heavy it was! Both bikes were new 107ci (1753cc) Milwaukee 8 models, which we were pleased about. The famed ‘American customer service’ was lacking that day, meaning we were there about 4 hours because of inexplicable faffing around. This wasn’t helped by the fact that a large French group were also collecting bikes. They were on a guided tour and faffed incessantly, making us a tad frustrated, but smile as we remembered why we wanted to do it alone. Chicago was a nightmare to get out of so we had to jump onto the freeway to make up time and got to the hotel at 7 pm. Springfield is a large ish town with some nice architecture. It was Friday night, but surprisingly quiet. Walking downtown, a woman stopped in her car and said “don’t think I’m weird boys (we did) but do you need any help”? We said we’re looking for somewhere to eat, she recommended some places and then said “jump in I’ll take you” so that saved some walking. We had another great steak and a few beers. Today was my wedding anniversary. I tried to get Brownie points by getting flowers sent to the wife at home, who had forgotten all about it! Day 2. 11th August. Springfield, Illinois – Rolla, Missouri. We had bought some wire and connectors yesterday so set about wiring the bikes for our satnav’s. It was interesting to note how we both quietly enjoyed the excuse for a bit of tinkering! I had a new satnav so was getting to grips with the settings etc. We decided to try and follow the old R66 as much as we could, which took us on some very back road locations, including a stretch of block brick road, which was very quaint, and also very nice… but only for a short period! Lots of nice houses in this area, many on big plots with several big cars and boats in the driveway, clearly an area with money. It was also clear that a lot of that money went into the many different brands of Churches that we past, most of which were large, relatively new, and rather expensive looking. There’s money in this religion business it seems! We were getting hungry, and challenged by the fact there were more Churches than eateries. We eventually found an old fashioned eating place where the coffee was awful, but the glasses of milk, and the cheese omelettes were huge, and great. We also learned here that Americans serve hash browns in kit form, ie you get a (large) pile of fried, grated potato! We spent the next few hours going through some interesting countryside but not seeming to make a lot of progress. We later learned that I had my sat nav set so it was taking us on the most back of the back roads! On one of these back roads we had to do a U turn, here I learned how heavy the Road King is, I lost my footing and couldn’t hold it up, so it rested on its (rather well designed) crash bars. I could not pick it up, in fact the two of us only just managed it. All this took time, so we jumped onto the highway to knock off the last 90 miles or so. We stayed in a simple motel, not possible to walk into town, so it was some beer from the filling station next door and across the road to the ‘Steak and Shake’ for a great burger and chips. It was very hot all day so early to bed. Really impressed so far with just how friendly everyone is, of course, when they realise we're from England we're a novelty to them. But even before this, when we're just two anonymous bikers, people are really talkative and friendly.