by Jeffrey Hage
An Otsego teacher took to his motorcycle to practice what he preaches in the classroom.
Eric Kent, a middle school history and geography teacher at Kaleidescope Charter School in Otsego, says he likes to travel to places historically significant so he can share first-hand experiences with his students.
Come the start of the 2017-18 school year, the Kaleidescope students are going to get quite the geography lesson.
That’s because Kent headed out on his Indian motorcycle that took him on a personal journey through 48 states in just nine days. The trip was part of the Iron Butt Association’s 48-10 challenge. Iron Butt is a motorcycle riders association that bills its members as the “world’s toughest motorcycle riders.”
Kent proved to be just that.
The rules of the ride were simple, Kent said. He was required to stop and obtain a dated receipt from a business along his route every 350 miles. In each state he visited, he was required to ride to a community and document his visit as proof that he was in the required location. His official time was determined by starting and ending receipts.
Kent left his Princeton home on June 5 and headed for Sisseton, South Dakota and kicked off the marathon ride the next morning. He was sure to obtain a receipt from a Sisseton business to document the official start of his journey. Nine days, 12 hours, and 42 minutes later, the journey ended in Umatilla, Oregon.
“I know, because I have a dated receipt to prove it,” Kent said.
On that first day, Kent rode from Sisseton, South Dakota and east to Erie, Pennsylvania. Rush hour traffic in Chicago presented Kent with a three-hour delay on that first day of the trip. Day two found Kent traveling from Erie into New York, and through the New England states. He stopped for the night in New Hampshire. His resting stop after day three was in Lexington, Virginia.
With a tight schedule, there wasn’t time to get off the motorcycle and experience attractions along his journey through the birthplace of America.
“Whatever I saw, I saw from the seat of my motorcycle,” Kent said.
As a matter of fact, time was more of a premium those first couple of days while Kent worked out a schedule.
“I timed myself with a stop watch. It took me the first three days to get my timing straight,” he said.
He got things down to a science. He rarely stopped. When he did, he limited his stops to eight minutes. To save time, he didn’t stop at restaurants or convenience stores to eat.
“I survived for nine days on granola bars, Mountain Dew and bananas,” Kent said.
“Except on day three, I had a 6-inch sub along the way.
“I lost 14 pounds in nine days,” Kent said with a laugh.
Day four took Kent from Virginia to Mobile, Alabama.
“I zig-zagged south, catching the eastern seaboard states,” he said.
On day five, he went west to Mississippi and Louisiana, then up through Tennessee, Arkansas, through St. Louis in Missouri and into Iowa. Day six found Kent going southwest into Nebraska, and then off to Kansas.
“Then on Day 6 I grabbed the corner of Colorado as I went off to Texas and New Mexico,” he said.
“Day seven was something else,” Kent said.
He shot across Arizona. Along the way he made an uncustomary stop for a quick oil change.
“I then went south to Needles, California, along the Colorado River in the Mojave desert,” he said. It was then on to Las Vegas and finally, Ogden, Utah.
Day eight was the last full day of the trip. Kent went from Ogden to Evanston, Wyoming, and back into Utah so he could go to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Missoula, Montana. He then crossed over into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
On day nine, Kent rode south and west from Coeur d’Alene into Oregon and his last stop in Umatilla, Oregon.
“I arrived at 3:47 p.m.,” he said, and he obtained a store receipt there to document the end of the journey.
One might think that after a long, exhausting trip, Kent might rest for a bit. Or having survived on bananas and granola bars for more than a week, a celebratory meal might be in order.
But not for Eric Kent. It was time to head home to Minnesota and Princeton.
After reaching his milestone destination, he filled the gas tank of his motorcycle and drove five hours to Boise.
“In Boise, I had a pizza,” he said.
He then rode his bike until he reached Interstate 94 and headed back home through Montana and North Dakota before entering Minnesota in Moorhead.
When Kent arrived home, he wasted no time getting to work.
“I got home and mowed the lawn,” he said.
He then went to the Princeton Vet Clinic where his wife works and mowed the lawn.
Then he mowed his mother-in-law’s lawn.
Kent said the journey was the trip of a lifetime.
“The mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont were spectacular,” he said. “I rode on some roads that were barely big enough for two passing vehicles.”
He said he rode with some young people on Ninja “crotch rockets” and got to drive through New York City and across the famed George Washington Bridge.
“I rode on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and through Everglade swamps in Florida,” he said. “I saw saltwater and tidal ponds in Louisiana. The magnolias were in bloom in Mississippi and it was like riding in a perfume bottle.”
Kent said driving through the deserts of New Mexico in 116 degree heat was neat in itself. The Painted Desert and Mojave Desert will forever be memorable. So were the salt flats he observed.
“And to top it all off, there were mountains in between,” he said.
“It was surreal. … I saw things I thought I would never see”.