Silently sitting on my motorcycle under a pre-dawn gray sky, I observe a neighbor’s lights flicker to life followed by the silhouette of a body shuffling about. I’m watching for the headlights of a fellow Nomad when my phone alerts me of an incoming text: “Waiting for train to pass.” Ten minutes later and the whine of his Suzuki DL650 can be heard – my cue to wake the Triumph Tiger. We set off south under the pink glow of sunrise past fog covered corn fields to rendezvous with three additional Nomads in Dwight, Illinois. From there the five of us ride Interstate 55 through Saint Louis, Missouri and beyond to our destination in the northeast corner of the Ozarks: Onondaga Cave State Park, near Leasburg, Missouri.
We arrive at 2:00 PM and the campground host informs us the tent sites are all occupied and there are just three RV sites left, so we snagged two which were adjacent. We each have our own tents so that’s five guys with five bikes and five tents on two sites. Technically, we should have used three sites as only two tents are allowed per site… they cut us a break. Being in the RV section, we’re surrounded by aluminium condominiums on wheels and pay the premium rate of $25 per site.
Once we had our tents pitched and gear stowed we set off for the Visitors Center for a 1 ½ hour guided Onondaga Cave tour along underground concrete walks and steps with stainless steel railings. The Onondaga Cave is impressive, with enormous subterranean chambers, long passages and high ceilings that disappear in the enshrouding blackness. Water flows through an underground stream and large reflecting pools make the flood-lit rock formations stunning sights to behold. Few bats are seen as the cave is infected with White-nose syndrome, a nasty fungal based disease that’s devastating bat populations throughout the United States.
After the tour we made some simple dehydrated meals in a pot over a single burner propane stove. Delicious after a long day of riding! Once the sun was waning we started the first of our three bundles of fire wood and settled into some cold beers and aged bourbon to toast our first day on the road.