FJR on Pieowa

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Well-known member
Jan 23, 2007
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Des Moines, IA
Before I start this report, let me just say that this is the only group of people who will "get" the reason for this ride. I tried explaining it to "normal" people, and it just generates a lot of blank looks (or eye rolls, in the case of my wife). So for them, I just said I was taking a ride around the state.

On with the report.

This ride was inspired by Tony Osborne, 101stPathfinder, in this thread from 2014(!) when he "drew" the letters F-J-R on Florida.
EDIT: If you look above Cedar Rapids in the final image, you'll see a green dot, a salute to Tony's hometown of Independence. And I added the Relive videos at the bottom.

As Mayor of Iowa, I figured it was my duty to give Minnesota a tramp stamp by tattooing Iowa. (Guess what that makes Missouri.) It was simple to put together a path spelling out FJR on the state...I had that years ago. Execution just took a bit longer than anticipated.

But I finally identified an 8-day window in August where I could fit the ride in. I only needed 4 of them to ride the letters and return home. As the dates approached, we were being seared by 100+ degree days with 115-degree heat indexes. And then, the extended forecast showed not just a break, but simply beautiful weather for 4 straight days. I started packing the camping gear.

Day 1: J
Forecast: 82 degrees F.
Playlist: Rush albums, in order.
Miles: 511

The start point of the J is an hour from home in Anita. (I do know how to spell "FJR", but starting with the J saved over 150 miles all told compared to doing the letters in order.) Reaching Anita around 8:45am, I turn on the GPS so it will start leaving bread crumbs, turn on my SPOT tracker, and start recording with Relive. And I head south to start tracing the hook of the J. Some light rain had moved through southern Iowa, but all I saw of it was wet roads. The pace is easy, just 5 over the 55-mph limit on secondary roads, and +2 on the speed limit on 4-lanes. I want the SPOT track to be even and not too much spacing between the pings. As I get near Indianola near noon, I realize I can stop by one of my favorite places just a block off the track without blowing the shape of the J. So Crouse Cafe serves up a nice BLT, and an even better slice of blueberry pie.


By 5:10, 300 miles later, I'm at the northern point of J, and shut down all the electronics to preserve the shape of just the J. Then I head an hour west to near the starting point for the F, and camp in a county park.


Day 2: F
Forecast: 84 degrees F
Playlist: James McMurtry in the am, shuffle of everything PM
Miles: 565

The F starts outside Gruver on a foggy morning.


The previous evening after supper, I'd scoped out a known detour around road work in Estherville and that intel paid off, as I found a straighter route through town than the official detour route. On this foggy morning, with the rising sun at my back, I experienced a phenomenon I'll call a "fogbow". I couldn't capture it on camera, and trying to look directly at it caused it to fade in my vision. It was clearest in my peripheral vision; an arch, like a rainbow, but denser and whiter than the surrounding fog. Really neat. Or maybe I just shouldn't have had that shrimp on my salad last night.

378 miles later in the southwest corner of Iowa, the F is complete and I start east across the state to near the start point for R. I camped at Lake Rathbun, an Army Corps site, so nice grounds, but I didn't realize it was down 3 miles of gravel. No biggie, but I knew I'd be going back out the same way in the dark morning.


Day 3: R
Forecast: 84 degrees F
Playlist: More random shuffle
Miles: 592

Start point was 30 minutes from camp, so it was up at 5:15 to break camp, pack, and get rolling.
As I pulled out of the start point in Centerville, I passed an '04(?) FJR for sale in a parking lot. It made me realize that I'd seen an FJR each day of this trip; the first in Des Moines, another rolling between Onawa and Modamin along Iowa's west coast, and now this one. I took it as a good sign.

This is my longest day, and the last almost 4 hours will be on a 4-lane, trying not to get rear-ended by regular traffic. I'll be spending the night with a friend just 3 miles from the endpoint. Beth Howard is a published author whose specialty just happens to be...pie.

She and her boyfriend provide an incredible stay. Within 30 minutes of arriving, we're floating in the pond nestled next to a corn field to cool off. After a shower, I walk into the kitchen to find both Doug and I wearing the same shirt, supporting Beth's documentary-in-the-making.


Dinner? Are you kidding me? Grilled burgers with tomato, lettuce, and Beth's special sauce; corn on the cob; tomato caprese; and fresh from the oven blubarb pie - that's blueberries and rhubarb. ALL but the mozzarella cheese, buns, and ice cream fresh from Doug's farm. And look at this setting!




Add a fire in the firepit and a taste of Templeton Sherry aged Rye, and oh my, what an evening.

The following morning, after a sound sleep, it was another slice of blubarb pie with coffee for breakfast. (Hey, I was a guest. It would be impolite to refuse.) And after more conversation, I finally packed and got on my way home. Because today would have been my dad's 90th birthday, I stopped by the cemetery to thank him for the wanderlust he instilled in me, then stopped about 40 minutes from home in Sully at the Coffee Cup cafe for a piece of coconut cream pie. Pretty damn good day.

1873 miles all told. So, by the powers invested in me by JWilly as the mayor of Iowa, I hereby proclaim this state as claimed in the name of Mama Yama, with all FJR riders granted special privileges to be determined.




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