The battery tender is doing its job, so I'm excited at the roar and turbine-like whine that breaks the frosty morning quiet. I roll 'The Shark' .. my blue 2005 Yamaha FJR1300 out of the garage and put it back on the center stand to warm up. I don't want the exhaust to kill me in the close confines of the small detached garage. Sprocket, my trusty Newfoundland/Sharpei mix pal, barks with excitement and I tell her she won't get to come along. I don't think she'd like it on the back of the motorcycle, but she keeps telling me that she'd like to try. Not today. After a thorough tech inspection I start going over my gear, because at 20 degress Ferenheit any gaps could kill skin without me even feeling it. Balaclava, base layer, armored pants and boots, an electricly heated mid-layer and a Gore-Tex shell. Top it all with my Shoei RF1200 and BMW Winter II gauntlet gloves, I have nothing exposed and will be able to keep my core temperature high enough for proper circulation. It's all a bit confining compared to summer gear, but in sub-freezing temperatures that this early January day is providing I'm OK going a little bit 'Michelin Man' with my gear -- so long as I can ride in these elements. The sun is out, and there isn't a cloud in the sky. The sun seems somehow smaller in the winter. More distant from the cold, but more precious just the same in the contrast of the grey winter death that sucks the color out of everything. It won't be out long, either, so I mount the Shark... crank up the tunes in my helmet communication system... and pull out of my drive. Traffic in mid-town St. Louis is light on this late Sunday morning. Most people who aren't in church are just staying at home. I don't see one other motorcycle all morning. The Interstate highway takes me across the Mississippi river, where I will catch up with Illinois Rt. 3 -- The Great River Road. I've not traveled all of it, but I guess it goes from New Orleans, Louisiana to Chicago, Illinois. I'll only go North for an hour or so, but I'm already feeling better when the bridge across the ice choked waterway looms before me. I kick The Shark in the pants and blip my spedo up to 120 for a few seconds -- and I leave the towering Alton bridge behind me as I put on the stoppers to enter the Kingdom of Illinois like a proper gentleman. Alton is a strange town: working class, lots of barge and railroad work as well as a few surviving factories. Grain elevators line Rt. 3 for a bit, leaving town, and enough tourists come through to keep the bars, restaurants and antique stores going. Across the rail road tracks north of town, and the road picks up... with the Mighty Mississippi stretching out to my left and bluffs rising hundreds of feet to my left. Family sedans are pulled over at various locations along Rt. 3... and I recall that the Eagles are fairly active this time of year. Eagle watchers are a hazard: mom and dad are distracted by the kids and the birds. But while I'm dodging the cagers, I catch a glimpse of an eagle swooping down on an ice flow with a fish in its claws. I pass before I can see the majestic bird tear into the fish. I'm almost tempted to stop and join the gawkers, but the road is just too nice. It calls me. And with a feeling of being at one with my machine and my surroundings, and yet somehow apart from society and all it's distractions, I twist my throttle and feel The Shark surge ahead to answer the call. There's more road, blufs and river ahead... and I'm obliged to put it behind me.. one mile at a time.