This Favorite Ride doesn’t include a route map because it’s all about a single destination: the corner of 300 Road and 600 Street in Moonshine, Illinois. Getting there is a personal experience for every rider who makes the Moonshine Lunch Run.
You may recall the story I wrote about the last official Moonshine Lunch Run, which took place on April 29, 2018. But on that day, as I gathered with other long‑distance riders outside the Moonshine Store, munching my Moonburger under a cool Illinois rain, I sensed it wasn’t the end.
The original concept for the MLR, conceived by our late farmer friend Terry Hammond, just required folks to ride from somewhere far. Terry knew certain people would make the long, often difficult ride to Moonshine to connect with other riders who’d do the same. The hamburgers were great, but the fellowship of long‑distance riders mattered most.
Earlier this year, Bob Cust of Swansea, Illinois, announced he was hosting an RTE (ride-to-eat) at the Moonshine Store. I shared this with Steve Efthyvoulou, who first brought me to Moonshine in 2010. “I’m in,” he said immediately. We reached out to other MLR alums, including Michael Boucher and Randy Bridgewater, plus newbie Chuck Smolka. All in.
Folks who’ve done a ride to Moonshine understand its special challenges of long distance, changeable weather, and physical endurance. For me, Moonshine has been the eventual destination of multiple April rides that had me leaving Massachusetts and then joining friends to carve mountain roads in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, or Kentucky on the way to southeastern Illinois. Moonshine was a waypoint on some trips to more distant riding regions, like the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, and I earned my Iron Butt certification on the Curt Gran Memorial Moonshine 1000.
If you want a genuine Moonshine Lunch Run experience, you really need to ride there during April, when Terry Hammond invited folks to come. The temperature could plunge below freezing, but it might also reach 90. You can count on rain, and snow is possible. It’s also tornado season; one year, a twister touched down a few miles from our motel. The sun might even shine!
Last April, my ninth run to Moonshine was on backroads through the Connecticut Berkshires and New York’s Hudson Valley, over the hills of northern New Jersey, across Pennsylvania’s northern tier, and then onto the increasingly flat, open spaces of rural Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Yes, more people visit southeastern Illinois for summer activities. The fairgrounds in DuQuoin host a race in the American Flat Track motorcycle racing series. The Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup race takes place in Madison. There are celebrations for German heritage in Waterloo and Hoyleton, Swiss heritage in Highland, and roots music and barbeque in Mt. Carmel. There are sailing events, a world trapshooting championship, art fairs, music festivals, county fairs, and much more.
Since I’ve always ridden to Illinois in April, I haven’t experienced summertime there. But I’ve enjoyed visiting the town of Casey, some 14 miles from Moonshine and home of the world’s largest mailbox, pencil, pitchfork, wind chimes, rocking chair, golf tee, and other oversized curiosities. Since my last visit, someone added the world’s largest antlers. Every MLR has brought me to Casey, and getting there always involves varying degrees of challenge. Other riders who made it overcame their own challenges. As Terry would say, we “get it.”
Since the MLR is no longer an official event, there weren’t 1,000‑plus riders like before. This time there were a few dozen, with the largest contingent being members of the Motorcycle Tourer’s Forum. But as I’ve come to expect, the effort to get there – and to connect with other riders who did the same – was well-rewarded.
I ran into Mike Brown of Harrisburg, North Carolina, whom I’d seen at multiple MLRs. “If you have been there, you want to go back,” he said. “If you haven’t been there, you need to go!” Mike brought along a first‑timer, Bob Sweet of Concord, North Carolina. Unlike most riders who come on touring bikes, Bob made his first ride to Moonshine on a naked bike, his 2021 Triumph Street Triple 765 R.
“When we left Harrisburg at 4 a.m., it was dark and drizzly,” Bob told me. “I couldn’t tell Mike ‘I can’t do this.’ I got over the mental barrier, and here I am.” Bob gets it!
I met Darryl Halbert, who has been to every MLR since 2011, though somehow our paths never crossed. He used to live in Atlanta, Georgia, and his ride to Moonshine would include entertaining curves through the Appalachian Mountains. He’s retired now and living in Denver, Colorado, so he rode to Moonshine across the plains. “There’s a lot of Kansas between here and Colorado,” he chuckled.
I also met Greg Rice, a genuine legend in the long‑distance rider community, who told me about another “lunch run” he had made. As the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, resident recalled, “I wanted to take a picture of my bike by the Panama Canal.” So Greg rode to Panama. He got the picture and had a burger for lunch. His round trip took 10 days.
Related podcast interviews
- Greg Rice: Ep. 29 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast
- Scott A. Williams | Ep. 41 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast
Significantly, some MLR traditions carried on this year, like dinner at Richard’s Farm on Friday evening and Renee Handelman’s cinnamon buns on Saturday morning. I enjoyed my Moonburger with cheese and bacon at a picnic table beside the Moonshine Store with other riders, and it was good. Soon after, my group began our rides home to Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Riding east together, Steve and I endured the wettest day in our combined Moonshine history. Over dinner in a warm, dry restaurant, we laughed about it. Adventure is just discomfort retold at leisure, and we’ve had our share of adventure on our runs to Moonshine. Bone-chilling cold. Scorching heat. Nasty storms. Roads that became rock-strewn goat paths despite maps promising otherwise.
Was this year’s Moonshine Lunch Run just like old times? Not exactly. But it was today’s version of good times, shared with other long-distance riders who get it. I expect Terry would be good with that.