Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ride Minnesota Reviewed by Clutch and Chrome

Clutch Chrome reviewI just stumbled upon this nice review from Clutch & Chrome Magazine, from July 16, 2013.



Packing Up

RIDE-MN-Cover_WEBWith temperatures edging up into the 40s and 50s, you can bet that motorcycles will be cruising around the Twin Cities this weekend. I know Ralph will be out in the garage installing new turn signal lights on his Victory cruiser. As for me, I’ll be at the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show at the River Centre in St. Paul.

I have a case of shiny new copies of Ride Minnesota out in the garage. Today, I’m packing up my “show box”, filling it with more copies of the book, bookmarks for giveaways, extra pens, my cashbox, signs and an easel for displaying a poster-sized version of the book cover. It’s the biggest event I have attended as an exhibitor — more than 18,000 are expected to attend. (Gee, I wonder if I have enough books? Yikes! I’d better pack an order form, too.)  I also have to make sure my cell phone’s charged and my card reader is ready to go.

Thanks to Audrey Johnson of Motorcycle Life EXPO for inviting me to share her table. We’ll be at Booth 22 on the main floor of the show.

The streets and highways haven’t been cleaned yet. Watch out for gravel and keep the shiny side up!


Riding with gestures

biker greeting_edited-1There was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day about new technology that could enable drivers to operate cars with hand gestures. Google has apparently already purchased a company called Flutter that makes software that allows people with webcams to operate Netflix and other apps by making signs. The article didn’t offer many specifics as to how this new car technology would work. Point left to turn left?

Motorcycle riders have been making signs for ages, especially when they ride in groups. Leaders use hand signals to tell others in the group to slow down, watch out for road hazards or stop for refreshments. The signals are fairly standard from group to group.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a downloadable chart on its website that demonstrates the gestures far better than I can describe them.

I can’t imagine (but I could be wrong) that the day will come when motorcyclists drive their bikes by gestures. Although the bigger cruisers can be equipped with cruise control, most of the bikers I’ve met are “hands on” types who like to do their own mechanical work and stay in control of the bike at all times.

There’s one gesture that I know will never be replaced by an “app.” It’s the biker-to-biker greeting like the one we received on our trip around Lake Superior last summer.

You Meet the Nicest People

Back in 1963, Honda Motorcycles ran an advertising campaign that proclaimed, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” I’d like to amend that to “You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle.” Period. It doesn’t matter the make or the model, bikers are some of the nicest people I’ve run across in a long time.

I stopped out at Indian Motorcycles in St. Paul today and dropped off some copies of Ride Minnesota. Although owner Art Welch wasn’t interested stocking the book, he has graciously allowed me to snag a little counter space in his beautiful store. Can you believe it, almost every motorcycle on his show floor has been sold? There’s a lot of pent-up demand for Indians (Polaris has done a good job of marketing them). I hope the long winter and pent-up feelings extend into book sales, too.

I also stopped next door at St. Paul Harley Davidson. The folks there haven’t yet decided whether or not they’ll take the book, but John in the parts department invited me to a seminar on motorcycle touring that he’s giving in April. I’m already booked that day, but I appreciate invitation and the enthusiasm. In fact, so many people involved in motorcycling have been so helpful and encouraging.

I saw some bikers on the road today, and there were quite a number of folks buying parts and new batteries for their bikes to get ready for riding season. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees, but the weather was an ever-changing mixture of sleet, snow, sunshine. It’s the annual wresting match between spring and winter in Minnesota.  Still, it won’t be long until the rumble of a well-tuned motorcycle is heard again.

Living in the Past, Thinking About the Future

I’ve been living the past for a couple of days now, re-tracing routes that Ralph and I drove last summer. I’ve written about a couple that I want to include in a new version of Ride Minnesota (don’t get excited, it’s long ways off). I’m also trying to make something out of our tour around Lake Superior. It was a completely different trip and didn’t fall into the same pattern as Ride.

While I’m studying road maps and Google satellite images and recalling what I saw, felt and experienced, I’m also trying to stake out my territory in motorcycle dealerships for the upcoming riding season. While I haven’t heard the rumble of a bike in my neighborhood yet, I have been visiting bike shops in the Twin Cities area.

The Indian dealership on I-94 in St. Paul said I could bring in a few copies of the book to sell. They don’t want to run it through their inventory, but they’ll put it out on the counter and collect the money for me. Fair enough. Fury Motorcycle in South St. Paul invited me to its open house on April 26. Justin Olmeim tells me they had 2,000 bikers at their event last spring. It’s an offer I can’t refuse! Northway Sports in East Bethel, one of my first and best supporters, has an open house the same day. Somehow, I’ll have to find a way to attend both events. King Solomon, where are you?

The generosity of the biking community in allowing me to hang out at their places of business, to carry my book and encouraging me to get out and push totally defies the tough-guy image that leather, studs and loud bikes proclaim.

Waiting to board the ferry to Madeline Island.

Waiting to board the ferry to Madeline Island.