Monthly Archives: September 2014
It was a perfect last weekend of summer. The sun was bright and warm, the sky blue, the trees just beginning to show some color along the Mississippi River. A great day for a motorcycle ride! Saturday was also the annual Flood Run, which stretches down the Wisconsin side of the river from Prescott to Alma and back up the Minnesota side. We had to be back in town for a wedding later in the afternoon, so we skipped the official run and rode ahead of the pack.
Our kickstand went up at 9 a.m. and we headed east toward Wisconsin. A couple of sport bikes whined past us as we approached the I 94/Hwy. 61 split. I looked at the passengers riding on the back and was glad I wouldn’t have to spend my day hunched over like a certain resident of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We encountered several bikers en route to the run, and lots of lone wolves like us who just wanted to get out and ride.
The wind was cool on my neck when we started out, but the sun soon penetrated my leather jacket. I found a smile fixing itself to my face. Not a toothy, Teddy Roosevelt grin, but a pair of upward curves tugging at the corners of my mouth.
Motorcyclists were lined up wall-to-wall in Prescott, waiting for the ride to begin. I saw several of them checking out our Victory with its modified pipes as we rumbled up Main Street.
The Wisconsin side of the river offers spectacular views of Lake Pepin. With tall bluffs on one side, the river below and curves ahead, it’s a motorcyclist’s dream road. We pulled over to stretch our legs at the historical marker south of Maiden Rock, where legend has it that a Dakota woman leapt to her death the river below rather than marry a man she didn’t love. My great-grandmother painted a picture of Maiden Rock about 100 years ago. It hangs in my office.
Traffic remained light as we cruised through Pepin, where a local youth event was taking place. We continued on to Nelson, where the Chippewa River meets Old Man River. We made a right turn and crossed several bridges through the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge and returned to Minnesota via Wabasha.
Septoberfest is on for the next few weekends, and Wabasha is all decked out in candy corn colors. There were all kinds of activities going on under the bridge, but we preferred to enjoy coffee and chocolate at Big Jo Espresso, where we sat out on the back deck and watched a bald eagle swoop in off the river.
We followed the river back home. Sailboats ran ahead of the wind on Lake Pepin, and large pleasure boats began to appear on the water. We met a large contingent of motorcycle riders on the curves between Lake City and Red Wing and gave them all a friendly greeting. It’s good to be alive!
Ralph took me out for breakfast this morning — 46 miles from home in Harris, Minnesota. Fall is definitely approaching. The temperature when we left home was a cool 53 degrees. Time to put on the leathers!
Our destination was the Kaffe Stuga, a Swedish-themed roadhouse with to-die-for apple fritter french toast. With its knotty pine paneling and wooden Dala horses and straw goats all around, it’s like going to Grandpa’s cabin! Kaffe Stuga is the place Ralph and I chose for Best Breakfast and is included in my description of Old Hwy. 61 in Ride Minnesota.
After a leisurely breakfast, we strolled next door to an antique shop/thrift store where I started my Christmas shopping. (I belong to the “when you see something buy it, because you won’t see it again” mentality.) By the time we hit the open road again, the temperature had climbed considerably.
It was a gorgeous day to ride a motorcycle in Minnesota. Riding east on MN 95, we crossed the Sunrise River and encountered a huge crowd of pickup trucks, acres and acres of them, not too far out of North Branch. They filled field after field. Overheard, parasailors floated gently to earth. White tents lined the horizon. Farmers were charging State Fair rates for parking — $10 in one field, $15 in another — and offering shuttle rides via haywagon along the highway. Traffic was slow and go until we reached the entrance to the cause of all the commotion, the Hay Days Snowmobile Grass Drag Races. Our Victory bided its time, the engine rumbling until we broke free of the crowd.
We continued on to Taylors Falls and Interstate State Park. Looking across a field of ripening soybeans, we saw a small airplane fly straight up, stall, and dip down toward earth, only to come up and do it all over again. It left a roller-coaster track of exhaust behind it in the clear blue sky. Later, at the park, a small squadron of planes droned overhead, sounding like the Battle of Britain (but without bombs and bullets). The Wheels and Wings car and air show was in full swing in Osceola, Wisconsin.
Whether you enter Taylors Falls from the north or the south via 95, you get treated to a curvy downhill run either way. Best of all, both hills meet at the entrance to the park. We stopped at the visitors center and bought a motorcycle pass. The passes are just $20 and they allow you into every state park in Minnesota for a year from the date of purchase. It’s a heck of a deal.
We wound up our ride by cruising through Stillwater and observing the construction of the new bridge over the St. Croix River. The pylons are already in the water. It won’t be long until it’s open to traffic.
I can’t wait to put on my leathers again and go riding. Maybe we’ll make it to Lake Itasca and the Lake Country Scenic Byway this year after all!