Monthly Archives: June 2017

Bumps in the Road

Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway (MN 38)

Highway maintenance people must have a cruel streak in them. Have you ever noticed how the bumps in the road that they tell you about are always less of a challenge than the ones they don’t?

MN 38 from Grand Rapids to Effie is a case in point. It’s a state-designated scenic byway, so you’d think they’d maintain the pavement a little better. But then, this is Minnesota, where the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature can’t agree on anything, including transportation funding (don’t get me started!).

We first rode the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway five or six years ago as part of my research for Ride Minnesota. It’s a beautiful hilly, twisty road edged with lakes and the Chippewa National Forest.  The pavement has deteriorated seriously since then. There are long, rough tire grooves in some places. Patched cracks in others. The designated bumps. And the one they don’t tell you about.

We were south of Marcell, heading north. Ralph saw the crater and knew he wouldn’t be able to miss it. He stood up to lessen the impact. I didn’t have time to react. In a half-second, I was airborne. My feet flew off the pegs and there was light between me and the seat. In the next half-second, I slammed down hard on the seat. I landed with a loud, “UNH!” Twin bolts of pain shot up from my butt, along my back and up both sides of my neck. It took me a couple of minutes to recover. I wondered if there was such a thing as vertical whiplash.

That unexpected carnival ride took some of the joy out of day, which was clear, sunny and in the 80s. Don’t get me wrong. Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway is still a beautiful ride. Just watch out for the bumps.

Breakfast Ride

Kaffe Stuga, Harris, Minnesota

There’s nothing like a sunny June morning for a motorcycle ride, especially if you’re heading out for breakfast. Minnesota has many little small-town cafes where you can get a plateful of soul-satisfying goodness for a nominal amount of money. Hunting for breakfast can be a sport in itself!

Ralph must have been hungry, because he didn’t dawdle on a backroad leaving town, but headed straight up 35W. He fooled me when he took the Taylor’s Falls (US 8) exit. I thought maybe we were going to the Chisago House, where the great 19th century orator, Stephen Douglas (you know, the guy who debated Abe Lincoln), once visited.  However, he turned north on Old US 61, and I knew were were going to Harris, Minnesota, about half-way between the Twin Cities and Duluth.

After an hour of riding, we were ready for breakfast. Church bells were ringing out old hymns as we dismounted and walked to the Kaffe Stuga, which mixes knotty pine paneling with traditional Swedish decor and generous portions of homestyle cooking. I ordered my favorite, the apple fritter French toast with ham. This isn’t a skinny little shaving of deli ham, it’s a slab. A meal in itself. I noticed a woman at the next table nibbling on the Stuga’s version of an egg McMuffin, and that looked mighty good, too.

The service was quick, but no one pushed us to leave. Ralph had a second cup of coffee, then we strolled out the door and back to the bike. The antique store next door was closed, as were most of the businesses in town. We continued north on 61 to Rush City and took a left on 4th St. We came upon the “world’s largest walleye” just before we crossed I 35.  Supposedly caught by Paul Bunyan, its much smaller than the walleye statues in Isle and Garrison. We drove out into the country. I soon smelled water. The road wrapped itself, snake-like, around the curvy shores of Rush Lake.

There is a huge old farm house standing where Rush Lake Road/Rush Lake Trail/Greeley Road tees with MN 70. Its paint is weathered, cracked and peeling. A newer home stands nearby. I wondered why the farmer left the old house standing. It seemed like he didn’t love it enough to take care of it or pull it down.

We followed a zig-zag southwesterly course through Mora and Ogilvie until we hit MN 47, where we turned south for home. Our hunger and our wanderlust were satisfied for another day.