Category Archives: Minnesota
Summer Time, and the Riding is Good!
If you’re a motorcycle owner who lives in Minnesota and you haven’t been out riding your bike these past two weeks, you might as well put it up for sale. The weather just. doesn’t. get. any. better.
We’ve spent the past two weekends riding and doing research for an upcoming book and trying out my new GoPro camera. It’s a little more complicated than it should be (I’m going to suggest some software tweaks to GoPro), but the pictures have been incredibly sharp and clear — just like the weather!
Traveling by motorcycle sharpens your senses, too. You can ride a road you’ve driven in your car a hundred times and discover something new. There’s an intimacy with the landscape that you can’t get behind the wheel of an automobile. You feel changes in temperature and topography that you’d never notice with the AC blasting. And, despite the rumble of the motorcycle’s engine, you can still hear bird calls.
Our Victory is in the shop this week, getting outfitted with new tires and undergoing a thorough maintenance check before we take off for a big trip next month. I can’t wait.
Springtime Rides and Summertime Plans
Spring is always a struggle in Minnesota. Last week we had daytime temps in the 60s and 70s, this week we saw snowflakes and rain. Makes you really appreciate good motorcycle weather.
That’s the kind of weather we had last Saturday when Ralph and I took our first two-up ride of the season. There were hundreds of bikers out, too, many of them headed for the annual Flood Run along the Mississippi. We’ve ridden the Flood Run before. It’s exciting, with 30,000 bikers roaring up and down the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river. Some of them never get beyond the bars in Prescott, Wisconsin, at the beginning of the route, I’m sure.
We decided to take our own route, making a loop from Red Wing to Zumbrota and back. We tried to follow a route mentioned to me by Jay Kalsbeck at Red Wing Motor Sports. We missed a couple of turns, but had a good ride nonetheless. We put almost 200 miles on the bike, which is not bad for the first ride of spring.
Farmers were taking advantage of the fine weather to get a jump on their spring planting. We had to wait for them while their tractors and planters lumbered off of the highway and into their fields. But it was a beautiful day and we were on a motorcycle, not a deadline. Other fields waited silently for the bite of the plow.
After our first jaunt, we’re making plans to attend the Victory Owners Club Meet in Tennessee this August. We’re both interested in the Civil War (my great-grandfather was captured at Murfreesboro, where the rally will be held, and Ralph’s great-grandfather fought under Sherman), so it should be an interesting ride. We’re talking about following the river all the way to Vicksburg.
In the meantime, I’ll be at Wild Prairie Harley-Davidson next Saturday, signing copes of Ride Minnesota. It’s the kickoff for Women Riders Month.
“It was a beautiful day and we were on a motorcycle, not a deadline.”
Revving up for the Motorcycle Life Expo
I’m checking my supplies, making signs and getting ready for the Motorcycle Life Expo this coming weekend in Shakopee, Minnesota. I’ve been working closely with Audrey Johnson, the show’s organizer, to get the speakers lined up and press releases sent. I have my own booth and will be selling signed copies of Ride Minnesota. The two-day EXPO showcases vendors who cater to the motorcycle lifestyle. Tourism destinations will be emphasized, as well as aftermarket accessories, motorcycle touring apparel and home décor. In addition to the exhibitors, here’s what’s happening:
Bill Shaffer, state program administrator principal for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, will be the headline speaker. Shaffer will address an estimated crowd of 5,000 motorcyclists about Minnesota’s new Road Guard Certification program, which trains riders how to stop and control traffic for motorcycle groups. He will speak at 11:00 am. Sat.
Owen Riess, author of “La Ropa Sucia”, will speak at 1:00 p.m. Sat. and 11:00 a.m. Sun. about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of riding in Mexico.
Tim Hyma, Executive Director of the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce/Driftless Destinations, will talk about riding in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area at 2:00 p.m. Sat.
World adventurer Phil Freeman, MotoQuest, will discuss motorcycle travel in “Alaska and Beyond” at 3:00 p.m. Sat. and 2:00 p.m. Sun.
Mary Pagel, Damsel in Defense, will talk about self-defense techniques for women riders at 1:00 p.m. Sun.
Local celebrities will also make an appearance at the EXPO. Brian Zepp, KQRS-Radio, will broadcast live from the EXPO from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Sat. Dave Dahl, KSTP Chief Meteorologist, will be on hand Sunday to meet and greet bikers from noon-2:00 p.m. Sun. He will also kick off Sunday’s noon fashion show. The 93X Girls will also make an appearance.
A fashion show will be held at noon each day, and live bands will perform both days. Bad Girlfriends will play from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Sat. Johntourage will perform both days from 1:00-3:00 p.m. 23rd Hour will play from 10:00 a.m. until noon on Sat. and 11:00-a.m.-1:00 p.m. Sun.
The Motorcycle Life Expo begins at 9:00 a.m. each day. Tickets are $10 if purchased online at www.motorcyclelifeexpo.com, or $13 at the door. Children under 12 are admitted free. See you there!
Ride Minnesota Earns Praise From Writer’s Digest
Although Ride Minnesota didn’t capture any prizes in the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book competition, it did receive praise from the judge. The book received a grade of “Outstanding” for its voice and writing style. It was also recognized for its structure, organization and pacing.
“I like the idea of this book very much,” the judge wrote, “partly because I’ve always been fond of Minnesota. Also, this seems like a very good way to see the country. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of guides on the market that are specifically marketed to motorcycle riders. So the concept for the book is quite good.”
Writer’s Digest hosts the annual self-published competition, which is co-sponsored by Book Marketing Works, LLC and Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.. It spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.
So, I didn’t win the $8,000 grand prize or the trip to New York (been there, done that). But I did get some valuable advice. And that makes it worth it.
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!
On the Road Again
Ralph and I took our first long ride of the season on Wednesday. We followed MN 47 north to the family cabin near Aitkin. It was a beautiful, picture-perfect Minnesota day, the kind we live for all winter. The sun shone down benevolently from a deep blue sky. The temperature was a motorcycle-friendly 65 degrees when we left Minneapolis in the morning and in the mid-70s when we returned that evening.
One of the things I like about riding a motorcycle is that you become part of the landscape. The corn, which has started to tassel out, seems much closer than it does when you’re riding in a car. You can see lakes and small ponds that aren’t visible from the cab of a truck. As the day heats up, you can smell the water, new-mown hay, the spicy-woody scent of birch trees and the heady aroma of pine.
You see more wildlife, too. As we neared Isle, I spied a deer happily chowing down on some woman’s flowers. I bet she was thrilled. On the way home I counted one deer, three Canadian geese and two herons.
I describe Minnesota Hwy. 47 in full in my book, Ride Minnesota. We have at least three months of good riding weather ahead of us yet. Get a copy and explore!
How’s Your Riding Season?
That’s a question posed by Donnie Smith today on Facebook. Although the weather has been great, our riding season has not been so terrific. My husband has been ill most of the summer. Although he’s been able to ride his Victory to work about once a week, it’s spent a lot more time in the garage than we had originally planned.
On Sunday, we skipped church to take a ride out around Lake Minnetonka. It’s the first time I”ve spent more than 15 minutes on the bike this year. I definitely don’t have my riding muscles in shape! It was good to get out into the country and measure the progress of the corn and soybean fields (despite growing up in Northeast Minneapolis, I’m a farmer at heart), to sniff the fresh lake breezes and feel the sun on our faces. The sweet scent of red clover hovered along the roadways. It was glorious!
Heavy rains have kept the big boats off of Minnetonka. It seemed odd to see a just a few fishing and sailboats out on the lake. The big cruisers are all parked at the dock, waiting for a day when the water level goes down enough so they can go fast and leave a wake.
There’s still a lot of the riding season left. As summer progresses into fall, we’ll try to put more miles on the motorcycle, discovering new places to ride.
Harley-Davidson in Blaine called to re-order Ride Minnesota. Get your copy while the riding is good!
Good Riding Weather
Now that the June monsoon has ended, the weather has been absolutely perfect for hopping on a motorcycle and cruising to no particular destination whatsoever. Whether you travel in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Dakotas, the Midwest offers some really nice rides.
The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate freedom on a bike. Traffic will be heavier, though, as Minnesota lakeshore property owners make one of their three mandatory trips to the cabin (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day). Be on the lookout for people who may not be looking out for you. Stay safe, and have a great Independence Day!
I hate my helmet
I’m not very fond of my DOT-approved motorcycle helmet. It’s heavy, the foam padding is scratchy, and sometimes the visor makes me feel like I’m in a cage. Yet, even though Minnesota law requires helmets only for people 17 years old or younger, I still wear it.
I was discussing motorcycling with my eye doctor (he’s an avid biker) during my last visit to his office. He asked if I wore a helmet and I said yes. He nodded his head. “Me, too,” he said. “After all it’s your brain!”
There was an excellent commentary by Darrell Brandt in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week about wearing helmet while riding. There’s a saying among bikers: “If you haven’t dumped your motorcycle, you will. It’s just a matter of time”. Brandt argues that the same is true for needing helmets, and I’d have to agree.
We’ve had to drop our Victory a couple of times in our journeys around Minnesota and Canada. One time I ended up on my back with my head resting on the pavement. Thank goodnesss for that heavy, scratchy helmet!
The photo in this post shows Ralph’s helmet and jacket after an “up close and personal” encounter with the concrete on I-35 in downtown Minneapolis. He was only doing 35 mph at the time.
Get Your Motor Runnin’
Steppenwolf”s “Born to be Wild” is running through my head this morning. An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this morning reported a new event in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, that townspeople hope will become an annual event: “Dennis Hopper Day.”
What a change from the ’70s, when “Easy Rider” was a cult hit and Hopper and Peter Fonda played misunderstood, pot-smoking bikers! Dennis Hopper Day featured a rally and a ride out of town. As in the movie, bikers were accompanied by a police escort. This time, however, they toured scenes from the movie instead of visiting the local jail. Much of this change of heart can be attributed to Hopper himself, who made friends with local Navajo and Hispanic families and broke down cultural barriers during filming. Hopper died in Taos in 2010, but his spirit lives on.
New Mexico is a wonderful place to ride, with long, open stretches, snow-capped mountains and canyons to explore. The food is good, too. Navajo fry bread, right out of the pan, is a heavenly treat, and the New Mexican version of chili can blow your head off.
If the desert Southwest isn’t on your travel itinerary this summer, look closer to home. Ride Minnesota (you knew I had to sneak a mention in somewhere) can be your guide to some great weekend trips.
Get your motor runnin’ / Head out on the highway / Looking for adventure / In whatever comes our way