Category Archives: Ride Minnesota
“Highway to Hell” blasted out of the speakers of a Victory Magnum motorcycle and ricocheted off the walls of the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday morning, certainly a different message than what I would have heard at church! My husband and I went downtown to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show to sniff the 2015 bikes and mingle with the leather-jacket crowd.
IMS is all about the bikes. There’s something there for every adrenaline-addicted speed demon from sporty Ducatis to heavy-duty Harley cruisers. Even if you’re like me and don’t have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license, it’s fun to thow a leg over and get a driver’s perspective.
It annoys me that so many really cool-looking bikes are not built to accommodate women riders. After all, women now make up 25 percent of the motorcycle market, and it’s growing. It’s frustrating to find a bike that looks like it’s just my size, only to find out it’s too tall, or the gas tank is so wide it threatens to crack my pelvis like turkey wishbone. C’mon, motorcycle engineers! Do something for the ladies!
The next show in the Twin Cities area is the Motorcylce Life Expo at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., Feb. 28-Mar. 1. While IMS is all about the bikes, MLE is about what you do with your motorcycle after you’ve acquired it. That includes not just customization, but places to ride. If you want to expand your horizons beyond Sturgis, South Dakota, it’s the show to visit. It runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days. I’ll be there, hawking copies of Ride Minnesota.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of doing book signings at Mankato Harley-Davidson and the Harley-Davidson Shop of Winona to promote my book, Ride Minnesota. It’s always fun to meet and talk with people who are passionate about something, and Harley owners are passionate about riding motorcycles. They’re also extremely brand loyal.
Years ago, it was not uncommon to walk into an H-D dealership and see a brand-new bike on the showroom floor with a piece of cardboard underneath it to soak up the oil that puddled on the tile. Fortunately, Harley cleaned up its act (and its motorcycles). It’s easy to see why it’s still the number one motorcycle in the U.S. (although Victory is making inroads).
When you walk into a Harley-Davidson dealership, you’re greeted with a smile. The place is spotless and the bikes are beautiful. The Harley-Davidson logo is everywhere, from the floor mat in front of the door to the restrooms, where antique-looking signs advertise H-D motorcycles from days gone by. The parts department carries Harley-Davidson branded parts and motor oil. The “motorclothes” department has and exciting array of jackets, scarves, hoodies, T-shirts, baby clothes — you name it, you can find it — all emblazoned with that distinctive shield. There are shot glasses, beer mugs, Christmas ornaments and a gazillion H-D trinkets. At the Winona store, I sat on a bar stool that had the logo carved into the seat. I stood up from time to time to make sure it wasn’t impressed into my rear-end!
The most impressive aspect of these dealerships, however, are the people who work there. They’re enthusiastic and friendly. They know their customers and treat them like extended family. In fact, I know of no other store where folks can just hang out all day and shoot the breeze.
Most Minnesotans have put their bikes in storage for the year. But you can still dream about motorcycling, and read about it, too. Go to Amazon and order a copy of Ride Minnesota. It makes a great Christmas stocking stuffer!
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.
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!
Recently, I had the joy of talking about Ride Minnesota with radio talk show host Kevin Hunter. It was a fun interview. Take a listen! I hope you enjoy it. The Business Forum Show highlights small businesses throughout the state. Thank you, Kevin!
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.
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’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.
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