Category Archives: Victory motorcycle
The ride, and the road not taken
I “stole” this from Facebook this morning because it prompted me to think about where I’d be if I hadn’t agreed to go with Ralph to the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle in 2010.
I’ve never been a daredevil. I never learned to ski or waterski and I can barely move around on ice or rollerskates. I was 57 then (go ahead, do the math), and I didn’t have much experience riding on the back of a motorcycle, much less riding one for days on end. The Grand Canyon is a long way from Minnesota. What if something happened to us on the road?
I started talking to myself. When I was 77, did I want to be able to look back and say, “I’m glad I did that”, or would I be saying, “I wish I had done that”? I decided to put my trust in Ralph (after all, he did get us through several canoe trips in the Boundary Waters during the early days of our marriage) and get on the bike.
The first week, we cruised along Route 66. Oklahoma has more of the original road than other states, but we had fun getting off I-40 to snake off to little towns along the way. Some of them have begun to promote their location along the old route, but others are ghost towns, with shells of gas stations and old motels slowly crumbling into dust.
There were a lot of “ifs” on this trip. If we hadn’t gone to Amarillo, Texas, we wouldn’t have known about Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the U.S. Unlike the largest, you can ride your motorcycle into it. If all the rooms in the Holiday Inn at Kayenta, Arizona, hadn’t been taken, we wouldn’t have had the fun of staying in an old trailer with sagebrush growing over the windows and eating freshly-made Navajo fry bread. Nor would we have ended up on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway. What splendor to see the clouds below us and the golden aspens beside us!
It ended up being one of the best, most restful vacations we have ever taken, despite putting more than 4,400 miles on our Victory.
As Robert Frost wrote:
So long, Victory! It’s been good to know you.
News that Polaris Industries is shutting down the manufacture of its Victory motorcycles is roiling the small but loyal group of Victory owners across the U.S. Yet, in a way, it comes as no surprise. It’s hard to find a Victory dealer when you’re out on the road. Polaris never really made owning a Victory a cult thing.
I have spent many hours in motorcycle dealerships, selling and signing my books. What impressed me most was the way Harley-Davidson not only enforces its brand, but encourages it. Walk into a Victory dealer, and you may encounter a jacket or two, some motor oil and some T-shirts. The motorcycles may share space with ATVs, snowmobiles or other motorcycle brands. Walk into a Harley dealer, and it’s all Harley. H-D clothing, motor oil, bar stools, drinkware — that Harley-Davidson shield is on everything! If there is a competing bike brand on the showroom floor, it’s probably been traded in for a Harley.
Two summers ago, we attended the national rally of the Victory Motorcycle Club in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Our Victory, a 2002 Deluxe Touring Cruiser, was easily the oldest of the thousands of bikes parked at the hotel. There was a distinct “underdog” camaraderie among the riders. We all knew Victory motorcycles were good. But, like car-rental firm Avis used to say in its advertising, there was also a feeling of “We Try Harder.” We all wondered what Polaris’ acquisition of the Indian brand would mean.
And now we know. Indian will once again go head-to-head with Polaris, and Victory will be no more. Indian will still have long way to go to take market share from H-D. Even if the Victory dealerships are replaced with Indian dealerships, they will still be too few and far between. Which is why we traded our Victory last summer for a Harley Road King. Harley dealers are much easier to find when you’re a long way from home.
Goodbye, Champ. Hello, Harley.
We said goodbye to our 2002 Victory Deluxe Touring Cruiser this past weekend. “Champ” (named for his champagne-and-cream paint job) had taken us 48,000 miles since we picked him up second-hand in 2007. He went to the Grand Canyon via Route 66, climbed Colorado’s “Million Dollar Highway”, visited all four corners of the state of Minnesota, drove around Lake Superior, followed the Mississippi River from its source in northern Minnesota to New Orleans, and took us safely through the Black Hills. He also served as a weekday mule, transporting my husband to and from work.
It was sad to see him go, but he was an orphan. Polaris made that particular style only one year. Parts were had to find. At 52,000 miles, he had given good service.
We went down to Harley-Davidson of Winona last Saturday to take part in a pre-Sturgis bash and promote my books. (The photo of Champ, by the way, is on the cover of my new book, Ride the Black Hills.) We took the opportunity to test-drive a couple of Harleys and wound up trading Champ for a 2016 Road King.
The ride home from Winona on Hwy. 61 was highly enjoyable. The weather was beautiful and the Road King handled the curves so smoothly! We’re heading out soon for Glacier National Park. It will be fun to discover how the “new kid” handles the mountains.
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.
Going Along for the Ride
Because I don’t have a motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license, going along for the ride is mostly what I do. I sit on the back of our Victory and delight in the scenery around me. I smell the fresh air, lift my face to the sun and sing. Such was the case a week ago Saturday, when Ralph and I joined riders from Hosanna! Lutheran Church in Lakeville. The occasion was the annual Blessing of the Bikes. (We figure you can never have too much insurance when you’re riding a motorcycle.) This time, both of us were along for the ride, which began at the church in Lakeville. The Lakeville police escorted our group of 75 bikes out of town. It was kind of nice to have them go ahead and change all the traffic lights as we approached. It kept the group together. From Lakeville we rode to Hastings, where we stopped to take a look at Vermillion Falls. We’ve had ample rain in Minnesota this spring, so the falls were cascading in full force. From Hastings, we followed the Ravenna Trail to the outskirts of Red Wing. On the way, we passed the Prairie Island Indian Community, where the Mdewakantan Dakota have built their homes in circles. We passed Treasure Island Casino, then turned right onto U.S. 61 for a short ride to the Welch Road. I was so busy looking at horses grazing in pastures sprinkled with daisies, Holstein cattle that turned their heads to watch us ride by and woods filled with bright purple phlox that I forgot to keep track of the roads we were riding on (that’s true relaxation!). When we came into Cannon Falls, the group headed north out of town. Soon we came to a one-lane bridge that neither Ralph nor I knew existed. It was the highlight of the ride. This weekend, Ralph will join hundreds of riders for the Patriot Ride at Anoka County Airport. I won’t be along for this ride, however. I’m staying behind to sell copies of Ride Minnesota.
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.”
Motorcycle (Show) Season Is Here!
“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.
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!
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!