Waco Paints Us All With a Bad Brush

“Ever since Marlon Brando appeared in “The Wild One”, people in leather jackets scare the hell out of the rest of the populace.”

What is it about Waco, Texas, anyway? First there was the standoff between the feds and the Branch Davidians in 1993. Now it’s the standoff between “outlaw” motorcycle clubs. That town sure seems to attract more than its share of trouble.

Senseless loss of life is saddening. But the perpetuation of the biker “bad guy” image is also disheartening. The actions of the testosterone-and-alcohol fueled few make trouble for the rest of us who just want to ride our motorcycles, feel the wind in our faces and enjoy all the great rides and scenery America has to offer.

Ever since Marlon Brando appeared in “The Wild One” back in 1953, people in leather jackets seem to scare the hell out of the rest of the populace. People stand aside when my husband walks by in his patch-adorned leather jacket. I was refused service Durango, Colorado because of mine. If we’re traveling without hotel reservations (which we often do), we’ve learned to remove our biker gear before going inside to inquire about a room. Somehow, a gray-haired couple in T-shirts is less threatening than the same gray-haired couple in black leather jackets.

Unfortunately, the shootout at Waco just reinforces the bad biker stereotype. I’m going to keep on wearing my leathers, however. They’re the only thing between me and the hard, rough road.

Springtime Rides and Summertime Plans

Bikers on their way to the Flood Run in Red Wing

Bikers on their way to the Flood Run in Red Wing

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.”

The Call of the Wild

wolfIt was well past sunset, about 8:30 p.m., and the temperature hovered around 30 degrees. But that didn’t stop one adventurous biker from riding his motorcycle past our house Saturday night. If there’s a “call of the wild” for bikers, it’s the distinctive rumble of a motorcycle engine. I expect we’ll hear many more “calls” this week as winter releases its icy hold on the land and on our psyches. I’m looking forward to it.

I had the chance to run down to Lanesboro, Minnesota, last week and deliver copies of Ride Minnesota to Pat Shanahan, who will open his new motorcycle shop/hotel in May. Iron Horse Outfitters & Inn will be a place to buy and sell used motorcycle gear, purchase new stuff, and even some very special one-off motorcycles. A four-room inn is under construction above the store, and it will cater to bikers. Pat’s operation will be a great addition to Lanesboro, and a wonderful place to kick back after a day of riding. If you haven’t traveled the hills and curves of Fillmore and Houston Counties, you’re in for a treat. Southeastern Minnesota has some of the best motorcycle routes in the state. I describe some of them in Ride Minnesota, and I hope to ride a few more this year.

Another area worthy of attention is up around Ely. Folks in the Iron Range are working hard to promote motorcycle tourism in their area. The Minnesota Arrowhead Association has produced a map called “Ride the Arrowhead” that shows paved scenic motorcycle routes in Northeastern Minnesota. Ralph and I are going to try to ride some of these routes this year. You can download the map at Explore Minnesota. If you do ride to Ely, be sure to check out the International Wolf Center on the north side of town. It’s a great way to get in touch with your “wild” side, and your visit helps fund the study and preservation of wolves.

Get out and RIDE Minnesota!

 

 

Revving up for the Motorcycle Life Expo

RIDE-MN-Cover_WEBI’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!

 

Motorcycle (Show) Season Is Here!

Checking out an Indian.

Checking out an Indian.

“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.

Lessons Learned From Harley-Davidson

Santa and his helpers check out a new way to deliver copies of Ride Minnesota.

Santa and his helpers check out a new way to deliver 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!

 

 

Ride Minnesota Earns Praise From Writer’s Digest

RIDE-MN-Cover_WEBAlthough 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.

 

Flood Running

Maiden Rock pullout

Maiden Rock pullout

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!

Leather Weather

Kaffe Stuga, Harris, Minnesota

Kaffe Stuga, Harris, Minnesota

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!

Ride Minnesota on the Radio

 

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!