Blog Archives

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:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Changing seasons, changing attitudes

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

Just when you think riding season can really begin, ol’ Mother Nature comes and gives you an unkind gesture once again. Who said it could be 20 degrees and snowing (tomorrow) this late in April? Spring is always an uphill battle in Minnesota. On the upside, the unseasonable cold has given me time to do a little more vacation planning.

I received a package of tourism info from Wisconsin yesterday. There’s a lot of unexplored motorcycle country in our neighbor to the east. And the Badger State is beginning to promote it. (C’mon, Minnesota, get your tourism act together!) In fact, many states are realizing that motorcycle tourism is a good thing.

According to the Rider Friendly Business Association (a Canadian group), there are more than 11 million potential motorcyclist/tourists in the U.S. and Canada, and  they spend an average of $3,100 per vacation trip. That’s roughly $34 billion spent in the form of gas, hotels, food, entertainment and stops at tourist attractions. Motorcycle tourists can be big economic stimulators!

Of course, we’ll have to get the non-motorcycling public to change its perception of bikers. A few years ago, Ralph and I stopped in Durango, Colorado, for the night. We pulled into the Holiday Inn, which had a Green Mill restaurant attached to it. I went to the front desk to inquire about the availablility of a room. I was still in my full leathers, my hair cropped super-short to avoid having to deal with helmet hair. The sole was coming off of my old steel-toed work boots and I probably looked pretty travel-worn since leaving Arizona that morning.  The young woman at the desk informed me that the hotel was full. “By the way,” she said as I thanked her and turned to leave, “for your future reference, rooms are $150 per night.”  As if I couldn’t afford it.  I felt as angry and misunderstood as Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.”

We drove down the street to the Travelodge, where the rooms were cheaper and ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant across the street. And had a far better time than we would have at the Green Mill.

Home Again

Grand Canyon park closed. Sign near Ash Fork, AZ

Grand Canyon park closed. Sign near Ash Fork, AZ

What a difference between traveling in a car vs. riding a motorcycle! Ralph and I just returned from a trip to California following the death of our brother-in-law. We lacked funds for a short-notice plane ride (and qualifying for “bereavement” fares is a pain in the butt!), so we drove the interstates. No time for backroads, although I have to say I-70 is the most scenic interstate I’ve been on, with lots of twists and curves through the Colorado Rockies.

We came back through Arizona and New Mexico to avoid the snow storms in the Dakotas. I enjoyed seeing the Southwest again: the red-striped rock formations, the blazingly-blue skies, the ruins of old Rte. 66 in the background. We got to eat Navajo food again (I love fry bread, but watch out for the cactus pads–they have a laxative effect!). But I missed feeling the sun and the wind and smelling the fresh piney air around Flagstaff.

By the time we hit the drizzle that accompanied us from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Minneapolis, I was thankful for the heater in the car.

Now, it’s back to work and back to promoting Ride Minnesota. I’ll be at the Rain Taxi Twin Cities Book Fesitval this Saturday at the State Fair grounds. It’s in the Progress Center, and it runs from 10:00 until 5:00. Excuse me while I go check my supply of books!