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.”
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!
I have to admit, there is something thrilling about joining a big ride. We joined the Twin Cities Victory Riders for a cruise down to Spirit Lake, Iowa, a few years ago. We had the option of taking a tour of the Victory manufacturing plant, but it was a gorgeous day, too nice to spend indoors.
We did the Spring Flood Run a couple years back. Thirty thousand rumbling, snorting motorcycles. It’s a high-octane, testosterone-fueled event (although there were plenty of women bikers in the crowd, too.) We started all together in Lake St. Croix Beach. Some peeled off toward Winona, others headed across the Mississippi River to Wisconsin. Some, I’m sure, got no further than the bars in Prescott.
For others, like ourselves, it’s the ride. Once we hit the open road, we just have to see the next town, feel the next curve, climb the next hill.
On June 15, we’ll join the Hosanna! Bikers from Hosanna! Lutheran Church in Lakeville for their annual “Blessing of the Bikes.” The day includes a ride, lunch, blessings and music by the Daisy Dillman Band.
And the organizers said I can take orders for, but not sell, Ride Minnesota. It should be a great day!