We haven’t decided where or when our next vacation will take place, but this past weekend was a fantastic chance to get our long-distance riding muscles in shape. With temps in the low 80s and clear blue skies, there was no reason to stay at home!
We rode MN 3 down to Faribault, one of the oldest cities in Minnesota. We latched onto the highway in Inver Grove Heights and had a ball riding the curves around little lakes and not-so-little houses. Farmers were out plowing their fields or moving equipment from one field to another. The air was filled with the fresh scents of newly-turned earth, apple blossoms and lilacs. Magnificent!
After passing through Northfield, we stopped for lunch at Bernie’s in downtown Faribault. I would have liked to have stayed longer and poked my nose into the antique shops, but the day was about the ride. After paying our bill, we saddled up again and headed east out of town on Hwy. 60.
As you leave Faribault, you also leave the flat prairie behind. The countryside begins to roll more, and the road becomes curvier as you approach the Mississippi River and bluff country. Limestone outcroppings pop up here and there as you pass through Zumbrota, Mazeppa, and Zumbro Falls. As you approach Wabasha, the road climbs upward past the Coffee Mill Golf Course. Suddenly, you look out over the broad river valley below. After a brief stop at the pullout to take a better look, you get back on your bike and swoop into Wabasha.
We spent a good hour at the National Eagle Center learning about eagles and just enjoying the view of the Mississippi from the deck. Then we climbed aboard our Road King again and crossed the bridge into Wisconsin, where we turned up WI 35 toward home.
It was an absolutely perfect day. The only thing that would have made it better was if I’d put an SD chip in my GoPro camera. It would be so fun show those curves on this page!
Hanging it Up for the Season
The wind wailed outside my office window. Leaves, rain and yes, snow, blew past in furious gusts. It was, as this morning’s paper called it, a “warning shot” from winter. Time to hang it up for the season.
I got out the leather cleaner (great stuff from Australia) and began rubbing it into my chaps, which were still muddy from our last ride. I thought about the places I’d seen this past motorcycle season: the Mississippi River headwaters, B.B. King’s in Memphis, New Orleans’ French Quarter. How I’d learned that Iowa isn’t always flat, and armadillos live in Missouri.
As I wiped smashed insects off of my jacket, I thought about how my leathers had kept me dry during a Tennessee thunderstorm and actually afforded some cooling in the humid Deep South.
As I reached into the closet for the hanger, I realized I had’t put the lining back in this fall. That was one hell of a riding season!
Time for Fall Rambles
We took a ride down Wisconsin 35 this past Labor Day weekend (yes, I know it’s not in Minnesota, but you can see the state from the other side of the Mississippi River). The sun shone brightly in Minneapolis when we left. By the time we crossed over to Prescott, it had disappeared. Fall colors have begun to appear along the river. They added some bright notes to the muted gray atmosphere.
What a change from a week and a half ago, when Ralph and I drove up 35 after a trip following the Mississippi to New Orleans! The air that day was cool and clear, and the bluffs stood out prominently against a blazing blue sky. Summer’s heat was still on, but minus the stifling humidity and high temps that had accompanied us downriver.
Our trip yesterday brought us to Pepin, where author Laura Ingalls Wilder was born (the town celebrates “Laura Days” this coming weekend, September 12-13). We stopped for breakfast at the Homemade Cafe, where everything is made from scratch. It’s a popular stop for bikers and folks who like pie. If you go there, be sure to bring cash. The restaurant does not accept credit cards. We managed to scrape up just enough money between the two of us to pay for our breakfast and leave a very modest tip.
We rode south to Nelson, then re-crossed the Mississippi into Wabasha, Minnesota, where folks are gearing up for a month-long (or is it two?) celebration of Septoberfest. Pumpkins and fall decorations are scattered all over town, including a gauzy Cinderella pumpkin coach near the AmericInn.
Up Hwy. 61 at the entrance to Lake City, we stopped at Pepin Heights Orchards and bought a bag of SweeTango apples and a loaf of their apple fritter bread. The place was packed with apple lovers, and ours was not the only motorcycle in the parking lot. We negotiated the road construction in downtown Red Wing, then went down the road to Welch, just for the ride. The village was crowded as folks scrambled to get one more inner-tube ride down the Cannon River.
There’s a lot of good riding weather ahead. Ride Minnesota, before the snow flies!
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.”
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!