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Throttle Fever, and the Motorcycle Ride to Nowhere

shadowsThrottle fever is a common malady among motorcyclists, particularly those who live in northern climes. It’s like cabin fever, but a lot more insidious. You can go outside and walk off cabin fever. But when the snow is on the ground, the streets are full of sand and salt, and the temperature threatens to dive below zero, a biker with throttle fever is stuck indoors.

I never thought I’d get throttle fever. In high school, I was the poster child for Goody Two Shoes. Then my husband started riding. And then I hopped on the back of his bike. Two weeks ago, I tried riding a Harley at the International Motorcycle Show in Minneapolis.

Omigod, omigod, omigod.

It always amazes me how much more you can feel speed in a car vs. a truck. You feel it  more on a motorcycle. I didn’t think I’d feel it even more, though, when I moved from the back of the bike to the front. And I wasn’t going anywhere!

Harley-Davidson is smart. They know the best way to attract new riders is to get them to try it. They had a small motorcycle (like the ones they use for training) set up on a stand. After giving H-D all my info (including my driver’s license number), I was allowed to throw a leg over the bike and receive a driving lesson. The instructor showed me how to start the engine, rev the throttle, how to shift with my left toe, and how to apply the brakes. I couldn’t believe 30 mph felt so fast! I also learned that you can’t really back off on the throttle or you’ll quickly lose speed. I spent a majority of my five-minute session watching the speedometer.

I wonder how long it takes for shifting and driving to become second nature. Perhaps I’ll find out this spring. I’m really thinking about taking the motorcycle safety course so I can back up my husband on our long road trips.

 

Winter Remodeling Project

Adding Ralph's Navy crow to his motorcycle jacket.

Adding Ralph’s Navy crow to his motorcycle jacket.

We finally received “plowable” snow in Minneapolis. It’s been a strange December, with temperatures lingering in the 30s and bouncing up to the 40s. When I did a book signing at the Harley-Davidson Shop of Winona on the 9th, folks were talking about mowing their lawns one more time. And there were more than just a couple of bikers who showed up for the open house on their motorcycles. It was that nice outside.

Now the snow has come and the winter ritual of piling up snowbanks has begun. The streets are driveable for cars and trucks, but too tricky for bikes. Most of them have been cleaned and polished and their batteries are stored for the winter. Time for indoor activities. Like re-arranging the patches on my husband’s motorcycle jacket.

He likes to collect patches from places we’ve visited and rides he’s participated in. Last spring he went on the Patriot Ride and noticed a number of veterans who had their military rank sewn onto their jackets. He wanted to add his.

Normally, I take his jacket down to a little Greek tailor in our neighborhood and he sews the patches on for $5 each. Trouble of it is, he’s frequently overbooked, and I knew he wouldn’t understand how important it is to get that Navy crow on the left shoulder. So, I dug up a curved upholstery needle and went to work.

Pushing a needle through leather is hard on arthritic hands! But now, the left arm proudly carries patches with Ralph’s  rank and his ship, the USS Kitty Hawk (CV63), which, sadly, has been de-commissioned.  The right arm will carry a US Navy logo and a patch for the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club. When that job is complete, I’ll re-arrange the patches on the back of the jacket in a more pleasing configuration (after all, I have to look at them when we ride two-up!).

If you’re looking for something motorcycle-related to do this winter, get a copy of Ride Minnesota or Ride Lake Superior and settle in for a cozy read on the couch. That should keep you busy until the motorcycle shows start in February.

Summer Time, and the Riding is Good!

Aitkin Co. 19, part of the Great River Road.

Aitkin Co. 19, part of the Great River Road.

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.

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!

 

 

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!

 

Afraid of my own shadow

When I first began riding behind Ralph, I clung to him for dear life. It made me nauseous to look down and to the side and see my shadow racing alongside me at 65 mph.  I noticed passengers on other motorcycles were more relaxed. Some held onto the bars on the seat rest. Others simply sat with their hands in their laps.

After a trip to the Grand Canyon via Rte. 66, I can look at my shadow now. And more often than not, I ride with a small digital camera in one hand. I still reach for Ralph when we hit a bump, but most of the time it’s “Look, Ma, no hands!”  You have to have a certain amount of fatalism to sit on the back. If I leave the bike, I leave it. I’d rather be flung from it, I think, than trapped beneath it.

Since I’m not distracted by having to keep the bike safely on the road, I have plenty of time to think, plan and pray (not out of fear, mind you, mostly I tell God thanks for the beautiful day). I planned Ride Minnesota on the back of our Victory. That’s where the book took shape. On the back of a motorcycle, in Minnesota.

shadows