Stay safe out there!
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been passed by dudes on crotch rockets who must have a crystal ball mounted to their windshields.
Why do “crotch rocket” riders have such a sense of entitlement and immortality? Their need for speed so often overrules common sense, it’s a wonder more of them aren’t scraped off the pavement each summer.
I edit a neighborhood newspaper. Last night was absolutely beautiful, the kind of evening Minnesotans store in their memory banks for cold winter nights. The air was balmy, and the sweet scent of apple blossoms and lilacs filled the air. I had a neighborhood meeting to cover for the paper. It was only six blocks from home, so I decided to walk.
There was one busy thoroughfare on my walk. It’s T-shaped. Normally, I hate to wait for the “walk” button to change the lights, but last night I pushed it. Good thing. Just as I stepped from the curb, three screeching crotch rockets came roaring down the long leg of the T. The light was red for them. One of them checked for oncoming traffic to his right, but no one checked for the pedestrian on the left. As they roared through the light, I jumped back onto the sidewalk and yelled, “Assholes!” One of them turned back toward me and flipped me off. I silently wished he’d lose control of his bike, but it didn’t happen.
The previous day, I was sitting in a meeting at the newspaper office, which has a big window overlooking a very busy street. Suddenly two sport bikes came up close behind a car in front of them. They veered, one to the left, the other to the right, and passed the car. My kingdom for a patrol car at that minute!
On more than one occasion, Ralph and I have ridden the Great River Road on the Wisconsin side. There are some blind curves, especially on the lower end near the southern Wisconsin border. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been passed by dudes on crotch rockets who must have a crystal ball mounted to their windshields. They’re a menace!
Motorcyclists have enough to worry about with semis, people who change lanes without signaling and drivers who don’t “see” motorcycles, much less fellow bikers who don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.
When I went to bed last night, I could hear the whiny, mosquito-like windup of a crotch rocket shifting gears on I-35. Stay safe.
Revving up for the Motorcycle Life Expo
I’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!
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!
Good Riding Weather
Now that the June monsoon has ended, the weather has been absolutely perfect for hopping on a motorcycle and cruising to no particular destination whatsoever. Whether you travel in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Dakotas, the Midwest offers some really nice rides.
The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate freedom on a bike. Traffic will be heavier, though, as Minnesota lakeshore property owners make one of their three mandatory trips to the cabin (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day). Be on the lookout for people who may not be looking out for you. Stay safe, and have a great Independence Day!
Changing seasons, changing attitudes
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.
Snow fell earlier this week, pretty much ending the motorcycle season for most sane riders. There are still a few diehards out there dodging the slick piles of leaves (the trees are finally letting go!) and braving the cold winds. On Tuesday, when the evening commute was accompanied by a mist of snowflakes, I passed a woman riding primly on a scooter. She wore a visor-less helmet and had a lap robe draped across her knees. The fringe tossed in the soggy wind. She looked like a granny minus her rocker. She had to be uncomfortable.
I just received a notice from the Hosanna! Bikers were cancelling their November ride because of the weather. Time to batten down the hatches.
Ralph and I celebrated our October wedding anniversary with a ride along the Mississippi River to Reads Landing, where we had lunch at Reads Landing Brewing Company (great sandwiches, local beer). The trees were just beinning to turn color then, and the weather was a little on the cool side, but not uncomfortable. If you had told me 34 years ago that I’d be riding on the back of a bike at age 60, I would have laughed my head off. Now there are times when I’d like to make it a way of life.
After lunch we drove a couple of miles further south to Wabasha and crossed the river to Wisconsin. We were immediately passed by a posse of crotch rocket dudes. Heads down, speeding through the curves, they clearly weren’t interested in the changing leaves or the tall limestone bluffs along the highway. Time will come when their testosterone levels drop and they’ll want to slow down and actually see where they’re going. By then, maybe, they’ll be ready for a book like Ride Minnesota.
October was a good month for the book. I sold 21 copies in one day at the Twin Cities Book Festival. The owner of SubText Books in St. Paul dropped by and said she wanted to sell the book in her store. And I learned the name of another place in Cambridge that may be interested in carrying it. The following weekend was not quite as successful–I sold just 13 copies at the Home Improvement & Design Expo. But that’s more than I would have sold had I stayed home. And, I learned about a Dunn Bros. Coffee initiate called coffeeandbooks.com that I have to check into a little more thoroughly. The month ended with word that Hennepin County Libraries had ordered the book.
One of Ralph’s dreams is to ride the Victory to Washington, DC and join the Rolling Thunder rally. Honoring fellow veterans fires his imagination in a way that going to Sturgis doesn’t.
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!