Weather: Cloudy this morning, clearing as the day wore on.
It’s early morning on the Flood Run, but the Harley dudes are already getting blurry.
I woke up Saturday morning after twelve straight hours of much-needed sleep. Some kind of intestinal bug had attacked me on Thursday, and sent me home from work and straight to bed. Body aches, chills, and cold sweat ruled my world for the next forty-some hours.
Fever temperature reached 104Â°F (40Â°C), and at one point my wife Amy says I sat up suddenly in bed, eyes wide out of a sound sleep, and began jabbering at her about Scooterati hit-squads and military surplus biological weapons. Everyone knows you can buy them on eBay these days. The bastards are out to get me, I tell you!
What? Oh, never mind… the fever’s broke, but the nightmare remains. We all have our crosses to bear.
Now, where was I? The Flood Run! Yes. These are the events that I like to ride around twice a year.
Essentially, they are the Minne-sconsin version of Sturgis or Daytona, and they make up for the brevity by holding them once in the Spring, and then again in the Fall. For many, these are the one-day rides that mark the beginning and end of their riding season.
But, what did I mean by “ride around”?
Well, if you put yourself in the middle of this thing, you get caught-up in an endless, slow parade of clowns on big, shiny bikes with very loud pipes.
They roll down the main streets of picturesque little towns, duck-walking and blipping their throttles to the delight of the citizens gathered by the curbside. If you are mounted on anything but an open-piped chopper, you cannot hear your own bike running. It is loud, slow, and quite boring if you aren’t playing the “Look at ME!” game.
Every once in awhile, a particularly needy Power Clown will stop and let some space open up ahead of him. Then he uncorks the nitrous bottle on his 500 horsepower, Chevy V-8 Boss Hoss, and does a burnout that clouds the air with tire smoke and dead mosquitos.
All of this is done for charity, of course. I imagine the tire companies make out pretty well, too.
Knowing all this, I decided to do things differently this year. Since I wasn’t feeling well, I knew that the usual backroad loops would be out of the question. I just didn’t have the energy for it. Instead, I decided to take my sweaty, shaky self and head out early to Prescott, where the first major stop of the rally was located. There, I would shoot some photos and assess my ability to continue on.
So, you must be wondering how one goes about “surfing” the Flood Run. Well, I’ll tell you…
The key is to get out there early, ahead of the big wave of riders coming out of the Twin Cities. If you time it just right, you get this effortless ride, where you arrive at each stop just after they open, to a welcome from eager bartenders and waitresses who are pumped up for the big day ahead, and at the peak of their customer-friendliness. The food is fresh, and the beverages cold. I found this immediately at a bratwurst stand, in front of the No-Name Saloon in Prescott.
Can’t you just SMELL that? Are you drooling yet? Yum!
Now, this was about nine in the morning, and while my nose and tastebuds were saying “Yes, Yes!”, my virus-ravaged digestive tract was shouting “NO!NO!NO!”.
I reluctantly passed on the bratwurst, and headed inside the No-Name Saloon for a ginger ale instead. I hung around long enough to meet Rick Gevay, rider of the venerable 1946 Harley Davidson UL pictured below.
1946 Harley-Davidson UL: 74 cubic inches of perfectly adequate motorbike.
Rick was too busy to have his photo taken, and I respected that. I made sure to get out of his way as quickly as possible. He told me that the organizers of the Flood Run have conveyed upon him the official title: “Boss of Prescott”, and that honor carried heavy responsibilities.
Trust me when I say that he might well be as old as his wonderful Harley-Davidson. His abundant grey hair and beard, along with his well-weathered riding gear, speak of many decades on the road aboard one of the coolest motorcycles I have ever seen. This is a man I want to interview in-depth, someday.
Well, since most of us can’t afford or support such exquisite ancient machinery, sometimes we have to accept what the factories offer as “retro” models; modern motorbikes with styling connections to the past. They offer the style of the classics with modern reliability and performance. It is a potent commercial formula which has seen success in both the motorcycle and automotive markets.
The Yamaha Venture… a modern classic?
One of the bikes that has sucked me in recently is the Yamaha Venture you see here. I don’t know what year this bike was made, but I do know that it has all the styling cues needed to nudge me in the direction of a Lazy-Boy on two wheels.
My wife Amy has told me that all I need to get her to ride with me on long cross-country journeys is a modern Gold Wing. But when I showed her these photos, she said “Yeah, I could go with that.”
I mean, the last time I saw a dashboard like this was on a `59 Ford.
“Goodnight sweetheart, well, it’s time to go-oh…”
Oh Baby… But could I have this for my only motorcycle? Alas, no. Unlike the Harley UL, the Yamaha Venture would be ill-suited for exploring dirt roads. I mean, I could do it, but the strain and the risk of breaking expensive bodywork would make it prohibitively risky. Not much fun there. So this one will have to wait until I can afford to have a comfy touring bike sitting around for the occasional vacation ride. Maybe this will be my retirement bike? Huh… assuming I ever get to retire.
However, I was talking about surfing the Flood Run wave, right? The key is to watch the road, and see when the really dense packs start rolling into town. That’s your cue to head out to the next waypoint. You get there, and you find the bar-folks ready and jumping to your every request, all over again.
If you do this all the way, ahead of the main wave of Flood Runners, you are guaranteed a wonderful ride, without the hassle that comes from a crowd of drunk bikers. Nobody likes to stand three-deep at the bar when they are only ordering a ginger ale… right?
Also, when you are early, the line to the bathroom starts and ends with you. Believe me, that can be priceless when you have just eaten a bratwurst against your better judgement. Look, I’m only human… but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Frogwing and I rode all the way to Maiden Rock, and Ole’s Bar. Down by the waterfront, there is a park where many Flood Runners gather, and some spend most of the day there. A railroad track runs through it, and every once in awhile, a freight train comes thundering through. These bad boys drown out even the loudest power clowns.
Ooh, look at all that shiny, brand-new leather!
After soaking in the scene down in Maiden Rock for awhile, I realized that I was really getting tired. I wasn’t fully recovered from the flu yet, and I didn’t want to push it so far that I would have dizzy spells on the ride home. So I mounted up on Frogwing, and we began to retrace our route, northward.
Now, the nice thing about this, is that the northbound lane was relatively empty of other traffic. The run was heading south, and most of the locals stayed off of the road. As I passed the first cop staked out in a speed trap, I realized that I could render a valuable public service to my fellow riders.
As the next pack of bikes approached, I gave them the low, up-and-down wave that means “Slow Down!”. I got a lot of appreciative nods and waves in return. There have been a few times in my life when I wished somebody had warned me in similar fashion.
Rolling north into Prescott, I stopped at that bratwurst stand again. I just couldn’t resist the second time around. I ordered mine with lots of kraut, and a bright yellow racing stripe of mustard down the middle. This, my friends, was Heaven on a Bun.
Haute cuisine, Wisconsin style.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the rebellion to start down in the engine room, if you know what I mean. First, my stomach went into shock that I would dare send something so volatile down the hatch. This gave me time to make some miles towards home. Soon, however, Baron von Bratwurst was dancing a polka all over my gizzard. Delirium gripped me, and I couldn’t stop the accordians from playing inside my helmet, all the way home.
Rolling into my driveway, I parked Frogwing on the sidewalk, jumped off, and ran into the house. I was still wearing my helmet when I slammed the bathroom door.