Friday – Saturday, 14-15 July, 2006
Weather: Heat wave! Flirting with 100 degrees F.
Does anyone else remember those old Kawasaki ads from the `Eighties?
“…Get aboard, get away, and you’re gonna say, Let the Good Times Roll…”
For some reason, that little ditty lodged itself firmly inside my helmet as soon as I mounted Frogwing for my Ride to Work on Friday.
I was only working a half-day, because I had planned a long weekend touring the Iron Range of northern Minnesota with my cousin Eric. You have to get out of town early on Summer Fridays, or you get caught like a rat in the maze of road construction and frantic SUV drivers heading for the suburbs.
We entered Highway 52 at the top of Ton-Up Hill, and started down into the valley. For one ecstatic moment, I imagined us rotating skyward and launching towards the northern horizon, like the corporate jet that was taking-off from Holman Field, over to our right.
Have you ever had one of those flying dreams where suddenly, for no reason at all, you can leap into the air and soar wherever you want? Well, that’s exactly how I felt as we gathered speed and merged into the traffic on `52. How often does that happen to a “driver”? (Don’t answer that… rhetorical.)
This, I thought, is a Good Omen.
Work went quickly, so Frogwing and I were clear of city traffic by noon. Cruising at a comfortable seventy miles per hour, we made good time on Highway 169. I was just beginning to think about lunch when we passed a sign that said, “Chico’s Place, Mexican and American Food”.
Well, Mexican food is my absolute favorite, so we turned around and headed back, finding a parking spot right in front. Since it was the middle of lunchtime, and the parking lot was almost empty, this should have been a clue…
Let me sum it up quickly: The beef burrito special was basically a cheeseburger in a tortilla. The “hot sauce” wasn’t. It was served in a squeeze-bottle like ketchup used to be, and the taste was similar. And to think that they charged $3.50 for a basket of chips to go with it?
This was “Mexican Food” as interpreted by milquetoast Scandinavians. Mexi-wegian, perhaps?
Well, scratch that one off my list. Lunch came to over ten bucks, twelve with the tip, and it was very disappointing. Just another clip-joint whose only advantage is that they are the perfect distance from the Twin Cities to lure the unwary tourist.
Back on the road, we made good time up to McGregor. There I visited with my Dad at his trailer in the swamp, which is rapidly becoming a mini-resort. He has electricity now, you see, which means that he also has air-conditioning. That’s a good thing, when it gets this hot. He also has a fridge, out of which he produced an ice-cold can of Special Export as soon as he heard us coming down the trail. I love my Dad. He is so good to me.
We sat around his card table and chatted for awhile, family stuff. But I was anxious to get going, so I didn’t stay long. Frogwing and I still had many miles to go before we reached Chisholm, home of my cousin Eric and my ex-bike Gypsy.
We pulled up to Eric’s house just before five. Together, we rode to Virginia, Minnesota and met Eric’s brother Chad, along with his wife Michelle, for dinner at a Chinese buffet. This meal was wonderful, and made up for my terrible lunch.
Then we took a tour of Chad and Michelle’s new home, complete with basement walls done in a “Spongebob Squarepants” mural. Michelle did the illustration herself, and Chad “colored between the lines” with the paint brush. If I get enough requests in the comments section, I do have a photo…
After dinner, Eric and I rode back to his place, and decided to take it easy. We spent the evening playing “Tourist Trophy” on his Play Station 2. This is a motorcycle roadrace game that is almost photo-realistic. It was the perfect activity to psyche us up for our long sport-tour on Saturday.
Eric is an absolute master at this game by now, while I was flopping all over the track. What can I say? There weren’t any handlebars. How can you steer a motorcycle with a goofy little hatswitch? That’s alright, I thought… I’ll get my revenge tomorrow on the road!
Saturday morning, I woke up at dawn. Vibrating with anticipation, I found Eric fast asleep on the couch, with the TV still going. He awoke reluctantly, this being way earlier than he usually rises.
While he was grumbling and stumbling about, I decided to clean my helmet visor for the ride ahead. At home, I have a sponge and scrubber combination that is safe for teflon pans, and it has been perfect for cleaning the dried bug splats off my visor with nothing more caustic than tap water. This avoids exposing the clear plastic to chemicals which may cause it to cloud up, and I am convinced that it extends the life of my visors by at least a factor of two.
So I found a similar object on the shelf above Eric’s sink, and without testing it on an uncritical part of the visor, I just scrubbed the whole thing like I would at home. The result was a totally useless visor, criss-crossed by scratches made by the S.O.S. pad side of his non-teflon safe scouring pad. Oh goody…
I removed the visor from my helmet, and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to ride with no more eye protection than that afforded by my sunglasses. Well, that’s what most Harley riders depend on. Can they all be wrong? (Again… rhetorical.)
What I ended up with was a Ram Air Bug Collector. Every single bug that would have bounced off that visor either ended up splattered on my sunglasses, or dying violently in the space between the helmet padding and my ear. This was distracting, to say the least. At it’s worst was the venomous bastard who stung me right in the temple as we were approaching Eric’s mother’s house… but I am getting ahead of myself here.
Despite Eric’s difficulties waking up, and my own problems with my helmet, the lure of the ride was pulling on both of us, and soon we were on the road.
Breakfast was forgettable, so I won’t even talk about it. It provided fuel, and that’s what we needed. Then we rode out into the sunrise, locked and loaded, onto roads I have never seen before.
I have a confession to make: Despite all of my zen-talk and dual-sport antics, it is still the fast ride on twisty pavement that gets my motor running. To this day, despite all the trouble it has caused me, I remain a Cafe Racer to the bone.
I followed Eric, so I didn’t keep track of the long, straight roads that delivered us to the twisties. But Minnesota Highway One is legendary amongst local riders as the best pavement northern Minnesota has to offer. I think the photo at the top of this page will attest to that.
The second photo refers to giant creatures that Eric has encountered on this stretch of road before. Though we didn’t see any moose on Saturday, we did have a close call with another wild thing that could have ended the day in disaster for both of us. But that is a story for next time, as this is getting long.
I will update again on Wednesday, and tell you all about my brief and torrid fling with Gypsy. Until then… stay tuned.