Weather: 61Â°F (16Â°C) Under partly cloudy skies.
Road Conditions: Mostly clean, with scattered clumps of farm debris.
For over a decade now, I have laughingly referred to my home in West Saint Paul as “Ton-Up Manor”. This comes from my cafe racer background, where “ton-up” means over one-hundred miles per hour. It was a fitting name for a place which housed, at various times, a Ducati 900SS, a Honda CBR 1000 “Hurricane”, and a few homebuilt specials which all fit the cafe racer criteria.
It was a rare ride, on many of those bikes, where I didn’t crack the ton at some point before returning it to the garage. Kind of like the old Samurai tradition of never pulling out your katana without drawing blood, even if it has to be your own…
These days, thankfully, things have calmed down somewhat.
Ton-Up Manor lies twenty-six and a half miles, almost due east from work. Both places are located inside the congested Interstate 494-694 loop. For Ramble Plan Juliet on Thursday night, I elected to head straight west from work, directly away from home, in order to bust out of that loop as quickly as possible. The goal was to get out on the country two-lanes and backroads which have become our favored habitat. I’m really getting sick and tired of city traffic…
I realized that this would make for a much longer ride, but the sun stays out later these days, so I figured we could too.
Once Frogwing and I cleared the loop, we had to endure the first ring of affluent suburbia; with their obscene McMansions and upscale condos, stoplights, SUVs, and cul-de-sacs. But then we were out in the hobby farm country, which is quite a bit more scenic.
Take the place pictured below, for instance. What you see in the photo is an old homestead, slowly falling into disrepair, but tastefully decorated with the decaying odds and ends of agriculture. What you don’t see is the brand new house out-of-frame left, which is where the owners actually live and enjoy all the modern conveniences. Well, now I guess I know what hobby farm really means.
Ranging farther west, Frogwing and I came upon the thriving community of Watertown. Not to be confused with towns by the same name in both Wisconsin and South Dakota, Watertown is about twenty miles west of the aforementioned loop. Situated on the banks of the Crow River, it is a very neat and picturesque little town which fairly reeks of history. So I decided to do a little research…
Originally settled in the 1850’s, Watertown’s initial growth was stalled by the Civil War, and the fact that all early provisions had to be transported by river, which could only happen during the summer.
Later, the railroad came to town in the guise of the Luce Line out of Minneapolis, and the town began to flourish. Today they show all the signs of a budding bedroom community, with new developments springing up in all directions. Progress, again… but we’ve beaten that horse to death already, and this is a blog entry, not a history lesson.
What do I like to do on a Ramble Plan when I reach a destination?
Why, EAT, of course! Watertown has a few interesting options for that purpose. Happily, the one thing I didn’t see was a plague of fast-food joints at all the entrances to town. The first place I stopped at was D’Vinci’s.
This was a dark and classy Italian restaurant, and I was tempted. But the staff acted as though they weren’t ready to begin serving guests at around 4 pm, so they directed me across the street to the Luce Line Lodge. Maybe it was the Aerostich Darien jacket that scared them. Aerostich riders are known to be Road Warriors, and they just didn’t want any trouble…
“The Lodge”, as it is called, had their grand opening on Superbowl Sunday this year. I normally don’t care to review a place without any tangible history, but I was quite impressed when I went inside. Built on two levels, the place is enormous, with big screen sporting events everywhere and lots of seating. But what really got my attention was the extensive menu, and it took me awhile to finally settle on the French Dip as my dinner choice.
As you can see, the portion size was reasonable, as was the price. Having gotten used to oversize portions and prices in the past, this was somewhat of a surprise. But I had a nice meal, and didn’t feel like I needed a nap immediately afterward. This was a good thing, because I had many miles to go, before I slept. (Apologies to Robert Frost.)
But those miles were going to be entertaining, for the most part. We were out in the real farm country now. Tractor tires left tracks made of soil and manure across the road in many places, and the pungent smell of that organic fertilizer permeated the air.
Minnesota Highway 25 took us through the rural landscape, and a few more small towns, all the way to Belle Plain. There they were doing road destruction, with detours everywhere, and we ended up on US 169 North, out of town without even stopping. Well, maybe next time, Belle Plain…
We followed US 169 to Minnesota Highway 13, our old friend from a weekend ramble, last year around this time. As the sun sank lower towards the southwest horizon, I decided not to stop anymore, and just press on towards home.
We rode just over one-hundred and thirty miles on this loop-outside-the-loop. It was thoroughly enjoyable, because most of it was out on the rural backroads, unimpeded by urban gridlock and road-raging drivers.
Everyone I met, even this close to the `Cities, was pleasant and polite, without projecting any kind of ridiculous attitude. It makes me wonder whether it is the person, or the location which provokes bad behavior. Maybe these same people react like cornered animals when confronted with today’s traffic dilemmas, who knows? Maybe they were so nice and relaxed because they were Home.
That’s certainly something to think about.