Saturday, August 8, 2015

Search for the source

Like a diesel truck at the drag strip, its mass is steadily building speed. The roadside attractions peacefully blur in my periphery. My cone of vision narrows. Time to check the clocks. Time to ease off the throttle. The flying brick calmly returns to earthly speeds. I can see why people like these K bikes but our American roads, drivers and law enforcement officers are not built to support Autobahn mode. As this is the only mode available, I hand it back to it's owner.

The big bike, big power experience is surprisingly fantastic but not always as fun as it should be. Back in the day, I put some miles on a 1200cc Suzuki Bandit. Even when holding back, that bike was fast. Almost annoyingly fast. I welcome the age of ride-by-wire and traction control.

Sport mode. Engaged. Crack the throttle and you're gone. Did you see that dirt road? Raise the suspension, soften the throttle response, curb the power and don't forget to signal you turn.Welcome to the modern age. If you want to relax a bit and play with handfuls of torque, the Multistrada can do that. If you want to drag a knee and carve apexes (at a track day), it has a mode for that too. I found myself in full sport mode or full rain mode. I just liked the consistent power delivery of each. Guess I'm not into peaky power, VTEC or touring mode. The owner of this fine machine prefers tame off-idle power delivery wile keeping full power just a quarter turn away. It's good to have options.

Day one: St Paul - Garrison - Brainerd - Walker 

The cast.
July seventeenth, six PM, a pair of crusty bikers roll up to my Saint Paul home. Wide eyed, my son presses his nose against the storm door glass. "Dad. What's Todd doing?" He knows to keep an eye on Todd. "Grandpa woo-hoo is here!" These are the crusty bikers we've been waiting all day to see.

The next morning, as the family sets off to work and day care, our crew of crusty bikers set off towards lake country; three days of bombing around in the woods and exploring the local bar scene in the evening. It's an annual event, traditionally organized out of a cheep motel behind Nigel's Pub in Wisconsin Dells.

This year we did a little freestyle exploring in Minnesota. Todd and my dad both live in the Milwaukee metro, they're just beginning to explore Minnesota. It was time to see what lay west of Highway 61, beyond the clay and waterfalls, into the unexplored lake country. We set out to find new roads, new people and new hotels (with vacancies). It was a successful trip.

The best roads from day one:

  • The quiet two lane road that parallels 169 along the west shore of Mille Lacs,
  • County Road 10 and 11 north of Garrison,
  • and the road along the west side of Gull lake.

In Garrison, on the north side of town, we found a bar with seating on the water. The only thing on the menu was pizza. We ordered two.

"What's Todd doing?"
The billboard says: "Don't get a divorce, get a cabin. Counselor Reality" You can't make this stuff up.

Day two: Walker - Itasca - Grand Rapids - Virginia

Itasca: a lake that becomes The River.

Watching someone see the headwaters of the Mississippi River for the first time never gets old.

Best roads for day two:
  • Itasca State Park road - park speed but scenic, 
  • Highway 38 from Talmoon to Grand Rapids,
  • Highway 169 - driving into the Iron Range

Day three: Virginia - Ely - Duluth - Ashland  ( for me , it was a 6AM ride from Virginia to St Paul )
Best roads of day 3:

  • I had to be in home by 10:00 and I thoroughly enjoyed my peaceful 6AM drive from Virginia to Cloquet,
  • Pop's said Highway 1 from Ely to Finland was his new favorite road in Minnesota. I don't think anyone will disagree with that.
  • Skyline drive in Duluth is always fun.

Skyline Drive

Pops A.K.A. the Rooster

As I rolled into the garage the trip meter was showing 776 and 9 tenths miles. Being crusty bikers, we left crumbs here.

- Ride North

Rooster's Rules of the Road -

The center of the face shield is reserved for the largest bugs.


  1. What is the attraction of going to a river's source? Is it the quest to see where it all begins? That something small can become really signifiant? Any reason is good, and I'd go there, too. Great ride, thanks for sharing.

  2. Even crusty bikers get wrapped up in the symbolism. Another geographic fun fact: Just west of Hibbing, you can stand in the Atlantic, Hudson Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds at the same time. Have a great trip! And keep a lookout for Champ.