Friday, June 21, 2019

Spring ride - day 3

Sunday had me retracing my steps back up the Mississippi River Valley as I made my way home. It was a cool start to the morning, 50s and overcast, but would turn into rainy and 40s. The morning however was just cool and windy, much like Friday.

Todd, my Dad, and I crossed into Iowa almost immediately, just north of Dubuque, and followed the Iowa river roads north again. It's hard to pick a bad road between Dubuque and McGregor, just steer clear of highway 52. There's nothing wrong with taking the highway but you'll miss out on some good experiences.

Guttenberg, Iowa

Just outside of Guttenberg, Iowa, we stopped to take in the view from highway 52 and discuss the trip. 

Our last stop as a group came at LaCrescent, here we parted ways. Todd and my Dad would be staying in LaCrosse for the night and were Googling breweries and hotels. I needed to be at work Monday morning so I spent the time trying to get some heat back into my hands. We all agreed that it was a successful journey. New roads were covered, new trails hiked, new characters met. Classic spring ride shenanigans. 

North of I-90 the temperature dropped off quickly and the rain started to fall. What was a pleasant ride in the 50's turned into a challenging ride in the 40's. By the time I got home the bike said 38 degrees.

I did manage to keep warm and dry for the most part. I only have one heated grip, on my throttle side, and my waterproof gloves were MIA. Thankfully, the clutch-side valve cover made a handy fry pan for my clutch hand. A little heat in my hands and some coffee in Red Wing got me home safely and mostly comfortable. Take your time and make good choices.

When the riding is less than ideal nobody cares if you're late, just that you're safe. (and it helps to call home with status updates) You never know what or who you'll run into when it's spring time in the north land, which is why we keep riding out this time every year.

- Ride North

May 20th | 270 miles | 8 hours riding

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Motorcycles at the State Fair Grounds

Another AMCA/VJMC motorcycle show in the books. Many thanks to the hard working folks who make this happen, eight bucks is a heck of a deal! I even had money left over for a Go Moto tee shirt. It smells like the shop, I may never wash it!

I had a little time to myself between breakfast and lunch so I fired up the XS and headed over to the State Fair grounds to see what the keepers-of-cycles have been up to all winter. The Yamaha sat for two weeks but fired right up due to its new battery. I'm on the second battery and second set of tires since acquiring it on 2012. Not bad.

22k miles With original Minnesota plate. 
(and a stack of registration stickers)

I snapped photos of whatever caught my eye. 
The Yamaha "Super Single" SRX-6

Why have an EX500 when you can have a 500cc V4?
This would be a fun little ripper, it's significantly smaller than the 750. 
This is on my wish list. (or a Seca 550, which ever comes first)

A 1973 TX500 front and center! 
My 1978 was the last year of this bike, improvements were made.

The bell of the ball a Honda CB750

I was surprised to see how much longer the bikes got compared to the earlier models. 
The earlier CBs seemed more British in their proportions. 
Also, that primitive front brake caliper hung on for longer than I'd expect. 

I'm drawn to the tuning fork. 

And early Sportsters. 

A 350 Continental GT from jolly olde England.

Purdy in white.

Another Enfield. This time a 750.

They come in green.
they come in blue.
I like them all.
You bet I do.

Italian. Gee-laira. Belllissima.

Some antiques.

Yep. Old Sportsters.

After taking in the show, the XS and I went for a leisurely ride down East River Road and found our way back to West St Paul. It's good work if you can get it.

Happy Dad's day to all the parents out there!

- Ride North

Monday, June 17, 2019

Spring ride - day 2

The next morning we rode out to breakfast at the beautiful lodge at Starved Rock State Park followed by a morning hike. Built of massive timbers by the CCC, the lodge is worth a visit. Its great room is still filled with furniture that was built at the time of its construction. One of the wings of the building is a restaurant and, lucky for us, it has a breakfast buffet. The park is about 1.5 - 3 hour drive from Chicago and got more crowed as the morning progressed. Getting there early meant that we had a leisurely breakfast and had the hiking trails mostly to ourselves (by northern Illinois standards).

The park is located on the banks of the Illinois River and features limestone bluffs, river front hiking, and slot canyons that terminate in waterfalls. The waterfalls are ephemeral and only run during the wet spring season or after a rainfall. It had rained earlier in the week and severe weather was predicted for the afternoon. This made the trails muddy and almost impassible in places but the waterfalls were running.

We wrapped up our hike just as the eastern sky was turning dark. The parking lot was full of people. Large groups of kids were setting out to hike the bluffs and canyons. We ran into a group of guys on a day ride out of Chicago, sneaking away from family life for a few hours to ride with buddies. I can get behind that! Chicagoans are generally outgoing people who have no problem hamming it up with strangers. We talked bikes and riding for fifteen minutes or so before heading out. Good guys.

The storm hit just as were were getting out of the park so we pulled over at what we hoped was an establishment that served food. What we got was a weird combination of bar and head shop. No food, but they had swards and liqueur. What could go wrong? Just as we reached this oasis, the front came through bringing with it cats-and-dogs biblical rain. We were stuck with nothing left to do but hang out and wait. Once the rain let up we headed across town to the Cabin Fever, a place that serves real honest food to refuel for the wet ride to Galena. I hear the deep fried monte cristo is amazing but I settled for something a bit less fried.

Refueled, we set out in a light rain, nothing much to worry about. I-80 was littered with wrecked cars in the ditch. The wind and rain must have been bad out here in the open, we made the right choice to stop. Instantly, I was reminded of the kids heading out into the slot canyons back at the park. I hope they made it out of there okay or found shelter under the overhangs and in the caves. They were in for some severe weather followed by hours of heavy rain.

The ride up to Galena was uneventful. We did stop in Savanna to google the collection of race bikes at the Iron Horse Social Club. I was told that Frank, from American Pickers, has a bar full of old bikes somewhere in the area but we didn't didn't get a chance to see it. (we're not here to bar hop)

We stayed in a Super 8 or something just outside of Galena. The "Irish" restaurant in the same development had okay food but the entertainers were not having their best night so we got out of there pronto. We rode into town to take in the main street on a Saturday night. Stopped into the Galena brewing company for a beer and took in the one man band. Nothing crazy, just hanging out and people watching. The brewery was followed that up with a walk around town. I was impressed with the restaurants and shops. The town is built into a bluff on the Galena River, a historic shipping channel connecting the area to the Mississippi River.

A quick scoot up the hill found us in our beds where we slept soundly form a full day of hiking and riding in the rain.

- Ride North

May 19th
150 Miles
3 hours riding
3 hours hiking
1 hour sleeping in

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Spring ride day 1 - on the road again

Every year for the past 14 years (2006ish, maybe) my Dad, Todd, and I have been getting together for a spring ride. Our buddies Greg and Alex, and my brother have been known to join us from time to time. I'm sure I've missed a year or two when my son was little. This year it was just the three ham-egos.

For a long time, we'd meet up in Wisconsin Dells and ride the twisty roads of the Driftless area. They would ride out from Milwaukee and I would head down from St. Paul. Lately we've been branching out and exploring new lands. This year we set our sights on Starved Rock State Park in north central Illinois.

Buena Vista circa 2010

Friday morning I walked Jr. to school and finished packing my bags. My plan was to take the four lane south to Zumbrota and head over to Wabasha on highway 60, a beautiful road with big sweeping corners that winds its way down to the Mississippi river valley. It's been a long time since I've ridden it and I was excited to see it again. Unfortunately, the four lane exposed me to side winds that would dog me all weekend.

From Wabasha, the I stuck to the river valley all the way to Clinton Iowa. For the most part, the bluff protected me from the wind. Riding alone meant I could ride as long as I wanted and stop when I got hungry. It's an important process for disconnecting from work and stress. Focus on riding, slow, fast, far, whatever. I did have a goal of arriving at the Chateau de Lasalle motel sometime in the vicinity of supper but that was all.

I love riding down the big River valley. The roads on the west side mostly stick to the flood plain and there's much to see as you traverse the Driftless area. The bluffs grow bigger as you ride south and the culture quickly changes from walleye to trout to carp. (Not a typo, I'm talking about fishing here.) I feel like that's a fair way to describe the transition from Minnesota to Iowa.

My first stop of any length was at Effigy Mounds National Monument Just North on McGregor, Iowa. They have a beautiful visitor's center with a few small mounds just a short stroll away. If I had more time I would have taken the two mile loop up to the bear and snake mounds. The mounds sit just north of Pike's Peak State park. On the Wisconsin side of the river is the confluence of the Wisconsin river with the Mississippi, and Wyalusing State Park. Wyalusing has the most spectacular bluff top view if the river valley and is worth a visit, I feel some plans brewing for a family trip.

I've never ridden south of McGregor Iowa, from here on in I was breaking new ground. The great state of Iowa made navigation easy by designating all the good roads "Iowa Scenic Byway." The   road from highway 52 at Millville to Dubuque is called C9Y and "Great River Road" in spots. It winds up and down massive bluffs an packs ineradicable views of the Mississippi River flood plain below. The pullout in Balltown is particularly spectacular.

There are some tricks to following the river roads in Iowa. In several of the towns you need to take the small two lane levy roads out of town rather than highway 52. X52 south out of Lansing and north out of Guttenburg will do that.

Crossing the river in Clinton Iowa brought me out of the valley's protection and put me back in the wind. Thankfully it had settled down now that it was mid afternoon. Illinois State Highway 78 was a pleasant ride with long straight stretches that reach out to the horizon. Not bad in small doses, and I got the see beautiful Hooppole, Illinois! From there I-80 took me over the the twin cities of Peru and Lasalle, the Illinois River valley, and Starved Rock State Park.

I met up with Todd and a my dad and headed out for dinner and shenanigans in Lasalle. We caught up over a fancy diner at a restaurant that I didn't catch the name of then walked over to Re Phil's for drinks, more catching up, and a Bucks win. (Fear the Deer!) We always run into a cast of characters on these trips and Re Phil's didn't disappoint.

Day two was spent exploring the park and making our way up to Galena Illinois.

- Ride North.

May 18th, 2019
470 miles
10 hours