Big Great Lakes Loop

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    We stopped for gas and breakfast in the morning.

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    I'm not a cruiser rider, but I had to admit that I really like Zack's setup. Very clean lines on his bike, and it wasn't obnoxiously loud. And he'd come prepared with tent and sleeping bag and a change of clothes. According to Zack, this was in case he couldn't find me.

    I wanted to suggest to him that we switch bikes for a while, but at breakfast he looked out the window and saw someone park close to his bike. He growled, "They better watch it." I decided not to tell him my idea.

    I led the way as we continued to follow the Mississippi River Trail, a bicycle route which leads from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. We crossed the Mississippi many times and it was getting bigger and bigger.

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    And there were more signs of the "Blowdown Incident."

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    To my surprise, the MRT (and the Great River Road, as the sign shows) turned onto a gravel road. I pulled over and looked at Zack. "I don't mind riding on gravel," he claimed. Despite his assurance, I thought it would be better to stick to the pavement.

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    This gave us an idea. We were hot and a little hungry.

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    We stopped for a snack in the small town of Aitkin, Minnesota, where my friend Amanda is from. I was looking forward to seeing her in a few days. I met her when she used to work in this cafe.

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    The desserts were terrible. I didn't want to say anything, but then Zack looked at me with a grimace and asked, "Does yours taste like sugary syrup?" I nodded.

    We posed outside for a photo.

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    Zack doesn't wear any riding gear, and in the heat and sun, he was getting pretty burned and worn out. He never complained other than to ask if I had any sunscreen, which I did.

    Another shot of the river.

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    And this "art" car.

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    Zack and I stopped for gas in St. Cloud, Minnesota in the evening. Zack needed to be home tonight and still had an hour or two ride back to his house. We'd had a great time together, and I was happy to see him again after almost 25 years. It's still hard to believe that I could have someone in my life who I haven't seen for that long.

    After Zack left I made a call to another friend who lives in a northern Minneapolis suburb. Eric and I have been friends since I was about 13 or 14, and the last time I saw him was in 2000. He's now married and has a small daughter. He invited me over and asked if I'd eaten dinner yet.

    Once more, Jägermeister.

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    His wife had purchased this special bottle while in Amsterdam, and it did taste better than Jäger I've had in the US. According to her, they use a different formula.

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    Eric brought me out to his garage and showed me his motorcycle. "I didn't know you had a bike!" I suggested we go for a ride before I leave. He shrugged. He hadn't had his bike out for a few months and had only ridden it a few times all year.

    They put me up in the guest room for the night and I tried to lay flat on my back to keep my ribs from aching.

    Jamie
  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    D'oh!

    Just got a message from Zack:

    Jamie
  3. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    I slept in for the first time on the trip, getting up just before noon to find Eric's wife working from home in the living room. Out in the driveway I saw Eric's truck. "Did Eric stay home from work today?" I asked his wife. She said he'd ridden his motorcycle in today. First time he's ridden his bike in months. :lol3

    I did a load of laundry and cleaned up some of my gear (notice I'm no longer wearing my embarassing Hooters T-shirt in the photos). Eric came by with his work truck a couple hours later and told me to follow him back to the shop. He was taking the rest of day off.

    I parked inside and he showed me around.

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    Eric insisted I try a Greenie at Tony Jaros'.

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    And then a beer nearby at a club right on the river.

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    I had dinner plans with Amanda, a girl I met back in Aitkin, Minnesota twelve years ago and haven't seen for about ten years. I'd called her a few days ago and told her I'd be in town. She had offered a place to crash tonight. Eric and I got a quick photo before we parted ways.

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    Amanda wanted to meet at the trendy Icehouse downtown. She was already there when I arrived.

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    The food was good, but the portions were laughable. Seriously, when the waiter set my plate in front of me, I thought it was one of the sides that came with dinner. No, it was the whole meal. It looked like two Chicken McNuggets and a small scoop of coleslaw. Probably there was a garnish on the plate, too.

    One cool thing was that the wait staff used iPods to place your order, so our drinks arrived before the waiter even walked away from our table.

    During dinner, Amanda asked where I was planning to stay tonight. She added that she'd like to offer a place to stay, but she'd have to ask her boyfriend first and she didn't think he'd be up for it.. There goes the digs I was planning on

    After dinner I called Eric back and explained my dilemma. Could I crash at his place again? "No problem, come on over."

    The next day I planned to meet with my high school friend, Tony. I'd have the scare of my life before that happened.

    Jamie
  4. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    I really enjoy following your trip. You seem to know quite a few cool people. :freaky
  5. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Thanks! A lot of the cool people I met were from the Tent Space on this site. :deal

    Jamie
  6. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Eric was off to work again when I woke up. I thanked his wife for letting me stay another night and got on the road south in a light rain. I had plans to meet one of my best friends from high school, Tony.

    On the way, I had my scariest moment ever on a motorcycle.

    Riding south on I-35E through St. Paul in the rain, I was rounding a left hand curve while in the left lane. The rain was light, traffic was fairly heavy, going about 60 or 65. My tires drifted over the yellow fog line on the left. I felt the rear tire start to spin and slide out to the right. I steered into the skid and sensed an impending high-side. I kept on the throttle and kept off the brakes while my rear tire spun sideways and back onto the wet blacktop. For perhaps two or three full seconds, my bike rode sideways at 60 miles per hour with cars packed around me. I don't recall tensing up, but I did think, "Oh, this is going to hurt." Slowly the rear tire slid back to it's normal position behind the front tire, and the bike straightened up. My heart was in my throat. Somehow I had avoided what I thought was inevitable.

    When I arrived at Tony's place, he was ready to eat. "Jame [as he calls me], have you ever had a Juicy Lucy?" he asked. A what?

    Tony drove me up to Matt's, one of two competing Minneapolis eateries which claim to be the home of the Juicy Lucy. Matt's place spells it Jucy Lucy.

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    A Jucy Lucy is a cheese-filled burger. The molten cheese inside the patty oozes out when you bite into the sandwich. Tony warned me several times to be careful on first bite. It was excellent and the fries were crisp and tasty. We finished lunch and when Tony came back from paying the tab handed me a Matt's bumper sticker. "Here, I want you to put this on your bike."

    Tony also rides, and like Eric hasn't had his bike out on the road for quite a while. (His wife asked me, "His bike? You mean the garage queen?") He wanted to change the oil in his bike, and it was a good opportunity for me to change my oil too, since it was due.

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    We did the work at Tony's parents', where they have a big garage.

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    For Tony's 16th birthday, some 20 years ago, his parents bought him a hotrod: A 1949 Dodge truck with a Ford 302, custom interior, and wide aluminum wheels. When he got it, it needed a bit of TLC to make it complete. It still needs some TLC, and each time I see it, it has more stuff piled in and on it, the paint has faded a little more, and each time I see it, I get on Tony to get the thing back on the road and he promises he will.

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    The other bike in the photo belongs to Tony's stepdad.

    We met Tony's wife when she got home from work and rode up to their favorite pizza place, the Italian Pie Shoppe.

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    I must say, it was excellent. Jennifer insisted on paying, too.

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    Look, I even made the calendar in their household!

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    I crashed on the couch late after several drinks, and lots of stories and laughs.

    Jamie
  7. Timba

    Timba Luckiest Man Alive

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    :lurk
  8. NORTH RIDER

    NORTH RIDER Been here awhile

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    THUNDER BAY,ONT CANADA
    hi JAMIE ,I'm enjoying your trip report.
    i have ridden most of the same roads you did in northern Minnesota.
    it was nice meeting you when you were in THUNDER BAY.



    NORTH RIDER

    a.k.a FELIZ ( madhouse tavern grill, thunder bay Ontario )
  9. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

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    Fairfield, CA, USA
    Jamie, awesome report and fun to keep up with. It's got your unique signature all over it. Glad you survived 35E! :eek1
  10. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Feliz!

    Man do I feel like a chump for missing out on your offer. Wish I'd had more time to explore in northern MN. I've been through that area a bunch of times, but until now, I've never really stopped to see the area.

    Jamie
  11. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    After staying with Tony and Jennifer, I spent a couple days with my mom. Then I rode down to see my oldest sister and her family south of Minneapolis by an hour or so. They have a house in the country with lots of land and several buildings. It's a perfect place for their four kids to grow up.

    The first day I was there, they were readying the backyard for the bonfire and outdoor party planned for tomorrow.

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    When they bought the house, it was small and run down and unsuitable for living. Today, after countless hours of remodeling and additions, it has got to be one of the neatest places and plenty of room. Four bathrooms, five bedrooms, a kitchen the size of a large living room.

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    And my brother-in-law likes his toys. His pole barn houses one of his prides and joy, a 1949 Cadillac, which believe it or not, is all original.

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    Yes that's the factory paint.

    I told Bryan we had to take it out for a spin, so he backed it out of the garage and we rode with a few of the kids up to the store.

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    I waited for him to offer to let me drive, but I was stuck in the passenger seat.

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    They also have a cat house. Literally. My niece loves animals, most especially cats and horses, so her dad built an addition to the horse barn to house the cats and outfitted it with everything cats love.

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    Tonight was the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in London, so we watched while eating dinner.

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    Upstairs, they have a game room with an air hockey table, foosball, darts, and two game consoles.

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    I suck at foosball.

    I stayed up late and tomorrow would be an early day.

    Jamie
  12. BobRob

    BobRob Pick one

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    Love your RR's!

    :lurk
  13. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Today was my birthday.

    My sister used to own a restaurant, and now operates a concession stand part-time. By coincidence, she had a job today and I bugged her to let me help out. We had to be there and set up by 8am.

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    We were working a local auction. The crowd was pretty thin and though we were the only concessioner, sales were slow. A handful of cups of coffee in the morning, a couple hotdogs and burgers a little later, and the occasional can of pop (as they say here)

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    We mostly stood around all day and talked. My sister complimented me on my customer service and upselling skills, as ineffective as they were today.

    When we got back to the house, my brother-in-law Bryan was getting the fire ready for this evening.

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    The kids rode around on the ATVs.

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    They rolled an old dirt bike out of the shed and egged me on. "Come on, Uncle Jamie! You can ride the motorcycle!"

    I've never been on a real dirt bike, but what the hell. Any comments on my technique?

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    I had a wipeout, and my nephew Justin got a tool to straighten the brake pedal.

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    We all had fun until Justin busted the chain on his quad.

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    The rest of us lined up for a group shot.

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    My nephew Jared bought a street bike recently. He and I took a ride together, and I regret that I never got a photo of us with our bikes.

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    Two of my nieces, Bethanie and Haylee.

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    The fire was pretty weak, so I got on it.

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    I got a new T-shirt for my birthday.

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    I played some ball-throwing game with Justin and a couple others.

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    And my cousin Shelley and her husband David showed up. I haven't seen either of them in probably 15 or 20 years.

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    And incredibly, my foster-sister, Pam. We couldn't recall the last time I might have seen her. I was maybe ten years old.

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    With my three sisters. Pam lived with our family for a time when I was very young. I only barely remember, but she talks about how I would sit on her lap on the couch and we would tell stories.

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    And a lot of relaxing around the fire.

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    Late in the evening, we went up to the game room.

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    And then right before midnight... my birthday cake. Bathanie made it earlier in the day.

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    Jamie
  14. boboneleg

    boboneleg we can rebuild him.

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    Nice one Jamie, looks like you have a cool family :clap
  15. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Today I was riding out to stay with my other sister for a couple days. Jodi lives in a small town in southwest Minnesota. She recommended that I stop in New Ulm to see the Schell Brewing Company. I needed no further encouragement.

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    The tour costs just $3. First a guide gives a quick history of the brewery, the second oldest in the US. Do you know which is the oldest? They don't mention it in the tour.

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    Next we took a look at the original copper kettle where all Schell beer was brewed until just a few years ago. It's in service now as a water heater.

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    You pass through a portion of the manufacturing facility, which I'm fairly sure is no longer used.

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    And then the guide suggests we go try some beer in the tasting room.

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    The group is divided into groups of eight and seated at long tables. Our table actually had just six people, and two of them were kids. So each time a sample bottle was brought over, each of us got a quarter of the bottle.

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    Then we were offered a full cup of whichever type of beer we wanted.

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    The whole tour seemed like a ruse just to drink beer for cheap. I suspect there are locals who come here often just for the samples. The only catch was that now I was buzzing pretty good, so I walked the grounds of the brewery for a while before I got back on the bike.

    I stopped at the historic Harkin Store, but it wasn't open today.

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    And arrived at my sister's a right around dinner time.

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    Everyone went to bed fairly early because my sister and my niece had to work the next day.

    Jamie
  16. enduro0125

    enduro0125 Sticks and Stones™..

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    Oldest brewery?
    Why Yuengling of course.
  17. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Naturally! Glad to see someone is paying attention. The guide never mentioned Yuengling, even though he pointed out several times that Schell was the second oldest. :lol3

    Jamie
  18. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Dylan and Tyler wanted to go geocaching., so we loaded up in Katelyn's car and jumped on the gravel roads.

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    Tyler reminds me a lot of myself. He's always fooling with electronics, and he was fascinated by geocaching. And in case you missed it, he likes music.

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    Dylan likes to be outside and can be quite a comedian.

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    Next we drove my niece's car into a corn field. At least next to one.

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    This was a fun cache located within some old farm machinery. The boys found the clever hiding spot right away.

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    We found a few more caches in the morning, and then drove out to meet my sister at her job.

    Jodi works in the tiny town of Gary, South Dakota, population 227. She was eager to show me the Buffalo Ridge Resort, located in town. She promised a drink at the Rock Room, the resort lounge. (Notice the motorcycle content.)

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    Unfortunately, I didn't realize this was going to be such a cool destination, and I didn't bring my camera. I had only my camera phone.

    The Buffalo Ridge Resort is the former South Dakota School for the Blind. The buildings were abandoned in the early 70s. Vandals and nature took their toll until 2009 when it was purchased by a local businessman and turned into an amazing destination. The reconstruction took just six months!

    The Rock Room was closed when we arrived (I sure wish I'd gotten a picture inside), but a maintenance worker offered to show us around. They still use the original tunnels.

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    And the old root cellar now holds the good stuff.

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    See the Jägermeister in the background?

    We met the owner Joe. Joe started a business a few years back and after building it up, a larger company bought his business. In his words, he'd always wanted to do something with the dilapitaded property, and he was now "blessed to be able to do something." I really liked his enthusiasm and optimism. Not everyone would take their fortune and open up a luxury resort in a rural community of a couple hundred people.

    Afterward, more geocaching. This one took a while to find among the foundation of an old farmhouse.

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    The next one wasn't nearly as interesting.

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    And then back to town.

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    Canby is a small southwestern Minnesota town. It has a charm of an old community where people know each other.

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    My plan was to make a fancy dinner. We stopped at the local grocery where my niece works and picked up the things we needed. I bought steaks.

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    We also had baked potatoes, fresh corn on the cob (it doesn't come any fresher than in a small agricultural community), and my quasi-homemade garlic cheese bread.

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    Unfortunately, my niece had to work this evening, but the rest of the family sat around the table for dinner.

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    After eating, I had a couple hours of daylight left, so I decided to head out and get a few miles in before dark.

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    My brother-in-law is quite proud of his Vulcan 2000, a 2053cc V-twin bohemoth he purchased a few years ago.

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    I wanted us to ride together, so Mike joined me for my first 30 or 40 miles. We swapped bikes for a short time, and while I liked the smooth, raw power of the huge V-twin, I wasn't sure I'd like something like that for a long trip. I'm just not the cruiser type, I don't think.

    Just before nightfall. For my Belgian friends.

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    I didn't get very far tonight, owing mostly to road construction. The highway I wanted was completely closed, and the detour ran the opposite way I wanted to go. Eventually I found a little park by a small dam and set up my tent for the night. This is, as explained by a nearby sign, the start of the Des Moines River.

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    Jamie
  19. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    I woke up very early. A retired couple on the walking path stopped to chat and said they thought my camping spot was very clever.

    I had some ambitious plans today, but when I crunched the numbers, I simply didn't have the time I thought I did. I had to be home in a couple days for work, so I hit the highway and headed more-or-less south.

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    It's hard to describe just how flat this part of the country is.

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    Makes for good wind generation and crops.

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    Anyone need a Corvair?

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    I was meeting a friend in Bettendorf in the evening. When I looked at the map, I saw a dot showing the location of the National Motorcycle Museum, and it was almost directly between me and Bettendorf.

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    Who knew the National Motorcycle Museum was in Iowa this whole time? It's a pretty cool place.

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    Trouble is, I rode up at about 20 minutes until 5. My bike was the only vehicle in the lot. When I walked in, the woman behind the counter grudgingly told me she'd sell me a ticket, but that they close in less than 15 minutes. What? You close at 5pm?

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    So, I paid full price for a ticket and buzzed through the exhibits snapping dozens of photos with the plan to look at the bikes later.

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    I don't know the story behind this one.

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    They have a little bit of everything, including this Vincent Black Shadow.

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    And a Square Four.

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    Indians.

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    And Harley.

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    Honda too.

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    A collection of custom choppers.

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    And some early 20th century machines.

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    And even this old thing.

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    I found a Horizon's Unlimited sticker on it, but no ADV.

    Man. I love these inline fours.

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    And of course this classic bike.

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    It's a great museum with crappy hours.

    I had a couple hour's ride to get to Amy's. Along the way it started to get a little more hilly.

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    I didn't take this road, but it's a good example of the kind of roads in the midwest.

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    I met Amy and we went for pizza.

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    What's funny about the picture is that we ordered the evening special, a large pizza and pitcher of beer. Then Amy tells me that she doesn't drink beer. More for me!

    In the evening Amy, her son, and I watched the Olympics before bed.

    Jamie
  20. enduro0125

    enduro0125 Sticks and Stones™..

    Joined:
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    Nice pictures of the museum.
    To bad you had to hurry through.