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Meandering to Minnesota

Date posted: 8/6/2014

The latest gem from Mike M:

Meandering to Minnesota – la deuxième partie

A thousand miles from Austin, it was time to replace my OE tires, so late the week-before-last I had new ones (the two that had formed my backrest) mounted by Gina’s BMW in Iowa City. Nice dealership… but I’ll never look askance at $40.00 per wheel again.  Afterwards, it was on to Prairie du Chien, WI, on the upper Mississippi, with the Nav V set on “curvy roads”. Meandering with a capital “M”. Despite Northern Iowa’s and Southern Wisconsin’s farmland, with right angle section lines, property lines, and related roads, there are lots of curves in the river valleys and among the bluffs, and a ton of steeply-rolling grades. Giving control to Garmin in curvy mode means you need to have plenty of time, be good on gas, and largely indifferent as to the types of roads, since some are pretty low on the maintenance/paving food chain. Also, not mind the occasional farm implement taking up about 15/16 of the roadway. But it led me through a lot of pretty and interesting countryside. Touring Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Wisconsin, was interesting if you’re into arts and sciences.

Eight of us met in Pike’s Peak State Park in NE Iowa, across the river from Prairie du Chien, and headed for St Paul on the GS Gypsy Tour. In a roundabout way. The focus was on farm roads, both paved and unpaved, and the “ORV” trails (offroad vehicles - snow mobiles and ATVs) that prevail in the forests. Very early in the day our route encountered a washed-out bridge. Conveniently, the pedestrian bridge a couple of hundred meters away and across a farmer’s property (they weren’t home), was just wide enough for a GS.

The GS ride was not too difficult but it made the trip to St Paul mileage-intensive... sort of like selecting “curvy roads” mode.

We arrived at the MOA Rally in St Paul Tuesday evening and separated to find camping spots, of which there were many. It was cool one day and rainy another at the rally; afterwards, a little on the warm and sticky side. Overall, the rally was very enjoyable and I’d recommend it if you haven’t been to one. Nice people, well organized, good seminars, tons of bikes, and a bunch of exhibitors – the vendors you may always be looking at in the “Owner’s News” and on-line. Nice to talk to them face-to-face and see some of their merchandise. Other highlights included visiting with Hub Hubbell (sic) and the Dynamic Duo (Joeeric); seeing the beautiful antique, vintage, and classic bikes; watching BMW Performance Center instructors do the GS obstacle course; and, riding an S1000R from the BMW demo fleet. One of the leaders of the group to which I was assigned was an acquaintance from Houston, who kindly separated a couple of us from the group and led a spirited ride. I hadn’t appreciated its shift assist, which would put a smile on anyone’s face:  Accelerate, forget about backing off the gas, who needs a clutch - just pop it up through the gears!

The return trip was as successful as the northern leg – no serious incidents, no I-states, no rain, not much heat until approaching Central Texas. One highlight going both ways was “discovering” (sort of like Columbus did) the beautiful Ouachita National Forest area in SE Oklahoma: Forest, lakes, rivers, hills, state parks, curvy roads, and only slightly over 400 miles from Austin. Seems like it could be a good spot for a club trip sometime.    

I don’t listen to music when riding, preferring to concentrate on the road, observe unique customs and behaviors, and generally ponder the meaning of life. Extensive travel has allowed me to learn some things… but there are still many, many baffling questions that I haven’t yet figured out:

  • In deep back-woodsy communities and clusters of homes (some on wheels, some not), why is there always something burning? Smoke to ward off evil spirits?
  • Is Lutheran really the predominant religion in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as Garrison Keillor suggests, or is it simply “Beer”?  
  • Why do floppy hats and cigars suddenly appear when [old] men camp out? Ancient tribal ritual?
  • Where does “farkle” end and “Beverly Hillbillies” begin?
  • Is a GS Adventure with big wheels, square-edged tires, and a rigidly-attached sidecar really a GS Adventure?  
  • Why are there more silos than people in Iowa?   

Enjoy the ride!



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