Day 3
June 7th, 2007
Big Mayre State Park
Near Albert Lee, Minnesota

I was awaken on this morning by song birds playing in the nearby trees, they were singing and jumping from branch to branch.  I opened my eyes and stared at the top of the Eureka at the same time tugging my sleeping bag up to my chin.  "Dang I slept good, time to get up already?"  I reached over for my Timex Ironman-"yep 6am, time to get moving."

The morning was partly cloudy and cool.  Looked like a good day for riding.  I took a hike to the bath facilities (which were quite nice for a state park) to wash my face.

My phone was fading so I got out my portable DC charger, to bring it back up to 3 bars.  I was moving a little slow today, but I was packed and ready by 7am.  I have a custom route to pick up west of the Twin Cities, I didn't care how I got there, so when the Zumo asked if I wanted to start at the beginning I hit yes for the auto route.   After it calculated I checked it; I-35 through the Twin Cities, what I figured. Distance to start?  145 miles.
I rode out of the park on the long, downhill county road to the highway.  From there I-35 was just a few blocks.  I jumped on the northbound ramp, moved into the flow, and prepared to put down this hundred or so miles of slab riding.  "Not stopping till I get this over with," was my thought.

It was still windy, but I was riding north and it made for a smooth quiet ride.  Because it was cool I went with the leather AGV sport gloves, and zipped the vents of the Roadcrafter.  Temp was 62 degrees.

It is on a tour like this my choices of motorcycles prove me right.  Sport touring motorcycles, particularly the Honda ST and the BMW RT, show their value when asked to do a mix of things like leaning and touring.  Most of the time I ride back roads, and the bikes lean and carve well, then I might have a morning like this one, a quick jaunt on the interstate, where the Honda is quite adept at ticking off miles in vast quantities at 90 mph.  The ST is fast and reliable, and does many things well.  It is a pleasure to ride.

The interstate was mostly straight and fast.  I stayed behind a few rabbits, but saw no state troopers.  It still seemed like a long ride to the Twin Cities.

Nearing the suburbs the GPS moved me in position for a run through the city.  I was at rush hour, but traffic moved steady after a few merge back ups at Bloomington.  Closer to the center of the city, the lines grew longer, and the back ups slower.  I idled on through before breaking out on I-94 west.  It was not a fun morning in the Twin Cities.

I finally arrived at my exit and was happy to leave I-94.  A few miles later I found a large con store at U.S. 10 and SR 5, for my morning break.  I took out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and washed it down with a Mountain Dew while sitting at a outside picnic table.  I called Debbie and she advised it still hadn't rained and the temp yesterday was 99 degrees and looking to go to 100 humid degrees today.  I didn't tell her the forecast high for today for the area I was going was 69.

The 140 miles this morning had not been fun, but I was sure things would improve now that I was leaving I-94 behind.

While sitting at the table a Triumph Bonneville rider came in for a break.  He was on a day trip to somewhere north in the state, but his resume had several longer trips.  His riding style was true to his motorcycle-kind of basic.  No fancy riding gear or gizmos.  I checked his bike over and saw several places where it was leaking oil.  The odometer showed 38,000 miles.  I've forgotten what year model, but it was a 90 something.
​I found this rider near Clear Lake.  We rode together 
several miles

His was dazzled when I told him I left Alabama 2 days ago, and awed by the high tech Honda, with its GPS, adjustable windscreen (he played with that a long time) hard luggage, and state of the art shaft drive and FI.  He looked to my riding gear on the table.  He wondered about the fancy Arai, and Aerostich, and asked, "so what kind of gloves are those with padded knuckles?"  "AGV."  He held up a pair of old deer skins from Wal Mart, the kind with the red tab closure and said, "this is what I use."  Not knowing how to respond I said, "well yeah, those are good gloves."

"Look here, bro I gotta get on the road, I'm going up to the border before turning west."

"Are you going through Brainerd?"

"I dunno lemme check the GPS."  I scrolled to map view.  "Matter fact I am."

"Well we can ride together, I'm goin that way."

I really didn't want to do that but I was kind of stuck.  "Well ok."

When it was time to go he fired up the baffleless Triumph, and I followed him out of the parking lot.  We continued on 10 for a few miles and then turned north on SR 25.  A uninteresting road through some so so landscape.

We sped along till we came upon line of 3 cars mulling around 60 mph.  The road was straight with a good line of sight, and the vehicles will be easy to pass once opposing traffic clears.  

The last car came by, and I could see the 650 Bonneville lurch and smoke as he dropped a gear to begin the pass.  I rolled the throttle on the ST, and before I knew it I was on the tailpipe of the struggling Triumph.  I could see cars on the line ahead, still far away, but we needed to get on around.  The Triumph was doing all it could do, but I HAD to go for the sake of my own safety.  I shot by the 3 cars and Triumph in a heartbeat, came back over, and disappeared in the distance.  I never saw the rider again.

SR 25 was just a road, nothing special about it, but had a few too many cars for my liking.

The sign in Genola said the population was 71, but I didn't believe it.  Don't get me wrong, it's NO Chicago, but more then 71 folks live there.

On my way to lunch in Brainerd I stopped at 66 con store and topped off the tank.  My route carried me through business district where I saw the Sawmill Inn cafe, located just across the street from a water tower that looked like a medieval castle, but I don't think it was functional.

The sign read parking in rear so I went around the block and entered through the back door.  A man sat me down at a booth facing Main Street, from my vantage point I could see all the comings and goings in this busy little town.

I was wearing a Prattville Fire Department long sleeve shirt, and the young waitress commented, " so you're in town with the other firefighters?"

"What others?"

"The guys in town for some kind of school."  In a perfect, no short cut sounds, or slang Minnesota dialect.  They speak so perfectly up here.

"Oh no m'am, I retired from the fire service a couple of years ago.  I'm just passin through on my way north, I'm not from around here."

"ohhh ok, I thought you might be with them."

"you say that like you're disappointed"

"well several of them ate supper in here last night, and they were cute"

"baby lemme tell ya, STAY away from firefighters, they ain't nuttin but trouble"

"I can take care of myself"

"Well ok, but I warned ya"

"Noted.  So what do you want to drink?"

Waiting for my soup and chicken, I made notes, edited pictures, and checked the weather.  I called Ken Hendrix in Texas for the latest.  "Hey Ken what's it lookin like in the Dakotas?"  "Heavy line of rain movin east, lots of red stuff on the radar. Probably a hundred miles west of you"  I was going north for a few more hours before turning west.  My hope was to get above it before stopping for the night.  "OK thanks bro."

My final goal for the day was a state park in North Dakota called Icelandic, just west of the state line.  I still had a long ride ahead, plus a detour to the Headwaters, but the days are long this time of year, and I was sure I still had plenty of time before dark.  

I left Brainerd on SR  371, a crowded, no fun road that leads to Bemidji, it crosses several lakes and brushes up against their shorelines for several miles.  The riding was not good because I was tied up in long lines of SUVs pulling boats and RVs.  When you get near water, expect it.

Cloudy skies closed in on me, and I ran into a few sprinkles.  The spiraling edge of the approaching storm I presumed.  

At last I turned off 371 for SR 200 and moved in to the Mississippi Headwaters.  I have no reason to be here other then I wanted to SEE where this Great River begins.  It has been sung and written about since the land was settled by Native Americans.

Traffic around Paul Bunyan land was aggravating, but I stayed the course.  I ran 200 to U.S. 71 then U.S. 2.  I followed the GPS to CR 7.  I plotted this course to take me as close as possible to the headwaters spot.  I wasn't for sure how close that would be, because looking at a software map in your study is not exactly like being here.  

A few miles after turning on CR 7 I hit the checkered flag noting I'd arrived at my destination.  I was exactly on the bridge I found in my mapping software.  A sign on the shoulder noted, "Mississippi River."  Without good software and the preciseness of GPS, finding this spot would have been a lot harder.
​The "Father of Waters" intersects with CR 7 at this small
bridge.  Here,  the Great River can be crossed in about 10

Here, at this spot, the Great River is nothing more then a shallow, narrow creek, spilling out of some wetlands.  I could wade across it with no problem.  I contemplated the scene before me, and what it meant to lay eyes on the headwaters, and then relay that image back to New Orleans and the Gulf where the river is a couple of miles wide.  I threw a rock across the river, so I can tell folks, "I threw a rock across the Mississippi River."  I took a few pictures and got on my way.  I felt good about about my accomplishment.  Not a handful of folks can say they've seen the beginning and the end.  What that gets me I don't know.  
​Throwing the proverbial rock across the Mississippi.
It was still a long way to North Dakota, and skies were growing darker.  I had a separate custom route to Icelandic so I pulled it up and the auto route took me to the start just a few miles away.  The GPS informed me it is 209 miles to the campground.

My route north was SR 89, an empty road with little to see.  Trees began to die out and the landscape started changing to the plains, and prairie.  Skies were growing darker and the air much cooler as the front closed in.
The miles ticked off slowly as I crossed over into the Indian lands of the Red Lake Reservation.  The roadway turned west and I rode along the banks of the lake for several miles.  It was lonely riding, and the now overcast skies added to the mystery of what was ahead.  

To the west, the threatening skies of the approaching storm intimidated me.  Now I was in a strong headwind, and growing cold.  I glanced down at the temp gauge; a chilly 50 degrees. 

I was running at 65 mph, and could easily get away with going much faster, but the tree line was close to the highway and I feared a deer jumping me at the last second. At 80 mph I'd have little time to react, but at 60-65, I might have a chance.  I scanned the shoulders of both sides as much as the roadway ahead.  I've learned what to look for to tip me off one is nearby, even if hidden.  I have seen 100s of deer over the years, and not even a close call.  I call that more than luck.  But I have to be right 100% of the time, all it takes is the ONE you don't see and you're down.

I hadn't seen a single vehicle one way or another in a long time.  These 100 or so miles were some of the most depressing I ever put down.

My reserve light was on, and I was glad to see a the only store in Grygla had gas.  I was at last off the reservation.  Grygla consisted of the aforementioned store, a post office and few buildings with tin roofs joined by peeling trim.

The skies were dark and cold looking, and the wind rattled the few trees and bushes.  If I hadn't of known better I would have guessed it to be January instead of June.  "Gawd this place is cold."  I was chilled pumping gas and my hands trembled on the steel trigger of the nozzle.

I went inside to call home.  "So where ya at?"  "Small town in North Minnesota, what's the temp in Bama?" 

"About 96, why you ask?"  "Just wunderin."

Before turning over the 1300 I broke out the lined gloves and wool sweater from the left saddlebag.  I checked all the vents and made sure the collar was snapped.  I was pretty sure I would run into rain soon, and wanted to be ready.  

For the heck of it I checked all the info I had available to me from the ST's cockpit.  Elevation 600 or so feet, temp 46, time 5 pm something, miles covered so far today over 400.  The GPS directed me out of the small group of buildings due north on SR 89, exposing me to a savage crosswind.  I was much happier dealing with it as headwind.

I was on the western edge of Eastern America forests and greenery.  Out to my left stood the vast open prairies of the Dakotas, and beyond that Eastern Montana, and still further the Rocky Mountains.  On my right side lay green ground cover, trees, and thick underbrush. Funny how landscapes can suddenly change.

A few miles later the rains came, with still higher winds.  My route called for me turn west at CR 6, and when the turnoff came I timidly made the turn.  "Man I'm gonna be heading right into the thick of this."  There was nothing on CR 6 that even looked like it could offer protection.  In the staggering headwind, my speed dropped to 50 mph, and mpg plummeted to the mid 30s.  Fortunately it wasn't raining all that hard, but it was bad enough.

I struggled to the intersection of CR 6 and SR 32, I'd had enough.  I wasn't going to be able to get any further west without taking a beating and too much risk.  Time to fold.  I called up lodging on the GPS to find the nearest motel to be in a town called Roseau, about 25 miles north.  My wet gloves left imprints on the Zumo screen.

Leaving my custom route to North Dakota I followed SR 32 north to U.S. 11.  I was cold and wet and all I wanted was to get off the road.  The wind was relentless, and still battered me around.  Finally making it to Roseau, I stayed with the GPS to the Motel Roseau, I easily identified it as a former Super 8 Motel, that the franchise must've abandoned a year or 2 ago.

Before making a final decision I wanted to check out the rest of the town.  It was only 6pm but the dark skies had forced on street lights and other nocturnal lighting.  I rode north 4 more blocks in the wind and rain, and found the first motel I came to still the best choice. 

I went back to the Motel Roseau and was glad to check in the 42 dollar room.  I unloaded the ST in the rain and plopped my gear on the extra bed.  A cafe was attached to the motel and looked looked busy, a good sign.
The Roadcrafter and gloves were damp but everything else was ok.  I hung them out to dry and walked back down to the lobby.  "Look here, what kinda of place is it where ya gotta cut the heat on in June?"  I called out to the desk clerk as I stuck a dollar bill in the coke machine.  "You have the heat on?"  "Heck ya, its 41 degrees outside and the weather guesser on TV said it was gonna be in the 30s tonight."  "Well its called Minnesota."
Back at the room I took a hot shower to knock the chill off, and got dressed for supper at the next door cafe.  I went back past the lobby and saw the nerdy looking male desk clerk had been relieved by an attractive young blonde lady.  

As I strutted by all showered and cleaned up I said, "look here baby, hold all my messages, I'll be out for the evening."   Just like the rich guys did in the old days, before cell phones, emails, and instant messaging.
She looked up, "excuse me?"

Trying to sound all sophisticated I repeated,

"Yes pardon me, but I'll be dining in the establishment next door, kindly hold my communications for my return."

Too young to remember any Gregory Peck movies she didn't know what to say. 

"well if anybody comes by looking for you, I'll tell them your next door."

"That'll be good"

A waitress in long flaxen braids dropped off my menu and water and came back for my order.  "yeah sweetie bring me the fried pork chops, and baked potato."  I'm not suppose to be eating fried pork chops, but I was on vacation and not training.

Two crusty old truck drivers sat a booth away from me, one wore glasses that looked like a dusty window.  He spoke to me.  "Not from around here.?"  "No from Alabama, that's my bike in front of the motel.  Storm shut me down early today."  If you want to stick out, go to Minnesota with a southern accent.

I brought the zumo with me to check things out.  I was 80 miles short of where I wanted to be.  I'd have to make it up the next day.  It will add miles to what was a already planned 500+ mile day.  "I'll have to get on the road early and pick up the pace if I want to make Malta, Montana."

It was still raining outside the window when my pork chops arrived.  The waitress looked at the zumo and asked, "is that a TV?"

Supper was good, after which I did some journaling, checked pictures and messages, and thought about the next day's ride.

Back in the room Weather Channel reported a tornado or 2 south of me.  "Dang, I guess I got off lucky today."  Local TV said it will be cool and sunny on the morrow.

I set the Ironman's alarm for 5:30am, turned off the lights but left the tv on.  I clicked about 5 channels before heavy eyes took over, forcing me to hit the power button.  I was glad to be in a motel room instead of my tent on this night.  It was still nasty outside with the wind and rain.