CHAPTER 6c: Minnesota and Missouri
Saturday started at the Super 8 St Cloud after a solid, though short, sleep; overcast, but no big deal. Weather report said no rain. Saddled up and started northwest. This was planned to be my longest day, and I was ready for it.
Bike is cruising, I feel comfortable, temperature is good, and the podcast is a story about a woman who attended her ex-boyfriend’s wedding so she could stand up during the part where you "speak now or forever hold your peace". Checked my mirrors to see some powerful blue and red flashing lights behind me.
Pulled onto the shoulder and motioned that I wanted to take off my helmet. The young man in the sharp uniform with his Smokey Bear hat nodded.
Minnesota State Policeman: “How you doing this morning?
Me: “Great, up until a minute ago.”
“Know how fast you were going?
“Not really. It’s pretty empty out here with four lanes and a big grass median.”
“I clocked you at 83 …
“ … and you didn’t notice me for a minute.
“Sorry, I was listening to a podcast and this lady is going to stand up in the wedding and say how her ex-boyfriend shouldn’t get married.”
“Uh huh. Where you headed?
Look of confusion. “And where is Atlanta, Minnesota?
“Ummmm…”, as I walked to the handlebars, “Google says 84 more miles up this road.”
“Meeting somebody there?
“Yeah, an internet buddy from South Dakota that rode with me in Arkansas three years ago.”
“Well, OK then
,” in that accent made famous by the movie “Fargo”.
“I’m riding to all 16 Atlantas in the US, and I should touch them all by Sunday.”
“I see. License please
,” and he disappeared into his Ford Interceptor, unimpressed by my quest.
I pulled my spreadsheet from the topbox – hands always visible – and showed it to him.
“You want this copy? I’m a little OCD so I still have four spares.”
“No, you keep it.
He came out a minute later with a nicely printed sheet, WARNING
printed large on the top line.
“You slow down, OK? I don’t want to see you again, and I’m on duty until 4 pm
“Yes, sir, and thanks.”
Nice guy. Hope he gets a good story out of my excuse.
Within a few minutes, AbercrombieFJR
called: “I’m at Casey’s in Lake Park. It’s where you’ll turn right to get to Atlanta.”
Good thing he called, because we were already at the turn.
Of course the Senas wouldn’t sync. After wasting fifteen minutes, I said, “Why don’t you call me on the phone? Your Sena talks to your phone, which talks to my phone, which talks to my Sena. That will work as long as we have cell service.”
We rode north for a few miles on County Road 7, alone on the prairie with nothing in sight except black soil and a few trees against the far, far horizon. As we approached the turn to 330 Street – hilarious that it’s called 330 Street
because there's nothing around but farmland – we both could see the large white church beautifully illuminated by the morning sun, framed by big green oak trees with a background of black sky.
330 Street was a muddy road, with puddles here and there. AbercrombieFJR
said something like, “Glad I brought the Super Tenere.” I said something like, “No sweat, brother! I got this,” which is NOT AT ALL
what I was thinking.
My upset, red-lining, mind was thinking, “To hell with this. I’ve ridden for 1,750 miles only to risk dropping the bike or crashing, in a place where it will take all ***** day for a wrecker to get here. And if the bike gets damaged, how ****** much is it going to cost to get us home? I’m a ******** moron.”
Well, we got there. It was a short, but memorable, adrenaline-raising adventure.
(The sign says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also." Despite the occasional tirade, Uncle Hud is not a heathen.)
Just prior to snapping the pic, we had a nice conversation with a farmer who was bringing flowers to his parents’ graves. Then I realized the adventure wasn’t over. I had to get the FJR out of there
She’s a good girl, my FJR, and I suppose she prefers to fall on pavement rather than mud. Her well-worn back tire wiggled a few times, but we reached the asphalt and rejoiced! Nobody will ever convince me that Dunlop RoadSmart 3 tires don’t grip in the wet.
We rode on little bitty county roads between Atlanta, Minnesota, and Fargo. Almost an hour, past rows upon rows of tiny iridescent green shoots emerging symmetrically from soil as black as my ex-wife’s heart. Trees appeared every now and then, surrounding a house or barn, protecting it from what must be fierce winds on this flat, flat prairie.
We got to the Fargo airport, where I had planned for this pic. AbercrombieFJR said he’d only seen the gravestone in Google Street View. We found it immediately. That’s AbercrombieFJR
in the photo. No southern rider wears black gear in the summertime.
Roger Maris hit a lot of home runs in 1961, setting an MLB record that stood until Hank Aaron came along. I was a very young boy, listening to baseball on the radio, and marveling at what he did, even if sticklers insist the record should carry an asterisk. By all accounts, Mr Maris was a good guy, too; never complaining that he wasn't inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. He still isn't.
led me through a serious road construction site to get to the Veterans Memorial Bridge over Fargo’s Red River. I was surprised at the lack of flags for Memorial Day, but maybe that was because of the road construction.
This bridge is a conventional ‘soulless bridge’ that has nice brickwork and stately columns to dress it up. That's appropriate: this bridge is a major river crossing, and marks the connection between Minnesota and North Dakota. The folks responsible for its aesthetics should be congratulated: Job Well Done.
Turns out our buddy AbercrombieFJR is the honest-to-goodness, real-life Mayor of Abercrombie, North Dakota. Since the only café in Abercrombie is also a bar, this photo of THE MAYOR IN A BAR BEFORE NOON
isn’t worth any blackmail money. Doesn’t he look like a Mayor?
I saddled up and headed south for a dinner date with CraigRegs
in West Des Moines. This was a long stretch of Interstate miles, but it wasn’t boring since this is not my usual topography.
Hills that are steeper than “rolling”, but short – not tall. Crop rows were curved to match to hillsides, unlike the straight-as-an-arrow rows from this morning. Not a lot of livestock, but there were fences and feeder bins, so they must’ve been hiding just over the hilltops.
We turned left a little north of Omaha and set the cruise for an appropriate speed to get us there on time.
There are a lot of windmills in Iowa. A lot. We passed a rest area with one windmill blade mounted vertically, but we were eastbound and the rest area was for westbound vehicles. Those blades are 116 feet tall, almost the size of a ten-story building.
at a Kum-and-Go in Walnut, about 90 minutes west of Des Moines. Tried to sync Senas for 10 minutes. No go, of course. Suggested the same “call me” solution, which worked, of course, and off we went.
Aren’t we the cutest little grey-haired twins in our matching Aerostich one-piece suits?
We arrived in West Des Moines a little after 8 pm, and pulled into a Quizno’s. My host had done some scouting, and realized the Subway where we planned to meet had been demolished. The Quizno’s was next door, served us a nice dinner, and was far better than the blank slab of concrete where the Subway had been. This was a case of West Des Moines’ growth: a Subway restaurant was no longer viable on this valuable piece of real estate.
We took off together, and I had a traveling companion for another hour or so down IA Highway 5. He's a great guy for conversation. Don't miss a chance to ride with him!
peeled off and the drizzle started. (Hope you got home dry, brother!)
It had been drizzling with maybe a bit of light rain by the time my FJR and I got gas in Knoxville, IA, just before the 9:30 pm sunset.
Now it began raining. Really hard. Thunder and lightning. IA 5 goes through the middle of nowhere, and it was dark as could be. No street lights, very few other cars on the highway, and it was raining so hard that the FJR’s bright lights just reflected off the raindrops and made it hard to see anything.
What do you do? There wasn’t anywhere to stop that offered protection, so we just kept going. Dim headlights provided decent illumination for progress at 45 to 50 mph. When the lightning stroked every few minutes, it would light up everything like a flashbulb, and I could see the highway stretch out ahead. So, that was good, in a horror-movie kind of way.
When cars passed me, I could follow their tail lights at 60 to 65 mph. But it was after 9 pm on the Saturday night of a three-day weekend, and most folks were holed up for the night with the TV, a bottle, friend(s), family, or some combination – especially in this weather. So, most of the cars that passed me turned off after I’d followed them for less than 15 minutes, and we slowed to 45 mph again.
Things got a little more interesting when Google said to turn off IA 5 at Moravia, and onto teeny-tiny County Road J3T. Decision time.
Years ago, I realized that there is a point in a Rally Route where the shortest way home also happens to be your original route. In other words, you’ve gotten yourself so far away from home, that there is no “bailout” route. Wherever you are -- where you want to quit -- has no quick way home, except the way you were going to go anyway.
So, “decision time” turned into “realization time”, and we kept heading south through Unionville, Moulton, and Coatsville, hoping for more frequent strokes of lightning or a slackening of the rain. The highway changed names to IA/MO 202, but didn’t change much in terms of anything else.
At 11 pm local, we saw a gas station in Lancaster, MO, with a drive-under roof. We didn’t need gas, but I wanted shelter and didn’t care if that meant blocking the gas pumps. There was nobody on the road anyway. Who’s going to be stopping in for gas and a chat with the third shift guys tonight?
I went inside to pee, and apologized for dripping water everywhere. Bought a small coffee to ward off the wet and chill (thank goodness it wasn’t cold outside!) and spent 15 minutes trying to relax. Opened my weather radar app to see what was in store.
Note the time: 11:10 pm. We are at the blue dot. You can see the orange and yellow and green. Hannibal, MO, in the middle of the pink Severe Thunderstorm Warning area, is where we are headed. Hannibal is still 200 miles away. The weather system is moving from left to right … exactly the same direction we were traveling. The weather was moving at 15-20 mph. We would be moving faster, and catching up to it.
It rained cats and dogs almost constantly. The lightning was still received gladly. About 30 minutes prior to Atlanta, MO, the highway (US 63) changed to four-lane divided, with street lights at major intersections. That made it easier, since I could ride just off the white stripe between lanes and assure myself there was plenty of room to either side if needed.
According to Spotwalla, we got to Atlanta, Missouri, at 18 minutes past midnight. Google Maps was acting up, so I wandered for a few minutes before finding the “official building” Team Strange photo site. Forget the Uncle Hud target photo. Not wasting any energy on that silliness. I was wet, chilled, hungry, and exhausted from anxiety.
The rain stopped as I snapped the photo.
Sorry, but I have no real impression about Atlanta, Missouri. A cop car eased by me two times while I was setting up the photo, and I silently dared him to come ask what I was doing. A Jeep Cherokee circled the block and drove through the little parking area where my bike was illuminating the “photo shoot”. He thought better of disturbing the crazy motorcycle guy, in the rain, at midnight, hanging a flag off the broken gutter trim of the downtown Post Office in Atlanta, Missouri. I would have, too.
Wikipedia estimates the 2017 population of Atlanta, Missouri, as 375 people. I have no idea about the accuracy of that estimate. Perhaps this town will be a stop during the next Hooterville, and everyone can see what it looks like on a sunny day.
We rode south for a few miles, then turned almost due east on US 36. We got to the grungy Super 8 in Hannibal at 1:43 local. I didn’t care about anything except a warm shower and a bed.
Saturday: over 970 miles and far too long in the saddle