If you get distracted by the pirate parades, gangbangers, crash data, squids terrorizing neighborhoods and freeways, and the usual biker culprits who make motorcyclists look like a pack of useless, irritating noise makers, it’s pretty easy to start thinking about hanging up the Aerostich and helmet and looking into a nice used convertible. Last year was insanely stressful, including a foot injury and a overly complicated move from the Cities to Red Wing, and I ended up doing almost nothing on my motorcycle for the year outside of MMSC classes. I commuted to school during the fall and spring semesters at Southeast Tech in Red Wing, explored a little of my new neighborhood, but I didn’t take a single 200+ mile trip anywhere for all of 2015.
This year started differently with the daily commuting thing booting up in late February and a trip to Colorado hot springs with an old friend in July. I still sort of felt played out. I am 68, so being played out is expected, but this felt a lot like the moment when I’ve decided that there is nothing left to learn from a job or a place and it’s time to move on. Obviously, I have plenty to learn about being a motorcyclist, but my motivation to keep at it is a little shaky.
This time of the year is when I most appreciate owning a motorcycle. After following a farm tour last weekend and futzing with some political stuff early in the week, I needed a head-clearing. So, I piled on the gear and pointed the WR250 toward Welch, where my wife and I had been earlier in the week. Just west of the Highway 61 Treasure Island casino exit is a good place to start on an off-pavement Red Wing road trip: Welch Shortcut Road. The tangle of spots you’ll see at the top left of the map above barely touches on all of the scenic and mildly technical dirt roads that spin off of the Welch Shortcut. A direct route from my house to Welch would be about 13 miles of pavement. My route turned that easy trip into nearly 50 miles.
From there, I took County 7 Blvd to Vasa. Weirdly, after living less than 20 miles from this little village for two years, I’ve never been here. So, I explored it for a few minutes and found someone’s dream factory, studio, workshop, or home for sale. If I were 20 years younger, I’d buy that place just for the vent turbines and the smokestack.
Then I headed west toward Hay Creek. At 320th Street, I was back on gravel followed by a nice section of “minimum maintenance road.” I did not expect this part of the trip to be so scenic, but once I got past Hay Creek I was on another fairly technical minimum maintenance road with no other traffic, perfect weather, and my all time favorite motorcycle between my legs.
Because I was having too much fun, what should have been 30 miles to Wabasha turned into a lot more. The plan was to head for J&J BBQ in Nelson, WI, stuff down a rack of ribs and beat myself up a little north of Stockholm. Sadly, J&J was closed, as it has been every time I’ve tried to hit that place this fall. I’m starting to think the place iis closed indefinately but the sign said the place is now “also closed on Wednesday” along with Monday and Tuesday. I’m just lucky, I guess.
During the farm tour, we discovered a “rustic road” just off of WIAA with several water crossings, a “closed” section, and a decent variety of road surfaces and materials including deep sand, rocks, gravel, and lots of ruts. The first water crossing was slick, shallow, and fairly wide. The second caught me by overconfident surprise when I hit it at about 20 mph in 3rd and got drenched when the deepest spot turned out to be about 2 1/2 feet deep. It didn’t stop me, but it really slowed me down, so that I needed to shift to 1st to plow my way out of the stream. That doused my enthusiasm for speed for the next stream crossing, but it didn’t last. I hit the last one at 20 with my weight back and off of the seat and got a satisfying spray without getting much wetter than I was. This is a one-way traffic road and visibility isn’t that great. It wouldn’t take much overconfidence to discover a car or truck coming in the opposite direction with no options other than to drive off of the road into a swamp. If I were younger and dumber, there were lots of places on that road to catch air, but I didn’t.
Nothing will make you feel older than remembering how brainless you used to be and how much you miss being that innocent/stupid/reckless/brave. As much as I would have liked to hammer this road and take every blind corner sideways and on the throttle, I couldn’t work it up. Remember, my wife was driving our Nissan Frontier up this road just two days ago. It gets travelled, just not much.
Because it was so much fun, I went up and down this road twice before hooking up with the main farm-to-market road and heading back to WI35. From there, home. In all, I managed to put 140 miles on for the afternoon and absolutely remembered why I own motorcycles. Of course, the next day I was down with a cold or flu and could barely move out of my massage chair for the occasional bathroom dash.