Saturday, July 9, 2011

Holiday Road

It's something I've wanted to do for a quite awhile. Take a long solo motorcycle trip and cover a lot of miles in a short period of time.  The 4th of July holiday weekend presented the perfect opportunity.  And, I had the perfect destination...St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Well, maybe St. Cloud Minnesota is not really a perfect destination.  But it's where an old friend from my radio days lives, and I thought it would be a good idea to do a "pop in."  Everybody loves a "pop in."  The plan was to leave Sunday and be back Tuesday evening.  That's over 1300 miles in two and a half days.  I was hoping my ambition did not exceed my abilities.
Things were looking up from the start when, less than 100 miles into the trip, I spotted a girl sunbathing on a platform in the middle of a small pond just a few hundred yards off the interstate.  I thought to cool it is that this chick is out there all by herself just soaking up the sun seemingly unconcerned with the traffic racing past, and paying no attention at all to the horns honking in appreciation.  It would have been one of those road trip memories to look back on occasionally and smile.  I said it would have been.  But, today's edition of the Rapid City Journal snatched that fond memory from me and smashed it into a thousand tiny pieces.

It was a mannequinn!  Nothing more than an elaborate hoax.  Look for it at mile marker 71 the next time you travel east on I-90 out of Rapid City, South Dakota.  


An observation:  Have you noticed that a lot of the old cool road names are being replaced by street numbers.  What was once Crooked Creek Road is now 177th Street.  Shuffling Duck Road is now 188th Street, and Mean Old Woman Road is now 284th Street?  How do you have a 284th Street 5 miles out of a town with a population of only 700?  OK, so I made up Shuffling Duck and Mean Old Woman roads, but you know what I mean.  Some things should just be left as they are.


After the first 400 wind-blown miles it was time to stop for the night and grab a bite to eat and a beer.  Luckily, my motel was right across the street from a rather inviting little place called the Red Eye Bar. 
There were a few motorcycles parked out front and some people outside talking and enjoying a fair summer evening, so this seemed like a place where I could just fit right in.  I walked over, and as I reached the front door it was blocked by some ugly dudes wearing vests displaying the name of their motocycle club.  To be specific - the name was "Sons of Silence."  I don't know how well you may be informed regarding motorcycle gangs, but the Sons of Silence make the Hells Angels look like Erik Von Zipper and the Ratz.   Now what was I going to do?  I was sort of committed.  I couldn't turn around and try to walk away for fear of hearing a raspy voice growl "What's wrong? You too good for us?"  So I just turned sideways, squeezed by and walked inside hoping not to find more of these guys and a bar fight in progress.  Much to my relief, there were only a few regular people scattered around inside and a very cool bartender who assured me there would be no trouble and proceeded to give me a 2 for 1 deal right up front.  Nice.  By the time I left the bar the group outside had dwindled and I was able to escape without incident.  Nothing more to see here.  Let's move along.


Another observation:  While pumping gas at a travel stop convenience store along the way, I noticed a family having lunch on the tailgate of their pickup which was parked on pavement in the hot sun.  At the intersection nearby was a sign that read "City Park 4 Blocks."  What were these people doing eating out of a cooler in the back of their truck with cool grass and shade only 4 blocks away?  Makes you wonder sometimes, doesn't it?


Minnesota is pretty.  Most of the towns I rode through were clean and looked prosperous.  Made me wonder why the state is broke.  Even the rest stops were closed.  At one point during the conversation with my friend I made a comment about how many lakes I had seen along the way, and he reminded me that the Minnesota state slogan is "Land of 10,000 Lakes."  He also commented on the fact that so many lakes in his state have water that is murky and green from all of the agricultural waste run-off, while our lakes in the Black Hills are crystal clear and clean.  It's true, and it's another example of how fortunate those of us are who live here.


It's fun to be a tourist, even when it's relatively close to home.  The 1880 Town is a tourist trap for sure.  But it's an awesome tourist trap!
A nice sight for a weary traveler.

The Train Car Dining Room was pleasant step back in time.

A scene you won't see in a city of concrete and steel.       


And in conclusion...Henry, South Dakota  is "Home of the Owls."  I saw it on a sign at the entrance to town.  I can picture the cheerleaders on Friday nights in the Fall " .....2 - 4 - 6 - 8. Who do we appreciate? Owls! Owls! Owls!"

Oh, one more thing.  I passed many roadside fireworks stands on this trip, but the one I remember was called "Kaboomski's."  Great name. 


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