August 30, 2003

Grand Forks, ND -
Duluth, MN

319 miles

5:13 driving time




When I was a sprout growing up in Iowa, I had a paper route. Seven days a week, in all variations of Iowa's miserable snow, cold and rain, I faithfully delivering the Des Moines Register to 73 satisfied customers (well, 72 after Mrs. Evans passed away.) All for the princely sum of $7 a week.  Big money at the time.  (I hope my son Zach is listening to this.)

Now the Des Moines Register had aspirations that every man, woman, child, dog, cat and domestic rodent residing in Iowa should be a subscriber to their fine rag. I was constantly bombarded with stupid promotions that alternated between incenting me to sign up new subscribers, or threatened me with the loss of my paper route if I didn't drum up some new customers. If I found five new subscribers, for example, I might be able to claim a grand prize; typically, something to keep me from freezing my fanny off while delivering papers: long johns, kerosene-powered hand warmers that only occasionally caused your jacket pocket to go up in flames, snow boots, and mufflers the size of Nebraska. In fact, the marketing suits back in the Des Moines home office wanted every paperboy to spend one night of the week (in addition to the night already spent collecting $0.65 from each of the current subscribers) cold-calling every house with the unmitigated gall to be a non-subscriber. We were to DEMAND that they subscribe.  Since they lived on our route, it was our inalienable right that they subscribe. That's a lot of pressure on a twelve-year-old!

Like all paperboys, I had a pitch-book that I carried with me while doing my marketing calls. Even today this pitch-book would be prized by the most savvy and experienced telemarketers. I recall things like: If your prospective subscriber says they don't get a paper because they have glaucoma and can't read, counter with: Well, I'm sorry to hear that, but what about having the paper available for your guests who might be visiting? And don't forget all the other uses for the paper - do you have a pet?

I'm telling you all of this because I have a enduring admiration for people who are good at selling strangers stuff they don't want or need. Take last night for example. We were at the Village Inn for dinner. As I entered the restaurant I spied the opening pitch emblazoned on a large banner in the waiting area: A free slice of pie if your wait person doesn't ask you if you'd like a slice, valid noon-10PM every day.

As dinner wrapped up, I saw Rochelle (our wait person) coming from a mile away - she was going to pop the big question.

"I hope you left room for a piece of pie?"

Spring-loaded, I groaned in mock disgust.  I was attempting to be funny by acting like I had lost my chance at a free piece of pie.  Gizmo, being the savvy guy he is, bought time to do something more creative by asking for an explanation of the promotion. This time paid off - he decided to see if he could exploit a technicality in the free-offer wording.

Gizmo found a loophole -- "Well Rochelle, you really didn't offer us a piece of pie - you asked if we had room for a piece of pie.  They're really not the same thing.  I want my free pie."  Gizmo said this with a straight face.

In the ensuing conversation we learned that some customers have been known to lie about not being pitched, and that all free pie slices come out of the wait person's check. (Perhaps the Village Inn marketing department has someone who used to work for the Des Moines Register.) So Gizmo relented in his argument; he didn't want to act like a heel by going to the mat on his point.  Rochelle, we also learned, is called Rocky privately by her boyfriend, and we had a very nice conversation. Any pie would be proud to have Rocky pitch it. Before the evening was done we had ordered two slices: chocolate cream and apple pie (with a scoop of vanilla.) They were great. And neither of us typically order dessert. Rocky had earned the pie sale.

We had the last laugh though. We cornered the manager and got her to make up a new name tag with Rochelle's private boyfriend-only name. Then we had the manager fetch her, acting like we had complained that the wait staff had failed to offer us any pie.  Rocky briefly looked worried, then got the joke (and a new nametag).  Rocky vowed revenge, so I'm afraid we can't go back to the Village Inn.

Unfortunately, we didn't have our cameras with us so we didn't get a picture of Rocky, so this picture of the Village Inn and your imagination will have to suffice. First rule of photography: always carry a camera.

Gizmo says I take way too long writing these reports, so I'm going to let the pictures below (and the gallery which has been very popular) speak for itself. We had a wonderful riding day. Pleasant low-70's temperatures, fine Midwest back roads and friendly people.  Speaking of friendly people, we're looking forward to seeing the Jerks tomorrow.

Climax, Minnesota.  I'll have ten bushels of wheat please, and could you check my oil too?

The steeds ridden by the studs, needing a wash

These signs mark a route following the Mississippi River.  A potential Whizmo and Gizmo tour route?  Stay tuned ...

Morning riding across the pancake-flat Red River valley

This is the Mississippi River near its headwaters.  Really.

We enjoyed breakfast at the Northgate Cafe near Lake Itasca, Minnesota.  We understand that the owner of the cafe is retiring and this was the last day of business.  Our loss.

I'm photographing water towers again

A woody PT Cruiser.  It looked lame on my parent's '67 Ford Country Squire, and it looks just as lame now.

A Jerk in Zerkel

Now, for the faithful four or five people who actually read this reports (you know who you are), please sit down. I have heart-breaking news. Whizmo and Gizmo are disconnecting from the collective for a few days as we travel up to Lake Saganaga to spend time with the Jerks. Even Gizmo's gizmos can't get us connected to the net from this remote lake and there is no AC to power computers. So no reports for a few days.  Expect us to return to this same place mid-next-week, probably Wed evening.  And note below that we're kicking off a big new contest to keep you busy, so we're expecting some great things!

Have a great Labor Day weekend. Thanks for keeping us company!

Wow, lots of clever entries for yesterday's caption contest #3.  We were laughing pretty hard over here in W&G headquarters atop the downtown Duluth Holiday Inn.  Several entries went with the Jap Crap theme.  Lots of clever word play with BM ... W.  "When you gotta go you gotta go" was a popular theme.  Eric Bero whined with "Puzzles about palindromes make me feel like a crappy rider", which really didn't qualify as a caption, but made us chuckle nonetheless.

We're awarding a tie in the Honorable Mention category to Ed Wicinski of Gurnee IL for "RV for sale.  Great for long hauls.  Runs cheap on your own GAS. Toilet paper trailer available. Call BR-549 and ask for Nomar Skidmarks." and Tom Brady of Wading River NY for  "The first motorcycle to allow you to come and go at the same time".

We're awarding Most Verbose to Joe Ozinski (what, again?) for "Even the 1975 BowelMovenWagen (more graciously referred to by most owners as simply BMW) did not use conventional telescopic forks. Flush with research and development funds at the time, BMW introduced the telelever front suspension which provided outstanding anti-dive, and fortunately, poor anti-squat characteristics. This is an example of a baseline model, note the absence of paper holder and decorative crescent moon vents. Not considered a wise investment, even a well maintained example like this is typically not value retentive."  etc, etc, etc..

But the judges' difficult choice for Best Caption was finally narrowed down to ..

I don't even want to know where the brakes are

Congratulations to Peter Ellis of Snohomish Washington!  Instead of the usual crummy t-shirt, we're actually going to award you this very scooter!  No, just kidding. 

And here's what you're really waiting for ... Contest #4:

 W&G Contest  #4   

Help Whizmo & Gizmo Make Ends Meet!


Ok folks, we've tried everything to make money off this online motorcycle touring gig. We've shamelessly asked for handouts. We've responded to ads wanting to buy our web domain name, asking only a modest $1.5M. We've responded to email from various Nigerian dignitaries who need us to laundry money inconveniently stranded in overseas bank accounts. We've developed our own snappy ad copy for the various products and services we know, love, and use every day. We've even enlisted your help to develop our pitch so large corporate conglomerates would be compelled to make Whizmo & Gizmo the centerpiece of their advertising campaigns, exemplified by last year's W&G Grand Prize Winner seen below. 


Alas, nothing seems to be working.  We're still paying for this self-indulgent foolishness out of our very own pockets.

We're thinking that perhaps we need to lower our expectations and start smaller. Instead of going directly for that lucrative, national long-term deal with a major player like the Weather Channel, maybe we need to sell a few simple things on our own to get the ball rolling. Heck, we're sure that Jesse James of Monster Garage fame sells more West Coast Chopper t-shirts and hats than choppers.

So what Whizmo & Gizmo-branded merchandise could we sell? That's where you come in.

T-shirts are old school, and besides, we've stupidly been giving them away for free. We need new ideas here. We need your help to come up with some items we can sell on our web site. Ideally, they should be cheap to make, yet carry an special aura allowing us to charge ridiculous prices. Let your imagination run wild!

We'll keep this contest open for a few days while we're off playing with the Jerks, giving you plenty of time to adequately research and pitch your best ideas. With your help, we might finally be on The Road to commercial success!

We need your name and email address to uniquely identify the winning entry.  Whizmo & Gizmo swear on a stack of balding tires that we would never, ever share your email address with anyone for any purpose.  We just need to know who the winners are!