Day Six - September 8, 1997
Grand Forks, North Dakota - Ashland, Wisconsin
OK everybody, repeat after me. The correct pronunciation of 'Minnesota' is 'Minne-SOH-ta', as in a small carbonated beverage. MinneSOHta. MinneSOHTA. It's not as if anyone would give you a hard time for pronouncing it like a non-native. The only people nicer than people from MinneSOHta are people from Latteland.
A special note to all of you who have sent anecdotes and antidotes pertaining to insects - there are no insect stories today. Thanks for all of the suggestions about how to deal with them, including changing brands of bike.
We arise at 5:30am in Grand Forks, home to major flooding last year. Remember the scenes on TV? They're still rebuilding the downtown area from the damage. We perform the morning loading ritual and realize that we are going to be riding in fog today.
Several episodes ago, when we rode in the rain, I came to the conclusion that my rain gear strategy was flawed - I put it on too late (after already getting wet) and took it off too early (before conditions have really cleared up. Now any fifth-grader can tell you that fog is actually a cloud on the ground (oh DUH) but somehow my elementary education slipped right out of my bug-splattered head (whoops, I promised no bug reports) and I don't put on my rain boots or gloves. So we're riding in 100% humidity without any actual raindrops, and I'm getting as wet as if we were being sprayed with a hose. Sigh. Here's what it looks like to ride before sunrise in the fog:
It's not bad riding. I decide that the worst part of riding wet is when your hands are wet. I can put up with just about everything else, but wet hands makes it miserable. I remedy this later in the day.
The fog has lifted, and we stop for breakfast in Bemidji at the MaidRite Cafe (since 1926!), home of Paul Bunyan and Babe (not the pig, the ox). Mark has scored another win with his restaurant selection. This is a place we never would have found by accident. It's in the back part of a gas station, conveniently across the street from statues of Paul and Babe. This is classic Americana:
We order breakfast and enjoy a group of elderly Jerks at the counter who clearly gather here on a regular, perhaps daily basis. They're wagering and yelling and hooting and carrying on like they've been coming here since the place opened (1926!), and I'd be willing to bet that they have. Allow me to clarify for those of you new to these musings that 'Jerk' is a term of respect. Mark and I are on a JerkQuest, specifically seeking JerkFest '97 on the shores of Lake Michigan. So when I say someone is a Jerk, I mean that sincerely.
One of the guys on the far side of the counter is wearing a hat that says 'Bemidji Airlines' (yeah, right). Now Mark is a pilot, and he suddenly develops this deep, consuming passion to own this hat. So as we finish breakfast, he ambles over to the gentleman with the cap and inquires as to where he might find such a specimen for himself.
We have a daily contest going now. We count how many people come up and ask us about the bikes. People that express an affinity for Harley Davidson motorcycles, made in America since 1903, score a point for me. Those favoring Mark's brand of motorcycle score a point for him. By the time we leave the MaidRite Cafe, the score is 1-0, Greg's favor, with one no-score event, a guy who owned a BMW.
By Deer River, the temperature is over 75 degrees, rapidly approaching 80 degrees, so it's time for the ritual shedding of the 'stich suits. Mark points out that when we do this each day, there is a chorus of zippers and snaps as we disengage from these really excellent pieces of protective clothing.
Grand Rapids Minnesota, as you probably already knew, is the home of Judy Garland and "The World's Largest Collection of Judy Garland Memorabilia", at least according to the sign. It has everything from her first crib to photos of early performances as part of the Gumm Sisters, a family vaudeville group. A copy of her costume from The Wizard of Oz is here too, right down to the ruby slippers. In front of the building is a section of Yellow Brick Road, dedicated by surviving munchkins. Due to technical glitch, we bring you a photo of Mark and Greg in front of a large fish. Don't ask.
There are basically five things that we stop for during our trek. 1)Fuel 2)Food 3)Pit stops 4)Sleep 5)Pictures of water towers. Mark scores an impressive three of five in Floodwood MN, when we stop for fuel, a pit stop *and* he is perfectly positioned to take a shot of the town's water tower, labeled "Floodwood - Catfish Capital".
And here's a shot of Mark approaching in my rear-view mirror. If you look closely, you can see my Sony digital camera in the upper right corner of the mirror. It has turned out to be very easy to shoot from the bike - I just keep it strapped around my neck and in a jacket pocket.
I have made many references to our Aerostich riding suits, and as we draw closer to Duluth we realize that we are approaching the factory where they were made. We stop to check on their address, and it turns out that we are only a mile away. We stop in to look at the factory and buy some cool Aerostich stuff (like we have any room to carry more stuff). I buy a new pair of really genuinely honestly waterproof riding gloves, we both get shirts, and Mark buys a hat, now that he has a new mission with hats. We take a shot in the factory just to record the moment. Pretty cool, eh Dave?
Darby Williams gave me some advice about clothes when I was planning my inventory. He said "just a pair of jeans, and two t-shirts. Throw 'em away when they've served their purpose." Darby, you were right.
Tonight we are staying at the Hotel Chequamegon ("shuh-WAH-muh-gun") in Ashland, It's a century-old Victorian until a 1955 fire destroyed the original structure, but it was reconstructed authentically. It's a very nice hotel and we had a nice dinner here after a walk around downtown Ashland.
Tomorrow, we land in Michigan, staying overnight in Mackinaw, leaving only one more leg before arriving at JerkFest '97. We allowed one extra day on the way out for unforeseen problems with weather or the bikes. Since we haven't needed it, our plan is to lay up for a day and tour Mackinaw Island in northern Michigan. JerkFest starts Thursday, with JerkMaster Carl officiating this year.