July 6, 2005 – Wednesday – Day 11


48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 309 – Total Miles: 2775 – Daily Average: 252.3
2:30PM-9PM (CST) – 6.5 hours
Superior, WI to Fargo, ND
(-stayed at an EconoLodge -) (WI,MN,ND – 15/48)

Okay, okay, so we would have gotten out a little earlier if I hadn’t sat around with that bag of popcorn just looking at the maps this morning.

On our way back from the morning run around 8ish, we chatted with a couple from Greenbay who were about to start a day’s travel with their Goldwing-sidecar set up. It was a sleek red sidecar that had a cover and a lot of amenities. We chatted all about it for about 10 minutes. (A Goldwing is a high-end Honda motorcycle touring bike.)

We got things together and went through the now usual routine of packing up, putting the gear on one of those motel luggage carts and then loading up the Shadow.

We traveled through Superior and over the big bridge into Duluth. The morning was very cool again, and we wondered if they ever had summer in this area. Duluth, from the bridge, appeared to spread generously through a valley and up onto a big hillside. This particular morning the sunshine was splashing up on that hillside and gave the town a glow.

Aerostitch, situated in Duluth, is a premier company that sells gear for motorcyclists. The quality of their stuff is always first rate, and though pricey, it is quality par excellence. Especially their riding outfits. I had made friends with one of the Aerostitch salespeople over the phone, and it was a goal of this trip to meet her and visit the store. I was anxious to see what it would be like. It turns out that the place is in a 100 year old building, has a very unassuming exterior, and has a lot of caring employees. Jim is a sewer there and happened to be going in as we got there. Jim has a lot of touring experience, and had on a catchy colorful t-shirt with a lizard on it advertising his Blind Lizard Motorcycle Club.

Soon, Carla, my friend from the phone calls, came over to us. She had a big smile on her short frame and seemed happy to meet us. She had been reading our journal on line so she was up to speed on our travels. She had been with the company for the last ten years, and seemed proud of that, and how good the company was. She was very helpful with all our questions.

The showroom area wasn’t that huge, but it was sure jam-packed with stuff that motorcyclists would find interesting. From tools to clothing, from books to posters, and from knick-knacks to stickers, the place was one where any motorcyclist would be drooling from the get-go.

Karen had a new pair of motorcycling pants fitted which we’d have sent to us along the way at one of our stops. (Carla mentioned that she never asked for ‘large, short’ sizing, but preferred the more genteel “petite, wide!”) I was disappointed not to find some shorts to wear under my motorcycle pants – the shorts I brought have turned out to be not perfect. Karen and I both agreed that wedgies were not fun, but especially wedgies while riding 250 miles per day! It wasn’t really that bad, but I had hoped to get new shorts and was sorry the ones I wanted were on backorder.

Carla told us about a local guy who had just walked from Iowa to Duluth recently tracing his ancestor’s steps just carrying a bedroll. He was trying to make it historically authentic.

We browsed for a long time, and then Carla gave us a tour of the place – and we got to see where the riding suit material was cut and sewn. Jim was at one of the machines when we came by, and I got a picture of his big smile and wave. The place had three stories and we got to meet most of the employees. There were motorcycle posters and things all around. One t-shirt read, “RIDE. EAT. SLEEP. REPEAT.” and certainly seemed applicable to our trip! We saw a book named “Against the Clock” about some guy who surely has an iron butt, who rode “49 states in 7 days.” The one sign I liked the most though was the positive expression on one bulletin board that read, “People are great. Business is terrific. Life is wonderful.”

We were a bit disappointed that we had missed the owner of the company, but luckily he happened to be arriving for a meeting as we were coming down the old factory’s stairway from our tour. He had just arrived on his rollerblades. Andy Goldfein was a personable guy and he said he wished he had more time to hear about our trip, but that he appreciated us stopping by. I admired his good business sense of putting out a top quality product and having such good customer service. But then any business with those two qualities could not but succeed.

We stayed about three hours! Way too long for our schedule, but it was sure enjoyable, and hey, it’s not like it was around the block from home to visit. Carla showed us out, and Jim came to say good-bye and also brought us a little pocket-sized book of maps, and it was most appreciated.

Duluth has a wonderful park called Canal Park. The main features of the park are the views (of sea and lighthouses and shoreline), the zillions of pigeons which came at the beckoning of tourist-tossed popcorn, and the Aerial Lift Bridge. Instead of opening like a drawbridge so shipping traffic can go through, the center span of the structure lifts. It’s quite dramatic. It was built and first used in 1930, and has a center span which weighs 1,000 tons. It goes up to 138 feet, and has over 5,500 lifts a season.

We had lunch in the park – gobbling down the three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Karen had made from the fixings at the motel this morning. I also got some popcorn at the stand there, and a cherry water ice for us to share.

The scene was pure fun – as kids and adults of all types were throwing popcorn for the greedy and eager-eyed pigeons. The birds swarmed and flocked, and the white dots of them spread along the sky and the ground in varied animation.

Karen had to go back to the bike to get the spare battery, but after doing so captured the festive scene and a bridge lifting to boot. I enjoyed the atmosphere but would have enjoyed it more if the hour had not been so late.

I was sitting waiting for Karen to get the battery, and had yet another case of mistaken occupation identity because of the bright yellow motorcycling outfit. A lady was pedaling by with her young family and pointed over to me and exclaimed to her children, “There’s the man who just got off the submarine!”

It would have been nice to stay, to look through the little museum, and perhaps to scramble up one of the lighthouses, but we only had about six miles on the odometer, and had to put on about 250. We finally pulled out around 2:30pm.

Being more careful than ever about routing, we got three confirmed directions to Route 210, which the map said would take us all the way to Fargo, ND. (We got the idea, although it didn’t pan out, to watch the movie, Fargo, there. That would have been way cool. Especially considering Escanaba, to continue sort of a “Joel and Karen City Cinema Ride!”

A hundred and fifty miles or so, just before Brainerd, a couple was hogging the left hand lane. As we came up to them at a light, they gave us a friendly wave and hi. I murmured to Karen that they were friendly, but then used an expletive about them staying in that lane for so long. After we stopped a bit later, Karen told me about when someone shouted at me back down the road a ways. Seems I was passing some cars on the broad two-lane highway, and it all seemed perfectly safe to me, but I must have cut in front of someone too close, or too close for him, and he shouted (referring to our sign about traveling through all 48 states), “If you keep driving like that you’re not going to make another state!”

We stopped there at a wonderful bicycle store where I went in to see if they had some pants for me to wear under my motorcycle pants. A friendly guy and gal enjoyed seeing my maps. They were kind of agog, as most are, to see the ambitious route around the US for this trip. But when I showed them the AAA map that had all my bicycle trips in red (over 24,000 miles around the US) they were impressed. I think they were very sorry that they didn’t have any shorts I could use.

Around mid-day, as we left the temperature-chilling effect of Lake Superior, it began to get much warmer. So much so we were able to take our gloves and second jackets off. It got well into the 80s.

We crossed over the tiny portion of the Mississippi River in Brainerd. Looks odd to see it so small – only about 50 yards wide maybe. But I guess even a river has got to start somewhere!

Around mid-travels today we noticed that that the gas pricing was dramatically coming down. Most of the prices were listed as $2.13/gallon – and that’s down about a quarter a gallon from where we’ve been the last few days.

At the El Ray Travel Plaza in Motley, WI, we scored a nice dinner – our first veggie burgers of the trip and a big salad bar, and all for only $3.95. We ate heartily. When the friendly waitress, Jenny, saw we had a digital camera with us, she wanted to see the pictures we had taken that day. Karen cheerfully obliged, and went through them with her. It was about 6pm.

There was a friendly group of four next to us in the small sunny room. As they left their table, and I presumed they were leaving, I gave them a hearty good-bye. The one affable fellow laughed and said they were just going back to the food bar for more to eat. “Because,” he said, as he grabbed his enormous potbelly, “do I look like someone who ever passes up on seconds?”

Now, it’s not true that we are just trying to raise the daily mileage average! And – it’s not true that although we like what we are doing we actually are putting extra miles in for the fun of it. And on the map that route 210 sure LOOKED like it went right into Fargo. We had to double back about 9 miles on the gorgeous country and farm roads we had been riding. (The landscape flattened out during the day, and almost all horizons could be seen now to where they touched the sky! There were farmlands and pastures, and verdant lush meadows, and the ever-present trees. Oh, and the ponds, LOTS of ponds and small lakes that dotted our views with patches of deep blue.)

As we rode along and I would glance sideward. The green of the foliage was ultra clear in the crystal quality of the evening light. The hue of the passing scene was amazing as the countryside zoomed by at 85 to 95 miles per hour, and we raced headlong through the twilight. Toward the end, the lowering sun glinted off the signs and the roadway and the cars and it took immense concentration and grip to keep going forward and stay vertical amid the rush of traffic.

On our final highway of the day, an interstate superslab, the blur of the exits in the fast moving line of cars and trucks made it difficult to read the words. But eventually we came up to the Fargo exit but it was the Business exit. That just didn’t seem right to me for a motel. I passed by two more Fargo exits without a clue as to where the motel would be. I figured that the North Dakotan town could just not be that big, and peeled off north toward some city or another figuring I would just double back on the big highway. But lo and behold, with a great stroke of wonderful luck, there was a motel row. Among them was the EconoLodge where we had made a reservation five years and more than 300 miles ago that morning.

It was about 9pm. Bushed from a day of wonderful travel and experience we unloaded, unpacked, and began the process of getting our three days of now dirty clothing – all we had really – ready to be washed in the motel guest laundromat facilities.

It was shortly after 11pm when heads finally touched pillows to fall into a good sleep.



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