Subject: Wanderlust 5 - Paynesville, Minnesota
Date: Thu, 05 Jun 1997 22:23:16 -0700
Wanderlust 5 - Paynesville, Minnesota
Two miles shy of two thousand.
Notes for later: three bozos, a beemer, and bouncing birds
Although no place in America is truly ugly (even New Jersey has some lovely spots), the Great Plains can be Great Pains. The people who live here obviously do not ride motorcycles. Or, the motorcycle riders do not live here. This is a land the face of which only a mother could love. Now perhaps I am being too harsh, but I just spent two days riding in a straight line. My steering head could be rusted solid and I wouldn't know it ... why, just this morning at the South Dakota - Iowa border I came to a curve and I didn't know what to do, it has been so long since I have seen one. The old high school bleacher cheer came to mind. Do I: Lean to the left? (Counter-) Lean to the right? Stand up (on the pegs)? Sit down (hanging off one side)? Fight! Fight! Fight (the countersteer)? Naw. As the instructors say, I just 'looked where I wanted to go'. So how did I end up in Minnesota?
You know, I didn't intend this to be the all states Indian tour, but some things keep coming back. I tried to camp tonight on the shore of Green Lake, near Spicer, but they wouldn't let me use the house phone to send this to you, so I decided to move on. Leaving the campground I saw a sign that said burial mounds near the lake indicate the Sioux camped here for almost 200 years (before zoning laws :). Did you know the name Minnesota is Sioux? Pronounced 'm-nee sho ta' it means 'smoky water' for the steam that rises off the lakes in the morning.
Yesterday I mentioned Connecticut is also an Indian word. Let's have a contest ... first person to guess the correct meaning wins the contest. No prize, but you win. Yankees and their families are ineligible. Ok, ok, you get a prize: your name published.
Despite my false disdain for the 'flagrant flatland' (thanks, Moncia!), it is classically pleasing, in a white bread sort of way. (Who ever wants a peanut butter sandwich on pumpernickel?) And this afternoon, I had another 'perfect moment' on the flats, of all places. I didn't define a 'pm' last time. To me, a pm is that essence of time when you feel that everything is just right and just magic in its completeness - like looking into your lover's eyes and seeing the love reflected - like holding a newborn (insert option here: puppy, baby, idea ...) and seeing the potential of its future. Real pm's don't come often, so today's surprised me. It was on a northbound two lane, early in the afternoon, the sun was warm, the clouds were lined up overhead like cotton puffy ducks in a blue shooting gallery marching one after the other to the curtain of the horizon, the farmhouses and sentinel silos were standing off at a distance - each seemingly in its own corner of the world. The air felt of new growth and smelled of fresh earth. Not another human was visible, yet the hand of humanity was omnipresent in the contours of the land, the order of the road, the manicured perfection of the fine machine under me. The road and the engine sang a harmonious duet. Even on straaaaaight roads, this is why I ride.
Air feel, by the way, is one of the most un-understood aspects of riding
that non-riders have no concept of (not 'misunderstood', because they don't
know it at all). Riding through morning shadows you can feel the air temperature
change and smell the undisturbed moisture from the dew. Riding past a bakery,
or a diesel repair shop, you just get more and deeper sensory stimulation.
And, it can be a safety feature. Like the time on another trip when I said
to myself "hmmm, that smells like hot tire" so I backed off from the truck
ahead. Kablam. Tire shreds.
This morning I got a strong whiff of transmission fluid and backed off the throttle even thought the car ahead was more than 1/4 mile away. Yup. He started weaving and clamored to the side spewing something I didn't want to ride through. Thanks, snout.
Leaving South Dakota, I almost stopped for a rest in the town of Menno, but I realized it would have been a Menno pause, and, well, I just don't have the right plumbing for that ... but wouldn't you know, right after that I was wondering is it hot out here today or is it me? ;)
Small towns are wonderful places to visit. I visited for a couple of hours with a 92 years-of-age (I won't say 'old') woman I had never met but had spoken to several times relaying messages for a mutual friend. So why not stop and say hello. Yes, and why not invite the town newspaper to take a picture of the "motorcycle man from Cal-i-fornia who came to see Elma". Big news in Little Rock (Iowa), but it made us both happy to make a small thing fun.
One dramatic change to the land in the vicinity of the Big Sioux River that borders South Dakota. Trees. West of there, the farms were wide fields with no trees between. East is where trees windbreak the fields and huddle around the houses.
Crossing the Minnesota border I must have missed the sign "There be Bozos here!". Sorry, MN friends, but within a couple of miles the bozo count went from 0 to 3. First was a female of the species. She was approaching and slowing for a left turn. The pickup in front of me slowed and signaled left - so she just went ahead THEN STOPPED dead in the middle of my lane. I saw it early enough. Bozo 2 was a male of the species, also approaching me, who decided he didn't want to drive through the big dust cloud drifting across the road caused by a truck that just pulled into a lot. So he drove in my lane around the cloud. Now remember it is about a minute between these incidents. So my fragility factor was heightened. Bozo 3 was a geezer of the species. I am now on a 4 lane divided highway. He is now approaching me in the left lane of my divided side. I went way wide just in case and saw him catatonically proceed as if ... well, as if.
I haven't actually been counting motorcycles seen, but there have been fewer than I expected. I realize I am riding during 'working hours' for most, but still, I remember only 2 in Utah, a couple in Wyoming, and hardly any since. A few more (mostly Harleys) this close to the parts factory ... but only today I saw my first recognizable Beemer - a red R100. He gave an all fingers wave.
And the birds! I don't know what kind they are but they like to play in the traffic. They cross the road usually in pairs at about 1 foot off the ground, then rapidly change course to go over vehicles or back to their side. I winced a couple of times thinking I would have feathers on my helmet, but they always missed and the Road Kill Cafe does not have fricassee on the menu. I named 'em bouncing birds for the way they play the air currents.
Gotta have a quote! "... the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness,
a place where a man can lose himself."
- William Least Heat Moon, 20th Century American Writer
FuelPlus statistics: 335 miles, 6:26 engine run, 53 mph average
Sam Lepore, San Francisco, 1988 R100RT and 1995 K75RTA