Let the Good Times Roll!

Friday – Saturday, 14-15 July, 2006
Weather: Heat wave! Flirting with 100 degrees F.

Gypsy in her natural habitat.
“Kawasaki let’s the good times roll!” -Indeed.

Does anyone else remember those old Kawasaki ads from the `Eighties?

“…Get aboard, get away, and you’re gonna say, Let the Good Times Roll…”

For some reason, that little ditty lodged itself firmly inside my helmet as soon as I mounted Frogwing for my Ride to Work on Friday.

I was only working a half-day, because I had planned a long weekend touring the Iron Range of northern Minnesota with my cousin Eric. You have to get out of town early on Summer Fridays, or you get caught like a rat in the maze of road construction and frantic SUV drivers heading for the suburbs.

We entered Highway 52 at the top of Ton-Up Hill, and started down into the valley. For one ecstatic moment, I imagined us rotating skyward and launching towards the northern horizon, like the corporate jet that was taking-off from Holman Field, over to our right.

Have you ever had one of those flying dreams where suddenly, for no reason at all, you can leap into the air and soar wherever you want? Well, that’s exactly how I felt as we gathered speed and merged into the traffic on `52. How often does that happen to a “driver”? (Don’t answer that… rhetorical.)

This, I thought, is a Good Omen.

Work went quickly, so Frogwing and I were clear of city traffic by noon. Cruising at a comfortable seventy miles per hour, we made good time on Highway 169. I was just beginning to think about lunch when we passed a sign that said, “Chico’s Place, Mexican and American Food”.

Well, Mexican food is my absolute favorite, so we turned around and headed back, finding a parking spot right in front. Since it was the middle of lunchtime, and the parking lot was almost empty, this should have been a clue…

Let me sum it up quickly: The beef burrito special was basically a cheeseburger in a tortilla. The “hot sauce” wasn’t. It was served in a squeeze-bottle like ketchup used to be, and the taste was similar. And to think that they charged $3.50 for a basket of chips to go with it?

This was “Mexican Food” as interpreted by milquetoast Scandinavians. Mexi-wegian, perhaps?

Well, scratch that one off my list. Lunch came to over ten bucks, twelve with the tip, and it was very disappointing. Just another clip-joint whose only advantage is that they are the perfect distance from the Twin Cities to lure the unwary tourist.

Back on the road, we made good time up to McGregor. There I visited with my Dad at his trailer in the swamp, which is rapidly becoming a mini-resort. He has electricity now, you see, which means that he also has air-conditioning. That’s a good thing, when it gets this hot. He also has a fridge, out of which he produced an ice-cold can of Special Export as soon as he heard us coming down the trail. I love my Dad. He is so good to me.

We sat around his card table and chatted for awhile, family stuff. But I was anxious to get going, so I didn’t stay long. Frogwing and I still had many miles to go before we reached Chisholm, home of my cousin Eric and my ex-bike Gypsy.

We pulled up to Eric’s house just before five. Together, we rode to Virginia, Minnesota and met Eric’s brother Chad, along with his wife Michelle, for dinner at a Chinese buffet. This meal was wonderful, and made up for my terrible lunch.

Then we took a tour of Chad and Michelle’s new home, complete with basement walls done in a “Spongebob Squarepants” mural. Michelle did the illustration herself, and Chad “colored between the lines” with the paint brush. If I get enough requests in the comments section, I do have a photo…

After dinner, Eric and I rode back to his place, and decided to take it easy. We spent the evening playing “Tourist Trophy” on his Play Station 2. This is a motorcycle roadrace game that is almost photo-realistic. It was the perfect activity to psyche us up for our long sport-tour on Saturday.

Eric is an absolute master at this game by now, while I was flopping all over the track. What can I say? There weren’t any handlebars. How can you steer a motorcycle with a goofy little hatswitch? That’s alright, I thought… I’ll get my revenge tomorrow on the road!

"Caution Moose, Next 4 Miles"
The sign says, “Caution Moose, Next 4 Miles”. That gets your attention.

Saturday morning, I woke up at dawn. Vibrating with anticipation, I found Eric fast asleep on the couch, with the TV still going. He awoke reluctantly, this being way earlier than he usually rises.

While he was grumbling and stumbling about, I decided to clean my helmet visor for the ride ahead. At home, I have a sponge and scrubber combination that is safe for teflon pans, and it has been perfect for cleaning the dried bug splats off my visor with nothing more caustic than tap water. This avoids exposing the clear plastic to chemicals which may cause it to cloud up, and I am convinced that it extends the life of my visors by at least a factor of two.

So I found a similar object on the shelf above Eric’s sink, and without testing it on an uncritical part of the visor, I just scrubbed the whole thing like I would at home. The result was a totally useless visor, criss-crossed by scratches made by the S.O.S. pad side of his non-teflon safe scouring pad. Oh goody…

I removed the visor from my helmet, and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to ride with no more eye protection than that afforded by my sunglasses. Well, that’s what most Harley riders depend on. Can they all be wrong? (Again… rhetorical.)

What I ended up with was a Ram Air Bug Collector. Every single bug that would have bounced off that visor either ended up splattered on my sunglasses, or dying violently in the space between the helmet padding and my ear. This was distracting, to say the least. At it’s worst was the venomous bastard who stung me right in the temple as we were approaching Eric’s mother’s house… but I am getting ahead of myself here.

Despite Eric’s difficulties waking up, and my own problems with my helmet, the lure of the ride was pulling on both of us, and soon we were on the road.

Breakfast was forgettable, so I won’t even talk about it. It provided fuel, and that’s what we needed. Then we rode out into the sunrise, locked and loaded, onto roads I have never seen before.

I have a confession to make: Despite all of my zen-talk and dual-sport antics, it is still the fast ride on twisty pavement that gets my motor running. To this day, despite all the trouble it has caused me, I remain a Cafe Racer to the bone.

I followed Eric, so I didn’t keep track of the long, straight roads that delivered us to the twisties. But Minnesota Highway One is legendary amongst local riders as the best pavement northern Minnesota has to offer. I think the photo at the top of this page will attest to that.

The second photo refers to giant creatures that Eric has encountered on this stretch of road before. Though we didn’t see any moose on Saturday, we did have a close call with another wild thing that could have ended the day in disaster for both of us. But that is a story for next time, as this is getting long.

I will update again on Wednesday, and tell you all about my brief and torrid fling with Gypsy. Until then… stay tuned.

13 Responses to “Let the Good Times Roll!”

  1. Mad Says:

    Ram Air Bug Collector! That made me laugh. Good to see your frogwing get a good leg stretch.

  2. Steve Williams Says:

    “… it is still the fast ride on twisty pavement that gets my motor running. To this day, despite all the trouble it has caused me, I remain a Cafe Racer to the bone.”

    Fast and twisty and public roads are potent mix. Be careful out there. Your “zen” awareness is more important their than any leisurely ride.

    Man, your adventure sounded like fun (except for the heat and ram air bug scoop). I need to get me one of them my own bad self….


  3. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Mad: I still haven’t replaced that visor. I’m thinking of trying plastic polish on it, as they don’t come cheap. As for the leg-stretch, I reckon 830 miles is a fair weekend of riding. For me, a 300-mile day is just about perfect. I’m no ironbutt rider, unless it is absolutely necessary. I’ve done the odd thousand-mile day in my time, but that always ends in pain.

    Steve: You know, it’s strange. I WAS careful out there, but I was also fast. Roadracing instilled in me this heightened awareness, free of fear, that lets me function at the level needed when the pace picks up.

    It’s like I get my adrenaline in controlled doses, rather than one big, overpowering shot. You will read more about this in the next entry, however, so I won’t spoil it here.

    As for the heat; it’s not bad as long as you keep the airflow going… the faster, the better.

    Ride well,

  4. Eric Says:

    Hey Gary,

    Sorry about that visor deal there! And to think that when I bought those sponges I thought they WERE teflon safe. But no, I can also assure you that they definitely don’t like teflon any better than polycarbonate faceshields.

    It was a great weekend though, wasn’t it? Ram air bug collector and all…

  5. jim Says:

    ram air bug deflector cracked me up))))))).
    If ya ever go southeast and end up near Oelwein, Ia. go to ice cream junction. The BEST Tenderloins in the universe, that is if you like pork tenderloins.
    My oh my, would you ever get a kick outa these roads down here. There is a reason people come from all over just to ride them.

  6. Dick Aal Says:

    Now that I have my other wing back I can type at normal speeds. The collarbone is healing nicely and I am riding for about a week and a half now. I just went into the shop today and ordered my new 2007 Roadking Classic. Can’t wait for it to come.
    As for zooming off into the sunrise, I have done that often also but even in a cage. Though not as often. Sounds like you had a good ride except for the mexinavian food. I have had that and also chinavian food in North Dakota and Minnesota.
    As for your poor face shield, I just heard the other day that you should always wash your face shield and windshield in an up and down motion. Never in circles or horizontally… Apparently vertical scratches are less visable to the human eye. So you can extend the use of your shields even more than 2x if you clean them in a vertical way. Give it a try.

  7. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Eric: I’ve still got the buzz. For the last two days, Frogwing and I have ridden faster than usual on the commute. Strafing apexes and passing cages in the corners… I’m going to have to get back on the scooter just to regain a little perspective. But yeah, that WAS fun. We need to do that again soon.

    jim: Twisty roads in Iowa? This I have to see. My memories of Iowa, other than along the Mississippi River bluffs, are all about flat farm country, straight roads, and 90° corners. Now you’ve got me intrigued!

    I will look up Oelwein, and if it looks like I can afford another long road trip this year, maybe I’ll look you up. Watch your email…

    Dick: I am so glad to hear that you are mending well. Roadking Classic, huh? Wow. I hope it is everything you dreamed it would be.

    BTW, I know all about the vertical scrubbing thing. But when the scratches come from what is essentially an SOS pad, fuhgeddaboudit. You can’t see through that.

    They’re calling for thunderstorms tomorrow, with large hail and strong winds. On Ride to Work Day… that figures. It’s going to be interesting without a visor on my helmet. Maybe I’ll put the snowmobile piece back on for a day.

    Ride well,

  8. Biker Betty Says:

    YIKES, Moose?!? Love the pics you took. Sounds like a nice ride, minus the mexi-slop lunch, lol. When I ride within 100 miles of the Springs I hardly get any bugs. When I get out towards Leadville and Breckenridge I do get more, but nothing to write home about. Luckily my windshield catches most of it. Sorry to hear about the visor and the bee episode.

  9. Mad Says:

    Hmm plastic polish? As someone who ruins a couple of visors a year I’d love to know if that works.

  10. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Betty: I’ve only ever ridden one bike with a windshield, and that was a scooter. I missed the wind. The kind of riding I like to do doesn’t accomodate large windscreens. Maybe someday I’ll slow down and learn to relax…

    Mad: I’ll keep you posted. The polish I want to use is over at my Dad’s house, so it will require a trip across town to get it. He used this stuff on the headlight covers on his car, and it cleared them right up, so I have high hopes.

    Ride well,

  11. irondad Says:

    Really liked the writing. There’s telling a story and then there’s finding yourself drawn inside the tale. I keep hoping to find that elusive magic, myself. Oh yeah, the day sounded like one you look fondly back on. Almost lost the details in the fascination with the writing style. It’s like when I’m with Katie and see a gal go by on a bike. Katie asks me if I saw the gal’s long hair or something similar. My reply is “There was a girl on the bike?” I was lost in the bike.

    Take care. Happy Ride to Work Day!!!

  12. Biker Betty Says:

    My clear visor had some scratches in it and my husband used “McGuire’s” and “white” Crest toothpaste. It has to be white. It helped some. I had one deep scratch that nothing could get out. He said that when he was in the Air Force they used the white Crest toothpaste on their helicopter windshields. If you have some, try it first in a small area off to the side, just to make sure you like the results. Hey, if you don’t like how it works, you still can brush your teeth.

  13. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Irondad: Dan, thanks so much. That means a lot, coming from you.

    I haven’t fully read your recent blog entries yet. I mean, I have scanned them, to see what you’ve been up to, but I will never comment until I have actually sat down and READ them. There is a difference, as you well know.

    Your stuff is usually pretty long, and filled with thought-provoking ideas. It is difficult to read when I am trying to order my own thoughts for my next blog entry. So bear with me. This weekend should provide a break in the action for me…

    Betty: The Crest thing sounds intriguing! If this stuff my Dad found at Fleet Farm doesn’t do the trick, then I will try that next. Thanks for the tip.

    Ride well,