Weather: 86Â°F (30Â°C) Under unbearably sunny skies.
Road Conditions: Twisty pavement with the occasional suicidal deer.
Was this trip really necessary?
That classic question occurred to me as I was standing in the lobby of the Leinie Lodge, explaining myself to a couple of female corporate barracudas from Leinenkugel’s / Miller Beer Corporation, after my cover was blown on their free brewery tour. Apparently no media, however small-time, are allowed on premises without strict control in attendance.
When I asked if I could shoot some photos for this blog inside the brewery, or take a portrait of our tour guide, I must have set off a silent alarm. Immediately, I heard the brisk clip-clop of high-heeled shoes across the floor, triggering flashbacks to naughty days in elementary school, and I just knew I was in for a trip to the principal’s office… or worse.
I’m pretty sure Leinies wasn’t like this before The Takeover.
But enough of that rot… I’m here to tell you about The Ride!
Minn-Max, our local maxi-scooter club, have some very tech-savvy individuals. They have put together a series of local rides that take in the best roads the area has to offer. I honestly can’t tell you which idea popped into my head first:
1) Visit the Leinenkugel’s brewery.
2) Take a ride into the heart of Wisconsin, guided by Minn-Max’s excellent route-sheets.
Maybe the two ideas coalesced into a single impulse, triggered by the catalyst of Vespa Rose. Yes, that sounds right. I certainly wouldn’t have taken on this mission with any other scooter, and on Frogwing it would have been too easy.
But on Rose it elevated to the level of a challenge, because we might be forced to resort to the Interstate, if we dawdled along the way. As most of you already know, I’m all about dawdling these days…
And dawdle we did, Rose and I. We stopped for photos everywhere, many more than I have posted here. The county roads along the Minn-Max route twisted and turned, rose and fell, like a carnival ride stretched out across the agricultural landscape.
Had I not been accosted by the “corporate media handlers”, I might have had time to enjoy an ice cream cone at Olson’s, in the heart of Chippewa Falls. As it was, we made a whirlwind tour of the main streets, stopping only for these brief images, before pulling out the route-sheet for our return home.
Riding into the setting sun, after several miles of rural county roads, I began to get complacent. That’s when the deer death-squads began to hunt us down…
I’m guessing that my Vespa Rose isn’t quite as intimidating as the usual Harley or full-size farm truck that travels these roads. As the sun sank lower in the sky, the roads came alive with deer, in twos, threes, even herds of four and five. They went prancing across the pavement like they owned the place!
Rose’s brake pads will probably need replacing at the next maintenence check. It seemed that every deer within sprinting distance of whatever county road we were on had heard of this beautiful little machine I was riding, and they all wanted a close-up and personal encounter with us. By the time we hit Colfax, I had decided that we would be safer on the Interstate, tucked in behind a semi, than dodging legions of curious wildlife along these rural byways.
We stopped for one last photo, along State Highway 40, as we fled towards I-94. All day long, this thought had been nagging me, scratching at my brain, demanding to be let into the light of my consciousness.
As we passed mile after mile of cultivated field, seeing crops and livestock stretching off to the horizon, this very simple idea formed itself in my head…
Just as human beings tend to relax in the presence of a large body of water, so to does the sight of thousands of acres of burgeoning crops and grazing livestock serve to soothe our natural anxiety. The abundant presence of those things which sustain our lives can cause us to relax maybe more than we really should, while in control of a motorbike.
Rose and I headed out towards the Interstate. At least there we were relatively safe from the random violent wildlife encounter. All we had to worry about were those damned trucks roaring up on our backside at 80-plus miles per hour.
Same as it ever was…