Rose Goes Rustic

Weather: Warm and partly cloudy… threatening rain.
Road Conditions: Dry and smooth.

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Tractor-size Shredded Wheat?

Old Highway 61 is one of my favorite stretches of road. After a long week at work, there’s nothing better than getting out on that two-lane asphalt, and riding through the countryside on our way to Dad’s little trailer near McGregor, Minnesota.

But this trip was going to be different. This time, I wasn’t astride my big old KLR “Frogwing”. He was sitting this trip out in the garage, while I tested Vespa Rose on the long haul. We had just completed her 3,000-mile service, and I wanted to see how she handled the long, open roads heading north.

Old 61 is posted at 55 mph for most of its length. That drops to 30 through the little towns along the way. Most of this venerable highway is in great shape, even though it is not the thoroughfare it once was. I35 has supplanted it as the main route heading north, and we no longer get federal funds to maintain Highway 61. Counties have taken it over, but they all seem to be doing well by the old road.

That’s important on a scooter, because a bad pothole can cause some real damage, or even put you into the ditch.

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Rednecks are not just a Southern phenomenon…

Then we have volunteers who participate in the “Adopt a Highway” program. These nice folks pick up trash alongside the road and keep the shoulders clear of debris. I enjoy the sometimes clever and creative names people come up with for their groups. After I photographed the sign above, we passed another one that said “Biker Buddies of Booger”. I didn’t stop for that one, since I already had this one in the can.

I wondered briefly who this “Booger” was. I’m thinking he is probably deceased, although he has found a strange brand of immortality as long as his friends continue to take care of their stretch of Highway 61.

The weather forecast for the day included a large storm system which was moving across the state in our direction of travel. As we approached North Branch, I could see the dark clouds and streaks of rain on the horizon ahead.

Turning left on Highway 95, we left our old friend 61 for lighter skies to the west, and another nice road: Highway 47. That one goes past Mille Lacs lake, and I have had many a good ride along that stretch of pavement.

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This is why we ride North… Rose and Dad `round the campfire.

We stopped to visit my friend Jack, of “Jack’s on Mille Lacs” fame. I even let him take Rose for a little ride.

Jack is a hard-core rock-n-roller, with his long greying locks cut in a classic mullet. He rides without a helmet, and without apologies, eyes bared to the wind at 70 miles per hour.

I was a little nervous… but a man has to learn to trust his friends.

From Highway 47 we picked up 210 and rode the back way into Dad’s place, west of McGregor. He was waiting for us, and had a nice pile of firewood ready so I could build one of my pyrotechnic masterpieces.

He made dinner, while I stacked the logs. Then followed one of our traditional council fire sessions, where we dissected exactly what is wrong with the world, and figured out how to fix it, if only everyone else would listen to us.

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Good Morning, Rose!

We stayed up late, but still woke up with the sun. The clean air and silence of the swamp make for good sleeping. Dad had the coffee ready by the time I came in from taking the photo above. Then he made blueberry pancakes, with sausage on the side, but I didn’t eat my usual tall stack.

This is because I was going to eat another breakfast only a few miles down the road.

You see, last time I was up to visit, I stopped by a place near McGregor called “Jack’s Shack”. Not to be confused with that other Jack’s, this place has been a local institution since at least the 1930s. It has had mixed fortunes, over the years, including a decade or so when it was closed and beginning to fall apart.

The place has changed hands a number of times, but now it belongs to a wonderful couple named Brian and Traci Neigum.

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Jack’s Shack… now under new management.

Last time I stopped by, they had just opened. Brian was mopping the floor, and both of them were bursting with pride in their new enterprise. I had promised them that I would review the place, next time I came up. When I arrived on Sunday morning, they greeted me like an old friend.

Business has been good, Brian tells me. I’m sure the locals are happy to have Jack’s back up and running, and the tourist trade at that location should be pretty brisk.

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The “Rice River Country Platter” is one heck of a breakfast!

As you can see from the photo, Traci is an incredible cook. Her choice of ingredients, combination of flavors and textures, and even the presentation are top-shelf. It pains me to tell you that I couldn’t finish this platter. Believe me, I tried.

How does a guy eat food like that, and stay as skinny as Brian? Just another one of life’s little mysteries, I guess…

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“Jack’s Shack” is now in the capable hands of Brian and Traci Neigum.

Back on the road, Rose and I headed all the way home on Highway 61. We stopped here and there to poke around, taking photos and visiting some of the friends I’ve made over the years on this route.

It was a beautiful day, and Rose found a sweet spot at about 60 miles per hour. She turns just over 6,000 rpms at that speed, which may sound like a lot. But that little Italian powerplant just purrs right along, and the ride is Cadillac-smooth.

After my double breakfast, I didn’t eat another thing all day. By the time we arrived home, I was ready for bed. We put on just over 360 miles for the weekend, which isn’t exactly Iron Butt stuff. Racking up big miles for bragging rights has never been my thing, anyway.

Next time I go north to visit Dad, I’m going to have a dilemma on my hands. Rose handled this trip magnificently, and it is going to be hard to choose between her and Frogwing for future road trips. I guess it will all depend on whether I want to get dirty or not.

11 Responses to “Rose Goes Rustic”

  1. Terry Says:

    Gary
    Thanks for the great write up and photos,the rural areas of MN are great. I rode through that area 2 weeks ago on my way home to Bowstring, MN on the almost new TW 200 I bought the day before. I was down in the cities on the t dub, I even tried some urban guerilla tricks on the t dub, works great,squeesed by a bunch of cages making a LH turn in a construction area by riding the dirt. I wonder how urban cagers like fat tired TW’s from up north ride past them while they are all lined up. The TW likes hiway 61 and gravel roads that lead away from it. went through downtown Automba, after stoping at Dairy Queen in Moose Lake and on to McGreger and home. Did you try Rose on gravel roads and how does she handle. If cagers can enjoy their ride as much as we do, there would be no road rage, they should outlaw cages in the metro area, there would be no gridlock and no I35W bridge colaps. my heart goes out for the victoms and families of the tradigy.
    Terry

  2. Bill Sommers Says:

    I can’t put enough importance on keeping close tabs with one’s parents. My folks live close by, so I don’t have to travel for a visit, but I always enjoy your write-up’s on your trips to see your Dad.

    Then you lay the breakfast on me. Geez…

    Have fun,
    Bill

  3. Steve Williams Says:

    Strange to see the meadow muffins in your first picture. I shot an almost identical shot last week albiet with the faster colored Excalibur Grey Vespa GTS. No matter how many times I see those things they still look surreal.

    You’re right about potholes. I have managed to avoid the deadly ones to date and during the last trip to New York I hit some that caused my pickup truck to lurch badly. Can’t imagine the impact on the scooter. Just one more reason to be paying close attention and leave time for reaction.

    Reading about your talks with your dad reminds me how much I took for granted with mine. I wish things could have been different but that time has passed now. You are a wise man. Keep making those fires.

    I think Minnesota must have more variety and character in the their eating establishments. Or you have better eyes. I keep waiting to see a place I would not want to sit down in.

    Another great post Gary.

  4. shaun Says:

    that was AWESOME. I am Riding up to Iron MN the last weekend of this month to go visit my Pa. I love all of the greezy spoon cafe’s we have in this state. Once you get up nort there is fast food and the greezy spoon. We wer up by cross lake not so long ago and ate at this pizza place caled the Pizza Pub. F it was sum dang good za. Great job on the photos once again. It is nice to get out and see the fam i am looking forward to it myself. Keep up the good work man…… “They” are closing 94 both ways for the hole weekend this week end! NICE? Well man ride hard and thank you.

  5. seagullplayer Says:

    Nice report. I recall writeups about your visits up to your Dad’s place before, is that his home year round, or just a camp he has?

  6. AZ Lucky Says:

    psst! Hey, Gary! 360 miles in a weekend on a scooter is a heck of a lot, even if the scooter is a GTS.

    And, just to throw it out there, everyone knows that black is the fastest color, though I hear silver and red are both close behind.

    I’m looking forward to getting up to Minnesota and causing some trouble.

  7. conchscooter Says:

    Makes me wish I had some really rural roads to ride ( alliteration notwithstanding)…actually I wish I had a Vintage Red Vespa I could ride. Grr, I had my second roadside breakdown ( in 8 months) last night and I am feeling doubly sorry for myself because the Highway to the Miami Vespa dealer is closed while a film crew shoots the Seven Mile Bridge ( I hope they kill it dead for all the good its doing me!). Reading your idyll reminds me to be grateful and to know this mess too will pass, under warranty, eventually.

  8. Keith Says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the blog. Why are you on a Vespa now instead of the Chinese scooters?

  9. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Terry: I’ve always been a big fan of the T-dub. If they made one with a CVT, I believe it just might be the ultimate Winter city commuter. I’m glad you enjoyed that stretch of Highway 61 as much as I did.

    I’ve ridden very little gravel with Rose. In my mind, that’s not what she’s for. I’ll let Frogwing handle the dirty work. Rose is all about style…

    Bill: This trip really was memorable. No rain, one of my best campfires ever, and then the breakfast at the resurrected Jack’s Shack. Those two days went by FAST!

    Steve: Meadow muffins? Heh… never heard them called that before. I always thought meadow muffins were those stinky brown things that cattle leave behind in their wanderings.

    As for the restaurant reviews, I never publish a bad review. If I go somewhere and don’t like the food, why give them the publicity? Keeps the negative energy off my page, and directs people to the good places. I guess that’s what they call a win-win…

    shaun: Enjoy the ride, and tell me about it over a pint when you get back.

    SGP: His “permanent” home is with Mom, in North Saint Paul. But the more time he spends up north, the better their marriage gets. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”? Maybe… all I know is that it works for them.

    He has always maintained the place as a year-round retreat. Now that he has run electricity in from the road, it truly has all the comforts of home.

    AZLucky: Fast, schmast… Rose can do the speed limit, plus enough to get me a hefty ticket along two-lane blacktop highways. What more do you need, in a scooter?

    Oh man, your trip is coming up fast, isn’t it? I’ve got to go back and check my emails…. Can’t believe how busy everything is getting, and how time compresses as Summer nears The End. Damn that Existential Gravity, anyway!

    conchscooter: Sorry to hear of your misfortune. If it makes you feel any better, Rose now has her first wound. Parked outside of one of my favorite roadside attractions in Sandstone, Minnesota, her centerstand melted into the pavement, and she fell over on her right side. I’ll show photos and write about that next entry. I really don’t like that bulls-horn brake lever though…

    Keith: Long story short? Because Piaggio made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Once scooters got under my skin, I started searching for the ultimate expression of the breed. That led me inexorably to the Vespa GTS. Go back a ways and read my review of this scooter, and all will become clear.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  10. Vespa motorcycle Says:

    That reminds me! I should go on a ride to see my dad this weekend.

    Great post! First Class

  11. Gary Charpentier Says:

    VM: Yes, you should. Thanks for writing in, and that’s a nice little website you have there. Stay in touch…

    Ride well,
    =gc=