Day 4
June 8th, 2004
Sibley State Park
Near Willmar, Minnesota

As soon as it was light enough to see, I popped out of my tent to assess the damage from the storm.  Not anticipating any rain, I left a few things on the camp table, and failed to tuck a couple of items all they way in the vestibule.  Final tally- road atlas- wet and soggy, probably not going to finish the trip, high tech alarm clock with radio signal for totally accurate time and self adjusting for time zones-dead.  Shower towel-soaked, boots-wet, H2W bag for sleeping bag etc-wet, Nikes-wet.  I guess it could have been worse.

I was most disappointed about my clock.  How I forgot to bring it inside I don't know.  It will be missed.

At 6:30am I was rolling my tent and packing when my phone rang.  Who's calling me at this hour?  I didn't recognize the number on the ID.  "Hello?"  "Hey brother whats goin on?  I hate to call ya this early but I'm at work, and puttin in for vacation days.  I need to know the dates of the Blue Ridge Gatherning."  It was Sal Landa of Miami.  "Dam brother KNOW where I'm at and what TIME it is?"  Good thing I was already up or I'd cussed that joker out good.  I gave him the dates and said I was looking forward to seeing him there.

I was on the road by 7.  I was cautious of deer at this early hour and saw a doe near the park entrance. 

She made no move as I eased by.

The morning was much cooler than yesterday.  Last night was the result of a warm front, cold front collision.  The cool air had pushed the warm air out, and things were back to normal.  It was a chilly 48 degrees.  I was shivering.  Believe it or not, it was a FULL 45 degree swing in temps since I parked the 1300 the afternoon before.

U.S. 71 north took me to SR 55.  When I reached the crossroads I found a parking lot and switched to lined gloves and added a sweatshirt.
It looked like it was still raining to the south, but all I was dealing with were clouds and cool temps.

After turning left on SR 55 I tried to get in rhythm, but the cool weather was hampering me.  I don't do well in cold weather, even though I try hard, it dampens my spirit and makes me wish I was home, or someplace warm.  I cursed the gauge on the 1300 that displayed the air temp.  It was stuck on 48, and because I was going north, it was going to take awhile to warm up, if at all. 

I brought the screen almost full up blocking all the wind, that gesture helped immensely. 

The morning was dark and dreary, and I noticed the cold wind blowing the tree tops.  I stopped again and added another layer under the Roadcrafter.  That seemed to help, but my hands were starting to get cold.  I know 48 is not suppose to be cold enough to break out the thick winter gloves, but I was tempted to do so.

Landscape was changing from thick timberland to farmland and prairie.  I know why they call Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes.  They were everywhere.

I pulled over to take a picture and quickly noticed my camera was not in the Roadcrafter, but packed deep in the Moto Fizz bag.  I would have to unload the bike to get to it, and I'm not doing that.  I just won't take any pics today.  Not a big loss, because I really didn't see anything worthwhile.
In Barrett, I saw a venue that was offering a live performance of Annie.  I think the name of the place was something like the Prairie Theatre.  At one time it looked to be a feed store, or small community center.   It was made of wood, and was in dire need of painting.  Not more than a few hundred people live in Barrett, and I would've never guessed the small town liked Broadway.  I left wondering how good the actors are that toil in the Prairie Theatre.

SR 55 changed to U.S. 59 near Fergus Falls, and I trembled into the city.  Entering the city I saw a cruiser up ahead working what looked like an accident.  When I got closer I saw a lady in an SUV had punched a deer.  The body was still laying on the road, and the front of her vehicle was heavily damaged.  She had a real pissed looked on her face.  This happened almost in the middle of town.  As big as this state is, why would a doe take a stroll down a busy 4 lane highway in a urban setting?

I found a gas mart near the center of the city and took my first break of the day.  I found something to drink and parked on a stool.  It felt good to be warm.  My phone was dying and I needed at least a 30 minute charge.  I've GOT to my 12v adapter on the 1300.  I read the paper and made a few calls.  I pretty much decided I wasn't going anywhere till it warmed up some more.

I did confirm with ReggieS my ETA to Winnipeg ,and would call again when I got closer
The clerk was starting to get nervous thinking I was about to set up camp in his store, so I figured it was time to move on, besides my phone was back to 2 bars.

When I exited from the store the air felt warmer, and the sun was emerging from the clouds.  Today was going to be a good day after all.  I followed a few routes out of Fergus and found myself on SR 32, for no other reason than it looked more interesting than the other routes on the map.

SR 32 was a straight run north.  I was leaving the trees and green foliage behind.  I wouldn't see green undergrowth again for a long time.  I found a safe side road and left the highway to remove my sweatshirt layers and to go summer gloves. The temp was now in the mid 60s, and the bright sun was ever increasing the digital readout on the 13.  The screen was down for the first time all morning, and I was having a good time.

I was down to 2 bars on the gas gauge, when the number 2 bar drops off, the single remaining bar begins to flash, letting me know I'm on reserve.  With nothing better to think about, I decided the first grain elevator town I come to after it starts flashing would be the winner of  "Who's going to get my sales tax" sweepstakes.

Shortly thereafter, it started flashing, and the next town was a place called Ulen.  Funny how a towns livelihood, can be at the mercy of such random whims.  Ulen raked in the sales tax off my 12 something and change fill up,-only because it was in the right place at the right time.  The folks in the revenue department must be sighing great sounds of relief.  "YES, YES, thanks to Guy we can make this months payroll!"

When I left the parking lot of the Chevron station I head checked both directions of the empty highway, and then worked the gears back up to speed-northbound.

Thundering down the road at 80 mph I sang, "Against the Wind," by Bob Seger.  The lyrics lose me, but that's ok, the only head listening in the Arai was mine.

Lunch time found me in the "Eats and Antiques" cafe located in a town somewhere on SR 32.  Somehow, I forgot to note the name of the town in the Axim.  I do know it is located somewhere between Thief River Falls and I-94.  I remember the town had a bank, a few gas marts, about a dozen shops on Main Street, a school or possibly a small college nearby.  If anyone knows the name email me, perhaps you live close by and know it, or maybe you have a fast internet connection and nothing better to do.  A name would be good, because I met some nice folks there.

I peeled off the Roadcrafter and flopped in a booth.  A friendly waitress took my order for burger and fries, and after she placed it, thought me worthy enough for a follow up chat.  "Don't get many guys in here from Alabama, in fact I'd say you're the first."  "Really?"  Bronson used that word often.  He had several different tones he could employ with it.  He could say it curiously, matter fact, or surprised.  This time I used it curious.  She continued, "Yeah, and that's a fancy bike you have, and so quiet."

The cafe was busy with locals, and I saw man at a round table by the window with 6 young boys ages 8-10 years old.  He was teaching them to play Texas Hold' em.  No kidding. It was awesome.  "So what'd ya do at daycare today Johnny?"  "Learned 4 of a kind beats a fullhouse."

While munching down on a good burger and fries, a man stepped over after paying his bill.  His name was Nick and said he loved bikes and touring.  He asked questions about my current trip, then a few about past adventures.  He said I was doing what he dreamed- Riding American back roads and taking life easy.  "Well Nick hang in there, your time will come."  It was the only thing I could think of at the time.  Nick said he had a class to teach at 1pm and had to hurry.  Here's hoping things work out for him, and one day his dream comes true.  Perhaps he should venture to Iowa.

The highway pretty much belonged to me, and the few cars I closed on were easy to pass on the long open straights.  My momentum was only slowed when I came to an elevator town.

I saw very few bikes of any kind today, mostly pick ups and farm trucks inhabited SR 32.

Thief River Falls, the last city of any size before the Canadian border.  An attractive young lady waved at me while we were waiting out a red light.  She figures I could be anybody under all that riding gear.  She probably envisions all Long Riders as Brad Pitt look a likes, roaming America and being bad boys.  Boy, would SHE be disappointed.

Traffic picked up on U.S. 59 north.  I was closing in on the border and anxious to get there when it happened.  A south bound state trooper pops out behind a car, looking down to my speedo, I'm over 75-dam.  His lightbar comes to life and he wheels around.  A minute later, I'm taking my hat off and getting out my license.

He nailed me at 77 in a 65 and let me off with a warning.  He asked where I was going and how long I'd been in the fire service.  He seemed nice enough.  

Lancaster was the last place for gas before the border so I topped off the tank with less expensive American crude.

At the less than busy border crossing I was asked to come inside and answer questions.  They took my drivers license to the computer.  Uh-oh I hope they don't find out I've not paid the last 2 tolls they sent me for using the 407.  It would be bad if they kept me out on that account.  

I was standing around waiting for the background check to come in, when I noticed a small hole in the front window.  It looked just like a bullet hole.  I remarked to one of the young guards that this must be a dangerous outpost.  He said, "nah some joker cuttin grass ran over something, you know a government worker ain't gonna get off a ridin mower to move anything."  I laughed out loud and said, "yeah you're right about that."
"OK, you're clear to go."

Not much to report on the ride up to Winnipeg.  I stopped just south of town and called Reggie.  He said to keep moving north and he'd meet me on the road somewhere.  A few miles later I met the unmistakable silhouette of an 1100 coming at me. 

We pulled over and made our greetings, than I followed him into the city.  Traffic was not too bad, but the sun was going down and it was starting to get cold.  I followed Reggie around the outer loop till we arrived at the motel.

I checked in, and advised Reggie I'd call when I got a shower and sorted my things.  I was looking forward to a nice supper, and good company after 1500 miles of solo riding.  

The water pressure in this motel was overpowering.  We could use nozzles like this at work.  When I turned it on, the water snapped my head back.  This place didn't worry about wasted water.

I followed Reggie to a nice restaurant where I had the chicken parma. The food was good.  I checked his pictures from his recent ride to West Virginia.  When we finished eating, we stopped by Reggie's house so I could check some email but the ISP was down.  Oh well we tried, no big deal.
Reggie has a great family and place in Winnipeg.

He showed me the route to use leaving town the next morning, and on that note I headed back to the room, a short ride away.  On the way back I topped off the tank again.  I didn't pay any attention to the price, I just pumped it.

In the room I made notes, and clicked channels.  I tried to find Fox News but then realized the network is banned in Canada, or so I hear.  I settled for CNN.

It felt good to have the first leg of the tour completed.  I was in Winnipeg, and looking forward to the ride west on the Yellowhead.  I checked the weather and turned over to enjoy sleeping in a bed for the first time in a few nights.

Next: The long ride across western Canada begins.

Note: For those who don't know, Bronson was the fictional Long Rider from a TV show from the late 60s.
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