Brent Allen, author of Motorcycles, Life, and… and The Elemental Motorcyclist and his wife, Julie, are on a road trip, two-up. They are heading to the AMA Superbike races in Elkhart Lake, WI, riding their Honda ST1300 from their home town of Nampa, ID (just southwest of Boise). They will be our guest bloggers while on the trip, and each will give their own impressions on their travels and give us a look into each of their own individual ways of looking at the same experience.
First, from Brent:
Thursday May 29/Cedar Rapids IA to Plymouth WI/08:30 to 16:20/1596 miles to 1882
If you’re in a midsized Midwestern city like, say, Cedar Rapids Iowa then you would be an idiot if you didn’t stop at a place called “DonutLand” then you would truly be a ninny. I am not a ninny. I went to DonutLand and I am glad I did. No regrets for me. I have a couple of measures for a donut shop and DonutLand passed with ease. First, you need to be able to make a good raised donut. At DL I opted to try a chocolate dipped bowtie. A bowtie is two raised donuts pulled through each other in a figure 8. Mine was good and I was happy. My other, more important test is a glazed old fashioned donut. It’s easy to tell if it’s overcooked by the way the crust feels in your mouth. A good cake donut shouldn’t be greasy or tough. A good old fashioned should break easily but not fall apart. You’ll know if you get a bad one, trust me. When you drop your teeth into a good one you get a light crunch. You shouldn’t have to tear a piece off. You can break it into pieces with your hands without crushing it. It should be substantial but not heavy and the glaze should be sweet and buttery. In fact it should taste a bit like a buttermilk bar without the heft.
I’m spending too much time on donuts aren’t I? But donuts are just one of those things that makes people happy. If you can go into a donut shop and remain angry or sad then we may not get along. If you’re a downer at DonutLand then you’ve got bigger problems than worrying about your waistline, you may be diagnosable and should be seeking professional help.
Crossing the Mississippi at Dubuque was another benchmark. To make it a bit more memorable and authentic there was a river tug pushing a barge up stream. I have no idea what the cargo was but it confirmed to my brain that it was the Mississippi and a hub of commerce and travel. After leaving the river I found Wisconsin to be nice. I like the alfalfa fields, reminds me of Idaho. I also enjoy the constant smell of fresh cut grass. I do have one regret; we stopped in Mt. Horeb and shopped at the Duluth Trading Company’s flagship store—which we don’t regret—but we didn’t have time to take a run down the Trollway. Not riding the Trollway means we didn’t grab a map and ride through the town and countryside looking for trolls like the big bunch of riders I saw who were out doing just that as we came into town. I was smitten by the fire station on main and if you’re a fire engine buff it’s worth a look. The town is a classic small country town and I would have loved to have been able to park up and really wander around. Good stuff but the road called.
Governor Walker: Where are the roadside cheese stands? I only saw one and I was moving too fast to haul it down and get stopped. Down the road I went, over the rolling hills, past the bucolic cows and stunning white farmhouses and big red barns calling, “Cheese? Who’s got the cheese?” Alas, none to be found, not a one. No energetic, fresh young faces parked with a wagon and a cardboard sign saying “Authentic Wisconsin Cheese! Psychiatric advice! 5 cents!” Governor I wound up buying cheese curds at Wal-Mart. I hope you feel the shame.
America’s Dairyland is paved with concrete and I don’t mean the good, creamy frozen kind you get at Culvers. I mean uneven, expansion joint goo oozing, teeth rattling concrete slabs. Madison is a mess with construction detours that truly boggle the mind. In all honesty there were several times I simply got into a lane that looked good and let my navigator sort it out after the fact. Oddly I was right more often than I was wrong. Fortunately Mrs. Crash is gifted with patience as well as beauty and brains and was able to make sure we were on the right path. Had I been by myself I probably would still be riding in circles around traffic cones in downtown Madison or more likely Milwaukee. It was seriously screwed up.
We’re bunking in Plymouth for the next few nights. I’m struck by the resort feeling the area has. By that I mean this looks to be a summer town, the sort of place they set young adult movies in where the townies and tourists come into conflict and then find they’re not as different as they once thought and lifetime friends are forged in the crucible of canoe races and fistfights at the drive-in. Speaking of drive-ins we ate dinner at Culvers tonight. It’s a regional chain founded in Wisconsin and now found throughout the Midwest. They make a butter-burger which means they toast the bun and then hit it with real butter before serving it up. Yes, cardiologists the world over are quivering with disgust but I’m a fan, a big fan. Add the frozen custard and I’m now considering sleeping out by their dumpster so I’m there when they open. It was just that good and a great way to end the day.
The only miles we put on the bike until Monday will be going back and forth to the track and any ancillary sightseeing we may enjoy in the area. I’ve never seen the great lakes so a rip out to Sheboygan to see Lake Michigan seems appropriate for a Friday evening…
And, from Julie:
Yesterday was hard, harder that the first three days. I'm not sure but I believe it has to with the following reasons. 1st day we were filled with adrenaline, energy, and the idea of the adventure. We finished the day full of energy but knowing we had met our limit. 2nd day we felt compelled to ride hard to get out of cold, wet, really bad weather as well as to keep on schedule. We finished the ride chilled, wind-whipped but motivated. 3rd day we just rode and rode because the weather was sunny and warm, the scenery beautiful and we had slop time in our schedule thanks to the previous 2 days. We finished the day physically tired but fulfilled. 4th day we didn't travel nearly as far as the previous days but it was obvious that something wasn't right. Crash tried to tie it to a melancholy start in Omaha but I believe that physical and emotional exhaustion had caught us. After an early night and a late wake up call this morning. We felt 500 percent better.
I have been around Crash and motorcycles for 25 years. I grew up around bikes. I have taken and passed our state safety course and I have my endorsement. Speaking as a passenger I know the rules for gear, nutrition, hydration, conditions and especially for being tired, but I never really considered mental and emotional exhaustion.
Yesterday when we checked into our hotel for the day it was still early, 4:30pm. Crash and I were so tired we could hardly speak. We literally grunted at each other as we hauled gear into our room. A well needed shower, a blog entry and then we each rolled over and went to sleep. Not so much as a good night or even a kiss. Talking just felt like it took too much brainpower and frankly I'm still not sure what I may have put in my blog post!
We arose refreshed this morning, really, deeply refreshed. And a little better educated about what our minds and emotional selves need as well as our physical selves on this trip. And amazingly, the world really appeared differently. Colors were more vivid, smells more pronounced. I noticed more things around us and I made sure to point it all out to Crash and ask him plenty of questions. (I'm sure Crash preferred the quieter exhausted me.) We even broke away from the ride for more than a fuel and hydration stop. He drove into Mount Horeb, WI, (an adorable little town) and checked out Duluth Trading Co.'s flagship store. It was an hour where our bodies and brains were able to step away from all things motorcycling. (And we each got a new article of clothing.)
New rule! Need down time, not just sleep time on long rides Something that revives you, during the ride as well as after the day's ride. Things like reading, meditating, exercise, TV, music, sight seeing whatever works for you. Tonight we made time to explore Plymouth, do a little shopping, laundry and relax in our room. Today was great! Looking forward to the races.