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:
Friday May 29/Plymouth WI/Full Day/Local Miles Only
Today was a scouting day. We slept in a little and once the sun was high and warm we went to the track to walk the battlefield and come up with a plan on where to be to see what we wanted. We have VIP passes and parking is simple in the VIP lot and we also have suite passes into the Tower—unfortunately we couldn’t get in today and have to wait until tomorrow to see what that looks like. There should be an outstanding view of the start/finish and turn one as well. Done with recon a trip to Lake Michigan was mandatory because neither of us has ever seen one of the Great Lakes and you never want to pass on the opportunity to say, “I’ve been to Sheboygan!”
I’ve been to Sheboygan! WoooHooo! For the rest of my life I can butcher the name of a mid-sized Wisconsin lakefront city. She-BOI-gan. Shhh-boy-g’in. Shi-boy-boy-natty-gann. OK. Too far, but fun. Fortunately I have the lovely Mrs. Crash to pull me back from folly, slap my hand and tell me to shut it. This trip is supposed to be my Christmas present. I can’t decide if it’s funny or sad or sweet but the real present is spending time with my wife. It’s wonderfully sweet to think that she’s crafty enough to give me something we both want but I don’t think that’s true. Or maybe it is. I hope she understands I don’t need to be here as long as I’m with her.
I was out in front of the hotel this morning waiting for Mrs. Crash to come out and get on the bike and the guys from one of the race teams were gathering up to go to the track. I was just listening—they had to know I could hear them—and they were so very, completely normal. I’ve worked on live production TV crews for a long time now and been on the road more than a few times and crews are groups of people who get to know each other by spending time together in often adverse, high pressure situations. Due to the nature of what a crew does together under the pressures of time and performance goals crew end up with camaraderie that is the same. You eat together. You sleep together. You work together. You win together and you fail together. A good crew is fun to be a part of and fun to watch. This crew was mostly guys (like TV crews I’ve worked), knew each other pretty good (enough to make fun of the guy who snores, or the one who is always late) and was clearly a little punchy after the drive into town yesterday. They were the simple fun of youth and travel and a neat job that takes you neat places meeting cool people. When Julie came out of the hotel I told her, “These guys are just like every crew I’ve ever traveled with or meet at the stadium. They’re just too normal and true to themselves.” She looked at me with that “you’re sweet…but nuts” kind of look that says, “I love you because you’re goofy.”
Julie and I have been married twenty-six years. The kids I teach at high school seem to feel that’s an impossibly long time and to a 16 year old it must be. But it’s not to me. As I watched that crew of kids and then watched my wife come out the door I realized that we are a crew. We know what buttons to push and how hard to push them. We go too far sometimes and we know how to fix it when we do. We have fun. We win together and we lose together. We are a team. Coming back from Che-BOI-Gun we were just bushwhacking it west knowing that it was the right direction to go. I found myself on County Road 0. Not zero but O, like L, M, N, O. When I came up to intersections I’d ask, “Left, right or straight?” all the while thinking that O seemed familiar and that keeping going straight was going to work out. She would answer, “Straight” and straight I’d go thinking, “That’s what I’d do.” Turns out that County Road O intersects the highway about a quarter mile from our hotel. We both had thought so.
The present, the blessing in this life is finding someone who makes you and for whom you do the same. We went to a little restaurant across the street from the hotel called “Sweet Basil” and were sitting at the bar because we got there before the dining room opened. I was thinking about two gentleman riders we had met earlier. They were buddies and traveling together. They were buddies. Just buddies. I thought about the ladies at the gate at the track who had paused and talked to us and wanted to know all about us. And then, at dinner (which was the best food I’ve had in a long, long time) we had a great chat and the waitress was so interested in us. The clerk at the hotel had asked about us. And everywhere we go and everyone we talk to wants to know about us. Us. We. Personal plural. We ate each other’s food at the restaurant because we each wanted to make sure the other got to taste the best food in the world.
Yes, twenty-six years can seem like an impossibly long time but if you’re with the right person it will never seem enough. Thank you sweetie—you’re the greatest present anyone’s ever given me.
And, from Julie:
So this morning started late for us. We didn't even roll out of bed until 8am. Had a container of Greek yogurt we'd stocked in the mini fridge. I did my hair for the first time it days and put on a little make up. It felt good to be a little girly again, even if it only lasted from the hotel room to the ST.
From the hotel to Road America is only about 10 minutes down the road. Since today was move in and set up day at the track we decided to make as much use of the day as possible. We pulled into the Raceway and parked, took a good hike around the track, infield and paddock checking out possible photo opportunities for tomorrow and Sunday. We scoped a few of the race bikes under their awnings being tinkered with by crew members and mechanics. Crash checked out the butter fat content of the chocolate mint swirl soft serve ice cream at one of the concession stands. People who were setting up to camp on the infields pulled in on a myriad of bikes, campers and trucks many of which were towing Harleys on trailers . I heard someone remark, "that was a Harley in its natural state." (I find it amazing the things you hear and the things people are willing to say around you if you just stand quietly in the background.)
It was bright and beautiful and green. The smell of racing fuel, grass and concessions wafted through the air. There was a Dyno whining some where in the vicinity and 2 cycle pit bikes and scooters zipped back and forth across the asphalt like ants on a picnic table at a summer picnic. We stayed for a couple of hours, got the lay of the land for tomorrow and decided to explore the area for the afternoon.
Back on the bike we headed toward Sheboygan. Just a few miles away and on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was warm as we left Plymouth and headed East but as we dropped over the rise into Sheboygan it got chilly and fast. Temperatures close to the lake are substantially colder than 15 minutes away. We walked the breakwater and checked out the information center and the ship store. Which stocked not so delicious beef sticks, and some of the best dill pickle flavored potato chips I've had. (They reminded me of a dill pickle dip my grandfather used to buy for me as a special treat when I would spend the night with he and my grandmother as a child.)
Soon it was apparent that we needed be be in a more temperate zone so back we headed. Taking the scenic route we found ourselves stopped in front a a beautiful old Catholic Church where Crash decided to lie on the pavement in the middle of the street to get the perfect angle for a picture of the bike. I felt slightly ridiculous protecting him from being run over by oncoming traffic and small girls on bicycles. (Boy did they give him some looks!) at this point I need to insert some form of food into the paragraph as in all the previous paragraphs, and since I can't work it in gracefully...cheese.
We're in Wisconsin. You can't be in Wisconsin and not have cheese and it's Damn good cheese. It turns out there is a little, local cheese and wine shop in a gas station a couple of miles from our hotel. Being cheese lovers we grabbed some horseradish cheddar curds and fontina to try. Mmmmm yummy. These people know how to make cheese.
By now Crash and I were starting to get tired and I very much wanted to get cleaned up, like real adults and have dinner in a sit down restaurant. (There is only so much, fast food and protein bars a girl can take.) Thank goodness we didn't have any crackers in the hotel room or I'm afraid dinner would have been the cheese we'd purchased, crackers, jerky and diet Mountain Dew or Pepsi. Crash politely acquiesced to my desires and took me across the road to a little Italian place named Sweet Basil. We timed it to arrive, have dinner and be back in our hotel room before everyone else returned from the racetrack. What a divine plan. Our waitress was a delightful woman who hailed from SunValley, ID, small world. She was a delight to visit with and was very congenial and full of ideas of things for us to do and places for us to visit if time permitted. She filled the table with Rosemary Italian bread with fresh grated Parmesan cheese, then brought bruschetta and a watermelon,feta and arugula with balsamic vinaigrette salad which we devoured. The main course for me were some amazing scallops on a bead of risotto. Crash gobbled up fingerling potatoes with horseradish sauce, a fillet of seared salmon and a salad of pickled cucumber and onion. I'm sure part of it was just our lack of real food the past few days but I'd like to think most of our lack of etiquette was due to the amazing gastronomic experience. I highly recommend Sweet Basil if you're ever near Plymouth, WI.
Now it's time to check on my kids, relax and watch Crash eat the piece of lemon raspberry poppyseed cake he brought back to the room and wait for the races tomorrow.
(I think I managed to mention food in every paragraph!)