It’s July 8 and we’re in Staples, MN. Only about 250 miles today (400 km) but that was intentional because we front loaded the daily mileage over the first three days in case the going got tough.
Well, today had a very pleasant start with a rather spectacular finish. We slept in a bit because we planned a rather short day, mostly along secondary routes. We started out on US 53 heading north for about 50 miles of freeway. Even though it was freeway it was a very pleasant ride. The road was sparsely populated, the pavement smooth and the temperature actually a bit cool, even in the morning sun. Although quite humid, it didn’t cause us any discomfort. Wonderful rolling, green landscape that I have to say has been one of the more scenic stretches of our trip. This is clearly Amish territory since there are the odd carriage warning signs and plenty of advertising regarding Amish souvenirs and the like.
We turned west on US 8 near Rice Lake heading for Minneapolis/St. Paul. The trick was to skirt the twin cities but that was no problem with the GPS, even though it seems to be having a hissy fit and isn’t speaking to me at the moment. Sometimes I enjoy the silence – like when we turn off for a break. Yes, I know you’re recalculating – again. 🙂 It started to warm up around noon but it was child’s play compared to the heat we have experienced. We had a lunch break somewhere along US 10 after skirting the big cities. We were certainly glad we were heading west rather than east – as in, back to town. There were literally miles-long line ups along US 10 that was clearly weekend traffic heading home. In the land of 10,000 lakes I can only assume everyone was heading home from the lake – every lake. 🙂
When we left in the morning there was a possibility of limited thunder storm activity. Considering the heat, humidity and the low pressure front heading down from the north, I was surprised that was all that was expected. As we rode along in the afternoon, the cumulus clouds suddenly started to grow – some rapidly and very high. My Spidy sense told me that something was up. We haven’t ridden endless miles in the prairies and learned nothing! Before long, what I expected appeared north of us; a massing of thunderheads combining into one, spanning about 75% of the northern horizon, rising into the stratosphere, flattened out on top with the jet stream ripping the top to shreds. Not a good sign. We were heading north straight toward it, but knew the road would turn northwest sooner or later. As we rode all I could think was “Turn, damn you, turn!” The base of the beast wasn’t visible for quite some time while were in the trees but finally we got a look at the whole thing. A black wall from side to side with a boiling center at the base of the cloud. Rain was evident across several miles but there was a column of hail probably a couple of miles wide in the center. Finally we turned northwest, skinning by the worst. We missed the hail but the rain was intense – normal for a thunderstorm – and the wind was both violent and chaotic to say the least. Over about ten miles the rain came and went with the wind changing direction at one point about every 500 yards. We approached a service center (with several bikes parked outside) so I pointed, basically asking Arlene if she wanted to turn in (her CB will transmit but not receive). All I heard was “KEEP GOING!” That’s my girl. 🙂 Once we had passed through, we still had about 20 miles to go. Just enough time to dry out. 🙂
The best part of all this? When I started to smell a rat I turned on the US weather service weather band on the radio (remember, I ride a Geezer Glide). At first, it went on at length telling me all about what the weather WAS during the morning. Just as we cleared the trees and I could see the base of the storm, the announcer – in a very foreboding voice – warned that “the morning forecast for light thunderstorm risk in the afternoon throughout the state had been updated to include a severe threat in the area of Little Falls. As we passed the Little Falls city limit sign all I could think was, “No shit, Sherlock.”
As I sit here, Arlene is watching the weather channel. We just left Ohio and north easternVirginia where they are getting hammered by terrible weather including tornadoes. We were there just after record breaking winds and lightning. Even though I have been whining about the heat over the whole trip, we dodged just north of hurricane Debby and have left nothing but terrible weather in our wake wherever we have been. At the moment we are in a very small pocket of decent weather surrounded by drought or excessive rainfall. She is also highlighting our route so far this trip and found that we have been through 24 states. Including those that we have been through before, we have ridden through a total of 37 of the Excited States, including Alaska.
Today we made a decision to head west toward home rather than east after Winnipeg. For the last couple of days, both of us have been thinking separately that once we started heading west, the rest of the original route we had planned after Virginia seemed almost moot. Although we both were looking forward to visiting the Maritimes and the north eastern US, it’s ground we have covered before – not for a minute saying that we have seen it all. We’re both pretty tired and would have no problem navigating some new roads through the area, but the idea of turning around to head back over half the continent to pick up our trail just doesn’t appeal to us. At the moment we’re starting to get the “horse heading for the barn” feeling. We’ve had that before and from experience, we know that we will only be going through the motions if we headed east again. It’s been yet another trip of a lifetime so far and we don’t want to spoil it. It’s a bit disappointing because we were looking forward to seeing Andy and Joanne and my cousin Fenn in Nova Scotia. C’est la vie. There will always be another ride.