Thursday, October 2, 2008

2008 Fall Ride

Fossil Apostles Fall Ride ‘08

Gordy nailed it! His proposal of an Oct. 11 date for a fall ride may prove to have been the best day of the Autumn of ’08. The confluence of mid-seventy air temps, a partly to mostly cloudy sky, light breezes and some peak color combined for a great day for biking in river bluff country along the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Just six of us – Lloyd, Bill, Jim, Keith, Jeff and I (Greg) met up at Woody’s Grille, along the west edge of the 494 loop at 8:00 Saturday morning.

We got underway at about 8:30, after getting apprised of the most recent updates to Gadget Guy’s (Jeff’s) bike (check out the new surface-to-air missile launcher---). Within a half-hour or so, we escaped the metro freeway network, following highway 55 south toward Hastings. Once in Hastings, Jeff took the lead to escort us to Red Wing via a nice, somewhat curvy road-less-traveled, namely, Ravenna Trail to County 18 Boulevard. It emptied back onto Hwy. 61, just north of Red Wing – a nice alternative to Hwy. 52 to County 50 through Trier and Miesville.

We arrived in Red Wing at 10:00, where we met up with Gordy for breakfast at Liberty’s Restaurant, downtown. Gordy was sporting a new aftershave called “87 Octane” that attracted the attention of all the waitresses. The food was outstanding. The conversation drifted in and out of politics, the economic collapse, and talk about our foolish car purchases in years past. We enjoyed a few laughs, sang “Happy Birthday” to a waitress named Sherry and left to enjoy our ride. Regrettably, Keith had to return home to make good on a previous commitment. We said our goodbyes, then we headed south toward Lake City, down Hwy. 61.

It was somewhat chilly riding in the shade of the river bluffs for several miles below Lake City, but not enough to be of any concern. The fall colors were spectacular, the vistas along the river breathtaking at times, and I could not help but be reminded of how very privileged we were to be experiencing this ride together, in this extraordinarily beautiful place. God’s workmanship – at the peak of it’s beauty, and here we were riding motorcycles though it. Man, we are so blessed!

We exited Hwy. 61 at Weaver, then followed County 74 toward Beaver and the Whitewater State Park basin, where flooding had ravaged the area just months earlier. We found ourselves on hard-packed limestone gravel that stretched on for several miles. The Box Elder bugs and Ladybugs were hanging in swarms in the warm October air. We made our way to the town of Elba, where Jeff had to leave us to make his way back toward home and a to-do list.

The remainder of us went to plan B, which took us eastward, back toward the river and bluff country, in lieu of the original route which would have taken us northwesterly toward Zumbro Falls, Oronoco and Zumbrota. I think we followed county 26 toward Altura, then east along Hwy. 248 back to Hwy. 61. We rode into downtown Winona to find the river crossing into Wisconsin. Once across the river, we headed northward along the river on Wisconsin Hwy. 35.

Hwy. 35 was magnificent! A good deal of the way you are looking at the river or the backwaters of the river. It takes you through these quaint, small towns like Fountain City, Maiden Rock, Stockholm and Pepin. Every biker and his brother (or his Mama) was out on the road. The river to the left, the bluffs and the leafy palettes of color to the right – wow! - what a treat! And this kind of eye-candy stretched on for miles and more miles. At Gordy’s urging (now we know where Keith gets it) we stopped for ice cream at a great little ice cream shop, I think just south of Pepin. We took plenty of time to sit and enjoy enormous ice cream cones (a bargain at only $2) and watch the endless parade of motorcycles go by. Before getting underway once again we said our goodbyes to Gordy, as we knew he would soon be crossing the river, back to Red Wing via the bridge at Hwy. 63.

Shortly after Gordy left us, we saw the skies threatening rain ahead, so we pulled off one last time to suit-up for rain. A light rain soon started, but in no way dampened our spirits nor spoiled the ride. We crossed back into Minnesota from Prescott, Wisconsin, linked up with the superslabs – Hwy. 61 to 94 to 35E to 694/94 and to home, arriving there around 6:30, just as it was starting to get dark.

Bill mentioned to me the next morning, at church, the melancholy that he felt as he pulled into the garage that night. “I was thinking about the fact that it may be six months before we can do this again.”. As I left him, I felt a bit of that same melancholy, but also the thought that maybe those six months are a part of what make a day like today so precious – the fact that we don’t know when – or if ever - we will have this opportunity again. We receive it all the more as a treasured gift from our Creator and Father. Thank you, Lord for the gift of today.

Until we ride again,