In the fall of 2011 I attended the MTF Founders Feast in
. Following the dinner on Saturday night there
was a banquet of sorts where the board members recognize various people within
the forum and announced the rides for the upcoming year. A couple of the rides mentioned included a
ride in Stecoah, NC Helen, Georgia
and New Glarus, Wisconsin.
The New Glarus ride sparked my attention since my grandparents on my mother’s side reside outside of
. We have been looking for a good excuse to ride
the bikes up that way for a couple years now (as if we didn’t have enough
reason to just visit) but these seemed like a trip we needed to pull off. Madison, Wisconsin
In the weeks before this trip Dad decided to make some changes to the FJR which included rebuilding his suspension, adding a fuel cell and a second GPS. In addition to his improvements I added a second GPS as well and a ½ gallon water jug. Big thanks to Joey Lawson for hanging out at the
and spinning wrenches on his
Saturdays and late evenings off work.
Couldn’t have pulled it off with out ya! Thanks man! Man Cave
Friday, June 22 I left work a bit late thanks to some last minute issues that needed to be resolved before leaving the office for a week. This worked out for the best as a line of showers decided to move through during my delay and by time I had got home and ready to leave the storms had moved on out.
Our goal for the first evening was to head out west towards
Boone, NC and reserve a
motel just outside of . Bristol,
is a short ride from home but we figured it would be nice to get out past where
we normally go on a day ride so that we could spend our first full days in an
area unknown to us. The route up to
Bristol took us up roads we are quite familiar with, 421 and 58 through
Damascus, Virginia, however things got interesting when three of the four GPS’s
we had with us decided to shut off and reboot every time they acquired
satellites. This began happening just
outside of Boone and continued till we were close to
The only one that wasn’t acting up was my “new” 2720 that wasn’t updated to the
latest maps. I am still not sure why
this happened, I assume it had something to do with the route itself seeing as
how I could use the GPS with out issue as long as I didn’t have it running that
particular route. , Mountain City Tn.
|Riding through Kentucky|
The next morning we left the hotel around 9am and made our way back onto Hwy 421. When we were making our plans for this trip we decided to follow 421 as far as we could past
. We all enjoyed riding “The Snake” and looked
forward to each trip there, so we figured we would explore beyond there in
hopes that it was just as good. This
turned out to be one of our better ideas as 421 through Shady Valley,
Tennessee turned out to be an amazing
ride. The scenery was great and the road
surface was perfect, we really couldn’t have asked for more. On more than one
occasion Dad and I got so zoned into the road that we both ignored our GPS’s
and ended up missing several turn offs.
After the 2nd or 3rd mishap, Mom came over the
radio and said, “Why is it that with 4 GPS’s in use you two are blowing
corners?” She did have a point… but Dad and I were enjoying the roads so much
that the GPS’s were the last thing we wanted to look at. Kentucky
|Riding along through the Appalachian Mountains.|
|Just one of the many reasons I love riding...|
|Its official! I have been to Kingdom Come.|
|This is Kentucky's idea of a small commuter. B, double E, double R, U, N.|
Somewhere just outside of
Kentucky we took a rest break to top off the
tanks and cool off. With the heat index
in the upper 90’s we had to take a few stops along the way to wet our head
socks and replenish the water cooler. At
this particular stop Mom started getting a bit cranky. She was hot, tired and I’m assuming ready to
get off the bike because she’s not man enough to ride like I can. Dad was trying to encourage her to take the
cold bottle of water and pour it over her head sock and her base layer
shirt. We explained what this would do
and it would be helpful to her. She was
having nothing to do with it. But Dad
continued with the sales pitch until Mom began to ignore him. With this Dad started getting ready, he soaked
the head sock one more time and then put his helmet on. After he got on the bike and began working
with the GPS’s Mom came over to me complaining about the heat and how Dad kept
asking her to do something she didn’t want to.
At this point I was holding a full and open 1L bottle of water and all I
could here my loving mother say was, “ Waa, Wa, , Waaa.” At that point instinct
took over and I found myself squeezing that bottle of water as I tossed that
cold liquid all over the front of my mother. Waaa,
|Couldn't have asked for better weather.|
|The Kentucky country side was covered in round bales.|
|We rode Hwy 421 from Wilksboro, NC through Kentucky.|
|More country side.|
A few hours later we decided to call it a night in
After fueling up the bikes we headed into town to see what we could find to
eat. On the corner of Crawfordsville, Illinois Main Street we saw a neat looking
pizzeria called “Johnny’s Pizza.” As we walked in the front door we were
greeted by a large white board sign that said, “Prepare for awesome!” Well,
they didn’t lie, it was awesome! Great staff, quick service and most
importantly, amazing pizza. You started
by selecting you style of pizza, (NY, Chicago,
etc) followed by the sauces, cheeses and toppings. I highly recommend the place
if you are in the area.
The next morning while eating breakfast we started conversation with a lady and her children. It turns out that they were from
NC (40 minutes away from Lexington)
and they were headed to Wisconsin
as well. What are the odds? After chatting for a bit with them we made our way
back to the rooms, packed our bags and loaded up. Since we started this LD stuff and began
farkling the bikes, it has been very difficult to stop anywhere without having
someone come up to us and ask questions about the bikes. This morning was no
exception. As we were mounting up the
GPS’s and filling my water cooler, a hotel guest began circling and asking
about the bikes. He was a nice guy, rather talkative though, but his questions
ended up delaying our start about 30 minutes.
We were in no hurry, so it wasn’t that big of deal but I can see this becoming
an issue at fuel stops, etc during timed rides.
Once we were on the road we decided to go ahead and make some time and take the big roads on up to farm. (Granny and Papa’s) Along the way we managed to miss yet another turn, however this detour ended up taking us right next to a very large wind turbine farm. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by so I decided to stop on some side road between fields and take some photos.
|Wind turbines fascinate me.|
|The clouds really added something to these photos.|
|Just riding along...|
The rest of the ride up was rather uneventful as the roads we quite straight and flat. It was clear that
was suffering from a drought as the corn was rather low for the season and the
grass was brown everywhere. Shortly
after lunch time we pulled into the farm.
|Dairy Queen? Who?|
|Wind turbines scattered about the mid west.|
|New motorcycle state! |
After unloading the bikes and taking quick showers, we settled into the chairs on the front porch to talk while Granny prepared dinner. Sitting there on the porch talking with Granny and Papa I found myself day dreaming about my summers on the farm and the things I used to do on a daily basis here before Papa sold the cattle.
The previous night after dinner we decided that we go to
Green Bay in the morning
to spend the day at Lambeau Field. I
have wanted to visit the stadium for some time now and since we had rode the
bikes this far I figured it would be neat to get a picture of the bike out in
front of the stadium. Granny, Papa and Mom
rode in the van together while Dad and I rode our bikes.
|I wanted to pull the bike up between Lombardi and Curly...|
|I hope Millers are cheap here on game day!|
|It was closed for improvements. :(|
When we arrived, I took a few quick pictures before heading inside and signing up for the stadium tour and purchasing tickets for the hall of fame. The stadium was spectacular. It was well worth the money for the tour and the hall of fame.
The tour started with a history lesson about The Green Bay Packers and how Curly got his start and why Lombardi ended up coming to the tundra.
|Lots of History here...|
|The view from one of the boxes.|
|Locker rooms and so much more are behind those doors.|
|About to walk down the tunnel and out to the field.|
|Yea.. I got chills.|
|Notice the flags are blowing in different directions.|
After the tour we made our way to The Hall of Fame for a bit which was packed full of documents, trophies (including the Super Bowl trophies) and miscellaneous items. I could have easily spent all day in that area.
|[Final Countdown Playing]|
Once we got home, we parked the bikes in the garage and Granny prepared another amazing dinner. Of course while I waited on dinner I helped myself to a few of her delicious deserts. It was starting dawn on me why I always returned from the farm as a kid about 10 lbs heavier that when I arrived. But it was always worth it.
After the excitement of Monday we decided that we would spend Tuesday hanging around the farm and possibly go into town. So to start things off we brought out the pistols and headed to edge of the barn yard for some shooting. Granny had never shot before and had expressed some interest in doing so. At first we thought this was a good thing but then we started having concerns for Papa’s safety.
After about an hour we had shot through most of our ammo and decided to pack up and head into town to visit my great grandmother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The last time I visited with her was during the Christmas of 2009, at that time she remembered me as Mark, who is her grandson. However, this trip she didn’t know who I was at all. Several times during the visit she forgot who all of us were and why she was in the nursing home to begin with. It’s a sad thing to see someone you love with this disease and knowing you really can’t do any thing about it.
Back at the farm we spent the remainder of the afternoon of the porch talking and watching traffic go by. Just before sunset I grabbed my camera and walked around the farm to get some photos in order to preserve the memories of my summers here when I was younger. I walked up the side of the road about ¼ of a mile before I turned around to get a picture. I wanted to capture the farm in a way that I always think about it, which is the first view of it when I was coming to visit every summer. I turned around to see the sun setting behind the farm house with the corn in the distance. The barn yard is empty now; the fences and cattle are gone, the gravel driveways grown over with grass and most of the machinery has been sold. I took a few photos and began to get choked up. I spent almost every summer here during my elementary and middle school years. Everywhere I looked sparked another memory. Climbing to the top of the hay elevator, working on the tractors, doing wheelies with the loader tractor (papa wasn’t happy about that one) and jumping out of the straw barn.
|My favorite view of the farm. It's always a welcoming sight.|
|Hog house in the corn.|
|So many memories here.|
|So many changes. The concrete pad was the main cow yard.|
|The silo that used to feed the cow yard.|
|Cow yard looking towards the marsh.|
|Remaining fence from the steer yard.|
|More memories. Including trying to make the tractor do wheelies...|
|One of my favorites of this shoot.|
|Another shot of Granny's house. She has put so much into this place, making it look like it does today.|
|Remaining fence from the heifer lot.|
|The Jacobs Farm.|
The next morning we began packing up to leave the farm and head to New Glarus,
to meet the MTF crowd. Before we left we decided to ride around the area and
look at all the wind turbines that have gone up in the past few years. Apparently the owners of these turbines are
paying the farmers really well to use the small amount of land they
occupy. Many of the farmers that have
leased their land have made large and costly improvements to their farms as a
Once we had the bikes loaded and ready to go, Dad and I pulled over to the front yard in order to remake a photo that was taken nearly 10 years ago. When I was 6 years old we took a family trip to the farm with the dirt bikes in tow. It was the trip that Mom and Dad rented a trailer and we hauled the dirt bikes up with us so Granny and Papa could see me ride. One evening, a photo was taken with Dad and me in the front yard on our bikes with all our gear on. Seeing as how this was the first time we had been to the farm with our bikes since, we had to remake that photo again.
|Original Photo from 1993(?)|
|The bikes have changed, but the passion hasn't.|
|Nothing like the smell of fresh cut alfalfa!|
A short ride later we made our way into New Glarus. The temperatures were in the mid 90’s with hardly a breeze blowing. Most of the MTF crowd had already arrived, so as we began un packing the bike bikes many of the members came up to chat with us. It wasn’t long after we got settled into our rooms when we gathered up for the intro meeting and dinner at the hotel next door.
|Mike was voted, "head cheese."|
|Wienerschnitzel. It was very good!|
|Mom and Dad in front of the host hotel.|
After dinner was over we made our way back to hotel to join in with a group that was hanging out on the walkway in front of the hotel. Most of us were enjoying cold beer from the New Glarus Brewery which was within a throwing stone of the hotel. We must have chatted for hours outside around the bikes that night. To be honest, sometimes the best part of riding motorcycles is sitting around with other riders and reliving the moments on the road because chances are most of the riders that are around have had similar situations occur. Laughter usually erupts when telling stories that, at the time, were agonizing. The laughter isn’t vane though; it is usually because many in the conversation have been in the same boat.
Just before I was about to head to the room for the night, I was cornered by Brian Hiley asking if I would be interested in doing a rough road ride with him in the morning. Seeing has how I was on a Vstrom and the ride was supposed to be an easy one on gravel roads, I figured I would give it a shot.
In the morning after my shower I made my way outside to the bike and the 80+ degree temperatures. Figuring that I would need as much weight as I could get on the nose of the bike I decided to remove the aux cell, which happened to be full of fuel. Once complete, I geared up and made my way out front to meet Brian and two other gentlemen (sorry I can’t remember you names now) for the ride. Brian was on his Super Tenere that was all farkled out, another guy was on a WR250, myself on the Vstrom and one other gentleman on a Wee Strom.
|Heading to do some rough roading.|
|Got another Vstrom in the party!|
We made our way to the trail head and purchased a trail pass from the nearest gas station and set out on the rail trail system. For the most part the trails were packed gravel that wondered through the woods that separated the corn fields. Our pace was around 35 mph or so which was plenty fast for me on the giant I was riding. However, I kept thinking to myself that if I was on that WR250 I would have stepped into Hare Scramble mode and been pushing 60+ in no time. Those trails were literally wide enough for a large truck to go down. Periodically we came up on areas where they maintenance team had filled in low spots with sand. It was apparent that they brought a dump truck in and the driver just unloaded the sand as he went. With this in mind, riding into the sandy area was no big deal however; at the end of the sand trap was usually a lip where the dumping began. This often ended up in a nice drop off where I managed to scare myself on more than one occasion. On my old race bike, this wouldn’t have been an issue, however on a 400lb bike that I was depending on riding home with… I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of leaving the ground.
|Riding the rail trail.|
About half way through the trail system we made our way into town and stopped to get gas for the WR and some lunch. The temperature outside was well into the 90’s and we were looking for a nice place to sit in the air conditioning for a while. We all managed to order light lunches that included fruit bowls and veggies. During the meal we must have drank several gallons of water as well. The waitress ended up replacing the water pitcher instead of our glasses.
Back on the tails we made good time and started to step up the pace a bit as we all got more comfortable with our bikes in the dirt. About ¾ of the way through I noticed a sandy area that seemed odd compared to the rest. All the previous sand areas had smooth transitions into them. However, this one had a shadow area between the gravel and sand. At the time I was riding in the second spot behind Brian. I assumed Brian had noticed this shadow as well so I slowed down and moved over to the edge of the trail to give him room to negotiate the obvious step in the sand. As I got closer I realized just how steep this lip was and came to a quick stop. Brian didn’t, nor did he move over to avoid it. He hit the lip, which was well over 2 feet tall, running a good 30+. To make things more interesting, it wasn’t just one bump and over, no, there were several “jumps” back to back. Somehow, Brian managed to double over the first set of bumps and then launched off the third to come to a stop just outside of the sand trap. During the excitement he had knocked the bike into neutral and came to a stop just outside the sand. I wasn’t aware of this at the time and assumed that he stopped in order to clean out his pants. Hell I would have needed too if I was him…
I pulled up next to Brian and gave him a high five for his stunt, the guy on the WR pulled up just behind him laughing pretty hard. Just after this brief celebration we heard a sliding noise and crunch. The guy on the WeeStrom was still getting through the sand and was accelerating when he realized we were stopped just on the other end. In an attempt to not take us all out, he locked up the brakes and laid the bike over on the right side and just bumped the back end of the WR. The guy was ok and his bike was fine for the most part. The turn signal broke, a few scuffs in the plastic and the pelican box on the right side was moved back a bit due to the impact. A swift kick to bag to move it back in place and we were off.
Not long after we finished up the rail trail, roughly 50 miles if my memory serves me correctly. That wasn’t my favorite ride on the Vstrom so far but it was by far the most interesting. The bike did ok in the gravel, nothing spectacular. The front end wandered a bit too much for my liking and I had to work pretty hard at maintaining my speed and balance to keep it under control. I’m glad I went off road on this trip as I now know what it is like with that bike. I can honestly say that I won’t go purposely looking for trails to ride but I won’t turn away from them if they happen to come up in my rides.
Back the hotel after dinner, Mom, Dad and I worked out our plans for the next day. My original plans were to leave on Saturday and attempt a SS1000 Waffle House extreme. However, the heat wave was producing temperatures well over 100 degrees through most of my route. With those temperatures it didn’t seem like the time to attempt this ride and to be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to the ride that much so I decided to call it off.
|Hosed off my gear and hung it out to dry on the Vstrom. She collected a bit of dust/dirt. |
In addition to my grandparents living in Wisconsin, my cousins Meg and Sarah live in Minnesota. While we were up that way we decided to do our best to meet up with them at some point since we missed Meg’s high school graduation party earlier that summer. Late Thursday we put together plans with my Uncle Mark to meet them in Lacross, Wi for lunch. Looking over the map we decided to head west to Iowa and then ride alongside the Mississippi river up to Minnesota and then across to Lacross. Seeing as how I had come to have a fascination with crossing the Mississippi we figured this would be a cool thing to do.
Friday morning we set out early from New Glarus in order to beat the heat of the day. As we made our way west, the scenery across western Wisconsin continued to amaze me. The rolling farm country was so picturesque that I could have stopped many times and taken hundreds of photos.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves just outside the border of Iowa and running low on fuel. We pulled into a small gas station to top of the tanks and grab a small snack. While we were enjoying our coffee and snack cakes, a guy on a ST1100 pulled in for a fuel and coffee break as well. At this point I have forgotten then gentleman’s name, but he was on his way to Curt Gran’s funeral when he pulled in. Curt was killed during a rally just a week prior and LD riders from all over the country were riding into the area to be a part in his funeral. The gentleman was carrying a small package of name plates similar to the ones that are given out at Moonshine. These tags were specially made up for all of the LD riders that had passed away recently. Curt’s tag was just added to the chain that held them together and the rider was taking these over to the funeral as part of the ceremony..
|Western Wisconsin is very beautiful.|
|New motorcycle state!|
|Sitting on the road waiting for mom to get the photos.|
Riding alongside the river was a great idea as the views were something to see. Houses alongside the river were all up on stilts of varying heights. As we rode along I swore some of the houses had floats attached to them! At first I thought this was silly but then the thought occurred to me that it might not be such a bad idea if the water gets high enough…
|Making a tank turn....|
|Cool shot of Dads set up.|
|These trailers/houses were prepared for the Mississippi to flood. (Not the case this year)|
|Another new motorcycle state!|
|Uncle Mark, Aunt Christie, Mom and Dad|
|Grandparents and the Grand kids!!|
After diner we headed back to the river and headed south till we were south of Chicago and then set the GPS’s to route us home. We stopped just outside of Dubuque, Iowa for fuel and a snack when we set the GPS’s for home. The route took us a bit further south before heading east which looked like would be best considering the weather that was brewing of to the east at the time.
As we made our way south we began to ride into the edge of the storms that were making their way east. We were caught up in some strong winds and severe lightning which was making us all a bit nervous and occasionally the lightning strikes were strong enough to cause interference in our CB’s. We decided to keep on riding through as there wasn’t much for cover where we were and it appeared as though clear skies were just a few miles away.
When we arrived to our turn to head east we had put a good bit of miles between us and the storm. As we rode we could see the storm just to the north/east of us and it was quite a show to see. The lightning strikes were bright enough to light up the sky where we were and they were happening a couple times a minute. To make sure we weren’t heading right back into the storms I turned on the weather radio and scanned for the local channel. The storm was heading east quickly and producing winds upwards of 60 mph, quarter sized hail, cloud to ground lightning and heavy rains. It appeared as though we were a good 50 miles south of the storm so we decided to keep moving east as long as the storm stayed north of us. The next couple hours on the road were awesome, not only did we have a front row seat to the storm be we were riding along just close enough to get the cool air from the storm front.
|One section of a wind turbine tube.|
|Riding out of some severe weather in Iowa.|
|Looks so cool at night!|
|Got tired of running from this storm. Time to hunker down.|
Eventually we caught up to the storm, passed it, and began riding south again. Around 9 or 10 that evening we stopped for fuel at a large gas station filled up the tanks and walked into a Burger King for dinner. As we ate our food we over heard the locals in the store talking about the damage from the storm. Apparently it had knocked out power and it was doing some damage to homes and businesses but there wasn’t a tornado reported yet. As I walked outside I was pushed backwards by the gusting winds that were now blowing south. While we were eating the storm had shifted and began moving south. The lightning was popping within a few miles of us and you could hear the rain coming. I checked the radar to see how big the storm was as we were not in a place where we felt comfortable spending the night. The cell was large but we felt as though we could get away from it if we hurried. In a mad dash we suited up, sealed the bags and made our way south again.
The highway we were on ended up turning east again about 30 miles later. At that point the winds were still so strong that it was all we could do to keep the bikes on the road. There were several occasions that we were in the left lane, leaning as hard as we could to battle the wind when a gust would move us over to the right lane before we could correct for it. It took about a half hour before I decided I had enough. I was tired from the riding that day and I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to keep fighting the bike for long. We stopped in a small town with a hotel mom had points for and tried to book a reservation. Unfortunately they were booked so we had to ride another 30 miles to the next town for a room. We made it to the rooms just before the storm hit the area. We parked the bikes under the shelter and hunkered down for the night.
After breakfast we loaded up the bikes and continued our route home. My original thoughts were to get into Ohio and head south to get as many WH’s as I could going into Tennessee and then head east home. However, I remember looking at a temperature map of the US the night before and noticed that the temps were in the upper 90’s for most of Ohio and West Virginia compared to the 106’s that were being reported in Tennessee. So we recalculated and decided to stay east till we reached eastern Ohio then head south.
Shortly after lunch time the high temperatures had got the most of us. As we made our way across the interstate we noticed signs for an Air Force museum just outside of Dayton, Ohio. That sounded like a great place for us to kill some time and cool off until the sun started to set.
The signs were quite misleading to say the least. From the road side signs we were expecting a small museum with a few planes and some various artifacts. Nope, this was the National Air Force museum! This place was huge! We ended up staying until they ran us out at 5pm and we had only covered the WWII wing. There were still three more wings to the place that had planes from the birth of aviation to space travel! There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we will be returning to that place again in the future.
|First jet fighter.|
|Cut away of the turbine.|
|First jet... it didnt work too well...|
|The jet.... that would blow up randomly.|
As we made our way out of town we noticed that none of the stop lights were working and most of the town seemed dark. At that point we were getting focused for the last leg of the trip and ready to get home, we didn’t think much about it.
|Found this when making my way out of a truck stop.|
|In Ohio about to cross back into WV.|
|Crossing into WV.|
A few hours later, just before sunset, we had crossed into West Virginia and decided to take a break. As we pulled off the highway we saw a McDonalds and figured a McFlurry would really hit the spot. Pulling in we noticed that the parking lot was empty and the light were off. There was a small sign on the door that read, “Due to power outage we are closed until further notice.” At that point we noticed all the branches at the end of the drive and the leaves that scattered over the place. Since we were off the road we decided to stop anyway and parked under a small shade tree. I checked my phone and noticed that I had missed a call from Grizz, who had just finished a challenge ride that morning.
He and his partner for the ride had stopped in Southern, WV the night before to wait out the storm that we dodged as well. It ended up knocking out power from Maryland south to Virginia and west through Ohio and into Indiana. They were ok but said that gas was limited as we made our way south. Only a few stations had power and they were limiting gas purchases to $20.00 a person, cash only. Luckily we had filled up the tanks just outside of Dayton which was plenty of fuel to carry us into southern Virginia.
The next couple hours were fairly uneventful until we made it to the turnpike. Just shy of the end we stopped at the large service area for a snack break. Apparently they had power and fuel as cars were lined up almost to the interstate to get in. We carefully got on the shoulder and headed for the parking lot despite the hateful looks of the drivers in line.
The convenience store was a mad house of travelers stuck with out fuel and trying to get to their locations. Rumors of traffic jams from Charlotte to NY were spreading as people waited in line to purchase their drinks and snacks.
Back on the road we were just a few hours north of home. We ended up riding through a few more small storms as we made our way into Virginia but had clear skies for the remaining 100 miles.