Saturday, August 7, 2010

Great River Ride – Day 3 – Leaving Minnesota

We started earlier today than yesterday, but finished much, much later. We still aren’t using an alarm clock. It is so sweet. The skies were rather threatening when we rode out of Brainerd.


The route put us right next to Camp Ripley, so we decided to check out the military museum there. We didn’t go inside any of the buildings. We just ran around outside taking pictures of all the cool vehicles. My wife liked this helicopter the best.


After leaving Camp Ripley, the skies decided we needed to be more wet. We pulled over to put on our tourmaster 1pc rainsuits. As usually happens, after five minutes of struggling we were back on the road and the rain was gone. We kept going until we got to little falls, and then I couldn’t take it anymore, so mine went back into the stuff sack.


We found some cool murals here. It’s amazing to watch the river grow. It’s actually looking like a proper river now.

IMG_5912 IMG_5914

Next we ended up in Sartell and then St. Cloud. We decided not to visit the flower gardens that we have in the past because we wanted to get back to St. Paul and have lunch in our own house. Our plans were briefly thwarted as we sat in probably the worst traffic mess I’ve been in for 2010. For almost ten minutes I only used the friction zone of the clutch to move the bike forwards.

IMGP7835 IMGP7837

At least there were some flowers to look at while we waited.


We finally made it home. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and some laundry. Two hours later we were back on the road. We didn’t take any pictures of the route in the twin cities as we have done this route before many, many times and there are already enough of our pictures on flickr.

Wild Flowers along the Mississippi River IMGP7854

Following MN-61 south we ran into more construction and lane closures. It was slow going, but eventually it passed and we were flowing down the road along side the river. We opted for the Minnesota side rather than Wisconsin because it is a bit faster. We have done both sides numerous times and wanted to move further south to see the new sights. Doing some quick math, I figured out we should be able to make Prairie Du Chien (PDC), WI about 40 minutes before sunset. It being a decent sized city, we had no worries about finding a hotel there.

IMGP7856 IMG_5931

We passed LaCrescent, MN and then moved into Iowa. Our second state on the route!


On the Iowa side the riding was incredible. I had forgotten how well maintained the roads are in north eastern Iowa. The scenery was very distracting as the road flowed left and right up and down along the river. It turned into the bluffs and then came back down just on the other side of PDC. The motels looked good in Marquette, but they were all full. We crossed the two mile “bridge” (there is an island in the middle) over the Mississippi river from Iowa to Wisconsin. We didn’t get the sign crossing as it was took dark, and we really wanted to find a room.

IMGP7858 IMGP7857

Amazingly, every single room at EVERY motel/hotel/B&B in PDC was taken. We had apparently come on the wrong weekend. There was a country concert on the river that has brought quite a few people into town. We watched as a few other motorcycles followed us around as we all scurried from motel to hotel looking for a room and only finding the dreaded “No Vacancy” instead.

the reason PDC had no rooms

It was now well past 9pm and very dark. We had a snack, changed our visors, and decided to push onto Dubuque, IA.


Dubuque is much larger, but 60+ miles away. Did I mention it was dark? I’ve ridden at night before… well I thought I had. Riding in the city under the freeway lights really doesn’t count. Out in the middle of the river bluffs, far from any other light pollution, I found out my SV’s single headlight isn’t as bright as I would have liked it. I kept checking my mirrors, but it was only blackness. The sides were also black, and I couldn’t make out any shapes of the trees. The only things we could see if the bit of road ahead, the bugs as they streaked to their death into the headlight, and the mountain of stars overhead.

I plodded along the twisty road until I was overtaken by a white SUV. He had REALLY bright lights, so I followed him from a nice distance and was able to see all of the road I wanted. We flew along the deserted country roads for almost thirty miles before I saw another motel. The sign said “Vacancy”!

We turned in and took off our gloves, helmets, and ear plugs. I walked in and was asked

“Do you have a rejervation?” (yes, rejervation, not reservation)

“Nope, can I get a room?”

“No, we don’t have any.”

“What about the sign?”

“Sorry, I’m waiting for someone else.”

Frustrated, we put all of our gear back on and hit the road again. Many miles down the road, we could see a glow in the distance behind the hills. It was Dubuque, IA. We had finally made it. As soon as we crossed the Mississippi River back into Iowa, I think the temperature jumped from 70F to 80F. We stopped at the Motel6 we had stayed at last time we were here for the TWT. It was full. I was also informed all the other nearby motels were full. Shocked, I confirmed with my phone. No good. We rode around checking more hotels and motels. We eventually found the Holiday Inn Express on the NW edge of town. There was a computer error that caused seven rooms to be blocked when they were actually available. This was discovered at 10pm. We arrived at 11pm, and took the third to last room. By the time I was done booking, the others were taken. We really almost got the last room in the city.

We rode 423 miles today which nearly doubled our entire trip mileage. It was an adventure, and I wouldn’t change it if I could do it again. I just hope we don’t have anymore long days like this. The high was 93F (in St. Paul) and the low 68F. I think it’ll keep getting warmer from here on south.

Full Flickr set for today here




Related Posts:


  1. Wow that was tough but glad you both took it in stride! I've ridden in bugs so bad (during the day) that I could barley see at all by the time I got to my destination. What a mess!! You sure can't wipe them off like rain!
    I hope you don't have anymore trouble with hotels.
    Ride on guys!!

  2. Eve: I never had them that bad, but have seen pics. Eww. Yay, for a full face helmet!

    We had good luck today, but it's a sunday night. I expect we'll be good again until the weekend.

  3. Chris, nice set of pics...I liked the ones with the military hardware in the shot.

    Since you're in Iowa....I'll post the same link I left on Gary's USATOUR by HD site:

    Heywood Banks Interstate 80 Iowa

    ride safe


    Redleg's Rides

  4. Dom: ROFL! MY wife nearly chocked watching it with me. Not that much corn on the east side, but definitely "what's that smell" thanks!!

  5. I had the same trouble finding a room in this area. Those country concerts pulled in a lot of people looking for rooms! Glad you found one eventually!

  6. Gary: I've never had trouble there before. Just bad luck. I'm actually a bit nervous about tomorrow night in New Orleans area. It's almost the weekend, so busy motels again. We're getting used to being almost the only guests. nice and quiet.

  7. Loved this installment! I also loved PDC and have never known it to be out of hotels...but as you said you picked the wrong weekend. That ride to find a hotel had me on the edge of my seat!

  8. Thanks Sharon. It was a fun ride in the dark. One of the more memorable moments for both of us!