Thursday, July 28, 2005

Disappointment in Eveleth 7/27/05

Being an ex-ice jockey and still loving that feeling of controlled chaos, I stopped in Eveleth to experience the US Hockey Hall of Fame. I didn't even know it existed or that it was located in Minnesota and I found out why I was oblivious. Shelling out eight bucks for the museum was a slap shot to the groin. The displays were falling apart, the building was poorly arranged, and the information was trite: beneath any average fan's knowledge. The only true hockey deja vu I had was in the restroom where they successfully reenacted (not on purpose I assume) the color scheme, stench, and feel of a hockey locker room bathroom... even down to the rubber floor--just in case anyone was still wearing their skates after the tour. I'm not sure if USA Hockey, which has established itself as a top notch organization, has anything to do with the upkeep of the shrine in Eveleth, but people in Colorado need to be informed about the lack of respect for our honorable sport. Especially after all the years of playing hockey at various levels with pride, extending the popularity of the sport, and passing my knowledge onto younger generations, I continued my ride with a bad taste in my mouth.

Campsite Encounter 7/27/05

Last night I met a young guy at the campsite who was waiting to perform a prescribed burn in the park. He is a forrester in the Finland area and lives in Two Harbors. What struck me as odd was his knowledge of literature. Although he was a outdoorsy guy, complete with flannel shirt and goatee, he quoted or made reference to Bukowski, Hemingway, and Shakespeare while discussing his work and telling stories. For some reason this shocked me in our day and age where lit (and all forms of art) is usually tucked into an academic corner and/or under a snobbish cult rug. And he was doing this before I even told him I was a comp. teacher in the process of getting my masters. I enjoyed hearing someone speak intelligibly about their life while weaving in literature they enjoy... and it was reminder to me that art is important in peoples' lives... even those who tromp out into the woods and set fires.

Sidenote: Something in the forest was yelping in sheer terrror all night long.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

71 North to I Falls 7/26/05

Round two of my journey started today as I packed up the Shadow and headed out into the cloudy weather. Although I wasn’t thrilled about taking “my old bike” she did perform well and my butt praised the extra cushion and rear shocks. I avoided the rain and the sun decided to shine once I sat down to write a few hours later. The cloudy weather and strong headwind was enough to make my chapless legs quiver a bit outside Blackduck on highway 71. Sections of the highway are rather straight and boring. However, the roadside attractions (which really aren’t meant to be) are interesting and unique. In Northhome I found the coolest, dilapidated outdoor hockey rink. The tattered boards and rusty nets reflect the people in the Northwoods: resilient and determined. Folks in general are tough here; their run down monuments (barns, rinks, garages) are indications of their resolve. As I drove past the old rink I could only imagine how many lost teeth and broken noses were given out when it was in its prime. Could be an idea for another project: the great outdoor rinks of MN and their history (nobody steal that one). I arrived in International Falls, home of the coldest winter temps in the lower 48, to a damp, pungent factory stink. Regardless, I was hungry and needed some rations. The Border Bar was just the dive joint I was looking for… I’ve never been in a darker bar at three in the afternoon (after eyeing up the clientele I found out why). It was a good thing my stomach was growling because the burger I ordered was bigger than my head; I was expecting to see horns still attached peeking out from under the gigantic bun. I’m proud to say I conquered the beast and even had room for a beer (if only a light beer). So the burger and I headed down 53 south to my camping destination on Ash River in Voyageur National Park—definitely a spot I’d like to come back to with a houseboat and canoe. All the main attractions can only be witnessed via watercraft. Sitting by the river I noticed how well water carries voices as I could hear people laughing and carrying on out of viewing range. Rivers seem to be a conduit in more ways than one; not surprising we find so many river references in literary works. As you can tell, it’s good to be back on the road again… hearing fish jump and listening to trees creak in the breeze. I wonder what they have to say?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Let's try this again!

After stewing in my own juices here in Bemidji for a week I've decided to hop on the Shadow for round two of my adventure. Plans are to hit the road by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week depending on allocating some green. Everyone send me some vibes and hope for mechanical brilliance from the motorcycle (of whom I've been cheating on for quite some time so I don't know how she'll respond to me).

The next post should include nothing but tales from the road... Positive Ones!

Bored haiku

leaves float in potholes
filled with last night's rain water
lilly pads line the streets

Fairly sad that this has been the most writing I've accomplished while at home.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Funding the trip...

In a last ditch effort to fund more of my trip I'm selling my other bike (85 Honda Shadow) and having a garage sale this weekend. Living out of a backpack has made me realize how much useless crap I've acquired over the years. Time to downgrade the material possessions and, hopefully, make some money doing so.

Still frustrated about the Punisher (we think something is banging around in the engine, which isn't good). Plan is to pull some cash together and hop in the truck for the remainder of the summer. Seems as if this adventure is providing enough material for me to write about. I could write a book on "How to ruin your summer plans in two weeks time."

Nevertheless, I'm staying optimistic and trying to laugh... ha ha ha (even if it seems kinda forced).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Moment of silence please...

The Punisher is dead--not really dead, but rather unhappy with me, this hot weather, and all the miles in between. Upon leaving Duluth I made my way up old highway 61 (past Betty's pies, which wasn't open yet) and into the North Shore area. Outside of Silver Bay I noticed the bike losing some power... then... the motor shut down as I coasted to a stop on the side of the highway. Not good. I was able to push the bike onto a little gravel drive to get away from the traffic and let her cool off a bit before trying to fire her up again. During my little stay at the brokedown wayside rest area I realized nobody was even considering stopping for someone who looks like I do. Don't judge a biker by his beard. I was shocked to see a few bikes roll on by without even slowing down; whatever happened to the biker code?

After a half hour or so I fired the Punisher back up for a short ride back into town where I sat and contemplated life, used profanity, and kicked imaginary things. After wearing myself out I check into the local motel.

If you're going to break down on a bike, I'd suggest Silver Bay; not only was the room cheap and decent, but a U-Haul shop is right in walking distance. Realizing I needn't bother anybody to come pick my sorry ass up I rented a 14 footer and loaded the Punisher up for the trip back home.

No highlights from the U-Haul excursion (considering my luck this summer with things you drive , I expected my new orange and white six-wheeled chopper to break down on me somewhere around Grand Rapids).

I'm home. Not sure what to do.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Coon Rapids to Duluth

?This has been the most amazing ride of my trip thus far. I met a few old bikers in Maro and they guided me onto highway 23 into Duluth. I could feel the cool air of Lake Superior approach as I twisted my way through forest covered roads.

I glad to say the Punisher rode smoothly today after some hesistation in the morning. Hopefully I'll continue to have the same luck (knock on wood).

I'm staying in Indian Point on the west end of Duluth and plan to cruise the city later. Canal park and the surrounding area have always been tops on my list. Tomorrow I will head up the shore and see where old 61 takes me; I'm shredding up this state faster than planned... maybe I'll go for another round on some different routes.

Take care and keep on the lookout for the next posts!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Glam Shot

Just a bit hairy!

Presenting the Punisher

Skid plate done!

Hopefully all the hoopla is over with the Punisher. I resoddered the rear headlight and Paul and I mounted the mackshift skid plate to protect the wires underneath the battery box. I learned more about this bike in the past few days than all of last year. Frustration grew as I wanted to just ditch the bike and get my truck, but I calmed down and got my hands dirty.

The warm weather isn't helping with the engine; being an older bike I have to worry about it overheating... pop pop pop bang is the fist signal of an enigine that is getting too hot... then stalling. I'll have to take it easy if the 90+ degree heat holds out.

Plans are to hit the road tomorrow. More adventure to come!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Starke's Chopper Shop 7/8/05

Since my headlight was out, taillight was out, and side dimmer switch was out, I came to the conclusion that something was wrong with some wiring, which is never an easy fix without the proper tool (or even with them). For this reason I decided to head north on 169 to the Starke household where handyman extraordinaire Paul could lend me a hand in locating the abusive wire. Upon further inspection we realized that the wiring harness was completely FUBAR. Apparently the guy who built the bike wanted the wiring to be as confusing as possible and tried to stuff more than necessary in too small of a space. Kinda like fitting Pamela Anderson in a tube top, however, not as appealing. After much deliberation and plenty of grease Paul and I started scraping knuckles and tearing the innards of the Punisher apart. What was thought to be a quick fix turned into a four hour affair, but I think the chatting and refreshments helped in the time factor. I’m actually impressed with our handy work (I should say Paul’s) and hoping to get the skid plate made and installed today or tomorrow for departure on Monday. At least I was able to get to Coon Rapids within a few hours to start on the repairs or else I might have been stuck paying some grease monkey 50 bucks an hour to re-harness the entire bike. Also, we were able to tighten the chain a bit and give me some better pull.

I have to add the highlight of the evening was when Paul realized we left one of the grounds dangling from the bike after we put the entire thing back together. No problem, it was only 2 am.


Here she is on Electric Peak!

Mankato "Land of Memories" 7/7/05

Well, well… I’m sure it’s happened to everyone at one point: a long blog entry mistakenly erased (I’d like to call it a tech error, but I feel it was the operators fault). When you think of it, all technology errors are the fault of operators since we produce the technology (nothing like speaking in circles, which I’m fairly good at. Blame it on rhetorical theory, pedagogical theory, and reading too much literary & cultural criticism).

Having a solid nights sleep courtesy of AmericInn was much needed although I feel the hard core camper perched on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “wimp.” Due to a different kind of operator error my wake up call never disrupted my dreamy state as the front desk screwed up everyone’s rise and shine. I seemed to be the only guest who really didn’t mind the extra sleep, but I was the only one in the lobby wearing chaps instead of a tie. Go get em boys; hope the meetings weren’t that important. For all the knocks I give fashionable noose wearing business folk I do realize that the world runs on a different plain than my existence and without them I couldn’t be the mad traveling hobo that I am. So there’s your props… breathe it in.

Heading to Mankato was a practice session for the next Olympics in the “two-cheek-balance-beam-aerials.” You see, Minnesota highways (especially 60), have a knack for mother nature’s speed bumps caused by tectonic shifts of concrete freezing over the ice age imitative winter months. I’m still perfecting my technique, but one of the major concerns is to keep your tongue away from your teeth.

By mid-afternoon I rolled into the “Land of Memories” campground and decided to find out what memories would conjure up or what future memories might happen. And here is a reflection of the “Land of Memories”: damn mosquitoes, damn it’s hot, damn mosquitoes. Needless to say the campground didn’t offer must relaxation but I did get to stomp through the woods to the nearby rail bridge and got some good shots of a few tags. At this point I realize a digital camera would really help.

Mankato is a fun town to rip around in with the old style downtown area and hilly surroundings. I made my way to a local pub and decided to grab a bite. To my horror I witnessed all the live coverage of the bombings in London. Has the entire world gone mad? Nobody seems safe, or at least that’s how they want us to feel (who is they anyway?). When will fanatical religious beliefs take a back seat to common sense and humanity? How many more people need to die in the name of god or allah?After dinner I really just wanted to get back on my bike and ride around. Because riding requires a certain focus, attuned to finding the zone in sports or creative processes, it has been my avenue to clear a wandering head.

This is when I noticed my headlight wasn’t working…

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Starbuck, Pipestone, & Worthington 7/6/05

Heading south on 29 into Bensen I stopped for breakfast at the Whistle Stop Cafe (these train themes are really running through the small towns). My plan for the day was to head to the southwest corner of the state but I wasn't encouraged to hear "nothin to see down there" from the cook, who sat with me for a while. He suggested Red Wing (yet another endorsement for that area) but said I might have a "looksee" in Pipestone. One fact I discovered from the cook was that Bensen is home of the largest factory run on turkey manure. With that information I was scared to ask what the factory produced; steer clear of anything with the label "proudly made in Bensen." So I ate up with visions of turkey shit and made my way out of town bucking the wind past Montevideo and into Pipestone.

Right before town is a valley surrounded by closely trimmed fields. Along these fields are hundreds of modern day wind mills with propellars swinging in the breeze. I coined this part of the ride "lawnmower alley" and envisioned these large blades keeping the surrounding grass at bay.

Once in Pipestone I headed to the quarry mined for years by Native Americans. Parts of the quarry are still mined by local tribes for traditional pipe-making. The self-guided tour was less than impressive, but you could sense a history of the place since it was the only spot were warring tribes would gather in peace to conduct ceremonies and celebrate traditions together.
The magic of the place was quickly deminished as I saw one of the employees throw their cig. butt into the tall, dry grass of the surrounding prarie; leave it to modern day man to break the illusions of history.

So, even though my ass was sore by this time, I pressed on into the wind heading to Luverne (told you I'd make it there Trudy, but I blinked on my way by and missed everything!). At this point I decided to stay in a hotel for the evening. I needed a shower and my clothes did too. The thought of setting up camp after riding five hours didn't sound appealing. Worthington was the final stop for the day, but I was disappointed to find out I couldn't get online at the hotel. Actually, Worthington didn't have much to offer other than a bed and some sleep.

I'll give the next days ride and Mankato highlights next time. Please comment... the road has many voices, however the familiar ones are missed.

Brandon to Starbuck 7/5/05

I was given a grand farewell from Brandon and even had help from my little buddy Robert getting my bike into gear. (I need to look through my journal for the events. The days and towns have a knack to blend together and I need to get them down right away to sort them out).

Oh yea, I didn't go far that day but I wanted to get my bearings and set up shop somewhere early in the day. My route took me through Glenwood, which is a gorgeous town along the tip of Lake Minnewaska. I decided to stop in Starbuck because the campsite was too much for me to pass up: "Hobo Park." Me, being the modern day hobo for the summer, decided to pay homage to the old rail workers who set up a makeshift city on the very spot during the depression. The cool lake breeze and location near the local depot was inviting to them and remains a popular spot for tourists today.

Another treat awaited me in Starbuck: a monument celebrating the feat of some hungry norweigans in 1983 "The World's Largest Lefse." The beast was at least ten feet in diameter and was cooked on a large metal slab in the middle of town. I'm not sure what the motivation was for such a display, but the town remains proud and even has the slogan on their banners on Main Street.

In a way I can connect with such an event. Somebody woke up one day and said, "fuck it, this town need some lefse to be remembered by." That moment of inspiration (no matter how rediculous it sounds) is what sparked my trip. So praise oversized lefse and other feats of randomness.

4th of July Weekend

First of all, thanks again to the Starke family for letting me stay at their cabin in Brandon for all the long weekend festivities. It was great to see everybody and having Katrina's family around helped to ease some of the longing for her return. Although, I have to admit, with everyone around I was expecting her to come around the corner of the garage or out of the water or running down the road. But those deja vu thoughts were simply that and I missed her dearly.

Highlights of the weekend included: fishing (yes, I actually caught a fish thanks to Paul's guidance and patience), kneeboarding (which wasn't that great of an idea the next day), bonfires and fireworks, eating too much, drinking enough, and chatting with everybody throughout the days. Everyone was excited for my trip and had many suggestions for sites to see and towns to visit.

Bemidji to Brandon 7/2/05

Getting the pack right on the chopper was a chore in itself. I realized how little I could bring with not having a sissy bar, which I scrapped to get on the road earlier (actually, on time). So I hit the road with my camping gear, my writing equiptment, and one extra pair of underwear, one extra pair of socks, one swimsuit, and one exra t-shirt. Needless to say this is a minimalist approach to hiking around the state, but what do I really need? As my dad always remarked while traveling... "all you need is some money and identification."

So after I made sure my money and ID were situated I hit the road south. Although I've traveled this route before and this trip is about experiencing something new, it felt nice to start my journey in familiar territory. Weaving my way through Park Rapids, Wadena, and into Brandon I felt the rush of finally doing my trip. I was on the road with the wind at my back. Hopefully that feeling won't get lost down the road when I'm weary and tired.