One Last Hurrah

I came home from Sturgis to a job interview, and soon thereafter a job offer. 😀 So the next few weeks were filled with wrapping up projects at my other two jobs and then a week of vacation. I started the new job on October 4 and was happily riding the Harley back and forth to work.

The weekend after I started the new job was forecasted to be pretty unbelievable. Highs in the 80s in October just don’t happen around here. As I was financially still between-jobs, I didn’t have more than gas money. But there was NO WAY I was going to let a day like that get by. Especially since it came on a weekend! Didn’t really have a preference for a destination, so I threw it out to my Twitter network. Which direction should I head? North, south, east, or west? Turns out east won. Which might have been good. It’s not a direction I’ve gone a lot on the motorcycle.

While the day was going to have summertime temps, it was October and the days were already getting shorter. That meant I could only go so far if I wanted to get back sometime around sundown. Well, about 100 miles east of here is a state park where the Mississippi River starts. Hadn’t been there all summer, so that settled it. And once again my Twitter friends gave me some good advice. Got a tip about a road that I didn’t even know existed that looked to be a fun one.

So up early on a Saturday morning, I packed up and headed out. Given that I didn’t have lunch money, I threw the T-Bag on and put an MRE left over from the last flood in it. (MRE=Meals Ready to Eat, aka K-rations.) Figured the T-Bag would be useful for stashing jackets as the day got warmer anyway.

Headed east out of town on a road that is just one notch under an Interstate. Bit cold, but the sun was getting higher and it wouldn’t take long to warm up. Only stayed on that road 30 miles or so before turning off to a 2-lane, the natural habitat of 2-wheelers. Even that close to home I was already on some roads I’d never been on before. The motorcycle has been good for that.

Ulen Rest Stop

Stopped at a rest area near a little town just to stretch my legs a bit. And since the outhouse was open, take care of that too. Nice little spot along a river and next to a graveyard. Being late fall, most of the trees didn’t have leaves. I’ll bet the place is really nice in the summer, or even earlier in the fall with colored leaves.

A few more miles heading north and then the turn to the east on the road that had been recommended. Not a lot of traffic out that way, even with the beautiful day. But as I went further east the road started changing from a straight farm road to a curvy, hilly road through the trees. And I started seeing a few other motorcycles out there too. The more I rode on that road, the more it started feeling like Sturgis and a ride through the Black Hills. Curvy, hilly road surrounded by other bikers on a stunning day. Damn it doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Pic of MRE
My MRE Lunch

Started getting hungry and I had no idea how far I had to go before turning into the park. Finally I spotted a little turnoff by a lake with enough advance notice so I could actually stop. (I had passed a few others that I noticed too late to make work.) Even had a flat rock so I could cook the MRE in comfort. While I was there a couple also stopped. They rode their BMW down from Grand Forks for the same reason I rode up from Fargo. Funny that we met in the middle. Theirs was just a quick stop and I ate my MRE after they’d gone. MREs are designed for folks in high-activity situations. Must be at least 3,000 calories in them. I only ate 2 of the 6 items included. That was enough!

Pic of Lunch Spot
Lunch Spot

It really was a pretty spot, but the day was already slipping away from me if I wanted to be home by sundown. So I packed up and headed out only to find I was about 10 miles away from the park. If I had known that, I probably would have held off and had lunch in the park. But I wouldn’t have found the lovely spot then. That’s just one more example of how a motorcycle expands your horizons.

Pic of the headwaters of the Mississippi
The Mississippi Headwaters

Got to the park and the entrance shacks were closed and you were supposed to go to the visitors center to get your permit. OK. So I headed up there and wandered around and really couldn’t figure out where to get the permit. Oh well, I tried. The main road through the park was closed for construction, so I had to jump out and go around to the north entrance. Parked by the other visitor center and then headed out to the headwaters. Any trip to Itasca State Park MUST included a stop at the headwaters. It’s the exact spot where the Mississippi River starts and it’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. There were a few people there, like me, taking advantage of the beautiful day. But I didn’t stay too long, and I didn’t attempt the stepping stone crossing. Wet leathers are no fun!

Pic of Wilderness Drive
Wilderness Drive in Itasca State Park

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit pressured by how late in the day it was getting. But I wasn’t going to leave without taking a drive down Wilderness Road. It’s a loop around the park that is one-way for most of it. Pretty much just a big trail that you can drive down. I’ve driven a car down it, rode a bicycle down it, and walked parts of it. But I’ve never taken the motorcycle down it. It was fabulous as always with large pine trees all around. Hills, lakes, bogs, wildlife – it’s all back there. But this time the road was being worked on and every few hundred yards it was like riding through a sandbox. Made it interesting, but not impossible. Plus there’s no turning around anyway. 🙂

Finished up at the park and since it was getting late in the day, I decided to take a different route home. It’s got it’s own hills and curves, but doesn’t have the Black Hills feel of the one I rode in on. But I could make better time. Other than a stop for gas in Mahnomen, there was nothing notable about the ride home. I didn’t quite make it by sundown, but close enough for comfort.

Days like this one you know are gifts. I can’t think of any better way I could have spent it. I knew it was the last hurrah for the season. Everything I did that day had a special feel. A new job, a beautiful day. It was good to be alive.

One comment

  1. Janet says:

    I LOVE this type of ride, and this type of ride report! 🙂 I especially like the picture of the headwaters, since I’ve never been there – YES there is something quite amazing to think about being where a major river *starts.* Thanks for sharing your rides!

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