Earlier this week, Will Outlaw came up with a great idea. Let's all get up early on Sunday the 7th, and meet at 7:30 in Prescott, WI. The leaves are turning, and it would be a beautiful time to ride through Western Wisconsin, enjoying the "alphabet roads" and the fall colors.
I'd looked at the weather forecasts and told Will that if the weather was completely freezing (I think I said "if it's below freezing") I would most likely not be there. Will stated that he'd be there regardless - even if we all just decided to bag it due to the weather. Faced with that challenge, I was torn. I didn't know what I'd be doing Sunday morning.
So - my alarm goes off at 6:30. It's dark out. I get up and have some breakfast and start rounding up my cold-weather gear. I've decided that no matter how cold it is, I've got to at least show up in Prescott.
Long undies, polypropelene undershirt, electric vest, scarf, headwrap, Aerostich. I'm set. The only thing missing is warm gloves. Oh well!
The ride in to Prescott is dark and cold. There is frost everywhere! As I'm approaching the turnoff on 10 towards Prescott I'm greeted by the sunrise. Absolutely beautiful. While riding downhill towards the St. Croix river, I can see the fog rising up off of the warmer water - it's coming up through the grates of the metal-grid bridge deck, which is a completely cool-looking effect. Here's the river as viewed from the bridge that morning:
I saw that Will was already there, as was Sev Pearman, Mark Kiecker, and Bart Bakker. We stood around for a bit commenting on the weather. There was some surprise expressed that I'd even showed up at all. Sev treated me to the tastiest cinnamon roll I've ever tasted in my life (from the Trang Nam French Vietnamese bakery on University Avenue in St. Paul) and I held onto a hot chocolate, trying to absorb all of the heat through my fingers.
We got ready to go, and I had to document the starting temp:
The guys looked suitably cold as well: From left to right: Will Outlaw, Bart Bakker, Mark Kiecker, and Sev Pearman.
So we suited up, started our bikes, plugged in our electrics, and we took off.
Many many beautiful roads followed. Some had been spiced up by the liberal application of gravel on the various turns. I was having a great time with those! Will led the whole way, while I was happy to bring up the rear (I can't stand the pressure of keeping up and trying not to block people behind me). Mark and Sev were kind enough to draw attention to spotty road conditions as they came up, for which I was quite greatful.
We stopped for a warmup breakfast somewhere, and happily absorbed the heat from the restaurant, even though the front door we were sitting next to would occasionally just pop open and blow cold air across us. Hell, it was up to 40-something degrees by now, so we shouldn't be cold at all!
After some nice warming food and conversation, we took off for a gas stop just up the road a bit. Sev let me try out the ST1100 for a while, while he enjoyed the "it's all motor!" excitement of running with the FJ1200.
The ride was uneventful 'cept for the one shortcoming of the Buell Lightning: Poor mileage. We stopped a couple of times after the tank in the Buell ran dry. The first time we were able to transfuse a bit from Will's capacious tank on the GS1150 (using an old oil can to transfer the liquid). This quart-and-a-half transfusion took us what seemed to be all of 5 miles before Mark was coasting up hill, belly down on the tank, trying to force the bike by sheer willpower to get up and over the next rise. No dice. We stopped again:
Sev burned up the road a bit, looking for the location of the nearest gas stop, and reported there was nothing for about 5 miles at least. After consulting the maps and the GPS, Will said that if we turned on County "P" we'd roll right into Durand - about a 5 mile "as the crow flies" distance. Sev and I took off in search of a gas can and a gallon of gas.
The first station was closed, but the next one had a helpful guy who said "I can't sell you a gas can but I've got one you could borrow" which worked out well for us. Back to the resting Will and Mark, who were napping in the luxurious 54-degree warmth. The temperature had almost doubled since the start of our ride at 8:00 this morning! Here's Mark again:
Good ol' American bike. Screw those FJBs!
The rest of the afternoon went speedily. More gravel, more twists, with a route that zig-zagged back and forth between WI35 and WI37 near Nelson. Finally Sev stopped and said that he was getting tired and would like to head home soon. We all agreed that it was time to head North. We popped out on 35 just South of Alma, stopped for a bit at Buena Vista park, and then spent a horrible amount of time trying to carve through the VAST amounts of traffic slowing moving up 35. I've never seen that road so busy.
By the time Will and I were cruising up Shepard Road towards home, the sun was setting. We'd used up the full day of sunlight riding our bikes - not a bad way to spend a Sunday!