Travels with L'il Red: Up the Gut of the USA 2016 - Page 2 - BMW R1200GS Forum : R1200 GS Forums
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 17-Jun-2016, 10:05 PM (128) Thread Starter
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18 ish actually, but it is in my top 3 along with another Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange, and Pulp Fiction.
If any of those three are on and I happen on to them, I watch to the end, cannot pull myself away. The lines are just too good to ignore.

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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 18-Jun-2016, 10:41 AM (654) Thread Starter
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Thanks all,

I originally had no idea how long it would take to get to Winnipeg, then when I got there, I had to find the plaque.

I previously only had street view of google maps to guide me, now in international territory I had to go roaming on my smartphone to find it exactly. To find it via roaming then find Stella's Cafe with ATT roaming cost about $25...oh, and I texted a couple of pictures too. Anyway, the first half of the trip was successfully completed and now it was time to meander.

Some of the route would be on the JH, but because of expedience rather than adventure. The original routing of the JH was heading to my home and was traveled some of the way.

Rather than ride the Lord Selkirk Highway back I decided to ride through Winnipeg.
A fellow diner had given me the scenic route out of town so I took it. As I mentioned Winnipeg is a big city, and looks like a big city. I do not say this in any patronizing way, but to describe that my route went through a large business district with no place to park, but also traversed the confluence of the Red River of the North and the Assiniboine River, called locally The Forks. Again, no place to stop for pix.

On this sunny Sunday early afternoon, the Winnipegers were out in force.
It's probably like in Europe, the sun worshippers. For so much of the year it is cold and dark that you need the bright sun to literally warm the bones, like your femurs and your pelvis, so, they stroll, sit, bask, all thoughts of melanoma on the shelf, wanting to live closer to the nearest star. Being from the south and remembering from my training the former mortality rate of melanoma being about 70%--it is night and day better now--and although I understand the primal need to be in sunlight, my gut is stay out of the electro magnetic radiation originating 93 million miles (give or take) away. 5000 new cases of melanoma are reported in Canada every year.
But I am ATGATT, and keeping the sun at bay as I travel through the parks and boulevards heading to the other customs station, the US one down St. Mary's Road to Provincial Trunk Highway 59, awaiting the third degree again.

Another flat ride, though as I approach Minnesota, there are more trees. The US Station looks so small compared to the the Canadian Death Star over on 75. I am ready with my story of traveling the Jefferson Highway, 100 years old, from New Orleans, yada yada yada and expecting disbelief and possibly a full cavity search.

I pull in, under the carport like overhang.
The customs agent walks out, and I hand my passport. 50ish, a bit overweight, blue short sleeve customs shirt. Salt and pepper hair, mostly salt now. No body armor, no visible weapons. He says something, can't hear, let me take off my helmet, pull out my earbuds.

He's saying: Take off your helmet, and pull out your earbuds.
We exchange a smile.
He looks at my passport.

What would make you ride up to Winnipeg in April? On a motorcycle? In April?
He's incredulous.
Didn't expect that question. April down south is beautiful, along with October/November, the prettiest times of the year. That is not the case at almost 50 degrees north latitude. I knew that, I knew what he meant. In prepping for the ride I had been following the daily weather and temps all the way up the route and fully accepted that snow was not impossible and would derail my plans. There were plans B and C and D, if I couldn't make it the whole way. I knew what Weather Underground said the average normals were. I was playing the odds, I was rolling the dice. But I was beyond that now, other weathers were on the horizon. I was heading south now.

So, I tell him about the JH, the history, where it starts, where it---he smiles broadly, cuts me off--

I know the Jefferson Highway, you're on it right now.

I huff...UGH! You KNOW the Jefferson Highway? You're the first person I've met who does!
Yeah, this is it.
He starts walking around my bike, I suppose doing the customs officer thing, and I don't know if it's some variant of Stockholm Syndrome or not, but I want to believe he's checking out L'il Red because of some degree of admiration! That's what I want to believe!
See the sticker on my side case? I became a member of the Jefferson Highway Association and they sent me some stickers for my ride

Oh, yeah!
He tells me he was very familiar with the route and its history, really got into it a few years back, but has forgotten a lot of it. He's adamant that this was the original route.

We are actually chatting about the JH, after a week of being the only one who knew, words spill out.

I tell him that the JH is actually 75 to the west. He disagrees
He's wrong, btw, but not appropriate to argue the point at this time. And I am a little satisfied that I am on this backroad, compared to the Lord Selkirk, as part of the JH--if he's right. It is cool to FINALLY have someone appreciate this trek. It was also, nice that the one who did was an official of the US government...didn't see that one coming.

If you really want to know about the JH in these parts you need to talk to Cindy at the County Museum in Lake Branson. She's the expert and she'd be happy to see you, he tells me.

I passed through Lake Branson on the way up. It IS on the JH. I got gas there and when I pulled up to the pump there was a 4 year old little girl, blond frizzy/curly hair, fair, cotton dress and "special" pink princess shoes, with both index fingers in here ears to protect her from the din of L'il Red. I have grandchildren her age.

Is it THAT loud? I ask her? No response, her big blues just stare, in neither approval nor disapproval.

Her dad comes up, he laughs and she watches in awe, a big now silent GS loaded with this old guy on it talking to her dad. You get these scenes all the time riding and they stick out in your mind. I have to remember to take a picture. You remember the pictures you miss on these rides and this little girl was one of them.

Anyway, I realize that I am going back that way, i.e. through Lake Branson, through Lake Branson, and make a mental note to stop and see Cindy. The customs agent makes me promise that I tell Cindy that he sent me her way, that she would "get a kick out of that." I promise. and head back to Hallock for the evening and dining on the pastries I brought with me from Stella's Cafe. No temptation from the Caribou Grill. Actually, it was closed this Sunday evening. Some Michter's Rye to accompany and I am set for the evening, opening the window to hear the sounds of Hallock, not surprisingly there are very few.

I think I am the only guest at the motel. I coulda walked to the breakfast area in my underwear if I chose to. I chose not to, in fact it didn't even cross my mind. I'm on the road and beginning the meander back to NOLa.

I find the County Museum in Lake Branson, meet with Cindy. She tells me "Cecil" was wrong about the JH, it does not go that way, but she says so with a smile. they have a tableau set up for the JH and we exchange pictures.

I am heading toward, I don't know, eventually SW Wisconsin, but I consider riding over to Duluth to visit Aerostich. I decide against, for no other reason than I don't know how long it will take me to get home, Mother's Day was approaching and although I held a "Get Out Of Mother's Day Free" card, it crossed my mind to get back by that date and surprise my wife, whom the nurses at work call "Ms Mary."

As I cross Minnesota I keep thinking I am in Bob Dylan territory. There is a mysticism in these north woods, a peace. yeah, long straight roads, sometimes some curves, but a peacefulness that tries to elude description, but evokes the sense of "a good ride."

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue

I was heading in the direction of US 61, known down here as Airline Highway, but extending to the Canadian border north of Duluth. Along the way it is part of the Great River Road and the sense that I am just a hop, step and a drip from home is never far away. Highway 61 reinforces that.

So if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
Riders sense that when far from home, that sense that this road or that with just a couple of turns is a continuous ribbon to their home. Highway 61 was that for me here way up in Minnesota, and it was for Dylan in the mid 60s.
from wiki
In his memoir Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan described the kinship he felt with the route that supplied the title of his sixth album: "Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began. I always felt like I'd started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep Delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors ... It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood."[2]

When he was growing up in the 1950s, Highway 61 stretched from the Canadian border through Duluth, where Dylan was born, and St. Paul all the way down to New Orleans. Along the way, the route passed near the birthplaces and homes of influential musicians such as Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley and Charley Patton. The "empress of the blues", Bessie Smith, died after sustaining serious injuries in an automobile accident on Highway 61. Critic Mark Polizzotti points out that blues legend Robert Johnson is alleged to have sold his soul to the devil at the highway's crossroads with Route 49.[3] The highway had also been the subject of several blues recordings, notably Roosevelt Sykes' "Highway 61 Blues" (1932) and Mississippi Fred McDowell's "61 Highway" (1964).[4]

So, I head that way, but to get there I have to cross Minnesota which is a BIG state.

I cross the Mississippi a few times as Ole Man Ribba gathers steam.

I wanted to get to the Driftless Area of SW Wisconsin, but that was two days away. I stop for the evening in Sandstone, at the Sandstone 61 motel

A mom and pop place that is clean small friendly, but can appear shady.

I pull in to the lot, and a woman, middle aged, sky blue pants too tight, smoking, paces in front of her room. She looks like a weekly rental--I mean her, not the room.
She has a dog, a small yappy one who is not a fan of motorcycles. Her dog, he barks a lot. A few more drags, I smile, no response. Often a dog can be a conversation starter. Or a motorcycle. Or a middle aged woman wearing pants too tight, and if you combine all those elements, well, one answer would be that you wind up sharing some of your Michter's Rye with this interesting woman you meet. And you talk about Betty, or Georgia or Phyllis afterwards. You remember she's from Sioux Falls or Sioux City, the one in South Dakota or was it the one in Iowa?
However, in this case, all those conversation starters cancel each other out, and she turns away, gathers up Fido and retreats to #11. I check in and Pop at the desk is very friendly directing me to #9, next door to la femme avec le chien
She reminds me of Shelley Winters in Lolita (another Kubrick) but not as attractive and most certainly not as outgoing

I retreat to my room and every move I make, the dog notices, alerting its owner, though who owns whom.

I chose the Sandstone after careful consideration...that's was in the right place at the right time.


“Motel for dogs only”
1 of 5 starsReviewed February 1, 2016
Parking lot had not been plowed when I pulled in (good 3 inches) (Ed note, what about the other inch???). I knocked on the office door but no one answered. I sat in my truck for 15 mins but no one came back to reception. There was a dog barking and hollering like crazy from one of the guest rooms the whole time I was there. I went for a drink at a bar in town to pass some time and when I got back there was still no one there, except the hollering dog. There was 2 or 3 other dogs that stared me down through a window as I knocked on the office door.

“Clean, convenient, cheap, dog-friendly”
3 of 5 starsReviewed November 7, 2015

“BEWARE! Definately NOT suitable for small children.”
1 of 5 starsReviewed May 20, 2014
Making our first trip to visit family in Sandstone, we felt the other reviews were reasonable since it was just a 2 night stay and only 3 miles from our daily destination. As the other reviews stated the bed linens were clean and that is the BEST you can hope for. On day 2 of our stay, I was in the tiny bathroom and went to grab a fresh roll of toilet paper, unwrapped it and saw something inside the cardboard roll. I pushed it out with my finger assuming it was the tissue paper used in wrapping the roll. Boy, was I wrong. Out popped a baggie full of crystal meth.
So, THAT'S where it went!!!

Mr Ruger slept by my side for the uneventful evening.
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 22-Jun-2016, 04:38 PM (901) Thread Starter
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Sandstone, Minnesota is just to the NE of the Twin Cities.
Choosing to head there, for me, defined my route. It meant I would not visit Aerostich and threaten my wallet, but would head south.

I had read of the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, and all of this upper Midwest was virgin territory to me. Other inmates on the ADVrider board strongly recommended ALL of SW Wisconsin as well as the Great River Road along the way from the Mn/Wi border all the way down to Dubuque.

I crossed the river at Hastings and followed 35 down. The Mississippi is really wide along in here with good sized islands within its banks. You can't get right up on the river though because the railroad tracks are right along the shore, but still it is some pretty rolling country, not a lot of traffic and a picturesque batture, if that's what y'all call the area right along the banks up there.

I dive farther east getting into the heart of the northern end of The Driftless Area

And I am heading over to the Kickapoo River Valley. The Kickapoo is not a very large river, often little more than a stream, but the company it keeps is beautiful, especially on this spring day. Some pretty winding roads with lots of elevation changes are characteristic of the area. Great roads for motorcycling. There are lots of farms, and LOTS of red barns. Down south, you just don't see so many red barns, Most of ours, if they have ever been red, are now the brown of a weathered natural wood color, still picturesque, but not red, so for this swamp boy, there were lots of red ones and that was pretty cool.

The Kickapoo in the afternoon

This is what the entire region looked like before glaciers smoothed things out (stoopid glaciers!)...makes for some good riding and this sort of terrain extends well into Iowa.

There were areas, often encountered, where the bloom was off the rose, but in those areas, at those farms, I just had the sense that what I was looking at was the history of a family farm that likely extends back decades. Riding in the Plains and the midwest, a city boy sees things that we only hear about on TV. Seems that there are always stories about farms that have been in a family since Wilson, or Coolidge, or Hoover was president, and because of changing economic times, those farms are now threatened or lost. I'm sure they exist, but pristine farms seemed in short supply, the Currier and Ives stuff was lacking, but it was easy to transport yourself back, oh, just pick a year, and it's easily imagined that this scene has not changed one iota in the interloping years. Riding solo, lets your mind wander, and imagine and think this would look like this if it were 1970, or 1950, or earlier.

So, you see something, and you cruise to the shoulder downshifting, 3rd, 2nd, first, find neutral, and as you rush for the camera, and watch for cars coming up from behind, there is a moment, maybe after the picture is taken, when there is a little reflection, and you can transport yourself back in time. The midwest and the Plains do that, more so than other places, at least for me. And they do it in a melancholy way, sort of. You survey the countryside 360, and you roll on, store the camera, and roll on, only to be snared by the next spot that hits you somewhere between your eyes and your memory and the history books from long ago. But most of all, it's just so pretty.

When I was planning this trip, I thought this might be an ideal time for the apple orchards. Thought they might be in bloom. Did a little research, posted a couple of questions online, and got really no answers on it.

I hit the jackpot and one of the most memorable times of the trip. That part of the Driftless where the apple orchards were was not very big, but what they lacked in size they made up for in the perfume of the air. I've ridden the PCH and smelled the Pacific, I've smelled the sea and seafood on the coast around Gloucester, Mass, fresh hay in Arkansas, the smell of oil in west Texas, the clean air of the Rockies and the Sierras and the Avenue of the Giants, but I have never smelled anything to compare with the sweet innocent aromas of an apple orchard in bloom.

It's not something to knock your socks off, it's subtle, at first you may not notice it, but when you try, it is ummistakably fragrant and pure. If home should smell like anything, it's this.

Most of the orchards are behind fences over the rolling hillsides, YES, you're riding through them on winding roads that go up and down, but there are some wild ones that are next to the road. Where these pictures were taken was at a farm, can't remember the name, but these were right on the road and maintained as if they were there for the tourists, me. I think I was the only person riding through this bouquet who was not a local, but it was impressive enough that this should be a destination, like the autumn leaves in New England or Colorado. The apple orchards of SW Wisconsin, The Driftless Area, is a destination in and of itself.
Put it on your bucket list, but you have to catch them at the right time.

And I don't know if it's like this for a week or so, or shorter or longer. What I do know is that motorcycling is often an olfactory experience. And, this one was at the top of the list. If I had to say what it smelled like, the closest I could come would be green apples, but that falls far short. It was a fragrance, a perfume, wholesome and pure. It was not simply the smell of fresh produce.This was sublime

These orchards were on WI 171 in the Gays Mills area. Great roads, great scenery. It would likely be VERY cool to ride the area during the harvest, but riding it during bloom was on the short list for trip highlights.

I spend the night in Prairie du Chien, which roughly translated means "Dogtown," I think. The downtown area is pretty old and has been refurbished or gentrified maybe, though now for some that's a dirty word.

more coming
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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 23-Jun-2016, 12:17 PM (720)
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This has become a daily obsession to read. Almost disappointed when I don't see a new post. Keep it up, my daily fix for what I want to do next....
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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 24-Jun-2016, 06:55 AM (496) Thread Starter
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ha, thanks!

You're in one of my favorite cities.
there is more coming, but the end is in sight. Hope to have another entry up in a few hours.
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post #16 of 28 (permalink) Old 25-Jun-2016, 08:06 AM (545) Thread Starter
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At this point I had ridden through the "fuzzy" part of the ride, the part where, like the area, was "driftless," not knowing exactly where I wanted to be, but knowing what I wanted to see.

Mission Accomplished.

Now, I was truly heading back home and the route became clearer. From Dogtown, I wanted to do more of the Great River Road (the "great" river meaning the Mississippi. Advice from advrider suggested the Wisconsin side was marginally better, though I think I liked the west bank a bit more, slightly less traffic (there was nearly zero), and maybe, subjective to be sure, slightly more picturesque. Both were very pretty. So I headed up to LaCrosse, from PdC, along 35, the GRR.

Wi 171, where the apple orchards were, intersects.

This is a good pic of the cockpit area of L'il Red. From the left:
The thermostat (rheostat) knob for my Gerbing's liner. I put the yellow dot on it so I could see at a glance the setting of the plain black knob.

then the Garmin 665--far better than my previous 550, then the Valentine 1, then on the right the switch for the motolights, again with 2 yellow dots to show the ON position of the otherwise featureless rocker switch. BTW DO NOT BUY their small waterproof switch, if you're tempted. It's a POS.

I stop for gas in LaCrosse, a cool town it appeared. I found myself on the very populated campus of U of W LaCrosse. Students were bustling between classes, probably on the verge of finals. In the bathroom, not on campus, but just off, and iirc they were unisex, no cis bathrooms for you, but they had a feature that I had NEVER seen before. Sure the vending machines selling "protection" are commonplace, promising everything from, on the low end, satisfying my "partner," up to a seat closer to the Right Hand of God, and all with the simple addition of some silicon? latex? creosote? bumps. And the price is right! though the machines do not take credit (or debit) cards yet. It seems that "partners" are easily satisfied, and for less than a dollar! I digress.
In the bathroom was this.

A SHARPS BOX. Really? I have never ever seen these before outside of a hospital and I suppose that it makes sense...sort of, but does LaCrosse really have that many insulin dependent diabetics? So many that a sharps box is decreed necessary? At a Pilot, or Flying J (hole), or Race Trac gas station? I take the snap.
Doesn't anyone just sell rubbers anymore? Quite the full service UNI bathroom here in LaCrosse.

I cross the Mississippi which now commands real bridges with metal and grates and redlights, and take a left on 26, back in Minnesota, and do the west bank of the GRR. Down into Iowa at St Albins, which looks about as Americana as Americana can possibly appear.

I was actually heading south, but stopped for a couple of pix.

I thought the Driftless Area was very nice in Iowa also, not quite as populous as the Wisconsin part, though both were VERY rural. Good riding along the GRR. The thought was never far from my mind that all of the water I see will pass near my house just a few days after I get home.

I am in Grant Wood territory

The in your face Americana of the midwest and especially Iowa, just knocks your socks off. The fields were being prepped, so they were all mud, but the promise of riding through cornfield after cornfield especially in this rolling Driftless Area sounds inviting, maybe someday when I am ready to brave the summer temps...It is impossible for me NOT to think of American Gothic, that iconic image from the 30s, done by Grant Wood as part of a contest.

From Mentalfloss:

Wood submitted American Gothic—the name a nod to the house’s architectural style—to a 1930 competition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Overnight, the painting became a hit. American Gothic won a bronze medal and a $300 prize, was acquired by the museum, and was reproduced in newspapers around the country. Something about it resonated with audiences, and in that mysterious process by which paintings become famous, it quickly achieved near-universal recognition.

Not everyone saw the same thing. Some perceived the work as a scathing parody of the Midwest—one outraged farm wife even threatened to bite off Wood’s ear. Meanwhile, Gertrude Stein and other critics praised the painting as a cutting small-town satire, the visual equivalent of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. Still others saw the painting as honoring the Midwest and its strong values. As the Great Depression bore down on the country, Americans yearned for positive depictions of themselves, and Wood’s work provided the nation with a pair of ready-made secular saints of the American heartland.

yeah, that's what i thought.

As a child of the 60s with a stubbornly persistent irreverent bend, I was looking for the one in which the chick is wearing an "I'm with Stupid->" T shirt. Failing that, let's get topical!

The new American Gothic

I dive west and away from the GRR, thinking that one day I will return and just hang in the Driftless Area of the Tri-State region, maybe head north, combine it with UP of Michigan, or not. But, I really enjoyed this area, on motorcycle riding, photographic, people, history, and heartland bases. It certainly deserves more motorcycle tourism press.

I turn right, kinda, and head to Grinnell College.
Why Grinnell?
Well, not because of this, this makes me want to run out and get a flat of Zofran.

Though I fully recognize I border on schmaltzy in my writing, I fully reject it from anyone else, and Iowa is the home for two of the schmaltziest movies ever produced.
Field of Dreams is one of them, the other is...wait for it, it's coming later, but soon.

No, that is NOT why I am riding in these winds to Grinnell. The winds were amazing. they were mostly at my 2 o'clock to 3 o'clock. There was a wind advisory, 30-40 mph winds "with gusts." By definition that makes them tropical storm strength. I was now on mostly straight roads crossing Iowa, NE toward SW. When the winds were as described, I was getting a readout on the GS of 31-34 mpg. Sometimes the road would slightly change direction, allowing the winds to hit me at about 5 o'clock, and my mileage would skyrocket to the mid 60s. Really.

So, if not for the "heaven" aspect of the Field of Dreams reference, why am I going to Grinnell. It's because of this:

It says Urban Legend, but is it really?
I was headed there, braving the Iowa winds, investigative reporting at its best, film at 11.
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post #17 of 28 (permalink) Old 26-Jun-2016, 05:45 PM (948) Thread Starter
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I ride into Grinnell, the town, not the college for dinner that evening.

I anticipate visual repugnance. Gleefully? I don't know, but I do feel a little of a Do-Not-Feed-The-Animals anticipatory apprehension. And a smirk. Yeah, a smirk.

There's a good pizza place, a decent pizza place, ok, an acceptable pizza place, in the center of town: Pagliai's Pizza.
Large dining room, communal eating, open kitchen, loud. Mostly families with kids from toddler size to teens with rolling eyes. Not many college kids. No beasts.

The wait staff are dressed in mom slacks, waists somewhat too high.
I scan the savannah, through the thicket of tall glasses of iced water and sweet tea. I feel my ears rotate on my skull, searching expecting to be visually repulsed at any moment.

Maybe I'm not close enough, maybe the "ugly" is well-contained on campus. These people look alright, a mix of attractive to less than, but hideous is no where in sight.

I relax; I eat my pizza and my salad. A watchful eye.
A thought crosses my mind. What if I am the visually repugnant one? What if I brought the U to the G-L-Y?

Honi soit qui mal y pense and all that.
Food for thought in a pizza joint. I am NOT going to consider if I am the morally repugnant one, that is not the question. People, we're talking (absence of) "good looks," countenance, visage, the "mug," the "puss," the "kisser!"

Alright, get a move on, nothing happening here, show's over, let's go.

Maybe I need to come on Tuesday.

To be honest I am not disappointed, I still have the college to visit tomorrow. But, because of that article, I look at everyone and apply the visual analog scale to their degree of (un)attractiveness.

To be honest, it's mostly 0-4, and the occasional outlier.

Lots of 3s. Not bad. I head back to the motel.

The next morning I ride over to campus, check out the student body.
Where is everyone? Hiding? I see three people.
The guy cutting the grass on this sunny spring morning. A kid who looks junior high/high school age walking along, and, this MUST be a student, an Asian girl walking along. None of them are in this picture. I just missed them by THAT much.

I ride around campus, turning over no rocks, but truly, no photo ops, no ge-gaws, no heymaw,wouldyalookatthat! No Igottagettapictureofthatone. None of that.
I pass the young kid again, he kind of smiles at me. I am the anomaly here. And, no, I do not feel ashamed. Not a bit.

I ride into town, maybe there was a migration? Nope, just small town America. While I take this picture there's a young lady standing by, watching me. Kinda cute actually in a mom kind of way, but she smiles at me when I click the shutter. I smile back, and I head out, happy that Grinnell only lives up to some of its press.

On the morning news, Wake Up With KXX-3!, there's a feature about the
Tulip Time Festival in Pella, where's Pella? I grab the map. He!!, it's on my way! Or can be!, you betcha. I'm tooling around and have the time, next real stop is not real far, I have time to tiptoe through the tulips in Pella, Iowa.

The road is a blur of eagerness and anticipation, tulips and tulip accessories await me. I watch my speed, oh how 6th gear beckons on Ia92, I think, get outta my way, I'm headin' to Tulip Time.

On the way I spot this sign

And I am immediately reminded of this:

Purity of Essence and Peace on Earth are in full display on this ride, and at Tulip Time!

I arrive before the parade, Lawn chairs are set up on the route, I look for floats and see none. No shouts of Hey! Tulip Time! greet me. College kids, I suppose from Grinnell are not walking the streets drinking at 10am. No women (or men) are bearing themselves or promising to bare themselves for the exchange of tulips. It's not Mardi Gras. Ladies of a certain age wearing print cotton dresses. Some sit and fan themselves, some kids are running around. Some noise, but not a lot. there's a radio station that has set up a booth and is promising the world at their "giant giveaway at 2 o'clock!" No one is listening, but just milling...lots of milling.
I find a place to park L'il Red, I hit the pavement. A stranger, not a strange land, I've seen it in books. There's a "Dutch Market" going on. I heard a lady say that, she called this a Dutch Market. We'd call it a Flea Market or a Crafts Fair. but not a Dutch Market.
There are no Dutch in New Orleans, well, maybe they are, but they are reluctant to show themselves. Certainly no Dutch Markets as this one in Pella, Iowa, on this spring weekday morning. (This is where the Pella Windows are made, btw. This will be on the quiz.)

These guys are everywhere. Are they Dutch? As I said, I don't see a lot of Dutch in the swamps. I could ask the lady in the boots, I choose not to ask.

Excuse me, Excuse me, m'am, excuse me, but where are the damn tulips? ... Please? I came for the tulips, where are they?
Ohhhhhhhhh, they're by the tractors!!! Al-right, Al-right, Al-right!

These were the real thing, not trucked in, these are the veterans of all the fields I've been riding through. You could see the personalities, and know that they had names, like Sallie, or Betty, or the Ole Girl. These vintage machines had character that gave the aroma of history and work and mud and sun, good crops bad crops, rich, poor. The faces of these machines told a story of this land and these people. It was palpable. I saw fathers and grandfathers, sometimes jeans, sometimes ill-fitting overalls, denim blue, pointing out this gizmo or that doodad to a fascinated child, and knew the story rendered had far more meaning that the story received. And I knew I could never grasp the depth of the work these machines endured with their masters. It was like looking through a wormhole to the past at a history I could never know, but I could appreciate.

Hot Little Allis

Hey, Mods!
shoot! this 15 picture limit per post is a pain! There's a picture missing for this entry. If you've found the other forums I've posted to, it's there...just not here, because here, unlike the others, there's the limit.
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post #18 of 28 (permalink) Old 27-Jun-2016, 05:27 PM (936) Thread Starter
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IN the planning stages, when I finally got out a map of Iowa, ie, not just Google Maps, I saw that there is a county in Iowa called Madison County.

I steadfastly refused to see the Clint Eastwood Meryl Streep movie, The Bridges of Madison County, because:
1)it appeared to be the ultimate chick flick,
2)seems extravagantly schmaltzy and sappy, and, oh
3) see #1 and #2 above.

and lots of this

and this

How many meaningful glances can one stomach. Well, it turns out quite a few.

So, I saw I could direct my travel through Madison County,Iowa, and there are, in fact, a few covered bridges there. So, in a sort of anti-homage to the movie I decided to visit, spend an hour or so, then move on. It didn't work out that way.

On the way in to Winterset, Iowa, where the movie takes place, I look at my watch. It's about 130. I ask, as it's that time of day, where do I want to stop for the evening. Long story short, I decided to check in at the Super 8, Winterset, and spend the rest of the day there. This was a very good decision, as it turned out. You can easily spend a day there, visiting the bridges and the town itself. Winterset.

Winterset, boyhood home of John Wayne, was straight out of Small Town America. County seat, city square, dress shops with racked poplin aflutter in the May breeze, a few stop lights and nice people, all that was all in the script. There were tattoos, but no visible shops. Young and old and in between, cars vans and motorcycles, Mexican, a burgers joint on the corner, and a cafe on the square, it had a screen door that if you weren't careful, slammed loud, like in the movies.
It was a neat little town. I start looking for Meryl Streep, who was rarely prettier than in Winterset, but I just missed her

Nighthawks at the Northside cafe

I get the menu, what the hell is that!!!

Right there, below the Monument Burger?
A Muffuletta (sic)!

Oh I gots to ask!
Some background: Muffelettas, or Muffalettas, or Muffelottas are a specialty of New Orleans. It is a LARGE Italian sandwich on a Large round piece of Italian bread, about 7-8" across, with sesame seeds. It is stuffed with an assortment of Italian meats and provolone, and most critical of all, "olive salad," or at least that's what it's called. It's similar in structure to a relish, but don't ever say that. I will deny that I said that, you'll be on your own.

I've never seen one outside of New Orleans and the place that arguably made them famous, Central Grocery on Decatur, serves the classic. The "thing to do" is order one (ask for extra olive salad), to split with someone, or even 4 people, they're that big, then get yourself a Barq's Rootbeer and go sit on the "moonwalk" by the River, that same river recently visited, and watch Ole Man Ribba jus' keep rollin' along as you munch away, lick the olive oil from your fingers, and down the Barq's. That's good stuff.

Anyhow, here I was in Bridges of Madison County country and a muffuletta is on the menu.

Do you have any questions about the menu? Jeremiah asks. Jeremiah is a large guy, tattooed, looks somewhere between Bluto from the old Popeye cartoons

and the Hound from Game of Thrones

but he's a lot nicer than either.

maybe more like John Belushi?

Yes, a question... I have to ask...a muffuletta?
Yeah! It's a sand--

I know what it is, I'm from New Orleans, how did a muffuletta make it on to the menu at the Northside Cafe in Winterset, Iowa.

Jeremiah laughs...The owner is from a small town outside of New Orleans.
(I work in a small town outside of New Orleans)
Oh, where?
jeremiah thinks for a second or two, but can't remember...

He's not here now, but his son is, Jeremiah disappears to go ask.

After Katrina, a lot of people left the city and wound up scattered across the country, bringing a bit of NOLa with them. It's like a rash in a way. It feels so good to scratch it.

Jeremiah returns...


I'm disappointed.
Waldheim is probably about 50ish miles from the city. It's an old country town, out in the country. Culturally it is in that OTHER part of Louisiana. It is away from the Catholic "fun" of New Orleans. New Orleanians have favorites in the Seven Deadly sins, maybe a couple of favorites. Depends on the time of year. And what's in season.
In fact, we have celebrations and festivals for them. We turn a blind eye to excess with a wink and a nod and another wink.
But, Waldheim---cue the Flight of the Valkyries theme music--- is 3rd degree white flight from the city.
People moved to Metairie first, then Mandeville/Covington, then farther afield like Waldheim. Very often Mandeville/Covington and then Waldheim, want NOTHING to do with the city, it couldn't be farther away, more likely to be Pentecostal than Papist increasingly with distance. They get their kicks from horse shoes and gingham. We city people, uh, not so much.

I say none of this to Jeremiah, because after all, there was once a guy from Waldhein who moved to Winterset, iowa, and runs a neat little cafe on the town square, and serves Muffulettas! How cool is that?

I ask how they make them, because the bread is a key ingredient and only available in New Orleans. And it's a Sicilian thing that evolved in the City to its present state. And where do you get the olive salad from, cuz all that is produced locally?

Jeremiah: Oh we make our own bread and we do it a little differently, but people who know say it's a good one.
And I'm sure it is.

Do you want to try one?

With a smile I decline because I don't want to be sitting in the Northside judging the quality of a muffuletta, or reviewing how it's different. I tell jeremiah that and we both laugh. I'll have the Monument Burger and fries...
Sure enough, coming right up with sweet tea.

Now, to be clear, the Muffuletta sandwich is not to be confused with The Muff-A-Lottas, a Mardi Gras dance "team" all you can eat and serving New Orleans since 2007

It's not that kind of dish, the sandwich.

So I came for the bridges, true, and in order to do this up better, as I promised to some people, no, no, let me start that again...

I'm at one of the bridges, I have it to myself, and then a car drives up, and another. We start chatting and the chatter winds up at the movie...
Did you see it, I'm asked
no, I have not and I never will!
Oh, but it's sooooo gooood.

Yeah, I'm afraid it might be the ultimate chick flick, and (muttering), but I tend to like chick flicks.

Oh, you HAVE to see it!

the other couple chimes in, in the affirmative that I MUST see it, and the guy in the couple, the only male, as the other couple was two 50 something females, said yeah, I really needed to see it. He said it in a guy voice, like I could believe him, he sorta leaned in from about 15 feet away when he said it. I knew the gesture, it's a guy thing. We take each others pictures. Maybe I need to see it.

Sooooo, I decided to see it before this entry. Found it on Amazon Prime; it wasn't on Netflix, really. I thought it would help me write the bridges part. That's coming next.

Last edited by Dr. Strangelove; 27-Jun-2016 at 05:37 PM (942).
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post #19 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-Jul-2016, 06:55 AM (496) Thread Starter
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Was she wrong to hold his heart another person's hand
The grass is always greener 'til it's covered up with sand
Was it other things
Fate, felicity
What rousing temptation

She knew that love could swell without barricades
Standards must be broken even these
Now she has three different lullabies to sing
These fruited images lead her to sleep

Was it the fighting was it the fist
Was it adventure with a jealous twist
Was it desire for another's kiss
What brought the house down

......The Ditty Bops - Ooh La La

I visit the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa.
They are located in the "greater" Winterset area.
As I suggested, Winterset is a very nice little town. I was there in early May and I was told that it is the beginning of their "tourist" season. Who knew?

I don't say that to sound snarky, but being in south central Iowa, "Tourist season" is not what comes to mind. Lots of other things do, but not that. Yet, here I am.

The town sorta bustles in a small town way; looks like it's doing well?? I liked it and so did the residents, I could tell. It was the kind of town that one of your roommates was from in college, or someone down the hall was and you visited with them on weekends and he got you a date with a friend of his from highschool and she becomes someone you always wonder about as the years, decades roll by.
Ok, so maybe I am hopeful romantic enough to actually enjoy The Bridges of Madison County.
No, your honor, I didn't do it. Not guilty, your honor! Nagging doubt. OK, I like chick flicks sometimes.

At any rate because I knew I would be doing this report, dear reader, I watched it. I knew that if I did not watch it, and wrote the report, I would always wonder, what if, what it could have added, what new insights on life, the universe, and everything I missed. What about that girl from Winterset in 1967?

Romantic curmudgeon review
It will add nothing to my report. It didn't provide anything I didn't already have touristically.
It was a good story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, years pass, they die and their secret comes out.
It is from 1995, so they are not in bed at the until day 2 of meeting. Today they would have been in bed within 2 hours of meeting...your personal best may be better.

The supporting cast is dreadful and have the acting skills of a popsicle stick, i.e., stiff and wooden and thin. I didn't expect that. Clint Eastwood is ok, but plays a stereotype.
Meryl Streep is wonderful as she always is. She does a poor job of an Italian accent-I thought it was German or Eastern European- but, plays a woman from Bari, Italy (on the Adriatic). I love to watch her, Her face and body has more acting ability, just a natural grace, more than the rest of the cast combined, a multiple of the other "talent," including Eastwood.

And she has a preternaturally beautiful face, especially in this role as an approaching middle aged Iowa farm wife.

This is a good review that focuses on Ms Streep. I agree, her performance is beautiful.
Archive - Reverse Shot

So, with the weaponry of pre sight and intra sight and hindsight, I travelled to the bridges. Obviously, they made a dent, because of all the time I am spending on all this.
In short, I see the appeal.

The Holliwell Bridge.

This is where I met the people who told me I must see the movie.

The Cutler-Donahue Bridge

The Cedar Bridge

So, what is it "like" around these bridges? Well, first, it is quiet. They're on backroads off of backroads, but not hard to find.
There are no sounds around them except for the sound of the sunlight, and occasional grasshopper buzzing past. Sometimes a few tourists stop by, take their pictures and move on. You chat a bit, but mostly it is a solitary enterprise.

The roads are always limestone gravel, so bright that you have white out conditions, can't see the potholes for the glare, it's like the road is illuminated from below, no detail, so bright, but no mishap.

On the way to the Hogback Bridge is The Old Stone Schoolhouse, now off limits at least on this day in May.

The Hogback Bridge

I feel my inner curmudgeon slipping away

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post #20 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-Jul-2016, 07:47 AM (532) Thread Starter
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It's a long afternoon here in Winterset, visiting the bridges, and I feel my adrenals slowing down, my eyes and ears standing their ground, something frontal lobe, or temporal, or somewhere between taking the helm.
There is a brief shot in the movie of the graffiti in the bridges, in all of them. Not the garish graffiti of the city, no "Dope Lives!," or "Scruffy Joliet" in multicolored block letters. No, these are heartfelt, ok, maybe a little cheesy, or not, but here in the Heartland, again it focuses on the "heart" of it all.

At first it's, hey look at this, then it's calmer, contemplative, reflective. I just stop.
Looking back on it, they are moving thoughts from sometimes troubled souls, puzzling in meaning, or in your face with whatever, love, joy, sadness. I look for wasp nests in the trustles, I look back at the walls. I see cursive in a heart, I see printed letters that are prayers. I see none that promise a "good" time if I only dial this number. I see repeaters, that add to their messages year after year. I see no proclamations or accusations of Jerry's or Bill's or Morgan's gender identification.

This is different graffiti and it is sorta honest, sorta pure, sorta really nice in a small town Americana way, or at least how I would like small town Amercana to be...I think. It gets my attention, and it's all over the place.

"when your heart is broken, all your boats are burned, nothing matters anymore"

"beautiful" Beautiful"

"if you love potatoes..."

Fred Loves Kate

Are these the people of Winterset? Have to be, i think, or nearby. And the bridges were covered with like messages. Maybe it was the time of year, or my time, or the air or the light, but all of this comes together in Winterset, Iowa., the heartland of the heartland, the template.

And I travel to the last bridge of the day: The Roseman Bridge, a prominent setting in the movie.

I have dinner at the Northside Cafe, discuss the muffulatta with Jeremiah, and have some Michter's at the Super 8.
I hit the road the next morning, starting to notice the tourists--it's the season you know.
Now heading more and more south, keeping a watchful eye on my rear Anakee 3 which seems to slide a bit when coming to a stop, I am thinking lots about this ride up (and now down) the gut of the USA. No CanyonLands, no Zion, or Half Dome, but holding its own for sure. This ride is on different terms than the big epics out west, or New England. This is more like a line Meryl Streep repeated over and over, because she couldn't believe it.
“You just got off the train because it looked pretty?”

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. Yes.

I may have to do something about the Anakee before I get home. Oh well, no biggie, Thought it would last, but the tread indicators, are becoming pretty conclusive, sending me a message that I cannot ignore.
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