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?
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
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.
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."
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. 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).
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 sarcasm...it 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.