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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 09-Jun-2016, 06:38 PM (985) Thread Starter
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Travels with L'il Red: Up the Gut of the USA 2016

I'm a relatively new kid on, but not to BMWs or ride reports, though this is my first one here. I am also new to the GS having ridden the r1150r then the r1200r for over 150k miles pretty much all over the USA. Just under 9k miles on the GS and I am convinced this is the best bike I've ever had. That said, I will probably ride "L'il Red" until her wheels or, more likely, my wheels fall off. I am in my "wheels falling off" years. I just turned 70...yikes! However, as y'all know, you never feel more alive than when on two wheels.

A couple of years ago there was a story in The Times-Picayune about a local guy who happened to be a cartographer and had just driven a car the route of The Jefferson Highway.

The what?

The Jefferson Highway...and it piqued my interest.

I knew we had a major street here in New Orleans called Jefferson Highway, and there was a road in Baton Rouge with the same name, but I just thought it was a road that happened to be named after Thomas Jefferson, like Washington Avenue, or Adams Street or Monroe Street, etc. We also have a Jefferson Davis Parkway and no Lincoln Street, but that's relevantly irrelevant and another story.

So, I started researching it, thinking this might be an interesting ride. Later, I was afraid it might be a boring ride, but getting ahead of myself. I do that.

I discovered the Jefferson Highway extends from Winnipeg, Canada, specifically from a plaque in the median on the Pembina Highway in Winnipeg, a location that in the US we'd call urban sprawl, to New Orleans, again, specifically to a plaque at the corner of St. Charles and Common, in our central business district.

Depending on one's perspective the Jefferson Highway ("JH") either began or ended in Winnipeg or New Orleans. It was also called the "Palm to Pine" (or Pine to Palm) Highway because of the trees along the route.
ON the morning I left I realized, duh, I had a palm tree in my front yard! (I apologize for the blurriness, it was 415 am and I shot with natural light, or in this case natural dark)

and eventually I got to the Pines (and mosquito) part of the ride. Hey, it could have been called the Mosquito to Mosquito Highway. Minnesota Mosquitos would be proud of their South Louisiana cousins and vice versa.

I getting a bit ahead though.

The Jefferson Highway was the first paved trans-national route that ran north south in the US. It was assembled mostly from existing roads, but there were some areas, notably Kansas and Missouri, where a North South route needed to be built.
There was actually a competition between the two states to complete their road first. The prize? Uncle Sam said whoever finished first would be reimbursed by the feds. What would up being US 69 in Kansas and US 71 in Missouri came to be.
In true government fashion, though it wasn't a tie, Uncle paid for both.

By the mid 19-teens the road was a continuous ribbon connecting Winnipeg and New Orleans and it was highly publicized. As far as I can tell other than the "being there" aspect of the road, I cannot understand why a concrete/asphalt connection between the two cities was necessary. It could just be civic pride, or more likely civic hubris, but there it was.

And it was advertised at the time as an adventure, and I'll bet it was that! This is the original map as published in 1922.

The "All Year Vacation Route Of America," you betcha. Winnipeg in February must be a vacationer's dream, as much as New Orleans in July, especially in 1922.

The Arkansas limb as shown on the google map was added later and corresponds to US 71.

I want to thank Glenn Smith and David Stearns of the JHA ( for the help in putting this together. As I was starting the research I thought I would be strictly following the road, but as I progressed in the planning I realized that parts of the road do not exist anymore, some parts are taken over by major highways--like I 49 in Missouri, and there were some sights along the way that demanded detour.
This was to primarily be a motorcycle ride. That made the planning much more flexible and the attitude less strict. Gotta have some free form on these rides, right? So, though I followed the route as best I could, I probably detoured from it about 10% or less.

So, I start routing. Whenever I am planning a ride I try to avoid the big roads, this was kind of tough on this route. the major decision was Arkansas Texas Oklahoma. The original route goes through NE Texas and up US 69 through Oklahoma. That looked really boring. It looked a lot like this-from google street view

So, I considered the Arkansas alternative instead, i.e., US 71. I've ridden a lot in Arkansas, and have only been on 71 when I NEEDED to be--which was not often. In other words I avoided it, preferring the squiggly gray lines on the map to the big red ones. regional forums to the rescue with a resounding "take 71" answer.

The other choice was not much of a choice, US 69 up though Kansas or US 71/I 49 through Missouri. US 69 wins here hands down, no real problem.
So, I prepare for my departure, looking very forward to being on the road with the GS, but admittedly a little concerned because I feared the ride might be a boring ride, in spite of the historical significance of the route.

I turned 70 on Monday, went to dinner at Clancy's with my bro and our brides, tried a new single malt with dinner and was ready to go, anticipating a 315am alarm.

Anticipation, trepidation, depression (at becoming an septuagenarian) on Ride's Eve, my birthday.

Packed and ready to roll out, it doesn't count unless you ride out your driveway...
more to come
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-Jun-2016, 10:49 AM (659) Thread Starter
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It was a dark and stormy, it wasn't. It was a still and muggy night, typical for late April in New Orleans. I am riding out at around 415. I made this early start because I did not know how long it would take me to get out of Louisiana.
I normally just hit the road to escape the state as quickly as possible, but the Jefferson Highway, meanders in La.

I went to the corner of St Charles and Common, downtown, a block from the French Quarter, and took the START picture next to the Palm to Pine plaque. Again, I apologize for the blurriness of the night pics, but was trying to, unsuccessfully, use natural light.

The JH does not, in New Orleans, go straight out to what is called the JH. This is likely because where the JH goes in NOLa, is lower land and in 1912-ish, may have been swamp. It follows Canal Street to Metairie Road, which is on the "Metairie Ridge," a strip of higher ground, and after some twists and turns, winds up on "jefferson Highway" for only a short time before the JH finds its true route, now called River Road.

River Road following the Mississippi heads north/west toward Baton Rouge, but passes many refineries along the way.

I was hoping to catch some of the flares from the plants that usually light the sky, but nothing of waste was being burned off as I passed.

River Road is a common route for me, but doing it in the dark pre dawn hours was a treat. No traffic and crossing the Bonnet Carre Spillway service road was especially weird.

From Wiki
The Bonnet Carré Spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana – about 12 miles (19 km) west of New Orleans – it allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. The construction of the Spillway was completed in 1931.

So, that means in the early days of the JH, the road went right through here, now a man made flood plain. A couple of towns were swallowed in its construction and there are old cemeteries within its bounds. It is primordial Louisiana.

It had just closed the flood gates. Because of the heavy rains of the winter in the upper midwest and Arkansas, Missouri, it had been open. I had been in the area a couple of weeks earlier and the road was still closed, but I suddenly found myself at the top of the levee and heading downward into the spillway. The common fauna, alligators and snakes, were not in evidence on the couple of miles riding through and the surface, often in terrible shape because of overflowing river water, was surprisingly good. I ascended over the levee and found myself south of Baton Rouge, Turning right at Geismer on the Baton Rouge Jefferson Highway, not a particularly attractive stretch and I was hitting school zone traffic. the Normal ride from New orleans to Baton Rouge takes about an hour, but following the JH it took about 3.

It was becoming apparent that those travelers of the past had to have a lot of strength to do this trip and I had just scratched the surface, and on home turf.

After Baton Rouge, I had to improvise a bit. Most of the route was there, except for a river crossing at the Atchafalaya River. The ferry that crossed at Melville just isn't there any longer, replaced by first US 190 and later by I 10- a particularly heinous and despicable route.
La 10, the route of the JH, go to US 71, as did 190, so after exploring a bit to see if any other crossing were available-no other was-I took US 190 to US 71 and was back on the JH, u through Natchidoches, across I 49 and eventually on some really pastoral roads in north La, south of Shreveport.

La 120

If I had to say which state was the hardest to follow the JH, it would hands down be my home state of Louisiana. Probably because there are so many rivers, bayous, streams etc, much of the original route had been changed over the last century to routes that were over easier terrain. Still, it was very interesting to see these backroads.

I had decided to stay on 71 through Arkansas and up to Joplin, Mo, to avoid the miles and suspected boredom of east Texas and US 69 through Oklahoma. US 71 became part of the JH later, but it was part, so i was not leaving the route.

US 71in Ar was not a bad ride, not up to typical Arkansas standards, but enough of a taste of the sweet roads of the Razorback State, to be an enjoyable ride.

Not much of photo op in Arkansas, not because it is not worthy of pictures, but because, even on US 71, the roads just entice you to travel "briskly." Lots of sweepers, well maintained roads, mostly chip and seal, and ample opportunities to pass Ma and Pa Kettle in their Camry or Soujourner or whatever.
What struck me again, was how hardy those travellers a century ago had to be. US 71 is a major highway; two-laned and curvey, but a major road. there are many elevation changes, and not many towns along the way. I thought that at every hill bottom there was a stream and how those roads had to have washed out with rains, and the paucity of gas stations, and the tire non-technology. Man, it had to be hard. And tedious. And dirty. Even on two wheels in 2016 is a far easier jaunt than our ancestors endured on this route.

I leave Arkansas and just south of Joplin I hang a left. 71 continues as the JH in Missouri but it shares the space with I 49. In Kansas, it is US 69, yes a major highway but far more scenic in a Kansas sort of way.
I like Kansas.

I've ridden through a few times now, and always found the people friendly, the skies a little more blue, and the earth ready to spring forth with life; how's that for corny? But, it's true. I started to get the feel of this trip in Kansas. It wasn't just a ride on an historic highway, but a ride through America's Heartland. I had heard the term many times and didn't really think about it, maybe it's the political season, the red states vs blue states, the fly-over states, but somehow at this point in time the term "heart"land, made more sense. Kansas and the upcoming states are the heart of the US.
They have the sense of direction and value that we claim to all have. At least on the surfaces I scratched, here that spirit was more in evidence.

I stop in Pittsburg for the night. I went to a local steakhouse. Two young girls are at the desk at the entrance.
A couple is leaving. They have a toddler with them.
"Y'all have a good evening and thanks for coming."
He: Thank you
"Bye-bye, hope to see you again" as cheery as Kansas can muster, and that's pretty cheery.
She: (both hands full of toddler) Well, (huff), you'll never see us again!
The girls looked crushed..."whaa?"
I am witness to the whole thing, "what was that about?"
Cheery Kansas girl #1, "I have no idea," as she confers with cheery Kansas girl #2 who looks like she is on the cusp of the event horizon of a black hole.

I take my seat, it is a cheery place. Cheer oozes from this place, peanuts on the table and someone who should be names "Biff" (but isn't) takes my order. It takes probably about 2 MUs for my order to arrive.
An MU is a midwestern unit of time. I've noticed that most restaurants really value getting your food out quickly. Getting food out quickly is not a big deal in New Orleans. It just takes as long as it takes. Fast food is fast food. All other food is not. So, 2 MUs translates in the midwest into "where is my food?" Put another way, 2 MUs is slightly shorter than the time it takes to walk into WalMart, go to the automotive aisle, get a gallon of Shell Rotella 6, pay for it and return to your car. And WalMart doesn't offer peanuts.

Biff apologizes when my food is delivered for it taking so long, but actually I was happily munching on peanuts, watching Kansas go by. I don't remember my food, but I remember that.

On the way out, I see the same two girls and we chat.
I tell them that the meal was fine and the service was fine--not broaching the 2 MUs because it wasn't a factor.
"well, T H A N K Y O U!" Cheery girl #1 says.
I told her that I thought Bitchy Patron's problem was that she took a 2 year old with her to eat in a restaurant. And Cheery #1 and 2 agreed.

I am in the heartland
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 11-Jun-2016, 06:20 PM (972)
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Mighty fine write up with beautiful pictures of a road of which I had not heard!! Thanks a million for the research and the time necessary to put it on this forum! Good luck from another senior rider, 3 years older than you!!!
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-Jun-2016, 08:01 AM (542) Thread Starter
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Thanks, Kemo, appreciate it

Need to back up a bit, need to back up to before dinner.
I use Tripadvisor, mostly, to choose my overnights. My formula is to add the "excellents" and "very goods" and compare that number to the "poors" and "terribles." I generally use at least a 2:1 ratio as the litmus test. Using that formula, I chose the Lamplighter Inn. Looks nice from the outside. Price is ok. Let's do this.
It often seems that I am placed in a room that would be suitable for someone who's going to make a lot of noise, ie, in the back, facing a field, off the beaten path. Maybe it's just that the desk assumes I want quiet, could be that. "But he is on a motorcycle, and we don't want to disturb our other guests." I guess we're all in the Loud Pipes Save Lives club, anyway...I am in the back, about as far from the front desk as possible. I'm in the section where the migrant workers are, where a wife-beater is formal attire.
I enter the room. They all look like this.

But what makes this one special,and I always ask for "non-smoking, senior rate," "Do you have any pets?" No... what makes this one special is the fragrance...
It is said that one of the first things to go as one ages is the sense of smell. I have always been an olfactory-centric person, but for things that smell good. Like women. Creepy as it may sound,when an attractive femme passes me by I sneak a deep breath to catch her scent. My wife, and daughters, are fans of Bond No. 9, NYC perfumes. They smell good, awfully good in all their iterations. they come in bottles that look like this

Each scent has different graphics

But at the Lamplighter, in back, what is that smell?
I know! Urine!

Simple urea containing compounds smell the same, or very similar, from all mammalian species, absent asparagus. Even when you're a senior.
I walk back to the desk. I, courteously, wait for the next guest to finish, get their key card, the internet code, the map of the property, their room circled, the information that breakfast is served from 6 to 10, and make my approach.

Hi, umm, I am in 139 and the room smells like , umm urine.
Apologies spill forth, and the desk is perplexed because they "didn't think that that was a pet room."
I momentarily consider the alternative explanations, none better than "pet"... and I had been questioned whether I was accompanied by any pets. My room is switched, a couple of doors down, still in the "out back." But, the new room smells fine... I have a Michter's Rye and go to dinner...see previous post.

So, I am in the heart of the JH route now and will follow US 69 up to Kansas City then head up to Des Moines and beyond. The bike is performing well, and the day dawns clear. I hit the road.

The JH in most areas, not all, has been built up to look like this

Still, riding through Kansas is nice. I like it. Not because it is often straight, or flat, but because the blue sky seems bluer, and the ground looks fertile, and when you catch the golds and yellows, they are golder and yellower. That is not in evidence in the above, but you can inhale the colors, and the air is cleaner.

These are not THE Camptown Races (sing-a-long, doo da, doo da). The real ones are in Pennsylvania, just up the Grand Army Of The Republic Highway (US6) from Wyalusing, Pa.


As I depart Kansas, the sunlight goes away, Missouri is cloudy and colder. I stop for gas and add layers, including my heated liner. The JH leaves the beaten path for a while as it heads over to what is now US 65. More heartland and thinking these scenes probably have not changed much in the past 100 years.

Cameron, Mo, along the old route

Late in the afternoon into Des Moines, making a bit of a detour to the state capitol building. I wanted to visit it to see the interior, known for its golden dome, but it was 5 pm, closing, overcast and beginning to rain, the only rain of the trip, and there were still miles to go.

I deviate from the JH route north of Des's rush hour, I am heading up the road a number of miles, and now it's raining and cold. It's I 35 to Clear Lake, where there's another detour.

More coming
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-Jun-2016, 01:02 PM (751) Thread Starter
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Detour # 2

There are some times that you remember where you were when you got the news. Kennedy's and Martin Luther King's assassinations, Armstrong walking on the moon, 9/11, and though less earth-shaking, where I was when I heard:

I was 12 years old, driving with my parents and hearing it on the radio.

I was becoming a Buddy Holly fan, I was already a Big Bopper fan, and I thought Ritchie Valens was "ok." I am since a Buddy Holly fan. There are a few artists that everyone wishes had lived longer to see what they would produce. My short list is Otis Redding, Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Marley, but I can add to that Buddy Holl(e)y. Great sound, unique for the time, crossover, fused rockabilly with rock n roll, good performer, the whole package. These three guys were the first, for me, of too many losses as time went by. I was still immortal, everyone I knew was alive, now this.

So, when I was plotting out the JH route, I saw it went right by Clear Lake, Iowa. I had to visit the memorial that was in the middle of that cornfield. You take a right and then another right, and then a left and you go down the dirt road until you see the glasses, then you walk along the fence on the path about a quarter can't miss it.

There was a father and son leaving when I arrived; we chatted a moment, they pointed out how far down it was and they were gone and I was alone.
Yesterday's rains made the path muddy with sticky black Iowa dirt. Stuck to my boots. I could feel the extra weight. and then I was where the music died. A small memorial, by a fence. The skies were still gray, but could be clearing? I think about a cold February night, a plane going down right here. 4 dead. It's quiet except for the wind. There's this thing, I don't know what it's called, but it is on top a pole, with what looks like three pie plates to catch the wind, and it's spinning like a mutha fracker, the only noise a squeaking metallic staccato almost racket.
I leave the red white and blue Mardi Gras beads I've carried in tribute. Others have left coins. I add 2 quarters because, he!! I don't know why. I see a dollar bill on the ground blowing around. Hey, look a dollar! I pick it up and pocket it.

I head back stopping at puddles to loosen the caked Iowa crash site mud from my boots. Still very quiet, still alone, and a dollar richer!

I needed gas, and wanted to get back on the JH, clearing skies now, when I meet officer friendly. So, the speed limit was 55 out near the crash site, I saw NO sign on the way back to Clear Lake that the limit dropped to 35. I see his car and after I see a sign stating 35, so I am slowing. The Revenue Dept of Cerro Gordo County clocked me at 47 in a 35, but "did me a favor, by putting 40 in a 35." I told him where I had been, that I saw no sign, that I have never been there before, totally unfamiliar with the roads, the last sign I saw was 55. No matter, here, have a souvenir of Cerro Gordo County. A real down, thanks a lot.

So, I am on the road again, still bummed by the ticket, but heading to the next detour from the JH, one that could not be denied, being so close.

As I am riding I think about that dollar bill I picked up at the crash site...BAD KARMA got me that ticket, I have to get rid of the dollar bill. I decide, to balance the universe again, I will stop at a church and put it in the "poor box." So, on my way I start looking for churches. I see mostly small country ones that look to be closed...No God Today, No Redemption For You! But the decision was made, and I just had to find a church open.
Rural Iowa looks a lot like church in view

It's a while before I find an open house of worship and in the meantime, I make my third detour.

Prince Rogers Nelson was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was a musical innovator and known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range. Wikipedia
Died: April 21, 2016, Chanhassen, MN

Yeah, this was like a week after Prince died and all the hoopla and tribute was in full swing. I hang a left and a right and go straight here and there, and there is the Paisley Park studios/home of the artist known now as Prince, formerly known as --unpronounceable symbol--, and before that, formerly known as Prince. And I bring tribute to this dead artist too! This time purple Mardi Gras beads, ok, a pair of gold ones too, but 3 strands of big purple ones, and I am not the only one who's brought Mardi Gras beads! I see others, not many though, because the most common form of tribute seemed to be partially inflated purple helium balloons, now lounging languidly on the fence.

I back the GS into a small place right by the NBC satellite van with 4 reporters who have been there 24/7 since Prince died, awaiting what, I don't know, in fact, they didn't know. A couple of hundred people are milling about--it's a BIG property. They are mostly somewhat overweight middle aged women, some white, some black, teenagers are there with their parents, looking bored and rolling eyes. Some people deep in thought stare at the fence that separates Prince from Not-Prince.
I hang my beads and take a selfie.

It's a selfie kind of scene...

I feel my inner curmudgeon rising when I see this "artist" wearing three hats. Art imitating art.

Heartfelt comments are transcribed onto cardboad...things like "WE LOVE U !!!" and "Doves are crying..." and "Forever, Thankful!" and "Your Music Will Never Die In Me!" etc etc.

Magic markers hung by string to help, just in case you didn't have a pen.

I felt moved to write something, I wanted to be a part of it. I thought, and then I remembered the most telling tribute I could recall when Elvis had died. That's it! That's what I'll write, that's mine in green...

I wrote "A Great Career Move...JD"

I head back to my bike, and get the NBC guys to take my picture for the local newspaper's TRAVEL section, and I am on the road again; still in search of a church to regain my karma.

-more to come-
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 13-Jun-2016, 11:17 AM (678) Thread Starter
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I ride on heading back to the JH which north of Minneapolis follows the Great River Road.

The river up here is about the same width as it is down in New Orleans, ok, not right here, but in many places it is.
However, in NOLa, it is MUCH deeper. You figure all this water plus the Missouri and the Ohio...that water has to go somewhere. The water up here is much bluer than the cafe au lait color at home

So, as I head to my next destination along the JH and the next slight detour, I see redemption is at hand! Hallelujah! Free at last, free at last, thank God, Almighty, I am free at last!

Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls, Minnesota will do nicely, thank you. I park and run in. Where's the poor box, I am Catholic Church literate and the poor box is usually right at the back of church, but it is nowhere to be found.

So, I leave the dollar on a little table in the back, where'd the ushers would congregate. This will have to do. And it does! Karma has swung in my direction, I can feel it!

I leave Little Falls, home of Charles Lindbergh by the way, you pass his boyhood home just before town on the river road, and I head back to the Great River Road, stopping for a snap.

Here the route of the JH becomes far more rural, heading into the north of Minnesota, but stopping along the way with this slight detour...

Full into the Pines portion of the Palm to Pines highway now, but still in territory at once foreign and domestic...The source of the Mississippi, a river that is about 3/4 mile from my house.

This is it, the actual beginning of the River, right at that little breakwater that separates the Mississippi from Lake Itasca (in Lake Itasca State Park). Pretty remarkable, really. I've heard people say you can throw a rock across the Mississippi. but I choose a small piece of branch. Completely across. I step in.

I really cannot do this at home. Mostly there are wharves, and where there's batture, it's swampy mud, and I doubt there are any pebbles on the surface. I've heard that the muddy bottom of the river, the sludge at the bottom is hundreds of feet deep.

The River

The first Mississippi River Bridge

Old Man River as a young man

Lake Itasca had another treat on the way out and back to the JH. It was this little gem. One way and one lane and up and down and curvy. No traffic and 7 miles long.

Mostly 2nd and 1st gear territory, but a lot of fun, and then I emerge back on my route, again following the JH, now up to my stop for the evening, Hallock, Mn, the farthest north you can go and still get a motel room, about 30 miles from the Canadian border.

I go to the Caribou Grill, across the parking lot from the motel and the only source of food in the Greater Hallock Area, and have the worst meal of the entire trip, and I am including the meals that were Planter's Salted Peanuts and Gatorade at gas stops.

Two specials on the menu, I order the chicken, after 10 minutes I am told the chicken is no longer available. Ok, then I'll have the "flatiron steak," the other special.
What would you like to drink?
I'll have some tea please,
yes, iced tea?
huh? Oh! You mean "plain old tea!"
yes, mission accomplished, but when it arrives it tastes more like a flat cola soda drink than tea. I have to struggle to find any tea flavor.

The "salad" comes out. the lettuce is wilted and a little brown, remember, this is the only food around. This is it, eat this or fast.

Then the flatiron steak arrives. Ugh. Dry, overdone, but barely edible. I ask if there is any bread coming?
huh? oh, you mean like "bread?"

Yes, bread.
I'll see if I can find some (I kid you not)
When she returns I am told, that I am "lucky" because she found some. What she has is something akin to a slider bun, more like a slider bun than any other BLO (bread like object), but dry, no butter. In fact, the only "condiments" in evidence were salt and pepper, nothing, I mean NOTHING else.

If you follow these footsteps, eat BEFORE you arrive in Hallock, or bring food with you, but on no account should you step into the Caribou Grill. Do so at your own peril. You have been warned.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 15-Jun-2016, 08:10 PM (048)
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GReat photos!! Great ride report. I enjoyed! You've done such a great job, you may want to consider posting these at adventure rider and Motorcycle Tourer's Forum!
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 16-Jun-2016, 05:43 AM (446)
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What an amazing ride and your writing style is much appreciated. You sir have a way of bringing us all along on your solitary journey and it's a reminder that there are interesting and worthy experiences and people in all kinds of places. Thank you.

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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 16-Jun-2016, 10:40 AM (653) Thread Starter
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Thanks for the encouragment!

It goes on...

The next morning, well, this was the plan...I often travel with a friend, two friends actually. One is, on this trip, my friend Michter's Rye

My other friend is a Ruger 40 caliber pistol. Never have come close to using it, but I sometimes stay in some sketchy enough areas, or travel through such, that I like my companion.

The Peoples' Republic of Canada does not share that regard, so traveling with the gun across the border was a non starter. So, I decided to stay 2 nights in Hallock, and, make a day trip to Winnipeg, take my picture at the plaque, have a GOOD lunch and head back. I would leave Mr Ruger in my luggage in the hotel room.

That was Plan A and it actually worked out as planned!

I head out the next morning, filling up, not knowing what the ava of gas would be North of the Border.

So many choices...NOT

The Red River of the North separates Minnesota from North Dakota. It flows eventually into Hudson Bay.

For a swamp boy, that's NORTH. Also, as I was growing up, I doubted the existence of North Dakota. I never knew anyone from there, I'd never seen a license plate from there. Does it really exist? Is it where the edge of the known world is?

I do now believe that North Dakota exists. I've been there unless it was a very elaborate hoax.

The Red River of the North. North Dakota on the left, Minnesota on the right. See the difference?

Am I being punked?

I take a right and am I 29 in North Dakota. On this Sunday morning I approach the customs station that will grant entrance to Canada on the Lord Selkirk Highway.

Thomas Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk [Lord Selkirk] (1771-1820)

Not really sure why the highway is named after Thomas Douglas. He was apparently an agent of the Hudson Bay Company who had run ins with the locals, the Nor'Westers, from as far away as Montreal all the way to Winnipeg. He was given 116,000 acres, by the Hudson Bay Company, and told to "settle" the area around what is now Winnipeg. He comes in, after previous corporate intrusions into the local fur trade failed, he comes in with Swiss mercenaries to "develop" the area. He was probably viewed as a corporate stooge or thug.

History is written by the victors, though, and Manitoba 75 is named after him.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Canadian customs.

They have already built a wall.

Figuratively...a somewhat hostile bureaucracy with all the friendliness of our DMV.

I approach the drive through, passport ready. I stop, first I am chided by the officier for using the truck lane. Ok, my bad, but when I pulled up there was a sign listing all the lanes that were closed, and it appeared there was maybe only 1 or 2 open. There was no traffic, no other vehicles to suggest which one to take, so I pull over to the one green light I see.
you're in the truck lane

ok, so what do you want me to do?

Just give me your passport (huff) and license, see? and he nods to the truck now behind me. (huff) He's pi$$ed. Life is so unfair, you know? Imagine his plight. Having to deal with "THIS." A motorcycle in the truck lane, could it get any worse?

Mea frickin' culpa! A tragedy at the border, A motorcycle in front of a truck. I smile in abject apology.

He stamps my passport and tells me I have to go into the office...over there and to park in the car places. The exchange takes about a minute.

He was the good cop of this exchange. I park at the expanse that is Canadian Customs, in the car park, under the overhang, and walk into the large single level glass and concrete building. Double glass doors with stainless frames. A very long L shaped counter separates those crossing the border from the protectors of the realm.

It is a very large building, far bigger than US customs that I vist later in the day. Canada has deemed it necessary to build such a fortress to separate this

from this

and this

because you just can't tell who people are these days!

There is a maze of bank style dividers that make you weave back and forth for about 100 feet to get to the point where you can be appropriately called, "Next." The only other supplicants for entry is a group of 5, a grandmother, a mother, and three children, being interrogated by those given the charge of protecting the homeland. They are there when I arrive and they are still there when I leave.

The border guards are manikin-like. All 30 something males, all fit, all about 5'10" and 195#, all dressed in swat gear minus the helmets, but complete with flak jackets, Darth Vader like, and not a smile or good morning to be had. I don't know if I qualified for extra scrutiny, because I went into the truck lane, or I am a single male ( a grandpa one) or I'm on a motorcycle, or what, I don't know if this is actually "extra" scrutiny. Maybe they do this to everyone as I am certain our border people do on our southern border, right?

Anyhow, Officer Creamer (yes, that is his name) begins the questioning which winds up taking about 15-20 minutes. Maybe I just have that "look," though that could be "profiling?" Then again, I'm not in Kansas anymore. Maybe he doesn't like my answers?
Where are you going?
Why are you going to Winnipeg?
To take a picture.
That really got him, and he now looks up from my passport. I start telling him about the Jefferson Highway, the first trans-national route, from New orleans to Winnipeg, motorcycle ride, sounds like an adventure, etc... And there is a plaque at the end where I will take my picture for the Travel Section of out local paper.
He's not buying it. None of it.
I am ON the Jefferson Highway; his customs fortress is in ON the Jefferson Highway and he is totally incredulous.
You mean you rode 18 hours to take a picture?
No, I rode 5 days to get to this point and today I will take a picture.

He tells me that he's heard a lot of stories over "his years"--his years! He's in his 30s, "his" years! No one is legitimately allowed to use that phrase until your 50s at least, His Years. Are they like dog years, Officer Creamer? I didn't say that, btw, as these guys were armed to the teeth so prudence dictates that sarcasm is best held in check.
He goes on to ask me why would I do that, ie make this trip, suggesting that I could "take a plane, take my picture and be back in a day." I tell this kid that there is no adventure in that, that this is an historic route, that I am riding a route done by Americans and Canadians a hundred years ago.

He then goes on to ask me what my job is. I tell him. Now, he wants to know how I have this much time off to do this. I tell him I am semi-retired, so I have the time, and my wife lets me, and I enjoy it.
Officer Creamer, just shakes his head. No humor is in his brain. No acceptance, almost disdain, almost a sneer at what I am doing, like it's a colossal waste of time. If this is the face of Canada, it needs another face.

I am released and I hit the road, Lord Selkirk Highway, for my way into Winnipeg.

I didn't know what to expect, though from the countryside I expected a flat dusty cow town with boring architecture.

I was SO WRONG! Winnipeg is a very neat and cool town!

Winnipeg is an old city, at least back to the mid 1700s and a trading crossroads before that. It has beautiful architecture, green parks, two rivers and a confluence, is cosmopolitan.
Lots of millenials, and post hippies. It has food! On this sunny spring late Sunday morning, lots of people are out, the restaurants are packed and there's a really good vibe, like a big city should have! I'll bet Officer Creamer hates it.

I find the plaque and record it for posterity, and The Times-Picayune

The plaque is located in the sprawl part of town, a distance from the city center

I ate at one of the Stella's Cafes and it was terrific. I sat at the bar with the Sunday brunch crowd and being a single and willing to sit at the bar, I jumped ahead of the formidable line of hungry diners. The people were very friendly and as often happens when you sit at the bar, you get into conversations with your fellow diners and the servers. I had a pasta with Mediterranean veggies dish that REALLY hit the spot and whose taste was only exceeded by the aroma of the roasted garlic. A far cry, a different planet, than the Caribou Grill. As Stella's was also a bakery, I got some provisions for the evening, something to hold me overnight, and then hit the road.

There was another way back, I am now finished the Jefferson Highway part of the ride, so I am now meandering back toward the Gulf of Mexico, far, far away.
kramdunc and BrokenPoet like this.
Dr. Strangelove is offline  
post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 17-Jun-2016, 05:47 PM (949)
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston
Posts: 10
Hey Doc, really enjoy reading about the trip you and lil red are doing. The pics are great and it makes me think of where I want to ride next. Not much to add other than, keep it going. It is a pleasure to read and looking forward to the next installment.

Also, your name, you must have been about 20 years old when that movie came out. Do you have a favorite character or is it something else. Ride safe and keep posting.

2013 R1200GS LC
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