Monday, July 04, 2005

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Day 3 - Fergus Falls, MN to Chicago, IL - 644 miles

The complimentary breakfast was pretty decent at the Best Western. I don’t usually stay at this chain but almost every motel in town was booked when I called two days ago to make a reservation. After packing up the bikes, Tony and I said our good byes to Jim and headed toward I-94 East. There was 12 miles of constructions early on and we couldn’t pass at all. The morning was in the mid 60’s and cloudy, rain was expected in Chicagoland all day and into the night. We stopped for gas once, I also grabbed a Red Bull. The coffee at the motel was weak and I only had one cup. I needed some energy. Once we got near St. Cloud there were a bit of LEO’s on the road but they all already had people pulled over. The traffic was already getting thick and it would continue like that through the Twin Cites. By the time we reached St. Paul I was hot, the traffic was heavy but at least moving at speed limit or above. Not too bad considering that it was a holiday weekend, two cars cut me off but that was the worst of it as we continued East and crossed in to Wisconsin taking an exit for 35 South.

Best Western in Fergus Falls, MN

We stopped for gas right off the interstate, it was totally busy here. After a break and taking all the extra layers off and opening all the vents in my jacket we took off to have lunch in River Falls. I assumed the road we exited off was 35, but it wasn’t. It was F South. If my GPS wasn’t broken I could have simply looked and found a road to turn on to get us back on track, but without one I was had to ride until I would see a sign for another road that also went to River Falls. Yea, I could have pulled over and checked Tony’s GPS but all this stopping gets annoying and it was hot now.

F was a nice road, started straight but then there was a big “S” curve that came down from a huge hill, it was awesome, although there was a bit of traffic here. I kept heading south on F thinking at least we were going in the right direction, but now looking at the map I realized that we passed two roads which could have gotten us to River Falls earlier. Also F went straight South and 35 went southeast. Near Prescott I saw a sign for River Falls so we turned. It took a while before we got there. We ended up going many miles out of the way. The town of River Falls looked abandoned and most of the restaurants in town were closed for the holiday except for the fast food chains. We stopped in at the subway next to the river. The air-conditioning was not working inside and it was a gazillion degrees in there. We sat outside where it was hot but still not as hot as it was inside, although an umbrella on the table would have been nice. I didn’t know how hot it was supposed to be today, so far the weekend was pleasant and on the cool side, nothing above 85 degrees. Today seemed much warmer.

Lunch in River Falls, WI

After lunch we took 65 S. In Ellsworth we took 10 East, there was plenty of nice sweepers and some elevation changes. In Mondavi we took 37 South for a bit and then turned on 88 South. I have wanted to ride 88 for a while, it looked really curvy on the map and it was curvy in real life too. I liked the scenic aspect of this road the best, it doesn’t look like the Midwest here, almost looks like the foothills of some mountains. There were a few elevation changes here also. The pavement is not all that great though, most of the road is patched up and the pavement is two-tone, light and dark in color, pavement like this always playes tricks on my eyes. 88 is also narrow with no shoulder and most of the turns are blind. There are many curves on this road, most of them are marked at 30-45MPH, some are even tighter. There is only one turn that messed me up, the one that goes through a small town, it was a left hander marked at 15MPH, it was tight and ran real close to some buildings.

We turned southeast on 35 and stopped for gas in Fountain City, right on the Mississippi River. Fountain City is a cool little town, nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River. It’s the oldest settlement in Buffalo County, rich in natural and historical beauty. Fountain City is highlighted by Eagle Bluff, which stands 550 feet above the river, the highest point on the Mississippi River. We took a break here and it was a long one. I was tired and overheated now. The sad part was that it was getting late now and we were still way out here. At this rate we wouldn’t get home until 5AM. I didn’t see how we could continue riding the back roads, we needed to make up some times, so once we got on the I-90 East past Winona, MN I planned on taking the interstate all the way to Janesville, WI. We continued on 35 South and crossed in to Winona and took 14/61 until it merged with I-90 East. First traffic was OK, then it got crowded. We stopped for gas and I grabbed another one of those Twix ice cream bars. This time it didn’t have the same effect, no extra energy. By the time we got near Madison the traffic was unbearable. We took an exit at 19 for gas.

Fountain City, WI

At the gas station I grabbed a meatball sandwich for dinner, which was barely edible and a Red Bull to wash down the nastiness. It seemed that all the stops were longer now. Somehow I didn’t have the enthusiasm to hit the road right away even if it was going to cost me getting home later. By now the temperature had finally cooled off, and amazingly it cooled off a lot in a short amount of time. It was dark now, I was layering up and I rested my Red Bull can on the curb right next to my bike. Some drunk punk came out of the gas station and kicked it as he passed by me on his way to his car. It was an accident, he didn’t mean to do it, he apologized and bought me another one. So now I drank half of the one Red Bull and a whole can. I was going to be flying home for sure.

We were not taking the interstate, so I looked at the map and came up with a plan. We took 19 East and turned South on 73. We had finally caught up to the heavy rain that was hitting the Chicago area all day. The roads were all wet and there was lightning in the distance, but it was not raining on us yet. 73 turned in to 51 South. All along these roads we encountered 4th of July celebration and fireworks were going off everywhere. After the rain there was also a fair amount of low lying fog, which we rode in and out of, it was a bit eerie to see a shadow of yourself against the fog. At times it was almost impossible to see the road through the thick fog. I was hoping that all the deer were hiding tonight spooked by the fireworks. The rain stayed ahead of us, just when I though we were heading in to it, we would turn away from it. We made it to Janesville and turned on 140 south and stopped for gas in Clinton. I was surprised how quick it took to get here using those back roads. It was nice and cool now and I felt like I had more energy, those Red Bulls did their job. We got our gas and used the facilities just as the place was closing. We continued and stopped one more time, just to take a break. Still no rain, but the roads continued to be wet. I pulled in to my driveway at 1AM. It was a great trip overall, it was nice to see new places, ride new roads and the company was good too. But it was good to be home after 1802 miles in three days.

Three days and 1802 miles

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