Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 1: Flat 4 Tour - Winona, MN

You know how when things are going well you should never say that they are going well because that’s how you jinx yourself? Well, I guess that’s what happened to me although I have no scientific proof of it.

All summer long I kept thinking how lucky we’ve been that every weekend we ride, we either don’t get rained when rain is in the forecast, or get rained on very little, like 5 minutes of rain out of the whole day or we just miss the rain and ride wet pavement for a while. So for all the rain we’ve missed this summer, this weekend we definitely made up for it because instead of thinking it I finally said it. Jinx!

It was another Flat 4 Tour weekend, this time we were heading up to Winona, MN. At 7:15AM the morning was cool in the low 60’s, thick clouds hovered over us as we rode out of the suburbs in to the sticks. An hour later we pulled up to the gas station where the groups were all meeting. The rain started, very light at first. One group of bikes pulled out of the gas station just as we pulled in.

As we gassed up a blackbird pulled in, it was Mark. The three of us took off toward the west. RT20 had a few spots under construction and a bit of traffic also. For a while the rain stopped but as we got closer to Stockton, the skies ahead of us started threatening some big rains, the clouds smooth and sculptured, resembled meringue as in lemon meringue pie, just up side down and very dark navy blue gray.

Delays on Rt 20

The rain started to fall about half a mile before we pulled over in Stockton for gas. We were not rushing at all, then a woman came up to us and informed us there was a motorcade running though town in a few minutes. That could mean further delays, we finished up quick and headed out in to the rain, the fire trucks and police vehicles were already blocking off all the side streets, we just made it out of town in time.

The rain continued at a moderate pace and by the time we reached the Culver’s in Dubuque, my gloves and hands were wet and so were my arms all the way up to my elbows. Somehow water was getting in to my sleeves. This was my first experience wearing my Fieldsheer Adventure jacket and pants in the rain, both are 100% waterproof, it seemed like the rain was possibly coming in though the opening in my gauntlet glove, which has happened before in heavy rain on another jacket.

Culver's parking lot Dubuque, IA

Everyone was already at Culver’s eating lunch when we arrived. Forty five minutes later we were on our way again, the rain had stopped now and I caught a glimpse of the sun for a minute or two, but then the clouds swallowed it up again. This was to be it’s only appearance today.

We rode C9Y, which is supposedly one of best motorcycle roads in Iowa, and part of the Great River Road. This road was under construction for the last couple of years, but now it’ finally finished. I’ve been avoiding it during the construction years, so I almost forgot what a great road it is. My favorite part is from North Buena Vista to Millville, traveling west, this direction allows you to see more of the upcoming curves. The curves here are some nice medium sweepers, nothing tight, but there are hardly any houses or driveways on this section and really nice views of the Mississippi River valley.

Scenic overlook on C9Y with the Mississippi River Valley below

The first section of C9Y north of Sageville has been redone with new “grooved” pavement. The grooves don’t bother me and the shoulder is wider on the new sections, but there is quite a bit of houses along that part of the road. We stopped at the overlook west of Balltown, which is really nice and I do believe it’s new. Actually there are three scenic overlooks here really close to one another, I like the middle one the best.

Iowa’s C9Y

Since the rain had stopped, C9Y was dry, but as we were running the sweepers west of North Buena Vista, I saw a few lightning bolts in the sky not that far away and the skies were dark again in the direction we were going. We arrived at the gas station in Guttenberg just as the skies decided to open up. We waited for the big down pour to pass, but as we left the gas station the rain still kept coming down pretty good, the water running off the roads creating streams and puddles. With enough gas in our tanks to get all the way to Winona, MN we kept going, not even stopping in Lansing at the designated stop. Since we were the last ones to leave Culver’s no one would be there anyway. The rain flowed steady and hard all the way north, my gloves were beyond soaked, and other parts were also wet now. We stopped in La Crescent, MN to just stretch our legs and continued on to Winona. The rain never let up.

Newer grooved section of C9Y

We arrived at the Quality Inn just after 5PM. Even with this wet weather, there were at least 20 bikes here scattered thought the parking lot. The rain continued through the night. We weren’t prepared for a wet walk to the Green Mill for dinner in the wet, so we all took taxis there, embarrassing really since the restaurant is technically “across the street” from out motel.

Our table at the Green Mill restaurant in Winona, MN

We got two large tables and had a good meal. I always order the smoked chicken ravioli when I’m here, and today was no exception. It was yummy per usual. Mike and few others got the ravioli also, since I rave so much about it. We finished the meal with dessert, cheesecake.

Smoked chicken ravioli

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