Sunday, May 20, 2012

Well That Was Fun! (GR3 Rally)

If there would have been a way for the weekend to have been even more fun I'm not sure what would have made it so.  There were so many good things strung together that I may have trouble giving them each their due.

Friday morning saw me off around 5:30AM into clear blue skies and warming temps.  After a quick stop for a Lake Pepin photo, it was across the river and on to Alma for breakfast; at 6:15 they still weren't very busy which made it a very cozy meal with both proprietors able to share some recent news.  From there it was back to MN, crossing the river at Winona and riding down as far as Co. 7, through Pickwick and up the hill on my first gravel of the weekend and on to Co. 12.  Dropping down into LaCrescent on Co. 1 then had me back along the river.

Above Pickwick on the gravel, the Mississippi River hidden, Wisconsin in the distance....

Just south of Reno I again left the river valley and climbed up on top (Hillside Drive), a road I've been meaning to try but always seem to have a (poor) reason not to.  Friday I no longer had any excuses.  I passed and then pulled into a Recreation Area to take a look, wondering if there might be any horse campers there.  The place was vacant, but it looked like a nice little campground with horse trails leading into the valley beyond the closed gates.  The overgrowth on the trails made me wonder about how much use they get however.

Right in front of the shelter above was the smallest fire ring that I've ever seen, prompting me to wonder if trolls may frequent the area.  I put my glove next to the ring to show an idea of scale.  Apparently some practice conservation in every form.

Back onto the gravel that runs along the ridge and then I came upon this fantastic view as the road drops hard back down into Reno.

After spending some time up in the overlook/city park above Lansing, IA, I crossed the grated bridge and headed north to DeSoto, hoping to meet some of my friends from the MSTA Rally there for lunch.  There was a mix-up regarding dates and times, but while in the parking lot a bike went by that looked familiar.  Roger was headed to the rally himself, just wasn't one of the people that I had expected to meet for lunch; he and I ate together anyway and it was great seeing him again.  He left to do some route scouting and I left for Soldier's Grove.

After registering at the City Park in Soldier's Grove with the Madison BMW Club, I got the tent setup and removed the non-essential luggage from the bike, ready for a ride in the afternoon's perfect weather.  Before going 5 miles, I decided that I'd venture down towards the site of the MSTA Rally in Spring Green to see some of the folks that my mixed-up lunch plans had hoped by failed to see.  Registration was taking place there as well and though I ran into many of my old friends, there were some expected and not yet in town.

Finding a nice route back to OUR rally site in Soldier's Grove, I stopped mid-way for dinner and then once back in town, filled with gas to be ready for my planned ride on Saturday.  Most everyone had arrived by then, had registered and all were getting ready for campfires and time for getting caught up with what was for many of us, our first rally of the season.

A real Transalp, not a wanna-be like mine.....

Up early, I was in line for breakfast right away, anxious to get out riding.  With another beautiful day in store and warm, windy temps, it was going to great to be moving.  With the pre-planned GPS Route loaded, I left town, hoping to concentrate on Crawford County gravel roads for the day.

Not far out of town, I found this former residence......sort of like a caboose but not really........

......and then before I'd gone a lot further, this very cool and architecturally interesting old home.  It looked to me as though remnants of canvas or some other like-material had covered the house and I struggled, trying to figure out why that may have been.

Stopping for a drink and a couple of handfuls of nuts that I carried along, I saw this lovely view in a grassy, green valley......As I walked over to the bank, two Cranes flew away, not even giving me to opportunity to prove I wouldn't bother them.

One more 'oddity'......a culvert serving no earthly purpose, though once upon a time I'm sure it was happy allowing traffic over its top.

While the GR3 Rally was the stated goal for the weekend, in reality it was one of 3 goals; the planned Saturday Route gravel exploration was another important component.  The third goal and the one that had been postponed the longest involved a sort of pilgrimage for me.  Over 20 years ago I happened to flip on a radio program that focused on readings from local and regional fiction, the book discussed that day was "The Land Remembers" by Ben Logan.  I so enjoyed what I had heard that I went and bought a copy of the book and it's one that I've read numerous times cover to cover, annually at least reading through a handful of chapters over the holidays if a full read doesn't take place.

The author wrote about his family, their farm and growing up "on the ridge" above the Kickapoo River Valley in Crawford County.  I'm just old enough to either be familiar with the topics he so smoothly describes personally or have listened to enough old family stories to feel barely removed from having lived through them myself.  Mr. Logan's descriptions of the neighbors, the hired hand, traveling salesmen, he and his siblings walking back and forth to school in the valley, etc. all have drawn images in my head easily imagined.

Curious all these years about exactly where the book took place finally got me interested enough to spend a quick few minutes doing a bit of sleuthing online a year or so ago, confident that I had determined almost to the mailbox which place it was that he had been describing.  When I learned that after having lived away, he moved back to the farm, the search was all that much simpler.

Once there, it was all the more obvious with this marker, locating "Seldom Seen Farm"......

Cowboy's Arena with a view of almost forever.....

A lovely spot for a windmill that was working hard Saturday afternoon......

For some reason, this corner seems special and I stop for a break every time I'm there.  While all of these ridges allow distant views, some seem higher than others and provide views that go almost forever.....

A few more miles/stops later, it was back into Soldier's Grove.  Deciding it made sense to fill with gas to be ready for the Sunday trip home, I went to the station in town and discovered that the MSTA rally folks were in "our" town, filling with gas on their return loop to Spring Green.  Four of the riders I thought I might see at  MSTA HQ on Friday afternoon all happened to be topping off their tanks at the same time I had decided to do the same.  It was great seeing both Ed's, Pat and Paul again.  Hope you guys had a great ride back yesterday and safe travels home today.

Saturday's banquet and awards ceremony went off without a hitch, once the door prizes ( I got one) and related were handed out, other regional rallies were announced and then everyone went back to their campsites for another evening of campfires, refreshments and time under the stars.

It was a great weekend, no more than a few drops of rain in the last 10 miles back to Frontenac.  Thanks to the Madison BMW Club, the Lion's Club in Soldier's Grove and all of the volunteers.

643 miles on the Ascot this weekend.

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