Sunday, July 15, 2012

TW200 goes Italian

Since I intended to ride a fair amount of gravel this weekend (missed you Rick!) and in addition it had been last fall's KS/MO trip since the TW200 had done anything 'important', the decision to ride the Yamaha down to the Iowa Moto Guzzi Rally had been made weeks ago.  There were some other country's makes represented, but as far as I know, mine was the only Yamaha?

Though I've used the soft saddlebag/MotoFizz bag combo on the back of the bike previously, the bags had been my old, narrower Bag Man bags.  The current First Gear bags are wider and not so deep, supposedly favoring the high pipes of sportbikes (a dismal failure on the Hyosung previously).  Even I had to admit that once loaded, the packed width of the bags on the Yamaha seemed a bit much.

This proved to be true early Friday morning in the windy rain.  With a relatively mild SSE breeze, the Tdub seemed to be struggling more than normal to maintain the legal limit, with each long hill proving to be a special challenge.  I was beginning to wonder how wise my choice had been to ride the 200 to Elkader.  Always a bit paranoid about staying out of people's way on my bikes, there were some second thoughts about my planned trip down, though not major ones since I'd planned on lots of gravel, with the paved sections being on minor, County roads.  The more I thought about it though, the more I began to wonder about the planned ride home on faster, more direct roads.

The rain stopped before 7AM when I was roughly due east of Rochester and I rode through no more rain on the trip down.  Through Bucksnort, Arendahl, Peterson and on towards Spring Grove, the gravel sections had obviously seen enough rain to quench the dust.

I stopped to get a photo of the foggy valley upon entering Yucatan Township and the approaching pickup pulled over, the farmer very pleased that overnight there had been almost a half an inch of much appreciated and needed rain.

After a gas/coffee stop in Spring Grove (gas attendant said she'd had 1.7" of rain), the Iowa border was crossed and I used the gravelly, non-dusty W60 to take me most of the way to Waukon.  I'd never been on the road before, enjoyed it and will use it again.

Arriving in Elkader just before noon, I signed in at Rally HQ, the Pavillion in the City's Park.  In the past we've stayed at the far end of the grounds so I found the best shade in that area and set up my tent near the same rally goers we'd stay next to last year.  Gene had already arrived, so we spent some time catching up and doing our best to oversee the new arrivals as they pulled in.  Mike came mid-afternoon, so then it was back to work helping him unload his two bikes.

Saturday morning in the early fog......

After and before (more) rain....

Dave's setup AFTER the rain......rain cover on, tent closed, etc.

BEFORE the rain, his bike hadn't been covered and his tankbag was set in "Rain guage" mode; the plastic bag actually attracting water rather than repelling.  Hopefully he'll rely on better weather predictions (and predictors) from here on out.

Since more rain was on the way and Dave, Gene and Paul were now prepared, I got suited up and headed out for what started as a very wet and windy ride.  Originally planning to head east and south toward the river, I used my spiffy phone and the weather radar (previously mentioned) to accurately predict that the weather system was moving southeast, so heading west and north seemed the most prudent.

I stopped for this photo after crossing Chicken Ridge with only a few, windy drops threatening my camera.  In minutes, the threat had ceased and the real deal had arrived.

In the pouring rain and wind, I was northwest bound, towards West Union.  I saw Echo Valley State Park on the GPS, so made that my next goal.  Crossing a ridge, I saw this Octagon shaped barn in the distance but had trouble capturing the image I'd first seen.  Between the distances, viewing angle and changing light, it looked much more spectacular before I actually stopped.

Echo Valley State Park......


After a gas stop and sandwich in West Union, it was on to Fort Atkinson.  Here the tractors were just starting their ride.  I got in behind them, went around on some gravel roads and arrived in Spillville before them so got to watch them ride through town once again.

In Spillville, I pulled into the Bily Clock Museum parking lot and thought about going in since it had been over 30 years since I'd been there previously.  That trip had been with friends for a 4th of July celebration at the city park and I was on my then-brand new Moto Guzzi SP1000.  Deciding that I wasn't in the mood, I rode across the river to the city park so that I could send wife and daughters photos of the monument commemorating Dvorak's time in Spillville.

Along a section of the Bluff River Byway, I rode right past this old farm home.  The silo was in back, almost completely covered with vines and growth and virtually invisible.  I see many old houses falling down on my back country rides, but most of them further north have no brick.  This one really caught my eye because it did.

I was delighted (many may not be) to see one of Iowa's Scenic Byway roads spending so much time on gravel.

From there it was back towards Elkader.  Once I got within 10 miles, the overnight and early morning storm damage was evident by washed out gravel roads, downed corn and a few scattered limbs down.  It seemed to be the worst NW of town, up on the ridges.

Back in Elkader, I was riding past the Civil War Museum in town where I saw Mike just finishing up his tour of the historic Carter Brother's home.  I walked in as Mike was leaving, the two women curators not troubled in the least at having to start another tour through the many rooms of historical Elkader treasures.  A warm and hearty thank-you ladies for all you shared with us!

After a refreshing beverage, some discussion about what it ALL meant and a bit of wiping off the day's rain and dirt, Mike was kind enough to let me take the Triton out for a ride.......right side, one up, four down......right side, one up, four down......I behaved myself, stayed reasonably quiet in town and very much enjoyed a few miles of #56.  Thanks again Mike!

We lined up for the Pork Chop dinner at 6PM, cooked by the local Pork Growers and served by the Pork Queen.  The pork was great, the meal even more so but then that's not surprising since they do a fantastic job every year.  Topped off with a cup of ice cream, each of us were almost too full to get lined up for the Moto Guzzi (and Other) parade through town.

The police escort parade through town followed an even longer route than in years past.  Many of the townsfolk were out to wave us through; thanks to them for tolerating the interruption of traffic and increased commotion.  As seen above in the video, Mike rode his 1970 450 Honda Police bike.  With specific permission, our escort officer granted Mike's request to run his siren.  It was pretty cool hearing it in town, but was really impressive once we got up a bit of 'momentum' out on State 13.  According to what Mike's heard from those that knew these bikes, these sirens were almost TOO loud........I'm glad that I was behind rather than in front of our patrolling, parading officer.

Another great rally, even with a bit of wind Friday night and rain Saturday morning.  The heat and humidity were tolerated and expected; the pool was right there for anyone really suffering.  It was foggy and very humid this morning, strong predictors of a hot muggy day.  I left for home at 8:30 and I'd guess that 3/4 of the attendees were already on their way home by then.

I stopped for a convenience store sandwich in Decorah and another cup of coffee, then had a burger in Lanesboro, a very busy place with Tube'rs and Kayak folks.  518 miles for the weekend; the Tdub done good.

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