When I awoke on Friday morning at Christy and Jim's home, it was gray and cloudy.
I wanted to enjoy an amazing breakfast with my pretend family; instead, I departed quite abruptly due to the scary weather outlook.
Jim still managed to get a "family photo" as a keepsake, and I had time to hug the adorable Ryleigh (and everyone else).
I headed north, and took a turn on 61 towards Minnesota.
The weather appeared better just west of the Mississippi River.
My decision turned out to be a wise choice as it did not rain from when I left sometime just after 8 a.m. up until around 5:30 p.m. Not to mention that I was able to see some pretty enchanting vistas of the Great River along my route.
Most of the view looked quite rustic, and at times the sweeping lush ridges hung over me. It almost felt like I was riding through a jungle of tall trees.
The cloud coverage remained throughout most of my ride although thin slices of blue could be seen in the distance.
It was cool, but not cold.
My toasty red hoodie might have also stifled any chills.
Driving along this two-lane stretch of Great River Road was memorable.
(In fact, I stumbled upon a guy at a gas station who said he moved here 11-years ago for the view.)
When I reached a town called Lake City (birthplace of water skiing), I stopped and admired Lake Pepin. After an online search, I discovered that it is "the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River."
Captivated by the view, I spent several moments walking around, taking photos, and speaking with local fishermen.
When I had my nature fill, I jumped back on the bike towards Red Wing, Minnesota.
It was where I had planned on stopping...
Plans have a tendency to change.
Following Lake City, the topography changed.
Distracting trailers and motorhomes hugging the Mississippi River ruined the view.
Then, more signs of life emerged, and I found myself in Red Wing; however, downtown was a mess.
Men were spreading wet cement which would serve as future medians for downtown Red Wing. Although signs stated shops were open, the construction spoiled the whole feel of the place.
My stopping point turned out to be a bust, so I continued along 61.
Following the heavy commercialism, I unexpectedly came upon farmland and cattle ranches.
The smooth road and agricultural scenery put a smile on my face.
I stopped for gas in a small town, and I ended up talking to a trucker filling up the station with the fuel from his tanker.
He was extremely friendly: a perfect smile, and a slight Canadian accent.
Asking me where I was headed, I told him about my Red Wing experience, and I mentioned something about staying in the Twin Cities.
He offered two pieces of excellent advice.
1) Stop and eat in downtown Hastings.
2) Plot my Twin Cities route BEFORE take off.
I followed both suggestions.
The bridge you see below (yet above the Hastings signage) begins the journey into the Twin Cities.
I had a quick bite to eat at a local Hastings diner, and I made an airbnb reservation in Northeast Minneapolis.
Why that location?
I wanted to avoid any busy, downtown action while on the motorcycle. I had remembered John Steinbeck complaining about his traffic experience in St. Paul/Minneapolis.
My efforts failed.
I hit all kinds of heavy traffic along the 494/694 route, and I lost my way.
Besides the bumper to bumper traffic followed by speeds of 65 mph, a subtle sprinkle had begun.
When I plotted the route, it looked so easy?
I knew I was lost (and I probably relooped) when I began to see signs for Maplewood... AGAIN.
I immediately pulled off the road, and found a new route 36 west to 35 west.
All was grand until the rain came down.
I found the nearest exit from 35 west.
Finding a covered park -- called Community Park -- I pulled over to my left.
I used my tent to tarp my backpack; then, I walked towards the covered benches.
It rained and rained and rained.
Not that ferocious storm type of rain... that incessant... when is it going to stop... heavy drizzle rain.
I waited for nearly two-hours for the rain to stop, and sometime after 7 p.m. it did!
Throughout that time, I had made calls, sent text messages, and hydrated.
I even enjoyed some watermelon pop rocks in my purse which I remember purchasing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
When the rain subsided, I took off the tarp/tent, repacked and rebungeed.
No need to rush.
The rain had stopped.
Plus, I felt extremely confident I knew where I was going.
No highways this time...
I found my airbnb place off of 18th Avenue NE and Polk.
I unpacked, and could not figure out how the front door worked.
Something about putting my hand over a screen and typing the four digit code.
Luckily, someone (my airbnb's roommate) answered the door, and showed me how to use the fancy door pad.
The apartment was spacious and sparingly decorated: I loved it.
Fernando (the roommate) showed me my room which was to the left of the dining room area.
Then, I met Bruno (my host).
I asked about laundry.
It was funny watching two 20-year-olds scramble to get me quarters, so I could wash clothes.
We spoke awkwardly.
Had I intimidated them?
Quarters were found.
The laundry room was in a dusty basement, and I was taken back to my days of doing laundry in my old Chicago apartment.
I waited for my clothes to wash while I straightened up what I had brought into my new room.
Bruno, Fernando, and I spoke (still awkwardly) a bit more.
When I went back downstairs to place my clothes in the dryer, I had a surprise waiting for me.
Not sure about you, but I always inspect the dryer before tossing in wet clothes.
So, I did...
I found a tiny, zip-locked bag of dark green, stinky buds.
No, I am NOT kidding.
I removed the thumb-drive sized packet, and placed my clothes in the dryer.
Then, I looked back at the tiny bag and wondered what I should do with it.
Based on the number of mailboxes and names, 10 maybe 12 people live in the apartment building.
I decided to take the bag and hide it in a place where someone else might discover it.
Now, I know a few of you will be upset with this decision.
You'll have to scold me later.
After my shower, I pulled my clothes out of the dryer, and I got ready for a late night meal at a restaurant called The Mill.
A place Bruno had suggested.
When I left the boys, another 20-something had joined them. They were getting ready to pregame... then, go "clubbing."
Pretty sure they don't call it that anymore: the clubbing part.
Remember those days, when you would sleep in late, go out late, and do it all over again?
In case you have forgotten, here's a gentle reminder of what that looks like.
I walked to The Mill and a bartender, named Ryley, (sometimes names come in twos) from Montana, took care of me.
Near 10 p.m. I ordered a delicious Minnesotan black ale, some Washington oysters, and fancy Alaskan cod.
The oysters were a personal highlight.
I consumed my nutrients, and proceeded to speak with Cedric.
He sat at the bar shortly after I did.
A fella from Pensacola, Florida!
He was waiting for his wife to end her evening serving shift.
We instantly hit it off.
Not only were we from the same state, we were just a few years apart.
We had a grand time discussing everything from school paddling to religion to politics.
Later, I found out I was staying on the same street where he and his wife, September, and their children live.
Needless to say -- thanks mostly to Cedric -- what started out as an unsettling morning and afternoon turned into an entertaining evening.
We exchanged numbers in order to get together during my stay; then, we said our goodbyes.
I closed up the bar while the bartender finished up his procedures.
(He encouraged me to ride West.)
I did not arrive home until just after 1 a.m.
Exhausted from a long day of riding (around 200 miles including getting lost), I fell fast asleep.
Until we meet again, my friend.