Motorcycling along 371 (north) was much less stressful thanks to speed limits ranging from as high as 55 mph to as low as 30 mph.
The road itself was smooth; however, it was not very scenic until about 20-minutes into the ride when I was surrounded.
Lake after lake after lake after lake.
Chains of visible water blanketed me.
Sometimes on my left -- Hartley Lake then Gull Lake... later West Twin Lake.
Sometimes on my right -- North Long Lake then Round Lake then Hole in the Day Lake.
Distinct aromas perfumed the air -- that hard to describe mix of water and earth.
Then, signs for more lakes.
Sometimes I could not see the water from 371, but I could smell it.
Later, rows and rows of diverse trees scents intermingling with one another.
Paper Birch and Balsam Fir and Red Pine.
Then... wildflowers sharing space with that lovely purple-red-brown-orange Indian grass.
Minimal traffic on Tuesday morning.
I could leisurely soak in all that Minnesota nature including signs for Chippewa National Forest.
When I hit some bends and curves along 371 and saw a huge body of water to my right with an adjacent park, I pulled into its large parking lot.
I was in a town called Walker: a gorgeous, sleepy town surrounded by water, water, and more water.
In all, we are talking about eight bays and the GIANT Leech Lake.
It looked like any town you might see on the coast.
A fisherman's paradise.
Less than 1000 people live in this magical Cass County town.
I wondered -- at the height of fishing season -- how many folks inhabited the area.
If I had to live in Minnesota, I tell you I would choose this place.
True, I know very little about this state.
True, I have yet to see the cities along the North Shore and Lake Superior.
Walker has this tranquil energy about it.
An atmospheric, transcendental vibe.
The town personified itself: a place one yearns.
I did not want to leave, so I lingered.
I found a placed called Artists and Crafters Mall along Main Street (i.e. 371). There, I admired all the locally created wares along with collections and collections of antiques. I purchased cards for family and friends.
Later, I stopped at The Village Square Cafe (a restaurant and coffee shop) where I had my first taste of Walleye Pike (juicy, flaky, and tender white fish). Then, I walked to its coffee shop section and ordered a lemon meringue pie.
I ate it while I began my correspondences.
Afterwards, I found the local library and blogged about my camping experiences.
Despite having spent nearly five hours in Walker, I did not want to leave.
However, I had an airbnb reservation waiting for me in Bemidji.
Unwillingly, I got back on my motorcycle sometime after 5 p.m.
I got back on 371 heading north.
Weather and road conditions were perfect.
Clear skies... trees and more trees... smooth road... empty roadways.
Then, I made a left and headed West on Interstate 2.
The wind nearly toppled me over.
It was that strong.
In addition, the sun shifted towards the western parts of the sky, so it blinded me as I drove 50-mph along a 65-mph interstate enduring winds at all angles except from the East.
All I kept thinking was... how many more miles to Bemidji.
Then, I saw a sign... 14-miles.
FOURTEEN more miles.
To focus my thoughts elsewhere, I pictured the route to my airbnb host's home.
Something about Paul Bunyan.
I began to see signs to the city.
Four different exits.
I took the one called Paul Bunyan Drive.
I crossed over the bridge where the Mississippi River approaches its first official city flow, and I saw Lake Bemidji.
When I saw a place to pull over on my right, I did.
I uploaded the directions on my smart-phone and discovered I was less than 1/4 mile away.
I made an immediate right on 6th Street and a left on the one-way Lake Boulevard.
The airbnb couple's "in the midst of restoration" house was on the left.
I pulled my motorcycle into the driveway.
In spite of the prevailing winds, I made it.
Bemidji: first city located on the Mississippi River.
I entered the driveway, and I met Jo and Mason (and later her husband Mike).
Jo did everything possible to make me feel right at home.
I parked my motorcycle into the couple's garage, and I took a relaxing bath in the home's original claw-foot tub. (The bathroom even has a push-button toilet!)
Later, I dressed and walked the few blocks to reach downtown to enjoy an appetizer and a glass of wine.
Unfortunately, Jo's suggestion of Tutto Bene was a no-go.
The restaurant was closed: its owners were getting married.
Nearing 10 p.m., I found an Irish Pub called Brigid's.
Luckily, they were still serving food.
Its intimidatingly tall bartender said, "make it fast."
I ordered the walleye sandwich along with a pint of Boddingtons.
I sat at the left end of the bar speaking to no one.
Two people were to my right -- they said nothing (Minnesota nice, remember).
Although attentive, the bartender was anything but friendly.
However, the food was good and the draft beer was creamy.
When the couple left, a 50-plus something man with a balding front head and wild grey hair behind it asked to sit next to me.
Of course, an out-of-towner.
Jacob originally from Israel was here because his daughter was in a Concordia Language Camp.
Jacob: a mathematician turned health data equation statistical analyst of some sort from the upper echelon suburbs of Chicago (meaning north of Evanston).
We shared old Rogers Park stories; we talked politics; we discussed classical music; we spoke about his soon-to-be high school daughter; we chatted about my motorcycle ride.
All... on a somewhat superficial level.
Jacob offered me a ride home, and I took it.
He was concerned with my safety.
I thanked him, and he asked for my blog's web address.
(Jacob, it is official: you are now blogfamous. Pronounce it like this: blog-fuh-muss.)
When I returned to the house, Jo and Mike were still awake.
We stayed up after midnight sharing a little bit of everything; I had not expected such a meaningful interaction; it sprung out of nowhere.
What I had expected was that the parents of a soon-to-be two-year-old would be tired and sleepy; instead, I realized that the late hours are when work gets done and when they spend time together.
Closing the night out with a conversation on a much deeper level (about life, work, education, current events, and culture) made my sleep (in a warm, pillow-filled bed) that much richer.
Until we meet again, my friend.