Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Road Reflections

The sky is a blue rainbow, powdery at the horizon, melding into steel, then royal, then Norse and finally a deep indigo directly overhead. Clouds the size and shape of Luxembourg plod from west to east, prodded by fluffy puppy heads and winged dragons, dancing hippos and jolly old souls. Golden tassels stand unmoving atop pickin' ready sweet corn, en masse appearing like yellow fuzz clinging to miles square, emerald blankets.

The air is sweet with wildflower, red cedar and new mown hay, occasionally punctuated by a short lived exclamation of odeur d' livestock urine, forcing our eyes to water as we collectively hold our breath for the count of ten.


It is unseasonably crisp, though warmer than days ago when by the power of an unruly jet stream, Minnesota and the north pole changed places. My wimpish companions wear jackets, yet I, the all powerful Norseman, wear only jean shorts and tank top; and each time the sun drops behind a cloud as big as Latvia I wonder if being an all powerful Norseman will be the death of me, if I'll eventually clench my teeth so hard my skull will explode from the pressure. Every few miles I consider pulling over and donning my stylish leather riding jacket, and each time I'm near to giving in to the elements, the sun pops from behind its small European country and boils my blood again.


The roads are straight, the scene dullish save the swaths of black eyed Susan and compass plant, bull thistle and wild rose that leap from roadside ditches that their hearts might sing to the sun. Scattered riders in heavy leather, their bikes loaded down with backpacks and tents, fresh from a week in Sturgis and trying to get home in time for Monday's work schedule, pass us in the opposing lane; each slipping the thigh high wave that bikers give to signify membership in the brotherhood of the machine tamers.


New Ulm, a middling size town with Germanic roots and agricultural muscle is our lunch goal, and within a few paced hours John, Linda and I arrive and cruise the main drags in search of ethnic vittles. We find an empty roadhouse whose special of the month happens to be schnitzel, spaetzel and red cabbage and settle in for good eats and traded tales of familial dysfunction.


Fed, fueled and familiarized with a map of the area, we spin through town and across the Minnesota river's southern leg, to ride east toward the river's northern leg a scant thirty miles in the distance. It's warmer then, the clouds smaller and spottier, the sun fired air more August than April at last. I'm happy that I'd not succumbed to the chill, my reputation as an iron man is safe for the moment.


The ride is free and easy, little traffic, no wind; we invisibly tether our machines and travel as one until a sharp corner might give us reason to play it safe, with John dropping off and falling in behind me as we lean into the turn.


We make the river bottoms by late afternoon, Henderson on the Minnesota the targeted hamlet astride the wide, muddy waters, and the starting point for twenty miles of scenic, horizontal roller coaster; a windy, twisty, tarmac bordered by soybeans and sand bars, white country churches and their pristine graveyards, band shells and ball fields and cows chatting in the shade of gnarly oak trees.


I barely have time to allow myself my only vanity, to glance into my mirrors, momentarily admiring the smooth, muscular movement in my arms as I grip handles and twist throttles, the flex in my triceps as I power the 700 pounds of aluminum and fiberglass into a forty five degree angle so as to rocket through corners designed for paper airplane speeds.


It's over too soon, yet for another hour we chat over ice milk and assorted toppings; catching up, bemoaning our troubles, laughing over self made mistakes too funny to keep secret. It's been a good day...better really...a fine day; like fine wine, aged, full of character, a pleasure to have savored one sip at a time, and a sweet taste that lingers long after the bottle's empty.

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