Baggers' 3,000-Mile Hell Ride Part 6
Welcome to the sixth installment of the Hell Ride Series. The Hell Ride started out in L.A., then through Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Sturgis, and North Dakota. The first five installments of my journey are hopefully framed above your mantel or lining birdcages all over America by now. If you've enjoyed reading about the good times and the hellish parts that happened before, please read on.
My schedule was lagging way behind after experiencing the pure hell of a downed rider and friend back in Colorado. I had to get the Ultra Classic loner back to Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee ASAP before the suits reported it stolen. So, of course, to get to Milwaukee I took the most direct route (adding an extra 500 miles) from Sturgis: up through North Dakota, diagonally across the land of umpteen lakes, through the northern edge of Cheesehead country and then up into the land of the "Yoopers"-on Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP).
Even after all that had happened on this damn trip-go fight with your parakeet for the old issues-I still wanted more time in the saddle. I should have had enough by now, but there's just something about having a threesome with the road and Mother Nature.
I left Fargo, North Dakota, into Moorehead, Minnesota, on US-10 past the open plains, still wondering what the hell "uff-dah" meant. I'm guessing the word means something along the lines of "wow," because the waitress at a truck stop said it both in awe of the tales from my trip and I think in repulsion from the way I smelled. I hadn't showered for this whole stinkin' journey and wasn't going to until I got home and could soil my very own bathtub. Thinking about my bathtub made me really miss my girlfriend, Dacia, so I bought her a ticket to Duluth and told her I would meet her there, 240 miles away.
I'd use some wet wipes to clean up before I got there and slather on some gas station soap as makeshift deodorant. Stopping to shower would just take too much time out of my adventure. But first, I had some important man business to attend to. I had to figure out this Paul Bunyan thing once and for all.
On the way to Bemidji, Minnesota, to see one of the purported birthplaces of the legend and his famous blue ox, Babe, I stopped at the start of the Mighty Miss. The waters of the Mississippi River travel 2,329 miles to meet the now oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico. The very narrow headwaters are south of US-2. I felt like Paul as I easily walked over the river, which is a feat he could apparently accomplish at Lake Pepin in Wisconsin, where the river is a whopping 2 miles wide.
Finding Paul and Babe was easy. The last time I was in Bemidji, my flight was cancelled. A local cop started up a conversation with me in the tiny terminal. She gave me a tour of the town and took me to see the duo of tall-tale fame. He is right down the street from the airport. She had lots of guns. Sitting in a rack between us in her car was a riot shotgun and a massive-what looked like a fully auto-rifle. The only time I have seen weapons like that is on TV with the Special Forces guys. She told me that she needed such firepower because there are lots of hunters with guns way up north in these parts. She needs to be able to protect herself against some nut blasting at her from a mile away.
Continuing east on US-2, I rode through the beautiful Chippewa National Forest. There are three Scenic Byways that go over the river and through the woods through the park, the Lady Slipper, Edge of the Wilderness, and Avenue of the Pines (fs.fed.us). The roads are like concrete rivers that unnaturally cut through the dense trees. The refreshing air is soaked with the scent of crisp pine that danced around inside my large nose. Suddenly, I could feel everything tenfold: the vibration of the motor, the slight ache in my back, the G-forces pushing me into the seat while I cranked a sporty left-hand curve. This is life!