The bike is loaded with a small t-bag and both saddlebags. I’ve loaded lightly because the outside air temperature is 45 degrees and although there’s no wind it’s clear with a full moon and peaceful this early in the morning. I’m in chaps, jacket and gloves and a helmet. Fuck its cold, but I’m going south so I leave a lot of room to take all this outerwear off and stow it. The house is empty! Its shut down and closed up, which is another story for another time. Today I am on vacation and headed back up the road to meet Mike, Brian and Dave and cover some ground. It’s a heady agenda we have to ride the balance of the Great River Road to the Gulf of Mexico and back.
I meet Brian and Mike and we run into our first wrinkle. Seems Dave who has sole custody of his two boys has lost his child care and has to cancel. As parents and friends we understand, as a travel adventure companion he’s an integral part of the storyline and we will miss his insight and sense of humor. As Dad’s ourselves we all know it’s easier to become a Dad than to be one.
So that’s how we roll. Across the Mississippi River at Hastings, MN to the northern most point on the eastern side of the GreatRiver at Prescott, WI. We stop at the GreatRiverRoadVisitorCenter to refresh our history and take in some great views from atop the sandstone bluffs overlooking where the St. Croix River flows into the Mississippi, and we get our first lesson in confluence. The confluence in this case is where the clear St. Croix runs into the muddy Mississippi. From high atop the bluff you can see the St. Croix’s clear river lines merge into the muddy Mississippi until all that is left is the dark muddy water.
All three of us have ridden this road north and south many times. Today as we go south we pass through favorite stopping spots at Diamond Bluff, along LakePepin, the Creamery in Nelson, and the Buena VistaPark in Alma. Our first stop to stretch is in Fountain City at Eagle Bluff which at 550 feet is highest point on the east side of the Mississippi River. We catch a view of the Julia Swain River Paddleboat as she makes her way downstream. We keep moving through La Crosse, and Prairie Du Chien to the IllinoisState line. From Prescott, WI to the Illinois State Line its 249 miles and most of that parallels the railroad tracks along the river through well kept river towns dating from the days of fur traders. The roads are nice and the views are beautiful.
We hit Illinois and stop in Galena to eat, stretch and recharge. A part of the adventure is talking with folks along the way and we learn about a huge tower we can climb further down the road with great views of the river. But, when we get to the Long Hollow Scenic Overlook the tower is closed for maintenance. We make it as far as Fulton, IL and now its dark and with no specific itinerary we pull off to the side of the road to huddle about what exactly the plan is going to be. Mike asks how far we are going to go in the dark on these unfamiliar roads. I say maybe we should find a place to stay. And, Brian says how about that hotel right there? We get a good laugh and check into the hotel for the night. It’s been an easy 356 miles with good weather and lots of sunshine.
Copyright 2012 by Owen L. Riess. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.