Thursday, September 8, 2011

Riding with Brother Steve

Actually it's my real brother Steve, not my spiritual leader although sometimes he would beg to differ!  Ever since Steve bought my 600 Honda motorcycle we have been talking about getting together some day to ride together.  Talk is always cheap and after about a year we decided on last Saturday as our do it or forget it day.  Trailering my bike to Alma, WI I unloaded it with the next stop being his house in Onalaska.  The weather forecast had been on and off rain but it appeared as though there would be a window of good riding before dark.  Just as I passed the bait shop on the south side of town I decided to put on my rain gear just in case.  None too soon as the rain started a mile down the road and continued for the next 52 miles to his house.   The radar indicated the rain was heading east and I threw my jeans and socks in the dryer while we gave it an hour to move along.  Our original routes were pretty ambitious so we decided to stay within 60 miles of La Crosse, WI with our first leg taking us to Melrose.  The area in western Wisconsin is called the Driftless Area, an area untouched by the glaciers during the last ice age.  The main feature is the Mississippi River Valley yet many smaller valley's emanating from the numerous ridges are everywhere.  Often these valleys are called Coulee's or Dugway's, they are essentially areas where creeks and rivers follow old canyons eroded by ancient water forces.  The result are many roads that curve through the valleys and follow ridges connecting the small towns and villages 10 - 15 miles apart.  They are perfect for riding motorcycles, offering a great balance of curves and stunning scenery.  Our route took us through the Mindoro Cut, a very unique feature on Highway 108 out of Mindoro, WI.   As you can see from the top picture the road just squeezes through the cut which according to the plaque was constructed in 1907-08 and was all hand-hewn.  I found it interesting that it claims to be the second largest hand-hewn cut in the nation.  Whether this is true or not, one can only go by the sign.  I suspect that if no explosives were used, this might be an accurate statement. 

Heading down to Cashton, WI we stopped for a bite before noticing the rain was again approaching.  A quick check of the radar image on the phone suggested we could ride to Prairie du Chien, maybe spend an hour at Cabela's to wait it out so away we went.  The route took us along State Hwy 27 which followed the top of a long ridge for over 36 miles, right into our destination.  The ride was awesome as the valleys branched out of both sides of the ridge as we travelled the road.  Arriving in Prairie du Chien we check the radar again and it appeared as though nothing had changed.  Steve had failed to update it when we were in Cashton, a quick refresh and uffda!  It would appear as though the rain was going to be around for a while.  Donning our rainsuites we drove  the 60 miles back to La Crosse in a deluge.  One of my safety books insist that you ride in the rain on purpose to get a feel for it so when you have to ride on wet roads you know what to expect.  Not complacent, never the less I was surprised how well our bikes rode in the rain.  I really want to get back in that area again before the snow falls as there are hundreds of miles of roads to explore.

Monday was sort of a lazy day, a time to get caught up around the house.  My orchard is exploding with fruit, something for next weeks post.  I did slip away on the river with my neighbor Tom Olson.  His father had just passed away and it was a good time for us to spend some time together and discuss the situation.  Launching at the neighbors it was amazing how much the river level had fallen in the last 2 weeks, almost 3 feet.  The reduced water flow was evident as my jon boat and 15 hp motor hit a respectable 15 mph on our upstream journey.  This is a full 3 mph faster than just a few weeks ago.  Where you could go almost anywhere was replaced by watching the depth finder closely making sure we didn't run a ground, which I did!  Luckily I have a rock hopper on the skeg of my motor making it pretty bulletproof.  My favorite island was now a solid piece of land connected to the shore and it was evident why we caught fish were we did when the water was high.  While exploring an area the trolling motor caught the bottom and sheared the adjustment pins right off.  Although it continued to work it was a struggle to hold it in place while running the motor.  Overall it was another good trip.  We each caught about 5 smallmouth with most of them experiencing LDR (Long Distance Release) as well 4 northern pike and this nice walleye that Tom convinced to hit his lure.  I am really interested to learn more about the walleye haunts in the river however the time for the shallow water walleye bite on Mille Lacs is starting now.  It looks like Sunday might be time to try it out.

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