Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Out of the sauna into the frying pan

On Friday, July 15, thunder storms chased us into Minneapolis, where we settled into my sister-in-law's bungalow on Lyndale Ave. in Uptown. Overnight, according to Amy's rain gauge four more inches fell overnight. My father-in-law gives family members rain gauges for Christmas -- it's a Nebraska thing.

Saturday morning, the V-Strom got a new pair of shoes -- Metzler Tourance dual-sport tires -- while David went to an air show to see a vinatge L5 observation plane like the one he works on at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

That afternoon, we all met at Lake Minnetonka, one of the largest lakes in the state, which has more than 110 miles of shoreline. Amy's neighbors, Brian and Mike, volunteered to take us out in their boat and Celia, our niece, joined us.

Brian and Mike, Amy's friends, took her, me, David and Celia out for a spin on Lake Minnetonka on their ski boat.

Minnetonka has many posh waterfront mansions, including this one, owned by the CEO of Target.

It was a hot and hazy afternoon. When Brian stopped the boat, everyone was soon in the water to cool off.

Amy demonstrates how to beat the heat, Minnetonka style.

Eventually, the skis came out. It would be Celia's first time, while David and Amy had some experience. In his case, it had been decades since he'd skied.

We saw a lot of this, but Brian's patience at the helm was incredible and eventually everybody got up on skis, except yours truly, who didn't want to add to the stiffness from a solid week of riding.

It was Celia's first time on water skis.

Amy eventually got up and lapped the bay until everybody got bored.

David demonstrated his boyhood skills. He grew up on New York's Lake Geneva...

... but on his second time up, he took a tumble, pulled his left hamstring and crashed for a day of recuperation ...

... while the rest of us went to a Bastille Day party in Uptown, where the heat, humidity and rain combined to fog the lens on my camera.

Celia and one of her housemates came to the party...

... while Amy's partner Mike played lead guitar ...

... and vendors hawked "I heart Minneapolis" tees.

Monday morning, we headed out from Minneapolis (A) west to Darwin (B) and eventually Aberdeen, S. Dak. (C).

After a great, if hot and humid, weekend in Minneapolis, where we enjoyed great food, exotic coffee, live music, family, new friends, boating and even some shopping (David made a trip to REI), we started west. Our first stop was in Darwin, where we each chugged down a quart of Gatorade (on sale, two for $3) at a gas station/bait store.

The owner, whose Honda Goldwing was parked outside, gave us some advice about getting across North Dakota to Yellowstone ("Just get on the Interstate and gun it.") and told us not to miss the World's Biggest Ball of Twine ("It's Darwin's claim to fame.").

The world's biggest ball of twine inhabits a glass house and is difficult to photograph because of the reflections, but it's undeniably big.

The ball was a project of 29 years. Insanity takes many forms.

As we crossed the state line into South Dakota on US 12, the temperature mounted. David's hamstring wasn't a problem when we were moving, but it stiffened up and became a challenge for him when we stopped.

The highway followed the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad line through endless corn and wheat fields. We made good time and arrived in Aberdeen, S. Dak., where we met a cheerful, redhead who booked us into a campsite at the city's Wylie Park and Storybook Land.

The facility was beautifully laid out, with a swimming beach, pond, RV sites, tent sites, snack bar, a few cute prairie dogs, free showers and more. Unfortunately, the "more" included mosquitoes -- lots of mosquitoes.

After a run to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, we went straight to our tents to sweat the night away. I tossed and turned all night until about 4 a.m., when it finally cooled off enough for two solid hours of sleep before we were up at 6. We left early to take advantage of the morning cool.

The headline in the Aberdeen American News said it all.

The rising sun promised Tuesday would be another scorcher.

We grabbed coffee at McDonalds, got back on US 12 and headed toward the Missouri River Valley, where we would turn north toward Bismark, N. Dak. From there, the plan was to ride west to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and then south to Rapid City.

Not far from Aberdeen, the flood waters nearly blocked the highway.

Further down US 12, near Selby, a newly built, one-lane, temporary causeway kept the highway open.

We stopped in Bowdle, to visit "The Tallest Water Tower in South Dakota."

The Lewis and Clark Trail gave us sweeping views of Lake Oahe, the dammed-up Missouri River.

The highway engineers who built the scenic byway along the Missouri had the right idea about following the topography.

Eventually the significance of the route number, 1804, dawned on me: It's the date of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Unfortunately, the North Dakota road builders didn't get the memo and built this.

Tuesday's ride from Aberdeen to Bismark.

Our track from Aberdeen (A) went through Selby (B), where I bought a long sleeve, Bret Favre t-shirt for sun protection, Mobridge (C), where we crossed the bridge to enjoy the view, Pollock (D), where we crossed into North Dakota, and Bismark (E), where we had lunch and looked for a motel room to escape the heat.

We checked out motels on Yelp! and found a recommendation for Motel 6 in Bismark. The room clerk said the place was full -- in fact, she said, all the motels in Bismark were probably full because of the people displaced by the flood in Minot. There might still be a room available at the Doublewood, she said, but when we called they said they were all booked.

We lingered in the cool motel office while David got out his iPad and we started looking for other places to escape the heat. We figured it wouldn't be too bad in the breeze on the road, even though we'd already ridden 245 miles that day.

"How 'bout Dickinson?" I asked. That's the next large city along I-94 west of Bismark.

"Nope," the clerk said. "All the rooms in Dickinson are taken by the oil workers." We'd forgotten about the Yellowstone River spill.

I called the ranger's office at Theodore Roosevelt National Park to see if there would be campsites available if we made the trek out there. He said the northern unit hadn't ever run out of space this summer, but it was 50 miles north of I-94 -- in all, 180 miles from Bismark. The southern unit, just off the Interstate rarely fills up during the week, he said. It looked like our best bet. After the 130-mile ride, maybe it would have cooled off. Still, it was a grim prospect.

"We have a room!" David told me as I hung up the phone. While I was talking to the ranger, someone cancelled their reservation. Air conditioning was ours!

Life was good.

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