IBR 2021 Day 3: North Country Highs and Lows

Glendive MT – Wausau WI
Wednesday Jun 23, 2021
(979 miles)

 

contingency REST1 end receipt

contingency REST1 end receipt

I slept as long as I could, downed some room coffee, and headed back to the gas station ATM to document the end of this curtailed 4:10 rest break.

Time for North Dakota! I picked up I-94 and crossed the state border after 30 miles or so. In another 20, I pulled off my exit in Medora for the first bonus of the day. The Howard Schafer Heritage Center served as the daylight only rally-wide bonus ND, and was tucked among a small grid of quiet lanes crowded between the I-94 Business Loop and the entrance to Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

Mr. Bubble was born in 1961, when Harold Schafer and the Gold Seal Company found a way to make bubble bath affordable, moving it from department stores to drug stores. The original Mr. Bubble formula used powdered bubble bath flakes that promised to “bubble kids clean” and leave no bathtub ring.

 

Harold Schafer Heritage Center

ND bonus

Then I crossed North Dakota at a slower average speed than I would have liked, due to traffic enforcement presence. That’s about all I have to say about that.

On the outskirts of Fargo, I came up behind another rider, the same guy I’d seen back at the Montana missile silo. We both took the exit onto Main Avenue and,  nearing the waypoint, I saw the entrance to Bonanzaville which rang a bell. I just managed to slow enough to pull in there, remembering that we had to go through a gate or something to reach the bonus. Turns out the GPS was trying to take us to the actual photo coordinates via a side street, most likely inaccessible.

There were some employees opening up a big gate to bring some supplies through but told me I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike in to the bonus (despite what the rally book said). So I shed my helmet and jacket, went in to the front ticket window and explained I was with the Iron Butt Rally, also per the rally book instructions. The nice lady showed me on a map exactly where I needed to go, but confirmed that I couldn’t ride in. Thanking her for her assistance, I set off running (OK slow jog) through the empty streets of the pioneer village attraction and located the Houston House for my KODAK moment, er bonus photo.

Houston House

KODAK bonus (er yup, it’s a house)

David Houston is best known for his patent for a roll film apparatus, used to roll film in early cameras. He sold the rights to William Walker for $700. Walker then sold the rights to Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company of Rochester (Eastman Kodak). Conflicts between Eastman and Houston arose and Houston began to sell his improved designs to Eastman’s competitors.

I met that other rider on my jog back out to the bike and pointed him in the correct direction. Back at the bike, I donned my gear, took a few swigs of water, and off I go. I followed I-94 to the far side of Fargo and into Minnesota at last. I zagged north to US 10 east. And almost got killed.

I was on a divided four-lane section, passing through one of the small towns (Hawley?) along US 10. I was zipping along the right lane in light traffic when I spotted a car coming to a stop from a parking lot exit just ahead before entering the roadway… then he began to pull slowly out into the street! Despite having already covered the brakes, I was past the point of stopping in time, having to swerve to the other lane with my horn blaring and brakes full on … and he began to pull out across BOTH lanes toward a cut-through lane in the median. Good god, this guy doesn’t see me at all! Everything went to slow motion – I knew I was about to go flying.

Finally the car began to turn right (into the left lane which I was now occupying), rather than continuing straight across to the median cut-through, or I would have t-boned him. He must have finally heard my horn – I have a pretty loud horn – because I don’t think this guy could turn his head more than 30 degrees to the side.  We both came to a stop, with me in a narrow paved cutout section of the median, just beyond the cut-through lane with my horn still wailing, and him halfway straddling the left lane and the cutout. Furious and scared, I pulled up to the driver window and stared down at an ancient old man who seemed barely aware of his surroundings, and clearly had no business being behind the wheel of a car.

I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “You almost killed me, sir.” I repeated the statement a few times, with increasing certainty while he tried to apologize. With earplugs in I couldn’t hear him, and regardless I wasn’t having it. “I can’t hear you and I don’t accept your apology. It’s NOT OK. Please get off the road, before you do kill somebody,” I said. There was really nothing else to be done at this point without going to prison, so I eased on the throttle and pulled back out into traffic, a bit shaky. I shouted a few choice words into my helmet to relieve some adrenaline. I needed to talk to someone to get my mind settled.

map of intended and actual route in MN

Magenta = plan, Dk Gray = actual route

I got through to Marc and we had a short call, as he was having some issues with his headset. But not only did it distract me from the recent close-call, but it ended up being a pretty fortunate conversation for my rally. Despite starting out as a Garmin XT fanboy 😆, he’d begun to share my concerns about the routing choices that the GPS had been making. He said he’d seen a couple really significant differences (like 10’s of miles and minutes) between the XT and his other devices.

This reminded me to check my own devices, and I realized that I’d accidentally left the XT on “auto-recalculate” mode and my 350 (set to prompt) was asking whether to recalc or not. Crap, what happened? I must have been distracted by that near collision back there! (I later found out that I’d missed a turn back on US 10 to cut north to US 2)

MN route 113I pulled up my POI Pocket app and selected the next bonus to route in Google Maps. It immediately chose a different route, saving me about 20 minutes (!), and told me to take the very next turn off US 59 in Waubun. My Zumo 350 agreed. So in addition to reminding me not to trust the XT for the remainder of the rally, that short call resulted in me riding, completely by chance, a really great motorcycling road in MN state route 113.

MN route 113 pond viewIt was a good 30+ miles of fast woodsy two-lane road with few intersections and lots of curves. Plenty of scenic little ponds and lakes, as I cut through the middle of White Earth State Forest and Itasca State Park. Oh what a treat! Even though there were tons of tar “bars” (like tar snakes only cutting straight across the lane) that kept my speed down in the corners, the road was plenty fun and scenic enough to take my mind of my recent close call.

MN route 113 view

MN 113

They say the IBR rider experience can often go from lows to highs to lows again in a matter of days…how about within an hour or so? After emerging triumphant from my joyous woodland jaunt on 113, I was beaming along US 71 north up towards Bemidji, when all of a sudden, a large bird burst out of the trees that were pressing up on the left side of the road. It was a vulture, apparently startled off its current meal with stuff hanging from its beak. It flapped clumsily out of the brush, hovering over the road as I passed beneath…right in time to get a face shield full of freshly torn carrion. Yup, vulture vomit…he slimed me, Ray. W.T.F.

splatter on tankbag and face shield

mmm, protein…

face shield with fresh roadkill

There was no cleaning this up on the go. I had no choice but to pull over to clean off the raw detritus from my helmet and tank bag, laughing at the situation and myself.

I continued north and picked up US 2 eastbound, just south of Bemidji, to US 169 in Grand Rapids. Along the way, I returned a call to my friend Ed, who’d been following my progress on the rally and pepping me up with brief phone calls every day. I blathered about the great riding, getting killed, and getting splattered with vulture vomit all in the space of about two minutes. I can’t imagine what that call must have sounded like to him at the time. 😆 It’s always helpful and grounding to have different folks to chat with on these long rallies, it passes the time quickly, helps me articulate my experiences aloud, and hopefully provides them with some degree of entertainment.

Entering the city of Hibbing, my XT did me wrong again, taking me right through a series of downtown stoplights, when there was a quicker and less congested route around the small city, which my poor neglected Zumo 350 was trying to point me to. There is nothing worse than sitting and sweating at several urban stoplights in a row after blasting along highways all day at your own pace. OK strip malls are worse, at least there is stuff to look at in cities.

Greyhound sign and plaqueThe MN rally-wide state bonus highlights the founding of Greyhound Bus Lines, right here in the . The Greyhound Bus Museum is situated waaay at the far northern end of town – probably the most inconvenient place you could think of to put a bus station in terms of access to major roads and highways.

I have fondly bad memories of my experiences on Greyhound bus lines. They provided me with my first long road trip experience, taking me back and forth from school in Texas. To save money from hotels, I booked connections straight through to my destination, catching sleep on the bus and in random stations where I’d be waiting for the next bus – an early taste of freedom away from home and my first LD trips in any vehicle! Man were they uncomfortable for long trips like that though, and the windows always too scratched up to really enjoy the view.

The famous Greyhound Lines was founded in the small northern Minnesota town Hibbing in 1914. There you will find the Greyhound Bus Museum.

Birthplace of Greyhound Lines plaque

MN bonus

Now the GPS succeeded in finding the short way directly out to 169, south a couple miles to pick up MN 37 continuing east. I connected to US 53 south down to Duluth, taking a couple hard twists with a view down to the shore of Lake Superior.

entering Duluth

I crossed the bridge into Superior WI and followed US 53 along the shore – BIG mistake. Traffic almost immediately came to an absolute standstill. By the time I got Google Maps up on screen to find an out, I’d missed my chance to turn around. There was a divider separating the lanes and no shoulder to scoot on by (nor one to cry on). After melting in the afternoon heat for some 10+ minutes, scooting forward 10′ at a time, I was able to turn on a side road and cut off maybe a quarter mile of the jam via neighborhood streets. But it dumped me right back out on 53 to cross the Nemadji River, there was no escape.

lake along the highwayFinally, I got to the actual construction zone where they were doing some paving. Right as I got past the bottleneck, I pulled into a  gas station to fuel up, get a cold drink, and recharge for a couple minutes off the bike.

Once I got going again, now past the construction, things opened up as I left the city behind. I split off 53 in Amnicon Falls to stay on US 2 for the better part of the next 100 miles, just beautiful isolated 2-lane highway riding across the top of Wisconsin. I picked up US 51 south near Ironwood, rolling through a very rural and lake-studded portion of the state, wooded and scenic.

I turned left on County Road N near Trout Lake, to make a small eastward loop for my next bonus. This was an even smaller road, well paved with thick woods – logging country. It was dusk and a deer crossed in front of me, prompting another sudden and steady application of brakes. I spotted a couple more on the shoulders before rolling into the quiet village streets of Sayer. The SLED bonus marks where the first snowmobile was invented.

Snowmobile historical sign

SLED bonus

Carl Eliason developed the prototype of the modern snowmobile here in Sayner. He mounted a small marine engine on a toboggan, steered with skis on the front and driven with a track at the rear. What could possibly go wrong? Hold my schnapps.

There was a friendly looking Paul Bunyan mufflerman statue with Babe across the small lot, quite apropos here in the heart of logging country. I ended up spending a bit too much time at this stop (10+ min), but these were long stretches between bonus locations and the events of the day were probably catching up to me a bit.

IBR 2021 Day 3: Prairie, Lakes & Logging

County Road C took me south through the outskirts of St. Germain to WI 70 west and back out to US 51. It was about 20:30, darkness was coming on quick in these higher latitudes, and I had a good 70+ miles to reach my prime target of the day, a daylight only bonus in Schofield. Luckily it was fast rural two-lane, changing to divided four-lane in Bradley, and the ST ate up the miles quickly.

I was running behind my calculated ETA by about 50 min, mostly due to my self-enforced slower pace across North Dakota and that construction traffic back in Superior. I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get the next photo with enough daylight, though I full-on intended to try. Failing that, my contingency plan was simply to book another hotel close to the bonus, take my full rest bonus earlier than planned, then hit the bonus again in the morning. At this point I’d almost written off the hotel I booked near Madison anyway, since it would be tight to make it there by midnight.

After coming south through Wausau, I took the WI 29 exit over the Wisconsin River and followed the GPS to a quiet little neighborhood park, where I pulled over to look for the bonus. Tom Southwood pulled in right after me and after a minute we spotted the sign facing the nearby intersection (it was getting pretty dim out by now).

There was still some daylight in parts of the sky, but the streetlights were overpowering it and the bonus was bathed in artificial light. I took a couple photos of the sign and of the sky and examined them on the camera screen. Man oh man, it seemed pretty iffy to me. I just wasn’t quite sure what the scorers would allow. I told Tom I was bunking nearby and would be back in the morning and he seemed inclined to do the same. I booked a local Quality Inn via my phone app and mounted up.

Wisconsin's First Flying Machine historical marker

WIHB first attempt

showing some daylight still in the sky

Enough daylight?

REST1 start receipt

real REST1 start receipt (bike clock was left on MDT for the entire rally)

Now that I had committed to taking my rest, I lost focus momentarily and took the wrong on-ramp after crossing the river. Ended up headed south for 1.5 miles on I-39, before I could exit and turn back around. Back in Wausau, I took the correct exit and pulled into a gas station, looking around for likely places to grab a meal or sandwich. The small store didn’t look very promising in terms of possible food options, so I found another station a bit closer to the hotel, bought some fuel to start my REST1 bonus about 22:00, and grabbed a pre-made sandwich from the cooler, along with a few snacks to take back to the room.

But the universe hadn’t finished yet with me today. The Quality Inn Midway ranks up there as one of the worst hotel staff experiences I’ve had on a rally to-date. After dealing with a petty and sullen front-desk clerk, three long walks back and forth from my room at the waaay back of the hotel with a broken keycard lock, and finally getting put into a different room, I was already about 40 minutes into my rest.

It had been a day with several low points, but the riding through Minnesota and Wisconsin lake country had been a stupendous high point and just really really enjoyable. I went through my normal routine, taking care of food, shower, laundry, and charging needs, then pulled up my laptop to finalize my plans for the last day of Leg 1. On top of everything it was looking like I’d have to shorten my rest bonus, so I hit the hay as soon as I could.

map of day's route

7 comments on IBR 2021 Day 3: North Country Highs and Lows

    1. Well look at all that nice healthy stretching you missed out on! 😀 Must be your sweet semi-Southern drawl that convinced her…

  1. Another excellent ride report and thank goodness the motorcycling gods were smiling on you for that near miss!
    I enjoy riding through this part of Minnesota and Wisconsin, thanks again for sharing!

  2. Ugh is what comes to mind with old man and forest rat and GPS error choices and then the person at the hotel. But tomorrow is a new day.

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