Friday 24th August 2001, Winona MN
It might have been still dark when Ed and Karen left for work. In any case, they were extremely quiet … Karen had left everything out for us to make our own breakfast, and we were to let ourselves out whenever we were ready. We couldn’t hang around for too long as we knew we had a long ride ahead of us if we were to make St. Paul, Minnesota, by dark. So we ate our toast and coffee and plugged the computer in briefly to collect our e-mail.
While we were loading up the luggage, Brigid noticed a strong smell of petrol in the garage. We were slightly concerned to find that a small pool of fuel had leaked onto the floor under her bike. There was nothing we could do about it. We had already closed the door to the house. So all we could do was keep an eye on the leak, and hope that the wet patch would have dried up by the time the Yorks returned in the evening.
We checked the shortest route to St. Paul on freetrip.com and then, due to a confusion over road numbers, headed back to the Interstate the way we had come … adding a couple of hours to the ride. It was getting on for lunchtime by the time we arrived at the Janesville exit, so we stopped for a bite.
Rather than head directly to St. Paul up I-94, Brigid had identified a ‘scenic route’ that took us up The Great River Road on the eastern shore of the Mississippi.
Route 35 starts in Trempealeau, a picturesque riverside town near La Crosse. As we arrived at the T-junction, Brigid unexpectedly turned left (towards the river).
Despite his momentary annoyance, John immediately understood why. It was about 6.30pm and, across the road, Brigid had spotted “Rhino’s”, a biker bar with several polished Harleys lined up outside. Choosing not to park directly outside, we rode past and parked a little way down the street (before walking back past the bar to take a photo).
Meanwhile, inside the bar, we had been spotted by a group of ‘weekend’ bikers, who had instantly recognised us as being ‘foreign’. By the time we entered the bar, a debate was raging … Were we Canadian or British? It didn’t seem to matter where we were from.
Within minutes we had been bought a beer and were formally ‘adopted’ into the group. Keen to show us the neighbourhood, we were invited to another bar a few miles up the road in Centreville. It became increasingly obvious that we were not going to make St. Paul today …
At the Sand Bar in Centreville, our hosts, Phil, Paul, Steve, John and Keith (professions ranging from Barrister to Barman), persuaded us to accompany them to Charlie’s Bar, across the river in Winona. Here we were joined by Phil’s wife, Vicki.
After several beers and a couple of slices of pizza, it was getting late and seemed to be time to hit the road. By this time we had no idea where we were, it was dark, and it had started to rain. Feeling none too steady on the bikes, we took Phil’s advice and booked into the nearby AmericInn.