The Long Solo Ride – 3700 Miles on a Speed Triple: Part IV
I headed East into Minnesota after breakfast with Robert, and into yet another batch of rain. By now I was pretty much expecting it. This was to be a short day, so I picked a perhaps less than shortest route by turning North on 23 to cruise to Pipestone.
I recalled Pipestone from my youth as an area where Native Americans gathered in centuries past, as there were clay deposits there that provided raw material for peace pipes. Thus the name. I’d never been there, but assumed it would now have all sorts of touristy spots vending pipes made of – clay. A new pipe would make a good souvenir of my trip. In addition, I was out of tobacco for my pipe, which constituted the largest problem I had on the entire trip. Surely if there were stores selling pipes there would be a tobacco shop as well.
Oh, the irony. After seeing Mt. Rushmore and the Corn Palace ruined (to my eyes) by tourism, I got to Pipestone and found – nada. No tourist stops at all. I paused to refuel and survey the small town – indistinguishable from so many others. As I left town I noticed a sign stating the Pipestone Monument was 5 miles ahead on a side road, and I chose to skip it. That may have been an error.
I rolled along, reveling in a pleasant morning. The sun came out, the rain went away, and well-kept farms provided a continuing assault of pastoral views and odors both pleasant and… not so much. A lovely time.
A ways up the road the map indicated the small town of Marshall a couple of miles off the main highway, and I decided, based on a total absence of data, that it would have a tobacco store. I pulled into town and at the first stop light there it was – a large tobacco store on the corner. Feeling as smug as you do when you’ve made a nonsensical choice that works out, I got off the bike and walked to the door.
What? It was just after 10am! Looking inside I was not sure if the store was being re-modeled or was closed permanently. I chose to stroll around and chatted with a local about the store. Although he did not speak much English, he indicated in mime that the store owners were probably still asleep. Hmmph. After a few blocks of taking in the town, I tried again when I got back to the bike. Success! A woman responded to my knocking on the door and let me in. They were re-modeling, in fact, and were just opening. I purchased a large bag of pretty much crap tobacco and was on my way.
As a side note, the “good” tobacco is sent to me every 7 weeks from an emporium in Illinois I have never visited. Been a client of theirs for 37 years!
Eventually I turned East on US 212. As I meandered through the very small town of Sacred Heart (odd name) I happened to notice a “City Park 2 blocks” sign with an arrow to the right. A stab of the front brake and a deft swerve to the right (a Speed Triple is very good at such things) and I idled to the park. An expansive lawn, tennis courts, a covered area with tables, play areas for children – and not a single person present. Fine with me. I sat at a table taking notes and eventually figured out what was missing. No rest rooms? Really? A park capable of easily handling several hundred people at a time with not a single rest room. Perhaps everyone just walks home when needed? Of course, pondering the issue raised an urgent signal from my brain for a rest room. I finally looked all around at the dozen or some homes facing the park and could still not see a single person moving. Eventually I chose to water a tree for the city park – in full gear with my helmet on. That would have made a fun story for the local magistrate, I’m sure.
As I neared Minneapolis, the map showed me a Highway 5 that appeared to run through Chanhassen. My room for the next three days was to be found at the Chanhassen Inn – owned by a high school classmate and her brother. With more of my hopeless naiveté and optimism, I placed a small typed piece of paper with the address into the map section of the tank bag and assumed I’d be able to figure it out.
Along in here came both of my interactions with law enforcement. West of Minneapolis I was speeding along, a bit literally. As usual, I was following a “rabbit.” I picked up a Minnesota State trooper heading toward me, and could tell by the nose down attitude that he was hard on the brakes. OK, I’ll slow down and see which of us his radar locked on. He came up behind me, passed, and pulled over the rabbit in front. The system works – again!
The second time was funnier, but could have been serious. I was behind a pickup truck on Highway 5 and nearing Chanhassen. I was not speeding, or tailgating, but suddenly the pickup put on his brakes and pulled to the shoulder. OK, that happens a lot. Nice people see a motorcycle behind them, assume the motorcycle wants to go faster, and pull over to facilitate. I pulled out and passed, waving my thanks. As I pulled back to the right I glanced in the rear view mirror.
Ye Gods! TWO police cars all lit up racing up behind me! That was why the pickup pulled over. Hard braking and a swerve to the right and both swept by and disappeared ahead at a high rate of speed. Glad they waited for me. Of course, if they’d turned on the sirens it would have been easier, but we can assume they had good reason not to.
In Chanhassen I put my head on a swivel to find a side street with a number close to the one I was looking for, but at every intersection the cross streets had names, not numbers. After about ten intersections I began to doubt my optimism, but suddenly there it was – the Chanhassen Inn fronts Highway 5! A left at the next light and I pulled into a space at the end, and with unbelievable timing Susan pulled into the next space at the exact same time in her Chevy Sonic rental car. She had just arrived, checked us in, and the spot I picked was closest to our room. I am so fond of good luck.
I was interested in the Sonic because it was one of the 3 or 4 finalists on my list when we purchased our Fiat 500. I finally turned it down because I wanted a two door – vanity must be served. Having said that, the rear door handles on the Sonic are so well disguised that Susan did not believe it had four doors until I pointed out the shut lines and the door handle hidden in the rear pillar. Had the Sonic SS that came out the next year been available it might have been a different story, but Susan loves the Fiat so it’s all good.
In use the Sonic is a marvelous little car with one serious deal-breaker of a flaw. It is exceptionally quiet in use, as long as the windows are not open. I drive with at least the driver’s window open at virtually all times, and the tire noise was unbelievable. I think the rental car comes with cheap (hard) all-weather tires, and with more suitable rubber it would probably be fine.
The Chanhassen Inn is a lovely place. It does not have a pool, which is fine with me, but the grounds are covered with immaculate lawns and trees. The rooms are of ample size and spotless, and the provided breakfast was the best of the trip. A free morning paper allowed me to resume my daily habit of the morning crossword puzzle. Even better, a varied selection of restaurants and stores were all within three blocks. Perfect!
We returned to our room Friday afternoon to find a note under the door. We were worried that something was wrong, but the note explained that two of the staff were to be married Saturday, and most of the staff were to be in the wedding or attending it, so services would be hampered. Who could complain about such a thing?
While Susan took a nap I repaired to a table outside the front are to sit and relax. A car drove up and parked, and Charlie Wilson got out of the car with his wife. Charlie and I played hockey on the weekends all through high school and into college, and he was one of a group of 5 of us who rented a house together for our junior year. I’d not seen Charlie in 45 years, and even though he weighs about 100 pounds less than he did then (and looks fantastic I must say) we both recognized the other immediately. Isn’t that weird?
We “ate in” for dinner with our friend Sharon in her room at the Inn. Sharon is the sainted individual who has taken it upon herself to keep track of the entire Class of 1965 through Facebook. She had organized the lake cruise for Friday evening, among thousands of other tasks. We walked across the parking lot and brought Domino’s pizzas to her room, where she provided wine and beer and a large computer with hundreds of pictures of my classmates from previous re-unions. This was very helpful until they all began to run together into a muddle in my head, but it was still good preparation for a major day of déjà vu on Friday.
Sharon provided one of the most crushing blows to my ego in high school, and yes, there were several. I got very sick just before Christmas after walking across the lake after a day of hockey – soaked through with sweat in temperatures now below freezing. I had not taken the car because I had crunched a fender the night before and dared not ask for it. (Never “yump” a Hillman Minx over a sharply crested little wooden bridge if there is a little old lady turning left VERY slowly on the other side) Instead, my older brother Jim was home for the weekend and took out the car and dented the same fender much more comprehensively!
The result of my folly was pneumonia and an enlarged pericardium around my heart. I was in the hospital for a week, and after the Christmas break missed three weeks of school. When I returned, I sidled into my Advanced Math class and sat down in my usual spot, in front of my friend Bob Abel, the center on the basketball team I was cut from that would win the state championship, and behind Sharon, who was the apple of the eye of every male in the school. In my best cool guy voice I said to Sharon “Well, did you miss me?”
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh – were you gone?”
What a great one!
Some background for the Friday. I lived in a house on Fairchild Avenue from the age of 6 to the end of college. The house was designed by my parents; both engineers. A historical note of interest: in 1953 they had to go through 5 contractors before finding one that would agree to attempt to build a house designed by a woman. Even the man they finally chose said he would take the plans to an architect to have the blueprints drawn up. My father corrected him sternly, informing him that Mary Jane had drawn up the plans exactly, and the house was to be built so as to be identical to what she had drawn. Period.
During construction we lived in a rented house in Minneapolis, and my parents made weekly visits to the construction site to halt “improvements” the crew thought should be made, and to explain, patiently, why the house details were as they were. For instance, the entire house was slanted about 10 degrees away from being parallel with the road, so that several large oak trees would not be disturbed.
I moved away the day after my graduation ceremony at the University of Minnesota in 1969. I had been in Minneapolis a couple of times since, but never back to my home area. Forty five years later, the plan for Friday was to drive around in the Chevy Sonic and tour the sites of my youth so to speak, as Susan had never been to Minnesota.
Things did not begin well. When you return to an area after so long, the roads are just familiar enough to delude you into thinking you know where you are going. You do not, as I discovered after driving about 10 miles South on 101 when I wanted to go North.
The second attempt went better, and without planning to we were driving by my high school. Swerve! Minnetonka was a big and excellent school then, and now it is almost beyond belief. It resembles a small college more than a high school. When I was there we are all excited because the school put up two outdoor hockey rinks, and we moved our weekend games to those “real” rinks after years of hockey on the lake in front of my house, with snow banks for boards.
The school rinks were where I got in the one serious hockey fight of my life, which would have been a lot more serious if my friend Bruce “Black Knight” Koranski had not come to the rescue of his friend David “Red Baron” Preston - my nickname a product of the red sweat pants I wore over my shin guards. I did not know who this guy was, but in a scuffle along the boards his elbow swung around and neatly snapped my glasses frames in two. I was not hurt, but I knew I would be in serious trouble when I got home. In my fear of parental disdain rage swelled up. I skated up behind him and rammed him head first into the boards. He came up swinging, and Koranski saved me from a severe beating. Fights were not one of my talent areas.
Later that day, my opponent had a “one on none” break, with me serving my turn as the goalie. I had no protective equipment except for shin pads, a normal hockey stick, gloves, elbow pads, and a helmet with no facemask. Once again I figured I was about to die, as the fellow would surely take his revenge with a slap shot at my head, or worse. Instead, he got to about ten yards away, nodded at me, and tapped the puck toward me at 5mph. I was totally confused.
The next week I asked my friend Harley, who knew such things, if he knew who the guy was. Yes, he responded in a whisper – that guy had just been released from “Juvey” prison – for beating up a cop! As I tried not to faint in the hallway I realized why the guy had tapped the puck toward me. It was a mark of respect, as nobody had taken him on in a fight since he was in diapers. Of course, if I’d known who and what he was, I would not have either!
The two rinks are still there, with one major alteration. They are indoor.
The football field is now a football stadium. It sits next to the baseball stadium. Inside the school there is a store – not a student store selling pop and candy – more of a university level store selling shirts and hats and all sorts of things.
After touring the school for half an hour or so and marveling at the size and scope, we moved on. Back to our car, I gazed out at the large student parking lot. I could recall with crystal clarity waiting to get on the bus while the cool kids climbed into their cars, or, most achingly, a fleet of the new Honda 250 Scramblers. Oh how the envy surged in my puerile veins.
As a student today, you can have a spot in the parking lot for the full year – for $400. (!!!!!)
We drove to the small town of Excelsior, which is the only town in the large area known as Minnetonka, to scout out the location for that night’s Class of ’65 boat cruise, and then drove by my old junior high (now an elementary and other things) and finally the site of Groveland Grade School. I did not expect it to still be there, as it was an old building when I attended over half a century ago. We drove through the parking lot and then set off to drive from the school to my childhood home. I remembered riding my bike back and forth on some days, and occasionally walking. It seemed like quite a journey then.
Apparently, in the past four decades someone has shrunk the sites of my childhood to the size of an HO model train layout. I could not believe how short the distances were now! So much so that when I turned down Fairchild Avenue, I learned that the steep hill at the end of it is actually a small rise. Everything was so close together that I actually drove by my own house! Susan had seen pictures of it and said “I think that was your house.” I replied “No way.” And then realized I was now driving by the neighbor’s house three doors down.
The house of my youth was another disappointment. Imagine four acres on a site 15 miles West of Minneapolis. A small rural road bisects the property. On the high side sits a two story four bedroom house with a two car garage. The back yard slopes down to what was either several acres of cattails and grasses leading back to Minnehaha Creek (or – the playground of the Gods for young boys) on in other years, almost a lake with frogs and herons and other birds and truly terrifying snapping turtles. Across the street a large lawn with many trees sloped down to Libb’s Lake, which like everything else was smaller than I remembered. Susan and I walked down the path next to the lawn to the lake, and I showed her where our baseball field was. My older brother pointed out to me the next day that the baseball field was not actually on my parent’s lot – it was just vacant land on the shore of a small lake. Now, of course, it has a house on it.
My parent’s plan was to build a 2nd house for their retirement in a few years on the lake side and then sell the first one. Unfortunately, cancer had other ideas. My mother died when I was twenty. My father could not stand to live in the house where literally every brick reminded him of Mary Jane, so he caved in to the Boeing people who’d been trying to hire him away from Honeywell for years. He left Honeywell 6 months before he would have been vested in their retirement program. He arrived in Seattle in early 1968, just in time for the great sucking sound as Boeing dissolved most of its staff over the next 5 years. This was just one of many serious tactical errors he made in the last two decades of his life.
And the house? The 13 year old very well designed home on four acres with lake front footage and expansive lawns? Sold in late 1967 or early 1968 for $32,000.
As we walked around and took pictures it was all quite sad. The house has not been maintained all that well by the 2nd or the 3rd owners, although there is now a fabulous home on the lower lot, as my parents envisioned. The current owner did not seem to be all that curious about my memories of the house and how it was built, and did not invite us in. Just as well, as I could see some of the architectural changes that had been made. The whole look of the house had been messed up, and looking inside would have been worse.
Back to the Inn for a nap in preparation for seeing my classmates from the Class of 1965
Coming in Part V 1965 – 2014 – Evidently not that long at all
David Preston Copyright 2014