Saturday, June 27, 2009

AK '09 - Day 7

This morning's surprise wasn't a banana, it was the weather. When I looked outside the parking lot was wet and the sky looked dark with ominous clouds. I decided it would be a good day to switch over to my black riding pants which are mostly water resistant. I had to hope that I wouldn't get into any 90 degree temps though because those pants are uncomfortable around 80 degrees and unbearable past 85 with the sun shining. I was resigned to stripping them off along the side of the road if it got too hot. It wasn't like I was going commando or anything.

So I had a to shuffle pads from one pair of pants to the other and then get everything packed up. This extra step just seemed to throw off my motel leaving routine. Finally, with a few extra back and forth trips I managed to get everything out of the room and on the bike. Since it was in the 70s I thought I'd hold off on putting on rain covers or rain gloves. I pulled out of the parking lot just after 7.

A few miles down the road on US 53 I found a gas station and stopped for juice and gas. A quick call to Reagan and I was ready to go. Between the weather and the extra time I spent switching pants my morning just seemed off.

About 30 minutes later the dark skies went from threatening to delivering. Just before I got into it though I switched over to my Alpine gloves because they are more comfortable when temps are cool and it's raining. The claw rain covers are OK but the mediums seem a little too tight and the large seem a little too bulky to use the controls properly. But they will work in a pinch.

I proceeded north on 53, then west on 54 and again north on 93, the whole time I had a solid rain coming down. In Eau Claire I picked up 53 again and followed that up to Duluth. Along the way I stopped in a 'wayside' which is a Wisconsin way of saying rest area. I was happy to see the restrooms were inside a building so I grabbed my gerbing liner and walked in with all of my gear on. Once inside I pulled off the gloves and helmet, used the facilities and then started to dress again with the Gerbing liner. Up to this point I was reasonably dry but the cold rain on the jacket's shell left me wanting a little more warmth. At this point things started to unravel for me. I zipped the liner up to the top so the zipper and collar were outside my jacket collar. Then I tried putting on my gloves with slightly wet hands. The inner liner came out of the left glove and I had to switch over to my Gerbing gloves instead. Trying to put on insulated gloves with wet hands is a loosing battle so I went back inside to dry my hands under the air dryer. OK, gerbing gloves on, I tossed the Alpines into the case to deal with them later.

While I was dealing with the rain gear issues I had a few people interested in my challenge. Of course I didn't let them see me sweat but I was really having a time of it. One elderly asian lady was saying 'poor man' as she walked by me. I assured her it was a beautiful day. Another person asked where I was going and when I said Alaska he said "Oh, you'll get lots of rain up there". I sure hope not.

So I got back on the road and headed north. I was going to be at Aerostich in less than 2 hours. The rain was really coming down after my stop and then I felt it. That cold, moist feeling. At first I was unsure if it was just the damp chill of the jacket liner against my chest or if water had come inside uninvited. A few miles later I knew for sure, water had started coming in the front of my neck area. I pulled off the road at a small intersection and tried to figure out the source of the problem. I reminded myself NOT to take off the gloves or I probably wouldn't get them back on. So there I am  in the pouring rain, with thick gloves on, trying to figure out how the water is getting in. I couldn't feel anything due to the gloves and when I stuck my gloves up around my neck all I felt was the cold wet leather. Then I realized.... by zipping the liner's zipper up to the top I had given an express entrance to water letting it run down the zipper. So I unzipped it a little and stuffed the collar down into the jacket. Now I had a wet collar under my jacket, a wet shirt and I was struggling to get the jacket closed. Until I put on the stupid liner I was reasonably dry.

I get back on the road and within a few minutes I realize my sleeves are also getting wet. What the heck? I look down to see that the gaunlets of my gloves are all bunched up due to the inner liners and basically they are catching water and funnelling it in between the glove and jacket. Dandy!! I tug and pull to straighten things out. Water collection stopped but the sleeves are wet and not going to dry until I get out of the rain.

As I roll into Duluth I go from being wet and annoyed to wet, cold and pissed off. The temp fell from 68 degrees to 55 degrees in a matter of just a few miles. It was windy, wet and cold. I just wanted to get to Aerostich and get this wet gear off. So when I made it there, I took a few moments to snap a picture of the bike in front of their building and then went inside to check things out and try to get warmed up.

I found the showroom and a few other customers. We started talking and I dumped the wet gear but still had my wet shirt on. I decided to get a jacket liner and put on my BMW shirt I bought the other day. Unfortunately I didn't realize how wasted my Alpine gloves were or I probably would have looked at a new pair of gloves too. In doing all of this I was talking to a fellow rider named Kevin and then another rider named Steve. Kevin was from Mineapolis and was fairly new to riding, he had a K1200GT. Steve seemed a little more seasoned on his '08 GS from Canada. Both guys were great to talk to and had various bits of info. It was just nice to visit really. There were a few other riders that I didn't catch their names and of course Jeff was so helpful in getting my liner. Once I had a dry layer on next to my skin I was in a much better mood, and the $140 I spent didn't seem to hurt at all.

When I got ready to leave the rain had cleared and the temperature had risen so I decided to run up toward Two Harbors so I could see a little of Lake Superior's shoreline. I didn't get far until I found a pull out where I could get some pictures. The speed limit along the road was slow and I didn't want to spend 30 minutes riding up there only to have to back track. So I headed for Fargo, ND.  On a future trip I want to ride along the coast of all the Great Lakes, I'll bring my winter gear because that lake is like a big refrigerator.

Once out of Duluth I was heading west on US 2. The rain returned but I was dry. The scenery across Minesota just didn't do it for me. It was mostly straight roads and people would do just the speed limit and nothing more. And don't get behind a slow moving car. At one point I had to pass 12 vehicles and no one wanted to let me in as I leaped forward but no one seemed interested in passing the slow car either. It was really weird. Note to Minesota folks, if you come to Texas and you want to go the speed limit or less on a 2 lane road PULL ONTO THE SHOULDER AND LET PEOPLE PASS!!! Geesh!

I didn't notice it at first but as I got closer to Fargo, the wind was getting faster and faster. Just before I got into town my low fuel light came on. I had only gone 194 miles since my fill up. What???? The rest of the trip was completing 240 miles or more before the light would come on. I don't want to know just how bad the mileage was.

I hadn't booked a room and wanted to just try walking in to get a room so I stopped at the Motel 6 which I had priced the night before for $44 with free internet. When I inquired the lady said it was $49.95 plus tax and when I asked about AAA she said they didn't give discounts. When I asked about internet access she pointed to a sign on the counter showing Internet access for $2.95 a day. Huh? A higher rate, pay for internet, and a lady that just didn't seem helpful. I explained that her rate online was $44 and that it listed free internet. She wasn't concerned so I walked out. I went next door to the Super 8 and the room was $65 but they accepted AAA with a 10% discount and the girl was really friendly. When she saw I had a CDL license she knocked the rate down to $55. So by the time I got finished I got a room at Super 8 for the same price as Motel 6 but I got better service and the stay will go toward my reward points. Cool.

Dinner was chicken fried steak and eggs at Perkins. The waitress was very friendly and prompt to keep my drink filled. Warning, save the muffin until after dinner. It's huge!

It's 9:18 and still light outside. I think I'll be able to get an early start tomorrow and be on the road by 6am. Riding in the dark won't be an issue at least.

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