Life is Great on Hwy 8

Sometimes the urge to get back on the road overwhelms all common sense and all it takes is the slightest incentive to get us back out the door and down the road. This past weekend was no exception. The International BMW Rally in Minneapolis was calling our name, so throwing all common sense aside and thoroughly quashing that nagging inner voice that whines, “You haven’t been home for nearly three months. You need to visit your friends. You need to water your garden. You NEED to clean your house.”, we threw some gear in our bags and hit the road.

This time our weekend adventure was in our van –  as in sleep in, drive in, live in our van.  Because of the last-minute nature of our trip and the uncertainty of the weather, we opted for the ease and convenience our humble van offers.  To make it “livable” we removed all of the back seats, laid down a futon mattress, and piled on the blankets and pillows.  (Lorin and I are three-pillows-a-piece people, so being able to load up with pillows is a must.)  The saving grace of this adventure were the customs screens I created during our drive.  After a quick stop at the hardware store for some screen material, magnets, and some duct tape, our simple screens were quick and easy to assemble.  (And they only cost $7!)

When the road turns to dirt, you can never have too many lights.

Happy Adventurers outfitting their GS’s with aftermarket lights.

Our first stop was at the Aerostitch Motorcycling Clothing company in Duluth, Minnesota.  Aerostitch is a well-known haven to motorcycle adventure travelers, and they make some of the best riding clothing in the world.  If you are a rider, then a trip through Duluth isn’t complete without a stop at the factory.  An hour and several hundred dollars later, we left the factory for Duluth’s infamous Canal Street and an excellent dinner.  If you have never visited Canal Street, it’s one of Lake Superior’s urban treasures.  The old street leading to the Aerial Lift Bridge was at one time a barren warehouse district.  Now however, it is bustling with an array of excellent restaurants, quaint shops, outdoor outfitters, ice cream shops and more.

With full stomachs we headed south to Minneapolis and the International BMW Rally.  The Rally draws a huge crowd every year, and it’s full of adventuring souls who make the world their playground.  There were old bikes, new bikes, shiny bikes, muddy bikes, pimped-out bikes, and bikes with so many stickers advertising the locales visited that you could hardly see the paint.  There were people there who have traveled the world on two wheels, and visiting with them is an adventure itself.  One of the best stories of the weekend was from a guy who nearly got his bike confiscated by corrupt Mexican Federales, that is until they noticed that his GoPro was filming the encounter.  Another memorable couple had ferried their old and well-used GS from Australia and are currently driving through North America on their way to Mexico.  Just to hear their accented voices telling travel tales was worth the drive.  And no one will likely forget the man who had a side car just for his beloved dog.

After a day of perusing bikes, visiting vendors, and chatting with fellow adventure travelers, we hit the road in search of a little scenery and a quiet place to park the van for the night.  I had driven through Taylor Falls, Minnesota on Highway 8 earlier in the year and had made a mental note to explore the area further on a different visit.  So with that in mind, we drove the 50 miles or so to the Taylor Falls area.  Taylor Falls is on the St. Croix River which borders Wisconsin and Minnesota.  The river flows through a beautiful glacial canyon that is bustling with hiking, canoeing, kayaking, walking, and biking trails.  It is very scenic and the small town is picturesque and welcoming.  We not only found our scenery, but we slept peacefully and comfortably in a nearby parking area.

The people and the encounters these weekend escapades bring are one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways of getting out and exploring this great big world.  As we found out, a “trip” or “vacation” doesn’t have to be a huge planned out affair.  Sometimes the last-minute trips are the most rewarding.  Besides, any excuse to see something new, tread somewhere different and experience things inexperienced is worth pursuing, don’t you think?

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