It’s now 7:15 and the bike and I are just leaving Des Moines. Lightning is showing up in the mirrors and the west sky is black. We just get on I-80 and a drop hits the windshield, then another and another, and then finally a fourth. Then miraculously no more drops come down and the eastern sky just gets lighter and lighter. The rain is now all behind us and we’re not stopping until we get to Gina’s!!!!.
At Gina’s it is quickly found that a loose connection is the problem with the head light - all repaired under warranty and my billfold is saved again. Now, all I have to do is decide whether I will go to the Moto Guzzi Rally at Oquawka, IL, or the Great River Road Rally at Soldiers Grove, WI. The forecast for the entire weekend is a total washout from Friday to Sunday at both locations. So, where do I go to stay the driest? I put great thought into the problem. Gina tells me that the radar shows a rain cloud southeast of Iowa City. Soldiers Grove, here I come!
It was windy all the way - up Hwy 1, then Hwy 151, then a bunch of county roads until I get to Dyersburg and then Guttenberg on the Iowa side of the Great River Road. (What better route when you are going to the Great River Road Rally?) I crossed into Prairie du Chien, got a hamburger at McDonald’s, and saw radar with green about 50 miles straight west and more green about 100 miles north by La Crosse. I’m not going that far north so I can relax and hit the back roads into Soldiers Grove. (This just proves what can happen when a brain devotes itself to selfless research and endless debate and comes up with the perfect solution to the rally route with a flip of the coin…. and the fact that radar shows rain southeast of Iowa City.) Congratulating Brain on just how much of a genius he is, we proceed to enjoy some of the best riding in the Midwest with windy, but warm and dry weather. What more can you ask for in Iowa in the spring?
The first person I ran into in Soldiers Grove was Tom Buttars from Lincoln. (Did I say that everything had turned out perfect so far?) I quickly registered and then set up camp because I remembered the radar with that large green area just west of Prairie du Chien which was slowly moving east. I got everything set up and the weather just kept getting better and better. It soon became apparent any rain that was coming was going to be much later that evening. GR3 had 2 free kegs of beer so I had a free beer and walked up to a local bar/restaurant with a friend from Racine and had a great half pound hamburger. The place was packed and it took 2 1/2 hours to get served, but it was worth the wait. I walked back to camp and went up to get a second beer but the tap was dry. I decided to call it an evening and fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up Saturday morn to cloudy skies but no rain. I was just getting ready for a ride when a 45 minute rain popped up. I waited an hour for it to dry and took off to explore the area. I got back in time to win a door prize. I talked to Dave Maly, who led the GR3 tour. They didn’t ride in rain, but when they stopped for lunch they had no sooner sat down then it rained. They got done with lunch and the rain stopped. How’s that for perfect weather?
The GR3 is at a really pretty location - good facility’s, flush toilets and 1 shower each for men and women. They also had extra showers off site. They have a nice meeting room that would have come in handy if the weather had turned ugly. They have the normal rally drinks plus the Friday night 2 keg extra. The roads around there are fantastic. Gay Mills is about 10 miles away and Hwy 171 is a beautiful ride from there to Boaz. Gay Mills is the Apple Capital of Wisconsin and is worth the ride to see in the fall when the apples are ripe.
Saturday night it rained from 2:10 to 2:30 but was sunny and warm Sunday morning. Had free coffee and rolls and packed up and “alphabeted” myself to Marquette, IA, where I had breakfast at the Marquette Café and Bar. (Used to be Marquette Hotel - same great food, new name.) After breakfast the skies turned black and the wind got stronger and the temperature got lower. I could only head West so into it I went on US 18. Came to the cutoff to Elkader and headed that way since it was lighter in that direction. Soon the temperature started to rise and so did the wind speed. In about 30 miles it turned black ahead of me but lighter west of me. I followed the old advice, “go west young man”. In another 30 miles it again turned black ahead of me and lighter south of me. So, I went south. After several changes of direction I ended up about 20 miles west of Cedar Rapids where a LOW, HUGE, BLACK, cloud that looked pregnant with rain was straight ahead of me. Nothing to do but duck down and fly the 4 miles to US30 where I could turn west toward blue skies. Just made the stop sign at Hwy 30 when a big drop hit my helmet shield. I gunned it west as fast as I could. Another big drop hit my windshield. I powered the RT shield full up and powered up the RT throttle. Seconds went by and then there I was under blue skies. Even though I was out of the rain cloud the wind really picked up and the temperature also went up to the 80’s. The flags were straining straight out from the flagpoles. (The last time I was in a wind that strong and that hot was the last time I was in front of Denny Erickson when he was telling one of his really good stories.)
The weekend had disaster forecasted all over it. Beside the wind and rain forecast and the tornado warnings for Iowa and southern Minnesota on the way home, a self proclaimed “know-it-all” had also forecasted “END OF THE WORLD - JUDGMENT DAY” for May 21. I had God running with me all weekend. I made it safely home - and I rode through only 6 drops of rain the entire trip. God probably spent so much time protecting me that he forgot about Judgement Day. All of you heathens out there that didn’t have to face judgment on May 21, you owe me. I will accept cash!!
Submitted by Dave McBride