Thursday, October 13, 2011

THE MARNE THING, by Gary Wilson

For years I’d been hearing about this thing some of the ‘bahners went to in Marne, IA, but really had no concept of what it was. This year I decided to go and see. I left on Friday afternoon, took I29 to somewhere south of Sioux City (water still high there), then went across to Denison where I got stuck behind a huge crane which bogged down to about 40 mph on the uphills where I couldn’t pass and then hit 80 downhill where I could have if I were younger and foolisher. We both stopped for gas at Harlan, so I lost him there and soon arrived in Marne.

Marne is sure small. Their web site claims they started with 617 citizens in 1875 and are presently down to 149. The streets are mostly one lane, no curb, and there are numerous empty lots with signs offering said properties at a price of $zero. And at reasonable interest. Of course you have to build a house, and according to the covenant, “No noxious or offensive activities shall be carried on upon any lot…” Always a catch.

The main attraction for those of our ilk is the open house at Baxter Cycle, a business which is a testament to the truth of the old saw about doing one thing and doing it well. They seem to have cornered a large share of the market in used and vintage British bikes and parts. I was amazed at all the old bikes in the back room and the bins of parts. According to their website they have another 125 bikes in another building along with larger parts. They gotta be doing something right to attract the Triumph demo truck to their open house. Which of course in turn attracts free ride seekers such as the following: Larry Hawes, Bill Claussen, Jerry Zeeb, Gary Landeen, Gary Johnson, Dale Nordlie, Dave McBride, Marlin Wolter, Brion Hase, Lloyd Lunde and Tom Buttars. (Ed.Note: This is a test. Match the names above to the faces below.)

I arrived, quickly set up my tent, quickly mooched a beer from Larry, quickly drank it, quickly mooched another and, fortified, hiked up the hill to purchase more. Waste of time and money because there soon arrived a Harley bearing braumeister Paul Nordlie and his wife Trintje towing a trailer containing three wee kegs of his fine product. To wit: a fine porter, a fine IPA and a fine British bitter (my favorite).

The evening passed with dinner at the local bar and grill and some bullslinging and in the morning we took advantage of the pancake, sausage and egg deal offered by the Boy Scouts. Then we rode motorcycles. The ride was 7 miles or so to Atlantic and back, a route with some curves so you could get a feel for what the bikes could do. I rode a Tiger 800 XC, which was fun, but far breezier than my old RT. Later on I was on an America, a cruiser with legs-extended riding position. Adding interest to this ride was the state trooper who sat patiently at a crossroad watching the group pass by at 70 mph. Someone told me I would have trouble adjusting to the forward controls, which I didn’t, but the steering was not comfortable and, again, it was windy. So – no sale. I’ll keep the old Boxer, thank you.

For dinner, some went to the local tavern again, but they were serving only goulash. There was a discussion of alternatives. Brion lobbied unsuccessfully for a place in Atlantic reputed to serve the best pork tenderloin in Iowa, but we all (15 or so of us) ended up at a buffet in Elk Horn which offered fried chicken, shrimp, roast pork, meatballs, barbecued ribs, braised wallaby and prime rib. (Okay, the wallaby is an exaggeration, but the rest isn’t.) Rear tires looked a little flatter when we remounted for the return trip.

More beer and bull and in the morning more pancakes. Also more rides, but I abstained. I also passed on the free weenies. Just packed up and went my way. Brion patiently mapped out a scenic, albeit complex route for those who wished to take such roads on the way home, but I had a hankering to go through Ida Grove again. I happened on this town on my first motorcycle trip years ago and wanted to see it again. A local industrialist with a fondness for castles has built a number of towers and walls and such there, as well as a small lake on which floats a half-scale replica of the HMS Bounty. His own home is a castle complete with moat and drawbridge. It’s harmless enough, I guess, but sorta goofy.

After that, I headed for Sioux City, caught I29 and went home, not omitting to stop at Edgar’s in Elk Point for an old fashioned cherry chocolate ice cream soda, the finest in the land.

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