I hope all of those that still have a grueling thing called a job, had a great Labor Day weekend, and for those who are retired and it’s just another day, I hope it was a good one for you too! Ahhh, the life! We are all envious that we can’t ride everyday, can’t stay over a couple “extra” days on a trip because we have to get back on Monday for that big meeting with the boss, and can’t sleep in whenever we choose. All I can say is; lucky you, I’m sure you earned it and congrats!
Well, I’ll continue where I left off last month on my way home from the Biker Ally Rally in Galena, Illinois. Riding solo was fun, relaxing, and great experience for me. Anyone who has ever rode with me knows how much I enjoy getting a large group together for a weekend ride just to check out a quaint little town, grab a bite of lunch, and head home. On this ride, it was just my bike and I.
Riding solo was a new experience; there was ample time to think about the beauty that surrounds us as I road the back roads to my destination. There was plenty of time to not think about my job, meetings, commitments, or the everyday hustle and bustle of life. RELAXING was the word that best describes riding solo for me. Being in the mindset that I was in no hurry to get home seemed to make my shoulders a little lighter.
I knew I wanted to tour the National Historic Landmark Amana Colonies in Iowa, so with map in hand, that is where I headed. If you have never been to that part of the country, plan a trip and visit; it’s roughly 300 miles from Kansas City. The Colonies encompass 26,000 acres of the Iowa River Valley. The charming town of Amana can take up most of a day (if you have the time) and riding to all the surrounding colonies is interesting too. I only got lost once, making a huge 23 mile circle and ending up where I started! That was okay because, remember, I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere! I actually wanted to ride the Amana Colonies Trail which is a loop of highways 151, 6 and 220 that connects the villages that make up the seven Amana Colonies; West Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, East Amana, South Amana, Homestead and Amana. There are shopping areas, restaurants, and bed & breakfasts in most of the towns. Some offer museums, parks, golf courses, biking trails, lakes, a blacksmith shop, galleries, bakeries, wineries, a brewery, a meat shop and smokehouse, and a theatre company. You will see historic buildings dating back to the 1850’s; barns; brick, stone, and clapboard homes; and stunning gardens, lanterns and walkways that takes you to a step back in time.
The local artisans create candles, baskets, furniture, clocks, pottery, jewelry, brooms, and quilts. All the specialty shops offer fine quality merchandise made with the skill and trade that has been handed down from many generations past. There are no cookie cutter stores in these towns; they are absolutely unique and the treasures you purchase will be enjoyed by all. My favorite shop was the 150-year-old Amana Woolen Mill with hardwood floors; a weaving room with floor to ceiling windows; wool, cotton, or acrylic blankets for people and pets; quilts; and a huge assortment of sweaters, outerwear and sportswear for the whole family. Today, the mill weaves thousands of blankets for their retail outlets and they have added a custom embroidery shop. There is so much history here, something that becomes obvious as you encounter the unique German heritage still alive in these towns. Their heritage has taught them to cherish the past and to make hospitality a way of life. It was a wonderful visit and the charm of the towns and people give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Leaving Amana, I rode to Hwy 6 taking in the sights, sounds, and vibrant smells of flowers, fruits, and livestock. I then picked up Hwy 14 and headed on through Newton and Knoxville, Iowa. Since it was starting to get late I decided to stay in Knoxville. Luck was on my side when I pulled into the motel to register because unbeknownst to me, there was a huge Sprint Car racing event (Knoxville Nationals) that had just ended on Sunday. Word was buzzing that Gene Simmons from the band KISS was there, also Ashley Judd whose husband is a racecar driver. The hotel walls were covered with celebrity autographs. I was told there were absolutely no rooms available within a 50 mile radius during the racing event. Wow, did I time that right! It’s a good thing I stayed and shopped so long in Amana!
An early start the next morning took me along Hwy 92; the weather was picture perfect and the sun was shining brightly. I stopped later for a cappuccino and looked at the map and my HOG book to see where the closest Harley-Davidson dealer was and it said Osceola, Iowa. Interstate 35 was just a short distance, so I jumped on it and headed for more shopping! I exited at Osceola and a patrolman was directing traffic. I asked him why the back up in traffic and he told me there was a 700-tractor parade going from Osceola to Humison. They were letting tractors go for a while, and then allowing the cars to pass through. Okay I thought, only in Iowa would you see something like this! I pulled my bike up; watching two groups of tractors come through. Some were very old fashion, some were new. Everyone who rode by waved as they sat under their canopies or umbrellas; it was a fun site to see (see pictures of a few below). I then rode over to Chipp’s Harley-Davidson, and wouldn’t you know it, they are closed on Mondays. Oh well, there is more to life than shopping, right? Really? What would that be?
Back on the road again, heading into the last leg of my trip, I eased back and reflected over the weekend, what the coming week would bring, and reveled in the excitement of the success our motorcycle fundraiser for NAWS was the previous weekend. The people in the Colonies have the right idea: life in the slow lane, take it easy. I guess that’s kind of like being retired; I envy their lifestyle to a point. How time flies when you’re having fun! Before you know it, I’m pulling into my driveway, hot and tired, but totally fulfilled from my solo journey. I’d recommend all diva’s take off on a solo ride at some point in your riding career so you can experience the exuberant feeling of being totally on your own and doing exactly what you want to do.
I’d like to leave you with a few safety tips if you are going it alone. If you don’t have your buddies Smith and Wesson to accompany you, pack some mace for protection, and make sure it is easily accessible. Chances are you will never use it, but in this day and age, you never know. Keep your cell phone on your person or in the windshield bag and touch base with family or friends along the way so they know your route and when they can expect you home. If you detour or change plans, make sure someone knows. Keep bottled water and snacks with you in case you pull over for a quick rest or have mechanical problems, it can literally take hours for help to arrive. Keep a can of “fix-a-flat” in your saddlebags. Stay in public places when you stop for extended periods, I can’t tell you, “don’t talk to strangers,” because we all know that’s what we do when were on our bikes, but do listen to your instincts with anyone you meet. Don’t ride past 7:00 P.M.; get off the road, check in to a room, eat a good dinner, and get lots of rest before you start the next day. I’m sure there are a lot more precautions we can take when riding solo, but I applied these to my trip. If any of our experienced solo riders have other suggestions, please share with our readers.
My wish for you is to have a safe and fun riding experience where ever you go.
“Never rider faster than you angel can fly”
TIP OF THE MONTH: If you get lost, take your map and go to a public place to ask for help versus standing on the shoulder trying to figure it out. Don’t be a target, Ride Smart!