Great Lakes Escapade

Text: Stephan Fennel • Photography: Stephan Fennel

Destination USA doesn't always have to be the much-visited Southwest. Foreign visitors, who think only of red boulders and dry desert expanses in association with the US, should think again. A vast gamut of alternatives runs everywhere. In this case, a tour of the Great Lakes region in the northern reaches was a splendid and revivifying experience.

My directive is clear: New territory must be explored. Forget the Grand Canyon, nix the Pacific Coast, no prospective sightings of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne clones, none of that abnormal la-la buzz in mega-cities à la L.A. Instead, I'm setting out on a trail toward Minneapolis/St. Paul, the "Twin Cities," as these dissimilar sisters in the state of Minnesota are affectionately known. Here, after a long search of the Internet, I find a motorbike rental agency - not the easiest of exercises in a region many bikers consider a transit passage, little more than a "passing fancy" on their way from Chicago and parts East into the endless expanses of the Wild West. But I persevere and hit pay dirt with Dan Johnson and his Midwest Motorcycle Rental.

From a variety of 20 bikes, Dan chooses a very special model for me, an original Police Harley: high performance, great machinery, allowing also for very sportive propulsion, hydraulic suspension, plus an aero-supported saddle. The sirens and flashing blinkers are the only items missing. In their place, a horn and additional headlights were fitted. The switch for the siren is still there, and also two top-loading cases complementing the serviceable windshield.

Rolling into Minneapolis, I soon find inviting tracks winding along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. That's right. The most famous river in the U.S. begins the first 700 miles of its 2000-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico in Minnesota - and that's just the first of many surprises.

In the gigantic Mall of America in Bloomington, just outside the gates of the Twin Cities, I buy the bare essentials for the road. I don't want to carry superfluous weight and I will be returning here later anyway. There will be time enough for extensive shopping then.

Inspired by the thought of conquering new territory, I set out on my way down south. The scenery changes slowly at first, and then abruptly. The expansive plains turn into lush green hills and valleys. Rivers and streams crisscross the countryside and the road describes a constant rise and fall. Just short of Owatonna with my mood reflecting the sun-splashed landscape, I reach one of Minnesota's greatest attractions, second only to the Mall of America - Cabela's, an outfitters store like no other. Here trappers and anglers find everything their hearts desire.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2001 back issue.