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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
"Honey, what are you doing on Sunday?"

Sunday was my wife, Christine's, first long ride in the Spider. Sure, she had been on numerous short trips around town with me, but nothing of any substance, nothing that could be considered tourism. Truth be told, a day traveling out in the countryside for the sake of seeing the countryside and dancing down the roads is not really her thing like it is for me, but she was a good sport and agreed to spend the day with me out in the sunshine and fresh air, getting out of the big city and into nature to see the fields, forests, and waterways. To ride the roller coasters of southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin, areas I've been enjoying for years by motorcycle. To get out and say hello to the cows.

I generally don't head out with a hard destination in mind, the journey vs. the destination, but having a destination is helpful for her. And what better excuse for a nice, long drive than a nice lunch? Years ago we'd discovered Buzzard Billy's Bar & Grill (a.k.a. BB's Flying Carp Cafe) in La Crosse, WI. Tasty Cajun-style cooking in the upper mid-west. Also located in Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas. (Huh, no locations in New Orleans.)
https://www.buzzardbillys.com/
And these are just the appetizers. Now, I've never been to N'Awlins to laissez les bon temps rouler, but if this WI prepared food is half as good as the original, I need to get myself down there someday.


Lunch was our reason, the Mississippi River would be our guide. After getting out of the Twin Cities area, we jumped into Wisconsin at Prescott and followed the scenic WI Hwy 35 southbound, which runs alongside the eastern shore of the Mighty Miss. We had left home at about 9:30am in hopes of being at the front end of a typical summer weekend day of rambling traffic on this great route, and that plan worked. For a good portion of the 150 or so miles to the La Crosse, WI area we were in very sparse company, but the weather was ideal and the drivers and motorcycle riders would be coming out in force as the morning went on.

WI Hwy 35 is a wonderful 2-lane highway running the western length of the state, from Lake Superior on the north to just shy of Illinois on the south, much of the southern half of the distance hugging the great river, if not within spittin' distance of it. The highway will have straight stretches, but when it is alongside the river it twists and bends, and climbs and drops, through wonderful natural scenery. Bluff County as it is known. The small towns come and go every seven or eight miles, each one contributing its own flavor to life on the river.

We arrived at Buzzard Billy's about 3 hours after leaving home, and after filling our bellies we roamed around the neighborhood on foot to stretch our legs and help digest our huge lunch. La Crosse, WI also has a great old downtown area that provides another reason to visit.

Back to the drive. Oh, Via, my Spider, was in her element on this day. We left La Crosse heading westbound across the river back into Minnesota at La Crescent. Checking Christine's tolerance level for the drive, I asked her if she'd rather turn upriver on US Hwy 61 (yes, Dylan fans, that Hwy 61) toward home, or if I should/could alter the path a bit and explore some quieter roads as we head back. She was game for a little exploration, and so away we went. We headed westerly out of La Crescent on MN Hwy 16 toward Houston, following about 18-20 miles of this (sorry for the bugs and reflections, I photographed through the windshield)-


At Houston, we branched north following MN Hwy 76; second verse, same as the first. We finally came to Interstate 90... BORING! We continued north and just past I-90 we left Hwy 76 for Wabasha Co Rd 17, also known as Pleasant Valley Rd. It runs due north about 10-12 miles to the east end of Winona, MN (and back to the Mississippi River). Now, I've spent an awful lot of time in this part of the state on motorcycles over the years, and I can't think of how I've not been on this particular road, but, WOW! What a fitting name for a road. This road is meant to be driven, not just to commute upon. The fun just doesn't stop!

At Winona we take a quick pit stop. From here, we got onto US Hwy 61 and followed along the west shore of the river, headed back toward home. The river is wide and lazy in these parts, with lots of backwaters and sloughs.


Even though I SHOULD be heading us back home, upstream a bit we came to Wabasha, MN, and here I made a last-minute executive decision- we are going to turn west and follow MN Hwy 60 from Wabasha to Zumbrota. Hwy 60 provides us with probably the wildest stretch of road for the day. This section of Hwy 60 is... well, it can be nuts, relatively speaking by the midwestern definition. If all the driving we'd done thus far was a fireworks show, this 38-mile section of Hwy 60 is the grand finale. I tend not to be a speed demon, but all of the tasty roads we'd been on so far this day never forced me to use the brakes, the car just ripped right through with nary a hint of hesitation, from it, or from me. Hwy 60 changes that habit. On MN Hwy 60, you will drive the car. Brake, accelerate, upshift, downshift, left, right, climb, descend, repeat. This stretch of rural highway is very popular with sport driving/riding enthusiasts from throughout the region. We saw lots of Corvettes and Cameros, lots of Euro sport coupes, and no shortage of motorcycles of every kind, all getting a healthy dose of adrenaline to flow in their pilots' veins. And at an intersection I even got a big thumbs-up for my car from a young guy in a clapped-out, over-used Miata with multiple-colored body panels. Here is a tame section, showing some more of hills we were about to climb through. There was no way to safely stop in a wicked patch, not without causing a disaster.


As we were approaching Zumbrota and the 70-mile straight stretch of US Hwy 52 that would take us on our final leg home, I started feeling the effects of the sunshine. All day I'd protected myself from the hard sunshine in the clear blue sky (my wide brim hat and UV protective clothing), and I'd taken in lots of water along the way (not to mention a hearty lunch that covered all the basic food groups, along with big glasses of water and lemonade), but it seems the mid-80's and high sun of the afternoon were causing me to be a bit heat stressed, mainly with some dizziness and a touch of lethargy, not good things to experience behind the wheel of a car. Entering Zumbrota we stopped at a big convenience store/fuel station. Lucky for us, there was a nice picnic table on the shady side of the building. As I camped out in the shade, Christine went inside to get bottled water for me, and a bottle of tea for herself. We spent about 20 minutes in the cool shade, getting the chilled liquids into ourselves. Ah, that brought me back into the game. Sheepishly, I then asked if I could (are you sitting down?) put the roof up for the rest of the trip home, and also turn on the air conditioning. She gladly said yes. Within minutes the refreshing fluids and cool air brought us back to normal. And I must say, the air conditioning system in this little car is impressive. I could tell it was taking a bit of a toll on engine performance, but the last leg of the trip was mostly done with cruise control, anyway.

24+ hours later as I'm writing, I asked her how her first long day in a convertible worked out. She said she enjoyed it, and enjoyed it a lot more than she ever did by motorcycle. But she did say that for long trips she'd prefer more opportunities to stop and be out of the car, either more breaks or multiple destinations to break up the driving. I didn't disagree, and if this is what it takes to make the experience more pleasurable for her, it works for me. There is an open invitation to drive at any time.

Trip statistics:
Trip time- 8 hours (9:30am-5:30pm, included lunch and post-lunch stroll)
Total distance- 343 miles
Total fuel used- 8.9 gallons
Average fuel usage- 38.5mpg*
(* includes the penalty of running the air conditioning for 70 miles at high freeway speeds)
Total number of songs played from the USB memory chip- 132 tracks, with over 1400 in reserve.
Total number of insects splattered on the front of the car- WAY too many!

Thanks for stopping by!
Steve.
 

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Nice read :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Nice story! This post approaches the columns Jean Shepard wrote for C&D years ago.
best regards
Pete
Wow! I'm blushing a little bit. Thank you! Thanks to everyone for reading, and for your kind thoughts. I hope others are inspired to share their driving stories, too.

Hmmm, where should I go next time?

Steve.
 

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What a great read for the first day back from a long weekend. Thanks! I'm taking my first real road trip (1200 miles, 8 states) later this month. I have the feeling your tips are going to help tremendously. Thanks again!
 

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What a great read for the first day back from a long weekend. Thanks! I'm taking my first real road trip (1200 miles, 8 states) later this month. I have the feeling your tips are going to help tremendously. Thanks again!
Wow, nice trip coming up. Jot down a few daily notes and then tell us all about it when you return. I bet you'll have some interesting observations and tales to tell.

Steve.
 
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