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What an absolutely perfect way to have a day off from work. New car, finally some real spring weather, an no commitments.

At 8:00am, I left the house (Minneapolis, MN area) for the day's excursion. I stopped at a gas station to top off the tank, replacing what I've used in the first 70 or so miles of ownership. For those in my region, you know the fun that is to be had in the Mississippi River valley area of SE MN, SW WI, and NE IA. I hit all three of them today. I slithered across the Twin Cities in morning rush hour traffic to exit out the southeast corner of town, making a beeline for the St. Croix River crossing at Prescott, WI. (1st photo was at Pt. Douglas Beach Park just before crossing into Prescott.) The top was down and the sun was out, but the temperature was hovering around 60.

WI Hwy 35 would be my route for this early part of the journey. On weekends, this highway is quite busy with moto-tourists of all kinds, but on weekdays the traffic is light. I normally avoid the crowds on weekends, when motorcycling, by getting off Hwy 35 fairly quickly, enjoying nearly endless, quiet miles of rolling 2-lane rural county roads, "The Alphabets" as they are known, due to their alphabetic road names. But today I stayed with Hwy 35 today due to the light traffic.

Nature has really awoken as I went farther south. Woods and prairies are green once again, farmers are tilling the soil, the Mighty Miss is crisp blue, and wildlife was in abundance. Luckily all the critters left me alone on this trip, although I had a near miss with a small songbird. Large predator birds were on constant display, their quarries scampering here and there across the roads. I even came across a snake sunning itself on the edge of the warm pavement. I gave him plenty of room, but he still reared his head upward 10-12 inches as I passed.

At Stockholm, WI, I stopped at the world's best pie shop (Stockholm Pie & General Store) and enjoyed a brunch of chocolate cream pie. Mmmm! After pie, I continued south along the river to the crossing back into MN at Winona, when I proceeded to aim south again on US Hwy 61 to La Crescent, MN. On the south side of town, I picked up MN Hwy 26 and followed the west side of the Mississippi River to the Iowa border at New Albin. The highway turns into IA Hwy 26, which I followed through the bluff-lined towns of Lansing, Harper's Ferry, Marquette and its twin city, McGregor. This was as far south as I went, 214 miles from home in 5.5 hours of rural driving. Heavenly.

I went back into Marquette and crossed the river into Wisconsin at Prairie du Chien. This was where I gassed up, replacing what the gauge told me was a half tank, and the pump telling me a hair over 6 gallons, for 35mpg. Pretty good considering a fresh engine, top down, and mainly 5th gear at 50-60mph speeds. Yes, there were times when I had to work the gearbox, but man, the torque of this engine... it just doesn't care what you are doing or what gear you are in, put the gas pedal down and pour on the grunt, no questions asked. Anyway, I found myself northbound on the same WI Hwy 35 as earlier in the trip, just way farther to the south. (WI 35 runs the whole length of the west edge of the state.) I followed it back to the crossing that took me back into Lansing, IA (2nd photo, with a nod to my dealer) over the funky steel grate bridge. This section of WI 35 is very scenic, great views out across the islands, sloughs, and the main shipping channel of the Mississippi River. Lots of barges out on the water today, bringing last season's grain supplies down river, I suppose.

I head north from Lansing, backtracking on IA 26 for a few miles, until in intersects with Allamakee County Rd A26 heading west. Oh, what a glorious stretch, I always enjoy this road. It mainly follows a westerly path in a wide valley between the bluffs, but it is constantly wiggling left and right past the farms and woods and along the Upper Iowa River. A bit later, it doglegs at IA Hwy 76, then branches west again. It was along this second westward branch that I missed the turn I usually take to head back into MN, and instead kept heading west for several more miles. No worries, the tank is still almost full and I've got nothing but time on my hands. Now I was more up on top the bluffs, mainly in farmland, but the road was great no matter where I went.

Eventually I turned north, crossing into MN near Mabel. I then followed MN Hwy 43 north from Mabel to Rushford. Part of this section of 43 was new to me; I motorcycle this region quite a bit but missed some of this highway in the past. WOW! Up-and-down-and-side-to-side-repeat! North from Rushford the fun just continued. Out of town a couple miles I turned west on Fillmore C.R. 27 (my first time on this road), which after a mile or two turns to gravel. (NAY! Turn around.) Just before the gravel, the road intersects at the county line with Winona C.R. 25. The fun refused to end! I snaked north (and up, and down...) on C.R. 25, going under I-90, and then branching onto Winona C.R. 23. Can you see a theme? Yep, more roller coaster driving. I continued north on C.R. 23 until it intersected with US Hwy 61 at Minnesota City, just upriver of Winona. By this point it was around 4:30pm. I'd been driving non-stop (other than for pie and convenience store breaks) for 8.5 hours, so I decided Hwy 61 would be my path back to the Twin Cities area. Lake City, Red Wing, and Hastings all come and go. Then, sadly, I approach the Twin Cities Metro Area. Ugh. 4- and 6-lane highways, heavier traffic... people, lots of people. People everywhere, unlike the rest of the heavenly day I've experienced.

I finally got to my neighborhood and I stopped to fill the tank. It's just a bit below a half tank. About 13 gallons for the day, and 460 miles, 35mpg. 11 hours and 40 minutes, door to door.

Now that's a break in! I had plenty of opportunities to rev and back off, to pull heavy going uphill and coast going down. To go fast in the open areas, and to slow to a crawl for farm tractors and small towns. All in all, my Spider worked like a dream. Only one little niggle showed itself, and that would be my desire for a bit more lumbar support in the seat back. But I'm not crippled, not reaching for the Advil, after a long day of driving a small roadster. Probably nothing a small folded hand towel tucked behind me wouldn't solve. I am very happy I decided on the Classica over the Abarth. The suspension proved its worth to me in that although it provides a quite smooth, forgiving ride, it was still able to keep the car on track just fine in all the curves and bends and swoops. Now, I was, for the most part, observing posted speeds in the curvy stuff, but she had no issue, and did not talk back, when running through a curve at a higher than suggested rate.

Tomorrow, I'll do it all over again, but this time heading to west central MN to visit my sister and her husband. Another 400+ miles. And on the back roads, forget the interstates! In a few days I'll change the oil to flush any initial wear and manufacturing junk out of the engine. Then, we're off for real!

Steve.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
And then yesterday...

I added another 360+ miles in more of a countryside across-the-state commute of sorts to visit my sister and her husband. "Oooos and ahhhhs" abound. Over 800 Spider miles in under 48 hours, and she ran like a top.

But she's pretty dirty now, with lots of dust and bug spatter, so today she gets a bath and a day (mostly) of rest. Maybe just a trip across town to pick up my wife at the airport.

Steve.
 

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Great trip report! Boy I miss the drives in that area...they were always great testing grounds for the solar car to teach drivers to hypermile drive!
 

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It's good to hear about nice Minnesota weather, and someone so clearly enjoying it. I've been watching the "Fargo " series and get cold just looking at it. And I'm never going to be able to clear my memory of that big heavy duty meat grinder. . . Same as with tree shredders.
Best regards
Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Fargo. My wife and I saw that movie in a theater when it came out, while living in Idaho for a few years. Watching a Coen Bros. moving about mocking a MN crime and murder tragedy while living in very conservative Idaho... we were the only ones in the theater laughing throughout. Not at the crime stuff, just the mocking Minnesotans stuff. They grew up in suburban Minneapolis. Yah, don'tchya know... Geniuses. And the tv series have been pretty wild, too. Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, where did all of that come from?

Anyway, I'm creeping up on a thousand miles, over 950 after chasing around today.

Steve.
 
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