My first view of Mille Lacs Lake is an impressive one indeed. The bright midmorning sun is laying a shimmer across the wind-blown surface, creating a near blinding electric caper of refracted light that, even in broad daylight, puts the Vegas strip to shame. Another half-mile of asphalt passes beneath the Victory Kingpin Deluxe and the light show disappears, giving way to an endless cobalt blanket stretching as far as the eye can see. In an instant, a minor tweak in the sun's angle completely changes Mother Nature's stage, one of countless transformations seen daily in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes."
Though darting emphatically across the lake's wispy whitecaps, the sun's bright beams have done little to coax the lethargic mercury into more rider-friendly numbers. I keep waiting for a rebound to yesterday's mid-70 temps, but it isn't close to happening this morning. Taking a break in a boat launch parking lot, I attract the attention of two fishermen who look like they're getting ready to pursue some walleye dinners. They can't help chuckling at my expense while preparing their boat. They're in shorts and tee shirts and bound for a day on the water while I'm straddling the parked Victory, hunched over the gas tank, with my gloved hands clumsily groping the still ticking V-twin in a manner entirely too suggestive of my first movie date. Back then I was copping a feel, now I'm just trying to get some feeling back in my fingers. Finally the heat radiating from the cooling fins does the trick and I'm back on the road, determined to tough it out and reach the tour's cradle in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, by noon. My thin-blooded, Southern, mid-September constitution doesn't begin to approach the Viking heartiness of my Minnesotan counterparts, and, thankfully, as I near Grand Rapids, the temperature nudges into the comfortable range. Somebody ought to give that sun a wakeup call tomorrow.
My digs for the next few nights are located easily. The Sawmill Inn is right on Route 169, the main north-south road into town. Despite my rolling in at noon, the housekeeping staff has my room ready, and the contents of the Kingpin's saddlebags are relocated to a proper dresser in quick order. A little voice inside my head tells me to flip on the TV to check the weather. Good thing, too, because the earlier forecast for a simply cloudy tomorrow has Dopplered into an all-day rain affair with temperatures in the 40s, which means the shorter southwestern loop I was saving for the last day is moved into the mission slot for this afternoon. It's shortly past noon, the climate is pleasant, and the day is beautiful. Map? Check. Camera? Check. Keys? Check. Let's go do a little Shamrock thing, Minnesota style!