By the time I left home for the ride it was actually raining. Not drizzling. So I suited up in my raingear and headed out. Made sure I had a second pair of gloves, but all I had were double layer leather shells with wool linings. Thought it would be too warm.
Stopped and got my customary Ham Salad Sandwich and some pop and a candy bar at SuperAmerica after I topped off my tank. Still raining. But I was early enough that I didn't really want to hang out at the starting point in the rain for half an hour, so I pulled under the Lake Street bridge on the River Road and enjoyed my picnic dinner. The rain was coming down hard enough that the rain spouts on the bridge were pouring water.
While I hung out I thought about where to ride tonight. I knew it was likely to be Tom and I alone, which meant moderately fast (for scoots) bikes and the potential to go a good distance.
When he showed up at the monument I proposed going to Stillwater. He balked just a little bit, but it didn't take much before he was into the idea. It was raining, cold, and that was a hell of a long ride. Ridiculous. Perfect. He did mention that he only had about 40 miles of gas left and that we should gas up at some point. My idea was to do it after we got out of Saint Paul in case we needed a break. Yeah, I know, it's not a blister run so it's not like we'll be tired, but in that much rain and cold you never know.
The rain stopped shortly before we left the monument. Heading up Summit I was already cold and all I could think of were all the stoplights between there and Stillwater. We were avoiding large roads but wanted to get there fast. I figured Summit to downtown Saint Paul and then shoot up the old federal road from Saint Paul to Stillwater: 7th, Minnehaha, Stillwater Blvd etc. I had done that on the Vino and it was a nice moderate route. Fast for the Vino but perfect for the Stella.
I was cold and we really hadn't gone very far, which made me think (not for the first or last time) that this might have been a dumb idea.
We made good time across Saint Paul and headed into the faster roads just east of Maplewood. I was looking for a gas station but we just didn't see one. By the time we got to Stage Coach Trail just south of Stillwater, Tom told me he had already switched to his reserve tank. So we stopped to check the map and confirm our direction. By the time we rolled into Stillwater (yeah!) we were both pretty nervous. Tom because he didn't want to run his engine dry, and me because I didn't want to have to spend the rest of the season apologizing to Tom - not to mention the trip to get him some gas. But I would have done both if it came to that.
Interesting side fact: Did you know that the most popular gas station in Stillwater is closed? Gone. Empty. Another interesting fact: It was the only gas station downtown. So we putted up to the next one we saw on the map, another Oasis. Guess what? Yeah. Closed. Next? A Holiday down 36 - we're no longer in Stillwater. My thoughts of a warm coffee and a nice burger in Stillwater were shrinking to a twinkie and a coke at a gas station. No problemo.
By the time we got to 36 I think both of us were watching for his scoot to just stop. But it didn't. And we rolled into the SuperAmerica just down the road. Topped off the tank and headed back to Stillwater.
This is Tom's empty tank. We'd never seen one that empty before.
Got back into town, made our turn and cross the Stillwater lift bridge into Wisconsin. No real good place to stop and take a pic, so we headed back across the bridge after we'd hit out second state of the night. Got some nice pictures of the bridge and Stillwater from the Minnesota side.
We shot up to 96 and took it across to 61. That was a wild ride. When we got to 61 we both pulled up to the light and had the same thoughts about that road. Dark, curvy, scary, fast - awesome! Didn't ride it dangerously, but at night after rain and you're cold it really makes you aware of all the things that can go wrong. And when you conquer that and come through the other side okay it really is satisfying.
Took 61 down to Larpenteur and cross back across the cities with a slight jog to hit Pierce Butler Route for a last speed section. By the time we got to Marshall and crossed back into Minneapolis we were both cold but satisfied. My solo ride down Lake back home went quickly after our long ride.
So it was the longest TNR, the fastest, the rainiest, the most states, the closest to complete gas depletion, one of the most difficult, the smallest number of riders, and so much more. No stop for food, no beer, no chit chat. But it smelled like hot scooter engine and once I think I even saw some clear sky.
Best TNR ever. Thanks Tom!