GWRRA Minnesota Chapter O

Gold Wing Road Riders Association, America's Heartland (Region E)


Lessons learned from my first long-distance Road Captain experience this past weekend.
Bill Taylor | 5/2/2016

It was supposed to be a nice day to ride come Sunday, so at our dinner social last week, I volunteered to put together a ride even though I knew I was going to be rather swamped between Thursday and Sunday with work and the Spring Ops meeting.

I worked Thursday after the social and Friday morning was quite hectic.  But once I got my portion of the work done, and had a chance to breathe again, I Googled ‘top motorcycle roads in MN’ and found one that I thought would work – the Welch Village Twisties.  So, I plotted a course through Hastings, Prescott, Red Wing, through Welch, back to Hastings to Afton and then White Bear Lake.  Saturday ‘day’ was the Spring Ops meeting.  Saturday evening was looking for road construction and coming up with alternate routes in case they were needed.  Was not very impressed with Wisconsin’s 511 page, but MN’s did help.  It took me a very long time to make sure WI-35 was not going to be dug up on the portion we would be riding.

So Sunday comes and I think I know where I’m going.  But, because I was so focused on construction impacts, I never did figure out good places to stop for gas/stretch or lunch.  And of course, there was no way to pre-ride it.  I did use Google Maps quite a bit to review the stretches of roads that I was not sure of in which turns were required.  But the road to Prescott?  Heck no – taken it dozens of times!  The roads through Red Wing to stay on 61?  Nope – there are signs and I’ve gone that way dozens of times!  I even knew about the construction in Red Wing.

We managed to navigate the highways all the way to 10 and did manage to work around a Mustang that seemed intent on being in the lane we wanted to move in to.   And then the first oh –oh.  Is that the turn to Prescott?  Announce it.  And then realize – nope; it’s the next turn signal.  Then ask for suggestions to stop for gas and stretch our legs in Red Wing instead of already having it picked out – along with the confusion that comes with making pit stops on the fly.  Found our way to Welch and up through Hastings and over to Afton but not quite sure of the location of the restaurant.  In addition, one of our members hit 100k so he pulled over for the Kodak moment.  We had been in good communication as the mile marker approached, so we all knew he would re-unite in Afton at the restaurant – that I didn’t know the name of or specific location.  So when we pulled into the parking lot, I pulled into the first spot I found so I could be close to the street to watch for him and told him where we were.  But – I should have asked the new tailgunner to stop along the shoulder and watch for him.  The old “bread crumb” strategy where the last person in the pack waits for the rider behind to signify our last turn.  And then, as we headed for White Bear Lake knowing that one of our members was peeling off at Stillwater, I should have suggested that he be at the end of the pack instead of bike number 2.  And – I should have been more familiar with exactly where we were turning to join 95 before jumping onto 36.  And then I should have used Google Maps again to review the Manning street exit.  Another one of those intersections I had seen 100’s of times.  But this time (after all the construction), there were signs for 5 and 16 and the uncertainty sinks in – have they ‘changed’ the signs for Manning to reflect the county highways now or is it still down the road.  A rider tells me it’s the traffic light and it is exactly as I remember.  Off to 96 and we get one car between us and the rest of the riders and instead of informing the second bike that I am going to slow down and let the car pass us, I just slow down and start waving.  Not sure what the second bike was thinking, but I lucked out and no one got hurt.  And then off to the McDonalds for our last stop to let everyone finish the day as they desire.  And I don’t quite leave enough room for the bikes to back into the parking spots.

So I was reminded of several responsibilities of the road captain on this trip and I hope the next ride I lead is less ‘eventful’.  But that’s not the only reason I am confessing to all of this.  It’s also to let others know that this can be a learning experience – you don’t have to be perfect to lead a ride.  The other riders will still enjoy most of it since they are still out on the bike and they are still finding some twisty roads and they are still getting a chance to share a meal with other bikers, tell stories, make fun of each other – and laugh.  And if you make a few mistakes along the way, chalk it up as more experience and learn from your mistakes.  But in the end, it’s about getting people out there to share the ride with you.

And now – if you were one of those riders, feel free to reply to this email or (even better) add comments to this blog on our website!

Thanks for reading!