2018 Motorcycle “To Do” List

Dateline: January 1, 2018, Lone Rock, Wis. The sun is shining outside, but the snow crunches like Styrofoam under my boots. The National Weather Service says it is fifteen degrees below zero—the thermometer on my deck agrees. Fortunately, there is no wind, so wind chill is not a factor if you are motionless.

There really isn’t even enough snow to ride my little Sno-Runner. Just for kicks, I pull it out of the shed anyway. To my surprise, it started on the fourth pull on the recoil starter—the same number as is required in the summer.

Sno-Runner ready for 2018
Last winter, I got only a few miles of riding on my newly restored 1979 Chrysler Sno-Runner. I’d like to do a few more miles on it this winter.

I let it run for 10 minutes or so, check the brake/tail light and headlight. There really isn’t anything else to check out, so I shut it down and put it back in the shed. The Sno-Runner was last winter’s restoration project; read more about it here:

The motorcycles in my unheated shed are tethered to Battery Tenders. I don’t even entertain the notion of trying to start one of them up. I’m pretty sure my Jeep would start if I tried it, but there’s no place to go in this weather, and everything is closed anyway. I’ve begun my inventory of batteries that will need to be replaced due to age and already got a new Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery for my 1999 XLH Sportster. For more on batteries, see: Top 10 Things to Know about Motorcycle Batteries.

Back in the house, the early morning sunshine streams in and the best thing to do is pour a cup of fresh coffee, build a fire in the fireplace and ponder the year ahead.

Some folks take this opportunity to make “New Year’s Resolutions.”   To me, the term “resolutions” has too formal a ring to it. It takes me back to my days in local elected office and working in state government, where the phrase “therefore, be it resolved,” was used on some documents. Frankly, it was overused, often for effect only on symbolic documents committing no one to really doing anything. So it is for New Year’s Resolutions—many of those don’t survive the first week of the new year.

Rather than making grand resolutions, I prefer to think of some of the small things I’d like to do and those I really should do in the coming year: my motorcycle “to-do” list for 2018.

1. First, before this bitter cold finally gives way to spring, I’d really like to get the Sno-Runner out on the trail for some serious riding. I did get to ride it a little late in the season last year, but only about ten miles all-told. Trail conditions were poor, a mix of melting snow over icy base—not ideal for the Sno-Runner. I’d like to take it up north to my old home town, Hurley, Wis., and try it out on the Ironhorse Trail. That is in Iron County, where one of the best and most scenic snowmobile (and powersports) trails in the country has been developed.

Ready for 2018 Slimey Crud Spring Rally
No season of riding is complete without doing the spring and/or fall Slimey Crud Run.

2. Do the spring (and fall) Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang Café Racer Run or “the Crud Run” for short. This is an informal, unsponsored run that is held on the first Sunday in May and October. It starts in Pine Bluff, Wis., in Dane County and ends in Leland, Wis., in Sauk County. How you get from point A to point B is entirely up to you. Nearly every brand and type of motorcycle is likely to show up and you can meet some of the most interesting people on two (or three) wheels. Here’s a look at some of the past events:

Ferry Bluff by Motorcycle
Taking in the view from atop Ferry Bluff is something I have to do again in 2018.

3. Revisit the soaring heights of Cactus and Ferry Bluff in Sauk County. Though it is only about 30 miles from my house in Lone Rock, I was surprised to realize that it has been twelve years since I stood atop that magnificent sandstone bluff. The view from there includes the spectacular heights of the Blue Mounds far to the south and sweeps for miles to the east, south and west.

The wide Wisconsin River wanders by below. From the summit, the view makes a person appreciate some of the good things government can do, when guided by principle, planning and the people. The creation of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway by the Wisconsin Legislature back in 1989 has helped preserve the natural beauty of more than 95,000 acres of the vast Wisconsin River Valley in the 92 miles from Prairie du Sac all the way to the Mississippi. Learn more about the Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Triumph Exploring Motorcycle
Exploring some of Wisconsin’s ancient effigy mounds can be done from the saddle. Here, two conical mounds in the Cipra Mound Group are directly behind my Triumph.

4. Tour the effigy mound sites across southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. These ancient sites have sacred meaning and enduring mystery. Some are estimated to date back as much as 10,000 years and their origins and purposes are still a subject of debate among scholars, archeologists and even among the region’s native people. Standing among the effigy mounds, you can’t help but be swept back in time—times long before European invasion and settlement. For more about touring the effigy mounds, see:

Natrual Bridge Stone Wisconsin
Wisconsin has two spectacular natural bridge stone formations; visiting both of them is on my 2018 to-do list. This one is at Natural Bridge State Park near Leland, WI in Sauk County.

5. Take in both of Wisconsin’s spectacular Natural Bridges. One of the most ancient sites of known early human habitation is a cave that is located directly below one of Wisconsin’s two natural bridges. That one is near Leland, Wis. (the same Leland that is the end-point of the Slimey Crud Run) in Sauk County at Natural Bridge State Park. The other is in Pier Park in Rockbridge, Wis., in Richland County.

These and dozens of other spectacular stone formations, cliffs, pinnacles, bluffs and sheer vertical walls were carved out of the sandstone bedrock by the trillions of gallons of outwash from melting glaciers that covered much of the upper Midwest thousands of years ago.

BBC Rally for 2018
Doing the BBC Rally and Ride-in Show is on my 2018 to-do list. Where else could you see a 100 year-old bike like Mike Crane’s 1911 start, run and ride like new as his Levis did at the 2011 event?

6. Attend the British Biker Cooperative Rally and Ride-in Show in July. Each year for the past 37 summers, the BBC faithful have gathered at Eagle Cave Natural Park near Blue River, Wis., to put on one of the best events dedicated to the Limey lifestyle anywhere. They plan to do it all again July 20-22, 2018 and it is definitely on my 2018 to-do list. Though you have to own a British brand (Royal Enfield is included) to be a BBC member, the event is open to all, no matter what brand of bike they ride, or even if they don’t ride, for that matter. For more, check out British Biker.

And see:

Bonneville Salt Flats
Getting back to the BMST is kind of a long shot for 2018, but worth hoping for.

7. Go back to the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. Ok, this is in the long-shot-maybe category, but a guy can dream, no? Still, the seeds of a trip are there. I made the acquaintance of a fellow at the Motorcycle Performance Land Speed Record Celebration back in November who has a rather large collection of bikes, including an old one that could be a fit contender for a class record, if given the proper TLC (tuning, lubrication and cleaning) that he may be willing to part with. My friend Jim Haraughty once told me the Salt Flats get in your blood; once you go there, you keep wanting to go back again. He’s right. Read more about the last trip here:

Mississippi in Iowa
If Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn didn’t make you love the Mississippi, the view of the Big Muddy from atop Mt. Hosmer in Lansing, IA, will.

8. Make my personal favorite river run that takes me along the Wisconsin River, the Kickapoo River and ultimately to the Mississippi River and the Great River Road (highway 35 on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi). The run covers the main river watersheds that drain what is known as the Driftless Area of Southwestern Wisconsin.

The roads are excellent, with good surfaces and curves that range from down-right relaxing to somewhat technical, so there’s a riding setting for every taste. The scenery along the rivers is superb and serene. Few days are more relaxing than those spent roaming these river valleys. At the Mississippi, crossing over to Iowa into Lansing will bring you to Mt. Hosmer. The view from the top will put the place on your to-do list, too!

Fall Motorcycle Riding Colors
Clear, cool weather and stunning colors in countryside scenery keep fall color rides on my to-do list for 2018.

9. Fall color rides. One of the benefits of living in the upper Midwest is the change of seasons. In my mind, one of the best things about that is the explosion of fall colors and there is no way to enjoy it better than on a motorcycle. Getting out on the back roads, particularly in the high country where the hardwoods grow, in the fall during the change of seasons is a great way to unwind. For more on fall color rides and why they are on my to-do list for 2018, see:

Gary Ilminen Motorcycles
I admit motorcycle maintenance should be high on my to-do list for 2018—it’s just that I don’t know where to start.

10. Do some motorcycle maintenance. OK, I know this should be a little closer to the top of my to-do list, particularly in light of the fact that I have been known to be a bit of a slacker in this department. See:

I admit it, I’d rather ride than wrench, but that can have adverse consequences, not least of which is ending up on some roadside with a bike that just quit. I could use the excuse that I don’t know where to start.

And, besides, the urgency of a lot of what we have been conditioned to think of as essential maintenance is really overblown. For example, oil changes. Are they really necessary at least once a year—or two—or so? I think my son Jesse has a valid point when he says, “Dad, why worry about changing oil every couple of years? After all, oil is already millions of years old to start with.” Gotta admit, he has a point.

Fine, I’ll think about moving maintenance up on the list. Consider doing that item eleven on my to-do list.