Growing up with parents that loved to ride must have put the joy of the road into Jill Kruchko. Recently, she went through a Harley riding school, got her license and then turned around and bought her first bike.
As this evolved, Jill talked to her father about a first trip. For most mothers of three, a first trip on the Harley might've meant fifteen miles out and fifteen back. Not for Jill, who as a busy real estate agent was looking for some quality time away. She had other plans and her Dad agreed to join in on the trip.
Jill picked up the phone and called me to inquire about a weekend visit to our home on the backwaters of the Mississippi River. We were excited to hear of their pending visit and by this time Jill had invited her twenty year old son, Tyler along to complete the three generational trio.
Plans were for them to leave from the southeastern corner of Wisconsin on Friday. They would then travel across the lower part of the state to the Mississippi River, landing in Lansing, Iowa, about 1/2 hour south of La Crosse.
As a rider myself, I was excited to have three generations coming out to visit, with each of them on their own bike.
As the date got closer, my excitement rose so much that I decided to meet up with them in Montfort, Wisconsin to enjoy the last 100 miles of the maiden journey of my niece, her father and her son.
That afternoon, I headed out to meet up with them, encountering ominous skies the closer I got to Montfort. Waiting and waiting, I finally called and reached them. The storm had come right along their path and Jill was initiated into not just rain, but also a hail storm as they took cover.
Finally they arrived at a great rider's stop in Montfort, Sheddy's. With good food and friendly staff, we planned on having lunch upon meeting up.
As luck would have it, the radar said otherwise as a larger storm cell approached from the west. From the way it looked, we might have had a chance to arrive home in Lansing before Mother Nature let loose.
As we backroaded it north from Montfort we reached Hwy 60 and turned west, only to see what looked like a twenty mile long wall of rain spanning the horizon about thirty miles ahead.
Trying to bring the crew in for a safe landing, we again headed north as there appeared to be a break in the cloud line.
Turning west after a bit, we travelled about five miles and things changed quickly as a downpour was upon us. Three miles up the hill sat a small place known as Rolling Ground and McCormick's Bar n Grill, but it sure seemed longer than three miles.
Okay, so in review, Jill is 175 miles into her first trip and has already taken in a hailstorm and a healthy downpour. Things had to be looking up after that and they were.
After a half hour break at McCormick's the sun came out and started to dry things off. Our weekend had started, a tad wet, but at least it had started.
That night was spent around the kitchen island, rehashing the good and bad parts of their day's ride.
We spent the next day traveling down the Iowa Great River Road, through parts of Northeast Iowa and back up the Wisconsin side of the river. Jill and her group were given a great route through the Driftless Region.
For those wondering what we mean by the Driftless Region, here goes:
The Driftless area is a region near the Mississippi River that was untouched by the last glacier. This brought on the unique topography of deeply carved river valleys and picturesque bluffs that are home to a great variety of animals.
This terrain makes it necessary for many roads to have sweeping curves and elevation changes as they wind through miles of untouched natural areas. This area provides a superb backdrop for motorcycle riding.
Wandering down to the Guttenberg overlook for a photo op, we then decided to take the Cassville Ferry across to Wisconsin. Crossing the river we looked over to skies that once again were starting to darken, deciding the time was right for rain gear.
Going north from Cassville, we tried to stay along the water for the riding experience it provided. Back in there, the bluffs and the river challenged each other constantly, making for some great riding.
As the 'local tour guide' I came to take a wrong turn at just the right time. This led us into the small burg of Glen Haven, Wisconsin just as the clouds threatened to open up, again. We headed for cover (and lunch) at a place called 'Up the Street' (good food and very welcoming as they watched us scurry in to beat the rain).
The rest of the trip was dry for Jill and her maiden voyage that included her family of riders, spanning three generations.
Before Jill and her crew left to go back across the state of Wisconsin, I asked her a few questions.
First, how was your first week of having a motorcycle license?
"Best trip ever, Uncle Dan."
What ran through your mind on the initial ride across the state?
"First it was fear and excitement all mixed into one. I couldn't wait to ride with three generations of my family."
What tips do you have for a rider on their first trip?
Be alert, but relax and enjoy the ride at the same time (because that's the most important part)." "Oh, and get a windshield!"
What was your favorite part of the trip?
"My favorite part of the ride was all of it! But if I have to pick one thing it was all the curves and beautiful scenery along the route to the Mississippi River and along the river."
Good to know she doesn't mind a little rain or hail!
Photo courtesy of Dan Fisher