Tri-County Tailwind Tour – 1987

Tri-County Tailwind Tour – 1987

On a sunny spring day in 1987 eleven young men met at Rochester’s Silver Lake Fire station to ride with the wind for the eighth Occasional Tri-county Tailwind Tour (TTT). You can read much more about the first tour in my 2015 post, Tri-county Tailwind Tour.

After each ride, I tried to capture the moment by writing about the day. The summary for this ride is longer than most, and it captures much of the excitement and pure joy of enjoying a spring day, with no goals beyond having fun and looking forward to beer and pizza after a successful ride.

One thing made my memories of the day special. A T-shirt. Several years after the ride, Judy and I happened through Urne and stopped to revive some memories at the bar where we ended the ride. We bought a left-over souvenir from their school reunion. I wore the shirt proudly. It is no longer part of my primary wardrobe, but gets used for yard work.

Eighth Occasional Tri-County Tailwind Tour May 9, 1987

Destination: Urne, Wisconsin
Counties: Olmsted, Wabasha, Buffalo (Wisconsin)
Bikers: Don Fearn, Dan Johnson, Guy Havelick, Brian Good, Mike Dvorsky, Bill Fiandt, Lyle Grosbach, Jerry Berding, Tom Walker, Lonnie Olson-Williams, Jeff ?

The weather had not cooperated with the TTT for a couple of years. We remembered the spring ride of 1987, not for rain, but for sunny and warm weather … and this time it felt almost too good. Clear and 65 degree weather greeted us at the fire station at seven AM. Everybody showed up in plenty of time, even the two new guys. They were real biker types, complete with equipment. Jeff had panniers, Lonnie with helmet, high-class biking shorts and all. But they enjoyed riding with all of us pikers. No problem.

The wind had blown all night, so we were ready for a brisk breeze. It let up a little right at seven, but was obviously from the southwest. The veterans were afraid of going to Red Wing again. At least it would be better than Owatonna, a destination the year before; in the rain, in the cold, and the shortest ride ever, not even attaining the required three counties. The westerly component of the wind was stronger this time so we chose to head out Viola road (County 2). It was a big hill to start the day. The weather and wind were perfect, but there was a hint of rain visible in the distance. Continue reading

What did we just do?

What a great winter that was! We had taken up cross-country skiing a couple of years before. On most weekends, and not a few evenings during the week, we’d head out to a trail to enjoy the winter scenery.

Judy and Guy on cross-country skis.

Judy and Guy on cross-country skis.

One of my favorite outings was the “Mantorville” trail. One of the local ski clubs had worked with landowners between the village of Mantorville and the county park just north of Byron, Oxbow Park, to mark off a ski trail. Somehow, they had found a dozen miles of forest, plains, trees, ponds, and hills unmatched for beauty and skiing fun. My friend Bill and I could easily finish the trail in an afternoon.

Winters were more winter-like in the seventies. The snow came earlier, often by Thanksgiving, and stayed later, sometimes skiable into March. The best weeks saw a cold snap mid-week, a couple of inches of fluffy snow on a Thursday afternoon, then a dusting of snow Friday night and brilliant sunshine on Saturday morning. We didn’t even care how cold it was if there was new snow. It wasn’t just the Mantorville trail, either. The trails at Whitewater State Park were even better. Hundreds of square miles of bluffs covered with state forest. Big hills and incredible vistas. Even local golf courses were fun to ski on a dark winter night. We always had someplace to go skiing.

When a long weekend demanded better skiing, we’d head off to someplace exotic, like Grand Marais, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. New vistas overlooking the lake. Fantastic rivers frozen into magic. Restaurants we’d never been to. Those were some great winters.

We’d planned a day of skiing for that Saturday morning in February of 1978. Friends would take our baby boy for the day. Everything was perfect.

Except the weather. It got ugly. Sunny. Warm. It started Friday and didn’t get any better the morning we were supposed to head out to the trails. Warmer by the minute. There would  be nothing but mud in the fields by the time we got going. Oh, that’s disappointing.

Now what? Continue reading

Gentleman Farmer

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

I was a rich man. I had a 10 acre farm with access to the 10 acres next door. We raised horses ranging from a very intelligent reining horse to a wary give-away that nobody wanted. I was part owner in seven airplanes. We had the money to take a plane and go where ever we wanted when we wanted. I had a great home inspection business that was bringing in plenty of money to afford the lifestyle we had become accustomed to. My wife had a new car and I drove a new truck. Life was good. I was truly blessed. I was enjoying building stalls in the barn and putting up fences for the horse boarding business we were getting ready to start.

Continue reading

Flight Support

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

I went to work at Signature Flight Support right after getting back from my Dad’s funeral. Within a few weeks, my son Joel passed away as well. This was the start of a pretty deep depression for me. At the time I didn’t realize how much it affected my work. But now as I look back, I was in pretty bad shape.

I tried hard to make it at Signature. The job was to escort airplanes in and park them on the ramp, then provide whatever services were needed. We serviced everything from the smallest single seat trainer to 747’s. I was trained in proper fuel handling, how to fuel all the different aircraft that came into our facility and how to move airplanes safely. and worked in all kinds of weather. When it was 100 degrees outside or 40 degrees below zero, we worked. Nothing stopped us. The job only paid $10 per hour, but I really enjoyed it because I like being around airplanes.

Eventually, I was promoted to Safety Manager because of my background in Industrial Hygiene and Safety. When I went to St Paul for training, I was told by my instructor that I would be lucky to last six months in the job. He was right. The position was in name only. I was given lots of new duties, but was not given the time to get the work done or a budget to buy what I needed. I was just a line service tech with a different job title. I had no budget for providing training that I thought was needed.

We also didn’t have the equipment or the people we needed to do the job safely. Eventually, we had an accident and damaged an airplane. My friend, JW and I were reprimanded for the accident because we didn’t have the required three people to move the airplane, even though there were only two people on duty and we had no choice. A couple months later, on a very cold, windy and snowing night, there was another airplane movement accident. This time my supervisor and I decided that we needed the Customer Service Agent from the front desk to comply with the rules to have three people to move an airplane. This was Ashley, our boss’ daughter. She was not trained properly to move airplanes, but we did our best to get the job done.

As it turned out, she was clueless and caused us to damage the airplane. I was fired. I was denied unemployment insurance. When I appealed the unemployment decision, my supervisor testified on my behalf but I was still denied the unemployment and my supervisor was terminated also. I don’t know if it was because he stuck up for me or if they just came up with something else. But a year and a half later, Ashley is still there, and we are gone. I went seven months without a paycheck. I had to sell everything I had of any value just to pay my bills and buy gas for the car. Those were bad times.

— Eric H

Starting Over

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

With Anke gone, I started dating again. Heather was one and Brenda was another girl I was dating.

Eventually, I made the wrong choice and let Brenda go and kept dating Heather. When we decided that we should move in together, she said she couldn’t live in my house because that was the house that Anke and I had. Then we couldn’t live in her place because that was where her and her husband had lived. So we sold both places and bought a farm up in Mazeppa.

The only way we could afford it was if we both pitched in to make the payments. Before long, I was making the payments by myself. Then Heather started buying horses before I could even get the fences done. Then she wanted stalls in the barn, a round pen, more fences, and on and on. I was going broke because of those horses. At one point we had seven horses. I was spending over $100 per week in hay alone.

Continue reading

Rocky Marriage

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

Anke and I had a rocky marriage. We married on the hottest day of September and held the reception at our house. It was probably the cheapest wedding ever. After the wedding things in our relationship started to change. I told Anke when we started dating that I didn’t want a relationship with a smoker. She quit for a while. But after we got married she was smoking more than ever. She was drinking a bit, too. But I ignored that. But now that she is gone I realize how much she would drink. Every week when I put out the trash, the recycling container was full of beer cans. Now that she is gone, I don’t even use the recycle bin.

Continue reading

Southeastern Minnesota Flying Club

Southeastern Minnesota Flying Club

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

Joining the Southeastern Minnesota Flying Club made flying a lot cheaper than renting from Rochester Aviation. Now that I had my license, I had lots of plans. I wanted to take all my friends up for a ride, go for $100 hamburger runs and take some flying vacations. One of the first people to fly with my was my friend Tom Weideman.

On our first trip, we flew from Rochester up to Red Wing, then followed the Mississippi river to Winona, then west back to Rochester. That was one of my favorite tours to take people on. Tom also liked to go with me when I went out to the airport to practice touch and go landings. To him, it was like riding a great amusement park ride. I really liked taking someone along that really appreciated the good times.

Eric's favorite airplane

Eric’s favorite airplane

One winter day, Tom and I went for a hamburger run to Rice Lake, Wisconsin. The wind was really strong out of the north, so the flight up there took about an hour and a half. We got a car from the FBO and went for lunch. When we were ready to come back, the airplane had really chilled down because of the below zero wind chill that day. But after we got the engine started, we were off for home. Now we had a really strong tail wind. It only took about 15 minutes to get to the Mississippi, then another 10 to Rochester. Tom couldn’t believe how fast it went.

— Eric H