Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 84, 7/31/10 - St. Paul, MN

Just the Basics: We spent the day in our motel, sleeping late and catching up on correspondence and such. At 5 we met 9 of Riley's relatives for dinner at Pracna, Minneapolis's oldest restaurant, in the heart of the Old Town area on the East Bank of the Mississippi River, just above St. Anthony's Falls.

In attendance: Aunt Marge and her daughter Ann and Ann's husband Marc, and Aunt Marge's son Jimmy and his wife; Aunt Irene and her husband Jimmy; and Uncle Nathan and his wife Harriet. We had a wonderful time catching up and spent more than 3 hours together. Some highlights: Ann and her husband have cycled in Vietnam and are going cycling in Croatia next month - they also cycled to our dinner from their home about 14 miles away! Cousin Jimmy is an engineer who works for General Mills and was able to tell us how Cheerios are manufactured - what fun! Marge and Riley reminisced about her wedding, which Riley attended when he was about 11 years old. Irene runs a dress shop and makes regular buying trips to New York City and Chicago - who knew that bedbugs are a BIG problem in even the nicest hotels in NYC!! Nathan and Riley had great times talking about making model airplanes together when Riley was a little boy. Irene told a story about making root beer with Nathan in the family attic - the batch blew up! It was a real family dinner - lots of catching up with various family members, politics, education, people's health - the whole nine yards!

After that we took a brief walk in the downtown area - see today's photos.

Today's Photos: (1) The 3rd Street Bridge over the Mississippi River from the east side; (2) The St. Anthony Falls Power Station; (3) View of St. Anthony Falls (named by Father Hennepin) from the Stone Arch Bridge which James Hill built as a railroad bridge but which is now dedicated to the use of pedestrians and cyclists.

Tomorrow: We will still be in St. Paul, spending the afternoon and evening with friends.

For Those Who Want More: That's it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 83, 7/30/10 - Forest Lake to St. Paul, MN

Just the Basics: As planned, this morning we rented a car in Forest Lake, leaving our bikes at the car dealership, and drove to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where Riley grew up. We had already reserved a spot at a Days Inn in St. Paul near where Riley's family lived, and where Becky's mom went to college, and where our friends Kathy, Guillermo and Sonia live - we will be staying with them on Sunday.

We've been busy since we arrived! We:
  • Did some much-needed shopping at REI - among other things, we needed to replace our once bright-yellow safety vests; between the long hours in the sun and frequent washing they had faded to the point of being not-so-very-good safety vests;

  • Had lunch at a Baker's Square - with great pie;

  • Walked through Riley's old neighborhood where we saw the two different places his maternal grandparents lived when he was a child, and the two houses where Riley and his family lived after they moved out of the houseboat on the Mississippi River where he lived as a very young child;

  • Visited the old Carnegie Library which was an important part of Riley's childhood and which was still there and going strong;

  • Went to Langford Park where he learned to ice skate and College Park where he first tried skiing;

  • Went to Hamline University from which Becky's mom graduated in 1940 - we went to the library and found the 1940 yearbook with her senior picture. Becky wasn't sure what year her mom had graduated, but thought the library might have yearbooks so we headed there. The student staffers at the front desk directed her to the yearbooks but weren't sure how extensive the collection was. On the way up to their spot on the 3rd floor she saw the office of the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and went in to see if anyone there could help. It being late in the afternoon on a Friday, there was no-one at the front desk, but Mike Reynolds, an English professor who just became the Associate Dean of Students was working in his office and came out to see what she wanted. He helpfully called the alumni office to see if anyone there could help but they were closed, so he left a message and got Becky's email address so that he could let her know if he got a response on Monday!

  • Riley also went to the Hamline University book store and bought the American history book he's been wanting - A Short History of the United States, by Robert V. Remini;

  • Went to a laundromat (we need to wash every 3-4 days as we carry so little clothing); and

  • Had a great Thai dinner in a little neighborhood place across the street from the laundromat. After great entrees, we shared a dessert new to us - fresh mango with sweet sticky rice YUM!.
Today's Photos: (1) The house Riley's mom lived in after her family came to MN where her dad became a Professor of Entomology and Dept. Chair at the U of MN - they still lived there when Riley was young; and (2) The Mississippi River, as seen in Brainerd, MN - somehow we failed to post it at the time we took it.

Tomorrow: We will be in the Twin Cities until Monday morning, 8/2.

For Those Who Want More: You've gotten what there is for today - it's our traditional Friday Date Night - we'll see you tomorrow!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 82, 7/29/10 - Cambridge to Forest Lake, MN

Just the Basics: Only 30 miles, today. We had some complications getting out of Cambridge, due to road work. We were then on MN 95 - wide shoulders, quite safe, but a busy, noisy freeway - not our favorite riding conditions, but through pretty country - again, mixed agricultural and resort areas.

At around mile 12 we arrived in North Branch, where we stopped for pie and coffee - and had the happy idea of buying an iced tea for one of our water bottles. Once again, lots of road construction and related complexities - but THEN: 18 miles on two consecutive paved off-road multi-use trails - the Sunrise Prairie and the Hardwood Creek Trails, right into Forest Lake, where we are spending the night at the Hitching Post Motel. This is the motel where the final motel scenes in Fargo were filmed! (We are apparently the only folks in the country who haven't seen the movie - we hope to rectify that sometime soon.)

After showers and some Internet research about weather, we walked about a mile into town for a nice dinner at Za's Italian/Minnesota restaurant - a local restaurant on the lake with a focus on fresh, locally-sourced foods and cooking from scratch - a lovely evening.

Today's Photo: We're falling down on the job - no photo again today!

Tomorrow: A diversion! We plan to rent a car here in Forest Lake, leave our bikes here and drive into the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, where Riley grew up. We'll leave the bikes here, drive back on Monday, and pick up the trail where we left off!

This accomplishes several things: (1) Tomorrow there is supposed to be lots of rain and a big thunderstorm - not good for riding, but we can't lay over because we are due to have dinner with Riley's Twin Cities relatives on Saturday; (2) It means we have a way to get around in the Twin Cities - shop, be tourists, see friends and family; (3) It avoids the complexities of biking in a big city that is unfamiliar. = ) = )

For Those Who Want More:
Encounter on the Trail: Today we stopped at a trailside park in the little town of Stacy. There was a very nice sign there which said something like "Stacy Did It's Part" (of sponsoring the trail), with a list of local trail sponsors. Just as we were finishing our peanut butter sandwiches, apple, cookies and iced tea, another cyclist came up. We exchanged the usual stories and discussed the trail ahead - he was able to give us very detailed instructions for finding our motel. He also contributed a story for our growing collection of deer stories - see They're Not All Bambi, below!

Something We Keep Forgetting to Mention: Several days ago, on our way to Father Hennepin State Park we stopped to share a banana split at the Dairy Queen near Onamia. Riley struck up a conversation with another couple - they were riding Harleys. We talked about a variety of things, here are some highlights: (1) Becky noted that we like to have a banana split on really hot riding days - the man observed that he thought it was probably mandatory! (Another guest, at the counter when Becky ordered, had helpfully contributed the point that banana splits would be loaded with potassium.) (2) They knew about the bike trail a bit further on with which we wanted to connect, and told us how to do so. (3) They serve on a sort of Harley honor guard for veterans' memorials. (4) We share an interest in signs with poor grammar and spelling - a recent favorite of theirs was in a pizza parlor which offered "Pictures of Beer" for $1 if you bought a pizza. They said that they are thinking they might go into the business of selling such pictures and make a real killing . . . .

They're Not all Bambi! (1) Our recent story of the fawns we saw elicited an email from Becky's sister Sarah, reporting about a recent encounter between one of their neighbors and a deer. Their neighbor was out walking the dog when a deer leaped out of the brush and crashed into her - landing on the woman before she realized what was happening. She found herself lying on the road under an unconscious deer - it took her five minutes of very concentrated effort to shove it off and crawl to the curb to call a family member to come pick her up - she had a broken foot! The deer eventually stood up and limped away to an unknown future.

(2) This reminded us of an experience our friend Nick had some time back. He's a runner and was in a race which included a trail through woods. A deer leaped out and crashed into him, knocking him out; he ended up in the hospital, quite seriously injured. Yikes!

(3) The cyclist we met today contributes this story: His brother is a bow hunter and was hunting one day. He saw 2 does ahead and prepared to shoot - when a wild turkey came up behind him and bit him in the butt! He swung wildly behind himself at whatever had bitten him and knocked out the turkey - he assumed he had killed it. The deer, of course, took off. He threw the turkey in the back of his truck, thinking to have at least something to show for his day. When he got home and went to get it out of the truck, it had revived and immediately escaped - it lived around the neighborhood for at least a year following this incident!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 81, 7/28/10 - Isle to Cambridge, MN

Just the Basics: 53 miles. The first 24 required pretty focused biking - lots of traffic and not-too-wide shoulders. The rest of the day we were either on a couple of lightly traveled rural roads or on bigger roads with great shoulders. We rode through lots of woodsy-meadowy resort areas and some agricultural areas - cows and corn. We had a good lunch at McBee's Bar at Lake Ann - sat on an outside patio overlooking the lake and watched Canada geese. We also think we saw a pair of sandhill cranes in a meadow! Tonight we're at The Crossroads Inn in Cambridge.

Photos: Nope.

Tomorrow: About 30 miles total. First, about 12 on MN 95 to North Branch, then we hop onto The Sunrise Prairie Trail (off-road & paved) and then about 18 miles on the trail to Forest Lake.

For Those Who Want More:
Rain and Raccoons: We're really glad we spent a second day in Father Hennepin State Park, even though the raccoons got into our food again and ate a banana and tried to get the orange, apples and peanut butter, all of which we had to discard due to evidence of some success getting at them through plastic bags - it would appear they can work zippers!

So - why are we glad? Because in the late afternoon there were HUGE windstorms (68 mph) south of there (right where we would have been headed) and a HUGE rainstorm again and more rain later in the night. We ended up eating pizza at a bar in town instead of cold food in our tent because the storm caught us in town. Our drowned-rat appearance occasioned considerable comment in the bar and we'd only walked a couple of blocks from the store in the rain; imagine how we'd have looked if we'd walked the 1 1/2 miles to camp in that downpour!

Campfire & Necco Skybars: It cleared up while we were eating dinner, so on our way back to our campsite we bought firewood at the ranger station and had a campfire and ate our yummy Skybars, and Riley told Becky a wonderful story about a little bear living near Apgar Village in Glacier and how he learned to ride a bike - might even have been the little bear we ourselves saw there on this trip. More rain and heavy winds during the night.

Wet Stuff: This morning we spent about 1 1/2 hours hand-drying the tent and other stuff, and packing up, then into town for oatmeal & whole wheat toast at a great coffee house where they actually recycle plastic drink cups (iced coffee, smoothies, etc.) - Yay! Tonight there's a bit of a dank smell if you stand near the bikes in our motel room, but we think we've pretty much recovered from our rainy camping times. = ) = )

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 80, 7/27/10 - Fr. Hennepin State Park, MN

Just the Basics: 0 miles of biking and quite a bit of walking. For the 2nd time today, Becky is sitting in the library in the little town of Isle, MN, just outside Father Hennepin State Park and writing today's blog - which may be pretty brief. Riley is back in camp drying stuff off with paper towels and putting it away. He'll then walk back to town with our 3 sopped hand towels (1 each for drying us when showering in camp and one for drying the tent) so we can wash & dry 'em to use on the tent, etc. tomorrow!

Photo of the Day: Haven't got one.

Tomorrow: About 54 miles to Cambridge, where we have a motel reservation.

For Those Who Want More:

It's Raining, It's Pouring:
  • Got in around 7 last night and rushed to set up camp and fix dinner and wash dishes. YUM! (You heard about our dinner yesterday.)
  • Showered - ahhh!

  • For once in our whole history of camping we decided to leave out the dishes, towels, stove, and a few other things, leave the panniers on the bikes instead of putting them in the 2 little vestibules by the tent and escape the mosquitoes by tucking in.
  • Bad decisions.
  • A skunk and then a raccoon (who visited at least 2 times) managed to find the bread inside an incompletely closed pannier and ate all our bread and a little package of peanut butter crackers - luckily, our container of cookies was in the tent. Riley got up and scared our visitors off at least 3 times, but the damage was done.
  • Starting sometime between 5 and 6 a.m. a TREMENDOUS thunderstorm began and lasted until 10 a.m. or so! More thunder, for longer times, than either of us recall ever experiencing. Lightning. LOTS OF RAIN! Amazingly, we stayed dry in our wonderful tent but the fly that covers it got drenched as did the outsides of our panniers and all the cooking-related stuff we'd left on the table, and our biking vests which were hung on Becky's handlebars and our only 3 towels.
  • We turned on the computer inside the tent and began looking for car rentals and taxis between here and St. Paul - we have arranged to meet some of Riley's aunts and uncles for dinner on Saturday in St. Paul so we don't have a lot of flexibility for dealing with storms.
  • Eventually, rain or not, we had to get to the restrooms. We dressed and Becky dashed out for our raincoats and off we went. We then added our rain pants, made sure all our panniers were well covered and closed (yes, I know, but better late than never?), and headed for the park office and town.
  • We paid for another day in our soggy camp, picked up a MN biking magazine and walked into town, went to breakfast, and then to the library where Riley worked on figuring out a way to get us to the Twin Cities by Saturday - assuming the weather is manageable; the fall-back will be one of those taxi and/or car rental places we found on the Internet this morning. The bike magazine revealed that a trail on our MN biking map has been extended since the map was printed, so we are able to go a bit more quickly than we'd figured. The next 3 days will be something like 55 miles, 30 miles, and 40-some miles; if we can do that (wind, weather and road conditions can all affect us favorably or unfavorably) we should make it OK.
  • Hmmm . . . . .
Other Notes:
  • Yesterday evening as we biked along the Soo Line Trail near the end of our biking day, a doe leapt across the path ahead of us. Shortly after that, 2 fawns emerged from the same area and started down the trail after us, maybe 50 feet behind us - instead of across after the doe which we assume was their mom. We stopped and eventually they turned around and went back into the woods by the trail. We left, figuring they'd sort it out more easily without our presence.

  • Father Hennepin State Park is on the southern shores of Lake Mille Lacs. He was an early explorer (1680) in this area. Mille Lacs is huge and is surrounded by very popular resort areas.

  • Tonight we plan to eat in camp again - probably cheese sandwiches, canned pears, and Sky Bar candy bars - a product of the Necco company (remember Necco Wafers), which we had never seen before - according to the label it's 4 little pockets of chocolate, each with a different filling - caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge! Stay tuned.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 79, 7/26/10 - Baxter/Brainerd to Father Hennepin State Park, MN

Just the Basics: 56 miles, mostly on very busy roads but with very good shoulders. 10 of the last 12 miles were on the Soo Line paved, off-road multi-use bike trail into Isle, MN - a very nice way to finish the day. We've had a nice camping evening, complete with hot showers and flush toilets, and a great dinner: 2 ears of corn on the cob each, 1/2 can each of Bush's homestyle chili con carne, raisin bread, and peanut butter cookies. Sadly, the mosquitoes have driven us into the tent and we are going to make this short - hope it can "publish" from inside the tent!

Tomorrow: 46-54 miles or so, depending on where we spend the night. Depending on the weather, we will either camp in a private campground not far from Cambridge or take a motel in Cambridge.

We'll fill in the rest of the day when conditions are more favorable for blogging!

Smiles - R & B

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 78, 7/25/10 - Baxter, MN

Just the Basics: Holding in place today in Baxter. We worked on routing and scheduling - and discovered that we need to make about 60 more miles than we thought to reach Minneapolis-St. Paul in time to have dinner with some of Riley's aunts and uncles on Saturday. YIKES! We'll need to make tracks this week and may have less time for blogging.

Otherwise we worked on finances and such, took a long walk in a fruitless search for the NY Times, and had a picnic lunch in our room and a lovely pizza (bleu cheese, grapes and figs!!) at the Prairie Bay Restaurant for dinner.

Tomorrow: About 50 miles to Father Hennipin State Park, where we'll camp. We may not be able to access the Internet there, in which case we may not be able to blog on the 26h. The next day will also be long and probably involve both a thunderstorm and camping, so it may be 2 days before we're back online.

No Pictures Today.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 77, 7/24/10 - Pine River to Baxter/Brainerd, MN

Just the Basics: This is the end of our 11th week on the road - it's sort of hard to believe. In some ways it feels like a very short time - in other ways it has become a way of life. 33 miles today - and lots of walking in Baxter; 237 miles for the week; 2271 for the trip! This puts us enough over 200/week to feel that we are on target in terms of a steady movement eastward - the extra 71 miles sort of "erase" side-trips in towns, etc.

We are at a Super 8 in Baxter and will layover here tomorrow (7/25), as well, to avoid biking in the Mille Lacs resort area on a Sunday.

Sadly, we are at the end of the wonderful Paul Bunyan State Multi-Use Trail. It has been a positive delight! Not just because it is paved and off road and because of all the interesting places we've visited and folks we have met, but also because of the astounding natural beauty. Except for the brief sections in the small towns along the way, the Trail is primarily through the forest, with some agricultural areas interspersed - see Nature Notes, below.

If it is possible to have a vacation while on such an extended vacation - today felt like that! We slept until nearly 8, ate a light motel breakfast and headed out. 9 miles later we made an early stop in Pequot Lakes in our never-ending search for pie (we weren't sure if there were any eats ahead). Turned out to be a great little resort town - we strolled around, then went to the Tiki restaurant, still thinking pie, and ended up splitting a lovely bowl of Hungarian mushroom soup (think stroganoff in a bowl) and a delicious chicken cashew croissant sandwich on a lovely screened-in porch.

A few miles later we passed through Nisswa and Becky spotted the Historic Pioneer Village Museum and suggested another stop (see Nisswa's Historic Pioneer Village Museum, below). Afterwards we noticed an A &W across the street and shared a root beer float - sadly, a sign announced that today they would be using paper cups, not the traditional glass mugs we remember from our childhoods - perhaps they were too busy to manage the dishwashing; it is the height of the tourist season is this beautiful Northwoods lakes area.

An hour or more later we were on the trail again, with a stop for water in Merrifield and then a bit of wandering around in Baxter, trying to find our motel - but we were still checked in before 4 p.m. After a shower, we set out to find Book World, a big bookstore a mile or so down the road. A sudden drenching shower soaked us and we took refuge in a diner for hot tea - and, of course, pie (yummy rhubarb custard)! Then on to the bookstore.

We failed to find what we sought - a good, readable, fairly brief general history of the United States - has anyone got a favorite to suggest? Reading about Lewis & Clark in Ambrose's Undaunted Courage; then Lewis & Clark Through Indian Eyes; then These Thousand Hills by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., a fictionalized account of settling MT; and now Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth about the Norwegian immigrants who helped settle the Dakotas has got us wishing we remembered more American history - the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Northwest Ordinance - you get the idea! Since we couldn't find such a book, we bought today's paper, some maps and this week's Economist. Riley has returned to reading Half the Sky on our Kindle, which he never finished, and Becky has just started Giants in the Earth, and we'll look for a history book in the Twin Cities.

Then a leisurely dinner at Grizzly's - a Northwest chain we've come to know and like - and back to the motel to blog and read! Sound like vacation to you?

Today's Photo: We didn't take any, but are posting one we took in Hitterdal on July 17th - we were on our way back to the B & B after our visit to the Erickson farm and there was a tornado watch - Wanda said the sky had "wind clouds" - and also told us how to get into the B & B's storm cellar, if the occasion arose!

Tomorrow: Lay-over day here in Baxter.

For Those Who Want More:
Nisswa's Historic Pioneer Village Museum: This is a great place - we've been in lots of museums of this sort on our trip - indeed, Riley later confessed that when Becky proposed stopping he secretly thought "I've seen all the cream separators I need to see!" - but this one stands out! There's a very nice little History Center, and a restored train station and caboose across the street. The Village includes a one-room schoolhouse, a livery stable full of a variety of wagons and cars and such, a bank, Swedish, Norwegian & German homesteader's homes and a more generic homestead house. The signage is clear and easy to read, the rooms are not over cluttered - lots of detail and interesting items, but it's also possible to actually imagine real people living there - et cetera; a real treat and we had a good time chatting with volunteer staff, as well.

Encounters on the Trail: We had a nice long conversation with another cycling couple about our age - Betsy and Glen, who live near the Twin Cities but are vacationing up here. Glen agreed that our planned route back to the Adventure Cycling route made sense and we had a generally good time sharing cycling stories. Many people cycle on the Paul Bunyan Trail and it is not uncommon for folks to be making loop trips and to pass us 2x in a day as they go back and forth - often saying "Hi, Again" or even "We saw you 2 days ago in . . . !"

Nature Notes: The Northwoods are amazing. We ride past lake after lake and slough after slough, and cross wonderful rivers, and pass fields of corn, meadows with cows, little resort towns, and, most of all, bike through mile after mile of mixed forest and wildflowers. Today we have especially noticed the oak trees. We're also trying to learn new flowers: we can definitely identify Common Mullein, Birds-Foot Trefoil, and White Campion, now, and continue to see the milkweeds and clovers and cone flowers we loved on the prairie - and a host of others we're hoping to pin down! We also see squirrels and chipmunks, an occasional deer and many songbirds and gulls.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 76, 7/23/10 - Walker to Pine River, MN

Just the Basics: 46 miles on the Paul Bunyan off-road, paved, multi-use trail! = ) = ) There were 8-10 very hilly miles near the beginning, but it was all fun and beautiful. The only fly in the ointment was a bee in the helmet - Riley's - it stung him on the top of his head!! = ( = (

BIG NEWS: Last night we decided to change our route; we are no longer planning a side trip up WI, across Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and over the Straits of Mackinac to Cheboygan, MI, where Becky spent 4 years of her childhood - from about age 4 to almost 9. She began looking at information online and realized there wasn't much chance of her finding the things she remembered - she never returned after the family moved away. We realized that by not making a side trip which might turn out to not have much special content, we could shave 400 miles off our trip (2 weeks of riding) and greatly increase the likelihood of getting to Bar Harbor, ME. As we get closer to ME, we realize how much we would REALLY like to actually get there!

Health Report: Knees, et cetera all doing fine, and both bee stings are just minor annoyances. Becky's finger is almost healed and both bandaging and splinting were discontinued last night. The finger is a bit stiff and ouchy - there was probably some muscle and tendon damage along with the laceration - but it works and it's great to have full use of her hand again.

Today's Pictures: (1) Our trail through the forest; (2) Paul Bunyan's Sweetie, Lucette, and Riley's Sweetie, Becky (Lucette hails from Hackensack, MN, which we visited today); (3) Huge cubes of crushed aluminum at a recycling center we passed - they gleamed in the sun like a wall made of jewels; this picture doesn't do them justice!

Tomorrow: We go only about 31 miles, to Brainerd/Baxter, MN, where we will take a layover day to avoid weekend traffic in the Mille Lacs area. We'll be at the Super 8 in Baxter Saturday and Sunday nights.

Tonight: It's Friday, our traditional date night, so we're going to sign off and enjoy showers, finishing the laundry, drinking the bottle of wine we're chilling in the motel sink and watching a rainy thunderstorm outside our window while playing Scrabble - catch ya tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Days 74 & 75, 7/21/10 - Bimidji to Walker, MN

Just the Basics:
7/22/10 - Special Note for Regular Readers: We have finally had a really good Internet connection and the time to update our report on our time in Fargo and Hitterdal (Days 69 & 70) - if you have time to check out that "re-post," we think you'll enjoy it.

We are laying over in Walker today and will be back later this afternoon with any updates and to let folks know where we'll be tomorrow night. Smiles! R & B = ) = )

7/22/10 Evening Update: Friday night we'll be in a Rodeway Inn in Pine River, MN. Saturday and Sunday nights we'll be in the Super 8 in Baxter, near Brainerd at the end of the Paul Bunyan Trail.

7/21/10: 36 glorious miles on paved, off road bike trail, mostly with VERY gentle relief. What's more, we have 2 more days on it still to come! See MN Bike Trails, below.

Aside from discovering this great trail system that will take us from Bemidji to Brainerd over the next 2 riding days, today's other "big events" were unfortunate animal encounters: (1) Becky got a bee sting on her left cheek - it's fine: and (2) Becky and a dog collided on the bike path. The dog was running around a biking family (the owners) and charged at Riley. We both slowed and Becky fell back. The owners called to the dog and assured us it did not pose any threat. We proceeded and suddenly the dog dashed in front of Becky. Not sure who hit whom but Becky somehow managed to stay up and then came to a stop. The family with the dog cycled off, with the man saying "We have to keep him off the trail." End of story. YIKES!!

After biking into town to the Bimidji Visitor Center Wednesday morning (before bee and dog incidents on the trail) we felt so happy and relaxed about the next few days of riding (See MN Bike Trails, below.) that we stopped in a little cafe we'd noticed yesterday and shared a coffee and a piece of apple crisp. We also wanted to ask about "Minnesota Hot Dish," advertised in their windows - turns out it's just any kind of casserole; they offer one with wild rice, one labeled Sloppy Joe, and so on. While we were there, Riley talked to another patron who is going to ride in Iowa's Ragbrai Ride next week.

Lunch in Laporte is described below, as well as various encounters on the trail. We had dinner at a pizza place in town recommended by a couple whom we met on the trail.

Tonight we're at the AmericInn Motel in Walker; we'll also be here tomorrow night.

Today's Photo: Haven't got one

Tomorrow: Layover Day here in Walker - rain expected and the three days prior to this one were quite hilly, so Becky's left knee would appreciate a rest. Furthermore, on our present trajectory we have only 2 riding days before we head along the northern shore of Lake Mille Lacs to connect with the Adventure Cycling route we had been following earlier, which will take us down the eastern side of MN to the Twin Cities. We don't want to ride in that area on the weekend - it is full of resorts - so will take a layover day here and possibly a 2nd one in Brainerd.

Update, Friday, 7/23:

For Those Who Want More:
MN Bike Trails: The mail we picked up in Bimidji included bike maps and info for MN and WI. Using the MN bike map and a Bimidji map we'd gotten at the Visitors' Center, we saw that we could depart from our Adventure Cycling route and cycle on the off-road, paved Paul Bunyan Trail from Hackensack to Brainerd in a couple of days and then head out to Malmo and rejoin the Adventure Cycling route.

We also saw that possibly we could get at least part of the way to Hackensack on a bike trail that appeared to go south from Bimidji. We decided to check with the Visitor Center this a.m. - GOOD CALL. Turns out we could go all the way on trail from Bimidji to Brainerd - 3 days of riding!

The trail has been great - winding mainly through mixed forest, some farmland, and a couple of tiny towns, with flower-strewn trail borders.

Lunch at the Laporte General Store: We had a little trouble connecting between the Bimidji town trail and the Paul Bunyan Trail and stopped at a bank to see if they could straighten us out. In combination with what we'd heard at the Visitors' Center and from some cyclists who were at the Center, they did confirm that we were headed the right way.

They also suggested we stop at the grocery store in Laporte for lunch. Later we met a cycling couple (the teachers described below) who seconded this recommendation - so we stopped and had the biggest, messiest, most delicious cheeseburgers you can imagine, washed down with V-8. They also had a box for donations for the local food bank so we bought some peanut butter and dried beans for that, which led to a nice conversation with the cashier.

Encounters on the Trail: We understand that this section of trail was only paved within the last year, but it is very well used and we ran into lots of folks with whom we talked. Here are three notable examples:

* A couple about our age from AZ. They cycle every summer - someplace cooler than AZ! This year they are doing 2 months on MN bike trails. They highly recommended the trail between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC - maybe next summer? We think their names are Dick and Joan but aren't certain. They mentioned that they had spent last night at the cabin of some friends near Walker.

* A Couple on a Tandem w/a Toddler in a Trailer: These folks caught up with us right about the time of Becky's crash with the dog. Turns out they were the friends with the cabin where Dick & Joan (?) had spent last night! We rode along together, talking about biking. They've done the Ragbrai several times - the man has done it 11 times, we think he said! They suggested the pizza place where we had dinner and said we might see them there - sadly, we didn't. They also asked if we had a place to stay, recommended the AmericInn (where we, in fact, already had a reservation) and said if we didn't have a place we were welcome to stay in their camper which is parked beside their cabin!

* Two Teachers: There's a rest stop in the tiny town of Guthrie - which is where Becky got the bee sting. Another couple had also stopped and were eating their snack at the next picnic table while we had our orange and molasses cookies. Turns out they cycle a lot, and agreed with a suggestion we'd gotten from another local about how to reconnect with our Adventure Cycling route when the Paul Bunyan Trail ends at Brainerd. We chatted for a while. They are both teachers - she teaches g. 1 at a school near Cass Lake where there is a lot of poverty; the Boys and Girls Club is struggling to provide an after-school program there - this subject came up when they asked what we did. The man teaches art to grades 7-12 - really nice folks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 73, 7/20/10 - Lake Itasca to Bimidji, MN

UPDATE, 7/21/10! Route Change for Today: The mail we picked up yesterday included a set of bike maps for Minnesota. We found a long, paved, off-road bike trail between Hackensack and Brainerd (The Paul Bunyan State Trail), which we can take to shorten our route to Minneapolis/St. Paul and are re-routing to take advantage of that! We expect to spend the night in the town of Walker, MN on the shores of Leech Lake.

Just the Basics
: 30 miles to Bimidji and another 7 around town. We picked up our 1st General Delivery mail, visited Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, and went back to the edge of town to our Super 8 Motel - where we met a Dutch couple riding from Denver to Toronto. They said we were the 1st cycling couple they had met on their journey - lots of singles, groups, etc., but no couples. Actually, counting them, we have only met 6 - 4 cycling as just couples, Team DIZ - parents and 9 year old triplets, and a couple that was part of a group of 9.

This was a pretty hilly day - although not actually as hilly as we'd feared from the riding notes on our Adventure Cycling map!

We had a nice lunch in the tiny town of Becida, where we had a conversation with two guys at the bar - one of whom was a deputy sheriff and one of whom is a 19 year old working for a road-resurfacing company. They suggested a modification of our route which worked out very well.

We are coming into wild rice country. According to our Adventure Cycling map, a successful Indian rice-gathering pair can harvest as much as 300 pounds in 3 hours, yielding 150 pounds of processed rice, but the development of a new, hardy, machine-harvestable strain, now grown in places like California, has reduced the price from $20/lb in the early 1970s to $2/pound today. This has had an obvious impact on Native American economics, but wild rice is still a staple food and also has ceremonial and sacred importance for tribal peoples.

Today's Photos: (1) The Mississippi, as it appeared in one of several crossings which we made today; (2) Becky with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bimidji; and (3) Riley with Paul's ax in the Bimidji Visitor's Center.

Tomorrow: 40 miles east to Denny's Resort in Bena, where we will probably be camping. There is some kind of tournament in the area; the 1st place we called to try to get a room was full; the 2nd place has yet to return our call - and that's all there is!

For Those Who Want More: No more today!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 72, 7/19/10 - Ice Cracking Lake to Lake Atasca, MN

Just the Basics: 40 hilly miles through more beautiful country; riding conditions fine, albeit less idyllic than yesterday! We have a nice dinner underway, so just a few quick highlights for now!

Bert's Cabins: We're at Bert's Cabins. Our hosts are Pat and Dave Evenwoll - Pat's dad opened Bert's Cabins in 1939 - and it's very nice. There are 12 log cabins accommodating 2-8 folks; 5 are winterized. Pat says that when her Dad started the place most of the folks who stayed here were hikers, arriving on foot! We are the second cyclists to stay here this year.

Atasca State Park: We are just outside Atasca State Park where we visited the Headwaters of the Mississippi, a real highlight for both of us. At this point the Mississippi is less than 3 feet deep and about 20 feet wide - we waded across it and also walked on a log across it - the log had been planed to make a footbridge! Riley and his family had visited there when he was a child and he called his sister Dawn from there today.

Dinner: We bought a package of wild rice pilaf (wild rice, cranberries, barley & seasonings) at the park headquarters gift shop and already had a package of wild smoked salmon, and Riley just got back from the local store with a 500 ml box of wine, a can of green beans, and a package of two chocolate cupcakes - we also have a can of citrus salad. YUM!

Farming: Saw some farms today, mixed in with the Big Woods: Corn, beans, wheat, potatoes - and big irrigation rigs like we see in the Tri-Cities.

Photos: (1) Riley at the Headwaters of the Mississippi; (2) Becky Wading Across the Mississippi (see below); and (3) Lake Itasca from Peace Pipe Overlook

Tomorrow: About 30 miles to Bemidji, where we'll hope to find our first mail - forwarded to us at General Delivery by our friend Aisling, who's monitoring our mail for us at home!

For Those Who Want More: That's it - signing off for dinner! = ) = )

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 71, 7/18/10 - Hitterdal to Ice Cracking Lake, MN

Just the Basics: 44 great miles of the sort we dreamed of when we began to imagine this trip! Hilly - but not too hilly. Wide, well-paved country roads - no shoulders, but not much traffic, either. Wind mostly at our backs - just enough time when it was in our faces or whacking our sides to make us appreciate how nice it was to have it at our backs. Wonderful farm country, followed by lake after lake and, ultimately, woodlands.

We're at Ice Cracking Lodge, right on the lake, in a wood-paneled two-bedroom "cabin" (more like a little triplex) with a bath, a kitchen, a living room and a porch. They don't normally rent for less than a week, but owners Dick and Etta LeSage apparently make an exception for cyclists - and even knocked the price down a bit. The only fly in the ointment is that we had expected a place to get groceries and it turned out the nearest place is 16 miles from here, so we'll eat at the bar across the way tonight. Tomorrow we'll have instant oatmeal with fruit (but no milk) and some of our Starbucks instant coffee and the 2 bran muffins we saved from this morning's breakfast - not bad at all!

No Photos Today:

Tomorrow: About 40 miles to Bert's Cabins in Lake Itaska. According to our map we can get groceries in Itaska State Park and possibly at a couple of convenience store/gas station sorts of places a bit farther on.

For Those Who Want More:

Today's Hero: The clerk at the Richwood General Store. We stopped for lunch at the Burger Barn across the street and Becky went to the store to buy postcards and a Sunday paper. She and the clerk chatted about the ride, of course. After lunch we headed out along the road, watching for the turn we thought was coming up. Meanwhile, someone in a blue pick-up passed us and then pulled off the road. When we reached the truck the driver was outside, waiting for us. It was the clerk from the General Store! Turned out we should have turned right there by the store! He'd seen us start out the wrong way and rushed out to catch us and set us straight!!

Nature Notes:

  • We have left behind the dry plains and the fertile Red River Valley and are now in the Big Woods of Minnesota!
  • We have been seeing many fields of sugar beets; also beans and corn for livestock feed, ethanol, or processed foods (think high fructose corn syrup?). We understand there's not much sweet corn except in home gardens.
  • We are still seeing many of the same plants, but much more owl clover, a couple of new flowers we'll try to ID, and lots of water lilies - some with the traditional cup-like yellow flowers and others with blossoms like white spider mums.
  • We keep forgetting to mention that recently we saw another fox and have seen 2 young deer - largish, but still with a fawn's spots, and, in each case, running along the edge of a field, apparently alone.
  • Today we have seen numerous flocks of Canada Geese and quite a few goslings - more than 3 months after we started seeing goslings in the Tri-Cities!
  • Today we saw a mystery animal - bigger than a house cat but smaller than a bobcat, and we think it had some red around the face - we'll try to figure it out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Days 69 & 70, 7/16 & 17/10 - Fargo, ND to Hitterdal, MN

Just the Basics: NOTE on 7/22/10: We had a GREAT time in Hitterdal and really wanted to do it justice - but struggled with Internet connections in recent days. Finally, we've gotten it done today on our layover day in Walker, MN. Enjoy!

7/16: 40 miles today, 225 for the week so far, and 2033 for the trip, putting us 33 miles over our target of 200/week. We had a great day and will plan to tell you all about it later - assuming our Internet connection holds. We're at a lovely B and B in the tiny (pop 201) town of Hitterdal and plan to stay here tomorrow, too, so should have time to catch up on our blogging tomorrow.

This is the only lodging available between Fargo/Moorhead and a lakes region about another 40 miles from here! Right now we'd like to shower and get to the local bar for dinner (the only game in town except for pizza at the convenience store).

We'll be back later - possibly tonight!

Today's Photo: (1) Carl & Wanda Erickson, owners of the Heritage Rose B & B in Hitterdal (218-962-3425 0r 701-701-261-4144). (2) MN's 2009 Barn of the Year; a 98 year-old beauty built by Carl's grandfather and lovingly restored by the family a few years ago; (3) A juggler at the Fargo Street Fair

Sunday, 7/18: About 40 miles to Ice Cracking Lodge at - where else? - Ice Cracking Lake!

For Those Who Want More:

Scheels AllSports, Fargo: We both needed new rear bike tires - we'd replaced our worn-out ones but had to make-do with fairly light-weight tires, since that was all we could find when we needed 'em. Riley had called ahead to bike shops in Fargo and found what we wanted at Scheels so we'd picked our motel in Fargo based on proximity to Scheels and were there bright and early on the 16th. What an amazing store! It is HUGE and really does seem to cover all sports, as well as having a large L.L. Bean sort of section devoted to upscale "Northwest Cabin Decor" sort of stuff. It's so big the manager gets around on a Segway!

More than that, it has wonderful staff - everyone was super helpful. The bikes were quickly re-tired, they cleaned the chains, they did a great job of rolling up the tires they removed (for use as spares) and using cable ties to make them very compact for easy storage in our panniers. They had no small bottles of chain cleaner for sale - so they poured some into a small bottle and provided it for free. When the bikes were ready, they came and found us in the store. They told us about a local summerfest we might want to see - in fact, the guy who knew about it was on the phone as we were leaving the bike area, but when he got off the phone the bike manager got the details and came and found us at the check-out stand to tell us. You get the idea!

The Fargo Street Fair: After our great time at Scheels we went on to Target for a bunch of routine shopping, then packed up and headed for Fargo's famous street fair downtown. We wandered around, watched a juggler (see photos), saw lots of craft booths and ate corn dogs and roasted corn and a Scandinavian pastry that sort of reminded us of flour tortillas with butter, sugar and cinnamon -can't remember the name right now! We also drank a TON of lemonade, as it was really hot.

We finally left for the ride to Hitterdal around 3 p.m.!

The Heritage Road B & B: We've already given contact info for this great B & B, but here are some more details. It's located in an old building on the main street in Hitterdal. The owners, Wanda and Carl Erickson, bought the building a few years ago, tore down pretty much everything but the exterior walls, and started over. They did all the work themselves. There are 2 charming bedrooms, each with a private bath (one has a fireplace!), and a very nice little kitchen between them - Carl and Wanda live on their farm out of town, so come to the B & B in the morning to prepare breakfast for their guests, so they need a real kitchen; they also have a laundry alcove to avoid needing to lug laundry back and forth. Wanda has decorated it beautifully, with lots of Scandinavian touches - her family is Norwegian and there are photos on the walls which Wanda took of Norway on hers and Carl's visits there.

Liz and Jerry: Liz and Jerry were the guests in the other bedroom the 1st night we were there. They had come to attend the county fair - county fairs are their hobby. They live in Wright County and in the Wright County Fair Liz enters: flowers, vegetables, canned goods, needlework - and dozens of baked goods - every year. She also assists the judges! And no, she is not a full-time housewife, she works full-time in Customer Service for Cargill - absolutely amazing! Jerry has been in construction all his life, primarily carpentry, and is one of the many Americans suffering in this recession. He lost his job and is still looking - even the train-for-a-new-career slots all seem to have waiting lists. In the meantime, he volunteers for the church, keeps the home fires burning, and has even been on a mission trip to the Philippines to build houses there - so many people like Jerry are still struggling; somehow, the recovery efforts need to reach them, not just Wall Street folks.

Wanda and Carl Erickson: We were privileged to spend quite a bit of time with the Ericksons - we saw them at breakfast, of course, and met Wanda's sister and her friend who were staying with them. On Saturday, like Liz and Jerry, they also went to the Fair, but before they left after breakfast they suggested that we bike out to the farm in the afternoon if we'd like to see the barn and Wanda's flower gardens. We really wanted to go but were afraid we'd be imposing too much - but around 3 Wanda called and said that they were back from the Fair and Carl was putting the coffee on. She said they'd realized it would be a lot of biking for us to come out and the weather was threatening - so she was going to come get us if we'd like to come! We happily accepted and were soon on our way. We can't possibly give a full report on the visit, but here are some highlights:

* The Farm: Carl's grandfather homesteaded the farm - the first winter he and his wife, 2 kids and 2 cows lived in a dugout, where their 3rd child was born. The next year they built the center portion of the big house where Carl and Wanda live today.

* The Barn: His grandfather and neighbors built the barn - it's huge and beautifully made, with carefully mortised joints, the use of wooden pegs in some parts, and so on. Before the barn was assembled, Carl's grandfather had carefully cut all the components and laid them out in the order that they would be needed. The cows lived in a basement floor, with a main floor and then a hay loft above. They were dairy farmers.

At Carl's mother's funeral some years ago, the family decided to fix up the barn and gathered the next summer to re-paint and repair it. Wanda also took many wonderful pictures of it and they entered it in Minnesota's 2009 Barn of the Year contest - part of an effort to preserve the farming heritage of the state. They won 1st place and the barn was featured on the cover and inside of the annual calendar produced as part of the contest; there is a particularly nice photo Wanda took of the barn through a cobweb covered with dew.

* Wanda's Gardens: Wanda has scattered many flowerbeds across the yard, with lovely plantings and whimsical decorations - a new favorite approach involves placing assemblages of "found" items (especially old glass dishes) on top of copper stakes and letting them weather in the sun, producing lovely, bronzed glass. One flower bed incorporated an old bathtub, and the head and foot ends of an old iron crib Wanda found in someone's trash have found new life as supports for climbing vines. Lovely.

* Farming Childhoods: Carl grew up on the farm, starting to milk and drive the tractor at age 6! He told a wonderful story about an uncle coming up to try to find someone to drive a tractor pulling something as he followed behind - planting, maybe? No men were available, so Carl's Dad said he could take 6 year old Carl to do it - which he did!

* The House: Over the years the family added to the house and Carl and Wanda have done lots of work on it - it is lovely and welcoming. Recent projects include winterizing what was once a screened-in porch to make a lovely, year-round sunroom, and doing a great renovation of a bathroom - including building a special alcove for a wonderful old oak dresser too big to get up the stairs into a bedroom. They have also built a lovely, airy gazebo outside; we sat there and ate cake and ice cream left over from Carl and Wanda's recent 50th anniversary celebration and drank lots of coffee and talked and talked. We are reading Giants in the Earth by Rolvaag, which tells of the struggles of Norwegian immigrants in this area at the same time that Carl's and Wanda's grandparents were settling here; the time we spent with the Erickson's greatly enriched our experience of this book.

* Talking: We had lots of conversation about farming, of course, including a discussion of the pluses and minuses of the federal Crop Rotation Program (CRP) which pays farmers to keep land out of cultivation.

We talked about the Holocaust - they once hosted Benny Hochman, a Holocaust survivor who wrote From Hill to Here, about his experiences - he had come to town to talk with high school students about the Holocaust.

We talked about our families - Wanda is the youngest of 13! - and about our children and about growing up in our generation vs. today. We talked about farming - like so many farmers, Carl farmed but also needed a day job - he ran a TV repair business for many years, and when the big stores began drying up that market he began working with computers, instead. Today they are both retired and rent the farm to someone who farms it. None of their children are likely to farm - they all have their own professions - although 2 grandsons might like to do it some day.
And so much more.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 68, 7/15/10 - Page to Fargo, ND

Just the Basics: 56 miles - which bring us 7 miles from completing 2000! It was a good day but pretty long - and a bit complicated getting through Fargo to our motel, but we got help from Mike (see below), a passing motorist, which got us safely where we needed to be with a minimum of frustration.

It's 8:30 p.m. and we haven't eaten so we'll say goodnight but add a bit more, at least, in the morning - we need to buy bike tires in the morning and the bike shop doesn't open until 9 so we'll have some time then.

Today's Photo: Mike, our "Hero of the Day."

7/18: For some reason, after using the Internet successfully much of the day on 7/17 for dealing with email, locating lodging for the next few days, etc., we were unable to use it to Blog last night when we tried to "catch-up" for the last few days - possibly because the weather was rather unsettled (tornado watch, very cloudy, etc.). We'll try again later today! Meanwhile, here's a picture, at least, of Mike!

For Those Who Want More:

Mike, Our Hero of the Day: When we arrived in Fargo we had to leave the Adventure Cycling Bike Route to get to our motel - Kelly's (very nice, as it turned out), which Riley had selected due to its proximity to Scheels All-Sports, where he expected to buy good tires to replace the somewhat light-weight replacements we had on both our rear wheels.

He had a tentative route mapped out, but when we got to the outskirts of Fargo, the first part looked pretty daunting - heavy traffic, no shoulder, etc. We pulled off to look at maps and reconsider. A guy drove by, honking madly and shouting to us, but we couldn't hear what he said. A few minutes later, he pulled up alongside us, having turned around and come back. It was Mike. Seems he'd seen something fall from Riley's pocket when he took out our maps and Mike wanted to be sure we knew about it.

He then spent about 20 minutes thinking about the best route for us, drawing a map of an especially tricky part, and then going to the back of his car to tear a couple of map pages out of a phone book and annotate them to be sure we knew what to do. It worked perfectly and we used it the next day to get back to the Adventure Cycling Route out of Fargo.

Celebrating 2000 at the Red Lobster: Although we ended the day 7 miles short of the 2000 mile mark, when we saw the Red Lobster next to the motel, it felt like time to celebrate! We had martinis before dinner, and very nice seafood dinners with wine. We also had fun talking about our trip with the hostess and our waitress. As we left the restaurant, another staff member was also leaving. She immediately identified us as "the bikers," and said that other staff had plied our waitress with questions about our trip - which they seemed to think was pretty neat! = ) = )

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 67, 7/14/10 - Cooperstown to Page, ND

Just the Basics: 42 miles and lots of big wind - sometimes at our backs, sometimes from the side. We're proud of ourselves for coping with the wind!

We left Cooperstown quite late - got to bed late last night and were awakened - finally - by the promised BIG STORM in the middle of the night; lots of thunder, lightning and rain.

About 2 miles out of Cooperstown we stopped at what was once a Minuteman Missile Site - now maintained as a historical site and interpretive center by the ND Historical Society - see below.

We had a very nice lunch stop in the little town of Hope (pop 303) at about mile 27. We had Ruben sandwiches and coffee at a very nice little hamburger stand/cafe - which had the radio playing NPR! - and a great tour of the Steele County Museum - see below!

We are camping in the city park in Page (pop 225) - no water but we filled our bottles in the town cafe and the person in charge of the park is coming over to unlock the restrooms in the baseball field across the road - there's also water over there, so we're set. We're having fresh fruit, corn on the cob and cheese sandwiches for dinner - as is typical for us, we over-bought fresh food in Cooperstown when we had a layover day and a kitchen to cook in and now we need to eat it before it spoils!

We've had some trouble maintaining our Internet connection here, so are going to post now so you know where we are. We hope to be back later to tell you about the missile site and the Steele County Museum and to post a picture or two!

7/17/10: We're back!

Today's Photos: (1) The November 33 Minuteman Missile Site; (2) Mary Lou and Dorothy, volunteers at the Steele County Museum - see For Those Who Want More for additional details.

Tomorrow: About 52 miles to Fargo - our last town in ND! - on ND 38 to County Road (CR) 26 t0 ND 18 t0 CR 4 t0 US 81.

For Those Who Want More:

The November 33 Minuteman Missile Historical Site: This site made an extraordinary impression on Riley - strong feelings evoked by the reality before us, so different from the many PowerPoint classroom presentations he had made in his "Physics of Weapons and Arms Control" course. Not just the frightful prospect of the use of these weapons, but also just the enormity of the engineering and maintenance requirements to develop and maintain the site during the Cold War - pulling the huge missiles out periodically with monster cranes to truck them to a distant Air Force base for testing (or replacement), and all the auxiliary equipment to, for example, allow the massive concrete silo cover (which protected against incoming missiles) to be pushed aside almost instantaneously in case a launch was called for. All this multiplied by more than 1000 missile silos in North Dakota alone.

Steele County Museum: What a wonderful place in the little town of Hope, ND - the population of the entire county is 3000. Largely a volunteer effort, the museum has a main building, a schoolhouse, a church, a house which is being renovated & will be filled with pre-1940 items, a building for machinery which they built, a very old log home built by the first Norwegian settler, and perhaps other buildings which we can't remember. A few details:

  • There is one 20-hour employee - Sue - who volunteers many additional hours.
  • The main museum building is a former Mercantile; one side is set up as a sort of "ladies' shopping" area (clothing, dry goods, etc.) - also used for community meetings, fund-raisers (such as the annual French Toast Breakfast) and for weaving classes - the museum teaches rug weaving and generally has volunteers and Sue there demonstrating weaving. They write grants and charge admission, but woven rugs also supply a good chunk of income. While we were there a young woman was rolling strips of material, another woman was cutting strips with a special strip-cutter, another young woman was doing something to assist her, and the two women pictured above were in the kitchen, knotting off rugs - one of them, Dorothy, on the right, has made over 1000 of them for the museum store!!! The other woman, Mary Lou, recently learned to weave and has already finished 7 rugs. We found the rugs made from denim and those made from chenille particularly interesting!
  • The museum built the building which exhibits machinery - they had a hard time getting enough money, so the fire department chipped in 25% of the cost and uses the building to display old fire-fighting equipment and for meetings and training.
  • They accept only items from Steele County, itself, with a few exceptions - Sue explained that this is to keep things authentic but also to keep from getting more material than they can possibly use!
  • There were two different neat radio-related displays, both created and maintained by men now in their 90s - one devoted to very early radios and homemade radios, the other a large collection across many eras.

You see why we had such a good time there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our full planned route to Bar Harbor

Here is a map of our full route from Seaside Oregon to Bar Harbor Maine, with a marker at our location as of July 13,2010.
You will need to change the map scale with the "minus" icon to the left, to see the full map.

View RileyBecky bike route in a larger map

Our Route So Far - Take 2

Our son Hank has suggested a new way to post the link to Cousin Steve's map of our route to date. This was supposed to create a link, but did not - HOWEVER: When we tried cutting-and-pasting Steve's link from our post to the browser yesterday, that didn't work. If we cut-and-paste THIS version starting w/the http:// & ending w/e just BEFORE the ]Our route so far etc. that worked almost instantly. Go figure - but you might want to try it if what we posted yesterday didn't work for you.

+County:1:::/io:1:::::f:no::::/e]Our route so far[/url]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Days 65 & 66, 7/12 & 13/10 - Pekin to Cooperstown, ND

Just the Basics:

Monday, 7/12/10: 39 miles, 1894 total to date! We've had a good day - albeit tough riding against the wind almost all day - and are safely into Cooperstown (pop 1100). Due to predicted thunderstorms, heavy rain, hail, possible tornadoes and other stuff like that tomorrow we will take a layover day tomorrow and catch you up in tomorrow's blog!


Tuesday, 7/13/10: Holding in Place in Cooperstown; no biking at all today - slept in a bit and are enjoying fixing our own meals.

We have a sort of suite at the West Side Motel here in Cooperstown - a clean, simple place but with BR, bath, LR & kitchen - all for about $65! Gordon Overbee (sp?), a retired farmer whom we met in the tiny town of Binford (pop 200) where we had lunch yesterday - see below - suggested this motel to us and we got the last room!

We've spent most of the day on planning and correspondence, with a brief walk to town to the drugstore for a birthday card for Aunt Ruth, turning 101 soon, and Telfa pads for Becky's finger, and for sunscreen - neither of which the town grocery had when we shopped yesterday. Got the card and the sunscreen, but no dice on the Telfa pads. We have some that are too big, but can cut them down to fit; no worries - the finger continues to heal very well.

Today's Photos: These were both taken on 7/12 along ND 1 between the turn-off for Binford and the place where 1 joins ND 200. See Hay, below.

Tomorrow: Assuming the storm abates (if it ever really materializes), we'll bike 36 miles to Page, ND, where we'll have to camp - no motels between here and Fargo, which is another 52 miles beyond Page! We expect fairly decent riding conditions for the next 2 days (although we will likely get rained on tomorrow) and then not-so-good, so want to get to Fargo by Thursday night; then we'll see.

For Those Who Want More:
Lunch in Binford: We stopped for lunch about 1 mile off route yesterday at Binford, the one town between Pekin and Cooperstown. We had a good lunch at the local cafe - the lunch buffet: hamburger stroganoff, mashed potatoes, cooked veggie medley, homemade chicken noodle soup and coffee.

Two important signs on the door: One announced that on July 13th (?) they'd be serving Kumla (Norwegian potato dumplings) from 4 p.m to closing. The 2nd stated that if there were any problems to please contact the owners, not the city - if we understood the explanation for that correctly, it sounds like the city's economic development commission is involved in the cafe (financing?) and when it first got under way lots of work needed to be done on the place and the city got complaints. We had no complaints!
Gordon Overbee (sp?), 81 Year Old Retired Farmer: We first met Gordon in the cafe; as is our wont, we asked, generally, if anyone had suggestions as to which of Cooperstown's 3 motels we should try for, and Gordon suggested the West Side where we, indeed, happily stayed.

After we left we found a bright blue adult 3-wheeled bike parked next to ours. As we got ready to leave, its owner emerged - it was Gordon, and we had a great chat. Here are some highlights:

Gordon owned 6 quarter-sections (160 acres each) outside town - the fifth generation of his family to farm it. Gordon was born on the farm and he and his wife raised 5 sons there (she used to joke that she was raising 6 boys, including Gordon in that number). When the kids were growing up they had a dairy herd; later mainly growing hay and perhaps other crops - we can't recall.

Here, as elsewhere, the trend is to LARGE farms, and Gordon's farm, not big by current standards, was certainly too small to divide and none of the boys really wanted to farm anyway, but he hated the thought of selling it to an agri-busines farm or a hunting club or other owner who would tear down the farmstead and erase its identity. His wife is now in a nursing home and when he wanted to retire and move to town he had the land in a government conservation program of some kind - although retaining ownership and with the right to take it out of the program at the end of 8 years (not sure when that time will be). Happily, a young local couple wanted to buy it! He gave them a good price and they bought the farmstead, although not the bulk of the land. The wife works in town but the young man is helping his dad (her dad?) farm their farm and they already have a beef herd of their own - and first right of refusal when it comes time for Gordon's land to be sold. A really lovely story which this summary only partially captures.

We also talked about kids and grand kids and biking, and Riley's and my jobs . . . one of those very special conversations that are such an important part of our trip. It also turns out that one of Gordon's sons lives in the Tri-Cities.

We had lots of questions about hay and haying for Gordon -we're writing separately about hay, but much of what we say came from Gordon - subject to our failure to remember things accurately, of course!

: We have talked about hay before; here's some more - we hope we have correctly reported things we heard from Gordon. Yesterday we were lucky enough to watch a tractor-pulled baler for making cylindrical bales in action, gathering up long windrows of mown hay following a tractor-pulled rake which was drawing the cut hay into a windrow as it went along.

Gordon told us that it gets cold so early here that farmers may need to start feeding hay in mid-October; once there's a freeze the local hay pretty much dies, unlike MT hay which he says retains it nutritional value after a freeze.

We asked how much hay cows need - we THINK he said that one of the big cylindrical bales might feed 8 cattle for 1 day. We asked how the bale is used - he described 2 methods but we gather there are more: (1) The bale is dropped into a rack in the middle of those circular feeders you see that look sort of like an old-style playground merry-go-round - the cattle pull hay off of it. (2) You have a machine which breaks up the bale - the farmer attaches the machine to a tractor, drops in a bale and drives through a field leaving a trail of cut hay behind; the cattle follow along and eat.

Wikipedia has a video of one of the cylindrical balers working and some more info on haying. We are still not totally clear on the basic structure of the baling machine and hope to go to a farm equipment store for further research!

Try This: Cousin Steve & MapQuest Show Our Route!

Here is a link to a mapquest of our route from Seaside, OR to Pekin, ND, courtesy of Cousin Steve! Hope it works for you! Just paste the entire text below into your browser.

Thansk, Cousin Steve!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 64, 7/11/10 - Devil's Lake to Pekin, ND

Just the Basics: 47 happy miles! The first 28 were on U.S. 2 from Devil's Lake to Lakota - wide, paved shoulders all the way. After a fine lunch at Sun-Lac Inn - Ruben sandwiches and very good fries, and coffee - we walked to the nearby DQ for a shared banana split. Then 18 miles on ND 1 and 1 on ND 15 - generally no shoulders but lightly-traveled country roads with very long straight areas with great visibility - PLENTY of time to pull off whenever that was indicated. The wind was NNW - the NW part helped some on U.S. 2 and the N component was a GREAT tail wind on ND 1.

The countryside continued to be agricultural - green pastures, fields of corn, and fields of canola predominated. It is gently rolling - we have also been seeing more and more trees the past few days, both conifers and deciduous trees. We saw lots of daisies today, and quite a bit of showy milkweed, and a new little legume - yellow flowers - perhaps a vetch? We also saw lots of flooded areas everywhere, although no flooding on the roads we were on - we did see a flooded side road off of 2, however. We also saw fields with flooded edges and/or low-spots that were either still flooded, or muddy, or simply bare, although surrounded by growing crops.

Today's Photo: A field of canola along ND 1 between Lakota and Pekin

Tomorrow: 36 miles to Cooperstown along ND 1 and ND 1/200 to Cooperstown. There are 3 motels - we know nothing about them or about Cooperstown, but if we can get a decent room we may layover there for a day on Tuesday - the wind direction will be bad that day and there is a high probability of several hours of rain and a thunderstorm.

For Those Who Want More:
Hay: We have been seeing 1-3 of those big, cylindrical bales of hay at random spots along the road for several days. Since they never occurred in large numbers, it was hard to imagine someone had actually grown the hay there and we began to wonder if farmers or the highway department had brought them there for some unknown purpose. We happened to mention this to the farmer we met in the bar in Leeds 2 days ago - no, he said, it's been so wet the crop has been poor and folks are afraid they won't have enough hay, so they mow whatever bits they have - sometimes along flooded fields. Sure enough, yesterday we saw a tractor with a sort of prong on the front picking up the bales alongside the road and loading them into a medium-sized truck. We continued to see similarly isolated bales today.

The Prairie View Lodge in Pekin: Pekin is a tiny town - there is no restaurant and, possibly, no grocery store. The motel has perhaps 10 rooms which are really like studio apartments - ours has a stove, fridge, microwave, coffee pot, dishes and toaster. It's a pretty informal place - the laundry room and linen closet for the motel are ALSO in our room. We arrived to find other guests who showed us the envelope with our key in it - I asked about paying and they said it would probably say something about that in the envelope (it did: $52. 35 for all this). The guys who greeted us showed us the room, and took me to a bathroom on the hall with a tub and a locking door in case I wanted a bath instead of the shower in our room. One of the guys had a beer and I asked if there was a place to buy one locally - he said no - 15 minutes later he showed up with a gift of 2 cans of Coors Light!

We were told to leave money & key in the office or in the drop-box outside our room. We later saw the hostess - she needed to get in for clean sheets and to get stuff out of the washer and dryer. She said they've always operated on the honor principle and sometimes don't even see the guests at all - one guy stayed there 4 times before they met him! The motel sells pop and small frozen pizzas - again, just leave the money in the office. One of the 2 pizzas on hand was in our fridge - the owner got the other one from the office for us. We used fruit we had with us to make a nice apple/orange/date salad and with motel pizza and our across-the-hall-neighbor's beer we had a fine dinner.

We asked the hostess who stays here at the motel. She said that when they built it they thought it would be mainly hunters and fishermen, and they do get those, but they also get some cyclists (they are listed on our Adventure Cycling map for this area) and a lot of folks returning to the area for family reunions and the like. The owners live in a near-by town and grew up here.

How to use the Missouri River? We learn interesting things from local newspapers as we tour.
Today we read an op-ed by one of North Dakota's senators, calling for a federal panel to re-assess regulations on shared use of the Missouri by the states through which it flows. It seems that old agreements established in the 30's require sufficient flow to support barge traffic in the river's lower reaches - at the expense of water availability to states like North Dakota. The writer points out that barge traffic is now negligible - only a couple of barges on the river each day, carrying low-value goods like sand and gravel, and for distances of only about 10 miles. So, says the Senator, the regulations should be reconsidered! - an idea he admits is disliked by downstream states.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 63, 7/10/10 - Leeds to Devil's Lake, ND

Just the Basics: 32 miles along U.S. 2, making 227 for the week and a total of 1808 miles - we're 8 miles over our planned 200 per week at the end of our 9th week on the road. Scenery much like yesterday, biking pretty grueling. We had some fairly short stretches with great shoulders and relaxed riding, and the usual gorgeous scenery. The 1st 15 miles had narrow, rumble-strip-filled shoulders with gravel alongside, but good visibility and a tail wind, so we did them in 1 1/2 hours, despite occasional brief stops for traffic.

Then came many miles of road construction. One lane was closed and we could ride in that but most of the time it was tricky riding - sometimes gravel or dirt, lots of barriers to go around, and very difficult surface. They are shoring up the road and raising it due to flooding (see Devil's Lake info below) and part of that involves replacing stretches and part seems to involve cutting 2 parallel sets of 3 narrow holes about 2 feet long at each joint between concrete panels and putting in some spacers and pipe, then roughly covering that with a sort of smear of concrete - which they will presumably come back and smooth out. Sometimes the holes were still open - just about the right size for a tire to go down into - so we had to ride very carefully to avoid: holes, concrete smears over holes, drop-offs between the road and the shoulder . . . . No traffic to worry about and sort of interesting to see, but still tricky!

Near the end of this we came on a truck with a crew doing the smoothing-over process - a huge truck was proceeding VERY slowly along, disgorging blobs of cement over the sets of parallel holes and a crew of about a dozen men followed right behind, with pairs spreading the cement and then finishing it in steps, down to the last 2 guys who had hand trowels to do the final smoothing. The 1st two guys next to the truck were wearing dust masks and they, their clothes, and their faces were totally covered with cement dust. YIKES!

Today's Photo: Our tent was pretty wet this morning, thanks to the thunder shower yesterday and lots of dew. We packed up most of our stuff as soon as we awoke, moving the tent over into the sun to dry. It was pretty windy, as you can tell from this picture of Becky carrying the dried tent over to Riley so we can fold it!

Tomorrow: 44 miles to Pekin along U.S. 2 and ND 1 - not the route on our cycling map, which is flooded (see below), but one Riley worked out by talking to local folks. We hope to stay at the Prairie View Lodge in Pekin, but they have yet to return our call. The Lodge also has a campground, so we'll likely be there one way or another!

For Those Who Want More:
Riley's Rear Tire: Riley managed to find a rear tire for his bike at Walmart here in Devil's Lake and replaced it - we can stop holding our breaths about whether or not his tire will make it to Fargo!

Becky's Injured Finger: We've had a request for an update! Becky will take her last dose of Cephalexin (500 mg 3/day) tomorrow morning. We continue to change the dressing and apply mupirocin 2% prescription antibiotic ointment 3x/day, and she is wearing the splint to keep the finger straight. The cut is healing nicely - no signs of infection so far and the shallow ends have pretty well closed - the original laceration stretched from below the knuckle almost to the tip of the finger; now it's mainly the middle third of it, where it is pretty deep and crooked, that has yet to close. We will continue to monitor it and see a doctor again if needed.

The Horror of Devils Lake: Devils Lake has no outlet, and has been rising relentlessly for years. In 1993-94 it rose 5 feet in 6 months, and has risen steadily since - a total of 24 feet so far. A result is that has flooded 81,000 acres, increasing the size of the lake to more than 120,000 acres, and threatening to cut off all roads into the town of Devils Lake.

The folks here are, of course, extremely concerned. The level of 40 miles of road has been raised, and a levee has been raised and widened three times. (Our planned route south-east to Fargo is closed due to flooding, forcing an alternate route). Long term solutions being discussed include water storage in an upper basin, further raising infrastructure like roads, and creating some kind of emergency outlet.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 62, 7/9/10 - Rugby to Leeds, ND

Just the Basics: 26 lovely miles along U.S. 2 with wide, wonderful paved shoulders for all but about the last mile - alas, tomorrow it appears we'll be back on nasty narrow shoulders nearly filled with the rumble strip, with rough gravel beyond. It is still possible to ride safely in these circumstances, it just means constantly being on high alert and frequent stops to allow traffic to pass whenever that seems indicated. The gravel is wreaking havoc on our tires; we had to replace Becky's rear tire today and we are hoping that Riley's rear tire will make it to Fargo, the next town with a bike shop!

Lovely scenery again today - very gently rolling terrain, green fields interspersed with golden fields of canola, clear blue sky. We think we are in a potholes region - the area is studded with what appear to be tiny lakes like the potholes area of WA, near Othello, for example - trimmed with cattails and decorated by the occasional waterbird, they are lovely to see. Today we saw 4 white pelicans on one of the larger little lakes.

We are camping again tonight, at Jan's Stall Mall & RV Park in Leeds. So far, there are 2 RVs and us; we are tucked up in a secluded corner with our own picnic table and not far from the porta-potty. = )

We knew there was a cafe in town which closed at 2 - at first we had no idea of having lunch there - we didn't even start riding until 10:30 this morning and we took a rest stop at a very nice ND State roadside rest, but as we got close to town we realized we might make it and rushed along. Once in town we couldn't find it but a passerby gave directions and we arrived at 1: 50. We asked how they felt about 2 more guests 10 minutes before closing time - they said come on in.

We had nice chicken fiesta (?) salads - freshly cooked strips of chicken breast, pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, chopped tomatoes, etc. on a bed of crisp lettuce - very tasty. For dessert: bread pudding with vanilla sauce. YUM! The restaurant is keeping a list of cyclists who come by - names, jumping off point and date, and planned destination. Ours was the 5th group of names on the list - and we had met 2 of the other groups, both of which were westward-bound: Kathi and John from WI, and a couple from Belgium whose names we failed to get when we met them and couldn't read on this list, either!

This is also a good place to note another cycling pair we met some days back and keep forgetting to mention: Mitch and Ryan, a cheerful father-son pair riding from Anacortes to CT - before they started they were also checking out colleges for the son - a senior in high school this year. Their blog has a great name:

We're blogging sitting at the picnic table outside our tent; the light is a bit tricky and sometimes the computer is very slow, so we may end up finishing later. We also need to get to the grocery store and have been told it probably closes at 6, which we have found to be typical in small towns - we understand Leeds has 600 - 800 folks.

Today's Photos: (1) Scenery; (2) Our tent without the fly - isn't it pleasant and airy-looking?

Tomorrow: About 33 miles along U.S. 2 to the Fireside Inn at Devil's Lake, ND

For Those Who Want More: It looks somewhat like rain, so we're going to post now and get things squared away just in case, but we may be back!

7/10/10: We're back - from the Fireside Inn in Devil's Lake on the 10th. 3 more items from the 9th:

Thunderstorm from the Tent: As we noted when we signed off yesterday, a storm was coming - and did it ever! It was a real thunderstorm - wind, heavy rain, lightning, thunder - the works! We nestled into our tent and left a door in the fly open to watch - on the side that wasn't being battered by the wind - and enjoyed the show, counted the seconds between lightning and thunder, and stayed perfectly dry.

Our 1st Camp Dinner: We have cooked our first camp dinner - Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese and a can of stewed tomatoes (unheated). YUM!

The Farmer in the Bar: After the thunderstorm we rode back into town (a short distance) and to the Last Resort bar, where we enjoyed Amber Bock - the only dark beer most bars in little towns around here seem to have. We chatted with the bartender and the fellow next to us at the bar. We asked how flax was doing - they agreed that the heavy rain meant a late start and a less promising crop. We said how much we liked seeing the purple flax and yellow canola in bloom - the bartender told us her daughter had her senior picture taken against flax and canola - adding "She's a tomboy."

We had a very good chat with the farmer - here are some things we remember:
  • We have, indeed, been seeing pothole lakes. He said they were pretty but not too popular with farmers, as they are in the way in the fields and land is often marshy around them and can't be planted. He said he, personally, thought they were good for wildlife and for replenishing the ground water. He said he used to have a plane and loved flying over this lovely country - green fields, yellow canola, purple flax, and blue pothole lakes.

  • When he (and his wife?) were younger, they had a harvester they took on the road as far away as TX. They would be in a town for about 10 days and harvest that area, then move on. He said it was neat to have the time to get to know some folks and a community a bit, as opposed to rushing through on the freeways - observing that we were doing the same sort of thing!

  • He had quite a bit to say about Devil's Lake, and we have been reading about flooding in this area in the papers - we'll incorporate that info into a bigger discussion of Devil's Lake in the blog for the 10th!