I made it to Wisconsin this morning! After spending a very long time getting across Montana, I am amazed at how little time it takes to pedal across some of the Midwest states.
Over the last two days I have crossed the Mississippi River five times. I am not really sure why there is a good bike trail or road for a few miles on one side of the river and then the bike trail/road swaps to the other. Whatever the exact reason, even at the upper reaches of the river, the size and amount of water flowing through this river is amazing.
Now that I am in Wisconsin I am eating more cheese. I crossed the Mississippi into Wisconsin at lunch time. I stopped at the first spot that sold cheese which was less than half a mile from the bridge. I ordered a cheese sandwich at the Nelson Cheese Factory. It was delicious.
My dinner is almost always the closest place to the hotel or motel where I am staying. After pedaling all day I don’t have the strength to walk very far and I am certainly not getting back on the bike. Tonight, I went across the parking lot to a Japanese sushi restaurant. They had sushi with cheese and avocado on the menu. I had to try it. It actually tasted pretty good.
I am sure much more happened today but I am having trouble staying awake. The sun is going down. It is time for me to go to bed.
Between last night’s post and tonight two things happened. First, my wife and I acted like tourists. After finishing pedaling yesterday we went to a street and food truck fair for dinner, instead of eating in a restaurant. Then we drove to downtown Minneapolis to watch a very large fireworks show that they were holding along the river.
Doing both of these things felt a bit weird. Normally, my night is structured differently. I typically get off the bike, take a shower, eat, type a blog entry and pass out. Doing touristy things felt quite strange but both were a lot of fun.
The second thing that happened was while pedaling today. In the early part of the trip if I came to a sign that said “Road Closed” I was in trouble. This sign meant the road was really off limits.
Today, I came to one of these signs and tried to figure out what to do. In Minnesota, I guess “Road Closed” doesn’t mean that since many of the roads have people living along the road. I decided to see how far I could travel down the closed road. Not only did I make it all the way (about 5 miles), but I was passed by a dozen cars, including one police car. It is funny how the same sign in two different states means such different things.
My first trip to Minnesota was many years ago. I went dog sledding across the Northern part of the state during a very cold January. How cold was it? We had a number of days when the temperature was minus 40 degrees. Minus 40 is where Celsius and Fahrenheit converge and there is no need to convert from one measure to the other. At minus 40 it sometimes hurts to breathe and strenuous exercise is hard to do outside.
I went dog sledding because of a beer commercial. Molson beer at the time frequently showed a commercial on television of a man standing on the runners of a sled with a large team of dogs pulling him across the snow. It looked magical.
The reality was quite different. Besides it being numbingly cold, I was immediately dispelled of the notion that the dogs do the work and humans stand back and enjoy. In reality dogs pull the sled and humans push the sled. Dog sledding ended up being a lot of work.
I left Minnesota with a number of impressions. It was cold, exhausting and relatively empty of people. My current trip through the state has been quite different. So far, Minnesota has been the easiest state. I haven’t hit a gravel road yet. Everything has been paved.
Services and people are relatively plentiful. Today, about ten miles into the trip I needed to go to the bathroom. In a western state that meant doing my business by the side of the road. Today, I just pedaled a couple of miles and the next town showed up. It had a tourist information office with a sparkling clean bathroom and softer toilet paper than any motel I have stayed in yet.
Lunch today was in Avon by the side of a small lake. There were people swimming and fishing. The bench we sat on for lunch was shaded by a large tree. It all felt so civilized.
The miles still need to be pedaled. Today, I was only able to do 81 miles before calling it a day. Unlike, my first experience in Minnesota, pedaling through it this summer is easy sledding.
Not long ago I visited Istanbul. While in Turkey my wife suggested we see the “whirling dervishes.” These are Sufi Muslims who meditate while spinning in circles. If I spin myself around a few times I get dizzy and fall down. They can spin, dance and be lost in thought for what seems like hours.
Today’s ride reminded me of watching the “whirling dervishes.” In the morning I pedaled about 40 miles on Minnesota route 52. Dervishes keep spinning until the music changes and then move to a different position. On route 52 I didn’t spin my whole body in circles, only my legs.
There was very little traffic, the scenery didn’t change much and most of the ride was a hypnotic blur of legs going up and down. Occasionally, the music of a car or truck coming up the road would change my body to a different position. Otherwise there seemed little difference between people spinning in circles and what I was doing this morning.
At the 45 mile marker I met my wife at the world’s largest statue of a “prairie chicken.” Scattered across the country are bizarre statues. A few days ago I took a picture of the world’s largest sand crane (a type of bird) and the largest buffalo. Today it is the largest chicken. Each small town seems to want to outdo the others with a special claim to fame.
Having my wife here for a few days is amazing. I left my backpack in her rental car and pedaled without 15 pounds strapped to my body. Instead of my searching for a place to buy lunch, she picked up food at a supermarket and met me at the “chicken.” Having some support made the day much easier.
After lunch I pedaled to Fergus Falls. As I pedaled into town a sign proudly announced that Fergus Falls had a population of over 13,000 people. I was expecting another dying town but was shocked. It had a huge main street and almost every building was in use. People were shopping and the town had life, unlike some of the dying towns further west.
At the end of Fergus Falls, Google Maps decided to go crazy again. It kept telling me to get on the Central Lakes Trail, but I didn’t see a trail, much less how to get on it. When I saw the sign for the trail I was amazed.
The Central Lakes Trail was another railroad line that had been abandoned. The trail is 14 feet wide and smoothly paved all the way to Alexandria. The trail was not as beautiful as the paved railroad trail I took in Idaho, which had mountain vistas at almost every turn. Nevertheless, the Central Lakes Trail has its own beauty.
I pedaled a bit less than 50 miles of the trail, most of it in the same meditative state as I had this morning. The trail was empty except for the occasional rabbit and quiet. It was the perfect place to pedal.
The first three weeks of the trip had some very hard sections. I will not say today’s 112 miles were easy. My legs hurt and my bottom hurts even more. Yet while today was physically demanding, there was no crisis, craziness or complications. It was a simple day; just move each leg up and down for hours. I could get used to this.