If you would like to take a look through the photo album for my Ride across Minnesota, please follow this link:
If you would like to take a look through the photo album for my Ride across Minnesota, please follow this link:
I am home now, with a great night’s rest and some perspective. My Achilles and my knee are pretty stiff, and it is difficult to do steps, but otherwise I am fine.
I started this journey wanting to do something memorable, something challenging, and maybe something a little crazy. I had always wanted to do a bike trip, and now seemed to be an opportune time to do it. The goal was to ride across MN, from border to border, and then I tacked on little bonus mileage into the plan, which was to ride down the road from Taylor’s Falls MN to Stillwater MN (a wonderfully scenic little town). This would have encompassed five days and 262 miles to Taylor’s Falls, or 292 miles if I had tacked on the stretch to Stillwater.
The results show that I came up short of my goal, but not because of poor planning, or because I tackled too much, but simply because of an injury. I am proud of what I did accomplish and had a wonderful experience in the meantime. Day one, I road 60 miles; day two was 55 miles, day three was 52 miles and day four ended at 42 miles for a total of 209 miles. I came up about 53 miles short of my goal.
I met some great people. Some local riders going across the country; a MN girl doing a solo trip to the middle of North Dakota and back; a number of good folks in diners, stores, gas stations and walking along the trail; a 87 year old cyclist who inspires me to keep pedaling, and the list goes on.
I did something memorable, challenging, and even a little crazy. It was great.
Here are some of my observations and lessons learned.
I am so glad that I did this. Thank you for traveling this journey with me.
There is nothing like spending the night in a real bed, after taking a real shower, after being on the road for three days. I felt rested and ready to head out for my last two days on the road. Mom, being mom, insisted on cooking me breakfast, and I hit the road about 8:00.
It was pretty cool and the wind had shifted overnight, much to my dismay. It was now blowing out of the East-Southeast which was exactly the direction I was heading. It meant slower going and with rain in the forecast, I could tell it wasn’t going to be the fun couple of days that I had just had.
I headed into Waite Park, took a few pictures of the old townhome that Christen and I had lived in while I was finishing my degree, and headed east. My route took me right through the Campus of St. Cloud State University, my alma mater, and I took a few snaps of the campus, some of the new construction, and of course, the new football stadium. It has been there for a few years, but it sure is an improvement over old Selke Field, where I played.
After heading over the Mississippi River I made a quick stop at the Munsinger Clemens Gardens, a well-known botanical which was originally started in part by Mr. Bill Clemens for his wife’s enjoyment as she battled multiple sclerosis. It now spans a few city blocks and is a pretty incredible collection of flowers and other plants.
Back on track again, I threaded my way through some of our old neighborhood (where Christen and I lived right after we were married) and out of town.
One of the things I spent a lot of time watching in preparation for the trip was the wind direction forecast. If there is anything I detest while riding, it is heading into the wind. Unfortunately, the forecasting is an inexact science and even though they said that the wind would generally be at my back this week, Thursday’s forecast was wrong. It was frustrating. As I cranked out the miles, it became more work than fun, and then it started to rain…directly in my face.
About ten miles outside of Princeton MN, I started to feel a twinge in my left knee. I had already been feeling some soreness in my right Achilles, but this got progressively worse and as I pulled into Princeton for lunch, I thought that it would stretch out and after a break would be fine. I got back on the bike and headed back into the wind. Another 6-7 miles and I couldn’t pedal any more. I was in the middle of nowhere, frustrated and in pain in both my right Achilles and my left knee. I knew I shouldn’t try to push through the pain, but I felt like I was giving up. Eventually, I couldn’t put any weight on the pedals, and I stopped and called Christen, who sent my dad out to pick me up.
With the benefit of a good night’s rest, and some additional perspective, I will share some of my thoughts of the trip in my next blog…
Today, I ran over a field mouse. It wasn’t on purpose, but the little bugger just ran out in front of me and before I could swerve, I heard him squeal. I did look back, however, and he made it from the trail to the weeds, so I didn’t kill him…at least I don’t think so.
Part of life on the trail I guess. But I digress…I woke up stiff and sore this morning with a strong wind blowing through the birch trees that I was camped beside. I love the sound of wind in the trees, and then I remembered that wind plus big guys on bikes equals a big sail, so I prayed that the wind was coming from the West and not the East. It was, and it sure made the ride a whole lot nicer.
After packing the trailer, I made a double batch of oatmeal for breakfast to carb up for the day. Once on the trail, I headed through Osakis MN, which was familiar territory because my mom’s side of the family used to go to a resort near there every summer. Not long after leaving Osakis, the trail changed from the Central Lakes Trail to the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail which goes all the way to St. Joseph.
Yesterday, I probably ran into four other riders/runners/walkers on the trail the entire day. It was pretty quiet. Today, I started seeing more traffic and always got a friendly wave or ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’. One particular rider waved me over and I stopped and met Mervin Secord. Mervin is 87, and has already put over 2000 miles on his recumbent this year, after having put on more than 8000 miles last year. Suddenly, my little jaunt across Minnesota (about 300 miles) didn’t seem all that big a deal.
His story gets even more interesting. Mervin has been hit by at least two cars that he told me about. The most serious was in 01 or 02, and he was hit broadside, broke an ankle, leg, hip, ribs, wrist, arm and nose, and his helmet saved his life (but he couldn’t see). He must have also broken some bones in his back too, because when he got to the hospital, he was paralyzed. During his stay in the hospital and through a series of unfortunate events, his wife is killed in a car accident. You would think this would be enough to slow a man down, but he did his 40+ day stay in the hospital, did rehab, started to regain feeling in his legs, and now is putting most everyone I know to shame with the miles he puts on his recumbent. Way to go Mervin!
The rest of the trip was a spectacular ride through lake country, over bridges, under old railway bridges and through the hills that surround St. Johns University. As I got to St. Joseph, I rode through the campus of St. Benedicts College, which is a Catholic girl’s college and monastery. It has a wonderful history and is part of the foundation of the little town of St. Joseph.
I am staying at my folk’s house tonight with a shower and a real bed. It will be good to recharge, get some home cooking, and visit for the evening. My sister Jen joined us for dinner and we had a great time.
Tomorrow I head through St. Cloud and over Highway 95 toward Cambridge MN.
1. Another One Bites the Dust – Joan Jett
2. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
3. Hit Me with Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar
4. Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men
5. Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel
6. Cuts Like a Knife – Bryan Adams
7. I Just Died in Your Arms – Cutting Crew
8. Another Hit and Run – Def Leppard
9. Dust in the Wind – Kansas
10. Gangs in the Street – Loverboy
1. Staying Alive – Bee Gees
2. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
3. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
4. Ride Like the Wind – Christopher Cross
5. Cruise Control – Def Leppard
6. Life in the Fastlane – The Eagles
7. Comin’ Home – Lynyrd Skynyrd
8. Thriller – Michael Jackson
9. We are the Champions – Queen
10. Ridin’ the Storm Out – REO Speedwagon
What songs did I miss?
I woke up to rain on the tent…so I laid there and hoped it would stop. And it did…kind of. I broke camp in a drizzle and after a dry breakfast of granola bars and a Cliff bar, I headed out.
Ouch. My tail and my wrists were crying, but after warming up and getting into a rhythm, they were fine. I learned from day one, that I had to set my own pace and enjoy the countryside, and stop often.
The first little town I went through was called Dalton MN, and it has a unique distinction of being an early ski jumping town. The first competition was held in 1915, and by 1933, the competition had a crowd of more than 5000 people. The longest jump on record was 144 feet. Originally built at 38 feet, the jump was rebuilt to 64 feet in 1965. Unfortunately, the jump blew down in a windstorm in 1967.
While I was back at the first campsite, a Fergus Falls policeman stopped by and chatted for a while. He and his wife really enjoyed cycling and he mentioned a Diner down the trail that had the best blueberry pancakes he had ever had. Since it was drizzling and I hadn’t had a warm breakfast that is where I was headed. This was my first real stretch of the Central Lakes Trail and it was spectacular (drizzle and head wind notwithstanding). Lakes and rivers, wooded slopes and farms dotted throughout. Because the trail used to be a railroad bed, the grade was pretty moderate and even though a lot of the first stretch was uphill, it was very manageable.
I pulled into Ashby MN, and went to Ruby’s City Restaurant. And the pancakes were awesome. It was a good break and recharged me for the ride. Of course, the well known Minnesota ‘nice’ was evident in just about everyone that I met. Lots of people wanted to know what I was doing and where I was going. I met a nice lady walking the trail who had just lost her job after 26 years with the company. I met another lady who at 67 years old, climbed the Grand Canyon last summer and loved it.
My goal for the day was Alexandria, and as I pulled in, I came across Big Ole, the largest Viking in the Land. Alex is a great town and I rode around, grabbed a $5 footlong, and found a coffee shop with wireless to upload the Tuesday post. Catching a second wind, I headed back down the trail on my way to Osakis MN, and stumbled across a beautiful little rest stop where I pitched my tent for the night.
Shorter ride tomorrow to mom and dad’s house for some rest and home cooking.
Day Two (actually day one of the ride) and I woke up early. Not that I was all that excited, it was just the new place/new sounds and the usual first night not-in-my-bed reaction.
I packed up and went to load my bike, and had a flat tire. If there is any place that I would prefer to have a flat, it is when the bike is unloaded and I am not tucked into a 40 mph downhill ride. I changed the tire, and found out that my pump was not working right, and so I used the air compressor, got going and headed to McDonalds to upload my first blog post, after which I dropped into Target to get a new pump.
Finally on the road at about 8:30, I headed out of town. For those of you who have never been in North Dakota or western Minnesota, it is as flat as a pancake. The skies were a pristine blue with a few clouds and the weather was near perfect. I stopped occasionally to collect random photos, and to let my tail recuperate from the saddle. Those short rest stops were amazing. It hit me every time I stopped, how quiet it can be in the country without traffic and other sounds of suburbia.
Noontime found me pulled up to the home of the giant prairie dog sculpture (sorry got busy and forgot to take a picture of it) in Rothsay MN. As I was laying out the food, three other bike riders pulled in and joined me. They (went by the handles of Little Joe, and Hoss from Bonanza) were on their way from Seattle WA to Maine, but live in Minnesota! We shared a meal and rode for a few miles together before they pulled out. It was good to talk with them and see how they packed for the cross country trip. I was learning the hard way that even though it is good to be prepared on the road, there were definitely some things that I could have left behind and lightened the load. It is a good thing that Wednesday night I am at my parents house, because when I leave on Thursday, my pack is going to be a little lighter.
About ten miles out from Fergus Falls, the rolling hills started and I started to bonk a little bit. Fergus never looked so good, until I found out the trailhead for Central Lakes Trail was a couple of miles PAST Fergus. I made the trail, found a camp site and got some chili on the stove.
There was a girl named Sarah, who was also riding the opposite direction and had just finished day four of her trip. She was camping next to me and we talked a little about riding and gear, I typed this blog post, and then I headed to bed. It is fun meeting new people on the road.
Tomorrow I head down the trail toward Alexandria and should have shorter mileage day, which is good, because it is a challenge to sit in the saddle…just a wee bit saddle sore. Great times however and memories for a lifetime.
Catch you tomorrow.
Sunday: The day of rest. After worship in the morning at Westwood Community Church, the family and I headed back home to pack the van and head up to St. Joseph, where I transferred my gear to my dad’s van, and he drove me up to Moorhead to spend the night.
It turned out to be a great day with beautiful sunny skies and thunderheads north of the city. The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is for isolated thunderstorms, which generally means that they will be pretty scattered and pass through quickly. It will keep it cooler, but I am not really looking forward to riding through lots of rain.
I got to my buddy Greg’s house, unpacked and then headed into town for short ride to see what was close. A few blocks from the house, I ran into Concordia College Moorhead and rode around the campus for a few minutes. What a pretty school. I was surprised at the quality of their athletic facilities for a small college. It looks like they have a great booster program and maybe some nice endowments as well.
Further into town, I ran across one of the last remaining ‘old homes’ in Moorhead, now on the historic register. The Solomon Gilman Comstock House was built in 1883 by Solomon Comstock after he landed in Moorhead on the heels of following the pioneers west. He established a law practice, and then went on to serve in various local, state government positions and eventually US Congress.
After leaving the Comstock House, I found Minnesota State University Moorhead a few blocks away and had a chance to visit the campus. It is amazing to find two fairly good size schools just a few minutes away from each other, and each with beautiful campus.
Back at the house now, getting ready to turn in for the night and then up to begin the journey tomorrow. After taking stock of my proposed route, I found out that highway 10 is a pretty busy four lane road that certainly has grown since the last time I lived in the Fargo/Moorhead area (when I was in Jr. High). Back to the map, I decided to take highway 52 to the southeast. This the old highway that used to link Moorhead to Minneapolis before the interstate was built and will be a great opportunity to travel some back roads on the way to St. Joseph for Wednesday night’s stop-over at my parent’s house. Day two might bring a wonderful surprise because my dad told me about an old Burlington Northern railbed that has been transformed into a riding trail, that conceivably will take me all the way to St. Joseph. I can’t wait to check it out.
I’ll catch you tomorrow.
The big trip is almost here. Over the past two weeks, I have logged about 150 miles mainly making sure that the equipment is all working, and also to (literally) acclimate my rear end to the saddle again.
On Sunday, I will catch a ride to Moorhead MN and stay at a buddy’s house that evening. On Monday, I ride East on highway 10 and will basically follow that until Wednesday night, when I will spend the night at my parent’s house in St. Joseph (St. Cloud). In the meantime, I will be traveling through lake country with my first night in Detroit Lakes and my second night somewhere near Staples or Motley.
After leaving St. Joseph, I will catch highway 95 and head across country to Princeton and spend the night near Cambridge. Friday will take me to the border and a beautiful area called Taylor’s Falls, where I will head South and finish in Stillwater MN, Minnesota’s oldest city.
The trip will be somewhere around 300 miles, and I am looking forward to the people I will meet, and the wonderful Minnesota back country that I will take in.
More to come…