Wanderlust has struck! Three days after arriving in Saint Paul we are back on the road again. Actually, I consider this to be a victory lap to visit Julie’s family south of The Cities (and we got back too early; our tenants have until the end of the month to move out). There have been improvements to bike trails in Minneapolis, which Bicycling magazine named the Best Bike City. It seems like only yesterday that I followed the same route on Day One of this trip, but we’ve accumulated a lifetime’s worth of memories since then.
Archive for July, 2011
Our last day started off with a flat tire (#172) before leaving Amery. A refreshingly cool breeze from the north aided our journey down the Stower Seven Lakes Trail. The new crushed limestone surface is still a little soft, so before Wanderoos we exited onto the great paved roads of Wisconsin that I know so well. About a dozen Rovers met us at the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter for a beer and buffet. Julie and I met a dozen years ago on a similar Rovers bike ride. We cycled back to Saint Paul on the popular Gateway trail which will soon be extended to Stillwater and has new bike bridges over the busy highways. More friends were waiting to greet us at the State Capitol at the end of our journey around the world by bicycle.
We were packed up and ready to leave before 9am when another motel guest asked if we’d seen the weather channel. So we stayed in Luck until after 10am when the weather radar showed that the dangerous storms had passed. That was the third time in the past week we waited while thunderstorms rumbled past. We haven’t done that since we were in Panama two years ago. A fawn gamboled in the ditch with a flock of wild turkeys as we cycled south on Hwy GG in the rain. The clouds parted and the sun came out as we crossed Hwy 8 and Rick Nevala tracked us down to say that a crowd had gathered in Amery to welcome us home. I took off my rain gear and we rushed the last 10k arriving with with a police escort for two blocks. It felt great to chat with so many folks who’d been following our adventure online or in the Amery Free Press, which has been printing this blog. We were given flowers, balloons, wine and a scrapbook kept by Shirley Monson covering my first world tour from 1975-77. She has died recently and her children just found it this morning while going through her belongings. After a nice lunch with Rose and Rollie Gilbertson and their daughter Jonell Leadholm we spent the night with Judy Park and Dave Vossen.
We’re in Luck! There was room at the Luck Country Inn, even though this weekend is Lucky Days (featuring the 5k Run Out of Luck). Luck is within range to make it to Amery by noon tomorrow, (though we won’t go through Range, WI) going around Bone Lake, then south on county roads I and H to where the Country Dam (Best Place by a Dam Site) used to be. We’ll keep off busy Hwy 46 as much as possible and take the WI Rustic Road past Polk County Park on the Apple River, then south on H, and enter Amery from the north on 46. Ted Zinn is hosting a welcome home celebration in downtown Amery. We’ll have plenty of time to visit with folks. On Sunday morning we’ll depart on the Stower Seven Lakes Trail to Dresser, cross into Minnesota at Osceola, and take the Gateway Trail to Saint Paul. We’ll meet a Rovers bike ride at 2pm at the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter and arrive at the State Capitol around 5pm, Sunday, July 24th.
A typical day: we started late and biked ’till dark. I bought a new tire in Duluth. We had one spare tire and only have 300 km left to go, but several tires are worn. The tires on my bike have 4,000 and 7,000 km on them, and Julie is riding on my folding spare tire that I’ve had for the whole wide world. That is the one I replaced. After a lunch stop at Amazing Grace in Canal Park we biked over the Bong Bridge to Superior, Wisconsin and up to see Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park (Wisconsin’s highest waterfall). A long lonely stretch south on WI Hwy 35 took us to Burnett County, where trees are down everywhere. A powerful July 1st storm knocked out power for several weeks throughout the county. We met a woman who had 57 trees down blocking her driveway.
We met two cross-country cyclists while waiting for a thunderstorm to pass, Javier from Barcelona and Gary from Oregon. The weigh station across Highway 2 is closed due to the state government shutdown. I had to stop at those scales back when I drove UPS loads to Virginia or Grand Rapids. This is day three of a heat advisory for the region. The last week of our two-year journey will be hot and humid with thunderstorms rumbling through to cool us off. Both Sunday and today we waited over an hour for thunder and lightning to lighten up, something we’ve rarely had to do. Thunder still rumbled as we cycled through a cool, light rain the last 25k into Duluth, where we found Nate and Sarah waiting for us on their porch off Skyline Drive. While we cleaned up, my nephew Nate left on a bogus mission and returned with my son Devlin, who’s in Duluth visiting a friend.
After staying the night with Sue and Harry Hutchins, co-workers of my brother Jon who’s currently in Tanzania with his wife Paula, we headed downtown to KAXE, Northern Community Radio. Radio host Scott Hall has interviewed people doing long canoe trips down the Mississippi to raise money for some cause and he chuckled when I said that the cause we support is America’s conversion to metric. Because of our late start and the heat advisory we only biked halfway to Duluth and are staying at Floodwood’s community campground. John and Brenda from Arizona are camping next door and invited us for a fish dinner with turnips, potatoes and corn.
The temp reads 93F (34C) before noon in Big Fork, where we stop for cold drinks and visit a logging interpretive site on the “Edge of the Wilderness” National Scenic Byway MN Hwy 38. The last river log drive happened around here in 1927, before railroads and highways were built to haul the logs out. On this muggy day we jumped in the lake to cool off and stepped into air-conditioned buildings and kept ourselves hydrated. We waited under a shelter for a thunderstorm to pass at the Laurentian Divide (465m), where water flows north to Hudson Bay or south to the Gulf of Mexico (via the Mississippi). Back on the road my seat-back was leaning back too far. A crack in the seat-back support bracket could have posed a serious problem. I solved it by turning the seat post upside-down and securing it with a stainless steel hose clamp.
I put a fourteenth new chain on my bike. I’ve replaced chains about every 3,500k on this trip; though the last time was 5,000k ago in Angers, France. The $20 chains in Europe and the US are probably better than the $4 chains available in South America and Africa; but both make the drive train noticeably smoother. Twenty-some years ago I camped at the canoe campsite across the river at Little American Falls, when Jon and I took our boys canoeing on the Big Fork River. It is a picture-perfect northwoods scene, like the kind seen behind the bar in northwoods taverns.
An otter family crossed the road our last day in Canada. I watched them swim away in an old beaver pond. Rocky and Bullwinkle are from Frostbite Falls, MN which is based on International Falls; also known as the “Icebox of the Nation”. Canadian beer costs one-third less here than in Canada. “They have to pay for their national health care” explained the cashier. We are in a nice room in the friendly Hilltop Motel and want to stay a second night here; but they’ve been fully booked for the weekend since January. Minnesotans head north to the lakes in summer, but State Parks have been closed for two weeks since the state government shut down due to a budget impasse. We are back in the USA, ten days from journey’s end.