Archive | September 2015

Happy Birthday Ride – Peter Turns 54 Today

Peter enjoying his birthday Brownie Sundae

Peter enjoying his birthday Brownie Sundae

At the Indian Mounds near Oakville, IA

At the Indian Mounds near Oakville, IA

You never know when you have to go!!

You never know when you have to go!!

54 miles - the age of the birthday boy

54 miles – the age of the birthday boy

September 28, 2015 – Day 25

Muscatine, IA to Burlington, IA  64 miles – Total miles – 1,599

Weather – 80 degrees, sunny, headwind – was a hot day

Today is Peter’s  Birthday the big 54!!  So we slept in later today and got on the road by about 10:00am. The first twenty miles were on ST Hwy X61 which was a marginal road but at least the traffic volume was low.  Although we have discovered and it was confirmed by our Warm Shower Host last night that in Iowa when motor vehicles come up behind a bicyclists on a road with no shoulder; frequently the passing vehicle driver will go over to the other lane with no regard for the vehicle driver driving in the approaching lane – we have seen many close calls between the two drivers and even have had the approaching driver get mad at us and give us the not so nice wave.  If the passing vehicle driver would simply wait a couple of seconds and then pull over to pass us when clear it would be so much safer for all.  So our advice to anyone driving in Iowa beware of drivers passing bicyclists at the wrong time!!

21 more miles down the road we stopped for lunch in the small town of Oakville.  The Piggy Bank Café was just wrapping up for the day but served us a great lunch – their special – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, vegetables was to die for very yummy!! The owners were very nice and the husband explained the history of the building to us.  It was originally a bank built pre prohibition era. They still have the vault in the restaurant which looks really cool and is available for a private lunch upon request.  Unfortunately in 2008 the town experienced a major flood and the building was severely damaged with water in it about 3 feet deep.  But the community members and numerous volunteers were able to clean up the building and get the restaurant up and going again.

The staff at the restaurant was great and bought Peter out a very yummy brownie sundae with a lit candle in it – it was very cute and really surprised Peter and made his birthday extra special. With full bellies we hopped on the bicycle for the last 21 miles to Burlington.  The ride was entirely on ST Hwy 99 which was a nice quiet road.  We got into town and headed to the Welcome Center to get the scoop on what to do in town and they were closed for the day – bummer.  Oh well we figured it out and biked an extra 5 miles to a hotel for the night,  the first one we picked  only had smoking rooms available – we didn’t even think they had smoking rooms anymore.

Tomorrow is a day off for us Yea!! It has been ten days since we had a day off and we need this one. So no posts tomorrow.

Less Hills and Less Miles

Peter with his nephew Daniel and his wife Christin in Dubuque

Peter with his nephew Daniel and his wife Christin in Dubuque

At the Fall Festival outside of Dubuque, IA

At the Fall Festival outside of Dubuque, IA

Tracy with a drone following her

Tracy with a drone following her

Waiting for the train to move

Waiting for the train to move

September 27, 2015 – Day 24

Clinton, IA to Muscatine, IA – 74 miles. Total Miles 1,535

Weather – 74 degrees, partly sunny and breezy – another beautiful fall day

We had a basic breakfast at the campground and headed down the road, although we had only traveled maybe a mile and got held up by a train blocking the street we were trying to cross.  After waiting for a few minutes Tracy looked down the road and said we can go back a street and cross over there, otherwise we might still be waiting for the train to move – it did not appear to be moving anytime soon.

Speaking of trains due to a derailment during the day yesterday we had lots and lots of train rolling past the campground last night – they finally got everything back on track and we had nonstop trains blowing their whistles at the unmarked crossing right by the campground – it was not the most restful night.  Oh well we have learned after our cross country trip it appears most campgrounds are located next to railroad tracks.

The City of Princeton was the first community we traveled through – it was 20 miles from Clinton and still asleep on this Sunday morning so we decided to continue on and have lunch in Le Claire – 5 miles down the road. Le Claire was a really nice town with a great main street and lots to see and do – they even have a Buffalo Bill Museum – which we did not tour but is suppose to be interesting and features other notable people from the area.

After a good lunch in LeClaire we headed to the quad cities Bettendorf, Davenport, Moline, IL and Rock Island, IL.  We traveled on a great trail thru the cities of Riverdale, Bettendorf and Davenport – the Riverfront Trail for about ten miles thru the cities and adjacent to the Mississippi River.  Thanks to the Davenport representatives and the philosophy of the area – “Let Mother Nature Take Her Course We Will All Be Better Off” the trail became a reality.  Due to the Davenport representatives anti-levee and anti-floodwall policies the trail runs along side the banks of the river allowing bicyclists to get up close to the river. Definitely a trail to check out.

After traveling on this great trail it was hard to get back on the State Highway but back on to Hwy 22 all the way to Muscatine, IA was our route to complete our ride.  It was not a great place to ride narrow road with no shoulder and in poor condition, but thankfully the motor vehicle drivers were few and the ones that were on the road were great about going around us. Unfortunately about two miles from the end of  our ride we hit a bad spot on the road and blew the back tire.  So everything came off the bike and Peter put on a new tire and tube and blew it up with the compressed air we carry about 15 minutes later we were back onto he road.  Not bad I think that is the fastest we ever changed the back tire and it actually went well!!

We are at a Warm Showers tonight – with Jeanne.  She is a great hostess and very welcoming – we have enjoyed getting to know her and appreciate her hospitality.  Jeanne is a animal nutritionist and her job sounds very interesting but also very demanding.  She is off for a bicycle trip this week that she is very much looking forward to – her and several friends are off to tackle the next section of the Mississippi River Trail.  They have been bicycling pieces for years and will be on the section from her home to the St Louis, MO area.

Sorry there have not been any Go Pro Videos the attachment to hold the camera to my helmet broke – we finally got the replacement piece in Dubuque- so more video to come.

Hill after Hill after Hill……….. (in Wisconsin and Iowa)

September 25, 2015 – Day 22

Bagley, WI to Dubuque, IA – 70 miles Total Miles – 1,398

Weather – 75 degrees, sunny and light breeze, beautiful fall day

Wow – what can I say I think we started climbing hills as soon as we left the campground.  We spent the day bicycling in southwest Wisconsin and if anyone is looking for a good place to train for hills I highly recommended this area.

The route put us a bit away from the river and on various county roads and highways, unfortunately Hwy 35 the Great River Road with the nice shoulder and less steep grades which we traveled from Prescott down to Prairie du Chen – ended in Prairie. The roads were in pretty good shape and low traffic volume which made the ride a bit easier, but still the hills were a bear!!

The route took us through some really pretty areas and the bluffs and valleys of the driftless area. Of course we had to come up the bluffs and then down into the valleys – many of the down hills were great but then we had to climb back out again.  We actually had to push the bicycle up one section – we were climbing a big hill and came around the corner and it kicked up again we just did not have the legs to climb the second part – bummer!!  It is actually lots of work to push the bike up a hill and we try to bicycle up as much as possible.

We finally made it to Dubuque, IA and had to cross the Hwy 61/151/35/11 bridge over the Mississippi –  unfortunately you can not ride on the road and have top take the sidewalk across – which is too narrow and requires us to push the bike across the 2 miles. Although it felt good to walk a bit!! We came into Dubuque right at rush hour and the traffic on the bridge and going up to where our nephew lived was intense and added a tough end to our already long day.

We were spending the night at our nephew Daniel and his wife Christin’s house- of course they live at the top of a hill – so up we went only to get lost trying to find their apartment.  We finally found it and Daniel told us he was following us on the Tracker and was like don’t go that way and wished he had our phone number to help us out!! We finally got there, cleaned up, went out to dinner and spent a nice evening chatting.  They were gracious hosts and warmly welcomed us into their home.

September 26, 2015 – Day 23

Dubuque, IA to Clinton, IA. 63 miles – Total miles 1,461

Weather 76 degrees, sunny and slight head wind, another beautiful fall day

We got up and had breakfast with our hosts – Daniel and Christin.  They fed us well, we packed up and off we went for another day on the bike.  It was very nice to stay with family and great to see Daniel and Christin again – thanks for having us – much appreciated.  We also got to sleep on this blow up queen size bed – it was very comfortable and a lot more space than in our little tent.

We stayed on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River for our route today. The route started off again with massive hills that we had to climb on Hwy 52.  But at the top of one of the hills was a fall festival event going on at a Apple Orchard.  We stopped to check it out.  We bought some Apple Cider Donuts – yummy – Cashew Brittle, cookies and of course some apples.  But this time the employee was very nice and when Tracy asked if she could purchased just a couple of apples – she said absolutely but I will just give them to you at no charge.  It was especially nice after the experience at the other fruit stand where the woman would not sell us just a couple of apples and a half of pint of raspberries.  We checked things out at the event ate a couple of donuts and hopped back on the bicycle to continue our ride.  We had several more hills to climb and cities to travel thru before the end of the day.

We traveled thru St, Donatus, which is known for a “Little Bit of Luxembourg in America” This little town is striving to preserve the town as a historic Luxembourg city.  The Town of Sabula was next which is the only island city in Iowa, we did not take the 1 mile detour to check it out maybe next time,  We also went thru the town of Bellevue – which had a great coffee shop and a guy flying a drone around – really cool. He even flew the drone over Tracy so Peter could get a picture- he even directed us to the coffee shop.  This was a first on our trip we have never been followed by a drone before!!

Further along the ride the hills became less severe and were just long steady climbs much easier on the legs.  We have been told the monster hills in Iowa are behind us and we will have more like we experienced late in the ride today. Our final stop for the day was the City of Clinton and the River View Campground. The campground is operated by the city and is a really nice one. We are the only tent in the place among all the big RVs!!

I bet you didn’t know the City of Clinton was known as the nation’s sawmill capita during the 1880-1890. At that time logs were tied together forming rafts as large as 300 Ft by 1,600 Ft taking 30 men to move them down the river. During the peak of Clinton’s sawmill industry the town had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States – the Lumber Barron homes on 5th, 6th and 7th streets are amazing to view today.

As we were sitting at the picnic table working on the blog and Facebook posts for the day a gentleman stopped over and invited us over for a beverage and a chance to enjoy the campfire. We accepted and finished our work and headed his way.  He and his sons were camping and had a nice blazing fire going and some cold beer. We had a nice visit and even got to meet his niece and her son and a friend of hers that was visiting the area. Very nice, interesting people and fun to get to know and spend some time with. It was a nice way to end the day.

I will put up some pictures tomorrow.

A Night with Yogi Bear

September 24, 2015 – Day 21

LaCrosse, WI to Bagley, WI.     Miles –  76    Total miles – 1,328

Weather beautiful 75 degrees, sunny, light wind

We started this morning in La Crosse after an overnight stay with our oldest daughter’s boyfriend Dillon.  We slept in a little later than usual, had breakfast and headed out about 9:00am.

Our ride started out easy with a 2 mile ride on the Pammel Creek Bike Path in La Crosse.  The path is located adjacent to a large drainage way and easily dropped you off right on Hwy 14/35 to head south along the Mississippi again.  The ride today was unbelievably beautiful with great views of the mighty river.  Hwy 35 is located between the river, railroad tracks and bluffs a great place to be. The road itself was in pretty good shape but we had a couple of stretches where the shoulder was very narrow and in poor shape, it makes for a tough ride because you really have to pay attention due to the margin of error being really tight.

We stopped for lunch at the Town of Lynxville and then rode the last 15 miles into Prairie du Chien. Having just been in Prairie du Chien three months ago on our Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway ride it was fun to be back.  We even found the good coffee shop we went to last time to have a coffee and a snack before tackling the last 18 miles to our campground for the night in Bagley. We knew we had a big – really big climb (on Hwy C) out of town towards Wyalusing and the state park. Unfortunately it did not get any smaller since we climbed it in June.  It is a 3 mile straight up climb – ouch.  But once again we made it to the top and were rewarded with a great downhill on Hwy X to the Yogi Yellowstone Campground.

The campground is your typical Yogi Bear Campground with lots of Yogis and his friends located throughout the area – really cute actually. Peter of course had to take some pictures with the characters – I will put them up tomorrow.

Tomorrow we hit a new state – Iowa.  We will spend the night with our nephew Daniel and his wife in Dubuque.  More to come.

Back Into Wisconsin

At UW LaCrosse Campus

At UW LaCrosse Campus

At the U with youngest daughter Alex

At the U with youngest daughter Alex

University of Minnesota Fix It Station

University of Minnesota Fix It Station

The Nightly Mississippi

The Nightly Mississippi

Onalaska Big Fish!!

Onalaska Big Fish!!

LaCrosse with Dillon the State Trooper

LaCrosse with Dillon the State Trooper

September 22, 2015 – Day 19

Minneapolis, MN – Pepin, WI.  94 miles  Total miles 1,173

Weather 70 degrees, rainy, cloudy and head wind

Our day started at the University of Minnesota campus and a visit to the Fix It Station to top off our tires before we headed out for the day. Unfortunately the pump at the station was not working and instead of putting air in our front tire it let all the air out- so Peter had to pump up the tire with his hand pump and then we went to another Fix It Station on campus to finishing filling the tire.  So an hour later we were finally on our way in the rain.

The ride out of the cities is always a tough one because the route takes you on several of the numerous trails, which sometimes are very narrow and sometimes hard to find.  But we finally made it through the cities a couple of hours later than we planned on and still had about 50 miles to go to our end point for the day. We traveled down to Hastings MN and then crossed over to Prescott, WI ate lunch and began heading south along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.

We did this ride a few years ago when we were bicycling cross the country and enjoyed the route so we decided to travel on the east side of the river again.  We traveled thru the small towns of Bay City, Maiden Rock, Stockholm and finally ended in Pepin.  We had a long day and did not get into Pepin until 6:30pm.  The towns are very nice and fun to visit but unfortunately by the time we went thru some of them everything was all closed up for the night.  Stockholm is a really cool city with lots of small shops and places to eat but everything was closed by the time we came thru.

After a long day we checked in to the Great River Amish Inn for the night and headed down the road to the Garden Café for dinner.  Very good food and a really fun restaurant.

September 23, 2015 – Day 20

Pepin, WI – LaCrosse, WI. 79 miles. Total miles 1,252

Weather 76 degrees, sunny, slight headwind

Today was a shorter day and the weather was much nicer.  Although we had a slight head and cross wind to deal with.  The first  town we came to was Alma.  Alma is the home of Lock and Dam No. 4 and has a very good restaurant – Pier 4 Café and Smokehouse.  It is very funny they have a sign on the restaurant that says The Best BBQ by a Dam Site.  We have yet to be able to eat here – it is either closed or we just ate.  But this time on our way past we ran into Richard the fellow bicyclist who we met at the Hostel in Itasca State Park, we talked a bit and continued on our way,  He was having a good ride and heading to Perot State Park for the night – we were heading to La Crosse, hopefully we will cross paths again.

The ride continued on Hwy 35 the Great River Road – if you have not traveled this area or on this road we recommend it – it is a great way to get up close to the Mississippi and there are fun little towns to stop and hang out in along the way.  When we reached Onalaska we traveled to Lacrosse on the Three Rivers trail which dropped us at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.  Tracy went to school at UW LaCrosse and enjoyed biking thru campus.  We even got an escort to our home for the night – our daughter Melissa’s boyfriend Dillon met us at the University and led us to his house – very nice and no stress for us trying to figure out how to get there – yeah!!

Dillon and A.J. (Dillon’s roommate) were gracious hosts for the night and both were home to go out to dinner with us and even stopped at the grocery store for us to pick up a few things.  It was a nice relaxing evening.

Day Off in Minneapolis

September 21, 2015 – Day 18

Minneapolis, MN. – 0 miles Total miles 1,079

Weather 76 degrees, sunny, windy and beautiful – a great fall day

Yesterday we visited  with our old friends Karen and Jim McKay from Hutchinson, MN.  They drove into the cities to meet with us.  Karen was the secretary at the parks and recreation department when I worked for the city as a Program Supervisor.  Jim was and still is a Paramedic and worked with Peter now and then when he was a Police Officer in Hutchinson.  Karen and Jim were very welcoming when I first started my job and we hit it off from the start – they are still great friends and it was so nice to  see them.  Jim even treated us to coffee and a snack and they also sponsored us on our trip – very generous!!

Today we slept in late and got moving slowly.  We were luckily to be staying with our younger daughter – Alex and her roommates in their house – it was great that they allowed us to stay.

We spent the day hanging out on campus, shopping, mailing some things home and just relaxing.  We even had a chance to visit the head woman’s track coach -Matt Bingle.  It was nice to see him. We had lunch with Alex at the house – she feed us well.  We took Natalie and Alex to dinner and then they went over to a concert on campus. We had a great visit with Alex and her roommates.

Tomorrow we head south to Hastings and then east into Wisconsin and down the Mississippi River.

Two Long Days on the Bicycle and a Short Ride to Minneapolis, MN

September 18, 2015 – Day 15

Palisade MN to Little Falls, MN (Charles Lindbergh State Park) 94 miles. Total Miles – 963

Weather 68 degrees, partly cloudy, tail wind

Today we were to travel 87 miles not the 94 that we ended up doing, but due to road construction and gravel roads we had to travel off route for several sections of our trip. We traveled thru several cities including Atkins, Crosby, Brainerd and finally ended up in Little Falls.  The ride was good but long, luckily we had the tail widen to keep us moving and getting us to our destination.

We decided to make the Charles Lindbergh State Park our home for the night.  It is a beautiful park with property along the Mississippi River and the campground located across the street from the river.  Unfortunately there were no electric sites and the improved restrooms and showers were closed for the season.  So no showers for us – we hate going to bed without a shower after biking all day.  Thank goodness the weather was cooler so we were not quite as bad at the end of the day as usual.

The Charles A. Lindbergh State Park was established in 1931 when 110 acres of property was donated by his family to the state in memory of Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.    The park now is 570 acres. Pike Creek meanders thru the park and empties into the Mississippi River. Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., the pilot of the first trans- Atlantic flight grew up in the house overlooking the Mississippi River – the home was built in 1906 by his father. The park is very nice and two different museums are located near the park – they were both closed otherwise it would have been fun to check them out.  We will have to go beck someday.

We were surprised at the number of campers in the park for the night and through the weekend – although it is suppose to be a beautiful weekend and the trees are actually starting to change up north already – very pretty.  We really needed power for the tracking device otherwise it beeps like crazy.  So we asked a young couple at an adjacent electric site if we could charge the tracker for the night they were more than willing to allow us to plug it in. We talked with them and their two children for awhile, they were very interested in our trip and of course the double bike!!

It proved to be a chilly night so we climbed in the tent early to write our posts and blogs and then read for a while.  We had a long ride ahead of us the next day.

September 19, 2015 – Day 16

Little Falls, MN (Charles Lindbergh State Park) to Coon Rapids, MN 98 miles. Total Miles 1,061

Weather cold in morning – 36 degrees, warmed up to 75 degrees, sunny and cross/tailwind

Woke up to a cold morning at the campground, put on all the layers and got going with a warm breakfast. Today we were going to be bicycling from the more rural areas to the bigger cities around Minneapolis.  Our ride was mainly on county roads and the Great River Road.  We traveled thru the City of Rice, Sauk Rapids, St Cloud, Clearwater, Monticello and finally into Otsego.  From Otsego we traveled the last 15 miles to our Warm Showers stay in Coon Rapids.

Now that we are closer to the cities and for the rest of the route our guide book will offer routes on both the east and west side of the river.  This came in handy when traveling thru St Cloud because we decided to stay on the east side of the river there were some nice gardens to view on that side – the Munsinger and Clemens Gardens were amazing.

The ride today was longer than we would have liked it to be, but it is just the way it worked out and will give us a nice short day into Minneapolis and to our daughter Alex’s house tomorrow.   The ride continues to go well and the nice fall days have been great.

Old Railroad Bridge Crossing Mississippi in Palisade, MN

Old Railroad Bridge Crossing Mississippi in Palisade, MN

Peter at Cuyuna Lake Trail near Crosby , MN

Peter at Cuyuna Lake Trail near Crosby , MN

Peter and Tracy at Coon Rapids Dam - Coon Rapids, MN

Peter and Tracy at Coon Rapids Dam – Coon Rapids, MN

Peter and John (Warm Showers host) at Coon Rapids Dam

Peter and John (Warm Showers host) at Coon Rapids Dam

September 20, 2015 Day 17

Coon Rapids, MN – Minneapolis MN 18 miles – Total Miles 1,079

Weather 69 degrees, light winds, sunny, beautiful fall day

This morning we woke to fresh baked blueberry muffins  – made by John our Warm Showers host.  The muffins were delicious and we each ate three of them.  John rode out to the Coon Rapids Dam with us to get us going in the right direction, which was great – it is always nice when your local host helps you get out of town.  We had a great stay with John and his dog, unfortunately we did not get a chance to meet his wife she was away for the weekend at a girl scout event.

Our ride took us along the beautiful trail system into the twin cities and before we knew it we were in the cities and only a mile from our daughters home.  We even got in the middle of an organized bicycle ride and rode their route for several miles. It was funny to see the other riders go by and look at us funny, they were having trouble figuring out what a fully loaded tandem bicycle was doing on the ride. We even crossed the finish line of the ride!!

We totally forgot that the Vikings were playing the Detroit Lions at the University of Minnesota stadium today, boy was there lots of traffic when we got on to campus.  The Vikings are playing at the University stadium while there new stadium is being built – the Dome deflated a couple of years ago and they decided they needed to build a new one.

We plan to have a day off tomorrow and will goof off in the cities I am sure we will find plenty to do.  So do not look for a post tomorrow.  Attached are some pictures from past days – enjoy.

Camping Along the Mississippi River in Palisade, MN

September 17, 2015 – Day 14

Grand Rapids MN to Palisade, MN – 50 miles.  Total Miles – 869

Weather, 73 degrees, humid, cloudy, strong headwind and stormy

Today we got up a bit later at the hotel and took our time getting moving – we only had 50 miles to go today. It was nice to sleep in and not have to hurry to get going this morning – besides our legs were tried after our long ride the day before.

Our ride today was once again easy to navigate- yea!!  We traveled on CR 3 and CR 10 the whole way.  County Rd 10 is the Great River Road and you are up close and personal with the Mississippi River many times along the ride. The road is lightly traveled and has a small shoulder to add some space – although the motor vehicle drivers were great and typically went way around us.  The only hard thing about the route was there were no services along it.  Luckily we had enough water and food along to get us through the fifty miles.

When deciding how far to go today we really debated because we wanted to go farther – to Brainerd, MN but it would have been over 100 miles – so that was out.  Atkins and Crosby were our other choices but even to Atkins we would have added another 20 miles and with the call for storms and rain all day we decided to cut it short.  This proved to be a good choice because shortly after getting our tent set up in Palisade the rain came down.

We are using the Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River book to navigate and the author listed Palisade as a Recommended Stop and he was right – just up the street was the main street with everything you needed – a Café, grocery store and two bars.  Also the campground is very nice with improved restrooms and showers and right on the Mississippi River.  When we arrived at the campground we ran into a young couple who were kayaking the river from the headwaters to the Gulf.  We talked to them for a while and wished them luck on their journey. Hopefully we will run into them again along the route.

In a couple of days we will be to Minneapolis and will stay with our youngest daughter Alex.  It will be great to see her and find out how school is going.

Attached are some photos from past days.

Peter Crossing the Mississippi River

Peter Crossing the Mississippi River

Peter and Tracy at the Headwaters

Peter and Tracy at the Headwaters

Peter at the Headwaters

Peter at the Headwaters

Entering Itasca State Park

Entering Itasca State Park

A Long Day on the Bicycle

September 16, 2015  – Day 13

Bemidji, MN  to Grand Rapids, MN – 94 miles        Total miles 819

Weather 70 degrees, partly sunny and tail wind

This morning we got up to a nice breakfast provided by our Warm Shower Hosts Kent and Betsy.  After some conversation we headed off on our bicycle for another day of bicycling.  Our ride today took us north a bit, than east towards Cass Lake and the town of Bena. The roads were great and traveled through some beautiful forests and provided us with views of the Mississippi River and the lakes it travels thru. We traveled along Lake Bemidji, Cass Lake and finally Lake Winnibigoshish and to the Town of Bena.

In the Town of Bena there was suppose to be a 65 foot Muskie that has been used for a restaurant and many other things over the years.  Somehow we totally missed seeing the big fish, don’t know how but we did. We were going to head back and see if we could find it to take a picture but we had 46 miles to go until we were done for the day so we continued on.

We finally found somewhere to eat about 15 miles from Bena and had a good lunch at the Best Dam Restaurant.  The food was good and filled us up.  Back on the bicycle to continue the ride to Grand Rapids – we had about 35 miles to go.  The ride to Grand Rapids went well and was uneventful.  We got in fairly late and got settled in our hotel, did laundry and got something to eat.  We got the last hotel room in the city and were happy to get it after a long day on the road.

Made it to Itasca State Park – Days 10 -12

September 13, 2015 – Day 10

International Falls, MN to Northome, MN  73 miles – total miles 593

Weather 65 degrees, partly sunny and nasty head wind – 20 mph

We left International Falls early because we knew we had to battle a head wind all day.  It was definitely a long day on the bike and a tough one due to the headwind.  We spent almost the whole day on Hwy 71 which had a nice wide shoulder to ride and and very little traffic.  The road was straight and pretty flat – at times it appeared we were climbing a hill but we seemed to never get to the top of the hill it just kept going.

We finally got to Northome and stopped in a convenience store/bait shop/gas station for a break and to check our directions to the Sleepy Hollow Campground  – our home for the night.  The owner a very nice gentleman,  said it was straight down Hwy 46 about five miles on the left – google said it was straight down Hwy 46 –  2.7 miles.  Well Google was wrong and we ended up traveling south and then coming back north and then heading south again to where the campground was. It just goes to show a local is much smarter than the Google map function.

We got to the Sleepy Hollow Campground about 5:30pm, set up camp, ate dinner and went to bed.  I think we were out by  9:00pm.  The campground was nice and was right on one of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes- Ron the substitute campground host was a great guy and talked us into the camp when we were struggling with the directions.

September 14, 2015- Day 11

Northome, MN to Itasca State Park – 90 miles Total miles – 683

Weather 70 degrees, partly sunny and light variable winds

The local convenience store owner gave us directions to Bemidji and did a great job, this time we followed his directions and did not use goggle – good idea.  We headed south on Hwy 46 to Hwy 13 both great roads with little or no traffic – although the highway department was in the process of fixing all storm sewer pipes under the road and ever so often there were gravel patches across the road – 10 of them to be exact.  Actually we knew about then from the convenience store owner,  they were not in bad shape – really did not slow us down much.

Got in to Bemidji mid day and picked up groceries and other things needed for a night of camping and dinner.  We then made the mistake of using Goggle to get us down to Itasca State Park – bad idea.  Goggle kept trying to put us on gavel/dirt roads which were in very bad shape.  The only option was to continue down Hwy 3 until we hit a paved road to get us to the park, which we did Tracy was not so happy with the extra 20 miles we had to put in – so our 70 mile day became 90 ouch!!.  We finally reached Hwy 200/71 and were at the corner taking a break.  A woman (Sara) drove up and asked where we were going – Peter said Itasca Park and asked how much further.  She told us about 5 miles and asked if we were staying at the Hostel.  We told her no because it  was closed.  She said no it’s not I am the manager and I just opened it for another bicyclist and you are welcome to stay as well.  We took her up on the offer and headed  to the park and our night stay in the HI Headwaters Hostel.

The hostel is very nice and was the former park headquarters built in 1929.  There is room for up to 31 people and has great shared spaces, kitchen, laundry facilities etc.  Sara was a gracious hostess and provided us with everything we needed.  The other bicyclist staying the night was Richard from Seattle, WA,  He had taken the Greyhound bus from the west coast to Fargo ND and then got on his bicycle to pedal to Itasca.  He plans to travel the Mississippi River Trail to St Louis and the Katy Trail where his wife will meet him at the end of the trail.   He is a retired gentleman who writes- mainly essays. He was very interesting to talk with.

Riding 90 miles after a hard day of fighting the wind the day before we were ready for bed after a shower, dinner, good conversation and laundry.  Tomorrow will be a shorter day (37 miles) thank goodness we just plan to bicycle back to Bemidji which is the way the MRT (Mississippi River Trail) goes.

September 15, 2015 – Day 12

Itasca State Park, MN to Bemidji, MN – 42 miles  Total miles – 725 miles

Weather: 77 degrees, sunny, south windy – 15 – 20 mph – tail wind most of the day

It was a beautiful day for a ride and it was nice to be going shorter today, we also had a warm showers stay for tonight.  The same host that Richard was staying with. It is always nice to meet new people.

Our day started with a bicycle ride thru the park to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. We finally made it the official start of our Mississippi River Trail.  We did the mandatory photos at the headwaters, we were there early and no one else was there to take pictures of the two of us. But just when we decided to do separate photos a young man showed up and was happy to take some shots for us – yea!!

We then head to the park headquarters but it was not open yet.  Oh well we still took the time last night and this morning to check out this amazing park.  It is a beautifully maintained park with great bicycle/pedestrian paths and natural areas.  It was great to be at the park this time of year because it was very quiet with little or no traffic. It is here where the Mississippi is a mere 12 feet wide  “1,475 feet above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico” – we are excited for the beginning of our journey along this amazing river.  Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as we do.

After checking out the park we head back to Bemidji along the MRT route – this time it was only 37 miles rather than the 57 yesterday!!  The weather was great and the wind pushed us most of the way. We got into town early about noon and headed to a recommended coffee shop for lunch then dropped our bicycle off at the Northern Bicycle Shop for a new tire up front, new computer and brake work.  Nothing major just those pesky things that need to get done when you ride hard everyday.

We our off to our Warm Showers home and dinner with them.  Tomorrow we will put on more miles although we are not sure how far we will go yet!!

I will put up some pictures later tonight or tomorrow.  Please check back.