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.