06/09/2005 Day One Minneapolis to Hinckley
The bags are packed, I've washed and dried my dishes and put them on the shelf. The garbage went out yesterday carrying anything that might have spoiled. Someone has a set of keys. I'll change the sheets on the bed should they want to stay the night and enjoy the quiet. The mail has been stopped. The association knows I'll be absent. The bike is as ready as it ever will be. I've checked my list. Soon I'll get in the shower and put my cycling togs on for the day 80 mile ride to our first camping spot.
I am so excited I could hardly sleep last night like a little kid before Christmas. I am not insane; this is what I like to do.
Vacation is HERE! Wish us luck. Smell you later...
We are finally on the road. Our first day was 76 miles for me, 85 for Jon. Great weather, no mishaps, nothing significant forgotten. We had lots of good conversation. We had lunch in North Branch after we had to ride along a road instead of on a bike path. All was good until the destination, Hinckley. The campground was closed, and it was a Travel Lodge for us. Dinner was good, I ate too much! Almost six hours of riding, and all OK. Will we be sore tomorrow? Too late!
We start by Jon riding to my house from his in Minneapolis. From there we proceeded a few blocks north to a trail along the road. We used that to ride through my current home city, through Lino Lakes, and to Hugo. Until Hugo, we had gone mostly east. Time to go north, for the rest of the day! In fact, for many days to come we will go north.
We could ride side by side on the trail and talk. That is so much better than riding alone. About what? Everything and nothing. Just the chit chat of friends. Iíve known Jon for years, but we see or talk only about once a month so there is always news that each has missed or forgotten or didnít seem important at the time.
In Forest Lake we stopped for our first bathroom break. I took the time to eat a Clif bar. Then I too used the loo to pee. The day was gorgeous. Not terribly bright, and almost no wind. Next stop was North Branch for lunch at Jimmy's Pizza. Great sub sandwiches, although small At North Branch the bike trail ran out, and so rode Highway 61, the one Bob Dylan made famous. We will pick it up again and follow it to its north conclusion in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
From there until our final destination, it will be roadway shoulder riding. There were some places where the talk continued, but often we rode in own world. Thinking time is plentiful on bike trips.
In Pine City, we finally saw what I had been waiting for; Dairy Queen! Also there was a local teenager with her three younger siblings and her boyfriend. Jon got a Blizzard and for me it was a caramel Moolatte: It was delicious! I was frozen, but had a smile on my face. The young woman had lots of questions for us as it was obvious she had never met a cycle tourist. She was impressed, I think. I guess we didn't look that haggard yet.
After the ice cream stop the road was dull. No scenery, no trees, no shade, and enough trucks and two way traffic to make you paranoid. There was one spot that was surveyor straight and nothing to do but pedal. It seemed to take forever to cross. I did not mention the Seney stretch to come. We finally arrived at a junction and verified we were only 4 mile out of Hinckley, only four miles away it had been a long day. When we got to Hinckley we went to a tourist center which was about the great fire of 1894. Only 400 died, but the fire plume was 24,000 feet, and was headlines around the world.
The bad news was, the Hinckley campground was closed. To much abuse by locals drinking, mostly teenagers. Huh. Now what? Well, we didn't feel up for another 12 miles to a state campground so we took her recommendation. She suggested the TravelLodge for $55 a night. Jon paid for this one; we traded paying so it was even over the trip. It was clean, had a good shower. Washed my clothes in the shower and hung them to dry in the closet area. Then we went across the street (Cassidy's) to eat.
They had a pretty good salad bar, which is what Jon chose. I, foolishly got a hot beef and the salad bar. I found the bread really great, but much of the other stuff was lousy, except the wild rice salad. The hot beef was great, but too much food. Totals for the day: 76.61 at 13.01 MPH, 5:53:16 time riding. There are 3844 miles on my odometer.
06/10/2005 Day Two - Hinckley to Duluth Tent and Camp
It was a long day. Started in Hinckley, saw rain, and rode mostly on rail to trail, which was paved. It was quiet, but boring, except for the seven white tail deer we startled. One was a Mom with a spotted fawn on shaky legs. At first the fawn went in the wrong direction, but soon figured things out. The rail trail doesn't make for any big hills, so no land speed records were set. There was a little road riding in Duluth. In fact we rode right downtown in Duluth.
After an hour on the road, we were forced to don the rain gear. It rained for a solid hour and then tapered to a sprinkle. We had started late at about 9 after another meal at Cassidy's. We met another group of cyclist going in as we came out. They caught us after the rain had slowed down. They had no fenders so were muddy and more miserable then we were. Fenders kept us clean and the rain capes kept us dry. Jon relied on his butt to keep his saddle dry, but I used a new Brooks saddle bonnet for mine. I was surprised how I couldnít feel it while riding.
Lunch had been in Kettle River at a little joint called Art's. I had the hot meat loaf and Jon had a chicken fillet sandwich. I had a ton of food and Jon could have used more. Our new pals were already there. They all seemed to be eating the special, a Tuna Melt. And were disappointed. They made up for it, by eating huge pieces of cake. We saw them again at a potty stop and let them go ahead. We were pushing past Duluth and they were going to camp at Spirit Mountain. Into Duluth it was down hill for miles.
While in Duluth we saw a bike shop and they helped us get out of town safely. They weren't much help with eating. I did get a knit hat and brimmed hat at a shop near where we ate. I needed the tuque to sleep in. We ate at Bennet's, a place way out of our dress code, but they didn't have one. It was expensive for us, but we were too hungry to care. They were not our first choice, but they had no waiting and we were hungry. I ordered the swordfish and Jon went for chicken with a side salad.
We set up in the dry site at a campground that seemed to take forever to get to. The eight miles outside of Duluth felt more like eighteen. It was almost dark when checked in and set up. Finding a site that was dry was the problem. We took the only site nearest the bath/shower/laundry. We needed a shower badly. We set up our tents for the first time this trip and went to see what the shower looked like. They were dingy and semi-gross, but the hot water melted any worry.
Every where you walked it seemed your feet got wet and colder. It was cold enough I slept in the new tuque. I did sleep through the foghorn (earplugs).
06/11/2005 Day 3 Duluth to Tettegouche State Park
I slept in the hat as it was that cold. You could see your breath in the morning. We woke to fog and a light rain. We packed wet tents and ate Clif bars for breakfast then shoved off into the gloom. It is mentally tough to start out in the rain. It is tough to pack up all wet gear. There is only one word that describes the feeling of stuffing cold wet tenting gear into your pannier: ishy. Especially when all your just washed laundry is wet and youíll need to use it tomorrow. It stayed tough all day.
We started in tights and wool and they never came off. I tried all kinds of combos, wishing I had brought a windbreaker. It wasn't terrible, just would have been warmer with. Thicker wool socks would have been great too. Tough. We started in the fog and never really lost it. We got some heavy rain (twice), we saw some headwinds, but we saw no sun. The wind and our overall energy level from yesterday shorted our day. We saw heavy rain, high headwinds, chilling temps, and fog on and off all day.
I have some tightness in my left thigh and knee and my fingers on my right hand are always numb from my carpel tunnel/old broken elbow injury this morning. Just age.
We joined the rat race on the road. We got about six miles in and had a real breakfast. Jon had eggs, hash browns and pancakes. I had an omelet, hash browns, and toast. All was excellent. We returned to the fog. It had rained hard while we ate, we were very grateful to miss it.
Once we got to Two Harbors we were so cold we needed a break. Coffee for me and chai tea for Jon. He also had a scone, while I had a 7 layer brownie. After Two Harbors, it seemed to get gloomier and colder. We weren't warm or dry the rest of the day.
The goal was Lutsen, didn't make it. Eventually we had to face facts and grab what lodging we could, just north of Silver Bay. I had to look up the spelling for the state park we stayed at. It was Tettegouche State Park. While talking to the clerk she mentioned we could order a pizza and we checked in. Trouble was our campsite was really far, far from the showers. No shower for us tonight, yuck. As I'm typing it has begin to rain again. Makes for nice sleeping, unless we hear thunder. If it wasn't for fog we could see Gitchee Gummee from here. The pizza was hot and good so that helped. We were beat with a capital "b". I quit typing at 9 PM and got up at 8 AM making us late.
06/12/2005 Day 4 - Tettegouche to Grand Marais
We woke to some decent weather. I donít remember breakfast as I think the last two days were rather hard on us. After we missed Lutsen, we just weren't into climbing a hill just for food; we managed to get lunch in Tufte. Then it was on to Grand Marais. Once there we found our ability wouldn't get us to the next campground. We chose to stay in the municipal campground in Grand Marais. It actually was really nice with warm showers and a pool. We had a nice trout salad for dinner followed by strawberry-rhubarb pie alamode. We walked there. Jon is in the bath trying to dry his shorts in the hand dryer. I'll be trying that next. Wet shorts suck a lot of heat from you in the morning. So would my wet jersey, wet tights and wet under woolie not to mention my wet wool socks. I worry we took years off the life of the dryer but it helped dry things off.
06/13/2005 Day 5 Grand Marais to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Today we woke up to sun. Bright sun! It was actually warm inside the tent before I drug myself out. A Strong enough sun that we went straight to shorts and short sleeves. No tights, no wool, and no hats. The tents were still wet and not a thing we could do about that. We packed up and met two cyclists on their way out of town. They had started from Owatanna and hadn't camped. The father was named Kim and his son was Justin. They went through Taylors Falls and Superior and avoided the MS150. We had breakfast in a little joint that was good but slow with service. Seemed to be the hang out for anyone that smoked.
I slept better except for the seemingly constant need to go pee. I ignored it as much as I could. I turned this thing off about 9:10 and I feel asleep fast. There was one loud motorcycle that kept going by, but after that I don't remember anything. This morning I don't feel too sore, the left knee is stiff and the right index finger and thumb are numb. Now I just noticed the middle finger is numb too. Not a good sign I guess. Fug it, I want to keep going!
There was lots of climbing today and they often left us sweaty, only to freeze with the 10-20 degree temperature drop on the other side. Every time we came near Superior, we froze and debated our clothing choice of shorts and short sleeves. We lunched at the restaurant of the Grand Portage casino. There wasn't much choice in locations. After that we felt chipper enough to shoot for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. We made decent miles although, we hit some headwinds, and the heat wore us when combined with the repeated climbs. To me the views on the Canadian side make the Minnesota stuff seem bland. Much more interesting bluffs and geological formations. If only I wasn't half brain damaged from oxygen debt. No serious injuries yet, a few spots of insufficient sunscreen (me), a couple of numb finger (me), and a stiff knee at times (Jon). We are concerned with our inability to stay on schedule, but, who knows?
So, guess what. Eh? We're in Canada, eh. Thunder Bay to be exact. We made just short of 80 miles from Grand Marais.
06/14/2005 Day 6 Thunder Bay to Thunder Bay Hostel
Today we awoke in our hotel room late. Stupid time change. To begin with the only room we could get on the first floor was a smoking room and man did it stink. We left the patio door open (no screen) to try to release some of the stink. The sheets were horrid and there were burns on the rug in many places, as well as the tub and sink! We got take out Asian from across the street which had such huge portions neither of us finished. I also bought some fresh puliots from a fruit stand a half block away. They were so good for dessert.
So far we've made it all of 5 miles in driving rain and fierce headwinds. At times I've barely been out of a low enough gear from a dead stop at a light due to the wind. Temp is good at about 12-14 degree C which is about 60 F. It could be worse, but we are rather discouraged this morning. We are eating breakfast in place called Finlandia. Our waitress is a Finn, their specialty is "moiakka" or stew, and the check for breakfast says "keetos" or thank you in Finn. Huge pancakes for us, plus coffee for me and tea for Jon. Well, time to go back to riding in the wet and wind.
This was almost the day that almost wasn't. We woke to rain, hard, high volume rain. The rain was driving, the headwinds ferocious. Average speed for the entire trip plummeted from 11.9 to 9 something. Spent a lot of time in very low gears into the wind or uphill or both. Iím talking granny gears meant for real climbing. Top that with Jon's knee just not getting warm or loose made for a slow going.
We stopped in at Lloyd and Willa's youth hostel after finding out where it was from clerk at the Terry Fox Memorial Monument. She was a beautiful young woman with a fresh tan and commented how yesterday was beautiful. And how today was a day she hardy wanted to get out of bed, much less come to work. The hostel was on lake shore drive which was a blessing in that it had a better shoulder and less traffic.
Yet the rain continued. And the wind grew. The surprise was no one was at the hostel as they were in town while Lloyd had a medical procedure. We waited in the entry way about an hour or so and then picked a room and chose a bed and lay down to wait. Willa woke us, but I quickly fell back asleep. Jon woke me to a dinner of baked frozen pizza, apple juice, and hot chocolate. It tasted wonderful. We also met George and Fabian, hitch hikers from Germany. They are camped in a tent made for one. Itís a cheap Wal-Mart thing and leaks like a sieve. They bought a ten dollar tarp and that helps keep them sort of dry.
As I sit typing this at the community table, Willa and Lloyd are watching the news for information on a late governmental vote. Action will start at about 10 PM, and we arenít waiting for it. Even with a nap, Iím too tired. George and Fabian are sharing a snack. They are slicing onion, tomato, cheese and avocado onto dark hearty bread. I just ate and watching makes me hungry. Fabian is a vegetarian, but George would eat anything. They had the same meal for breakfast. The only reason they came in is to get out of the tent for a bit, and use the utensils as they donít have any.
06/15/2005 Day 7 Thunder Bay Hostel to Nipigon
Today was another day of the tropical storm, but a dry one. That is to say it didn't rain, but did it blow. I tried to be a windshield for Jon and his sore knee, but he had to stay dangerously close for the maximum benefit. The shoulder was about 45 cm or less than half of a meter or typical width of touring handlebars. Almost no margin for travel safety. The wind would easily push you one way or the other because of the extra surface of the front pannier bags to push on. So a few degrees of twitch from the passing logging truck and crunch you were in the gravel.
Not that they didn't give us space when they could, but the traffic is heavy all the time on the Tran Can. The goal was Nipigon and we made that although it took a lot. It was the wind. Because of it, you couldn't relax enough to drink from a water bottle. Because of its sound in your ears you couldn't hear the traffic approach from behind, so it would startle you making you flinch even more.
We got lots of people that honked, most likely in a friendly manner, but each time making you jump because you were already tense. A day that nightmares could be filled of. We reached Nipigon too late to consult at the tourism office, but they had a nice town map with main businesses shown. We set out for the only campground on the exit side or North side of town only to find it long closed. We had a backup, a small motel along the road, nearby. And all the rooms were no smoking! We quickly showered up and went for a walkabout for dinner. We chose the Nipigon Cafť.
They were excellent. Jon had pickerel and I had the BBQ pork chops. Two good scoops of mashed potato and real fresh vegetables. It was a lot of food, but we had burned a lot of calories, so Jon had coconut cream pie and I had blueberry ala mode. Mine looked and tasted home made. I had no trouble finishing everything. After dinner was laundry. Every day you wash the clothes you cycled in so they might be clean (and dry) in the next day when you need them! The wool cool weather gear can take longer to dry so it gets first wash and then dried by rolling up in a towel then hung up. Shorts are next and the pad needs scrubbing and it too takes work to dry. Last are jersey and incidentals. They dry quickly so are less bother.
Together Jon and I have used up at least four disposable cameras. The views on the north side Superior are awesome. Little disposables might not do them justice, but it will prime our memory. One more day in, no new injuries, got some miles in, hoping to be ready for the next day.