Any Road Tour: Day 28 – Bury me not on the lone prairie

It turns out that Terri, my Warmshowers hostess, is my sister from another mother. She’s crazy about Brandi Carlile and loves everything bagels. We talked about the former last night and I had the latter for breakfast in her kitchen this morning. I lingered a long time, first chatting with Terri then with Drew, Scott, and Poppy.

I rolled out well after 8 and headed to the post office to mail back some maps.

Then I ride across the Red River of the North into Fargo. I was expecting a run down place with weathered buildings but I was pleasantly surprised. All the old buildings look like new. Flower baskets hang from street light poles. Trees and greenery abound. I even got stuck waiting for s couple of trains on my meander.

I am embarrassed that I didn’t recognize that the colorful bike racks below spell “Fargo” in ASL.

I headed south out of town with a nice tailwind and turned west near Horace. Drew told me that the big crops around here are barley (for beer) and sugar beets.

This is what I saw for the rest of the day.

I met Tim on the side of the road outside Kindred. He’s riding the Northern Tier in chunks because he’s otherwise busy running a couple of businesses in Sandpoint Idaho. He gave me lots of information about the roads out his way and invited me to stay at his place in Hope Idaho later in my tour.

Tim and I talked for a half hour. I rode into Kindred and had a noontime breakfast at the cafe he recommended.

The high plains are known for their abandoned buildings. This one caught my eye from the highway so I rode down a dirt road to get a better look.

The route took me straight west for miles and miles. The wind was pushing me along at 14 miles per hour.

Along the side of the road I saw a wild turkey just hanging out. Wildlife is random out here.

At Enderlin I stopped for a late lunch. The cafe was also a thrift shop. I had a hot roast beef sandwich that filled my tummy.

After my meal I stocked up on water and food at a gas station convenience store. My maps said there were limited services for the next 78 miles. (Mostly this meant there were no toilets.) I arrived at Little Yellowstone Park, a roadside state-run campground, around 4:30. It was clean and empty. I decided that I’d do something a little crazy. I was going to run the deck of the rest of those 78 miles!

First I had to climb a big hill in my granny gear. On the way up I startled a doe and she dashed from the tall grass along the side of the road. Ten yards later I spotted a fawn nestled in the grass checking me out.

Five miles later I came upon Emily and Jay who were riding Bruce Gordon bicycles from Bend Oregon to Boston. (

We talked for 20 minutes or so before parting. They had stayed the night before at the Honey Pot in Gackle. That was my destination. I expected to get there no later than 10.

Then the winds died. No tailwind. I just rode and admired the sound of the noisy critters on the prairie. Just before sunset they get LOUD. The birds made R2D2 sounds. There was one in particular with an orange head and splashed of white on its shoulders that stood out both visually and aurally.

Each time I stopped I was engulfed by swarms of mosquitoes. These and other flying bugs would get caught in the sunscreen and hair on my arms and legs . Emily had talked about ticks so I was clearing off the bugs constantly. Their distraction was slowing me to 9 miles per hour. I finally put on my sunsleeves and a hat for sanity sake.

The sun set to the north peeking through overcast skies.

Now it was dark. I toyed with the idea of riding without lights. The heavy truck traffic from the workaday world had ended and I was all but alone. I’d turn my lights on whenever I heard a car coming from behind or saw headlights up ahead. The headlights seemed to take forever to get to me.

After a while I just left my lights on. My ability to sense my environment was now confined to the white circle of my headlight beam. I could have been anywhere for all I could tell. Now and then I’d see a farmhouse’s lights in the far distance but that was all.

I was eating constantly but I was slowing down. I was riding uphill but could only tell when my pedaling became labored.

Then came the rain. It was light but added to the lunacy of the whole affair.

At one point I nearly ran over an owl who was sitting in the road admiring his dinner.

This was getting weirder by the mile. Because of the rolling terrain I didn’t see Gackle until the last half mile into town.

I arrived at the Honey Pot just after midnight. I woke up Martin, a Swiss cyclist bound for Seattle. He returned the favor by waking me in the morning.

Happy trails Martin.

Earlier in the day I learned that Tom Gjelten of NPR had begun a 70th birthday ride from the Oregon coast to Massachusetts. Around our house, Tom is known as Jake’s stepdad. Jake and our son went to high school together. I hope to see him in a couple of weeks.

Total mileage: 136.5 (smashing my personal record of 118)

Tour mileage: 2,092.5

Any Road Tour: Day 27 – Headwinds to Morehead

I survived Fergus Falls. Torrential rain and swirling winds were lit up by incessant lightning. I’m not at all sorry that I didn’t camp.

Main Street in Fergus Falls looked like s snapshot of my the 1950s.

The road northwest was, well, a road. No more bike trails just The Mule, me, some rolling hills, and 10,000 expansion joints. Did you know that Minnesota has more lakes than expansion joints? It’s true!

After 18 miles I pulled into a diner to top off my hotel breakfast. They were having a Father’s Day brunch by reservation only. Having not planned ahead for the repast I left.

More hills and lakes for 12 miles until I found Zorbaz, a local pizza and Mexican place. The parking lot was overflowing so I went in to see what the crowd was eating. I immediately grabbed a table and was eating a burrito with chips and salsa within five minutes. They must have heard I was coming.

In addition to rolling hills today featured the first headwinds in a week. And I got rained on which actually felt splendid even in the cool air of the north.

It gets much colder in the winter so people burn a little firewood.

I found a fine place to entomb my wife’s car.

The headwinds were wearing me out as I rolled through Downer. Then it was on to Sabin for some gas station junk food. I think I’m finally tiring of chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches.

As I was leaving two eastbound bike tourists pulled in. Anna and Keith are doing the full Northern Tier from Anacortes Washington to Bar Harbor Maine. We traded intel in the road ahead. I learned that Anna started riding in January. Unreal.

I left the Northern Tier which follows the road grid west then north the west to Fargo. Instead I took a highway diagonally to Morehead Minnesota across the Northern Snake River from Fargo. They have trains out their wazoos up here, many transporting oil from the Bakken oil fields.

I swallowed my introversion and arranged to stay with a Warmshowers hosts. The Trickle family. Terri immediately made me feel like family. Drew and I got into an ugly fight about politics and I started smashing things. Okay, I made that up. We sat around and drank wine in the cool evening breeze on their back patio. Son Scotty came home and poured me a glass of chocolate milk because nothing quite goes with a good Cabernet quite like some brown moo juice.

Their house dates to the postwar era. They even have an old pink built in range in which Terri bakes junk food. I have photographic proof!

Suffice it to say these are incredibly nice people who love hosting bicycle tourists from all over the world.

And so I end my days in Minnesota. On to Fargo, the land of the wood chipper.

Big thanks to Terri, Drew, Scott and Poppy the goldendoodle.

Miles to day: 82.5

Tour total: 1,958

I’m now about halfway.

Any Road Tour: Day 26 – Big Ole and Little Aaron

I checked into a motel last night to avoid thunderstorms. None occurred.

My ride today involved following a rail trail 70 miles to a place called Fergus Falls. Shut brain off, pedal, and be grateful for defunct railroads and favorable winds. (Something like 6 of the last 8 days have had favorable winds. I fear I’ll pay for this.)

Before riding the trail I took a short tour of Sauk Centre. There’s the Palmer House Hotel and a bunch of old buildings from the 20s. I’ll bet it was a hopping town way back when.

The trail goes straight to the northwest. Ahead the sky was dark. I could tell that I was going to get wet but I was more concerned about wind and lightning. In West Union I noticed a gazebo next to the trail. Possible shelter, I rode on. Another gazebo. I rode on. No more gazebos and here comes the rain.

I turned around and made for the last gazebo. Just after I got there a young woman with a 4 year old ran in behind me. Then the skies opened up.

Ten minutes later the storm had passed. Had I left the hotel five minutes earlier I’d have been caught in it. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

An hour later I came to Alexandria. Our Alexandria has a statue of a defeated Confederate soldier hanging his head and facing south. Minnesota’s Alexandria has Big Ole.

The statue commemorates the finding by a local farmer in the late 19th century of ancient Viking artifacts including a rune stone. This material is believed to be from the 14th century well before Columbus’s voyage. I’m skeptical. But the town isn’t so they built Big Ole.

As the heat and humidity climbed I looked for a cafe to cool off. I found a coffee and ice cream shop in one.

Cone devoured, I was back on the trail for only 6 miles when I saw a steakhouse in Evansville.

The service was slow but the fried walleye sandwich was worth the wait.

A big storm was forecasted to hit Fergus Falls do I had to up my pace. Earlier in the day I had to deal with a trail closure by portaging The Mule over 40 yards of dirt and mud. A few miles from Evansville I got another muddy trail interruption. I slogged through annoyed that I’d have to clear the mud out of my fenders.

Near Dalton, the penultimate town on today’s ride, I encountered Aaron, who is riding from Portland Oregon to Bar Harbor. Maine. We stood and talked for about a half hour, long enough to feed every biting insect around.

With severe thunderstorms nearly certain for the overnight and a tornado watch in effect, I headed for yet another hotel.

Tomorrow is Fargo. Oh gee.

Today’s mileage: 75.5

Tour mileage to date: 1,873.5

Any Road Tour: Day 25 – Wobegon in Sauk Centre

I pretty much go to bed and wake up with the sun. Here is the sky last night just before sunset. Imagine cool breezes and you get the full effect. If you are standing by sideways that is.


After eating first breakfast of PB&J on tortillas, I left Alice’s Attic at 7 am, well before my host was up and about. It was great arrangement and Alice made me feel quite at home.

As I rode away I spotted some of her cattle lying in a field. When I mooed they all stood up and gave me the hairy eyeball as if to say “Can’t you see we’re sleeping?” Here they are last night checking me out.

The next 19 miles were a straight line through farms and fields to Bowlus. On the way I crossed the Mississippi for the last time. It’s a much prettier river up here.

In Bowlus I stopped for second breakfast at

Jordie’s Cafe. One of the cafe’s workers saw me pull up and said “Hi John.” I asked her how she knew who I was and she said she saw my picture on Alice’s webpage. (This was good to know since I don’t need any more worries about my fusiform gyrus.)

Oatmeal, hash browns, an English muffin, coffee, and OJ filled my tank and put a smile on my face.

In the park across the street I called Mrs. Rootchopper to check in on the home front. She’s consulting contractors to redo my man cave while I’m on the road.

The park was adjacent to the Lake Wobegone Trail which I promptly took toward Sauk (pronounced sock) Centre (spelled the British way).

I had a tailwind I stopped for a moment to spray bug repellent on my shirt. It seems the few black flies that are still around love the spot in my back between my shoulder blades. After that I flew down the recently repaved trail. It was about as nice a trail as you could want. It even featured Minnesota’s longest covered bridge.

Within a few miles the skies opened up and big cold rain drops started pelting me. I put up with it for a while then pulled over to put on my rain jacket. Three minutes later the rain stopped.

I stopped to take a picture of a water tower for some reason.

My next stop was Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport for lunch. Lunch was tasty so I had desert. It was awesome.

When I came out of the restaurant the sky had cleared. The sun was very strong and the humidity was through the roof.

I rode about ten more miles to Sauk Centre. It was only 2:30 but I decided to respect the heat and humidity as well as the forecast of overnight thunderstorms and grab a hotel room. This made it my shortest mileage day so far.

Today’s miles: 56

Tour miles to date: 1,798

A medical note or two:

For the last two weeks my right index finger has gone numb. I swear it’s not from chastising drivers.

Of greater concern is my left calf. It’s a little sore and swollen. This is where my deep vein thrombosis or DVT formed. (The DVT was the source of the blood clots that lodged in my lungs over the winter.) I need to elevate it overnight. If I need to I can always go to an ER and get an ultrasound.

On a cheerier note: I passed 5,000 miles for the year yesterday.

Any Road Tour: Day 24 – Alice’s Attic

Somehow I actually slept a few hours in my tent last night. I was stirred from my slumbers by some of the chattiest wildlife on earth. And by a passing light rain shower that sprinkled my uncovered tent.

Up before dawn I packed my things and rolled out for what was supposed to be 73 mile day. I had a strong tailwind so I expected it to be an easy day.

Breakfast in the town of Sunrise didn’t pan out. I took a pass at viewing Richard Widmark’s birthplace because I can’t think of a single movie he was in even though I must have seen dozens of them.

I finally sat down to a fine country breakfast in Harris, 18 miles into my day. I get about six miles to the tortilla.

I left the restaurant and immediately made a wrong turn. I was distracted by the fact that the restaurant had apple fritter French toast on the menu, Tragically they were out of them. 😱

I clued in after four miles. Good thing I had a tailwind. Um, wait…

Four miles of headwinds later I was back on course in Stark. The roads, scenery, and towns reminded me of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Tailwinds pushed me through one rural metropolis after another. Granny. Springvale. Then Dalbo. Here I could stay at a free bunkhouse on a farm. I went into a bar for food and contemplation. The bar food was delicious and totally hit the spot.

It was only 40 miles to another farm roadhouse open to cross country bike tourists. So I headed for Alice’s Attic.

Along the way I passed an organic rock farm. Or maybe not.

I made a pit stop in Milaca for packable groceries and cash.

The heat and humidity increased as I rode. Clouds were building to the southwest. With four miles to go a small fluffy white dog charged across the highway to do me in. How this dog is still alive after running across this highway is beyond me. The dog was harmless but he was very fast. I took off. The loaded Mule was instantly accelerating through 17 miles per hour. Dang.

I pulled into a farm with an AA sign out front. I had a 50/50 chance of shelter or an alcoholics get together. Luckily this was Alice’s Attic. It’s a farm/antique place run by Alice. I am pretty sure she has a Group W bench somewhere in the barn where I am sleeping tonight. If you want to find a particular item, just go ask Alice. I think she’ll know.

Alice has been welcoming Northern Tier cyclists for 15 years, quite the trail angel.

Rains’ a comin’. Tomorrow might be a short wet one.

Today’s miles: 92.5

Total trip mileage: 1,742.


Any Road Tour: Day 23 – Bridges and bonking

It was tough to leave the incredible hospitality of Kathy, Russ, Krista, and their owner Fluffy the wonder cat.

Clad in my WABA socks, I rolled out at 7:30 headed north through Saint Paul.

Near Como Park I picked up a side trail that had a well-divided path for pedestrians and bicycles. Maybe The Wharf can adopt signs like this.

This lead to a rail trail that extended well over ten miles. The weather could not have been better so riding in a tunnel of leant shade was the bomb.

I stopped at a repair station to give my tires a shot of air and clean and lube my chain. The Mule appreciated the TLC.

We cut over to another trail they took us directly to the Lower St Croix River in Stillwater Minnesota. Stillwater was a lovely town. It had a house straight out of the Addam’s family.

It would have been my favorite but for this one, whose owner had terrific taste in baseball teams.

I would have seen those houses at all but for the fact that the bridge across the river is out. It is being converted to a bicycle and pedestrian bridge.

The new bridge is beautiful and has an awesome side path. Unfortunately the people at Minnesota and Wisconsin DOT didn’t bother to put up any signs telling you how to get to it. I spent about 45 minutes going up and down hills until I found the secret entrance.

Finding my way on the Wisconsin side of the river wasn’t any easier as the local roads near the bridge are all being reconfigured. Another half hour wasted wandering about.

I finally got on the road to Osceola. It was 14 miles away and breakfast had been burned by my engine. Did I mention there were hills? Well, let’s just say that my granny gear got more use today than it has in a week.

I arrived in Osceola and took about an hour break for lunch (at 2:30) and to buy food for dinner. The food store gave me a senior discount and I didn’t even buy Polident.

I re-crossed the river to Minnesota where I was greeted by more hills. Lunch had not kicked in and I was bonking pretty bad.

After ten miles I made the turn for the campground. After 1 1/2 miles there was no campground. The Google informed me I should not have turned. After retracing my steps and obeying my Google Maps master, I found the RV park. They charged me $35 to camp. As I started rolling my bike away from the camp office, the manager called out to me. He goofed. The campsite was only $10 for bicyclists.

It’s time for dinner. PB and J on flour tortillas, apples, and pretzels. Basically my food choices came down to what was easy to transport.

Total miles today: 80.5

Total tour miles: 1,649.5

Any Road Tour: Day 22 – Rest day in the Twin Cities

Showered and laundered the Rootchopper express was ready for socializing. Kathy and her husband Russ took me to dinner at Surly (I am not making this up) brewery in St Paul. We had pizza and beer and it all was so good.

The pizza restaurant was on the second floor. My cranky attitude yesterday and the Hillary step feeling of one flight of stairs convinced me to take today off and recharge my batteries.

Today Kathy made me a breakfast of mass quantities. After hanging out and enjoying her landscaped yard we took off for the Mall of America. What a strange palace to American retail excess.

After lunch at Nordstrom’s overlooking the airport and a gigantic IKEA, we headed to REI. Kathy bought clothes for her impending trip to Scotland and I restrung my tent poles after some instruction from REI staff.

It’s going to be hard to break away from this wonderful hospitality but tourers gotta tour. I am back on the road tomorrow. I have decided to rejoin the Adventure Cycling route. It’s very easy to get to from Kathy’s house. I’m hoping to make North Central Lake tomorrow night.

Big, big thanks to Kathy, Russ, and daughter Krista for much needed rest and friendship. Oh gee, I promise to seek out some cheese curds in the days ahead.

Any Road Tour: Day 21 – St Paul force field

I broke camp just after sunrise (which was a nonevent thanks to overcast skies) and hit the road heading north with a cool tailwind. Whoever said it was all going to be headwinds is a party pooper.

I stopped st the first roadside eatery for breakfast. I bought the Trucker’s Special.

It was more than I could eat but I didn’t care.

Back on the road I was clipping along pretty well. In Red Wing I passed one of the Red Wing shoe factories and a 3M plant. Both places are looking for people if you don’t mind living in an iceberg six months out of the year.

I could have opted to cross the river back to Wisconsin to continue on the Adventure Cycling route but I chose the supposedly shorter route that The Google offered in Minnesota.

Google is not bad but it doesn’t know about road closures. I must have gone through five closures, one with a long detour.

In Hasting I started following a bike route and ended up, with some help from a dog walker, at a mill with a waterfall.

After that I decided to follow the roads according to a Google Maps. My phone ran out of power so I took a lunch break to plug in.

The last 20 miles were a slog with way too many turns and ominous storm clouds. From time to time it sprinkled which raised my anxiety level. I burn wprsec as the fact they for two hours I never seemed to get closer to St Paul. It was like it had an invisible force field around it.

I finally pulled up st my friend Kathy’s house. I am trying to decide whether to take tomorrow off. Once I leave I will probably follow Adventure Cycling’s route out of town. It’s longer but I won’t have the stress of navigating urban streets. Also it goes by an REI where I can get my tent pole restrung.

71 miles today today.

1,569 for the tour so far.

Any Road Tour: Day 20 – Trails and tailwinds to the banks of the Mississippi River

I’m sitting in my tent listening to waves wash up on the little beach just below my tent site on the Mississippi River in Lake City. Finally! Hawks and eagles are flying around searching for dinner.

There is a near zero chance of rain tonight so no rain fly for me. I expect I’ll be drenched by 2 am.

Last night I got the senior’s special at the family restaurant next to the hotel: spaghetti with alleged vegetables on the side.

The Settle Inn turned out to be a very nice hotel. The complimentary breakfast had proper china and silverware. I had my usual double dose of food.

Off and running under overcast skies with cool temperatures, I found the Great River Trail and followed it north next to an active rail line along the river. It was mostly unpaved but it had withstood the recent rains rather well. (The surface was almost as good as the GAP trail in Pennsylvania,)

An interesting feature of Wisconsin trails is that you have to pay a user fee – $5 for the day, $20 for a year.

It was worth it. The trail was shaded and afforded so many different views. Trains, bluffs along both sides of the river, swamps, trestles, even an Indian mound.

In the winter it is used by snowmobilers because Wisconsin.

I didn’t see anyone for ten miles then I saw some riders with event numbers on their shirts. Soon after a black van pulled along side me. It was a local bike shop doing support for the event. The woman and man and I talked for a while. She gave me some energy food things that tasted like marguerita mix. Trail angels show up when you least expect them.

Such nice people. They even took my picture to prove that I am not making this up from a bar in La Crosse.

I managed to get lost soon after this but The Google and a compass set me right. I road a few more miles on the road turning down a chance for Food and Booze! (Wisco people aren’t very subtle.)

I re-crossed the river at Winona Minnesota.

After a delicious burrito at the Winona Sandwich Shop, I headed north on highway 61. Yes, it’s the same one made famous by the Bob Dylan song only he was singing about the southern part in the Mississippi delta.

For about 20 miles I had a tailwind and a perfectly paved 12 foot shoulder. The Mule took off, cruising along at 16 miles per hour . Wheee!

For a brief period I diverted from this four lane highway to a quieter country road near Kellogg. They warned of jaywalking turtles.

About an hour later I was wondering if my destination got the night existed. Lake City is on a section of the river called Lake Pepin. The town once was a world leader in the manufacture of pearl buttons. And claims to be where water skiing was invented.

For me it held good and a campsite along the river.

I was pretty tired. Fortunately a nearby camper named Brad came over and helped me set my tent up. (The elastic cords inside my tent poles are stretched. Anybody know how to deal with this?)

And so the sun sets on another long day in the saddle. 90.5 miles.

My total mileage so far is 1,498.

Tomorrow I go to Saint Paul.