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.