A Touring Life - Minnesota Meander

By: 
John Springfield

 

John Springfield is a long-time member who periodically reports on his travels. The photos are all his and in many cases are of sights along the route that attract attention. Riding is also appreciating the local landscape.

 

Right after Labor Day I decided to celebrate my 74th birthday by taking a bike tour of Minnesota. Why Minnesota?  Well, hopefully it would be cooler than the blistering heat we had in Boston in August.  And, I was looking forward to exploring the small towns, far away from Boston traffic. 

 

World's largest hockey stick in Eveleth, MN.
 

It turns out, the weather was perfect for bicycling.  Chilly in the morning, but usually warming up to the 70's by day's end.  And no rain or significant hills!

The author trying to decide rules for entering Canada.
 

Leaving International Falls at the Canadian border, I was treated to the world's largest statue of Smokey Bear.  I was now entering Paul Bunyan territory.

Smokey and Paul Bunyan enrich the landscape.
 

I didn't have much choice on which road to take south:  US-71.  Luckily it had a huge breakdown lane for most of the first day.  Minnesota drivers were very generous when passing me.

 

For several days I hardly saw a town over 900 people.  It was a different world. Many towns had only one cafe, one gas station, and maybe a motel.  My mileage each day was determined by the distance between motels.

A local farm of which there are many.
 

I had biked in central Minnesota in 1976 as part of my first cross-country tour.  I was looking forward to seeing the statue of Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan in Bemidji.  Alas, it was kind of a letdown.  Surrounded by a construction, the Babe and Paul looked a little forlorn...

 

I managed to book a room in a small lodge in Itasca State Park, home to the Mississippi River headwaters.  The accommodations were great, and I met an interesting couple that were into biking, hiking, and outdoor adventures.  On my way there I crossed the Mississippi River several times.  It ranged from a mere 20 feet to 100 feet across.

I crossed the Mississippi River.
 

By day 4 I noticed more and more farms.  Goodby forests, hello prairie.  The towns got a little larger.  I ran into my first fast-food restaurants. 

I ate a breakfast burrito, which was a fine treat.
 

In Sauk Center I noticed that the main street was named "The Original Main Street".

Memoryville exhibit - along the Lake Wobegon Trail and Sinclair Lewis

I couldn't figure this out, until I spotted a statue of Sinclair Lewis, the author of the novel "Main Street".

 

Usually not a fan of bike trails, I nonetheless got on the Lake Wobegon Trail. 

The Lake Wobegan Trail

Except for the times it went through small towns, I had the trail to myself.  It eventually took me to St. Cloud, by far the biggest city of the trip.

 

Unfortunately, I got word that my best friend was dying.  So I had to find a way to get back to Boston with my bike. None of the rental car agencies had any one-way cars available.  I was still 75 miles (a day's ride on a bike) from Minneapolis.  I needed to get home as soon as possible.  Then it dawned on me:  try the St. Cloud U-Haul.  Sure enough, they had plenty of small trucks available for one-way rental.  Two days later I arrived in Boston, able to see my friend one last time...

 

So the planned tour was ended. 

But I look back and remember the kind people, the low traffic, and beautiful scenery.

Perhaps to be seen again some day...


Comments

Joseph Repole's picture

Nice article John, as always. Sorry you lost your best friend.
Robert Burkhardt's picture

HI John, Great article. Sorry that Paul and Babe were so downtrodden. Also, looks like you got a new bike! Last time I saw you was most likely on a TOSRV-E in the late 90's, and you were still riding a bike you'd had since you were a kid. Keep pedaling! -Bob Burkhardt

Hi Bob, You have a great memory! Yes, I bought the red Frejus 10-speed in 1063 when i was a teenager. In 2004 I bought a "new" touring bike, a Romulus by Rivendell. I rode TOSRV=East 39 times. The route changed over the years, but the comaraderie stayed the same. John

Hi Bob, Yes, I had a red Frejus 10-speed that I bought in 1963. In 2004 I bought "new" touring bike, a blue Romulus by Rivendell. I rode TOSRV-East 39 times. The route changed over the years, but the comaraderie stayed the same! John