This bike tour is Jim's and my 20th tour together! *Slight pause to wait for the applause to die down.* I've been retired for a year and Jim's been retired even longer. This allows us to move these tours into the month of September when the weather is typically cooler.
Originally this tour was scheduled to start on Tuesday, but we changed it to Wednesday about a month before the start date. This turned out to be most fortunate as it rained 3 inches on Tuesday. As my father used to say, "I hope it all turns out for best." For this tour, it did.
The weather was pretty good for the entire duration of the tour. It is what it is. People use that expression in day-to-day conversations these days. What does it mean? Psychology Today says.
The increased use of 'it is what it is' seemed to be a sign that people are increasingly comfortable with 'states of potentiality' which are states that could 'collapse' to different actual states depending on the context.Huh?
Perhaps this is why no one listens to psychologists? For this tour, this phrase just means that you go with the flow. No need to critically analyze why today is sunny or windy or hilly, etc. Just enjoy the zen of the ride.
There are other related sayings like "they are who they are" and "you get what you get" and my favorite, "what if the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about?" This tour is all about living in the moment, and just being there while taking a wild ride.
Before we start the tour we go over the maps, take note of any places that might be tricky to navigate, and check out each day's final destination. Jim and I are geezers now and need additional light to see the maps clearly.
Pump up the tires and check out the bikes before hitting the road. Besides retiring, I've moved and am now renting a condo. It is what it is.
Ready to go.
Start riding at 8:00am from nearby Gold Medal Park on a cool cloudy morning with slightly wet roads from all the rain yesterday.
As we start out the roads are slightly wet and there's a noticeable wind out of the northwest. By the end of the day the wind switched to due north. High temp today is about 69 degrees and it will get sunny. A very pleasant day for riding and we're hoping it all turns out for the best.
We ride east on 2nd St. S. to the Bluff Street Bikeway that leads to the Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9 that crosses the Mississippi River.
On the other side of the river we ride the Dinkytown Greenway that goes through the ever expanding University of Minnesota's East Bank Campus. We go past buildings like the Lions Research Building/McGuire Translational Research Facility - whatever that is, and TCF Bank Stadium where the Minnesota Gophers play football. Seems like it's important in Minnesota (and many other places) to name stadiums after banks and other large corporations. I guess they fear we will forget their names otherwise. Next we travel along the University of Minnesota transit way, a dedicated route that only buses, bicycles, and pedestrians use. We pass by iconic old grain silos and end up at the State Fair Grounds (State Fair just ended two days ago) on Como Ave. Como takes us to Lake Como in Como Park.
It's still a grey day with wind driven choppy water, but we know the sun will be coming out later. You get what you get and we get on Wheelock Parkway for a short distance and then head north to Arlington Ave. through quiet post WW2 developed neighborhoods. Arlington takes us to the Gateway Trail - a shady green tunnel path that, unfortunately, keeps the trail pavement wet. Normally we really like green tunnels but, in this case, the shade keeps the path wetter than the nearby streets. A minor detail in what turns out to be a great tour.
We have the Gateway mostly to ourselves as there are only a few pedestrians. After about five miles on the Gateway we exit onto South Ave., the southern border of the city of North St. Paul. South soon becomes 40th St. as we enter Washington County. We ride through Maplewood and then by Lake Jane as we are now on rural backroads. We traverse several neighborhoods along the way to the city of Oak Park Heights. In Oak Park Heights we ride some bike paths down toward the Saint Croix River Crossing Bridge but first we stop for snacks at a park near the bridge. The bridge uses a special type of construction, called extradosed that (supposedly) minimizes the impact on the scenic St. Croix River Valley.
After our snacks we head to the new bridge that was completed about one year ago. We ride across the bridge (slightly uphill), stopping a couple of times for photos.
Here is a view looking south toward the Xcel Energy Allen S King Power Plant. Maybe, someday, a stadium can be named after Xcel Energy - Oh wait, there already is the Xcel Energy Center in Downtown St. Paul. Thank goodness for that.
Above is a picture looking north toward picturesque Stillwater, MN. The bridge has a nice wide bike/pedestrian path allowing many people to cross here, and to view the Saint Croix River Valley.
The bridge takes us to Wisconsin where we get on County Road E. This road has nice rolling hills but also some truck traffic. Not a bad road at all though. Next we take County Road A northeast toward New Richmond.
I ain't lion about this one being there along the road to greet us as we passed by. This is located just before entering the town of Boardman, where we stopped for some snacks.
We were on County A back in 1998 on our way to the Porcupine Mountains in the UP (look here). We also rode through New Richmond back then, and today we stop in New Richmond for lunch. We also took this picture of Main Street.
Our delicious lunch at Table 65 Bistro and Gelato Cafe (highly recommended) was a welcome break from all the riding this day. It has a large and impressive mural inside on the wall. There's a copy of the picture "An American Girl in Italy" by Ruth Orkin in the men's bathroom there.
After an enjoyable lunch we head to Amery, WI. Our route to Amery follows County C and CC in Saint Croix and Polk Counties. Polk County also allows ATVs on all roads unless explicitly prohibited. In Polk County, they are who they are. These county roads make many turns and we see many fields of corn and soybeans. Here's an action shot.
Look closely - can you see me on the other side of the lake having a great time just being who I am? Later, we passed by a turkey farm with a large turkey shed and the turkeys inside gobbled at us in a wave as we passed by. It was a zen moment. And, no large corporation puts their name on a turkey shed.
We enter Amery, explore the town some, and stop to have a few snacks while looking at the maps. We also see this "Farm to Table" mural.
We leave Amery on County Road F and soon turn onto 85th St. This put us on the backroads we like because of their very light traffic and remoteness. Unfortunately there is a gravel section we bump into as we head east on 100th Ave. As we try to figure out a detour, a guy comes out of a nearby house and helps us reroute. It turns out the gravel part is part of recent construction and is only 1 mile long. After the detour we see a bald eagle near Jim Lake (what a coincidence). We also see several sandhill cranes. As the sun sets behind us, we start seeing long shadows in front of us.
Before too long we reach our destination and enter Turtle Lake. After finding our hotel we take the free shuttle to the casino run by the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. It's about the only place to eat in town. Commercials about casinos always show people smiling, high fiving each other, and looking jovial. The few times I've been in casinos, I always see blank faces sitting at slot machines with cigarettes dangling from their mouths. They are who they are.
We start riding at 8:35am, with a 48 degree Fahrenheit temperature, sunny blue skies, and a few cirrus clouds artistically placed throughout. There is still a slight north breeze - just to ensure that all is not perfect.
As we head out I think about what makes a bike tour like this worth it. There's risk involved with just the two of us facing whatever the world throws at us along the way. It's good exercise but we could have stayed home and worked out at the local YMCA without all the risk. A saying I'm fond of is life without risk is no life at all. Without some risk you don't 'grow' and later in life you often lament not having tried some things because you wouldn't take the chance. I suspect most people regret more things they didn't do than things they did do. I would certainly feel an emptiness inside if I had never done a bike tour. It definitely helps me grow in unique ways I can't put into words. It is what it is.
We ride through Turtle Lake's main street and then turn on Maple St. We see many maple trees on this aptly named street. Soon we get on U.S. 63 and head north. There's mostly light traffic but a few trucks ramble past us too. Passing through a pine forest is one memorable experience on this road. We leave the highway when we reach 17th avenue. While following 17th to 6th Street, we notice that the roads were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and they are a mile apart from each other. Usually these roads would be named 10, 20, 30, etc. This allows future roads to have names like 15th Ave. All the roads are paved too, most likely because there are many dairy farms in the area.
We take 6th street north and cut over to County Road P which takes us into Cumberland.
The poor sign over the World Market gift shop in Cumberland has seen better days (and we hope the World Market itself is doing well). This reminds us of the changes small towns have experienced. Once main streets had bakeries, butcher shops, hardware stores, gift shops, etc. First the Big Box stores came to town and then everyone started buying everything online. Now, all that's left on main streets are places that sell something you can't buy online: restaurants, liquor, yoga studios, fitness centers, hair dressers, tobacco, and maybe a bank that's a branch of some big bank in larger city where there's a stadium with its name on it. It is what it is.
Toward the end of Main Street we encounter the local school.
After leaving the pleasant town of Cumberland we start seeing street signs like 4 1/2 St. and this one.
I've never seen anything like the intersection of 25 1/4 Ave. and 11 1/4 St. before.
We also briefly get on an area of backroads. A friendly local stopped by in a pickup truck and asked us where we came from and where we were going. He says he always stops and asks cyclist about their journeys. He tells us about some cyclists from Germany who have been across the USA 5 times. Makes me feel like a wimp. Jim has gone across the country on a bike once, but I've never done it. Someday maybe.
We're looking for a place that has a picnic table so we can take a break. Another guy stops and we ask him if he knows of a good place and he directs us to Grant Park. At Grant Park we have some snacks. We talk to the caretaker of this park and he was a bit of a world traveler himself. He told us about the trials and tribulations of being a caretaker, including having to clean feces off the bathroom walls. When talking about his war experience he mentioned being "too brave" sometimes and then he said, 'if it's in ya it's in ya." It seemed to fit in with our bike tour theme. However, I know that this brave war stuff is just not in me.
The metal picnic picnic table came from a nearby prison. This park is very nice and sometimes in the summer 500 people are there at once. The beach is also quite beautiful.
After our break we head toward Haugen, WI. We head east on County B to County V, where we see some sandhill cranes right before arriving in Haugen, This is still farm country.
Lunch at Lana's seems like a good idea to us as we are hungry. And, it turns out that it's their 30th anniversary. They give us free cake as they are celebrating. They have a saying hanging on the wall.
This saying also fits in with our bike tour theme. Some of the friendly locals here recommend we come back when the leaves on the trees have more color as there are so many tourists. Actually, all that additional traffic is not that appealing to us.
We head east out of Haugen on County V and then north on County Road M. Here we come across cows - sorta.
OK - not the cows we normally like to include in these bike tours.Soon we come to County D which leads to Long Lake. We take E Side Road that eventually turns into Long Lake Road. Soon we see some real cows.
This road is in good shape (so far the roads have been very nice), has curves and rolling hills, and lined with trees. Most of the roads so far have been straight. This is a welcome change and is also quite scenic. The traffic volume is also quite low. There are not any good views of the lake until the very end.
After leaving the Long Lake area we come to County B which has brand new smooth pavement. Always nice to ride on smooth pavement. County B and BB take us to the city of Stone Lake.
Near the end of B we take this picture of this pastoral pond.
We stop in Stone Lake for a few snacks and check the maps. We hear trains a couple of times but can't quite figure out where the tracks are located. Some guy stops across the street and plays music at ear splitting volumes for some reason. He is who he is and we get what we get.
We head north on Stone Lake Road as we leave town. Again, the roads are in pretty good shape with no traffic. The road is generally downhill with some nice curves presenting us with a fun ride. At the end of this road we take several short stretches on Peters, County Road E, Rainbow, and Anderson roads toward Hayward. Again these are nice roads. This leads to WI 27 and that takes us into Hayward.
Here in Hayward we get to enjoy seeing the world's largest muskie ever caught. It's on display at the Moccasin Bar.
We start riding at 8:45am and get 0.5 miles away when we discover we forgot Jim's water bottles back at the room. We return, get Jim's water bottles, and start again into the 48 degrees temperature, with mostly sunny skies, a light north wind, and a beautiful day ahead of us.
We take Nyman Ave. out of town and this takes us to WI 77 N. In a couple of miles we take County Road T north and stop at Smith Lake.
You can see there is not much wind as the lake is like glass, with a nice reflection of the clouds above. The road is nice: shady, forested, and in good shape, and follows the lake for 5 or 6 miles. We pass the occasional cabin in the trees. There is a resort area at the end of the road.
The changes that have occurred over the years are apparent as we ride this tour. There's a brand new bridge over the St. Croix River, a different makeup of the businesses on the main streets of the towns we ride through, and we now carry smart phones that have maps and lots of information about the places we visit. These are all different from 20 years ago. The world is changing fast. It's also interesting to note what hasn't changed. Much of the countryside has the same look-n-feel it had when we rode through northern Wisconsin in the late 1990s. The leaves still turn color starting this time of year. And, I think this lake is quite similar to the way it was 20 years ago.
We get back on WI 27 and soon we come to the 'Totagatic Flowage'.
I love that name Totagactic. I want my life to be totagactic.
This part of WI 27 is not that busy but the traffic does move fast as vehicles whiz by us. This 15 mile stretch (or so) has forest on both sides. There is some leaf color. There is also a sign for the Town of Barnes that looks rather old and somewhat faded. Not sure where the Town of Barnes is anymore. Maybe it was here 20 years ago. There are some hills on this road with a memorable downhill right before we turn on Outlet Bay road. We follow Outlet Bay Road around a series of lakes involving the name Eau Claire. This turns into Birch Lake Road. A local friendly guy stops as we are looking for a picnic table to take a break. He directs us to the north end of Birch Lake Road, and then east on County Road N where there is a park with a few buildings around. Maybe this is the Town of Barnes. We stop for a break.
After our break we get back on County N for a short distance and then head north on Barnes Road. Barnes winds north and east. We come across this inviting sign.
I suspect we're trespassing a little as the house is not too far away.
We escape with our lives and continue on as the road gets a bit rough but then smooths out toward the end. Barnes Road takes us to County Road A. This County A is a fun road. It consists of a series of rolling hills. The map makes it look like it might be straight and boring. It is straight but not boring at all. We pass through the George E Leino Plantations Bayfield County Forest.
The first half of County A is a series of up and down hills and the last half is mostly downhill that leads into the town of Iron River. County A travels mostly through some pretty forest areas,
We stop in Iron River for lunch. After lunch, we head north on County A again. We see some minor leaf color changes.
This part of County A is still fun. There are more Aspen and Birch Trees here.
We also ride a nice 1/2 mile down hill and reach 39 mph. We also pass by these rocks with a few cairns on display.
There's another nice 3-mile gradual downhill that goes into the town of Port Wing. We also get our first views of the South Shore of Lake Superior off in the distance.
We stop in Port Wing for a few snacks at a park. This park has an old preserved jail from the early 1900s. The jail was open to the public and we should have taken pictures. There is also an early school bus. This was the first free public transport in Wisconsin.
After leaving Port Wing we ride east on WI 13. We thought this would be an easy ride on a flat road along Lake Superior. Life is often different than expected and we have several significant climbs (e.g., 200 vertical feet), and the corresponding downhills as we approach the town of Herbster. Here we follow Bark Point Road that starts with a nice public beach.
This turns out to be the roughest road of the trip but is only a couple of miles long. We arrive at our destination.
We spent a lovely day with our hosts Frank and Jane. Frank and Jane provided nice hospitality, took us sight seeing in Washburn and Bayfield, and to an art show in Cornucopia. Jim and I treated them to lunch but I think we got the better end of the deal.
I knew Frank in high school, and Jim has known Frank since grade school.
We start riding at 8:50am. The temperature is 55 degrees, the wind is from the south at 8 mph, and the skies are mostly sunny.
Initially we retrace our route and head back on Bark Point Road to Herbster Beach and once again see the blue waters of Lake Superior. We turn onto Lake St. and it takes us into Herbster. Then we get back onto WI 13 and head west. WI 13 will take us most of the way to Superior, WSuperior, WI. The hills going to Port Wing are still there.
We stop at the town park again with plans to take pictures of the historic jail built in 1896. This was where they took rowdy loggers in those days. Unfortunately, today the jail is not open and I have to be content to just stand outside.
The guy above used a private email server. "Lock Him Up, Lock Him Up."
A nice woman from Utah stops by with her dog to greet us and tells us that she and her husband like to bike on the trails in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are who they are. There are also plaques that describes Wisconsin's first free school bus and a replica of that school bus in the park.
See the nice lady and her dog in the background?
We get back onto WI 13 and head west again. Soon we stop to take a picture of the brown water we now see on Lake Superior.
This road is quite smooth with a nice 3-foot shoulder. Not much traffic this morning, most likely because it's Sunday. The scenery and terrain along this road is pretty uniform, running through forest and the occasional farm. This provides us with a relatively easy journey to Superior, WI.
We come across this old abandoned school house.
We wandered inside.
I now try to say "Peace Love and String Cheese" as much as I can. It was a school from 1916 - 1948.
There is still a working piano inside. After being a school it was converted to a rec center and then finally abandoned. It is located in the town of Cloverland.
Moving on we come across at least 3 eagles and they appeared to be eating carrion. This road is part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.
We also cross an occasional river and stream where there is a dip in the road. The biggest drop was the Brule River.
Another roadside attraction is this windmill that was also part of an exhibit for an old Finish cabin build in early 1900s.
We eventually get to the tri-county trail that will take us to Superior, WI. However this trail is in way too rough of shape for us to bike on, and we have to abandon it. Instead we take County Road Z to County Road E and head north. We stop for lunch near the end of County E. I ordered scrambled eggs and sausage. I received sunny side up eggs and limp bacon. You get what you get, but in this case, I sent it back. After lunch we get on the Osaugie Trail and enter Superior, WI.
Initially the trail is very rough but it is paved. After a mile or so the trail improves.
This trail also ends at some train tracks and literally just stops in the middle of nowhere. There are just a bunch of train tracks and nothing else. WTF???? We turn back and take the first trail exit. This heads toward Winter St. and that takes us west across Superior. We see an old Soo line train depot that appears to be abandoned now. This is also an industrial area.
This takes us to the Bong Bridge (I love that name - it must be related to the Wangdong Bridge).
We get on the bike path that is on the south side of the bridge. There is a swivel railroad bridge just south of this bridge. The ride across the bridge presents a scenic view. We arrive on the other end inside the Duluth city limits. We follow the bike route north to "Jeno's Crossing." The Duluth bike trails are in good shape and impressive. This takes us across I35 and we arrive at our hotel.
Olive is there and happy to meet us as we arrive.
We made it! Another great tour.
Total Distance: 300 miles
The next morning there is a pretty rainbow over Duluth greeting Pam, Olive and I, and signaling that this is end of the journey. It is what it is.