First there is a forest, then there is no forest, then there is.
By general consensus, today was one of the best days on the ride so far. The temperature dropped by 15 degrees, the humidity abated, and we had good roads and some beautiful scenery. Most of all, we had trees. We haven’t seen trees since the Black Hills in South Dakota. We’ve ridden for days with expansive vistas and wide horizons. While an open landscape is beautiful in many ways, you get no protection from the wind or sun. Today, we seemed to cross an invisible line and were back in tree territory. We could ride, and snack, and even snooze in the shade. Being back in wooded areas made everything else more enjoyable.
For the past several days — maybe even weeks — we’ve been riding to avoid the heat. We start very early and take short breaks. The idea is to ride quickly and get off the road before the afternoon heat arrives. That’s a good strategy to avoid heat stroke but it leaves little time to see the sites or palaver with the locals. Today, we relaxed, slowed down and enjoyed ourselves and our surroundings. We stopped in the delightful little town of Houston, Minnesota for chocolate malts and sandwiches. (Don’t miss Barista’s Coffee Bar if you go there). We took longer breaks. We chatted more — with each other and with locals. We rode at a slower pace and enjoyed our time in the saddle.
For the second day in a row, I rode with friends and former colleagues. Yesterday, it was
Jim and Mary Anderson. Today, it was Lisa Olson and Jennifer Arends, former colleagues at Lawson. Lisa rode with me and Jennifer organized a superb SAG wagon in her SUV. She had ice, cold drinks, power bars, cookies, and cold, cold watermelon — making her the most popular person of the day. At the same time, it’s nice to ride with someone like Lisa — she’s sweet, smart, and articulate and we just chatted the hours away.
This is Lutheran country and it seems very much like Sweden or Norway. We passed one Lutheran church (or graveyard) after another. They were all neatly tended and spic and span. The grave stones had Scandinavian names like Halvorson, Anderson, Jansson, and Olson. I saw a few Norwegian flags by gravestones. We saw small white farm houses and large red barns. Several times, I felt like I was transported back to Scandinavia. It was all very pleasant but I kept a sharp eye out for Lisbeth Salander.
We were also treated to a bike path today. During most of the tour, we’ve ridden on roads and need to be careful of traffic. Today, we got a 12 mile stretch of bike path between Rushford and Houston. It’s a thickly wooded area and, in many places, the trees arched over the path and we were literally riding in a green tunnel. The path follows the Root River, a pretty little river that’s also full to overflowing. There’s a legend that the boll weevil originated on the banks of the Root. The legend is probably not true but locals still refer to the river as the Root of All Weevils.
Speaking of rivers, we’ve just crossed the Mississippi. The call signs for radio and TV stations now start with a W rather than a K. I guess we’re “back East” now.
Day’s distance: 88.5 miles (142.4 km)
Average speed: 14.7 mph (23.6 kph)
Day’s climb: 3,200 feet (975.4 meters)
Total distance: 2,436.3 miles (3,920.8 km)