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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lets step back a bit.

      I know we only spent one day in Madison WI but this is no reason for me to not mention this wonderful city.  The bicycle friendly status is amazing to say the least with many trails, safe streets, bike rental stations, bike shops, and bike sculptures.
With only one day to explore we hit the Capital City trail and ran upon a great little coffee shop with outside seating and a lot of cool art and scrap sculptures. All along the trail on the right side were gardens of veggies and flowers and on the left were the old downtown businesses.
      After a coffee and snack we proceeded on the trail towards the lakes but ran into a mass of people walking, I mean hundreds of people, on a diabetic fund raiser walk blocking our way so we deviated on a spur into the city towards the capitol.  Very cool to be able to ride right up to the capitol safely on our bikes. Saw quite a few streets where bicycles can use the whole lane and have the right of way.
      After touring the city for a while we found our way back to the trail and rode around the lakes, trough some neighborhoods and back down the trail to eat lunch at a place with a lot of bikes parked around it called Micky"s Tavern.  Looked like the place to go so in we went.  Neat older building in older part of downtown with a patio out back.  They had a bloody Mary that was a meal in itself with celery, olives, mushroom, brussels sprouts, and a sweet hot pepper.  Man that was good and it came with a beer back.  Like I say and do, eat where the locals eat.
      After a great lunch for Cindy, a sun dried tomato Quiche, and me a burger sans bun, and kettle chips, I should have gotten the potatoes, they looked good we got back on the trail and headed back to the van for a trip to Trader Joe's to stock up no groceries.  Best to shop on a full stomach so we don't buy everything in the store and have to find space for it all in the camper.   Madison will require another visit for sure and a longer stay next time. Until then we have our memories.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Whats new?

      You ride a trail so many times and don't really expect anything to change, well at least not as much as this.  We always make the trip to Yellow Springs to hole up for Labor Day so as not to be on the road and to ride the Little Miami trail.  Well, Thursday while on our way to Xenia from Yellow Springs I swore the trail didn't curve at this certain point but there was a big red building straight ahead. It looked to be in the middle of the trail.  Well it was, but it was a covered bridge, a brand new covered bridge at that.  And to beat all it had a bicycle weather vane on top.

      As for Yellow Springs, it is still the same vibrant charming small town it always is.  Some new faces with new students and teachers and some shops changed hands but mostly familiar. Last night we went to the Emporium wine tasting and heard a band by the name of Lord Kimbo.  The guitarist was great but I'm now an old fart and it just seemed too loud for such a small venue.  Still a good time but I prefer acoustic music in a smaller place.  Monday is dinner and a movie at the Sunrise Cafe' and Little Art Theater.  We'll see "Boyhood".  Hoping to hook up with Larry Varney and ride the Great Miami trail next week. We'll see what shakes.  
       

Monday, August 25, 2014

        Finally have a decent wifi signal so lets catch up shall we, before I forget where all we have been.  Left Bemidji on a Sunday thinking traffic would be light.  The lake effect took over in two ways. One: Seems everyone else who has a cabin or lake house in Northern MN. had to be at work on Monday, DUH! Plus, there was some kind of race in Brainerd with a sign saying "delay due to event traffic" so those two things caused about a 4 mile backup.  Then a car broke down in a construction zone with no where to be pushed off so another jam with everyone having to merge to the left lane.  Then the storm. A deluge of rain, lightning, cars pulling off kind of normal for FL every afternoon but not Cannon Falls, MN.  Heard 7 inches of rain fell. Needless to say it took a lot longer to get to Lanesboro MN. than it should have. Once in Lanesboro and plugged in at Sylvan City park campground where we stayed 4 or 5 years ago to ride the Root River Trail everything was just peachy. We can walk into and around town from the campground with ease, hear live music, grab a beer, lunch and such, and ride again the Root River trail.  Day one, rode the Tour Easys to Rushford a 36.6 mile run. Had lunch at STUMPY"S, of a big fat piece of meatloaf, mashed potatoes gravy and green beans and a craft brew to wash it all down.  The Root River tr is as nice as we remembered. Back at camp seems the deer come in every night to feed on vegetation at the edge of the park.
      The next day we triked to Harmony up the hills back down and around, trikes are soooo fun, for a 44 mile ride and lunch at Harmony House where I had battered haddock and Cindy had roast beef and a chat with some local hobo's. On the way back in Preston we did stop for Zanzabar dark chocolate ice cream.  I'm starting to see a pattern here. I guess we're still in Ragbrai mode, eat, ride, eat, ride.
      Again this trail is not to be missed, with the shade and the bluffs and the river and wildflowers in bloom.

The next day we went for pie in Whalan at the Aroma Pie Shop, the world famous pie shop mind you.  Okay I confess we went twice once for triple berry for me and peach for my sweety, the next time bluebarb for me and coconut cream for Cindy. While in Whalan I stopped in at Ernies Service Station now a sort of gas station museum and saw the coolest 1912 washing machine that still works. Of course all the neat gas station memorabilia like oil cans gas pumps and such.
After reading "Blue Highways" where Heat Moon comments on a "little window you shove your cash through" at self service pumps in 1978, made me think of the reason they were called service stations.  Now gas cost more and you have to do all the work yourself.  Ahh the good old days!
     
      Weather permitting, next stop Madison WI.  Been there before and rode the Military Ridge trail but this time a foray into the city to the capitol and along the lakes.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bemidji MN, True North

      Bemidji or Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indian words Bay-me-ji-gamuag, meaning lake with water flowing through, which is the Mississippi River where it's headwaters start in Itasca State park, and is about 5 paces across and clear, is the Beltrami County seat. Nice clean small town with many antique stores, restaurants, many metal sculptures, and a darn good craft beer brewery.  There is the sprawl out of downtown, but we don't care.  We are staying in Royal Oaks CG a nice clean quiet place to chill and a short 4  1/2  mile ride mostly on trail into downtown. It's a short and safe enough ride which makes it possible to do it several times a day if desired.  Like today for instance, we rode in to get breakfast at Bemidji Nice Cafe' and then hit the farmers market for some veggies and bison burgers.  Later we'll ride in for a cold one at the brewery where there is a creamy porter calling my name.  Of course you can't not take a picture of Paul and Babe that is said to be the most photographed historic figures next to Mt. Rushmore.  The statues were constructed in 1937 and Paul is 18 ft. tall and weighs 2 1/2 tons. The statues are on the National register of Historic places.
As said many sculptures abound this one across the street from the brewery. I'm sure you can see pictures of many of the over 50 sculptures and 8 murals throughout downtown online.
     We've gone into town for coffee every morning and one morning we talked to a couple traveling by rail and on foot the hobo way.  Very interesting do it your self types, taking odd jobs on the road, traveling simply. They go by Possum and Flora.   Been reading William Least Heat Moon's book, "Blue Highways" where he is traveling the country in a 1975 half ton Econoline van he calls Ghost Dancing.  Very inspiring book on traveling simply,
although not as simply as Possum and Flora with all they carry on their backs.

     The other day we rode the Paul Bunyan trail from Bemidji to La Porte.  All the trails are paved by the way and in very good shape aside from a few frost heave patches.  38 mile round trip with a stop at the La Porte grocery for a couple of grass fed fillets that I cooked over the camp fire.  Melt in the mouth good.  Lunch was at the Dugout Bar and Grill, wings, fries and pork tenderloin.  Pictures on the wall of guys with cars on the winter ice doing a Northern winter sport of ice racing. Kind of like demolition derby but you're racing and skidding around on the frozen lake, banging into one another.  Looks like fun.  I spied this old jeep pickup rusting away in the weeds, might make a good painting one day.
     All good things come to an end as must our visit to the charming area of Bemidji. Tomorrow we head for the Root River trail for another visit to see if it's as splendid as we thought the first time we were there.  And yes there is pie!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

     First day of rain we've had so far on this trip but clearing tomorrow.  Got 15 miles in on the Mi Gi Zi trail with the dogs along before the wet stuff fell.  Was a shady twisty trail through the Chipawa Nat. Forest but don't stop least you want to get eaten by the pesky mosquitoes.  The rain gave us a good excuse to drive to town and imbibe on some Laughing Cow Zanzibar dark chocolate ice cream, and for Cindy to get some laundry done and catch up on some reading.  So far we are enjoying Bemidji immensely.  University town with lots of coffee shops and a craft brewery with a very good selection of beers, and a good grocery store and liquor store with reasonable wine prices.  Tomorrow a trip to Itaska State Park.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On to Land of 10,000 lakes

      With all the miles put in riding to and riding in Ragbrai we are now seasoned like an old Griswald cast iron pan so anything else seems gravy. Having a bit of trouble finding camp sites open on weekends but that is what happens when one flies by the seat of their pants. It's adventure. Decorah  Ia. city camp ground was the target but it was full, so we found a spot at Hutchinson Farm Family CG outside Decorah by @ 7 miles.  The trail was a loop with lots of switch backs, hills and tight turns. Much fun on a trike. Checked out a fish hatchery and a worker was netting out dead fingerling trout because of cloudy water and not enough oxygen due to rain run off from fertilized fields and a couple of sink holes up river. With all the corn and soy beans, no wonder. Next stop was to ride the Cannon Valley trail near Redwing, yes where the shoes are still made here in the good ole USA. Again only 2 nights but enough to get done what we wanted to do which was to ride another trail. Found a great old hardware store in Canon Falls which sold everything from guitar strings to major appliances. And, River City Days festival was going on so we browsed the arts and crafts booths.

After an  over night we head for the land of 10,000 lakes, MN.  Again full CGs but with a little hunting around we found a site at Trails RV park just 4 miles outside of Walker and right on the Heartland Trail which connects to the Paul Bunyan. We get 3 nights and then will move on to Royal Oaks in Bemidji for a week.  Ready to settle down for a while in one place. Very nice clean well managed CG with great showers.  Yesterday we met up with Ann and Fred Abeles and rode the Shingobe connection with up to 8% slopes and many curves. We rode our Tour Easy's but I wished for my trike to carve some of those tight corners. About 46 miles total, have to get back to the dogs ya know.

Today we rode the Heartland from Akeley  to Park Rapids another 40 miles of paved bliss where a BIG guy with and axe tried to steal Cindy.
He soon realized she was a hand full and threw her back to me. Fishing is big with all the fresh water lakes and because I was riding and ICE I figured I'd ICE fish. LOL.
Did I mention the weather?  Well let me crow.  High 70s to low 80s partly cloudy with just enough sun and 60s at night.  Perfect!  Tomorrow Bemidji and more fun and excitement, but now it's time to hit the salad bar at the supper club.