Itasca State Park to Walker, Minnesota: Old Man River and How to Beat the Wind - Minnesota Matrimonial Evaluation Tour - CycleBlaze

June 27, 2017

Itasca State Park to Walker, Minnesota: Old Man River and How to Beat the Wind

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It was a good day, but I am dog tired and the stupid iPhone refuses to yield its treasure of photos taken on today's ride. I'm sure it will relent eventually but we must be patient while it charges. Damn thing. I will continue to threaten to think about wondering if I should replace that undependable piece of junk. Hopefully pix of this great day will follow.

We are comfortably lounging in a motel room in Walker, Minnesota because tonight's forecast is for Biblical level thunderstorms and hail. Not a night to tent it. Although to be fair, we have found ample reasons this whole trip not to tent it. We have talked about this a bit on the road the past several days and have concluded its OK to take the plush option and actually sleep in a bed now that we are both closing in hard on 60 years of age. Me especially right? Shoot man, I'm closer to 60 than 59. Let those young whippersnappers take over the tent life.

The day started off with a stop at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park. For me it held lots of interest because I grew up in a Mississippi River town (Moline, Il.) and feel close to that river and its lore. At Moline the river is impressive ... wide and powerful. Seeing the almost dainty beginnings of this powerful river made me smile and shake my head in wonder. I was more smitten about the whole experience than I thought I'd be. The river starts from Lake Itasca, a lovely lake that is not small, but certainly not enormous by any means. You can walk across a little pile of rocks that span the mouth of the stream that exits the lake and is the official start of Old Man River. We hung around the area quite awhile and the vibe there was really happy and quietly energetic, with at least 30 other people milling around.

Marg at the headwaters
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Long view of Lake Itasca and the headwaters
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Some good Samaratans took our picture
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Looking back at headwaters from a foot bridge
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We departed, but at least three times in the first 15-20 miles after leaving the headwaters the ride route sees you cross the Mississippi River. At the first crossing the river was no more than a small creek, then a larger stream, and closer to Bemidji was looking like a real river, albeit small by river standards.

First sighting of the Mississippi after the headwaters, about five miles away. Nothing more than a creek.
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Another ten miles down the road it is turning into a proper river.
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Approaching Bemidji we encountered the dreaded "Road Closed" sign at a spot that did not promise to have a quick solution. The detour sent you out on a busy highway that was not bike friendly. We could not see any other option other than the road that had Construction machinary on it. Sizing things up, Marg shouted "C'Mon!" Off we went into a field of grass next to the road and she hacked a bike friendly detour through the field, into a satellite parking lot of Bemidji High School, through another field and out the other side where they were laying fresh tarmac. What a woman. Then we wheeled into town.

The construction "Road Closed" detour we created on our own. Margaret is the little yellow speck on the right hand side blazing a bike friendly route.
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Lunch was at the Lucky Dog Vienna Frank store where you could dine outside. We ordered two Monkey Wrench Dogs (kind of a Reuben sandwhich in hot dog form), extra dill pickles, and a bag of chips. So good! *BELCH* Sorry, but so good! We then hooked onto the Paul Bunyan bike trail and landed in Walker, uneventfully.

The Lucky Dog Weiner shop in Bemidji. We highly recommend it for both the food and the friendly service.
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Dig in Buddy.
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Oh! Beating the wind? The wind was ripping out of the SSW today. A change of direction but still super strong. Does the wind ever NOT blow up here? Riding north and east was the main direction for us for the first 38 miles and wow we were crushing it. Marg once again took the bit in her mouth and went into full time trial mode, and for extended segments of time we were averaging 20+ mph, which is crazy on a loaded touring bike. Once you get up to speed with all that weight, inertia does its thing and you become a locomotive.

On the road
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In Bemidji we turned south, into the wind, and were dreading the penance we'd have to pay. Turns out the Paul Bunyan Trail is pretty well girded with trees on both sides, and they provided a decent wind break for the entire time. We weren't making 20 mph, but 13+ was easy. Oooohh if we'd been riding the roads to the south is would have been ugly. As it was, the route was absolutely fine-tuned for a south wind and we gratefully accepted it.

Marg on the Paul Bunyan Trail.
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Lets' see what the weather does tonight and tomorrow. Tonight the forecast is wicked, and there is a chance of significant rains tomorrow. Marg is itching to ride again (Note: If you were a hurdler and jumper in High School who never EVER ran anything longer than a 400, be prepared to be flogged daily if you are bike touring with a woman who was a distance and cross country runner. She's killing me) so we've agreed to assess the weather in the AM and see if a short ride or even a rest day is in order.

Boom! That's it. As stated, I'm tired so we're off to bed, and if that iPhone ever decides to give up those great pictures we took I'll add them.

Today's ride: 73 miles (117 km)
Total: 482 miles (776 km)

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