June 13: Winona to Lake City, Minnesota - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 13: Winona to Lake City, Minnesota

Green, calm Minnesota
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A FRIEND ONCE SAID of Adventure Cycling's routes that it's never worth trying to find any other way "because how are you going to do better than people who've been researching it for 30 years?"

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Because today I'm convinced that we did it. The road along the west bank of the Mississippi is Route 61. It has its numbers in a shield, which means a busy road. Quieter roads have their numbers in circles and the quietest have theirs in squares. Well, across on the other side of the Mississippi the road has a circled number. It follows the river in just the same way and we couldn't see we'd be worse off. Route 61 is rutted with expansion joints so, unless Route 35 on the other bank was all but ploughed, we couldn't lose.

So we went over the bridge in Winona and set off down the other bank. We couldn't have been happier. The road was quiet and the bike path was generous and silky smooth. There were sweet views of the river. The road runs beside the green buffs of the Wisconsin ridge without ever thinking of challenging them.

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There are appealing villages, restaurants, motels, campgrounds and even a bike shop. One camp site was on the edge of a huge green lake kept as a reserve for visiting ducks and geese. Even the coal-fired generating station we passed was of immaculate cleanliness. Adventure Cycling must have a reason not to use this bank but we never found out what. All the charm is on this side of the river and the other has nothing at all.

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At one point in Wisconsin you can go one better and ride not the smooth highway but the old road that runs through Cochrane. Do that and you'll chance on, as we did, the astonishing Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden. You won't miss it because it's a spreading collection of eccentricity edged by a red wall I can only call... well, extraordinary. I don't know what you'd call it but you won't miss it.

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The story is that a man called Herman Rusch made a name as a fiddle player and farmhand and then retired, in 1952. Time hung on his hands and he started to collect anything that nobody else was likely to collect. Like, for instance, a washing machine powered by a goat walking inside a treadmill. Not many people collect those. His collection filled a hall he rented and then bought and he turned his attention then to the grassy area outside. And that he filled with dinosaurs, a Hindu temple, animals eating each other, some windmills and a long snake. With a few that he bought from a sculptor every bit as daft as he was, he ended up with close on 40 sculptures by the time he died in 1985.

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Well, you can't just junk such, er, junk so the local council took it on as public art. It's there by the roadside, waiting for you to look around. Had we followed Adventure Cycling's map, we'd never have found it.

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The rest of the day? Well, in Wabasha we visited the National Eagle Centre, a place we recommend, and found among other things that if an eagle could ever spread its claws wide enough to grasp your car, its power is enough that it could crush it.

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FINALLY A WARNING: The Hok-Si-La Municipal Park campground near Lake City charges $33... and then a further 25c for every 90 seconds of your lukewarm shower.

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