June 21: Bemidji to Tamarac, Minnesota - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 21: Bemidji to Tamarac, Minnesota

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"STORM TODAY, they say."

He could have been an old boxer or a retired Sicilian pizza cook. He wore the same grey T-shirt as the other man but his belly was bigger, his facial features heavier and his view of life gloomier.

"As though we ain't seen enough of those," he added.

"Keep the mosquitoes down, though," said the other man, leaner, brighter-faced, topped by a baseball cap of the sort that farmers wear.

"Yeah, we ain't seen enough of mosquitoes yet, that's for sure," said the gloomy one. "Gotta see a load more o' them before we're finished, that's for sure."

The man in the baseball cap shrugged. He turned on the weather channel on the TV above the bar. We were the only other people there, rescued and brought in for coffee as we stood outside at Becida two hours before the restaurant was due to open.

"There is a warning of flash floods in...," the dark-haired, over-primped woman on the TV's flat screen was saying.

"We're gonna get some of them, that's for sure," said the former boxer or pizza chef.

Gentle Minnesota and its many lakes.
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"Not today, though," the other man said, determined to stop the conversation spiralling down into suicide. "Tomorrow, they said, tomorrow."

"That on top o' everything else."

"Yep."

"World's gone crazy, that's for certain..."

The man in the baseball cap stepped outside to wish us farewell. We said how much we'd enjoyed their exchange, one the optimist, the other determined to be grumpy.

"Yeah, take no notice o' him. World-class grumbler. He's our cleaner but he likes nothing better than t'sit at the bar and moan a little."

That's all there is to Becida (pronounced Beside 'er). Just a single gas pump outside an improbable 200-seat restaurant which fills at weekends even though it's in the middle of nowhere "because we're known for our prime steak."

The Mississippi... somewhat smaller than at its mouth in New Orleans.
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Becida, for those heading west, is a right turn towards the headwaters of the Mississippi. I have developed a fondness for the river, which is an artery not only as close to the centre of the USA as geography will allow but through American culture. It is where Huck Finn played and barges passed and Popeye worked, and where Southern Belles blushed on sploshing paddle-steamers as their menfolk swore (but genteelly) at the losses they'd made in

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the gambling salons. Further south it runs out into the Gulf of Mexico to the sound of Dixieland jazz, the whooping up of brothels and the snapping of alligator jaws. How can the Loire or the Thames, even the Volga or the Danube, compare with that?

I'm not sure the source of the Mississippi is properly a source, not unless it's a wider-ranging geological term than I realised. I'd expected a dribble of water seeping

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from the soil, or perhaps a dripping tap with a faulty washer. But the Mississippi is born wide enough to have stepping stones across it in its first gurgle, because it runs out of a large lake. Rivers, or at any rate streams, run into this lake and it's hard to say why those, too, aren't considered the Mississippi. But they aren't and

Wading the source of the Mississippi... made all the easier by the river's having been moved a little to make it more accessible to tourists.
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maybe there's a good reason. Just as there must be a good reason the Mississippi doesn't run through the state of Mississippi.

The riding today has again been through woods, more rolling now, through countryside that's getting more open, more arable, and finally away from the reeds and long grasses of drying wetland. We don't hear

Riding one of the long wooden bridges on the bike path away from the Mississippi. Delightful.
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the ascending ratchet call of unseen frogs any more. We no longer see meadowlarks luring us from their young by pretending to limp in front of us.

North Dakota is just more than a day ahead. And then we will be in another part of the ride, just as the Mississippi was different from the Great Lakes and the Lakes from upstate New York. We will be heading due west for the Pacific. Yippee!

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 38

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