Biking Across Canada

Coast to Coast 8500 KM


Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.


Minnesota, USA

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Day 39 - July 21 - Tue

Roseau, MN - rest day

So, what do I do on rest days? - sleep in - eat a lot; I usually treat myself, e.g., I got a big box of Junior Mints (Seinfeld, anyone?!) last night and ate it in one sitting. I've regularly bought 6-packs of Ensure Plus on my days off (6 * 355 calories) as I'm still not eating enough. (Ensure is a 'meal replacement' drink). Today, I treated myself to a package of 8 Pop Tarts, again for the calories (210 each) and carbos (72% by weight). And, of course, I enjoy a 1/2 bottle of wine, or 2 beer on the 1st night off of 2 consecutive nights off.

Stay off the bike!, roam the town I'm in, visit a museum if there's an interesting one, take pictures of railway structures and equipment (a life long 'compulsion') and of interesting buildings - I love Art Deco buildings but it's tough to beat NYC and Havana, Cuba on this tour. Bring my diaries up to date, transfer them wirelessly from my handheld to GMAIL, visit the local library and do a final review/spell check before sending them out.

I do any bike maintenance, which has been minimal, and is expected to stay that way - plan/confirm the tour's routing until the next rest stop - do laundry - catch up on personal emails - plus anything else that might need doing any day of the tour, e.g., banking, groceries, etc.

So one can see that, while it's a day off the bike, I sure ain't lying in my underwear on the motel bed quaffing brews and watching TV! Roseau is a pleasant and clean little town. However, there's no old train station, nor any really old buildings. The downtown is perhaps 4 - 5 blocks long by 2 blocks wide, so it didn't take long to scope out. They have a nice, spanking new library with a local museum that was interesting and worth a visit. I spent quite a few hours on the free Internet terminals in the library.

Day 40 - July 22 - Wed

Roseau, MN - Birchdale, MN - 156km

I was up around 08:00, packed what little was not already on the bike, went for the free greasy brekky in the motel dining room, and rolled out by 10:00. Picked up a few groceries for the day.

I decided to bypass Warroad, MN because it was in northeast direction and my goal for the next 3 - 4 days is to head southeast. So, I took the 89S out of Roseau, then the 2E, which was to take me to Roosevelt, MN. Well, it didn't but I eventually ended up on the 11S which did deliver me to Roosevelt in due time. The roads so far have been pretty good, save for cracks which make me go bump-bump every 8m or so. The bumps weren't as bad as the Icefield Parkway bumps, though. The US roads have been pretty good so far, relative to the Canadian ones. Also today, 2 truckers gave friendly honks on their air horns. I don't recall one trucker doing that in Canada, and I'm on day 2 in the US, whereas I've done 38 days in Canada! Things are looking up, perhaps? Not that things are dismal in the 1st place!

Anyhow, I stopped in Roosevelt for lunch. I had made numerous stops already to snack on apples, bananas, Pop Tarts, etc., but I need a picnic table, or seat somewhere, to do a proper lunch. As in SK and MB, they're kind of in short supply. So, when a restaurant appears, it's certainly a welcome sight under these circumstances. I get the menu from the pretty young waitress, who then patiently explains the different fries that come with the burgers, e.g., French fries vs. American fries (3 types of those!). Anyhow, I ordered a chicken burger with mashed potatoes - instead of fries - and a fruit cup. That was relatively nutritious! The lunch was fine and hit the spot. The waitress, Katie, and I got to talking and I found out that her family ran the restaurant, which was called the Roosevelt Rustic Diner. We got onto the topic of travel and it turns out, unlike a lot of people I've met in this trip, Katie has travelled a bit, including Africa. Anyhow, time to hit the road. I asked for the bill, and Katie told me my meal was on the house! Wow - that was a first! Thank you Katie and family - you made my day!

Back on the road, the riding was fairly easy and the traffic light. About 40km later I rolled into Baudette. I saw my 1st US tourist info, and made enquiries re: camping that night. I was assured that there were lots of campgrounds along the way (spoiler: there weren't). This turned out to be the last full service town of the day. I got a root beer and chocolate bar for energy, and continue on down Hwy 11. My map showed a campground at Birchdale, about 50km from Baudette, and that's where I holed up for the night. There we no showers there, but that was expected as the area is fairly remote. Actually, there's a channel of water - my map has no name for it - separating the US and Canada, so I'm only about 200m from 'home'! I reviewed the next day's route and it continues to be fairly desolate, so it may be a challenge getting food. Certainly, I won't be having pancakes in the morning!

Day 41 - July 23 - Thu

Birchdale, MN - Orr, MN - 157km

I took my time getting up, as usual - around 07:30 today. I woke up a few times during the night all sweaty. The problem is that it's too cold outside to sleep without a sleeping bag on top of me at night, and my sleeping bag's too much for this weather! The campsite was right on the canal/river separating the US and Canada. Unfortunately, there were no showers nor running water - it's a barebones campsite. I didn't feel like making oatmeal because without running water, it's a bit of a pain to cleanup. So, I skipped breakfast, but had some Pop Tarts and 'liquid sugar' instead.

I continued on 11E. This road has developed nasty cracks that cause me to go bump-bump very frequently; in fact, some parts are like a washboard. This lasted 40km and my butt's getting sore. This was a good test for the bike; on the other hand, virtually every nut/bolt/screw on the bike is Loctite'd down.

At the 17km mark from this am's camp, I turned into Indus School and made myself a meal. The school itself is made from dark brown bricks and looks more like a bomb shelter.

Back on the road, the bumps stop when I turned south on the 71. This highway has 3m shoulders but boring scenery. I'm hard to please. ;-) Around the 68km mark from camp, the town of Littlefork came up, which is on Hwy 217. I felt tired and my butt was sore, so I decided I need to sit in a chair. I grab a lunch at th side of the road and that hits the spot. After lunch, I drop by the grocery store and get some 'sugar'. That helps even more! Maybe I have a sugar dependency now?

My math shows that I've got about 90km to go to get to Orr, MN, my day's destination. It's a bit off a stretch considering it's already past 15:00, but I felt revitalized and decided to give it a shot. On the way to Orr, I made several refreshment stops. At one, a family with 3 teen aged daughters quizzed me on the details of my trip. The teens were so impressed they wanted their picture with me!Long story made short: I made it to Orr by 20:45-ish, but it has rained for the 1st time since SK, as far as I could recall, and it was getting dark. I had no idea where and how far away the campground(s) were so I take the 'easy' way out and get a cheap motel room. I've got to try to get to my destinations a bit earlier in the evening so this kind of stuff doesn't happen.

Day 42 - July 24 - Fri

Orr, MN - Duluth, MN - 170km

Well, it did rain last night so I was very happy I stayed in a motel and I wasn't packing up a soggy tent. :-) The town of Orr had one main eatery, so that's where I went for brekky. I got my usual stack of 3 pancakes, and couldn't quite finish them! Unusual for me, but then they were pretty big pancakes. I then topped up my groceries, and hit the road.

It appeared that I'd be on the 53S all day, and all the way to Duluth. The 53 eventually becomes a divided highway, a la Trans-Canada. Not good, 'cos that's typically boring. I could take a smaller road but I've got it in my mind that I want to get past Duluth ASAP. More below on Duluth.

At the 28km mark of the day, I arrive in Cook, and make myself a snack. Hunting is big in Minnesota, and just to show how big hunting is, outside a sporting goods store a banner hangs that reads ¨Welcome Chipmunk Hunters¨! I depart Cook and start churning out the miles.

I'm amused at the naming of two rivers I cross: Paleface and then Whiteface! Perhaps it's the same river but they haven't got around to changing the 1st sign? ;-) The shoulder in the road is about 3m wide and pretty clean, so no complaints there but it is a divided highway and the scenery is just trees in either side. Not that the scenery be all that much different on a smaller road... it is noisy, though, what with all the traffic. A significant portion of the highway is newly paved and it's always nice to ride on new roads! Really, there's little remarkable in today's entire trip.

I stop frequently to refuel and rest my body. It rains off and on in the afternoon but not enough to don full rain gear. Eventually, I get within 25km of downtown Duluth and yet the highway still has just trees on either side. Hmmm. I ride another 10km, and finally, 'civilization'! I continue on, watching for a sign for my campsite until finally I stop at a gas station for clarification. It turns out I missed my campground ¨a ways back¨. I'm not going back now as it's 20:30, overcast and getting dark, with no setting sun to help out. I find a cheap motel, and enquire about nearby campgrounds, but other than the one I missed, I'm out of luck. You know the rest - yup, I spend another night in a motel.

This is turning into what cyclists call a ¨credit card tour¨, where lodging is in a motel/hotel every night. While I have no concerns financially, it's not my plan to stay in motels so often. I think part of the problem is that I'm suffering from mental fatigue/burn-out and need either a partner or more than a day off. As mentioned in a previous diary entry, I do sleep better in a motel, so a bed is welcomed.

As for Duluth and my perceptions of the city, I did some research on Duluth and I was wrong ... there's plenty to do in the area, e.g., rail excursion tours, boat tours, a good network of cycle paths, a zoo, etc. It seems to be a nice 'wholesome' city of about 90,000 people. I'd say it's worth checking out if you're in the area. Btw, Judy Garland came from Duluth, as did Bob Dylan, although he moved to nearby Hibbing - which I passed - when he was young.

As for northeastern Minnesota, the area I've just biked thru, it's main economy is forestry, just like back home [BC]! So, there's lots of logging trucks here. Although I haven't specifically looked out for, it seems the logs being hauled are substantially smaller than the ones in BC. Tourism is pretty important in Minnesota, too, with hunting and fishing being very big. National and state parks blanket the northeast. One also notices the large number of Scandinavian surnames here: Lund, Olson, Ogsden, etc. Although I haven't seen a black bear here yet, Minnesota has them!

Today, I did the most climbing since day 29, which was in Saskatchewan. The hills have slowly reappeared, and I expect more of the same once I hit Ontario. Also, I reached an important milestone today: the halfway mark! The entire trip is projected to be about 8,500km, and my mileage to date is now 4,288km. Tomorrow, I cycle through Duluth and cross a bridge over the bay into Wisconsin. I think I want to do a low mileage day tomorrow as I'm feeling a bit sweaty (as in 'feverish') and kind of low on energy.

Day 43 - July 25 - Sat

Duluth, MN - Ashland, WI - 134km

I had one of my better breakfasts of the trip today at a place called Perkins. I chose an Eggbeater omelette and it was very nicely done. That explains the lineups to get into the restaurant (but I didn't have to wait). I was asking my waiter about routing from Duluth to Superior and he mentioned that there was no sidewalk on one of the two bridges, which means I have no choice of bridge to ride over. I confirmed that with another person on the street.

There was a very nice downhill into downtown Duluth marked as a 5% grade. I've never seen a 5%er marked back home... they usually start at 6%. On the way through town I saw many nice, old homes but their state of repair wasn't the best. Perhaps I wasn't riding thru the 'best' part of town? Also, there were many brick buildings, e.g., apartments and commercial, that had interesting patterns/designs in their work. I took quite a few photos on my ride through town. I finally tracked down the street to get onto the bridge sidewalk and rode the S-shaped bridge into Wisconsin.

The city is called Superior - not the most imaginative choice of names, but I've seen worse, e.g., Eastend. :-) The part of Superior that I'm riding thru looks like it's seen better days. I found a grocery store to top up my supplies and then had a 'store-side' snack.

Continuing along highway 2, it's only a few clicks away when I come upon a huge rest area along the highway. What a refreshing change from the prairies and and northern MN! I figured I may as well do a meal here since I've got everything handy. The rest area is at the beginning of a divided highway. The highway does have wide shoulders, but I don't like the fast moving traffic hurtling by a few meters away.

Surprisingly, the divided highway ends only a few clicks past the rest area. A bit further down, the road becomes more country like and I'm enjoying the ride again. The asphalt changes to a red colour! I believe this is the 1st time since I left the Pacific Ocean that I've had red asphalt. I reminds me of England and France, where I spent of lot of my younger days. Even the gravel in driveways, and some soil, has red in it. I believe it's due to iron ore deposits. The shoulder's a bit narrower at 1/2m but it's fine for me.

I arrive at Maple, WI, where I spot chain-saw carved statues of bears, eagles and even a moose at the roadside. A chainsaw is making a racket and someone's carving an as yet undetermined animal, at least to me. This guy is good. I've seen plenty of these back home, but this guy definitely has a special talent. I want to talk to the guy but either he's very determined to complete his current piece or he's shy. I got some photos and left Maple.

Only a few clicks down the road, I got soaked by a torrential down pour that lasted closed to 1/2 hour. We rarely get these heavy downpours in the Vancouver area - we get the more steady type of rain. My shoes got a bit wet, even though I had my booties on. Unfortunately, there was no place to take shelter. I suppose I could've gone back to the chain saw carver's place, but no.

Eventually, I arrive in Brule and take refuge at a gas station. The rain was still coming down heavily and the road had a meter wide river running alongside the gutters! I waited and weighed my options: get a room at the only motel in town or continue on? The rain pretty well stopped after 1/2 hour and the dark clouds had passed overhead. My decision had been made for me, so I headed to Iron River, perhaps 15km down the road.

Wow - by the time I get to Iron River, the rain's a distant memory and, except for my shoes, everything's dry or damp. The sun is beating down again. Seeing that my destination of Ashland's over 50km away, I figure I'll buy myself a nice pasta at a local diner. That satiated me and fueled me right into Ashland.

Unfortunately, I had another torrential downpour just 5km outside of Ashland. Now I really wanted a motel! I checked 4 motels in Ashland and apparently every room in town is booked. It turns out that there's 3 major events going on, one of them being the Marshall Tucker band being in town. Geez, weren't those guys around in the 60s and 70s? Back to plan A - a campground. I locate the municipal campground and setup and pray to the rain gods.


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