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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fargo to Grand Rapids

As you can imagine, when traveling by bicycle there are some very big differences than when on a car trip. You've probably read about many of them right here. One thing that poses a problem when cycling (especially in the summer, I guess) is road construction. We've already traversed various stages of unpaved, paving and paved roads. We've had the joy (?) of feeling the bumps on these different terrains. The day we left Fargo and began riding in Minnesota we encountered the uncertainty of a "Road Closed. Detour." sign. Of course we have faced many small challenges along the way, so this wasn't really a big deal. But when you see a sign like this in a car, you simply follow the detour for the miles it takes you out of the way and then get back on route without any trouble.

The road past the sign which said it was closed looked perfectly normal so we decided to proceed rather than go miles out of our way (and there was no way of knowing how far out of the way we had to go). For the next four miles past the sign all we saw were big trucks hauling rocks or sand or something but the road seemed fine. Then, of course, the pavement ended and we were on soft gravel which was really annoying to ride on. As I said, it wasn't a huge problem just a minor annoyance which we pushed through for 4 or 5 miles until a pick up truck stopped and offered us a ride for the last couple of miles. Then it was over. Just one of those things that is a little bit more difficult on a bike. But of course we didn't decide to ride our bicycles across the country because it would be easy.

We got to Callaway, MN that night and it sort of seemed like we hadn't left North Dakota. It was like having a birthday and everyone asks, how does it feel to be older. It felt the same to be in this part of Minnesota, but it was a tiny bit different because we knew we had reached a new state. After a few miles of riding the next day, though, we left the straight roads through fields of wheat, corn, soy beans and sugar beets and found ourselves in much more forested lands. The road was curvier and there were gently ups and downs. Now it seems that houses in these rural areas are scattered at random intervals along the road instead of huddled in small towns around a water tower and grain elevator. We have seen a lot more lakes and rode through a National Wildlife Refuge. It is a very nice change from the plains to be surrounded by trees, sometimes large fields, and to get off the long long straight stretches (although most of those were back in Montana).

We've been going through areas somewhat like rural Maine with scattered houses, small general stores and lots of trails for snowmobiling and four-wheeling. The landscape isn't truly remarkable but its quite pleasant to ride on forested roads with sweet smelling trees and grass. The weather has gotten very hot and it has been very sunny. On Tuesday we rode to Itasca State Park where there were a number of lakes. We swam in Lake Itasca which is where the Mississippi begins. Explorers once sought to find this spot where the great river starts flowing. Now tourists and travelers (even by bicycle) can reach it easily and wade across the river just to say that they walked across the Mississippi, like we did.

We camped and the park and ended up at a site across from our friends Bobbie and Glen who had gone a different route in the past week and are now headed north across the Upper Peninsual of Michigan. The park was really pretty and it was nice to swim in the lake, hear the loons, have a campfire and make smores. Yesterday morning we left early to ride the last 105 miles to Grand Rapids (this is the end of the fifth map).

We crossed the Mississippi several times and it grew from a stream to a creek to a small river which flows into and out of several of the lakes in this area. Grand Rapids is as far east as we will be going for a while. From here we will go south all the way to Muscatine, Iowa. I'm not sure how much more we will see the Mississippi as we go south, but we will cross it going from Iowa to Illinois where it is much much larger and right now probably overflowing. We are still planning to follow the route through Iowa, but if we find that it is still too wet or chaotic we might go another way. It seems like it should be fine, though.

I hope we find lots of lakes to jump in as we go because we have definitely reached summer weather. While riding I don't always notice how hot it is because there is usually a breeze as I pedal along. When we stop, though, it makes me realize why I have been feeling a bit sluggish and tired. Because of the cool spring in Montana and North Dakota we missed the mosquito infestations there (in one Montana town they said they have "buffalo gnats"). But of course we couldn't avoid them forever. This morning we woke up to at least 100 mosquitoes perched on the outside of our tent and the fly. It has definitely been buggy here. Everything is still going well, though. Happy summer to everyone and stay cool, if you can!


Anonymous said...

i have my permit

thats scary isn't it


Brita said...

"the mississippi's mighty
but it starts in minnesota
at a place that you can walk across
with five steps down"
-indigo girls

your map! it shifted! crazy.
love you guys

lucas argrew said...

Hey ladies, so nice to hear you are making it across safely. I can't wait to see you in ohio and hear all the stories i couldn't read on here. Until then, my love is with you two.


Emily said...

I was just recently wondering where the Mississippi River starts. Thanks for so vividly answering that question!

Stay cool in your journeys through the hot weather!