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July 22 and 23
Bunyan, Wisconsin; Cumberland, Wisconsin
Look Out Cheeseheads Here We Are

The last night in Dalbo, we shared space in the Bunkhouse with a father and daghter team, Norm and Amy.  They are from Michigan and North Carolina, respectively.  The two are on the Northern Tier headed for Bar Harbor with some deadlines involved, so they are averaging about 70 miles per day.

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Meanwhile, after pushing out of Dalbo, we entered Wisconsin crossing the St. Croix River near St. Croix Falls.

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Unlike Minnesota’s hundreds of miles of trails, we rode the Gandy Dancer Trail for about six miles or so ONLY after paying a user fee of $5 per bicycle.  The good news is I can never be accused of not paying taxes to ride my bike ever again.  I have the receipt.

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Sallie on the Gandy Dancer Trail. $5 and it's not even paved.

Finally, we capped off our night at a campground near Bunyan, WI where we went to the campground’s tavern to get some dinner.  The place was packed to the rafters with folks engaged in a meat raffle.  That was a first for me.  We had pizza and watched large sums of money exchange hands for everybody in the place to take chances to win packages of meat that seemed to be procured from a local grocery. 

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Rolling hills and corn fields welcome us in the Dairy State

The next day turned out to be a short one as we got into Cumberland after only about 25 miles and the locals were cautioning us about proceeding on as a storm was coming that was getting severe warnings.  We holed up in Cumberland for the day and we’ll hit it again tomorrow.  By the way, this storm is supposed to flush out the hot humid weather the area has been getting.  That’s good because I don’t think these snow machine and ice fishing Packer fans around here go for that stuff.

July 20th through 21st
Dalbo, Minnesota

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There are some places in the country where citizens realize they are on one of the Adventure Cycling routes and they take an action to accommodate cyclists.  Sometimes these efforts are on a pretty grand scale.  Let me show you around one of these efforts by first introducing you to Donn Olson. 

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Donn is a retired Chief Warrant Officer (CW05) of the U.S. Army with 30 years in service spanning the Vietnam War forward.  Donn has a farm just outside of Dalbo, Minnesota and noting the number of cyclists coming down the small county road where he lives, he decided to do something to help, and help he did.

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Donn converted and old barn into a living area and opened this up for cyclists to drop by.  The doors are open 24/7 and it’s quite the place.  Let me show you around…

There is a living/dining room…

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A loft in the second story….

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A fully stocked kitchen, complete with food…

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Four bunk rooms…

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And extra sleeping quarters in the silo and up in the loft if needed.

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We cycled 92 miles on the 20th to get to Donn’s place on July 20th.  There had been severe heat and humidity warnings for the last few days as heat index ratings were well over 100 degrees.  The locals were very uncomfortable but Sallie and I were pretty much in our element.  We were told by the Teachers this was a “do not miss” spot to stop, so we pressed on through the heat to find the air conditioning working just fine, but a little cold for our tastes. 

Donn’s Bicycle Bunkhouse has won several awards and is written up frequently in cycling magazines.  He’s a wonderful fellow, very generous and helpful.  He keeps track of his cyclists and we logged in as the 85th and 86th cyclists stopping this year so far.

As it turned out, a completely unpredicted and violent thunderstorm came up that night at about 3:00am, followed by another the next morning.  We chose to remain at the Bunkhouse for another day until the weather cleared out and enjoyed Donn’s company, his stories, and the wonderful welcome.

July 15 through 19
Fargo, ND; Pelican Rapids, MN; Brandon, MN; Melrose, MN; Dalbo, MN

On our way to Fargo, the six of us stopped for “second breakfast” at the Morning Glory Cafe in Kindred, North Dakota.  A fellow introduced himself to us as Ron, and expressed his admiration for the cyclists he often encounters as they come through.  When he was younger he worked in a bike shop in Seattle and rode every day.  It was easy to tell he was quite nostalgic in his recall of his story.  Upon asking for our checks, we found out Ron had picked up the tab for us. 

Fargo is on the eastern end of North Dakota and represents an end to what most cyclists refer to as the “worst” part of the ride on the Northern Tier.  I can’t say I disliked riding through North Dakota.  It wasn’t the most scenic state in a conventional sense, but on a bicycle there is always plenty to become familiar with if you look.

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These little lake are referred to as "pot holes". They are all over eastern ND. They are not spring-fed, they just collect rain and snow.

On arrival in Fargo the Teachers separated to visit a relative of Meg’s.  Sallie and I picked up her new tent at the post office, I needed some items from the bike shop, and we were in need of some bungee cords. 

We had not taken a day off in 22 days since Sallie’s birthday on June 24, so we decided to shut it down for a day and maybe take in the street festival taking place on Broadway Street.  As it turned out, it was our good fortune to meet up once again with Ryan Conaughty and make the acquaintance of Jenny, a Northern Tier rider we’d heard about for some time coming up behind us.

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We entered Minnesota on July 17 and soon were greeted with roads that had actual curves and rolling hills.  That was quite a change for us as we’ve had roughly 1,000 miles each of mountains followed by farm land.

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The route we take in Minnesota has over a hundred miles of rail-to-trail that is part of several hundred miles reserved for this purpose going through the Central Lakes area.  All of these are paved with asphalt and I’d like to think this was all designed for bicyclists and hikers, however if you pay attention to the signage, it’s obvious these serve a dual purpose as snowmachine trails in the winter.  Nonetheless, this is a great asset for the state of Minnesota.  They even have a stretch we rode designated as “Lake Wobegon Trail”.  No, Lake Wobegon is not on that trail – sorry – keep looking.

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Hardwood tree canopy on the Lake Wobegone Trail

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We also crossed the Mississippi River while entering the eastern portion of Minnesota.  That’s always an event in crossing the country.  While the mighty Mississippi is not that wide this far north,  the river is up a little right now as the week before some areas here got 10 inches of rain or more.

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Oh, and then we saw this…

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Hmmm…

Respect

A Note About the Teachers

As readers can tell from my journals, we encounter a number of folks on these rides and I try to make note of them, even if it might be a brief passing of a touring cyclist going in the opposite direction.  We’ve seen groups that work well together and we’ve seen groups absolutely disintegrate in front of us.  We know of solo travelers that do not deal well with the loneliness of their experience and they quit their dream to complete their trip.

I’ve often thought that folks we encounter that struggle with the ride or, more often – each other – have difficulty because of mixed goals.  Over and over again it seems this gets demonstrated.  If one person wants to take short-cuts, or another wants to get more miles in every day than another, that’s just not a good mix.

Touring is not easy.  While it is not an athletic contest, it is quite taxing both physically and psychologically.  As noted, the calorie intake requirements are great, rest is essential, and while the human body is incredible at making adjustments to the stress of touring, our societal “filters” get challenged and may (in my case, will) run thin.

The group we refer to as “the Teachers” is a mix of three that are as solid as can be in this trying environment.  They’ve adapted extremely well to the conditions, they have closely matched goals, they’ve worked out their schedules accomodating everyone in their group, and most importantly they maintain a terrific sense of humor about everything they do.

Oh…and they are powerful, competent cyclists too.

It was our pleasure to spend several days in their company.  It brightened up our time, made for hysterical laughter, and gave us an appreciation for an example of “how it is supposed to be done.” 

All this and they work together professionally too.

On July 15 as we were headed into Fargo, Sallie and I left the group after “second breakfast” and each turn in the road, I looked in my mirror expecting them to see them as they overtake us.  I’d look on the long stretches too and they were no longer in view.  It was a powerful reminder of the influence some people can have in our lives.  It had only been a short while, but their absence was felt.

Sallie and I are very shortly going nothwards on the “North Lakes Bicycle Route” as the Teachers continue on the normal Northern Tier so our chances of encountering these wonderful women are now nill – at least in this context.

I offer them this: 

Respect

Godspeed ladies.  In this and all you do.

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Special Update

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Still flying the Maple Leaf in Minnesota

(the land of 10,000 lakes; the lake in the background was number 1,123 that we saw)

By the way, I have a job idea for the border patrol officer that says I can’t display this flag.  I know a tree service company in Idaho he can go to work for.  He’d fit right in.

July 10th through the 15th

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The day after the storms in  Medora there were more violent storms forecast the next evening, so by prior arrangement, the Three Teachers, Greenbriar, Sallie and I made reservations for a motel in Dickinson.  The locals were all in agreement that the prevailing east wind of the last two days was nothing but bad news for violent evening thunderstorms once more.  Having lost a tent fly the night before, we thought it better not to take chances.

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Ten miles of bad dirt road and riding into a storm. Sallie says, "The Northern Tier is not for Sissies".

Anne (one of the Teachers) had a huge surprise on the highway approaching Dickinson when her husband Ben (from the Boston area) showed up unannounced.  He was on his way to a ranch he was invited to near Missoula and decided to make a surprise appearance.  He pulled past the Teachers in a rental car, stopped and stood on the side of the road as they approached.Making it all the better, Anne didn’t recognize him and as she rode up and she asked him if he was the keeper for a set of bee hives in a field close by.  Great moments like that are the fabric of legends. 

Ben is an avid sailor and his assistance was greatly appreciated when I stretched out Sallie’s fly in the motel lobby with intentions of repairing the large tears with Gorilla Tape.  We got the job done however, Sallie elected to order a new tent shipped to Fargo and deal with the management of the campground and warranty issues regarding the tent at a later date.

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Map strategy session in the motel hallway during a tornado warning

A significant storm did arrive that night complete with tornado sirens and starting the next day the winds changed back to westerly which is the norm for the area.  With the west wind blowing, it was time to lay down some miles and the six of us joined together and did our fair share.  We did 71, 80, 67, and 74 miles in the next four days pretty much finishing North Dakota in a week. 

Although discussed frequently, I got first-hand experience with the style of riding the Teachers do.  As with all touring cyclists, there is a central theme and of course it surrounds food (our calorie intake needs are incredibly high).  They routinely get up early, pack their gear and then have a meal of sandwiches that were prepared the night before.  They will ride for an hour and have a snack.  Another hour and if available, stop at a cafe or eating place for “second breakfast”.  To summarize:  Snacks every hour, two breakfasts, two lunches and sometimes two dinners.  That’s my kind of planning!

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Sallie and I about to get overtaken by the Teachers. No checkered flag for me.

As previously stated, these gals are quite capable cyclists with a deadline.  They tend to go with lightweight gear and they are considerably faster riders than Sallie and I (we do not worry about the weight of our gear and tend to travel with luxuries other shun).  What this means is we’ll get passed by them if we start out first and we’ll catch them at their next roadside break.  It was pointed out to me that also means I’ll photograph them only when their eating.  Very true.  Just capturing the facts here – that’s all.

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For a couple of weeks I’d been communicating with my good friend Lin Davenport of Thermopolis, Wyoming.  Lin was in Wisconsin and making plans to perhaps meet up with me should our schedules work out.  I’ve known Lin for…I’m unsure…getting close to 40 years now?  We’ve kept in contact through some tough times in each of our lives and celebrated some good times as well.  Lin had to make a dash for home because her mother was not doing well and while we were on our way to Circle, Montana Lin pulled up in her car for a roadside reunion.

These kinds of meetings are not easy to gauge as our itinerary can change on a moment’s notice.  Good job catching us Lin and it was a pleasure to see you again.

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