Vale la Pena

Current Location: Sturgis, South Dakota

Getting to visit the Minnesota state fair for a second time was just as much fun as the first time around.  I’ll try and recount what was consumed over and 8 hr period.  We started with a chocolate malt with raspberries, and then moved over to the corn booth and each had a corn.  After that I had read about the grilled chocolate banana and marshmallow sandwiches (probably the most unhealthy thing I tried this year.)  After that I had a polish sausage wrapped in a dough and baked (called a Twisted Sister) and had a frozen mocha for dessert.  I split a order of fries with Aunt Patty and had some Tom Thumb mini doughnuts.  To top it all off I finished the night with some roasted cinnamon almonds.  I’m probably forgetting some things in this list but that is only a small sample of whats to be had at the fair, good times and good food.

Minnesota, like Michigan, for me is good for the soul and the stomach.  Good family there who roll out welcome mats when I get there is more than I can ask for.  I did try to get up on water skiis again this time around but the results were the same as last time, except I pulled a muscle in my leg and decided that was enough tries this time around.  I hope that third time is a charm, it just means I’ll have to make it back to the lake again someday to try again.  Thanks to all the Minnesota gang for the hospitality and what seems to be an endless supply of ice cream.

I broke down one night and paid for camping on my first night in South Dakota at a small state park next to Watertown.  As it turns out I’ve found my new favorite greeting.  “Want some steak?”  After I had setup camp for the night and just as I was about to break out the bagels and peanut butter for dinner a little kid about 7 years old walks up to me from across the road and asked me the question.  I looked him dead in the eyes and replied, “yes.”  He said he would fix me a plate but instead I followed him across the way to where his family was set up, there was about 10 of them camped at a few sites and had just finished dinner with a couple spare steaks on the grill along with potatoes and salads and desserts.  I gave my story of where I started and where I was going and got the usual responses.  I’m glad I stopped there, it was worth the camping fee that night.

The rest of South Dakota was plain, and just rolling hills most of the time.  I rode through another thunder storm and watched lightning crash a few miles off in the distance.  Super cool.  The wind on the other hand was reminiscent of Denmark, the only major difference here is I had another 350 miles to go against the wind.  That thought almost crushed me.  Fortunately the day after I got passed Pierre the wind turned in my direction and I churned out a 130 miles to try and gain back some of that lost mileage.  The road less traveled is what I chose to do in South Dakota meeting only a few cars every couple of miles after passing Pierre.  It also means there is not much to see either, plains on either side of me occasionally punctuated with some cows.  Towns are probably populated by no more than 20 people and I’m constantly worried about my water supply.  I’m kinda glad that I almost have this state behind me, only one more long state to go and it’s a doozy.

Riding Wisconsin

Current Location: St. Paul, Minnesota

I cheated, I accepted the fact pretty easily.  Let me explain.  Leaving Michigan gets harder each time I visit, there is certainly something beautiful about the lakes, rolling hills, fresh corn, and family there.  My cousin Jim offered to drive me from Ann Arbor up past the Macinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, I rationalized this offer to stay an extra day at my auntie and uncles house and not be behind in my schedule across the continent.  As a good friend asked me, ‘whats more important, peddling or people?’  An easy question for me to answer.  I’d list everyone in Michigan that I saw to thank them but then this post would get too long, suffice to say that I appreciated all the food, beer, and conversation with everyone there along with the bike rides and lawn mowings (even if I do break windows.)

Hands down Wisconsin was the nicest state to ride so far this trip.  99% of the ride through the state is done on county roads that are barely trafficked, even on weekends.  It’s all rolling hills through the state with forest on both sides of the road for a greater part.  I didn’t start seeing cows or farms until the last days ride and only one sign in the entire state for cheese for sale.  This isn’t the typical route through Wisconsin.  One guy I met said that the average population of Northern Wisconsin was 5 people per square mile.  I’m not sure where the defining line of north and south Wisconsin is but I believe it as stretches of Wisconsin were fairly empty.

While I don’t stop at every diner I see, I do treat myself once in a while just to see if I can find the diners of old. I like to find the diners where theres a bunch of old boys bellied up to a table, pancakes are the size of your plate and a no-nonsense waitress serving endless cups of weak coffee.  The old boys gab about nothing more important that whats going on in town or the weather.  It proves to me that life really can be that simple and trouble free.  It’s rare to find these establishments and I’ve only managed to find a few of them, if you stop in Butternut Wisconsin look for Jumbo’s and step into what feels like someones kitchen, it provided enough energy that day to ride forever.

At this point in the ride I’m guessing it’s more or less halfway through the ride, I could say this because I’m crossing the Mississippi or that I have about 22 days of riding left, this is a rough estimate of days left, but I hope pretty close to accurate as any longer and I’ll be riding through snow somewhere above 6000ft.  I leave the Adventure Cycling route for a greater portion of the remainder meaning I have no clue where towns, grocery stores, or gas stations are.  This gives me a little bit of anxiety because I rely on the latter two for water and food which probably means I’ll stop at every one I see to fill water.