06.27.11 – Best of the (Upper) Midwest Pt. 2

The next few days to Minneapolis weren’t terribly interesting. I stayed in a hotel in Northfield, which I immediately regretted since the night was cloudless and quiet. Getting into Minneapolis, I visited Hiawatha Cyclerly, picked up a map of the town and got directed to the best BBQ food (Cap’s) I’ve had this entire time. I love crispy thick cut fries! Afterward I rode along the bike paths next to the river, expecting to find a nice spot to look out along the water and meet a few people. Unfortunately, the river is anywhere from 10 to 100 feet below the level of the path (and any riverside park for that matter). I found a spot to sit lay down and digest for a bit but shortly thereafter headed to Grant’s house, my host for Minneapolis. Grant is my age and lives in an old frat house. It’s no longer a frat house but clearly looks like one with the big pillars and tons of rooms. I really enjoyed hanging out with Grant and his roommates, Charles and Wesley. We ate at Mesa Pizza (twice), Al’s Breakfast, Burrito Loco, Potbelly Sandwiches and Matt’s for a good old famous Jucy Lucy! Best bike city?! How about best food for biking city too!

There are also lots of cool bike shops in Minneapolis. The Angry Catfish has a lot of high end touring and commuting bikes with some good hard tails too. Their attached coffee shop is where I tried my first espresso. Let’s just say it doesn’t matter how good it tastes when it’s a dollar per ounce. Thanks but I’ll stick to coffee. Erik’s bike shop on 4th street is great. They cleaned my drivetrain for free and have some really good water bottles for the constant-water-bottle-forgetter. Over the course of three nights and two rest days, I really learned about (though didn’t completely experience) Minneapolis. I’d have to visit it again if I wanted to consider moving there but overall I had a very positive experience. Thanks so much to Grant and his roommates. I look forward to hearing about your rides whenever you end up doing them.

Before I move on with this update, I feel some of you might benefit from hearing about how I decided to make my route to and through South Dakota. Prior to reaching South Dakota, I was of the belief that there was absolutely nothing there. I pictured endless miles of shadeless, unpopulated roads with temperatures regularly in the triple digits. Suffice it to say I imagined the worst. To add to my fears, I knew that traveling west through the state would mean uphill the whole way and possibly headwinds most of the time. While in Minneapolis, I really stressed about whether or not to take a bus through South Dakota. I thought that I wouldn’t be missing much and that I’d rather spend more time in Colorado than travel through nothingness. In the back of my mind though, I had this feeling that I’d regret not doing it even if there really was nothing there. I called two people I knew could give me good advice, Jesse and Hannah. I pretty much knew what both of them would say (they’re both very encouraging people and probably see things about me that I don’t) but I needed to hear it and perhaps their reasoning. Jesse used his experience though Nebraska to relate by saying, “It sucked at times but I’m glad I did it, it was part of the adventure.” As you can see he’s a man of few words but I understood what he meant and I think he knew I would. Hannah said out loud what I was thinking in my head that I would regret it if I didn’t even try. When she suggested I follow the bus route across the state, I was sold on the idea and a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. Immediately I became excited for South Dakota and upon doing a bit of research about the bus route, found what looked to be like a fairly populated route with some interesting small towns. Thank you both so much for your encouraging words.

Now that I knew I’d attempt the big SD, I had to get there. There really aren’t too many couchsurfers in western Minnesota! Why not camp, you may ask. You’ve barely camped this whole time, Lowell! True, I have not used my tent as much as I thought I would up to this point. The reason for this, if you haven’t noticed, is because I love meeting new people. They are doors through which I can walk into a new city and experience it. Of course I also can (and do) go off on my own to see these places for myself. I found one couchsurfer in Montevideo, MN. Marc lives there with his wife Jen and two children. Montevideo is 130 miles from Minneapolis so initially I planned on taking two days to get there with a camping day in Hutchinson. A bicycle path should have taken me all the way to Hutchinson but about 20 miles away it stopped! It just stopped! Apparently the bike path turns into grass and is generally used in the winter for xc skiing, snowmobiles and other winter activities. No worries though, I hopped on the main road and was in Hutchinson around 12:30. I considered sticking around but the weather was so nice (cool with tailwinds and no forecasted rain) that I called Marc to see if they’d accept me a day earlier. As I called I remembered that it was Father’s Day and they might not want the interruption. I decided to go anyway and camp in Montevideo if they weren’t around. Did you know there are Pelicans in Minnesota? They’re huge! I definitely felt the additional 70 miles in my arms, shoulders, legs, butt and back (okay, everywhere). It was an amazing experience, however, to discover I could ride through these aches and adjust my riding style to ease them. If I ever I have to travel this distance again out of necessity, I will be prepared.

Around 8pm, after grabbing some dinner in town, I got a phone call from Jen saying they’d love to have me over. Marc is an online school teacher and Jen is going to school for social working/justice. It was great to have a shower and bed after such a long day. Severe weather was forecasted for the following day and they were more than happy to let me stay another day if I chose…so I did! Montevideo is a very interesting small town. I met the big cheese of the town, Patrick at Cure. Cure is a shop in town that is really trying to protect the areas natural habitats and put Montevideo on the maps as an artistic, intellectual small town with culture and activity. Later in my day of rest, Marc took me to his property outside of town. On forty acres of beautiful land we watered some baby apple trees and sat in his homemade sauna. That’s right, a sauna! Having never really experienced one, I was excited to see what it was about. Having an interest in wood structures, Marc and Jen had done many saunas over the years and one or two houses I believe. This one was built within a small retired grain silo. From the outside it looked no different than the others on the property except for a small inconspicuous stovepipe sticking out of the top. On the inside was a wall separating a small changing area and the actual sauna. A dim candle in the changing room lit up both rooms through a window in the wall and the orange light reflecting off of the steam soaked cedar panels created the ultimate relaxing environment. Having just enjoyed a weekend of shenanigans in Minneapolis, it was nice to tone things down and just let the heat and steam work their magic. I must say that up to this point, the sauna has to be one of my best couchsurfing experience.

Later that evening I was blessed with a fantastic Reuben sandwich and we talked about everything from adoption to the boundary waters to the English language. Realizing their occupations, I thought they would be the perfect people to receive Denise Eide’s book, The Logic of English. They were glad to receive the book and I hope it benefits them well. I left the following morning after and while it hadn’t rained all day Monday like they said it would, it rained on me on Tuesday! I kind of wanted to get to Brookings, SD and because of the darn grid road system, I’d have to travel 40 miles south and 60 miles west. Well the first 40 miles were drizzly and sometimes rainy. It was the kind of rain that makes you say, “Okay, I’m wet, whatever.” I made it to Marshall, SD and stopped into the Daily Grind. Upon hearing of my travels, the owner bought my lunch and gave me some contact info for her sister when I’m in California. Thanks so much, Daily Grind! While in Marshall, however, heavy rain hit for about an hour and it was already 2pm. Thinking it wouldn’t let up for a while, I looked into cheap motels. At around 3pm, however, the rain subsided and looking at the radar, I saw more strong cells and decided to go for it!

From Marshall the next town was Ivanhoe, 22 miles away. After that, it would be another 20 miles to White and there really wasn’t much there. I was pretty tired and there wasn’t much light due to the overcast conditions. Also the hotel option didn’t really exist anymore if I decided to stop before Brookings. Oh and I had crosswinds. They weren’t bad but they definitely slowed me down. Continuing to lightly rain on me the whole time, I pretty much zoned out except for the occasional bit of beautiful landscape. It was getting much hillier than other parts of western Minnesota and I wondered once or twice if I should’ve have left Marshall. One I reached the road on which I turned left to head south into Brookings (10 miles out) I knew I had made it. Downhill and a tailwind was all that lie ahead. After a long day, I finally arrived wet, sore and tired from 100 miles of rain, crosswinds and hills. Again, I proved to myself that I am stronger than I previously believed. At this point I truly felt ready for whatever South Dakota could throw at me.

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