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Week 1 - The Mississippi River Bike Ride

Fri, May 31
We wanted to get a head start on driving out west so we left after work and drove for about 4 hours. We stayed in Hamarville, PA, at a Days Inn just off the Pennsy Turnpike.

Sat, June 1
Today was just a day of driving out to Madison, WI where we stayed at a Super 8. We had a disappointing dinner at “A Pig in a Fur Coat” restaurant. It was fancy gourmet food, small portions with big prices.

Sun, June 2
Today we drove to Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, IA. The mounds, made by native American Indians many years ago in the shapes of animals, weren’t very exciting, but the birding in the area was very good. We saw a Baltimore Oriole, a Barn Swallow, and a Red Headed Woodpecker. That night we stayed at the Comfort Inn in Onalaska, WI. We had a great supper at the “Seasons by the Lake” restaurant. I would definitely recommend the restaurant.

This is from the Effigy Mounds National Monument. The mounds were not very exciting. :-(

Mon, June 3
We drove north and visited Great Bluffs State Park.It wasn’t very exciting either, so we continued north to Winona where we crossed the Mississippi River back into Wisconsin to visit the Nelson Creamery in the town of Nelson where we had lunch and ice cream. We were glad the park ranger at Great Bluffs told us about this place. It has great food and ice cream, definitely worth the visit. We continued north on the Minnesota side of the river up to Red Wing where we visited Barn Bluff Park for a scenic view of the town of Red Wing, MN and the Mississippi River.

The panorama shown below is of the town of Redwing. It was taken from the top of the bluff. The main channel of the river goes right past the town's riverfront.

Then we hightailed it up to St Paul where we caught the 6:00 Paddleford Boat Co. “Monday Madness” cruise on the Mississippi River past the St Paul waterfront. It was a chance to sit back and enjoy the waterfront as it slowly cruised by us. It was a nice slow cruise on the Mississippi River past the waterfront of St. Paul. They had snacks for purchase. I treated Diane to a "tube-steak" dinner with soda and chips.

The St Paul, Minnesota skyline from the river cruise.

Then we drove back south to check into our MicroTel motel in Inver Grove Heights.

Tues, June 4
Today we started out visiting the AAW (American Association of Woodturners) headquarters and the AAW Gallery of Wood Art in downtown St Paul. I was amazed how small the AAW headquarters offices were vs how much they do. Then we did a quick stop at the Mall of America where we did a quick walkthrough of the Nickelodeon Universe. If you have kids with you, this place could empty your wallet quickly.

This is the Nickelodeon Amusment Park in the center of the Mall of America. The photo only
shows about 1/3 of the park. The mall wraps around the outside of the park, 3 floors high.

Then we drove about an hour north to the Big Lake transportation parking lot to meet up with our organized bike ride. There we met the other 11 participants in the bike ride, 9 bikers and 2 support staff. Russ, the leader, was about 2 hrs late due to a late start and a flat tire on the luggage trailer. We all piled into 3 cars and drove north to Park Rapids, MN. Along the way the weather turned real bad with heavy downpours and thunder and lightning. No one wanted to set up camp in the pouring rain so we all found local motel rooms for the night. We stayed at the Super 8 in Park Rapids. They were very nice there. They let Diane store her bike in their conference room so it wouldn’t be sitting on the car bike rack outside overnight in the rain.

Weds, June 5
Today was supposed to be the start of the bike ride. However, due to the continued crappy weather in the morning, we all drove up to Itasca State Park in the two remaining cars. Itasca State Park is where the Mississippi River officially starts from Lake Itasca. At the park visitor center we stopped and everyone piled out of the cars and mounted their bikes. By this time the weather had improved a bit. Every one rode half way around the park to the lake outlet which forms the beginning of the Mississippi River. There we took lots of photos. Then we all reconvened at the park’s Douglas Lodge for lunch. The weather was still holding so everyone took off on their bikes for Bemidji. We stayed at the Super 8 in Bemidji instead of camping because the evening weather was questionable. I was also starting to get used to the luxury of staying in motels. :-)

Unloading the bikes from the trailer at Itasca State Park.

The start of the mighty Mississippi River. If the water level were lower,
you could have rock-hopped across the river

Douglas Lodge, where we enjoyed a good lunch at Itasca State Park.

Thurs, June 6
In the morning we all biked to breakfast near Lake Bemidji. Some people were having bike issues and they found a local bike shop just a few blocks away. Someone at the breakfast shop knew the bike shop owner and called him and he generously opened early to help out the bike ride participants! That was very nice of them. After a short photo op at Bemidji Lake where there was a large statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox, everyone rode half way around the lake to where the Mississippi River exited the lake and then took off on the ride past Lake Winnibigoshish.

Breakfast in Bemidji.

Paul Bunyon and Babe his blue ox, photo op in Bemidji.

By this time of the week the weather was looking better so we camped outside of the high school gymnasium in Deer Lake. We could access the gym lockers and showers as needed. Everyone else continued to stay in motels or they slept inside on the gymnasium floor.

Fri, June 7
Today, the ride took us thru the towns of Outing, Emily, Fifty Lakes, and down into Crosslake where we camped at the US Army Corp of Engineers campground on the shores of Cross Lake. Since the weather had cleared up enough, most people finally camped in their tents this evening.

Here we all are setting up our tents at the Army Corps of Engineer's campground at Cross Lake.

The campground had a beach on Cross Lake. Diane actually went in swimming.

Sat, June 8
Today we biked down to Little Falls. Tonight was forecast to have heavy rains and winds so we opted to stay at the monastery of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. There, we “camped out” on their gymnasium hard wood floor. Fortunately we had our camping air mattresses to sleep on.

Stopping along the way for lunch at the Woodsman Cafe.

Providing SAG support for a thirsty biker.

Sun, June 9
The weather was crappy again this morning. It was rainy with the threat of thunderstorms. Therefore, during the breakfast meeting, it was decided that we’d shuttle everyone down the road a piece to where they could catch a scenic bike trail along the river. Then we’d let them ride till the weather got worse. The weather didn’t get any better and around 12:30, the bike leader Russ decided to call the ride over and we picked up everyone at the town of Sartell. We then shuttled everyone back to their cars at the Big Lake transportation lot.

There we all parted company. Diane and I then started part 2 of our vacation.

The morning breakfast meeting where we discuss the day's plans.

Gretchen and Pam biking along in the rain wearing the latest low-tech rain gear. :-)

At the end of the ride, we collect all the bikers, load up the bike racks, and
head back to Big Lake where we started several days ago.

Week 2 - Touristing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

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last revised : August 22, 2013