Day 58-68, June 26th to July 6th – Mantorville, MN (rest week…s)
It sure was good to be home for a bit. Apparently my legs needed the rest. I found my daily episodes of leg cramping to be quite painful and annoying. One day I tried to ride to Fairbault, MN to visit my friend Dom Trom at his parents cabin. Unfortunately about 10 miles into my ride one leg cramped up and 5 miles later I threw in the white flag. I was able to get a few hour long mountain bike sessions in on my parents property, weaving in and out of the rows of christmas trees without too much in-ride cramping. Often the post ride cool down ended in some sort of cramping. Thus the evil foam roller was dug out of storage and I attempted to get extra stretching and rolling in during my time off.
Over the fourth a bunch of high school and college friends were kind enough to mark off there calendar and come hang out. It was great seeing everyone and I had a great time. Big thanks to my Mom for helping feed everyone! We enjoyed homemade pizza with crust from the spent grains of left from my Dad’s brew session that day, smoked pork shoulder with the help from my Dad, crepes, egg bake, and more. I definitely have some “stored energy” from my stay at home. I ate VERY well. Of course the July 4th weekend was filled with great fun… bean bags, beersby (AKA frisbeer), kayaking/tubing, hammerschlagen, bon-fires, etc. It was great to enjoy it all with friends and family.
Day 69, July 7th – Mantorville, MN to… Mantorville
I had complete intentions of leaving today but that really didn’t work out. I knew it would probably be a late start but was hoping to get out the door at least. Well, instead I enjoyed the joys of our healthcare system to it’s full extent. I actually think it would have been relatively painless had it not been for my unique situation. I know it doesn’t seem like it would be an issue, but not having a permanent address really hinders you from signing up for a lot of things. There were a few check boxes for “homeless” but I could bring myself to check it off. In the end I used my parents address.
I initially thought I should apply for healthcare through Illinois since that was my latest residence and I also had an Illinois drivers license. After an hour on hold I finally got to start the application process with a real person over the phone. About 10 minutes into the process the question of current address came up… “I don’t really have one”. No problem as long as you have a mailing address (why this is so necessary in the age of internet is a little baffling). So I gave them my parents address. This triggers some sort of red flag for her and she starts question where I am now and where I’m headed. Will I be returning to Illinois? My response is something like: I’m currently at my parents in Minnesota – passing through, I’m only visiting – I don’t know precisely if I’ll return to Illinois. She gets her manager and the argument begins on why they think I’m not an Illinois resident and can’t apply for insurance. In the end I get the “have a nice day” and give up on Illinois health insurance. Too bad since it was significantly cheaper when I compared Illinois and Minnesota rates.
The Minnesota online application was equally frustrating. After getting kicked around the page trying to enter my addresses and income the best I knew how under the limitations of the application options still didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. I finally got ahold of a lady in Rochester who is a Navigator that helps with the application process. She was tremendously helpful. Once I hear back on a follow up question she was looking into I should be able to kick this bad boy off. The moral of the story is: Don’t expect to be able to enroll in healthcare in one morning.
The rest of the day was spent sorting out some gear and making a new rub guard with my Dad for my front panniers. The new and improved guards prevent rub over a much greater area. No more fear of wearing a massive hole in the pannier and spilling all of its contents unknowingly behind. Instead, from here on out it’s all big confident cornering with sprays of sparks and big grins on my face.
Day 70, July 8th – Mantorville, MN to Redwing, MN
Today started out with more scurrying around my parents home taking care of some last minute things. I remembered to grab some pictures of my mountain bike and road bike currently being stored at my parents. I’m going to try and sell these to finance a new bike build. Building a bike is all part of the fun! So if you or someone you know might be interested in a carbon road bike or 26” hard tail mountain bike feel free to take a look or forward these craigslist ads on!
Trek 4500 mountain bike: http://rmn.craigslist.org/bik/4562703991.html
Trek/Gary Fischer Cronus road bike: http://rmn.craigslist.org/bik/4562573621.html
One other exciting thing I did before taking off was order a new tent! I’ve been thinking critically about dropping some of the weight and bulk out of my setup lately and the tent seems to be one of the big contributors. So to replace my 2-person half dome tent I am going for a simple and light weight tarp tent. Feel free to take a look at it here: http://www.tarptent.com/contrail.html. I’m sure I’ll be giving it a full review later. Be on the lookout for a gear review page that I am intending to start soon. I feel like I’ve got enough miles now to give my 2 cents on a lot of my gear. Next replacement (if I get to it) will likely be my sleeping bag – Too bulky and too warm for summer touring.
So on to the touring bit! Around 1:00 PM I finally hit the road. I said goodbye too my Dad who was working from home today. This was easier to do knowing I’ll be seeing him in about 2 weeks or so (more on this at a later date). Legs were feeling good today. No pesky cramps finally! My knees feel stiffness that started around mile 30, but I presume this is just from lack of long duration biking in the last 2 weeks. I must say it sure felt great to be back on the road. The sense of freedom you get while being out on your bike during a tour is almost inexplainable. It almost feels like a heavy blanket has been removed from on top of you that you didn’t even know was there before. And this is not to say I was feeling constricted at home or wasn’t having a good time… Quite to the contrary I had a great time at home. It’s just a wild feeling that you get on the road and having been sitting still for 2 weeks I had temporarily forgot the feeling.
The ride itself was pretty good. Strong cross winds neither aided or hindered my ride… much. I found myself on lots of country gravel roads. The only town I really passed through before Redwing was Pine Island. I stopped here to have a snack outside the grocery store (I didn’t go in) and write out a standard list of grocery items since groceries were on my mind. Hopefully my next shopping trip will be more of grabbing the things I need and less of me wandering aimlessly about the isles. Curious about the grocery list? Here’s what I put down below… If you have some go to items of your own for biking, hiking, etc. feel free to share in the comments.
Brad’s Bike Grocery Ideas List:
- Muesli / Granola
- Powder Milk / Almond Milk
- Peanut Butter / Almond Butter
- Dark Chocolate
- Bell Pepper / Cucumber / Tomato
- Dehydrated Bean Mix / Refried Beans
- Raisins / Cranberries
- Mashed Potatoes
Once in Red Wing I stopped to debate whether I should ride on or start my 2nd half of the tour on an easy day. I remembered there was a brewery in town and decided on the latter. Before heading to the brewery I also swung into the well know “Red Wing Shoes” building. They had a pretty cool little history museum on their shoes upstairs and an impressively huge shoe standing near the entrance. Red Wing Brewery was a really cool little spot. They also do a good job on sharing Red Wing’s brewing history with visitors. In fact, the brew I had was from an old recipe (1896) they found scribbled out on a letter from the original Red Wing Brewery to another brewer in town. They found it in the historical society archives. The beer itself was surprisingly good! Who knew that before the micro-brew craze and before the prohibition there were actually breweries out there making good beer! The original Red Wing Brewery was founded in 1857 and finally had to shut its doors after the prohibition due to not being able to update their outdated equipment. Apparently during the prohibition they survived by producing goods like non-alcoholic malt beverages, ice, vinegar, and cider.
From the brewery I only had a couple of short miles to ride to a campground (Island Campground). It was getting late so my fingers were crossed that the place existed still. Well it did exist, but the road to enter the grounds were a foot or more underwater. With my low hanging front panniers removed and placed on my handlebars I rode/walked my bike in and found (to my delight) the place completely abandoned. It appeared the water had been much higher. I ended up settling in under an awning where a large RV was likely stationed for the summer before the flooding occurred. A little bit of pleasure reading and it was off to bed. Ahhh to be back on the road.
Day 71, July 9th – Redwing, MN to Pine Lake (South of Osceola, WI)
Packed up the gear and had to answer a couple questions from a curious local as I was about to head out. I assured him I wasn’t going to steal any of the lawn furniture or fridges from his neighbors patio 😉 I rode into Wisconsin for the morning and so began my pinball touring along the Wisconsin and Minnesota border for the next few days. After lunch in Prescott I chased after another cycle tourist I saw heading across the bridge. I caught up with Kinhoon and chatted for a bit. He is a music student (plays guitar) from South Korea. He flew into Chicago to ride out to Seattle as a means of visiting the US. I’d say he picked a great way to do it. We rode together for a short ways and parted paths since he was staying with a Warmshowers.org host in St. Paul. I pressed on along the Mississippi to Stillwater, MN. I don’t think I’ve ever been through here, at least from what I can recall. It was a cool little touristy city with lots of shops and brew spots. I stopped to watch the final minutes of the Netherlands vs. Argentina World Cup game and did some grocery shopping at the health food shop before heading out of town.
The rest of the evening was great weather riding through Wisconsin. I ended up detouring from the ACA route which made some sort of goofy jog east when I came across a very refreshing lake and not a single person to be seen. I quickly scouted out a stealth camp spot and spent the rest of the evening swimming and cooking dinner on the public dock.
Day 72, July 10th – Pine Lake to Donn’s Bicycle Bunk House
I broke camp unseen today and headed into Osceola where I had some cereal on a park bench in town. I went to give a coffee shop a shot so I could work on the blog but when I popped my head inside it turned out they weren’t open yet. There was a training session for new employees going on inside so I quickly stepped back out and headed for my bike. That’s when the owner, Steve, came out and said come on in. “What do you need? What can I get you? What are you doing… biking across the country?” were how I remember Steve’s first few questions when I walked in the door. He got a chuckle when I told him I actually was. Steve hooked me up with a cup of some tasty coffee that is roasted in Minneapolis and gave me the low down on the new coffee shop that is opening in a couple weeks. It’s a beautiful little spot right next to the Cascade Falls and has a great patio out back. I think it will be an awesome little spot. Steve is also trying to partner with another shop along the river in a town over on helping to create bike trails and increase bike tourism in the towns… very cool. Thanks for the cup of joe Steve!
I pedaled BACK into Minnesota, leaving Wisconsin for the last time. I ended up cutting off the ACA route again due to construction and made my way to North Branch where I found a cafe with wifi. Here I ended up working on making some online ads for the bike gear I wanted to sell before finally hitting the road again. I saw there was a cycling only camp option north of Dalbo that I really wanted to check out. I didn’t know much about it, but figured it could be a chance to camp with some fellow cyclists if I’m lucky. Well when I arrived I couldn’t believe how awesome this place, the Bicycle Bunk House, really was. Donn had converted his entire barn into a living quarters for traveling cyclist on the Northern Tier. The bunkhouse was complete with stocked fridges and pantries, bunk rooms with cots, a solar shower, and outhouse. He asked for next to nothing for the food and sleeping was free.
At the bunkhouse I got to meet Claude, Kellen and Cory. Claude was biking from Connecticut to Washington and Kellen and Cory were brother biking from Boston to Washington. Kellen and Cory actually did some touring across Europe and Asia and had lots of good stories to share.
Check out a video someone posted on YouTube about Donn’s Place:
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Free coffee from Steve, free place to stay at Donn’s Bunk House!