Day 37: The day we made it east

Day 37, 7/20, Albany, MN to Dalbo, MN: 79.1 miles, 1,795 ft elevation gain, 15.6 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 2,117.3 miles (68.3 daily average), 92,354 ft elevation gain, 12.3 mph overall average speed.

Three days behind schedule.

Today was a lovely day. One of those days when you when you feel lucky to be spending your summer riding your bike across the country. A day of sunshine and tailwinds and lots of good food.

The foundation for the day was laid last night by the kindness and hospitality of the Haynes family. It refreshed and refueled us after that miserable night at Delagoon Park. We fell asleep immediately upon entering the tent, and slept the sleep of the dead.

We woke up this morning to another round of generosity and cheer…and breakfast. Tea, coffee, and a build-your-own oatmeal bar with granola, nuts, peanut butter, Nutella, raisins, and more.

After breakfast, we loaded up the bikes, said goodbye to the Hayneses, and headed on our way.

            

We spent the first 17 miles today on the Lake Woebegon Spur trail, which was more idyllic, traffic-free riding through forests and around lakes. Some sections of the trail (today and toward the end of yesterday) were newly repaved, and I can’t express in words how wonderful it is to ride on a newly-paved surface without any worry of car traffic. It’s bike touring heaven.

   
  

But all good things must come to an end, and after 17 miles we finished our time on the trails. And we were really excited about it. Why? Because our time on the trail ended right at Jordies Trailside Cafe, a highly-recommended, eccentric little diner. We stopped in for second breakfast. Dani’s biscuits and gravy was unfortunately just so-so, but my breakfast (and Steph’s and Tom’s) was delicious.

    

After second breakfast, we turned east. The roads so far in Minnesota have all been well-maintained with wide shoulders; ideal roads for riding. After a few short miles, we cruised down a hill and over the Mississippi!

I understand that we’ll be crossing the Mississippi a few more times in the coming days, but it still felt like a huge milestone. In my mind, the Mississippi divides the country into east and west halves, and now that we’re on the other side, I feel like I can officially say that we are in the second half of our trip.

We continued east, riding on generally pleasant roads with a generally helpful wind. It was great to be riding with Steph and Tom; they kept us riding at a slightly faster pace than we typically average and it’s nice to ride as part of a larger group. We haven’t ridden with anyone since crossing Logan Pass with Dan, Gina, and Clive, and riding with other people seems to lend a bit of legitimacy to this crazy vacation idea of ours.

    

We ran into Dina and Brian, another couple on a tandem that rode from their home in Fort Collins, CO to Austin, TX, then over to Louisiana, up to Ohio, and are looping back down to Fort Collins. They’ve been out since March. I can’t imagine doing a bike tour in Colorado in March – it can be 70 degrees and sunny or it can snow 10 inches. You never know! 

We stopped in several small towns for cold drinks and bathroom breaks, but we kept our breaks short. We were headed to a cyclists’-only bunkhouse near the tiny town of Dalbo, MN, and we were eager to get there. We stopped in Milaca, MN to pick up some groceries and some booze for the evening. Also, Dani finally got a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. We’ve been passing DQs at inconvenient times for the past few weeks, so her Blizzard craving has gone unfulfilled. This time, however, she stood up for herself and declared that she was getting a Blizzard even if we left without her and she had to catch up. Luckily, we took a long time picking out beer and wine, and such extreme measures weren’t necessary.

The last 18 miles from Milaca to Dalbo were grueling. Not because they were particularly hard, but because we had told ourselves we were “almost there” when we stopped in Milaca, and 18 miles is a little too long to be almost. I was checking the distance ridden on my phone like a third grader checking the clock during the last period of school: “I’m sure we’ve gone five miles since the last time I looked. OK, maybe three. I’ll guess two just to be safe… Seven tenths of a mile!!?! Crap!”

Eventually, we saw the “Adventure Bicyclists Bunkhouse” sign on the side of the road that let us know we had finally made it. And what a destination.

             

Don grew up on this farm, which was a dairy farm at the time. He retired from the military after 30 (I think? Maybe more) years and came back to the farm. Then back in 2006 he was outside when two touring cyclists came up to him and asked if they could camp in his yard to escape from a storm.

After he realized how many cyclists passed by his house looking for a place to stay, he took it upon himself to completely renovate his barn to be a cyclist bunkhouse. It has three private rooms and another room with several cots. He also put a couple of cots in an old grain silo.

Then he added WiFi, couches, a flatscreen TV, a kitchenette, and cupboards and a few refrigerators full of supplies at “Walmart prices.”

  

What a haven. What a wonderful thing for a person to do for no other reason than the desire to show kindness to complete strangers.

Tomorrow we’re off to Minnetonka for a day off and fun with Dani’s family!

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