Day 40, 7/23, Minnetonka, MN to Cumberland, WI: 112.3 miles, 4,441 ft elevation gain, 13.2 mph average speed.
Trip Totals: 2,228.1 miles (69.3 mile daily average), 98,927 ft elevation gain, 12.3 mph overall average speed.
Two days behind schedule.
I should have known better. We spent the better part of a week in Glacier National Park, after all. I wondered at those majestic mountains and read all those signs explaining how glacial movements shape the land. They leave hills. Lots of hills.
Anyways, I’m jumping ahead of myself. The day started when we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of the ridiculously comfortable bed we’ve slept in the past two nights and stumbled out into the main room to find Pat cooking us yet another meal. Yep. Still spoiled.
We got all packed up and left the warm hospitality of the Cummings clan around 7:15a. On the way out of their neighborhood, we stopped to chat with a group of ladies out for their morning walk. They had a few disbelieving questions about our trip, and we talked for around five minutes. They turned out to be perhaps the most fortunate minutes of our trip though, because we were making the turn out of the neighborhood a few minutes later when we heard a car honking behind us. We looked back, and there was Pat rolling up behind us to give Dani her cell phone which somehow didn’t make it into her bag. Phew. Disastor averted.
Minnetonka is a southwest suburb of the Twin Cities, and our route picked back up on the northeast side of St. Paul, about 22 miles away. Of those 22 miles, I think maybe four were spent on a road that we shared with cars. Everything else was dedicated bike routes. We’ve heard lots about the great bike infrastructure of the Twin Cities and of Minnesota in general, but we weren’t prepared for this awesomeness. I think those 22 miles were the most pleasant urban riding I’ve ever done. It almost makes me want to move to Minnesota just for the pleasant bike commute.
And to top it off, we met up with the official ACA North Lakes Route at the Gateway State Trail: 17 more miles of traffic-free trail riding.
We savored our time away from car traffic a little too much, and we missed our turn off the trail. Oops. Instead of backtracking a couple of miles, which is something we’d almost never do (probably to get a forgotten phone, but not much else), we googled a new route to the St. Croix River crossing that would take us into Wisconsin. Our new route took us up the west side of the river on state route 95 for about 14 miles. It was OK, but it wasn’t the best road we’ve ridden on.
While we were chugging along up a hill, a guy in a SUV slowed down next to us and asked us about our trip, etc. About five miles later, we were cruising down a different hill toward a small town, trying to decide if it was too early for a cold drink stop As we approached the turnoff, we saw the same guy, sandwich in hand, flagging us down to tell us that the general store in town was a great place to get lunch. We couldn’t argue with a guy who made such an effort to recommend the place to us, so we stopped.
According to our new friend, Marine on St. Croix, MN is one of the oldest logging towns along the St. Croix, and the general store has been in the same place in the same building for over 100 years. It was an adorable old store, with a wide selection of groceries and a little deli in the back. I had a roast beef sandwich, and Dani had gumbo, an apple, and a cream filled donut. But the highlight of the meal was the chocolate milk. Fresh from a local farm, non-homogenized whole chocolate milk. Best of the trip, by far. I enjoyed it so much that I drank way more than my fair share, which only became a problem when I went to buy another bottle and they were out. Dani was fairly sad, but I promised that we would find more at a grocery store in Osceola, 12 miles away.
We began passing several historic buildings that were beautifully maintained. This area seems to take more pride in its architectural history than most of the places we’ve gone through, which is probably just a prohibitively expensive undertaking for most small towns.
Route 95 was a bit sketchy for a couple of miles before the turn toward Osceola, which is probably why ACA tried to take us off the trail early, but we made it through and shot down to the bottom of the river valley, across the spectacular river, and into Wisconsin, where we promptly had to climb back out of said river valley.
Osceola is at the top of the (first) hill, and it was a cute little town that I wish we could have explored more thorougly. We were making slow progress, so we didn’t have time to explore, but I had a promise to keep, so visited the grocery store in search of chocolate milk.
Then came the decision. We (unevenly) split a quart with lunch, so we considered getting another quart and giving most of it to Dani, but that didn’t sound like fun to me. But the only other option was to get a half gallon, and we didn’t really have time to relax as we drank the whole thing.
I guess this was the obvious answer. It was produced right there in Osceola, and we figured the distribution was extremely limited, so we wanted all we could handle. A half gallon was, incidentally, ALL we could handle. There were two inches of cream on top, after all. We left Osceola with full, sloshy tummies, and started one of the more grueling afternoons of the trip.
We had ridden almost 60 miles at that point, but it was another 56 to Cumberland, where Michele’s family was waiting for us. The day was hot, the road was hilly, and the wind was strong across. We left Osceola around 12:30p, arrived at our destination at 7:05p, and I don’t care to dwell to much on the time in between. I will say that if you are reading this because you’re planning on biking the North Lakes Route, you can cut off six or so completely extraneous miles by skipping Amery.
Anyway, what we found waiting for us more than made up for those six and a half hours. We were welcomed with (literal) open arms by Bob, Jeannie, Heather, Bill, and Matthew, Michele’s parents, sister, sister’s partner, and sister’s partner’s brother. We quickly showered, and then joined back up with our hosts. Bob and Jeannie have created an absolute wonder of a home right on idyllic Beaver Dam Lake. We sat by the lake and snacked on a cheese and meat plate before being called up to one of my favorite meals of the trip. Chicken parmesan with homemade marinara, paired with beets and green beans right out of Bob’s garden and a fresh fruit salad. Finally, we found a little extra room for vanilla ice cream topped with Jeannie’s oh-my-goodness-this-is-so-delicious homemade chocolate sauce.
If every tough day ended like this one, I think we’d push ourselves a lot harder.