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!

Day 36: The day we spent on a bike trail

Day 36, 7/19, Fergus Falls, MN to Albany, MN: 89.5 miles, 2,809 ft elevation gain, 13.9 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 2,038.2 miles (67.9 daily average), 90,559 ft elevation gain, 12.2 overall average speed.

Three days behind schedule.

Ted sort of foreshadowed this last night, but our drunken camping neighbors made for by far the worst camping experience of the trip. There were two groups of four to six drunk people (one group of 40- and 50-year-olds and one group of teenagers) and they were up until 4a blasting country music, singing, fighting (within and between groups), and howling at the moon. One guy howled at the moon for 10-20 seconds every 3-5 minutes.  And their conversations were vile. I’m not easily offended, but these conversations were disgusting and sad.

As we were getting into our tent, one of the men slurred to us, “where are you sleeping tonight?” We told him we were sleeping in the tent we were entering (duh) and he said, “okay, you should be safe in there.” There were so many signs that we should have moved, that sentence included, but we were too lazy to pack up. We regretted it later. We were safe, but we did not get much sleep.

My favorite part of the evening was when, in the older group, one of the men started reciting the Gettysburg address while one man sang “Long-Haired Country Boy,” one man continued to howl at the moon, and one woman decided that she regretted bringing two cases of Natural Light to the party and yelled over and over that “it would be nice if I could take at least a 12-pack home,” while slapping the guy sitting on the cooler (the guy howling at the moon who was unphased by her slapping) so she could access the beer. All at once. A symphony of idiots. It was a disaster.

Anyway, we woke up after getting just a couple hours of sleep and hit the trail. Literally the trail; we spent the entire day on a protected bike trail! Minnesota converted parts of the defunct Great Northern Railroad into a beautifully paved, shaded bike path. It was lovely riding that required much less focus than road riding, which was great given our lack of sleep. We still felt like zombies this morning, though, so we stopped after only 8 miles to get coffee and chocolate muffins.



The coffee didn’t work; we remained zombies. Shortly thereafter we stopped at a convenience store for cold drinks and stumbled upon something as Midwestern as hotdish: dessert bars! We got a peanut butter chocolate dessert bar and hung out for a longer-than-usual break because we were feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

We pedaled to Alexandria and ate at another converted train station. We got the unlimited soup and salad bar. The beef stew had so much potential, but they threw way too much salt in. It was great to eat fresh veggies, though. We also got Bloody Marys at a DIY Bloody Mary bar and both decided that putting beef sticks and cheese curds in a drink was a great idea.

As we were eating, we saw our friends Steph and Tom (who we met in Eureka on day 13) ride by on the path! As a reminder, Steph and Tom are riding to Maine from Oregon on a tandem bike, are from the Bay Area, and retired two years ago, mostly to take this trip. This trip is also Steph’s 60th birthday present to herself. I hope to be able to give myself a similar gift when I turn 60!

We caught them on the trail later when they stopped to eat lunch. We learned that they had a warm showers host tonight in a town 13 miles past where we were planning to camp. Steph is a mama bear and immediately contacted her warm showers host to see if we could pitch a tent in their yard, and they said yes! We rode with Steph and Tom for the second half of the day and got caught up on each other’s last couple of weeks. They’re doing great and riding strong; we struggled to keep up with them for much of the afternoon. Riding with them did much better than the coffee at pulling us out of the slump we were in this morning.

We got to Melrose, the place we intended to camp, and noticed that the town put exercise encouragement on the mileposts on the trail. All of these towns along the trail have also set up nice picnic tables under pavilions. This trail is nicely done.


We arrived to Albany pretty quickly thanks to a crosswind that was mostly at our backs and found a bicycle statue at the exit for the town, which we took as a good omen. Our warm showers host lives just a few blocks off the trail in a beautiful 110-year-old dairy house. They’ve done an incredible job of updating the home while still maintaining the original character. More impressive than the home, though, was the family living there! Frank, Angela, and their daughter, Anna, were warm and engaging hosts. We enjoyed chatting with them all night over good food and Arnold Palmers. We also did our best to persuade Anna to join the Peace Corps after college. It was a lovely evening and was just the experience we needed after last night’s fiasco.


We will ride with Steph and Tom to a bunkhouse in a barn specifically designed for traveling cyclists tomorrow.

Day 35: The day of bougie coffee in the big city

Day 35, 7/18, Fargo, ND to Fergus Falls, MN: 64 miles, 1,297 ft elevation gain, 15.3 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 1,949 miles (67.2 daily average), 87,750 ft elevation gain, 12.1 mph overall average.

Three days behind schedule.

Two things occurred to us as we were planning our day today. First, we thought it might be good to give ourselves at least a bit of a break after our big day yesterday, and second, Fargo is the biggest city we’ve been in since Seattle it might be fun to explore. We’ve been striving to make up time ever since leaving Glacier, but the actual biking is only half of the experience of this trip, and we want to be sure that we take enough time to see the country we’re biking through.

So we decided to take the morning off and explore Fargo. It helped that Lindsey was eager to show us around her city. She’s actually only lived here for two months, but she was as good of an ambassador as Fargo could hope for.

Lindsey started off her day at the gym, which meant that we started off our day sleeping in and then relaxing in her amazing sunroom. Sidenote: it’s been a struggle for us to remember why we think it’s worth it to pay what we do for our apartment in New York City. Every apartment we visit is bigger, nicer, and much cheaper than ours. We’ll see if New York wins back our love when we get home.

Anyway, Lindsey has a lovely sunroom to go with her big kitchen and two bedroom apartment, and it was a great place to start our day.

After Lindsey came home, we got dressed and walked 10 minutes to downtown Fargo, where we visited Twenty Below, the first hip/bougie coffee shop we’ve seen since Washington. Dani and I split a large Chemex (that’s how bougie this place was) of amazing coffee and a gluten-free but still-delicious cornmeal and berry waffle. I also loved my mug here, which the shop commissioned from a local ceramics artist, Brooke Stewart. The cheerful, friendly employees cheerfully resisted my entreaties to buy it, steal it, or pretend to break it and accidentally leave money on the table. Honest people there at Twenty Below.

It just so happened that this weekend was the Fargo Street Fair, and we walked past several blocks of artist booths and fair food before we came to the Great Northern Bicycle Co., an awesome bicycle shop that occupies an old train station.

We restocked on bike tubes and spent a few minutes chatting with a shop employee who gave us a few ideas for how to alleviate the hand pain we’ve been dealing with.

He then encouraged us to check out the five-person tandom bike he was building/working on. Holy moly! I can’t even imagine trying to navigate that thing.

We then headed back toward Lindsey’s apartment, passing through more of downtown, stopping at a small farmer’s market to buy some veggies for tomorrow’s dinner, and walking through the car show that was happening in Fargo’s version of Central Park, Island Park, near her apartment.

It was great to relax in town, but we did have some biking to do today, so once we got back to Lindsey’s we suited up and hit the road.

We left Fargo on a lovely bike path that traced the Red River. We crossed the river after a few miles, leaving North Dakota behind and entering Minnesota!

Lindsey told us that the ACA maps took us out of the way for no apparent reason, and suggested we ignore the maps for today to take a more direct route to Fergus Falls along old highway 52. It was excellent advice, and we’re glad we took it.

About 13 miles down the road we stopped at an old general store/soda fountain with lots of nostalgic sodas. We ate tuna, triscuits, and cheese for lunch at an outdoor table and then washed it down with a root beer float.

We jumped back on the bikes with luck on our side. We were headed southeast, and the wind was coming from the west at 25-30mph. It varied between being directly behind us and being more of a crosswind, but it was always helping us. We flew down the road, averaging between 17-23 mph.

Ten or so miles after lunch we were dismayed to see “road closed” signs blocking our route. We stopped to figure out what to do, and while we were weighing our options, two cars drove around the signs and sped down the road. That was all the permission we needed, and we enjoyed 10 miles of beautiful new road surface without any traffic at all.


Shortly after that stretch, the shoulder completely disappeared, but the traffic was so minimal we hardly noticed. And the few cars that did pass us, without exception, moved fully into the other lane to do so.

Forty miles in, we stopped at a truck stop for a cold drink, and we found some great chocolate milk. Cass-Clay may not be on the same level as Darigold Old Fashioned, but it’s much better than anything we’ve tried since we left Darigold country.

After the pit stop it was 18 quick miles to Fergus Falls, where we stopped at Union Pizza and Brewing, another recommendation from Lindsey. They had a great selection of local beers, which we paired with a yummy Greek salad and a ham and garlicky kale pizza.


After dinner, we swung by the grocery store to pick up some essentials (you know, peanut butter Oreos, s’mores pop tarts, etc.) and rode the last four miles to Delagoon Park campground, where we unfortunately chose a campground next to a group of loud, very drunk, middle-aged folks who–while friendly–just weren’t the tent neighbors we were hoping for.

Tomorrow we start riding on the Central Lakes Trail, 100+ miles of paved bike trail along an abandoned railroad bed.