Friday, July 15, 2011

Debby's Bike Trip: Crossing the Mississippi

A few days ago, we got this update from Rocky River customer and friend Debby Milano, who is continuing her quest to bicycle cross-country this summer:

Greetings from Stillwater, MN located on the St. Croix River, some 20 miles northeast of St. Paul, MN. Spending a rest day here, after 3 challenging days of riding.

We left Wadena, MN on Saturday morning and immediately encountered strong head winds, gusting up to 35 miles per hour, which made for very slow going. My friend, Kit from Nantucket, and I rode together and took turns pulling. There was some relief after 45 miles as our direction changed, but still was a long 6 hours in the saddle covering 83 miles as we rode into Lilttle Falls, boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh. Little Falls sits on the Mississippi River, which is already formidable this close to its source. Still riding through rolling farmland with the ever-present odour of turkey processing farms. The crops are mainly potato, soybean and corn. The corn is mostly feed corn, not our Sweet Ohio corn.

After leaving Little Falls, we headed for Milaca. 62 miles of pleasant riding through neatly appointed farmland. Today for some reason, we encountered many dogs, at least 8 wanted to run along with us whether to take a bite out of our legs or just to play - not so sure. As well as dogs, we passed goats, alpacas, horses and as always cows. Two exciting sitings were those of two Bald Eagles and a Sand Hill Crane. Took a wrong turn today adding on four miles. Never, Never---- do you want to take a wrong turn, there are already enough miles on the plate.

The temps are still in the nineties with high humidity. Fueling for these conditions is extremely important. Downing lots and lots of electrolytes, stopping regularly for water refills, greasing up with sun-screen at every Sag stop. We find the ever-vigilant Sag (support and gear) wagon, about every 20 miles. The Sag is a station-wagon loaded with water, Gatorade, fruit, salty snacks, cheese, salami, sun-screen, etc... The Sag driver is keeping track of us on the road and provides a safety-net in case of any break-downs, whether those be mechanical or physical.

And the Sag was extremely important for yesterdays' ride of 108 miles! Hit the road at 6 am to try and beat some of the heat as the early morning temps were very pleasant, as were the smooth roads with a Wonderful TAIL WIND. Clipped along nicely covering 70 miles by 11 am. Much of the same terrain with the riders spread out over quite a distance. By the fifth day of riding, everyone has found sister riders who share their philosophy of cycling; your pace is the same; you like to chat alot, a little or not at all; you like to stop and take photos; you spend a considerable amount of time at the Sag or restaurants or you plow ahead at full speed. All of these factors will determine where you fall in the line-up. Consequently, those of us who rode the entire 108 miles came staggering into Stillwater, 6 and-a-half to 9 hours later. Towards the end of the ride (the last 25 miles), we encountered some serious hills, which were exhausting this late in the game. Nevertheless, 17 of us were jubilant upon finishing - always a very rewarding feeling.

So that brings me back to Stillwater, a charming, little river town, which came into existance in the 1850's with a lumber boom. Stillwater, at that time, had the largest concentration of white pine in the world, which led to Stillwater being the largest lumber producer in the world. The town prosperred and lived off the revenue until lack of forethought brought the boom to an end in the 1920's when the forests disappeared and the lumber ran out. Tourism is the new industry and by the looks of the activity in town, a successful one.

Just taking it easy today. Already cleaned and lubed the bike. Did my laundry and now I am going to look for food. Another 84 mile day tomorrow, riding along the Mississippi.

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