Greetings From Lake Wobegon -
Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Those of you who were fans of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion will recognize my salutation immediately.
Thus, here is all the news from Lake Wobegon. Actually, over the weekend I was riding the Lake Wobegon Trail which is a 63 mile long rail trail through central Minnesota, and it was a bit of a joy to ride. Connected to the Central Lakes Trail which is 55 miles long, it carves a 118 mile rail trail corridor through western and central Minnesota that extends from Fergus Falls almost to St. Cloud.
Unfortunately, the Central Lakes Trail is in very poor condition with cracks in the “paved” surface that are 2 and 3 inches wide - cracks that would like to swallow your wheel . . . real spoke breakers. It drives me crazy when states create a wonderful resource such as this and then don’t maintain it properly.
Garrison Keillor, however, would be pleased to know that his Lake Wobegon Trail is, like the children of Lake Wobegon, above average and a wonderful riding experience.
Backtracking a bit, after leaving Bismarck, ND, and the Trail of Lewis and Clark, I headed into eastern North Dakota and watched the landscape transform itself from arid Great Plains to rolling farmlands, following one of the longest and straightest highways that my wheels have yet traversed in my journey around the country. My goodness - talk about a straight and narrow highway . . . North Dakota Rt 46 is such a road. Unfortunately - quite dangerous for cyclists since along many stretches there is little or nor berm.
Arriving in Fargo after riding the straight and narrow, there was a sense of deja vu - my brother Richard lived here for a number of years, so I have visited a few times. But it didn’t take long to realize that the Fargo-Moorhead metro area has grown by leaps and bounds since I was last here in the early 1980’s. Moorhead, Minnesota, is just across the Red River from Fargo, and it forms the North Dakota/ Minnesota border. The Red River actually flows northward, not south to join the Mississippi River as one might think . . . instead, its waters eventually find their way to the frigid Hudson Bay.
In Moorhead, I had the opportunity to put in the 17th volunteer day of my journey - in as many cities - with the Lake Agassiz Habitat For Humanity which covers the Fargo/Moorhead metro area. (Lake Agassiz is the name of the glacial lake that covered this area thousands of years ago.) I was on familiar ground, this time helping out with the ReStore pick-ups as I have done often with our own Maumee Valley HFH. Suzanne and I covered some territory as we tootled around both Fargo and Moorhead in the ReStore truck picking up washers, dryers, refrigerators, doors, and other sundry materials that will help fund the Lake Agassiz HFH home building and renovation projects. It was quite a good load . . . and quite a good day.
Traversing northern and central Minnesota has been the usual roller coaster of highs and lows. Minnesota is called The Land of Ten Thousands Lakes for good reason - there seems to be a lake around every bend bordered by lush and rolling hills. And the green . . . after the parched, brown plains and prairies of Montana and western North Dakota, it reminds me of Dorothy stepping out of her tornado deposited Kansas house into the Land of Oz. The cycling is good - the hills are there, but not like the long, endless grades of the western Great Plains. And It IS much like a roller coaster with a not so long climb followed by an invigorating downward plunge, to be followed shortly by another climb.
One night I camped at Lake Ida and from a pier jutting out into the lake watched the sun settle into the western hills while I dangled my feet in the cooling waters. But two nights later at Smith Lake near Alexandria, MN, the mosquitoes seemed to be overjoyed at my presence, and the party group that set up camp next to me kept things going into the wee hours. And the rains - the rains came just as I climbed into my tent, and I awoke to the same dark and brooding skies in the morning which again burst forth just as I was packing up - all was wet and soggy . . . including me, and breakfast in the camp bathroom was not my idea of fine dining.
And then - a magical place - the Adventure Cyclists Bunkhouse in Dalbo, MN, about 50 miles north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Donn Olson was a career Army man . . . a helicopter pilot in Vietnam - worked in the Pentagon for a number of years. Born and raised here, his farm is a haven for weary cyclists. He has turned one of the out buildings of his farm into a bunkhouse that is open to all touring cyclists: four bunk rooms with two beds each, a common area, TV, AC, and a fully stocked kitchen with bins of snacks, drinks, and full, ready to heat up meals. And the cost for cyclists . . . NONE. He does it all out of his own funds and his desire to help us crazy folks traveling coast to coast on two wheels . . . sans motor. There is a donation jar - he asks 25 cents for a cold drink or a snack, but nobody checks. It’s all on the honor system, but I think most of us try to leave much more than what he suggests. He’s always working on and improving The Bunkhouse . . . a work in progress. Donn has become legendary in the world of touring cyclists.
In Fergus Falls, MN, a broken spoke on my rear wheel sent me to Central Lakes Cycle. Clark Grotberg, the manager of the store, took my bike in straight away and changed not only the broken spoke but also a couple of others that were ready to go. As my cycling gloves were becoming quite ratty, I selected a brand new pair, and then pulled out my credit card to settle up. Clark said to me, “No charge for anything - we like to help people like you.” I was floored once again, thinking of my accident in the Mohave Desert and that repair bill paid for by a disabled Veteran. Clark lost his son. David, last October in a cycling hit and run incident down in Texas. He was a student at Baylor University, and he and his girl friend were out cycling when a speeding hit and run driver took them out. His girlfriend survived, but David did not. The hit and run driver has not been caught to date. I asked Clark about a memorial fund for David, and he informed me about a scholarship fund set up by Baylor, and I have since made my donation to honor his son.
I’m now over 2,000 miles on this stage of the journey. Officially for my U.S. Perimeter Ride, 11,000 miles have passed beneath my wheels; unofficially and probably more accurately, it is closer to 11,500 since, as you may recall, my odometer is about five one hundredths off for each mile I ride. Most likely now, there are about 700 miles between me and my front door. My front door . . . I do like the sound of that.
As my U.S Perimeter Ride winds down, I’m thinking more and more about the purpose behind the journey and the effort I have put forth. Have I talked to enough people along the way? What else could I have done to increase the exposure of the ride? I was a bit disappointed that the TV interviews that I did around the country didn’t result in more donations to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children. Most of those on my donor list are folks who have known me over the years or people who know people who know me. I do have a small, but significant list of people who I have met along the way who thankfully have joined my donor list as well. And to all of my donors who have contributed to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children in support of this journey, you are the reason for the success of my ride. So I hope this won’t be too forward if I make a request - no . . . not another donation if you have already made one to either charity. Truly, I would prefer to see new names on my donor list. So my request is to think of one or two people - a friend, relative, co-worker, golf or tennis buddy - and mention to them about my ride and the purposes behind it. Possibly Invite them to visit my website usperimeterride.org, and if they are so motivated and like the efforts I have put forth, to consider a small donation to Habitat For Humanity or Save The Children. Those small donations do mount up. As I have tried to say at the end of the interviews I have done, what could be more important than providing affordable homes for those in need of one, and helping kids around the world with education and nutrition as well as their survival during natural disasters, wars, famine, and drought.
I am Proceeding On.