Well as much as I feared not getting a good night sleep for a while, I slept pretty good last night. Despite it’s appearance and smell, the Hasting Inn provided a comfortable place to spend the night. I woke up to a couple of phone calls from friends checking to see if I was still alive, and then spent an hour or so writing up my trip notes. Then ate some granola bars and an apple, loaded up the bike, donned my rain gear and headed for the road at about 10 a.m. A late start, but with the cold and rain I was in no hurry to leave the comfort of the Inn. Brian, who must be one of the Hmong family who apparently own the Inn, asked if I was going to continue on with my biking in the rain. I told him I was, and showed him my fancy bike helmet shower cap covering that would keep me dry.
So I headed back East over the Mississippi, across the two lane truss bridge adjacent to the fancy new orange arch bridge that is being build. As I entered the narrow bridge, I hoped that avoiding semi’s was not going to be an ongoing challenge for the day. I came across the sheep farm outside of Prescott again, and tried to find the three new born lambs from yesterday. I thought I could see two heads, and hoped the pile of white fluff I saw lying near the fence was not the third one. I finally returned to Prescott after an hour of pedaling, and stopped at the Mississippi River Road visitor’s center that overlooked the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
On the way in I stopped to use the restroom, and was in such a hurry that I didn’t check to see if I was going into the right room. Upon entering I noticed a lack of urinals, and make a quick retreat and while crossing over to the correct room, noticed the woman working behind the visitors desk looking at me with a look of concern on her face. I hoped she wasn’t going to call the authorities on me. When I finished up my business, and enter the center, I was relieved to hear the woman joke about my mistake. She said she actually didn’t even notice that I went into the wrong room. I thanked her for her understanding and also told her I was thankful no one was in the woman’s room. On the grounds of the facility was a sculpture of two herons and a deer made from trash removed from Minnesota rivers. Based on my observations of the roadside ditches, there were enough art supplies to recreate the entire heron and deer population of the Midwest, and also an equal number of dead deer in various states of decay.
Heading out of Prescott, I began climbing the first of what seemed like an endless up and down climb. As I cranked into a gear or two above granny, I reminded myself that the hills were not hard, just slow. But by the end of the day, I realized that not only were the hills slow, they were also quite tiring, especially in the cold rain. Going up the hill I would heat up from pedaling, and then at the top of the hill would be the farmland ridgetops where a strong side wind hit me and started cooling me off, for the even chillier descent as I flew down the hill. At the top of one of the hills, I could see across the river valley to the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant perched above the river in Minnesota – clouds of steam from the cooling water enveloped the two containment vessels.
For lunch I stopped on a bridge over what looked to be a nice trout stream. As I sat and ate my standard fare of salted nuts, granola bars, and an apple and orange, two large golden retrievers came running through the woods and barking as they approached me. I began to worry that they might be interested in making a meal of me, but when the one barked at me from below, my calming voice must have charmed him and he wagged his tale and took off running after his partner. A car stopped in a access path next to the bridge and the two passengers got out to take a look at the creek. They asked me if I saw any fish, but I told them no. They when back to their car, pulled out a cooler and some lawn chairs and had their lunch as well. I never would have realized that was such a popular picnic spot. The owner of the dogs began calling from her house a quarter mile away, and one dog when running home, and the other continued exploring whatever it was he had found.
The cold and climbing hills was wearing on me, and around 3 pm, I began thinking about finding a warm motel or cabin to crash at and hunker down for the night. So when I hit Bay City, I stopped at the gas station to warm up, restock my supplies and inquire about a finding a place to stay. The gas station attendant mentioned that someone in town near the river had a couple of cabins they rent out, so after satisfying my craving for cheese curds and crackers, and trying to figure out the evacuation plan map posted outside the gas station for the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant; I headed down to the river hoping to get off the road and out of the rain, and out of the path of any nuclear fallout – for if escape from the fallout meant climbing more hills, I was likely doomed.
I found the two cabins or resort as the sign said, and after listening to the owners two yellow labs bark at me for several minutes, a young lady finally came to the door and informed me she would need to get her mother to find out about the cabin rental. When the mother came to the door, she informed me that rental was $60 dollars per night, and when I told her I would like one, she informed me that they were being rented tomorrow morning, so they were not available. I told her in my coldest saddest voice that I could get out early in the morning; she told me that they were not ready yet. Sensing she must not like renting to biker types, I reluctantly climbed back on the bike and headed up yet another hill.
As I descended back down into the river bottoms, I noticed what looked to be a frac sand processing plant on the horizon. And as I got closer, I also started noticing a string of dump trucks feeding it sand. I hoped that I would not join the decaying deer on the side of the road, if one of the trucks should side swipe me. Heading up another hill, I noticed where the dump trucks were coming from and saw what looked to be some kind of underground sand mining operation going on. It sure seems crazy to me how it can be cost effective to spend all that energy mining the sand, trucking it, washing and sorting it, then loading it on to trains, and shipping it to fracking wells, so we can get more oil, to fuel the whole crazy process – must be some huge profits in the oil business to be able to pay for the sand.
Running out of steam, I decided to pull out some technology to help power me up the hill, and pulled out the Ipod and cranked some Radio Head to give me some additional energy. It worked, and I found a new head of steam. Near the end of ride, I finally had to stop at a closed rest stop and put on a sweatshirt and hat, unfortunately my only warm cloths. It was at this place that I debated staying for the night under the shelter over the well pump. The covered benches seemed quite inviting at the time, but I figured I had at least one more hill climb in me. So with my new warm clothes I peddled on, and eventually made it up an over the last hill of the day. I should have paid more attention to volunteer at the Visitors center in Prescott, who warned me about the hills.
So here I sit in the Maiden Rock village campground overlooking Lake Pepin – quite a pretty spot, with bluffs surrounding the lake, filling out with the green leaves of spring that hopefully is finally here, despite the few piles of snow that I saw on the north slopes on top of some of the hills. Since I am the only camper at the campground, I decided to set my tent up under the pick-nick shelter. Unfortunately I didn’t notice that the two Burlington Northern railroad tracks are only 100 feet from my tent, but after about the sixth train has gone by blowing the whistle as they speed by, I have become well aware of them now, and wonder if this might be the night where sleep might be difficult.
Perhaps I should take the woman from one of the two bars located just on the other side of the tracks offer to come in and warm up and she would buy me a beer or a pop. While setting up my tent, I listened to two women patrons from the bar have a loud and profane argument. It wasn’t quite loud enough for me to figure out what the anger was about, but I worried I might have to intervene to prevent someone getting hurt. I stopped at the other bar for supper (a fine chicken salad, washed down with two glasses of OJ) and to get some change to pay for my camp shelter earlier, and had a brief conversation with a patron who downed 5 Bud Lights in the half hour I was there. When young lady tending bar informed him that he drank fast, he mentioned he had had a tough day. The bar maid indicated she wished she could have my life as she wants to bike to California someday. She also mentioned it was supposed to rain until 3 am, and then be nice tomorrow. Needless to say, spending time in bars with folks who drink fast, although quite friendly, did not seem like a good way to spend the night.
Enough rambling for one day - time to take advantage of the free internet WIFI, courtesy of the Lodge, and get this posted and get to bed, and crawl into my cold sleeping bag and wait for the next train to rock me to sleep.