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Ride to Walker - All kinds of roads, and another Rail Trail

Tuesday, August 7     to Middle Leaf Resort     42mi     $10

As the bikers were leaving, the son dropped his 850lb Harley. It took 2.5 men to get it upright; without me, it would have been just 2 men. It could have been worse; his dad's bike weighed 900lb.

The "Minnesota accent" made famous by Garrison Keillor on the Prairie Home Companion was almost non-existant. Everyone I talked with sounded like they had recently moved there from Michigan. In one exception, I was at a gas station talking with a senior citizen. He momentarily lapsed into using a Scandinavian accent, realized what he was doing, then quickly dropped it.

It was about 10 miles to the Underwood American Legion, and breakfast. The transition from the trail to MN-210 required some imagination, going through the back parking lot of some buildings. The payoff was nearly 30 miles of 9-foot wide, paved shoulders along the state highway.

I carry enough clothes to last 3-6 days, so it was time to do laundry. I found a laundromat in Battle Lake that had a collectables store next door. I spent time there, but no money.

I stopped in Henning at a bar for lunch, but after being totally ignored for 15 minutes, I left, settling for what I could get at a BP gas station.

On the last miles to the campground, I had to suffer on MN-108 with "only" 4-foot shoulders.

Wednesday, August 8     to Sebeka     40mi     $10

Middle Leaf Resort had mosquitos, no picnic tables, and no other campers. I had negotiated the $10 fee before starting the trip. It turned out to be the "only port in the storm". There was rain overnight and into the morning. This is the "morning after" picture.

Coming into Wadena, I saw about 80 head of cattle. This would end up being a very unusual sight.

The campground in Wadena had showers and bugs, and lumpy tent sites for $14. Not good enough.
Also in Wadena, uptown is south of town.

US-71 had 6' shoulder and rumble strips

The park/campground in Sebeka was only $10 and was pro-bicycle, even though it wasn't on a rail trail.

At 10pm, the church bells played music.

Thursday, August 9     to the Pyrenees     48mi     FREE

At 7am, the church bells again played music.

On US-71 to Park Rapids, I found little traffic and no rain.

In Park Rapids, I bought some supplies, including a package of Snickerdoodles.

From Park Rapids, I had planned to go 23 miles north to see the start of the Mississippi, staying in the campground at Itasca State Park. I realized that getting a site on the weekend would be difficult.

I thought about staying for a weekend celebration in Park Rapids, but could only find a camp site for one night.

So, I got on Heartland Trail and headed east toward Walker and free camping in the Chippewa National Forest.

I like to explore the trail towns. In Dorset, I found this pair of signs.

East of Dorset, I met Mike Griffiths, an experienced bicycle traveler.

He was looking for a spring with tasty water. In 1983, Mike was riding this trail and remembered it was guarded by many mosquitos. At this point, he had not yet found the spring.

He is a fan of William Least Heat-Moon, who wrote Blue Highways, and recommends the Natchez Trace.
Mike was 75 years old, and travels with his bike in an old VW bus.

Another dozen miles down the trail, I found myself in Akeley. While planning this trip, I had decided the place was to be avoided because camping would cost over $25 a night. Regardless, I decided to check it out. I peered into the windows of the Woodtick Theater. They put on a show that is a cross between the Grand Ole Opry and the Prairie Home Companion.

The owner, Mike Chase, noticed my interest, invited me in, and showed me around. He said their next performance was next Wednesday night. They were sold out, but if nobody "no-showed", he'd put a chair with a cushion in the aisle for me. Most important, I could set up my tent behind the theater so I wouldn't have to ride to the campground after the show finished at 10pm. I made a note of his offer, but didn't have a clue where I might be then.

Did an old train really negotiate this part of the trail, or was there a bridge spanning the valley? By the time railroads got this far west, engines were more powerful.

The turnoff into the Chippewa National Forest was several miles east of Akeley. As I was looking for it, I met a young fellow on a bicycle. He said I had just ridden past the entrance, and took me back to it.

This is a new section of the Paul Bunyan Trail south of Walker. It is a 7 mile stretch the locals call the Pyrenees. A collection of steep hills and sharp curves, it is like the Wild Mouse carnival ride - on steroids. My guide assured me that it wasn't too bad. He lived nearby, and had rollerbladed it.

Before we separated, he had to tell me about the report from Walker (a half dozen miles to the north), that a week earlier, someone had reported to police that their bird feeder had been stolen, by a bear.

He also alerted me to the fact that the first turn was to the right. I was on the brakes going down and saw the turn he mentioned - not too bad. Almost immediately, I saw it turned much more sharply. It was time for a significant brake test.

It was getting dark, and my day was approaching 50 miles. After the sun set, and dusk was turning to dark, the edge of the trail was offering me noplace I wanted to plant my tent. I had to take the next open area. It was on about a 30 degree angle, on the inside of a curve, most the way up a long climb. I set my tent on top of clumps of 3-foot high grass as I finished my Snickerdoodles.
Ultimately, I was lucky to have set my tent amongst the grass clumps in such a way that they prevented me from rolling down the hill and, as a bonus, they were comfortable.

I decided it was prudent to take the empty cookie package to the top of the hill to separate it from me.

This was the "bears-eye view" of my tentsite.

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