"We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~Oscar Wilde
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." ~Amelia Earhart

September 13, 2010

Let's Go On A Little Bicycle Ride

(Sorry for the ridiculously long post. I tried to keep the text down but it's still ridiculously long. Also, I may need to stop overusing ridiculously.)

I've been out of town for the past few days. On Wednesday, I set out on a quick bicycle trip through southern Minnesota. The plan was to go from home southeast to Red Wing, south to Zumbrota, and loop back up north through Cannon Falls, and head back home again.

September 8, 2010 - Richfield - Red Wing (65.66 miles)

I set off around 10:30am. I should have left a couple hours earlier than I did but, as I rode down to Minnehaha Falls and on the trails alongside the riverfront in St. Paul, I was rewarded with stunning landscapes.

Along the Mississippi in St. Paul

Historical marker about "Fountain Cave"
Most of the Saint Paul trails were in areas I hadn't seen before and it surprised me how gorgeous the riverfront was near downtown Saint Paul.

Downtown St. Paul

Mississippi Riverfront

Minnesota Centennial Showboat
Eventually, I got to the end of the bicycle trails and turned south onto 61. Taking this highway so near the city made me a little nervous. I wasn't entirely sure I was allowed to be on it on a bicycle. I would have much preferred to have used one of Adventure Cycling's maps. But, I went ahead anyway. The highway had a very wide shoulder and I wasn't worried about safety at all, just laws.

That is, until I reached a patch of construction. Half the highway was closed and it went from a four-lane divided highway down to a 2-lane. I asked one of the construction workers if it would be all right to use the side they were working on. He said it was fine and I got the whole highway to myself, occasionally dodging the construction workers and their vehicles.

One of the very last drive-in movie theaters around.
(Cottage Grove, MN)

As I drew closer to Hastings, MN, the construction ended but I didn't relish the idea of crossing the bridge. I could see that it would have a thin shoulder. However, there were only two options: Just do it or try to hitch a ride across. Hitching a ride across could've taken awhile since I had to hope for a pickup truck or minivan. I was in a hurry so I took the first option. It's a good thing I grew up on old horror movies. A silent scream of terror running through my brain is a strangely familiar feeling.

Bridge to Hastings
Hey, at least it was a pretty view. After about 3-5 minutes of thinking, 'Aaaaah, please don't kill me. I haven't seen Muse live yeeeet,' it was over and I found myself in Hastings, a small town just a few miles south of Saint Paul. A sign declared that it was 'Historic Hastings' and it was obvious that the town was dedicated to restoring and maintaining the many older buildings within its limits. I would've liked to have stayed longer but I was determined to get to Red Wing by nightfall.

Hastings City Hall

Privately-owned apartment house

LeDuc Historic Estate
South of Hastings, the traffic lessened and the scenery transformed into pastoral farm fields under blue skies.

A few hours later, it was seven pm. The air had started to grow colder and the sun was starting to set. I had originally planned to stay in a campground across the river from Red Wing. I could've dealt with the cold for awhile longer but the darkening sky worried me. The tiny beam from my bike light isn't strong enough to watch out for objects on the road. To my right, a motel showed up.

'Err, okay. If it's under $50, I'll stay there,' I thought as I shivered. 'Maybe $60.'
I pulled in and asked the woman at the counter how much for one night.
'$39' she replied. I died with happiness and paid it.
(Btw, I don't camp because I like it. I camp because I'm cheap.)

I wheeled the bike into the room and slept. Or tried to. The insomnia stick whacked me hard and I mostly stared at the ceiling. The last thing I remember is the digital clock reading 5:30am.

September 9, 2010 - Red Wing-Hay Creek (13 miles)

I woke just before 8am and groaned, wishing I could stop time and get a proper night's sleep. Whatever. It wasn't very far to downtown. I kept going.

Red Wing is a small town on the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. I'm pretty sure a large part of its economy comes from tourism. People from the Twin Cities and neighboring towns visit regularly to browse the antique shops and visit various spots and events around town.

Just like in Hastings, there were places I would've liked to stop. The Red Wing Shoes Store and Museum, St. James Hotel, The Red Wing Pottery Museum, etc. But, there wasn't that much time because the days are growing colder and I didn't want the trip to last too long.

Red Wing Depot

Levee Park in Red Wing, MN

Historical Marker about "The Sea Wing Disaster"

Sculpture in Levee Park

Red Wing Bridge
(Officially called the "Eisenhower Bridge")

St. James Hotel in Red Wing, MN

After wandering around town for an hour or two, I headed over to the spot I really wanted to see: Barn Bluff. I had been warned that it was 'quite a hike' to the top, which really isn't true. There are multiple trails up there and the longest one was closed for construction so maybe my walk was shortened.

Barn Bluff

Historical marker on "Barn Bluff"
(And, now, I want to visit Winona and "Sugar Loaf")

Kiwanis Stairway on Barn Bluff

Looking down on Red Wing

Back on the ground
My next stop was somewhere between Red Wing and Zumbrota. I'm sure I could've made it to Zumbrota that day but I only knew of one campground in the area so I cut the day's trip short and stayed the night at Hay Creek Campground.

Trout stream at Hay Creek Campground

Horses at Hay Creek campground

In the morning, I looked at the roof of my tent and realized I had a roommate

A blurry rooster
September 10, 2010 - Hay Creek-Zumbrota-Cannon Falls (46.34 miles)

By 9 the next morning, I was off again and headed for Zumbrota.

Markers somewhere on 58 between Red Wing and Zumbrota

I got there, looked around for a bit, and headed back north. I would've stayed a little longer but the closest campground I knew of was in Cannon Falls and that was still quite a few miles away.
Main Street in Zumbrota, MN

Historical Marker about Zumbrota's Covered Bridge

The last covered bridge in Minnesota

My original reason for visiting Zumbrota was the fact that my great-great-great grandparents on my father's side were buried there. They had emigrated from Norway and settled in Zumbrota. I got about five miles down the road before realizing I had completely forgotten.
'Screw it,' I thought. 'It's just a couple of graves.'

I got to the Cannon Falls campground around 5pm and set up my tent. And just in time. Rain showers hit the area just then and I cowered in my tent, hoping it would end soon. A little bit of rain wouldn't bother most campers but I have a horrible fear of camping in the rain. The first time I went camping/bicycle touring by myself, my tent flooded in the middle of a huge puddle. Every drop of rain that spattered onto my tent was like a gunshot and sent a spasm of terror through me.
'It'll end soon...It'll end soon...It'll end soon, right?...ZOMG It's not ending. I'm gonna die!' I thought for the next five freaking hours. Eventually, I fell asleep and awoke at 4:30am to clear starlit skies and a very damp everything.

September 11, 2010 - Cannon Falls-Richfield (53.2 miles)

I didn't do much of anything this day other than ride. I didn't stop to take many pictures. I only stopped a few times to rest or eat.

Hampton Town Hall?
(Probably not. It looks a bit too dilapidated.)
It wasn't until I neared St. Paul that anything interesting happened. The shrill sound of a police siren sounded behind me. I stopped and turned around to find a police car there. Ooooops.
"I'm not supposed to be on here, am I?" I asked the officer as he stepped out of his car.
"No," he shook his head at me. "Not on a bicycle."
"Sorry! I'll get off at the next right," I said apologetically.
He nodded and said he'd follow me to make sure.
'Works for me,' I thought. 'Probably a lot safer.' and I pedaled up the ramp and to a nearby shopping center. I turned around, expecting to get a fine but he was gone. Yay! (Thank you for that, btw, anonymous cop who will never read this anyway.)

But, now, I had a new problem. I was somewhere in Inver Grove Heights, an area I am not familiar with. I pulled out my (not very good for this sort of thing) map, asked a guy who was pulling into a Caribou Coffee where I was on the map, and realized...Hey, I had missed my turn. The cop had done me a favor. I figured out the route back home and rode some more until I was finally home.


Patti said...

I like this post just the way it is. I also like the word "ridiculously".


Berryvox said...

Thanks, Patti.

It is a fantastic word, isn't it? :)

Ferd said...

Oh, K!!!
This was RIDICULOUSLY great!!!!
I mean it! I wish I could give you some sort of award for this post! You know how much I love bicycling, and traveling, and exploring, and taking pictures. This has it all! I can't tell you how much I love this!

BTW, I have stayed at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing! I remember liking the old world feel of it. But I didn't see the cool sights you pictured. I think I would see it through different eyes today.

Berryvox said...

Ferd - Ha! I figured you'd be one of the people who'd like this post. :)

I know what you mean about different eyes. Many years ago, I lived in Eugene, Oregon and probably missed the beauty of that state.

nirwan said...


Anonymous said...

I always inspired by you, your opinion and way of thinking, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Norman

Tokyo Biker Mommy said...

Excellent adventure. :)