Itasca State Park

Wheel full 70px The source of the Mississippi River took a while for the early explorers of the North American continent to find, apparently. I can’t imagine being out in what must have seemed to them like a vast trackless wilderness trying, without aid of GPS or aerial photography, to figure which little brook flowing out of one of an innumerable number of similar-looking lakes was the start of a river the mouth of which was thousands of miles/kilometers away.

Wheel full 70px It’s a lot easier today. Those guys decided on Lake Itasca, and who is to second-guess? Then, I guess so we wouldn’t lose track of it, the State of Minnesota established in 1891 Itasca State Park. My guess is that the park was not very busy for its first half-century because driving out here seems like it’s still sort of a haul from anywhere with a McDonalds.


Wheel full 70px But here we are, modern day adventurers following in the footsteps of a lot of intrepid folks who pretty much sorted all of this out for us in advance.  All we had to do was get here, set up our tents and then wait out the rain which at six in the morning on the first day of our ride, is streaming down pretty hard.


Wheel full 70px But, just like those early explorers, we won’t melt.  In a couple of hours we’ll end our short stay at this place and be on our way.  Thanks for coming along with us in the ride.


Good Morning, Minnesota!

la 1 400px day- that’s all that’s left!

Wheel full 70px Tomorrow morning Gary Schmidt and I will wake up, take down our tents, pack our gear and set out on our 2,400 mile/3,550 kilometer or so ride down the length of the Mississippi River. After getting to St. Cloud from Minneapolis very early this morning and spending the remainder of the night with friends, I’m up early to get gear out of the boxes and repack it in the panniers.


Wheel full 70px We’ll head out to Bemidji to pick up my bicycle around noon and them it’s on to Itasca State Park to meet up with Gary.  So all that’s left is a wake-up.

Wheel full 70px Time to get this show on the road!





If it’s Thursday, I must be in Seattle

ms 2 400px
more days!

Wheel full 70px I’m transiting Sea-Tac International Airport. Gosh, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the “D” gate area.


Wheel full 70px I’d kind of forgotten how difficult posting to a WordPress blog is since last fall. By November I’d pretty much become a whiz at it, but today it seems like I’m all thumbs.

Wheel full 70px My flight to Minneapolis boards in about an hour, so I can stretch a bit and get the Alaska Airlines-induced kinks worked out a bit. Big guys just aren’t really meant to fly these days, I guess. My flight to Minnesota is about 15 minutes longer than my flight from Anchorage to here. Oh well.

Wheel full 70px I had a bit of a bad moment when they weighed my two boxes of panniers and gear this morning. 36 and 24 pounds/16.33 and 11 KGB respectively.  Sixty pounds/27 kg total.

Lowes Luggage

Wheel full 70px The boxes, both heavy-duty duty double thickness cardboard, weigh about 10 pounds/4.5 kg together.  So that’s still 50 pounds/22.5 kg of stuff. It looks like there will be some culling needed before I start out on Saturday.  I’d hoped to be a lot closer to 40 pound/18 kg, which was my panniers and gear weight on the Atlantic coast ride last year.

Wheel full 70px Minneapolis, here I come!


Fun Facts #3

Wheel full 70px In the course of bicycling the length of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to Venice, Louisiana on the delta out in the Gulf of Mexico my friend Gary Schmidt and I will see a lot of the United States.  We will cross all or part of ten states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and, finally, Louisiana.  The river is officially 2,320 miles/3,734 kilometers in length according to the United States Geological Survey [link].  Our route along the river is, because the roads aren’t right alongside its banks, a somewhat longer distance.  The route, as it stands today, is 2,416.4 miles/3,888.2 kilometers long [link].

Route 170406 800px

Wheel full 70px We asked a couple of days ago which, looking at the above map, states are entirely on the left (west) bank of the river; which states are on the right (east) bank; and which have land area on both sides.  Nobody took us up on our little quiz, so here’s the answer.  We’ll start with the easy ones.

Wheel full 70px Our beginning and end states: Minnesota and Louisiana, are easy to spot as being “both sides” places.  The river flows for its first 440 miles/708 kilometers or so entirely within the State of Minnesota and for its last 275 miles/443 kilometers more or less with the State of Louisiana on both banks.  Between those two states the Mississippi would appear to form a natural north to south boundary between the remaining states, with Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana lining up to the right (east) of the river and Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas to the left (west).  Careful reference to a map, though, shows that this is not near so simple as it appears.  In fact, it looks like there is only one state: Wisconsin, that lies entirely to one side of the Mississippi River.  The remaining seven states have land area, albeit in very tiny amounts, on both banks.  This has occurred due to shifts in the main channel of the Mississippi over the close to 200 years that states have been established along it.  In some places, particularly south of Cairo, Illinois, these changes have been pretty dramatic.

Wheel full 70px As Gary and I ride down the river and pass by and sometimes even through some of these state boundary anomalies, we’ll call them to your attention.


So Very Close!

AR 4 400px days left!!

Wheel full 70px I just got off the phone with the mechanic at Northern Cycle [link] in Bemidji, Minnesota.  My Surly Disc Trucker arrived just fine and it is assembled and ready to go.

Surly Disc Trucker 01

Wheel full 70px The shop is replacing the Supernova USB power tap [link] on my headset, as the old one never worked properly and, on inspection, the USB socket was broken.  Other than that, though, all I need to do now is get there on Friday to pick it up.


One Year Ago Today

Wheel full 70px I fell off my bike.

Wheel full 70px From my crazyguyonabike journal [link]:

I was climbing Haddon Hill on NS 3 and had gained on a challenging grade a little over half of its 180 foot elevation. There was no shoulder and the edge of the pavement under the white road edge line was rutted and crumbling. It was not the worst condition I had encountered on the ride to this point but it was pretty bad. At M119.3 a perfect storm came up consisting of a poorly-timed shift, a wobble and a rut in the road. Without warning the bike went out from under me and (as I learned from a driver right behind me who stopped to offer assistance) I flipped over the right side of the handlebars and into a yard/meter deep drainage ditch filled with weeds on the roadside. My right shoe came off as I was in the air and landed past the ditch a couple of yards/meters from where I landed. I came down on my helmet and right shoulder and I was pretty badly stunned as it took a few minutes to reorient Myself.


My head rang, my neck stung and my shoulder hurt, but I was not bleeding or even badly scraped anywhere. It could have been far worse. The aforementioned driver told me afterwards that he was afraid that I would be grievously injured or even dead when he reached me. Several other vehicles stopped and I was literally overwhelmed by people who wanted to help. Just as amazing as my coming through the crash more or less unscathed was that neither the bike nor the gear suffered any damage. There were some scratches on the Ortlieb panniers on the right side, but they are quite apparently made of pretty tough stuff. Several people who stopped urged me to go to the local medical clinic- apparently the one I had just departed where I had weighed myself- and one good-hearted fellow offered to drive me back into Halifax to a hospital. I’m afraid I disappointed everyone in the end, as I begged off all the kind offers of help, telling everyone I just needed to sit and rest for a while and then assess how I felt. The first driver to stop walked my bike for me about 75 feet/23 meters up the road where I sat down on a rock wall for about 45 minutes.

And then I climbed back on the bike and started back on my way to Key West.

I was, mind you, still hurting. My head ached and my neck and right shoulder were pretty sore. But looking back as I write this journal entry over the space of almost six months I think I made the right decision by continuing on. If I had gone to a clinic or an ER I probably would have been told how lucky I was and told to rest for several days. This almost certainly would have been sound advice, but I would have suffered a major break in the momentum of my ride so early on. Who knows what the ultimate impact of such a break would have been? I think, again in the light of 20/20 hindsight, that I needed to feel at that point that I was going to make it all the way to Key West despite such obstacles as the road might throw at me. So I pedaled on.

Wheel full 70px Hopefully the ride this year will go without any such incident,


An Early Day

KY 5 400px days to Itasca!

Wheel full 70px I got up at Zero Dark Thirty this morning to call the Minnesota State Parks Reservation Center when it opened to make campground reservations for our stays at Itasca and Crow Wing State Parks.  There was only one site (!) left available at Itasca for the 25th as of last night, so I wanted to nab it.  I attempted to do this online yesterday, but my profile came up “already in use” when I tried to set it up n the Reservation Center’s website and I thus couldn’t proceed on to make the reservation.  A call to the nice lady who assisted me this morning cleared that up- my wife Heather and I stayed at Itasca five years ago before Minnesota adopted a state park campground reservation system and our old landline home phone number, collected at the time, was somehow creating a glitch in the system.

Wheel full 70px So Gary and I are now paid guests of the State of Minnesota at Itasca SP on the 25th and Crow Wing SP on the 30th.  A ten dollar call center reservation was added to each night, so I start the day a sawbuck poorer but relieved that this task is taken care of.  I hope Minnesota puts the money to good use.  It is fortunate that friends are hosting up over Labor day weekend- I never thought about that until yesterday.

Wheel full 70px Three nights and a wakeup until I fly out of Anchorage!


Working, working…

MO 6 400px days to go!

Wheel full 70px Crazy busy today, so this is short.  I’ve been alternating getting back to close to 30 different overnight hosts, getting the last unconfirmed lodging nailed down, making state park reservations and getting my gear looked over, organized, inventoried and packed.  A couple of things fell into place- more about that over the next few days.

Wheel full 70px You folks down south- enjoy the eclipse!  We’ll have not near the show up here in Alaska, but that’s the luck of the draw.