A Week to Go!

Ilinois 7 400px days to Lake Itasca!

Wheel full 70px A few days ago I asked if anyone wanted to try to guess, without reference to a map or Google, which of the ten states on the banks of the Mississippi River are located on the right (east) bank, left (west) bank, or are on both banks.  Oh, and mid stream islands don’t count. I didn’t get any takers, so I’ll wait one more day and post the answer if I don’t hear from anyone.  Here’s a hint in the hope that it will get someone started thinking about this.  The State of Illinois has land area on both banks, famously at Kaskaskia, where the original capital of Illinois was located.

Kaskaskia Map

This sort of thing generally happens when the Mississippi leaves its former bed and creates a new channel, usually as the result of a flood or similar occurence.  The process often leaves “oxbow” lakes, and we’ll see a bunch of those the further south we get (hint, hint).  We’ll ride into this bit of Orphaned Illinois, which cannot be reached directly from the main part of the state over on the east bank, just a little over a month from now and shoot some pictures of a place not many folks have seen in person.

Wheel full 70px Here’s a little more help- just circle your answers.

Which Side

Wheel full 70px Gary Schmidt is already in Minnesota visiting friends and family during the time remaining before the end of the coming week. I’ll fly out of Alaska on Thursday morning and join him at Itasca State Park the next day.

David

Almost but not quite just about final itinerary

IA 8 400px days left!!

Wheel full 70px One more stab at an itinerary.  The total mileage is pretty much set at 2416.4 miles/3,882 kilometers- about 54 miles/87 kilometers per each riding day.  We are still looking for hosts/places to camp in Tunica, Scott, Mayersville and Natchez, Mississippi and in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Friday, August 25 – Day 00 – Lake Itasca State Park, MN (0) – Itasca State Park Camp
Saturday, August 26 – Day 01 – Itasca State Park, MN to Cass Lake, MN (54.3) – Stony Point Resort (Camp)
Sunday, August 27 – Day 02 – Cass Lake, MN to Deer River, MN (107.4) – Blueberry Bowl (Camp)
Monday, August 28 – Day 03 – Deer River, MN to Jacobsen Campground, MN (153.7) – Jacobsen Campground (Camp)
Tuesday, August 29 – Day 04 – Jacobsen Campground, MN to Aitkin, MN (201.9) – Aitken Campground (Camp)
Wednesday, August 30 – Day 05 – Aitkin, MN to Crow Wing State Park, MN (257.2) – Crow Wing SP Campground (Camp)
Thursday, August 31 – Day 06 – Crow Wing State Park, MN to St. Cloud, MN (323.1) – Friend host (Residence)
Friday, September 1 – Day 07 – REST DAY (St. Cloud, MN) – Friend host (Residence
)
Saturday, September 2 – Day 08 – St. Cloud, MN to Elk River, MN (365.1) – Friend host (Residence)
Sunday, September 3 – Day 09 – Elk River, MN to South St. Paul, MN (428.2) – ???
Monday, September 4 – Day 10 – South St. Paul, MN to Bay City, WI, (479.6) – Bay City Campground (Camp)
Tuesday, September 5 – Day 11 – Red Wing, MN to Winona, MN (543.4) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Wednesday, September 6 – Day 12 – Winona, MN to La Crosse, WI (573.5) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Thursday, September 7 – Day 13 – La Crosse, WI to Prairie du Chien, WI (625.2) – Frenchman’s Landing Campground (Camp)
Friday, September 8 – Day 14 – Prairie du Chien, WI to Cassville, WI (682.4) – Whitetail Bluff Campground (Camp)
Saturday, September 9 – Day 15 – REST DAY (Cassville, WI) – Whitetail Bluff Campground (Camp)
Sunday, September 10 – Day 16 – Cassville, WI to Dubuque, IA (727.4) – Massey Marina Campground (Camp)
Monday, September 11 – Day 17 – Dubuque, IA to Fulton, IL (792.3) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Tuesday, September 12 – Day 18 – Fulton, IL to Davenport, IA (842.5) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Wednesday, September 13 – Day 19 – Davenport, IA to Keithsburg, IL (902.8) – Big River Forest Campground (Camp)
Thursday, September 14 – Day 20 – Keithsburg, IL to Nauvoo, IL (968.9) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Friday, September 15 – Day 21 – REST DAY (Nauvoo, IL) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Saturday, September 16 – Day 22 – Nauvoo, IL to Quincy, IL (1021.9) – Bear Creek ACE Campground (Camp)
Sunday, September 17 – Day 23 – Quincy, IL to Ted Shanks Conservation Area, MO (1065.7) – Ted Shanks Conservation Area Campground (Camp)
Monday, September 18 – Day 24 – Ted Shanks Conservation Area, MO to Hardin, IL (1121) – Church host (Camp)
Tuesday, September 19 – Day 25 – Hardin, IL to Wood River, IL (1183.2) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Wednesday, September 20 – Day 26 – Alton, IL to Columbia, IL (1223.67) – Friend host (Residence)
Thursday, September 21 – Day 27 – Columbia, IL to St. Genevieve, MO (1272.2) – City park (Camp)
Friday, September 22 – Day 28 – SHORT DAY – St. Genevieve, MO to Chester, IL (1304.1) – City park (Camp)
Saturday, September 23 – Day 29 – Chester, IL to Grand Tower, IL (1338.7) – Devil’s Backbone Park Campground (Camp)
Sunday, September 24 – Day 30 – Grand Tower, IL to Cape Girardeau, MO (1371.9) – Warmshowers host (Residence)
Monday, September 25 – Day 31 – Cape Girardeau, MO to Columbus, KY (1439.4) – Columbus Belmont Landing Campground (Camp)
Tuesday, September 26 – Day 32 – Columbus, KY to New Madrid, AR (1486.4) – Donaldson Point Conservation Area Campground (Camp)
Wednesday, September 27 – Day 33 – New Madrid, AR to Caruthersville, AR (1539.4) – City park (Camp)
Thursday, September 28 – Day 34 – Caruthersville, AR to Osceola, AR (1594.1) – City park (Camp)
Friday, September 29 – Day 35 – Osceola, AR to Memphis, TN (1655.6) – Family host (Residence)
Saturday, September 30 – Day 36 – REST DAY (Memphis, TN) – Family host (Residence)
Sunday, October 1 – Day 37 – Memphis, TN to Tunica, MS (1699.2) – ???
Monday, October 2 – Day 38 – Tunica, MS to Clarksdale, MS (1760) – Quapaw Canoe Company (Camp)
Tuesday, October 3 – Day 39 – Clarksdale, MS to Scott, MS (1820.8) – ???
Wednesday, October 4 – Day 40 – Scott, MS to Mayersville, MS (1884.8) – ???
Thursday, October 5 – Day 41 – Mayersville, MS to Eagle Bend, MS (1930) – Yore Country Store (Camp)
Friday, October 6 – Day 42 – Eagle Bend, MS to Port Gibson, MS (1997.6) – Grand Gulf Military Campground (Camp)
Saturday, October 7 – Day 43 – Port Gibson to Natchez, MS (2064.1) – ???
Sunday, October 8 – Day 44 – REST DAY (Natchez, MS) – ???
Monday, October 9 – Day 45 – Natchez, MS to Old River Lock Campground, LA (2109.1) – Old River Lock Campground (Camp)
Tuesday, October 10 – Day 46 – Old River Lock Campground, LA to New Roads, LA (2152.9) – City park (Camp)
Wednesday, October 11 – Day 47 – New Roads, LA to Baton Rouge, LA (2200.2) – Warren and Grace Farr Park Campground (Camp)
Thursday, October 12 – Day 48 – Baton Rouge, LA to Lutcher, LA (2268.1) – Warmshowers host (Camp)
Friday, October 13 – Day 49 – Central, LA to New Orleans, LA (2304.5) – ???
Saturday, October 14 – Day 50 – REST DAY (New Orleans, LA) – ???
Sunday, October 15 – Day 51 – New Orleans, LA to Davant, LA (2366.2) – City park (Camp)
Monday, October 16 – Day 52 – Davant, LA to Venice, LA (2416.4 + 10.4 mile backtrack) – Fort Jackson Park Campground (Camp) RIDE OVER!

David

Single Digits!

WI 9 400px days to Lake Itasca!

Wheel full 70pxWhen I was in the army back during the bad old Vietnam-era days, they used to call folks who were just a few days from ending their service on their ETS date “Single Digit Midgets.”  If that term still holds true today then Gary and I are getting very, very small.  I’ll be flying to Minnesota from Anchorage a week from today and Gary is already on the road driving there.  So this is definitely happening, and soon.

Wheel full 70px I have noted in connection with last year’s ride down the Atlantic coast that I do the route planning for these long trips on a web-based program called RidewithGPS [link].  There’s a free version and two-tiered paid version- for most cyclists I think the free version would work just fine- it’s what I used for several years before subscribing to the “Premium” tier of the paid version.  Here’s a comparison chart.

RidewithGPS Teaser Comparison Chart

A couple of years ago I planned a “Southern Tier” transcontinental ride with the free version.  It was fully detailed and I still refer to it when answering questions from other riders.  What the premium version gets me that I find worthwhile are the advanced route planning tools, the turn by turn notification and downloadable maps for the iPhone app and for ride clean-up.  I also get the satisfaction of supporting a company that I find to be really proactive and user-friendly.  The program and accompanying app have been frequently updated to add or refine features.  I have talked with a real person at tech support twice to help with issues I’ve had twice and each time it was clear to me that the assistance I was given was complete and comprehensive.  My guess is that everyone at the Portland, Oregon-based developer rides bikes to work.

Wheel full 70px Strava [link] is similar, and I have it installed on both my PC and my iPhone.  I find it less richly detailed and really prefer working with Ride with GPS.  The only advantage to Strava, IMHO, is that rides, once completed, automatically upload to Relive [link] which emails you a couple of hours later a flyover animation of the ride.  Very, very cool.

Wheel full 70px So I’ve been working on my Mississippi River b2b route for about six months.  Most of it was in place by April of this year, but I’ve worked mile-by-mile to refine it since then.  I’ve located every shoreline bike path I can find, every paved minor road that runs closer to the river than the easily spotted route and the best low traffic streets through busy neighborhoods.  I annotated the route with nearby points of interest, bike shops, pharmacies, Target stores, lodging and campground location, mileage data, and other helpful information.

RidewithGPS Teaser

Wheel full 70px And, as soon as I hit the save button all this info is available on my iPhone.

RidewithGPS App

Wheel full 70px Here is the link to the current Ride with GPS b2b route.  It is a work in process and likely will be replaced by an updated version two or three more times before we take off from Lake Itasca on the 26th.

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24323561 [link]

Wheel full 70px I’ll keep you posted.

David

10… 9… 8…

MN-10_400x400 days left to go.

Wheel full 70pxOur first week on the road will look like this.

Week 01

Wheel full 70pxOn August 25th Gary and I will arrive at the campground at Itasca State Park [link].  We’ll get a good night’s rest and, bright and early on the 26th, get up, pack our bikes and head for the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center [link] and the source of the Mississippi River a couple of 100 yards/meters away.  We are, at that point, at Mile Zero of our ride, with 52 days and about 2,400 miles/3,865 kilometers left to go down the road.  The Mississippi River leaves Lake Itasca at 1,475 feet/450 meters above sea level.  So, since we’ll wind up at the river’s delta out in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of our ride, it really is (almost) all downhill from here.  It’s also a bit amusing that, on a ride along a river that passes through most of the land mass of the central United States for about 1,300 miles/2,090 kilometers north to south from just below the Canadian border to the Gulf, we start by riding due north.

Wheel full 70pxThe first week is certainly mostly downhill.  St. Cloud, Minnesota, which we’ll reach on September 1st and rest for a day in on the 2nd, is at about 1,000 feet/305 meters above sea level, so the river drops 475 feet/145 meters over the first 322 miles/518 kilometers of our ride.  That’s just a little less than one-third of the Mississippi’s total descent on its way to the Gulf and we still have over six weeks and over 2,000 miles/3,200+ kilometers left to go.  On the other hand, do you think that it’s even possible to notice a grade of 18 inches/45 centimetres of vertical change in a mile/1.6 kilometers?  Me neither.  A steady one percent grade of descent over the course of our entire ride would be a loss of 24 miles/38.5 kilometers in elevation.  The river drops at a uniform grade of around one-hundredth of one percent- about six inches/30 centimeters per mile/1,600 meters between its source and its mouth, so the river mileage followed during the first week of the trip is about three times that grade: three one-hundredths of a percent.  Effectively flat by any measurement.

Wheel full 70pxI’ve noted 50 mile (80 kilometer) intervals on the map above.  We planned our ride in roughly 50 mile/80 kilometer per day increments.  As we zeroed on on specific places to stay and see most of the days expanded to somewhere between there and 60 miles/96 kilometers, with a few longer days here and there, and particularly as we reach the parking lot-flat terrain of most of the south.

Wheel full 70pxThe destination on the first day is Stony Point Resort [link], a fancy RV park and campground on the south shore of Cass Lake.  We’ll have ridden 54.3 “official” miles/87.4 kilometers on our maiden day on the road and crossed the Mississippi River 10 times in the process.  The river during that time will grow from a  10 foot/three meter wide brook to a respectable stream some 50 feet/15 meters across.  Along the way we’ll pass through the city of Bemidji, where we’ll stop at the Northern Bicycle Shop [link] for some Day One adjustments, the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue [link] for our daily dose of kitsch and probably somewhere for lunch.  Up to Bemidji we’ll be riding on quiet two lane county roads through open rolling countryside.  On the other side of the city  we’ll return to minor roads and reach the most northerly point on our trip- just 100 miles south of the Canadian border- on our way to the town of Cass Lake and our stop for the night.

Wheel full 70pxOn September 27th, the second day of the first week of our ride, we will cycle 53.1 miles/84.5 kilometers to the Blueberry Bowl, a bowling alley and bar [link] a few miles north of the town of Deer River.  The owners have graciously offered us a place to camp next to their business.  We’ll cross the river just one time getting there on a combination of US Route 2, the main non-interstate highway across the northern United States, and little-traveled county roads through the woods to the north of US 2 that run along the Mississippi and the various lakes it flows through.  We’ll pass Lake Winnebigoshish, which apparently takes its name from a rude Winnebago Native American word for the quality of its water, the fourth largest lake in this state of 10,000 of them.  We’ll also ride by the Big Fish Supper Club [link] where we’ll see a 65 foot/20 meter long concrete Muskie (Muskellunge) featured in the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and probably stop for a photo or two.  We’ll also ride through the uniquely named hamlet of Ball Club not long before we reach Deer River and our stop for the night.  I forgot to ask Gary if he would carry my bowling ball for me.

Wheel full 70pxThe 28th calls for us to ride 46.4 miles/74.7 kilometers generally southwest to  local-government owned Jacobsen Campground [link], where there are 10 semi-primitive campsites tucked into a bend of the river.  We’ll start out heading south for the first time on the ride, picking up US 2 for a short stretch out of Deer River, then on county roads through alternating woods and field over the gently rolling terrain that we’ve seen since the start of the ride.  We’ll cross the Mississippi River three times, the last two as we ride through the small city of Grand Rapids, which will offer us the first fast-food franchise dining opportunities we’ll have seen since Bemidji just in time for lunch.  There is also a bike shop here, Itasca Trail Sports [link], in case we have developed any issues since leaving Bemidji.  The rapids the city was named for were tamed by a dam creating Paper Mill Reservoir many years ago, but it appears as we leave the downtown we’ll have scenic views of the river, now about 100 feet/30 meters wide, from a pleasant bike path.  Leaving Grand Rapids the minor road we will follow leads us another 20 miles/32 kilometers or so through increasingly wooded and often marshy land not far south of the river to the campground.  Most of the way to the campground we’ll finally pass south of the place we started at the headwaters.  The day appears to be pretty kitsch-free, although if you are local to this area and know of any, please call it to our attention.

Wheel full 70px We’ll stay the night of the 29th on the outskirts of Aitkin, Minnesota in a county-run campground: Aitkin Campground [link] located on the south bank of the Mississippi.  This 48.2 mile/77.6 kilometer stretch initially heads south on county roads through densely wooded land north of the river then turns to the southwest about 20 miles along.  We will only pass near one small community until we reach Aitkin at the end of the day; that is Palisade.  Google Maps says that there is a cafe there, and thus probably lunch.  Other than a brief stretch of about a mile/1.75 kilometers on US Route 169, the road remains lightly-traveled two lane blacktop all day.  We’ll cross the Mississippi River on the northern outskirts of Aitkin and ride a couple of blocks through a residential neighborhood before reaching our stop for the night after this second sub-50 mile/80 kilometer riding day in a row.

Wheel full 70px The second to last day of August, the 30th, will see Gary and I riding the longest distance on the trip so far, but not by much: 55.3 miles/89 kilometers.  There’s a McDonald’s in Aitkin…

mmmm, sausage biscuits

…and then we’ll backtrack north on the road we entered the city on back across the Mississippi River.  The subsequent 45 mile/72.4 kilometers into the large city of Brainerd, Minnesota is our first major deviation from the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), which we have pretty much followed closely to this point.  We routed our trip this way here because the roads we will take are less-traveled and seem to more closely hug the river.  We’ll see.  About six miles/10 kilometers north of Brainerd we’ll pick up the Paul Bunyan Trail [link], a paved rail-trail, as it drops down to that city from Bemidji.  We’ll leave the trail on the northern outskirts of the city to follow the river into the downtown, where we’ll cross the Mississippi River twice in a matter of a few blocks.  There is pretty much everything in Brainerd shopping-wise a bicycle tourist could want, including two bike shops, Muddy Bikes [link] and Easy Rider Bicycle & Sportshop [link].  The ride out of the downtown to the south is along the west side of the river and the last six miles/10 kilometers, reached just after we cross the Mississippi River for the fourth and final time for the day,  are on the recently completed southernmost stretch of the aforementioned Paul Bunyan Trail, which carries the MRT in this area.  Our stop for the night is at the campground at Crow Wing State Park [link], which takes its name from the Crow Wing River that joins the Mississippi here.  This appears to be the third kitsch-free day in a row.

Wheel full 70px We’ll end the month of August by riding south from Crow Wing State Park 64.4 miles/103.6 kilometers more or less due south to the city of St. Cloud which, outside of the Twin Cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul that we’ll ride through the following week, is the largest city we’ll see in Minnesota.  The first 17 miles/27.4 kilometers south of the park is nothing to write home about as it is down US Route 371, a four lane divided highway that is the only paved road along the river on our route in this area.  Nothing to write home about except for, just outside the park, yet another giant statue of Paul Bunyan [link], this time sans his blue ox, located at a welcome center where we turn on to US 371.  Our kitsch quota renewed, we will pedal quickly and carefully down the wide shoulder of this hopefully not that busy highway.  We’ll leave US 371 just before the exit to the Minnesota National Guard training base Camp Ripley [link].  We’ll cross the river for the first time for the day here and then, across from the main gate of the post, head south on a county road down the west side of the Mississippi to the city of Little Falls, where there is a full range of local businesses and services, to include the Touright Bicycle Shop [link], which I will have to stop at to say hi just because it is the first bike shop along the route that bills itself as a Surly dealer and because we get to cross the river two times here on a short “there and back” jog from the route.  We’ll leave Little Falls on a county road that runs along the river headed south and cross the Mississippi three more times on local roads before we reach the small village of Rice about 50 miles/80 kilometers into our riding day.  It doesn’t look like there’s much to see in Rice, so we’ll take county roads, this time on the east side of the river, for 10 miles/16 kilometers south to the city of Sartell, then through residential neighborhoods along the river through the city of Sauk Rapids and then into St. Cloud, where we will stay at a residence with friends that night and the next, as we have planned September 1st as a rest/slack day.

Wheel full 70px The 1st closes out our first week on the road and, as noted, is a rest day.  We have built such days, about one each week, into our itinerary for a couple of reasons.  First, because we probably will need a break after a week or so’s worth of riding.  A close second is to give us a “make-up,” or slack day just in case we get delayed for some reason- mechanical difficulties, bad weather, hellish winds, those sorts of things.  In the event any of that happens, we’ll just cross our fingers that it doesn’t delay us by more than a day and then we’ll skip the slack day and then be back on track.  If that doesn’t happen, and we really hope that we don’t have to do that, we can use the day to check out local places of interest and to do some bike maintenance.  In St. Cloud, there appears to be a wealth of interesting things to see- but this isn’t a tourguide, so I’ll leave that to others to describe, probably better than I could ever do anyway.  There are three bicycle shops available in the city near our route:  Rod’s Bike Shop [link], Fitzharris Ski, Bike & Outdoor [link], and Erik’s Bike, Board & Ski [link], so any needs we have in that regard are likely to be addressed.  Anyway, describing our first week on the road has been fun.  We’ll post the second week in a few days so we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.

Wheel full 70px Thanks for coming along on our ride via this blog- catch you later!

David

Fun Facts #2

LA 11 400px days until the start!

Wheel full 70pxGary and I will ride our bicycles through 10 states on the way down the river.  Without looking at a map or otherwise using the Internet, can you list which side of the Mississippi each is on?  There are three possible answers: East, West or Both.  Post your answers in the comments below.  The winner will receive one gasp of awe and three “We are not worthy’s” from each of us.

Wheel full 70pxWe will stay a total of 53 overnights on the trip counting Lake Itasca on Day Zero and Venice, Louisiana on Day 52.  Twelve of those will be in Minnesota, followed by 10 in Illinois, eight each in Mississippi and Louisiana, five in Missouri, four in Wisconsin, two each in Iowa and Tennessee, and last but not least one night apiece in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Wheel full 70pxThe response to our Warmshowers’ requests and inquiries made to overnight locations where we couldn’t find a Warmshowers host and there was no nearby campground, along with kind offers of lodging/camping from out of nowhere, mainly on facebook, has been simply overwhelming.  We have gone from upwards of 35 “open” nights to five in a matter of a few days.  In several instances we have multiple offers of hosting from the same city or town.  Wow- you folks are incredible!!  If you have offered to host us for an overnight the plan is to contact you back confirming our stay or to thank you for doing that if we are going to wind up staying nearby in another location by no later than the evening of Thursday, the 17th.  Please let us know if you check your email of Friday and have not heard from us.

Wheel full 70pxThe five locations where we are still looking for a host are

  • Caruthersville, MO on Wednesday, September 27th or Thursday, the 28th
  • Tunica, MS on Sunday, October 1st or Monday, the 2nd
  • Scott, MS on Tuesday, October 3rd or Wednesday, the 4th
  • Natchez, MS on either Saturday, October 7th or Sunday, October 8th and the next day after the day of arrival (Rest Day)
  • Phoenix, LA on Sunday, October 15th

Wheel full 70pxOh, and my bike shipped from the Trek Bicycle Store in Anchorage [link] today.

BikeFlights Airbill

Wheel full 70pxBikeFlights [link] is really a class act.  I used the company for shipping my bike last year twice and they provided service that was both flawless and attentive.  Highly recommended!

David

 

A Request

MS 12 400px days left to go!!

Wheel full 70pxGary Schmidt and I will each be riding for a good cause while we are on the road this fall in addition to all the other reasons to be out long-distance bike touring.  Gary is a long-time supporter of a local food bank near his home in Maryland and is soliciting donations to that worthy cause here [link].  I will be riding in memory of my beloved grandchild Aidan Barnes, who succumbed to an aggressive form of brain cancer before his second birthday in 2011.

Aidan 800px

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