Almost There!

Wheel full 70px This is another- the last, actually- of the occasional posts I’ve been putting up as we ride to explain why there have not been any ongoing posts during our ride down the Mississippi River. I’m pleased to tell you that you won’t have to wait much longer. Gary Schmidt and I have reached New Orleans, Louisiana right on schedule. We have just a little less than 100 miles/160 kilometers left to ride. As I’ve noted before, I have taken tons of photos- close to 3,000- and have made many notes along the way. It’s just been almost impossible to post to WordPress efficiently from my iPhone. So things here have been on hold until I make it back to Alaska in about a week.

Wheel full 70px In the meantime please check out the public Facebook group Mississippi River Ride, where Gary and I post pictures and occasionally a short narrative of the day’s ride. It’s open to all and we check it every day for “join” requests. Thanks for following along.

Wheel full 70px Again, see you here in about a week.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!