David Freeze Day 5: What a day!

Published 11:20 am Monday, July 31, 2023

Editor’s note: David Freeze is cycling along the Mississippi River. This is part two of his adventure, riding from Dubuque, Iowa, up to the source in Minnesota. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Seldom have I had a day where one challenge after another becomes expected. I left the nice Hastings Inn in Hastings, Minnesota, early while wearing a long sleeve shirt for the first time on this trip. After all the heat of the last few days, Hastings had a morning low in the upper 50s with a projected high in the low 80s. A cool north wind was forecast. All seemed upbeat for the day.

I rode to Minneapolis on U.S. 61, with steadily building traffic. I planned to meet long time friend Ethan Horne, originally of China Grove, in Minneapolis where he has lived for three years. Ethan played Y basketball for me, worked with me at the Y and was a strong cross country runner for Carson High. Ethan has ridden his bike around the perimeter of the U.S. and served two years in the Peace Corps. I found Ethan at the St. Paul Farmers Market and met his fiancee Kim Hyatt for the first time. Ethan and Kim recently rode their bikes along the Mississippi River to St. Louis.

On the way to the farmers market, l wanted to exit U.S. 61 but that lane was closed and blocked for construction. As 61 exits the rest of the road becomes Interstate 94, not a good place for me. So I took the 61 exit hoping to ride right on through the construction. That worked until I got to the far side of it and the road had been removed, nothing but deep mud remaining. So I got back on the interstate to find that I had to exit left to reach the farmer’s market. It would have been crazy to try that on a bike, so I got off at the next exit and and tried the interstate again on the other side, finally making my way to meet Ethan and Kim.

Ethan wanted to ride with me today and he did, especially since he was familiar with the both of the twin cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. We followed much of the Great River Road until Ethan headed off separately to find a bike shop to fix a bad tire. He caught back up with me because of the next bad thing. A train of tank cars had blocked the route out of town to the north. We tried to ride around the blockage, but found each successive rail crossing blocked too. Other cars were driving around the northern part of the city trying to find a way through and there was none. The only other main road to the north was also blocked for construction.

Frustrated with the situation, we carried our bikes and bags across the back of one of the tank cars while it sat blocking the intersection. An hour lost, but we were back on the road.

Before leaving the city, I saw the majestic St. Paul’s Basilica, built in 1914. We stopped to look at the inside of the great church.

Getting close to the end of the riding day, we stopped at a convenience store to get cold drinks and plan the where to stop for the night. No motels were listed close by but one of the store customers knew of one. We headed for it and, believe it or not, found the final road completely under construction. We had to take another detour and finally made it to the motel, the Regency Inn. When we got a room, the A/C didn’t work. After a room change, all seems well, and I am finally able to write this.

We are in Anika, Minnesota, for tonight after 61 hard fought miles. We rode along the river, much of the Great River Road. Hopefully a calm day will come tomorrow and will total more miles.

Thanks for riding along! See you back here tomorrow.