David Freeze Day 7: Still searching for the perfect day, but with some improvement

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, August 1, 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.

I keep thinking I am going to hit my stride one day soon. There have been unusual challenges often with the first seven days, but I felt better about things in general today.

I left Sartell with the Great River Road right in front of my motel. I had a nice night and a good breakfast at the AmericInn. Heading east, the first 5 miles or so were right along the river with good viewing almost constantly. I passed a big dam and an old paper mill in the Sartell area.

Then came a long ride to Little Falls through the country, most of it through farmland with little traffic. Good riding with only a few hills. I rode in the cool morning temperatures starting in the mid-50s and didn’t take my long-sleeved shirt off for a couple hours. I spotted the river occasionally but more often as I neared Little Falls, some of it with the river within 20 feet of the road.

Little Falls was named after some former falls near the town. Apparently some industry had changed the low falls. Just before reaching town, I saw the state park that includes the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh, one of the most famous aviators for his first ever solo flight across the Atlantic. The home was built by his dad, Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh.

I followed the GRR signs all morning and rode into the town of Little Falls. I stopped at the Speedway convenience store and asked the clerk if the GRR continued straight. Rather smugly, he said, “Oh, the GRR stops right here at our store.” I told him that wasn’t right snd showed him the map, but he was defiant that it did stop. I just continued straight through the town and soon found more signs that told me to turn, and rode on about 10 miles following them. I thought of calling that store back and telling the guy he was wrong. The GRR does continue all the way to the source.

I passed Camp Ripley, the National Guard base that specializes in winter training. It had a beautiful main gate entrance and encloses 53,000 acres. Most guardsmen train two weeks a year at Camp Ripley. A frontier fort used up until the 1870s is still maintained within the camp.

Next, I got my big challenge. I continued on following the signs and the map. Just on the other side of Camp Ripley, the GRR signs directed me onto the interstate. I noticed right away the signs forbidding bikes on the interstate in Minnesota, and reluctantly rode back off the ramp. I asked Siri for a bike route to Brainerd, the next town. The distance was about the same, which seemed fine. Until, I saw that the first road was gravel. A loaded bike is almost impossible to ride on loose gravel, but I made it a mile, then found that she wanted me to turn on another gravel road for seven miles. I simply couldn’t control the bike and it wouldn’t climb in the gravel.

A U.S. Postal Service vehicle passed me, and I wished I had stopped her for information. I walked up and coasted down another hill with both feet out to keep from crashing. I spotted a white truck ahead parked next to a corn field. Andy Eller, who works for Steffes Power, had an iPad that showed the available roads. Andy had been having lunch, a good thing for me. We had a very enjoyable talk about things, before he gave me a route out of the mess. First he hauled me to the end of that road, where I had a paved option and a similar distance ride to avoid the gravel roads. Andy told me about the major drought in the area, and added that lots of the roads in the area were gravel. Fine for vehicles, terrible for loaded bikes. Thank you, Andy!

I made it to Brainerd and then into Baxter where I am spending the night in a wonderful Super Eight. I have eaten a huge load of food, including today’s ice cream flavor, Drumstick, the Original Sundae Cone by Nestle.

My legs came around today and I felt good all the way, finishing in 69 miles. Tomorrow, I am going for Grand Rapids, which if successful will be the longest ride of this journey so far. I don’t expect to see the river much tomorrow as the GRR doesn’t look close.

Thanks for following along! See you tomorrow!