David Freeze Day 10: Into the wind, then a good ending!

Published 7:54 am Friday, August 4, 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.

After a very good evening and the best sleep yet at the Lake George Pines Motel in Lake George, I wanted to be at Lake Itasca when the park opened. I found out today that Lake George is just outside the Indian reservation and is in the Paul Bunyan National Forest.

I had an elaborate, glossy information folder on the Lake Itasca park and it said the park opens at 8 a.m. I was there at 8 and so were lots of others, but the park entrance was not manned, nor were the visitor center, the Mary Gibbs gift shop at the headwaters or the cafe other than through the window orders. All of these were listed as summer hours, but very odd because the crowds come to this park in the summer — 8 a.m. in the winter, but 9 a.m. when the tourists come to the park.

Most of the outside exhibits were the same as a few years back when I was here last. The headwaters is the drawing card for the park and has a huge parking lot. It was more meaningful this time, since I have now followed the great river all of its 2,552-mile distance. I got my photos and left the park headed to Bemidji. Last time here included massive attacks by large flies and mosquitoes. This time, they mostly left me alone.

Bemidji is the town that I missed yesterday by making the late course change. It is part of the Great River Road because the just born and very small Mississippi River empties into Lake Bemidji and out the lower end. From Lake Itasca, I had a very challenging and hilly ride toward Bemidji that totaled about 35 miles. A constant headwind from the north and hilly conditions were enough to deal with, but I got an extra challenge.

Memories of the Yukon and especially Alaska flashed back as I had a paved road that was removed and today was gravel and dirt. In other words, the pavement was gone while being prepared to get repaved. This was often the case on that Alaska ride except that their roads were many miles long and always very dusty. People drove very fast on these roads in Alaska, but most were more moderate today.  This road was only 5.6 miles long and they had been wetting it to keep the dust down. About midway through, the bike got away from me and we crashed pretty hard. As far as I can tell, all is good.

I have another room at the Super Eight, and hopefully it will be quieter overhead than the last time. The room is very good with a recliner, from where I enjoy writing.

The nice ending to the day happened late this afternoon when I met Bemidji resident Michael Zachow for ice cream at the Big River Scoop. I had a strawberry milkshake, since pineapple was not an option. Michael came to North Carolina last winter to do the Krispy Kreme 5K in Raleigh and our very own Winter Flight race. The ice cream place is across the street from Lake Bemidji, where they just happened to be having practice for dragon boat races. The real races happen on Saturday.

On that previous trip to Lake Itasca, I made a photo in Bemidji of the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan. We made new photos this evening. It was a good day of 52 hard-earned miles.

Tomorrow, I plan to ride back to Grand Rapids and should have a room lined up there. Past Grand Rapids is Duluth and the start of riding along Lake Superior. I have done little to plan that portion of the trip yet, but did get some good information on what to expect for riding along the lake.

Thanks to Cindy Atkins for joining as a sponsor. She’s been following from the start. Thanks to other sponsors, Father and Son Produce, Dick and Jean Richards, Gear for Races, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church men’s group and David Post.

See you back here tomorrow. Keep sending those prayers!