David Freeze Day 14: Making the best of what is available!

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 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. He is now riding around Lake Superior. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

I left the Mariner Motel in Silver Bay this morning after another great night’s sleep. No air conditioner was a concern as the nighttime temperature made the upper 50s, and I had already closed the windows. It was very comfortable. I mentioned all the others at the motel enjoying talking to each other last night. They all went to bed and were quiet by dark, which is still about 9 p.m. this far north.

With some dread of heavy traffic and relentless hills, I headed north at sunrise and immediately found the hills, lots of them and the pace was slow because of it. The first place with a town sign was Little Marais. I saw four houses. The next place was Taconite Harbor, which consisted of a sign pointed toward Lake Superior.

Next came Schroeder, with a bakery and an e-bike rental place. I think they had regular bikes too because there were lots of other riders in the area. Then Tofte has a few things including a convenience store. I did load up at Schroeder and didn’t stop again until Lutsen, pronounced Lootsin. I stopped at the post office and postmaster Laurie helped me ship a box home. We talked about my ride as she helped me send unnecessary items that I had gathered along the way. Every little bit of weight and space counts. While standing at the post office door, we got buzzed by a military jet in the middle of a high speed turn, very impressive.

I forgot to mention when I stopped at Shroeder, I came out and noticed that for the first time in four days, I had a tailwind. The road also became way more moderate with wonderful water views.

Next was Grand Marais, by far the gem of the Lake Superior northern coast. The town has a population of about 1,500 but is loaded with tourists all summer. It is cool little town with a harbor, sailboats and a small lighthouse. Cabins and high priced rooms are the norm and one of the motels is sold out for the week.

I am in a sort of cabin, but they call it a motel, at Trailside Cabins. There are a dozen cabins of various sizes here but four of them are connected in this building. I made this reservation a few weeks back, thinking it would be hard to get in anywhere. Tomorrow is full here and so is the other closest place. I am near the top of a huge hill coming up from Grand Marais, and will get a downhill boost in the morning as I head out.

With grand ideas, I had some things I wanted to do. There is a National Park close by named Isle Royale, the least visited National Park in the country. Only access is by boat and plane, and it draws campers and hikers. I was told the other day that it draws 25,000 people all year which is the same as Yellowstone draws in a day. I wanted to at least ride the ferry over to the island. This morning, I finally got someone to answer the phone and she told me the boat does not run on Tuesdays. And that it is sold out this week anyway. Plus, the only lodging in the area is also sold out for the week.

The other thing I planned to do was see what is called Grand Portage, where a big reenactment is scheduled this weekend called the Rendezvous. I won’t be there for the reenactment, but it celebrates the fur trading empire that boomed in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Multiple buildings have been reconstructed inside a stockade wall. There is also a monument to the fur traders and all of this is on Lake Superior.

If there is no breakthrough on the ferry, and I don’t expect one, then I will travel back to Grand Marais tomorrow afternoon from where I begin to retrace my pedaling down the coast and return to Duluth, before pedaling back to Minneapolis by a new route.

The road is mostly good on U.S. 61, but a few places got really tight today with little road shoulder. The pavement is poor on some of the shoulder too, but wide spots with good paving are mixed in. Lots of truck traffic and big campers in the morning kept me on my toes. I had 55 miles today.

I will close for the evening and hope to see you back here tomorrow. Thanks for following the journey!