David Freeze Day 15: One of the best days turns out better than planned!

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, August 9, 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.

As I write this, I have open windows and am listening to the rain patter on the motel parking lot. As I mentioned earlier, most of northern Minnesota is in a serious drought. The forecast was for sunny today and a good chance of rain tonight. The first showers fell just before 1pm and it has been raining off and on since.

I left the Trailside Cabins in Grand Marais this morning, headed toward Grand Portage. I read the National Park Service brochure and was excited to see it. Everything I read said there was a great monument. I rode north, unaware that the only town listed between Grand Marais and Grand Portage was not really a town. Hovland had a bakery and liquor store combined, and I didn’t see anything else other than a few houses. I had water and food for the 35 mile ride, but I hoped that Grand Portage would be a town. I needed more for the ride back.

Siri wanted me to take a road that apparently didn’t exist and it may have had to do with poor cell service, but the brochure called for staying on U.S. 61, now called Lake Superior’s North Shore Scenic Drive.

What I found in Grand Portage was a huge convenience/grocery/ post office all in one building. There is casino/motel and of course the visitor center for the historic area. The visitor center was multi-level and very modern. I toured the displays and watched a movie about the late 1700s fur trade and the French and Indian involvement.

I was told to follow the sidewalk behind the visitor center to the buildings. What I found was a huge completely rebuilt stockade with all the buildings that were used for the early fur trade. Indian teepees, made of birch wood, a wooden dock and gardens added to the incredible display. A period person was inside each building to explain its use. I am still amazed this evening at the amount of work that went into this restoration. We were told that at its peak of activity, more than 1,000 people would have been inside the stockade. What a jewel for the National Park Service, and oddly, this one is totally free! The parking lot was nearly full. I was ready to use my senior NPS pass but never had to get it out.

I asked one of the building attendants where the monument was. He said, “All of this is considered the monument. People ask about the monument all the time.”

As I was about to leave, Bill Kuhn asked about my bike ride. He had ridden across the country as a 21-year-old. Bill was with his wife Maryanne. We had a wonderful conversation and then they waved as they passed me on the road.

I wanted to go to the falls in the area and asked about doing so. I found out that there was an additional ride each way of 6 1/2 miles, which I chose not to do. Canada was seven miles away. It was almost 7 p.m. when I got in the room tonight at the Aspen Inn anyway, after 73 miles. I will stop at one of the state parks on the way back down the coast to see another set of falls.

I stopped in the huge store for snacks in Great Portage before leaving and turning south for the official turnaround of this journey. I will now ride south and west, instead of north and east.

After eating everything I could stuff in my bags upon returning to Grand Marais, I have an easy job planning for tomorrow. I will return to Silver Bay and the same motel that I used on the way north. It is only about 55 miles but it is a very hilly segment.

Today’s high temperature was a reported 69, especially chilly in the early morning and during the rain. That’s it for today. I have some great photos and hope to see you back here tomorrow. If all goes well, just 4-5 days remain of cycling. Thanks for the prayers!