Total Elevation Gain (ft): 1377.9
Weather: Mostly Sunny, Warm
Hillbilly Insults: 0
Roadkill: 15 (6 Birds, 2 Chipmunks, 1 Fox, 1 Raccoon, 3 Turtles, 2 Unknown)
Bugs Swallowed: 2
Mean Dogs Chasing: 0
Animal Rescue: 0
Leon Trotsky's inventive epithet about Joseph Stalin being an "outstanding mediocrity" is a delightful way to aptly describe so many things!
Applebee's. The Chicago Cubs. North Dakota.
After running a successful chain of fried chicken joints in America, Trotsky lived a leafy suburban exile in Mexico City. His insult caught up with him when the offended Man of Steel sent an assassin to put an icepick in his head in 1940.
I've been thinking about Trotsky today because I was listening to the audiobook, "Stalin in an Hour" and was impressed with another quote of his:
" Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect."
I admit to having an elitist attitude when I'm on my bike, even though I know that a car, truck or SUV could render me roadkill. No matter, today I shouted with glee, "Two wheels good! Four wheels bad!"
My nod to Orwellian farm animals was inspired by a triumph of state sponsored socialism: The Minnesota Central Lakes and Lake Wobegon Trails. This converted railroad bed is over a 100 miles long, 15 feet wide and is paved with an asphalt aggregate that's as smooth as glass. It parallels Interstate 94 from Fergus Falls to St. Joseph, MN. Motorized vehicles are banned from it, with the exception of snowmobiles in the winter. Cпасибо tоварищи!
Halfway through it, Minnesota has been great.
I was turned onto the trail by Andrew, Gretchen and Honeybear last night. I strayed from the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route for several reasons. This path is safer, gets me close to Minneapolis to see friends, and will set me off on a more direct eastern route to my ferry stop in Manitowoc, WI.
(Fellow Adventure Cyclists take note: I think this route is preferable to the ACA maps if you are crossing central Michigan, as I am. Otherwise, it looks like folks going to Escanaba or under the Great Lakes should stay on task. It just seems silly that the ACA map for Manitowoc makes an unnecessary bell curve through Wisconsin. Perhaps the scenery is great, but I didn't want to add a few hundred miles to the trip. From Pelican Falls Take 59 South to Fergus Falls. The road has a wide shoulder. It's too convoluted to write here, but just ask somebody where City Park is and that will give you access to the Central Lakes trail system which feeds into the Lake Wobegon trail system all the way to South St. Cloud MN.)
I've met a lot of cyclists that like to get up at the break of dawn to start riding. They finish early and fuss about for the rest of the day obsessing over maps and bicycle parts. That touring style resembles a job. I leave notoriously late for long rides.
Over a decade ago, I did Cycle Oregon with Adam Roberts, my brother in shenanigans, and his father Steve, whom I consider a mentor, dear friend and third grandfather to my kids. Adam and I, being the jackasses that we were/are, would start each day by waking at 9-10 a.m., scrounge breakfast from support staff while the feeding stations were closing and then pack our tents in an empty campground. The last task in our casual start was hygienic recon. Adam, an Air Force Captain (now Major) would go scout surrounding buildings for a clean toilet. He had a knack for finding us pristine latrines amidst the offal left by hordes of fecally challenged riders. After our bathroom ritual, we'd hit the road around 11 a.m., which is blasphemy on such events. We'd spend a couple of hours catching up to middling groups on the route.
Our tour "strategy" drove Steve batshit crazy for a few days, but we broke him and that wild stallion is now one of the most mellow cyclists I know. Don't get me wrong, Steve is still strong as an Ox on the bike, but he isn't in a rush anymore. By the end of Cycle Oregon, we beamed with pride as Steve would inquire about the stealthy clean toilets he aimed to pollute.
I'm rambling about my lax commencements because I was off to a late start today, by my own superfluous standards. I got stuck in the small town social network of the Pelican Rapids McDonalds. It's the default cafe for kibitzing in this town and its quite a nice place with the new Ronald-Euro interior design.
I was chided, as usual, about my funny shoes and asked what the cleats were all about by good natured retirees. These men are obviously daily patrons. We talked for quite a bit and one of them, Roland Jordahl, asked if he could take my picture. I obliged and he took out this camera with an enormous lens, while I posed like a swimsuit model.
Turns out that Roland is a nature photographer. His professional pictures of birds, in particular, appear in magazines and all over the web. A few hours into my ride, I had an email attachment on my phone with a hi-res attachment of me, half-in and half-out of the drive-thru. A stunning masterpiece.
I had loitered for a long time and was about to leave when this jovial woman, Milly, started an exchange with Roland about smoking and how she wasn't quitting now because she's terminal. The combination on my bike lock is "Milly," the nickname of my daughter. I shared this and then spent another hour and a half speaking to Mildred and her friend, Darryl.
They were both lovely people and it turns out that Darryl is fighting cancer and past demons, just like Milly. If I had rushed out of the place, worried about a schedule, I would have missed reading Milly's abstract memoir full of pen and ink drawings. It was moving and her attitude about mortality and morality is inspirational. The fellowship with her and Darryl was the best part of my day.
About 25 miles away in another town, I heard a car honking at me from an intersection. By coincidence, it was Milly. She stopped and we said goodbye again, for the last time. Safe passage on your voyage Mildred. If you find time, please write about your wild times in Europe! Don't spite the rest of us mortals.
My concerns about leaving late made little difference as I logged 107 miles on the buxom Fargo today. I'm tired, but was fortunate to have a tailwind.
A bit sore, I might lag into the next stop with a goal of making Minneapolis by Thursday to see good friends. I'm making my "Minnesota Nice" pal, Theresa, drive up from Iowa to see me for a total immersion experience in Nordic culture.