Day 42 near Balsam Lake, WI (D N Campground) to North Branch, MN 52 miles
Day 43 North Branch, MN to Dalbo, MN 30 miles
Day 44 Dalbo, MN to Bowlus, MN 62.5 miles
Day 55 Bowlus, MN to Alexandria, MN 61.8 miles
We left our buggy campsite near Balsam lake with high hopes of cycling 80 miles (which would have been our longest day) to “the bunkhouse” in Dalbo. Don Olson and family have fashioned a barn on their property into a free cyclist hostel. We heard great things about the bunkhouse from every east-bounder we had passed.
By mid morning we crossed the St. Croix river and silently entered Minnesota, with very little evidence that we had entered a new state. My sluggishness was apparent at this point, our arrival at the Bunkhouse seeming less likely with each passing hour. It was another hot day with resisting winds. However, my personal state of energy was likely the real culprit of our reduced efficiency. The last 30 miles of our day’s route had no backup lodging options. So we rerouted along busier roads to a motel in North Branch instead.
crossing into Minnesota:
We did a short day to Dalbo the next day. Unwilling to pass on through just because the mileage did not equal a full day of riding. We found Don out back behind his house. He was tremendously welcoming to two cyclists walking in off the street. He gave us a tour of his remarkable creation. The bunkhouse had a large common area, kitchen and individual little bed rooms with clean pillows for cyclists to use! A bag of clothes does the trick, but a real pillow is always grand.
Don has the kitchen decked out with groceries that cyclists can self serve purchase at cost. There were clean towels, and hot showers!
Don and family have taken huge efforts to create a comfortable haven for cyclists to rest. Their efforts have also created the intangible: community. We had only seen a handful of touring cyclists at that point, but Don’s Bunkhouse was full of our brethren!
We met two pairs of cross country east-bounders; a Grandpa and Grandson duo, and another couple, Tom and Deb. We also met Brian and Leah and their 4 legged companion who were out for a tour from Minneapolis. We hit Brian and Leah up for tips about Minneapolis, and marveled at their successful touring with a dog.
With Don in front of his Cyclist Bunkhouse:
Don is using an old silo to display photos of all the cyclists that pass through each year:
We set off in the morning, invigorated by an evening with fellow tourers. We had another scorching day in the sun, but made it to Bowlus, the beginning of a 100 mile stretch of bike path.
crossing the Mississippi River:
The next day we head to Alexandria, where we stashed the bikes temporarily as we fly back east for Sara and Steve’s wedding. We found a bike shop in Alexandria that will store our bikes, but we needed to rush through the day’s miles in order to arrive before closing.
We get to the shop just in time. We ejected half of our gear, and leave the remainder on the bicycles. In the morning our plan is to catch a bus from Alexandria to Minneapolis. Then a plane from Minneapolis to Boston.
In the meantime, Logan, from the bike shop offered to let us camp in his backyard! He even let us borrow two bikes from the shop so that we can get around town (as our bikes are stored away)! We ordered bus tickets, but run into a snag, as they need to be printed. The library was closed, and so was every business that offers printing services. Logan saves the day again, and prints our tickets off at work. Emily schedules a taxi to pick us up in the morning, as we are about 7 miles from the bus station. We had a frantic day, but everything appeared to come together.
In the morning, our delicately orchestrated plans collapsed like a house of cards…