We must have had at least twenty flies orbiting the tent in that narrow space between the outer tent and the bug screen inner. They appeared incapable of finding their way back out and after an hour or more of this captivity I started to feel quite sorry for them “for goodness sake you only live for a day or so, go and do something, anything, but do it somewhere else”. I looked up the life expectancy of a fly just to find stuff out. ‘Some flies can live for up to a month’, so not a total waste of a life.
We pulled out of Fargo, turned left and crossed the Red River. It quite clearly said NO ENTRY and ROAD CLOSED, but we never quite trust diversions to not send you ten miles out of your way or along an interstate or both, so we kept going. Well the bridge was still there and we kept going further and of course were quickly beyond the point of no return. We ended up in the middle of a busy building site. On we went though, in and out of the brightly painted earth moving trucks. Of course we were told right at the end to go back, but even as she said it the woman could see it was pointless.
We continued our way, ziging and then zaging our way towards Sabin and then the town of Downer. As we pedaled along HWY10 towards Cormorant the road started first to go up and then down just a little. Beyond Cormorant and it was almost rolling country and bends for the first time in hundreds of miles. Crickey, and Oh joy indeed, and if this is not some terribly badly judged joke, we have got to the other side of The Great Northern Plains.
Otter Tail County, with its lakes, trees and wonderful undulations was a joy indeed. The sun was out and we felt at home in the landscape for the first time for ages. For a mile now shoes had been hung from the fence posts for just about no reason at all. A telegraph pole and the opportunity to be even more expressive with shoes.
We ended the day in Pelican Rapids, home to the worlds largest model of a Pelican. Many towns have City Parks on which you can camp for free and often there are showers. Back in the UK I can’t help but think that this would be horribly abused at best and the haunt of drunks and drug dealers at worst. Here in middle America it works a treat.
Father Stan, the local Catholic Priest, and keen cyclist came across the river to spend time with us. “We are thinking of doing the Lake Wobegon Bike Trail, what do you think?”. “Well I fell out a bit with Garrison Keillor”. “We were only allowed to listen to the radio between 5 and morning prayers at 6 and Garrison kept on over sleeping time and again”.
Father Stan had been a Priest in Venezuela for many years. ” I loved it and its wonderful people but the heat and the diet got to me in the end”. ” There was a story of locals being sent to hell, and on arrival there mistakenly thinking they were in heaven because it was cooler than their life back in the village”. Father Stan was great fun to spend time with and he confirmed what I had been hoping for. “If you know where to look Lake Wobegon exists and the people are here”.
So, there we are diverting beyond Pelican Rapids to Fergus Falls to pick up over a hundred miles of off road smoothly surfaced bike trail and I would suggest that you all do the same. We pulled off at the little town of Ashby and went into Ruby’s restaurant. What a place, what an absolute gem indeed. “Camp out back if you want, in amongst the pumpkins”. Gail, the owner made it quite clear within the first five minutes that we were guests and were going to be treated just right and no you are not going to pay!
The place had been built in 1917 and had a series of excentricly wonderful owners. Many had contributed to its extensive stuffed animal collection. It had started with an Owl that had been shot in mistake for a Mallard and had grown quickly to cover just about most of the walls. When Gail took over 6 years ago the Government Wildlife Department had come and taken the collection away to clean, “Lots of the ducks are extinct now, if the restaurant ever closes they get them all”, explained Gail.
Farmers came in and sat at tables near us, speaking in a strange mix of Scandinavian dialects they told tales straight from the pages of Lake Wobegon. We slept well in our Big Agnes tent in the Pumpkin patch. The people of Minnesota have been so very nice to us, so amazingly nice. I asked what it was “People here are Minnesota nice”.
We continued along the trail through beautiful mellow countryside and were so glad to be away from the plains and in amongst smaller fields and beautiful old barns. We pushed a hard 76 mile day and ended it on a city park in Albany. Up early, we raced towards the post office in St Joseph to pick up mail before it closed at 10 on this Saturday morning. This was a perfection of mist, trees and trail and the USP did a perfect job.
It was a short day to end in the rather big city of St. Cloud but that is what we did. We decided to take a motel to look at the maps and plan our route. Just for fun we asked for a senior rate and were amazed that the discount kicks in at 50. Up early and out onto quiet Sunday roads we crossed the Mississippi. We are starting to see birds from the East coast and now we are across a the main Eastern river. We have come a very long way and only the day before went through the 4,000 miles in the USA point. We are ahead of our plan and will turn now up to The Great Lakes.