Monday, 5 August 2013

BACK IN THE USA

Since before my previous report from Winnipeg, I had been advised by various sources that the Trans Canada Highway through parts of Ontario Province was narrow, busy, and hilly. It would therefore be better for me to cycle across the border, back into the USA for the stretch Eastwards, South of Lake Superior.
There were various options regarding where I could cross the border, but the day I left Winnipeg the wind was from the North, so I went due South. I was kindly escorted to the city limits by my Warmshowers host Art, on his reclining bike.
Although my US visa is valid for 10 years. I still need to get an entry permit at the border, and I had one for 6 months when I came into Arizona from Mexico. Now I entered the USA again, even before the first permit had expired, but because I had handed that card in when I entered Canada, they gave (sold) me a new permit which is valid for another 6 months.
On the Southern side of the border I found myself in North Dakota state, and I kept going South for a while until I caught Hwy 2 East at Grand Forks. Things in the grocery store were cheaper than in Canada once again, although I didn't really have the money to splash out. I then cycled through the Northern Mid-Western state of Minnesota, there were a lot of farming communities and people were very friendly. On the outskirts of the small town of Deer River I had a puncture late in the afternoon with the threat of an approaching storm, I asked to camp at the nearest house, and Wade Wilson suggested I sleep in his caravan to escape the rain - he also fed me and gave me a bag of snacks for the road.
There are also many lakes and Indian Reservations in the area, such as Red Lake and Lake Leech communities. The legendary Missisipi river has it's source in this region, where it is just a small stream which I crossed a few times.
Apparently the most Western American port accessible from the Atlantic Ocean is Duluth, a city at the SW tip of Lake Superior. There I arrived in the rain at Warmshowers hosts Leah, husband Jeray, & hound dog Sasha. We had a good bratwurst dinner, my laundry went into the washer for the first time in a while, and the following morning Leah escorted me on the bike paths and back roads to the bridge where I could cross over from Minnesota to Wisconson state. It was still somewhat rainy, so I was not surprised to be the only cyclist on the bridge-bike-path that day.
It didn't take me too long in the rain to reach the small town of Poplar, Wisconson. There I stayed with another Warmshowers host! (sometimes I'll spend 2 weeks filthy dirty, camping in the bush, now I have 2 luxury accommodations in a row!). Scott Lundberg owns the local hardware store (as well as some other interests in the area). I had the run of his personal "den", which is built off the garage/workshop where I could spread out my stuff to dry. Scott's wife was away and he wasn't going to cook for me, so he took me out for the best prime rib I can remember eating (and of course we made a turn at the local bar afterwards). The following day the weather had not yet cleared, so I decided to stay and work on Old Saartjie in the workshop (constant attention to the bike is necessary at this stage). Well, of course I was taken out again that night, this time for a "river bottom" gourmet pizza! I realized that this was a close community when we bumped into the lady from the visitor centre in Superior city, where I had obtained a road map when I entered Wisconson. When I said goodbye to Scott the following morning at his hardware store, he went overboard and even gave me some money to see me on my way (and I'm extremely grateful - although I wasn't supposed to say anything about the luxury treatment either, as other cyclists may expect the same!).
There is also a lot of Finnish and Swedish heritage in that region. Many Northern-European settlers arrived there generations ago (I guess they were bred to deal with that kind of weather), and they are still somewhat proud of their heritage. Even in Minnesota, where I stayed with (German) Leah and Jeray, they still maintain their roots. In those few states (Minnesota/Wisconson/Michigan) there were more Lutheran churches than what I have previously seen in total).
Mostly the road didn't run flush alongside Lake Superior, but sometimes it did. I was lucky one day, when on leaving the town of Marquette it looked like rain again. The sky cleared and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. I found a nice secluded spot on the shore of Lake Superior, and set up an early camp. I could have a wash in the chilly waters of the largest fresh water lake, and also rinse out my cycling gear.
Lake Superior apparently has a big influence on the weather in the area. One afternoon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the sky suddenly darkened, and I quickly found shelter in the workshop of a logging camp (I'm particularly scared of the hail, which has nailed me a few times already). I chatted to the truck mechanic there while I waited, asking him about the weather prediction. He told me in simple terms:- "Welcome to the UP, if you want to know what the weather's gonna do, then wait 10 minutes". Well, I'm still a bit confused, because in the next hour it went from drizzle to hail to heavy showers, and just as suddenly the sun was shining again. During the worst of that storm I sheltered under the verandah of a church, and thinking that I may need to camp right there for the night I filled up with "holy water" from the gushing roof gutters (I needed it that night anyway, as I found a good spot to camp just down the road). On my last night in Michigan the sky looked threatening, and I saw a farmstead with a rather large barn. I headed down the drive, knocked on the door, and met Andy & Rhonda. I broke in their brand new horse barn (no horses inside yet), and they fed me a hearty egg-breakfast the following morning (fresh from the nest), and gave me a bag of boiled eggs for the road (my dinner that night).
My return to Canada was on a breezy day, at Sault Saint Marie. I'd cycled East through Minnesota on the Upper Peninsula North of Lake Michigan, and I'd reached the Eastern end of Lake Superior. Although the sign read "only motorized vehicles", for a toll fee of $1-50 I was allowed to access the rather long and narrow bridge. There was a gusting cross-wind on the bridge, and I had to stop a few times to let traffic pass. The bridge goes over the locks by which the ships can enter Lake Superior, but I had no time or space to take pictures of those interesting activities as I passed overhead. My Canadian visa is for a single entry only, but while it is still valid I'm allowed to cross the border to the USA and come back again - they just didn't stamp me "IN" again (pretend I've never left Canada, but that's OK with me).
Daily distances which I've cycled since my last report from Winnipeg have been:- Pembina (USA) 135 km; Drayton 64 km; Crookston 141 km; Bagley 101 km; Deer River 138 km; Floodwood 103 km; Duluth 74 km; Poplar 65 km; Hurley 143 km; Trout Creek 121 km; Michigamme 90 km; Shot Point 83 km; Seney 101 km; Brimley 127 km; and Sault Saint Marie (Cananda) 43 km. The total distance which I've cycled since first entering Canada is 4 212 km, and the total distance of this trip so far is 114 012 km.

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