We decided to hit Elkader town for breakfast, only it was Sunday which meant we had stumped ourselves with an unusually early start because everything was closed until 9am, gas station it was. Shame too because it was a really nice place, we both spent 10 minutes just riding up and down the streets looking around, its the closest town to Yarm I have found in the US.
We hit some rolling hills before descending down towards the Mississippi which we will follow north for a few days. It was great riding and unexpectedly beautiful. Most people will normally associate this river with the south but up here its just as glorious and alive with tons of cool little river towns and bustling train lines giving the area a unique vibe.
We met a fellow cyclist called Wilson during the day who had been riding since January with his dog, he was a nice enough guy but seemed to be on a very tight budget so most of our advice on places to stop he disregarded as too expensive. He seemed almost genuinely homeless on a bicycle, but was a little hard to figure out. I wasn’t sure how to feel about his dog either, it was cute but the dog seemed lifeless, he was just sat back on his rear rack probably for 8 hours everyday.
Anyways we made it a good 80 miles along the river to a nice campground in Brownsville just over the Minnesota border, another state!
The mist blanketing the Mississippi early this morning was magical if a little erie. It would make riding along a narrow shoulder a little awkward so we ducked in a cafe for breakfast to let the sun burn through. I quickly noted the change in accent. Everybody was finishing sentences with “oh yah, oh yah, oof da.” The days destination was a warmshowers host in Wabasha, however as with our host Kyler a few weeks ago, Terry was not going to be home but told us he had a poolhouse with a fridge stocked with beer, wine and soda which he would leave open for us to let ourselves in, he also mentioned a hot tub, swimming pool and told us to make ourselves at home! Too good to be true.
The riding continuously tuck us up away from the river onto the bluffs but neither of us minded the climbing as each was rewarded with great overlooks of the river. As we arrived in Wabasha we navigated to Terry’s house on the loose directions he had provided and on finding his spot we walked around the back to the poolhouse he had told us of and the stocked fridge, pool, tub…amazing, not only that but his back decking literally hung over the Mississippi!
After cooking up dinner I started eyeing up the hot tub, it was all covered up and I was unsure how to work it. One can of beer later I was ready to have a shot at it, so I uncovered the tub, pressed some jet buttons, turned on the lights and upped the heat, now we’re bubbling! Me and Eal grabbed a beer each and hopped in stilling grinning ear to ear at our luck, how did we end up here this evening? Minutes later a bunch more people showed up, 2 gals and a guy. The girls were kayaking the river and the guy Paul was from England and he was going down river on a raft he built himself! The neighbours all know Terry and after seeing this guys pull into harbour earlier that evening had agreed to let the girls and Paul stay over after Terry said it was fine over the phone, although a little bummed he was missing the party! We must have sat in the tub till about 1am drinking beers and trading stories, a great time.
I woke as soon as the sun came up as did Paul and Eal given we failed to close the blinds in the poolhouse which apparently doubled as an oven, it was hot, bright and I was dried mouthed with a mild to good hangover. Me and eal rolled into town to score breakfast then hit the gas station to buy a crate of beers to re-stock Terry’s fridge supply which had been severely dented the previous night. We rolled down towards Pauls raft, which we saw but sadly he wasn’t around at the time to say goodbye, awesome guy though, even better adventure!
We took it leisurely, nursing our hangovers and still trying to make sense of how last night turned out. We crossed, for a short while, into Wisconsin before hopping back over to Minnesota and making good progress towards Minneapolis so we could arrive early tomorrow and spend some time in the city before staying with Elsie Hanning. She is the sister of Cooper Hanning who I met in Virginia back in 2010 and rode with for several weeks, she had agreed to put us up for the night, hero!
Finishing the ride to Minneapolis the following day was made easy by the fantastic bike network in and around the twin cities area. We first stopped at the Town Wall Brewery as recommended by Elsie before taking in some of the sights such as Stone arch bridge and Target field before making our way to Elsie’s apartment after she had finished work.
She played the perfect host, cooked us up some great grub and drove us around to show us uptown and visit Yoghurt Lab, a great idea best described as a pick n mix version of ice cream and toppings. I’m stealing the idea for Australia and agreed to share the spoils with Elsie. We ended the night catching up on some more Olympic action and looking at pictures of Cooper whilst Elsie told us stories from their youth, including some amusing camping trips in North Dakota where we are headed. Thanks for a great night Elsie, true trail angel.