Today I planned on an easy ride, maybe forty miles or so. On journeys such as this, plans have a way of getting changed. Last week I asked Jane to send me my passport and a replacement ATM card. The card laminate is coming apart and I could see it getting swallowed up in an ATM machine.
Looking at the maps I figured the Milaca, Minnesota post office would be a good place to send it. The Post Office is really good about having packages sent to a “Hold for delivery” at their locations. One can go to USPS.com and check to see if that office offers this service, most, but not all, do.
What I didn’t consider was the Labor Day weekend holiday. As I neared Milaca I was making faster progress than I anticipated and it was obvious that I would arrive Friday. All well and good, except the package tracking information showed that it would arrive on Saturday. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I was making very good time and Jordie, at Jordie’s Cafe in Bowlus told me that I HAD to stay at the Bicycle Bunk House, in Dalbo, Minnesota, which is 19 miles (31 km) beyond Milaca.
This presented me with a logistics problem:
- I stay in Milaca so I can be at the post office on Saturday morning. Oh, I forgot to mention, the service desk is only open for one hour on Saturday mornings, from 09:00 to 10:00 am.
- Figure out if it is possible to have the Post Office ship the package to an office further down the line.
- Ride to the Bicycle Bunk House in Dalbo and figure out a way to get back to the Post Office on Saturday morning. This would mean, hitching a ride, finding some sort of public transit, or leaving my gear at the bunk house to ride the bike back to Milaca.
None of this was appealing. I rode to Milaca and was there early enough so that I could ask at the Post Office if the package had arrived early, which happens often these days. It wasn’t there. I then asked the clerks if there was a way I could have it forwarded to another post office? They hadn’t encountered this request before and told me no. Post Offices on the Appalachian Trail see this all the time and have the correct answer. It can be forwarded, more on that in a minute.
I decided to continue on to Dalbo and cast my fate to the wind, which had been in my face for most of the day. Just prior to arriving at the Bunk House, I thought about Conor and Aidan and wondered how they were doing. Would I see them again?
I pulled up the Bunk House and the door opened and out hopped Aidan. We cracked up. They figured they wouldn’t see me again. I told them about Jordie’s and they were super disappointed. They had passed Jordie’s and figured they didn’t want to spend $10 to camp in the town park. They ended up at an RV park a few miles down the trail and it had nothing to offer for a tent camper. Too bad, they would have been thrilled with Jordie’s.
After settling in, I quickly fired up the computer and looked for solutions to my package shipment problem. Another variable was compounding my problem. At Jordie’s, Graylon had told me that he came straight across Wisconsin from the ferry, rather than taking the rather convoluted route that the Adventure Cycle Assoc. Maps (ACA) take. The ACA’s goals are scenic routes and not just traveling. I could skip scenic just now, there is an event that I might try to make in Michigan, so a shorter route might fit the bill.
I looked around on the Post Office website and there is a package “Redirect” option. If one has a tracking number (I do!) you can go online and punch in the number and then, for about $12.95, the package can be redirected. When you punch in the tracking number it tells you if the package qualifies and mine did. Now to figure out where on my non-map route to ship the package.
Right at that moment, Donn Olson, the farmer that owns the Bunk House, came in. He is bigger-than-life and so full of energy I immediately envied him. Even though he doesn’t do long-distance bicycling, he is a big advocate for the community and has the premier biker hostel in North America. The place is huge, well stocked with everything a rider could possibly need. Even though he operates on donations, lots of items are outright free. What a guy!
He dragged out some maps that he gives away and showed me the best route east. Not only that, he came up with a solution for a ride back to Milac in the morning so I could pick up the package and not even have to worry about a redirect. It is so amazing how the people along this ride come up with solutions and help the riders. I can’t thank them, and especially Donn, enough. Everything came together in a few moments and I had been racking my brain all day.
Here is a YouTube video of Donn that somebody filmed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezcyY6BGlik
Don is a retired Army helicopter pilot veteran and did 20 months in Vietnam. What an American.
I went to bed one happy camper. In the morning, I had my ride to Milaca, picked up my package (thank you Jane) and am now spending the day at the Bunk House. I could use the rest and thought that by the time I figured out my new route that I will be taking and cleaning up my gear, it was hardly worth rushing out.
The shelves here are well stocked, the prices very reasonable and the sun is shining. Time for a nap.