Day 50: Pelican Rapids, Minnesota to Alexandria, Minnesota

Wow, has it been 50 days already? Where does the time go? Today’s ride was 78.90 miles (127 km), for a grand total of 2242 miles (3608 km) thus far.

One sees some interesting lawn ornaments on a ride like this. I’ve seen quite a number of old cars, truck and tractors displayed in front yards. Some are for sale, most are not.

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Leaving the Pelican Motel was like leaving family. I had an enjoyable stay there and left with the remains of my zucchini bread and fine memories of their dog, Bentley. He is a bulldog mix and a character. He didn’t bother to get up to say goodbye, he slept in. Some security dog.

The first third of today’s ride was on roads. The terrain is vastly different from the last thousand miles or so, rolling hills with trees and lakes everywhere. The state of Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 lakes,” and I would estimate I’ve already seen that many in one day.

The last two-thirds of the ride is on a rail trail. A rail trail is a railroad bed that had fallen into disuse and has been converted for recreational use. The one I’m now following is the Central Lakes State Trail which will later join the Paul Bunyan Trail and then the Lake Wobegon Trail. I think I have about 200 miles (322 km) of rail trails.

Riding rail trails was a different experience from any other riding. Trains don’t like hills, so the rail beds are mostly flat or have very long gradual climbs and descents. Both sides of the trail usually have trees or steep banks around them where they cut through the hills. This means little, or no wind. It also means much-appreciated shade.

Being level means there is never really a break from peddling. This constant leg motion can be stressful on the muscles. Many years ago we did a week-long family ride on mountain bikes, in Michigan, and Jane ended up with a very serious shin splint injury. I’m being very careful to not do that.

Jane sent me some items for pickup at a post office in Milaca, MN. When I gave her the post office to send it to I wasn’t thinking about the upcoming holiday weekend. The tracking shows the package should be there Saturday, I’ll have to plan on making it there by then. I don’t want to sit around for two days for a package. If I recall, I can arrange to have the USPS forward it to another office, I just don’t want to get involved in that if I can help it.

When I arrived in Alexandria last night, I stopped at the trail head to look at the maps and local info to see if I could figure out where to stay. The camping was nine miles out of town—too far—and I had placed a call to a WarmShowers.org host, but hadn’t heard back. It was getting late.

After calling a few motels, I sensed that something was going on in town; they were all full. Of course, I was calling the bargain priced places. A few women from a Newcomers group (a local bicycling group) stopped to help me find a place. We tracked down an AirBnB.com member that one of them knew, but they were already booked. The women had to go, but gave me some ideas on where to look.

Darkness was approaching, so I went over to the nearby Depot Express restaurant and had a quick evening meal. Two women on the trail suggested that it was a good place to eat, and they were right.

I finally found a room at the Super 8 motel, all the way on the other side of town, about four miles away. I hustled to get there before dark. I had to stop at an ACE Hardware store and pick up batteries for my head lamp, so time was tight.

Finally, off in the distance, I could see the motel sign. I had my lights on and came to an intersection where there was some construction activity. I quickly looked right and left and all was clear. What I didn’t realize was they were laying new tarmac on the road and somebody forgot to put up signs to close the road access.

It was like a scene from an old Keystone Cops movie. I rode across the fresh tarmac, leaving a four-inch-wide track in their new work. Off to the side, I could see a fellow jumping up and down, but it was too late. I couldn’t hear him yelling with all the construction machines, but he was. I’m sure they were counting on going home soon, but I just dashed that dream. Not only that, there was a car following me and they figured it I made it across, they could too.

As the road crew was jumping up and down and yelling I rode off to my motel.

In the lobby, I signed up for a very expensive ($108 + tax) room. As I finished, my phone rang. You guessed it, the Warmshowers contact was calling back to tell me they had a free room. Sadly, it was just too late. They’re four miles out of town and it was dark out there. Besides, if I went near that road construction there would be death threats.

I settled in and after a hot shower, it was bedtime.