Biking to Oregon: Day 3 - Over the River and North

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I woke up after my second night of camping to realize what would be a common occurrence, which was a dew-soaked tent. Anything touching the sides of my tent would also get wet, which was hard to avoid, even in a two-person tent. I tried to keep my sleeping bag as dry as possible, but a wet tent would be the new normal. My tent would get packed wet but it would dry pretty fast when I set it up in the evenings, only to get soaked again overnight.

I packed up camp and continued on the highway west towards Pepin, Wisconsin to get breakfast. After making a gas station stop to refill on snacks, I found a cafe with outdoor seating to get breakfast. I parked my bike in the back of the restaurant and then got a table outside. I saw a person drive into the parking lot in a UTV, something I saw often in rural areas.

As I was finishing my omelette breakfast, he came up to my table and asked about my trip, mentioning that he thought I was doing a big ride given the luggage on my bike. While I was describing how I was biking to Oregon, I saw him pull out his wallet and count out some of the bills he had. He handed me $15 and told me to go buy a beer. I thanked him and thought about how he really just paid for my breakfast in addition to a beer later on. He waved as he drove off in his UTV.

Today was mostly going to be riding north. With being on the Northern Tier Route, the point of the route was to go through the northern part of the country, and the part of the route that I rode this day put me on a trajectory to head west towards Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. One of the tools I started using this year for planning my bike rides was an app on my phone that showed the wind forecast.

For riding close to home, wind direction made me choose which direction I would ride so that I could enjoy a tailwind on the way home. I had less of a choice with the one-way rides of my bike trip, but the wind forecast still helped me predict how far I could ride in the day and how early - or late - I should get on the road. The wind forecast for this day was a moderate wind speed out of the south, which was a perfect forecast for the mostly northern-bound day on the bike.

After breakfast, I continued on the highway which thankfully had less traffic. This was partly due to the highway diverting from the river and adjacent tourist towns, but also because it was a Monday morning.

Highway 35 was hilly in this area, which was a welcomed experience. I enjoy the hills, getting to stand up and pedal sometimes to go uphill and then take a break while still making progress downhill. I remember that I was listening to the podcast “Reply All” where they have a segment called “Super Tech Support.” In this section, they have a listener call in with an obscure technology problem, one that usually requires extensive research and contacting other people and companies to resolve.

In this particular episode, the hosts of the podcast were trying to figure out who bought a website domain that had previously belonged to an independent artist. They were trying to buy back the website domain, navigating through several foreign companies to make an offer on the domain. I remember some parts of the podcast being so funny that I lost all control of my legs on a hill and had to pull over to laugh for a few seconds. Podcasts like these made the trip far more enjoyable and less lonely.

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I crossed into Minnesota after having a Subway sandwich in Prescott, Wisconsin. I went north along some designated cycling routes, although shared with cars. I passed through Afton for an ice cream cone and to refill my water bottles.

As I arrived Stillwater, the Northern Tier route had me cross the river, which was now the Saint Croix river, back into Wisconsin. The river crossing was on a bridge that was converted to be bicycling and pedestrian only. It was nice to get to enjoy some car-free travel for a least a few miles, where the bike paths continued up the hill into Houlton, Wisconsin after crossing the river.

Crossing the Saint Croix River in Stillwater, MN, on a pedestrian bridge.

At this point, the bike paths ended and I was confused why I was being led back into Wisconsin. I would understand if I was taking advantage of another rail-trail, but the roads on this part of the route were busy county highways and, unfortunately, a couple miles of freeway. It felt wrong to be going east, not only because of the sense of going backwards, but also because I was being battered by the southern crosswind that I felt like I should be taking advantage of by instead traveling north.

The roads eventually calmed down and I stopped at a grocery store in Osceola, Wisconsin to get a pre-made sandwich and some snacks for dinner at a grocery store. I was already 100 miles into my ride, but I still had daylight left and a tailwind to take advantage of. I texted Abbey who asked how my day was going and said I was going to keep riding, and that I may not have cell service where I was planning to stay.

My goal was to ride another 28 miles to Wild River State Park along the Saint Croix River in Minnesota. With the wind at my back, I crossed the Wisconsin-Minnesota border for the 5th time in 24 hours and sailed north, diverting from the route to take some more direct gravel roads.

I set up camp at the state park and texted Abbey that I had made it with the one bar of cell service I had. The campground had a shower, which started to become an essential daily activity I would look forward to after long days of riding. I washed that day’s cycling outfit in the shower, leaving it out to dry overnight. My clean pair of cycling shorts I washed in the shower the night before were drying on my seat pack all day and would be the next day’s attire.

Campground clothesline.