Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Days 20 & 21 - Ortonville, MN to Minnetrista, MN - 178 miles

Off to a sunny start

(thoughts from my brother Jeffrey)

Hi, Michael. I
t was a great experience being able to join you for the Minnesota leg of your ride across the country. Here are a few of my impressions and favorite memories from the trip:

- Rolling into Ortonville, SD, it was a bit of a shock seeing you. I almost didn't recognize the shaggy-haired, sinewy mass of tendons and lean muscle that you've become. It was powerful seeing how many weeks spent biking all day, every day, has transformed your body.

- Your bike must weigh about a thousand pounds. I can't believe that you are able to ride that thing around the block, never mind for thousands of miles.

- We had perfect weather on our first day together. The roads were mostly smooth and lightly traveled. Seeing nothing but corn and soybeans for miles at a time removed any misconception I might have had regarding the agrarian nature of my adopted home state. Our biggest road hazard was dodging the cobs and husks that had fallen off the many passing trucks hauling freshly-harvested sweet corn.

- "Hunger is the best sauce," as grandma used to say. Now I know how you've been able to develop such a fondness for small-town diner food. I also enjoyed seeing you work the John Deere crowd over our lunch in Benson, MN.

- You were gracious in accepting my suggestion that we take the more scenic route into our evening destination of Willmar, MN. Though it did lead us to one of my favorite spots along the way (the swimming beach at the state park in Kandiyohi County, where I was able to cool my tired legs), the extra 15 miles or so about did me in. I was actually too tired to have a beer with our pizza that night.

- Day 2. What happened to our nice weather? We woke to a steady rain that didn't leave us all day. My "water resistant" windbreaker was useless after about the first 15 minutes. I was lucky that you happened to have an extra rain shell in your bag. We sloshed and plodded into the wind and through a number of charming small towns. Once again, it was fun to see you work your magic with the citizenry wherever we stopped.

- You put me in charge of finding the best route back to my house in Minnetrista. My fool-proof plan was that we would ride the flat and scenic Luce Line trail (a converted railroad line) from its start in Cosmos, MN, 55 miles or so west to a hopping off point just a mile from home. Turns out that the trail was little more than long grass and mud at its outer reaches, and we stuck to a busy road (highway 7) instead. That stretch taught me to appreciate wide shoulders and smooth pavement, things I don't think I ever thought about when driving a car.

- We hit Hutchinson, MN for a late lunch. We were both so dirty and wet that I was surprised they let us in the diner door. No choice but to keep on plowing through the rain. (Well, there was actually a choice--Brooke had called, offering to drive out and pick us up. I guess I couldn't take responsibility if you only made it 4970 miles.)

- You and I have been accused of sharing the same odd sense of humor, so I am still puzzled that you didn't think it was as funny as I did when just after lunch, a bee stung your lower lip and caused it to swell to the size of a walnut. You sure looked silly, and it made you talk funny, too. Thank God you didn't have anyone that you had to kiss that day....

- What a great feeling it was to roll into my driveway and to receive an excited welcome from Brooke and the kids! It also felt good to get off that bike after two days of trying to find a position that didn't hurt my butt so much. It didn't hurt, either, to have a nice warm meal waiting and a well-earned cold beer. Special thanks to the BEST WIFE EVER for making it all possible!

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