All The Way Down to Surlytown
Woodbury to Dinkytown, Minneapolis, Minnesota: (22kms)
Having spent some time last night, we put our faith in Google Maps once more to guide us from Woodbury, through the busy Minneapolis/St.Paul urban sprawl using another series of bikepaths and smaller roads. Skirting the St Paul city centre we made our way to one of the reasons that we chose this route to follow instead of the ACA route, The Surly Brewing Company!
As it turned out, it was an easy and fun departure to make. We also made a couple of new friends, Tony and Joy, who happened to be riding by and volunteered to take us to the brewery via a shortcut. It was barely midday and our friends sat down for lunch with us and had a beer – outstanding! Fellow cyclists can be so accommodating! Sadly, our Surly bikes are nothing to do with the well-established Minneapolis brewery but the coincidence wasn’t lost on anyone there. We parked the girls against the side of their deck, the fact they were fully-loaded, not missed. People stared and the waitress wondered, here comes another storytelling!
In the gift shop (yep, they have one!), I picked up a baseball cap, a soft one that I’d been looking for for some time. The guy even gave me a few stickers after I enquired, for nothing! So I put one on each of our bikes, now we’re really powered by beer!
Tony and Joy bade us farewell and we finished our second beer and decided to depart as well. It was really hot now and the two beers didn’t want to make us feel like doing anymore cycling.
Through the side streets and footpaths, we made our way up to Dinkytown (no, I didn’t just make that up!), and to Brian and Leah’s apartment, a Warmshowers place here in the heart of Minneapolis. They had made previous arrangements to go out but took us in anyway. See, fellow cyclists can be so accommodating! So, with the help of Brian, we figured out where to go for dinner and a couple of beers. Brian even gave us some craft beer from his fridge and told us to help ourselves, a gentleman and a scholar this bloke!
We found the Stray Dog Bar easily enough. It’s our kind of place, a whole bunch of craft beers on tap, a good, not too expensive menu and to our pleasant surprise, a shuffleboard table! Well, we didn’t get to shuffle, but we did enjoy the atmosphere, and being in a big city again after so long was kind of nice as well.
Dinkytown, Minneapolis to Monticello, Minnesota: (72kms)
We were greeted with rain this morning, something we’ve not seen too much of late. But you couldn’t upset us this morning, after all, we’ve stayed in Dinkytown, who else do you know can say that? They’ve probably already written a song about this place, I’ll need to check it out!
The rain falling down wasn’t so scary, so we got going anyway. How nice is this bloke Brian though? He offered to lead us out over the Mississippi to the far bank and up to the bike trail that would lead us north and eventually away from this massive river we’ve come to expect to see each day.
Brian rode with us all the way up to the 42nd Avenue Bridge where we took the opportunity to shelter from the rain which was starting to fall heavier. We waited for about 15 minutes, but it wouldn’t ease up. Eventually, Brian had to leave. We thanked him and said goodbye and we rode out into the rain as well.
We followed the path over Shingle Creek. As we made our way we could see that homeless people had set up their tents under the bridges and overpasses. Most were empty, but a few had someone huddled up inside trying to escape the rain. It soon stopped however and we now had the chance to dry off while we cycled.
The path made its way up between the highway and the river. Sometimes it was a dedicated bike path, other times we were back on a quiet suburban street. We called into the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, seeking a hot drink and something to eat, unfortunately, we were let down badly as they had nothing. The Visitor’s Centre had lots of educational displays about the river, it’s fish and it’s flora and fauna, but nothing to eat! Hungry, we used the toilets and left.
Further north, we followed Dayton River Road up to the tiny town of Dayton. Once again, we stopped to find some lunch, but the only place open was the liquor store and they only wanted us to pay for some water to fill our bottles – first time it had happened! Once again, we weren’t impressed!
At Otsego, we found a gas station and had a burger and a soft drink, we really needed it! From here we turned west onto Country Road 39 and headed for Monticello. We pulled over in the main street at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a nice looking sports bar and grill. We had a couple of beers and a snack as we were still hungry, then Sharyn ordered some takeaway for dinner while I rode over to Hi-Way Liquors to get a few beers for later on.
We carried all our stuff down the road to River Terrace Park and camped for the night there. The guy charged us $10 for an unpowered site about as far away from the toilet block as you could get. So we set up the tent as close to the tree line as possible and figured if we needed the toilet during the night, we’d just go in the bushes behind the tent.
Now we just had to hope the flock on Canadian geese, about 20 metres away, got bored and flew away. Luckily, they waddled off not long after.
Monticello to St. Cloud, Minnesota: (49kms)
In the morning, we arose to find that overnight dew had wet the tent. We quickly emptied it onto the picnic table and put it in the sun to dry. The great thing about this tent, other than it doesn’t leak or get condensation inside, is that it dries very quickly in full sunlight. To say that we’re happy with our little home would be an understatement. It’s been an integral part of us enjoying our little adventures.
Out of Monticello we went, following Country Road 75 as it hugged the Interstate 95.
You know when you’re getting close to another town when you can spot their water tower, a feature of every town we’ve been through. Clearwater’s was no exception. Painted blue with the town’s name emblazoned in large letters over its bulbous head, we could see it from miles away.
Clearwater was where we had a choice of route to take us up to St. Cloud. We could either stay on the west side of the river, or cross over here and take a quieter road on the east side of the river. As the road had been pretty quiet anyway and the east side meant a few extra kilometres, we decided to stay on the west side. It turned out to be a pretty good choice as there was no major traffic bothering us up to St. Cloud.
We pulled into a Shell gas station just short of the city and had some lunch and a cold drink. We were well ahead of time as we had booked another Warmshowers host and they wouldn’t be home for a few hours. Not far down the road we picked up the Beaver Island Trail which took us right into town. It was another hot day, so the shade it provided us was appreciated. We followed it up till its end at Husky Stadium, then we cycled the quiet, leafy streets into the centre.
Still with time to kill, we settled in for a couple of craft beers at The Beaver Island Brewing Company. Popular with cyclists, we found ourselves engaged in conversation with a number of the locals about bikes and cycle touring. It was a pity we had to leave as we were having a great time.
We took some brews with us and were soon on the other side of the river where we quickly found our Warmshowers house and were greeted by Eric. He had been expecting us as he already had the bbq stoked up. We offered him a beer and sat around as we talked about all things cycling. He was an avid cyclist, even cycling in the snow in the heart of winter. He lived here with his young son Nathan and his girlfriend Rae Ann. He told us he was also expecting another cyclist in tonight. We were soon to meet Custass, from Virginia, who had started on the west coast and was cycling home. He had quads like a pro-racer and was averaging 150 miles per day – I have no idea why, he just was!
As he was going in the opposite direction we had a host of questions for him. He’d come from Fergus Falls this morning along the Lake Wobegon Trail, a 112 mile rail-to-trail that we’d be on tomorrow. We figured it’d take us about 3 days, he’d done it in one!