Puffed Out in Prescott
Lake City, Minnesota to Prescott, Wisconsin: (69kms)
The highway remained flat as we made our way north out of Lake City. We passed Hok Si La Park Campground and got to the village of Frontenac were we saw Robert’s bike parked out front with some other road bikes. We called in to say a quick hello and chat with him and the others, then we were off on our way again up the 61 to Redwing.
We’d been fast running out of chamois cream, not having found any since Cleveland. It seemed everywhere we tried, we were beaten by a large group of cyclists, possibly the ones we’d stayed with way back in Iroquois. Unfortunately, the Red Wing Bicycle Company would have the same story. We weren’t looking forward to long, straight hauls against the wind across North Dakota without any chamois cream.
Whilst in the bike shop, our friend Robert called in. We chatted for a while, then grilled the bike shop guy about our best route to Minneapolis/St Paul. He suggested crossing over to Wisconsin again and taking highway 35 to Prescott, then crossing back. Apparently, the road on this side was narrow, hilly and had lots of truck traffic on their way up to the twin cities.
After a coffee, we said goodbye to Robert again as he wished to do some shopping. The bridge over the river had some roadworks on it, but we managed to get safely across and not hold up too many motorists. Once again we picked up the 35, The Great River Road. It was hot now but the road was reasonably flat until Diamond Bluff.
This is where we had to cross the Wind River Valley. It began with a long, curving descent which was nice for a change, but we both knew what that meant! At the bridge across the river, the road immediately began to rise sharply. And rise and rise it did, for about 4kms! Stupidly, I tried to make the top in one go, burning up my fuel reserves in the process. I could barely suck air quickly enough into my lungs to breathe, my head was spinning and my legs were burning. I pulled across the road onto a dirt track and dropped my bike into the long grass while I walked around recovering and watching for Sharyn.
She was taking much longer, and I was beginning to worry by the time she came into sight around a bend. She was obviously struggling, so I walked down to meet her and took her bike to walk it back up. After a while to recover we attempted the remaining kilometre, eventually coming to a wind-swept stop on top of the range. Once again, I waited for Sharyn to catch up before heading off. Unfortunately, I seemed to have lost my sunglasses. There was only one place they could be – back down the hill where we had stopped to recover! I thought, “screw it, they can stay there!”, but Sharyn talked me into going back down for them – walking this time!
I found them in the long grass and set out back up the hill – a 2km turnaround, on foot, and after our longest hill climb yet. I wasn’t in such a good mood anymore! On the way down an older couple on Surlys rode past me, saying hello and not missing a beat. They were climbing like pros, I was amazed! Cathy and David spoke to Sharyn while I retrieved my sunglasses, they were heading to Prescott as well, to the same motel.
Fully recovered, Sharyn and I set out again. At Nesbitt’s Nursery and Orchard, we stopped to get some water. They were closed, but the owners were around and happy to help us out. I’d read about this place in a blog I was following some months earlier. The friendly owners let cyclists camp in the orchard and have a great little cafe there as well.
We had one more climb to do before Prescott. The Big River Valley turned out to be challenging, but not as bad as Wind River. This time we paced ourselves and took more regular breaks. We were still pretty spent by the time we climbed up out, but we knew we didn’t have that far to go now.
The road, however, was not finished with us yet and remained quite lumpy. The continual shorter climbs were telling and we had just about had enough by the time we began a long, winding descent into Prescott.
Prescott lies on the confluence of the Mississippi and the St. Croix rivers and rises sharply from their banks. I was careful not to roll all the way down to the riverside as our motel, the River Heights Motel, was situated on top of the hill. So, we cut across the top of town and came out a block above the motel. Good planning, as we were both shattered! We didn’t even go straight to the motel, we needed to hydrate again with something with a bit more sugar in it this time!
Cathy and David had checked in before us and left a note for us at reception to meet them in the diner attached to the motel for dinner. Philander’s Bar and Grill was a sports bar and restaurant with a surprisingly large collection of African wildlife adorning its walls. There were the heads of just about every antelope we’d ever seen roaming the dark continent hanging up there. Apparently, the owner is a keen trophy hunter and the deer aren’t big enough for him over here!
We had a nice dinner with Cathy and David and got invited to visit them in Seattle when we make it over there. I’m pretty sure they’ll make it over there before us!!!
Later, after dinner, I planned our route to an AirBnB in Woodbury, just east of St.Paul for two nights.
Prescott, Wisconsin to Woodbury, Minnesota: (32kms)
We rolled down the hill to the bridge crossing the St. Croix river. It was a pretty sight with the blue sky reflecting in the near-still river. We pushed on just down to a road I had found on Google Maps last night. Google had picked a route that would take us almost entirely on bike paths and b-roads.
As we had chosen to leave the ACA route for now, which bypasses Minneapolis/St Paul, it meant we’d be cycling right through the middle of the twin cities. I had meticulously written down every twist and turn of the Google route as I can’t carry the smartphone on the front of the bike, nor hear its ongoing audio commentary and directions.
We turned onto the dirt road, which seemed a bit weird considering how close we were to a major population base. Sharyn gave me that, “are you sure about this” look. I figured we had nothing to lose, it was early and we had a short day – let’s go adventuring! The young girl on the horse with the big, black German Shephard didn’t have much to say, but at least she kept the dog in tow.
Down a big hill we went. Controlling the bike on loose dirt isn’t so easy with gravity against you, so we took our time and arrived safely at the bottom and quietly began the climb, gravity working for us this time.
After getting off our bikes and avoiding getting bitten by three dogs (two never looked like it, but the third was a nasty sucker), we turned onto 110th street and met up with a group of cyclists, about 30 of them. They were cycling our route across the States in the opposite direction for a charity. Quite a few stopped and chatted, which was nice as we didn’t need to be anywhere in a hurry. They were fully-supported, so they carried little else but water and a snack on their feather-light road bikes. There were loads of admiration for us doing it fully loaded and that made us feel good, and more than a little special. We wished them well, then they rolled on past us heading east.
We headed north following Lamar Avenue, a long, narrow country lane, through some pretty, tree-lined villages. At the rather largish Bailey Road, we crossed over and picked up a bike path for the first time. This turned into a series on connecting bike paths that Google had selected. It worked well though, and even though it was a little convoluted, we found ourselves out on Woodbury Drive heading north towards our Airbnb.
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We were way too early though, as usual, so we stopped for lunch at Ze’s Diner in a shopping strip at the intersection with Valley Creek Road. The diner was done out in 50’s style, it was done well too! Lots of red and white and Elvis and fishtail chevvies on the walls. It was a bit weird though as most of the clients were Asian, so it didn’t quite resemble an episode of Happy Days!
Lunch finished, we took another bike path up and around Wilmes Lake to our lodgings for the next two nights. An elderly couple owned the place and lived upstairs. We would take the lower level, a huge expanse of a living area with our own bedroom and bathroom at one end.
It didn’t take us long to find the closest pub, the Tamarack Tap Room with its 70 taps of craft beer. It was a long walk there and back, but it just had to be done!