Fergus Falls to Cormorant, Minnesota: (60kms)
Once again Super 8 had ticked all the boxes. They’ve got great rooms, they’ve always been quiet, they’re reasonably priced, and, you get breakfast thrown in.
So, with breakfast sorted earlier than usual, we doubled back and picked up the 88 heading north out of Fergus Falls. This was to avoid cycling on the Interstate. There was hardly any traffic at all. We made it up to the 59, turned right and headed towards Pelican Rapids. The shoulder was pretty good as we passed through the small villages of Elizabeth and Erhard. The land was gently rolling and the heat had died down for the time being.
We rode a bike path into Pelican Rapids and pulled into the Southtown gas station. Putting the bikes in the shade, we went in and bought pizza for lunch. We had only planned to go to Cormorant today and we were already well over half way. So we took our time, chatting with a few curious truck drivers and the woman who was running the place.
The bike path took us right into town then turned into the footpath. Not wanting to mix it with pedestrians, we got back on the road and headed through town to the turnoff for the 9 which would take us to the west side around Prairie Lake. We continued on the rolling hills of the 9 until it ran into the very busy 34. Fortunately, we only had a short ride before turning north and rejoining the 9 again.
We now found ourselves riding around Tamarack Lake and up to Pelican Lake. There were some seriously nice houses along the lake’s shores. One log house in particular was fantastic. At the top of Pelican Lake, we turned onto the 5, taking us up to Cormorant.
On the southern outskirts of town we found the Cormorant Inn. We’d already passed a couple of RV parks where we reckoned we’d be allowed to camp, but they were quite a way out of town and we knew we had a long haul tomorrow to get to Fargo.
The Cormorant Inn looked OK, so we rode on in and checked it out. It was open, but there was no-one around. The place was completely empty. There we cars in the spacious carpark and an RV park and camping sites out the back. We waited for a while longer, not sure what to do. A young Bulgarian lad rode in on his bicycle. He was looking for work, but, like us, there was no-one to talk to. The only thing to do was to head into town and see what we could sort.
We pulled up at the Cormorant General Store and went and got some lunch. Across the road, the local pub’s carpark was full. There was obviously something happening, but it was still early in the day, so it seemed a bit weird. While we sat and waited, Sharyn rang Swannies Campground, about 5kms out of town on Middle Cormorant Lake. The girl there said we could come and pitch the tent, but it would cost us $55. Sharyn explained that we only needed a tiny square of grass, but the girl was adamant. She was obviously taking the piss and we’d sleep on the side of the road rather than give her our money!
With Swannies out of the equation, Sharyn rang the other campground nearby, also about a 5km ride, we’d left it to last as it was down on Ida Lake and we’d have to negotiate a long climb back into town in the morning. Alas, Tony’s Campground just would not answer their phone. The helpful guy in the store said they should be there though, and that they’d probably just gone out.
As we mulled over what to do, another touring cyclist rolled up to the store, coming from the opposite direction. Dan, from Utah, had just ridden from Fargo and was on his way to the east coast. We invited him to sit with us and we shared our predicament. He was also looking for somewhere to stay here, but we feared he’d have to keep cycling to the RV park we’d seen about 15kms back, or head to Pelican Rapids, making it a pretty long day.
While we weighed our options, a lady who had been loading cakes from her car into the store came over and introduced herself. Becky had been curious as to what we were doing. We told her we’d been looking for a place to camp, but without any luck. She sat down beside us and cracked a wide grin, “why don’t you come down to the lake and stay with me?” she suggested. “You can camp on my front lawn on the lake’s edge”. We looked at each other, even Dan seemed a bit surprised. “Are you sure you want three complete strangers staying at your place tonight?” It was a fair question. She had already told us she was alone down there, as her husband was away on a fishing trip. Becky was unperturbed, “Of course not,” she said, “I’ve even done it before”. We were pretty sure she had too.
Her enthusiasm was infectious, she had already sold us on the idea. She told us she had put up two German boys about 11 years ago, who had been cycling across the country, and what a great experience it was for her. They had been gracious guests and still kept in contact with her. Not having the courage to travel herself, she was drawn to adventurous characters, and we fitted the bill perfectly for her.
We got our gear together, bought some beers and followed her in her car down to her house by the lake. It was a bit further than we had envisioned, but it was right on the lake as she had said, and she had a massive expanse of lawn running right down to the water’s edge. It was amazing. Serendipity had stepped in once again. There we were one minute, looking as though we’d rough camp somewhere off the side of the road tonight, then the next minute, here we are with a gorgeous view by the lake’s edge enjoying a beer in the well-placed deck chairs.
Once we unpacked, Becky called her father, Frank, to come down and meet us. Frank was getting on but was a genius at constructing things. He’d made a few of his own planes in his time and had taught Becky how to fly them. Wow! these people were so interesting. When Becky suggested we go and see her Tiny House in the woods, we figured it must be pretty good. All thoughts about her being an axe murderer were put aside and we were keen to see what she had constructed.
With Dan in tow, and a beer each, we drove up to the nearby forest on the edge of a landing strip. The whole area was owned by a local who Becky did work for and he let her put her Tiny House on it. The house itself was no bigger than a freight container and had wheels and axles so it could be moved. But Becky has no intention of moving it any time soon. It had been placed right amongst the trees and near to the edge of the airstrip. You wouldn’t see it from the road, but it was placed so one end had a view out over the airstrip to the lake.
Inside had everything you would need to stay for a few days (or even longer). She had a small library so herself and her nieces could read when they visited. She even had a craft corner where they could keep themselves amused on their visits. A portaloo and a water tank meant she could stay overnight and she used white fuel for cooking and lighting.
What an amazingly resourceful lady! We feel very lucky to get to meet some very special people on our travels, and, like Becky, the more special they are, the more unassuming they are. We now understand how the German boys must have felt, and we too will be keeping in contact with this unique lady.