"Why are you starting in South Dakota? Isn't that going to be boring considering all the wonderful places you've seen on your rides?"
Several people asked this question when they learned about the route we planned to take this tour. I always replied along the lines that I never find South Dakota boring, and I was looking forward to riding in South Dakota for the first time and adding another state notch to my belt.
I will confess that one of my preconceived notions about South Dakota is that the people there tend to dwell on the how dry it is. Well this time there was no dry weather.
For the first time we drove to the starting point and rode back to my house. The primary motivation here is the distinct possibility for increasing the chances of a favorable tailwind. The starting point is Redfield, SD, a small town where my wife's family has origins. My in-laws were raised there. Redfield is the kind of place where you always feel like an outsider. Then again, maybe I always feel like an outsider everywhere I go. *ha ha*www.redfield-sd.com
Below is an overview map of the entire route.
Well, this is the route we planned on taking today. The route is highlighted in red because we will never ride a single inch of that route. I guess it's true that everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.
The forecast for today is terrible, calling for over 1.5 inches of rain, 30mph winds from the east (headwind), thunder, and lightning. Pat Robertson called us and told us that Jesus was punishing us because we are dirty filthy public sinners and will most likely burn in hell for eternity. Thanks for letting us know Pat.
There is a better chance of rainy weather in June because this here north country gets more rain in June, on average, than either July or August. This is certainly the case this June. Several parts of this area have already received as much as eight inches of rain this month, and the month is only half over. This excessive amount of rain is actually a bit hard on the crops. Do you suppose this area is filled with dirty filthy public sinners that are being punished?
The Redfield Pheasant looks cold and wet today. This pheasant has that mocking look as if saying, "go ahead and ride - I dare ya!" It turns out we get 1.65 inches of rain, along with all the wind, thunder, and lightning. But, we also manage to find a couple of tornados along the way too. We spend much of this day in Redfield's beautiful Carnegie Library watching the weather on the Internet. It never improves. In fact it keeps getting worse. It just starts pouring buckets of rain.
We decide to let my wife drive us to the halfway point because it looks like it might start letting up. At least this way we'd get some riding in for the day. The city of Clark is a little past the halfway point. When we get there, it starts raining and there's a clear view of more rain headed our way. Jesus is, like, totally mad at these two public sinner types today.
We decide to just drive to our destination that day, Watertown, SD. When we arrive in Watertown the people behind the desk at the motel tell us not to leave the lobby until the tornados pass. One just passed and another one is just passing by. OK Jesus, you win, no more sinning until after we're done touring.
This is our ninth bike tour and we have never failed to complete a day's ride, until now. I guess that's not too bad of a record. Don't we look happy as can be about all of this as we arrive in Watertown?
We wake up to some light rain in the early morning. We hang around a bit and hope the rain will let up a bit. Around 9:30am the rain stops and we start riding. There's a little mist, lots of cloud cover, and temperatures in the 60s. We are back in the bike touring business again.www.watertownsd.com
Our route takes us north out of Watertown on highway 81. There is a major headwind at the moment but the forecast calls for a shift to the west that will give us a nice tailwind later today. We quickly come to stretches of roads that are lightly traveled. The first town we pass is Rauville where one of the tornados passed close by yesterday. Here we turn east on county road 6 and we notice that we are already picking up a nice tailwind. This is a breeze as we cross under I29 and find the roads are all pretty much deserted.
The fields have a lot of standing water in them.
Not only are there no cars on the roads today, as we ride with a nice tailwind, but the roads are also very straight and extremely flat. This is one of the flattest places on earth.
I've been coming to South Dakota since I was a child and now I can't help but notice all the abandoned farmhouses. When I was young there were many more family farms than now. The rural areas are becoming more corporate and I guess that's progress. As we ride there is the occasional mist and some very light drizzle.
The first small town we ride into is Strandburg. Strandburg has several empty storefronts but still has some people living here.
Here is the Strandburg public school building where we decide to stop and have a snack. It does not appear to be in use at the moment.I searched the web for information on Strandburg and was surprised to find a young woman on match.com looking for Mr. Right:
"The person i would like to meet would be someone very close in the same characteristics as i am. Someone whos willing to just get up and go on any given moment to do whatever comes to mind."We ride east out of Strandburg and see many more fields with standing water. There's a dog that tries to chase us but with the nice tailwind pushing us along there is no way this dog can keep up. We see some rain ahead of us because we can see for long distances in all directions. At the next small town of La Bolt we decide to reroute slightly to try and avoid some rain, but we get hit with some light rain anyway.
The next small town is Revillo on 482nd Ave. as the rain stops. Wait, is that 482nd Avenue? So, we are 482 blocks from where exactly? No answer leaps into my head.
The 2000 U.S. Census shows that Revillo has 34 males that are married with a spouse and, 36 females married with a spouse. Hmmmmm - I guess a couple of the Revillo women want there spouses to live in some other town.
We see a truck being filled with grain and a large canvas structure that, we guess, is used to dry grain.
There are web sites that help you find employment in Revillo. When I try this out, I find the first listing is for the Army.
As we leave Revillo, we ride six miles east on highway 20 to the Minnesota border, without a single car passing us, and just one car approaching us from the east. This car must be going 100mph on this flat, straight, and empty stretch of road as it whizzes by and I see the smile on the young driver's face.
We enter Minnesota.
The very first thing to greet us as we enter Minnesota is a bullet hole ridden Welcome To Minnesota sign. However, the South Dakota sign, just behind us, has no bullet holes in it. Pat Robertson calls me on my cell phone and tells me that the bullet holes are a warning from Jesus about all the dirty filthy public sinners in Minnesota.
We ride to Marrietta on highway 40 which is a nice smooth road. It is also a very flat, straight, and mostly deserted road. There is still a bit of mist in the air.
Apparently someone doesn't have a good feeling about Marrietta.
A look at the above map of the surrounding Madison area shows exactly how flat this part of the country is. The road pattern on the map is a near perfect grid. There is not much in the way of streams, lakes, or hills to affect the grid built on this terrain.
We still have a great tailwind and ride the remaining ten miles to Madison, MN. This is the town where my mother was raised. I must confess that I'm happy I wasn't raised here.
Madison is the county seat for Lac qui Parle County.
We come to some large grain elevators on the west side of town.
Madison is the "Lutefisk Capitol" - yuck. I better not tell the good people of Madison that I don't really like lutefisk.
I wonder if this was the lutefisk capital when my mother was growing up? Did my mother actually eat lutefisk? She never served it to me.
Madison is the most patriotic city we have ever been to and must have more flags per capita than any other city in the country - maybe the world. We ride through the city, down the main business district (I see the bowing alley where I once bowled a few lines as a teenager), out to the courthouse, around town, and then we have a wonderful lunch at the local DQ. On the way out of town we ride through some neighborhoods and then head east on highway 40 once again.
We take county road 20 when we come to it (highway 40 turns north) and continue east on more long, straight, flat roads. We still have a great tailwind as we head toward Lac qui Parle State Park. It means lake that speaks in French. We ride along the park, across the dam, and head north a bit on the east side of Lac qui Parle.
We stop at an overlook where Fort Renville once stood. A scrawny and pathetic looking deer wanders by below us.
We ride a little further up the lake to another overlook. We can see whitecaps on the lake behind me as the wind is blowing strong. Then we head back to the dam.
Several large pelicans are fishing just below the dam.
We spend some time watching the pelicans catch fish, fly away, and then land again. All of a sudden we see a dark rain cloud headed our way and decide it's time to head to Montevideo. We get caught in some light rain before we get all the way to highway 7 but this great tailwind keeps us from getting too wet. On highway 7 the tailwind really picks up and we ride at 30mph all the way to Montevideo trying to beat the rain. When we arrive in Montevideo the streets are wet as the rain managed to beat us there having just passed by ahead of us, and coming more from the west.
We arrive at the motel at 5:45pm. At the motel someone is doing some repair work in the lobby. He brought his two young sons with him. Dad leaves for a minute and one of the sons yells at the top of his lungs, "DAD!". No answer, "DAD!" and still no answer. This goes on for a minute or so and I feel like I'm in a Simpsons' cartoon. Finally Dad shows up and says, "What?". His son asks "Where were you?".
We check in, clean our bikes, and ride to Mary's pub for a delicious dinner.
We rise at 6:00am for a lovely breakfast with the locals at the diner across the street from the motel. We start riding at 7:00am with a bit of mist in the air, and our first stop is the Montevideo business district.
Here on the main street is a statue of Ortega, the man who liberated Uruguay. It was a gift from the city of Montevideo, Uruguay.
As we ride through Montevideo it starts sprinkling even though the weather forecast says no rain. I'm wondering what evil sin Jim committed last night. There are sunny skies forecast for the afternoon. Since the Minnesota River runs through here, there is a bit of a hill to climb to get to the highway. We catch Black Oak Ave. and ride east through town. After Montevideo we ride east on highway 7 for 3 miles until we come to county road 7 where it finally stops sprinkling.
As we head north on county road 7 we bump into a serious headwind that slows us to a crawl. There is also rain visible to west, north, and east of us. After about 5 miles on 7 we turn east on county road 13.
Soon we come to a ditch the farmers use to drain their fields. These days there's a whole lot of draining going on as the fields are still soaked.
There are several large chicken farms in this area. With the wind coming out of the north, and us being south of these chicken farms, it's easy to tell that there is a chicken farm nearby, because the odor lingers in the misty air.
County road 13 is both flat and straight for 17 miles. There are no turns or hills anywhere, nor is there much traffic. If you look in the distance you can see a car approaching. We are riding bicycles mostly alone on a road that travels into the distance as far as we can see. It's a wonderful feeling.
We're not completely alone, though, because there are lots of chickens.
We come to the town of Raymond, where there is a slight jog in the road as we approach the train tracks. This is the lone jog in an otherwise straight shot. We stop for a snack at a small municipal park in town and watch a train go by. We take a tour of the town before continuing our journey east.
We decide to reroute to avoid some construction we discovered on our drive out here. This will add some miles and make us skip the town of Wilmar, where we were scheduled to have lunch, but will also keep us on less busy county roads. This turns out to be an excellent idea as it gets us to a pretty lake area faster. The weather is better as there is no more mist in the air.
A few dogs chase us for a couple tenths of a mile as we head east on county road 3. Finally they give up and head back home. County road 3 is also straight and flat for 12 miles with almost no traffic. There is something magnificent about seeing long distances in all directions. Finally, county road 3 turns north for a few miles.
I make a few friends that seem eager to see me. These guys quickly sense that I am at one with horses even though I have no treats for them. They hate to see me leave.
Soon we come to our first major lake, Lake Wagonga, and watch the birds and pelicans fly around the lake. We catch our first glimpse of sunlight on this tour right here at this point. We hop on our trusty bikes again and quickly the road turns into county road 8 and heads south. This road is a bit rough - the first rough road we've bumped into on this tour. No tour is complete without a bumpy road or two. On county road 8 we happen upon some pelicans swimming under a bridge on an overflow stream that is an outlet for the Little Kandiyohi Lake.
County road 20 turns back east and starts to develop some slight hills. The terrain is starting to change.
For lunch we have a snack along a small lake and watch a dysfunctional farm family outside in their yard. Their yard is cluttered with all kinds of stuff: boats, tables, toys, chairs, ornaments, etc. The mother is mowing the lawn and keeps running over objects that generate a loud nose and causes the mower to kill. The kids are running around moving things and throwing things and just doing kids things. This keeps up for the entire time we eat and rest. Fantastic entertainment!After lunch we quickly enter Meeker County and the county road number changes from 20 to 28.
We come to Rosendale where Jim makes a friend. The rumor here is that Jim's friend is an ass. Just like I was at one with horses, Jim is at one with asses. This place also has lots of chickens, horses, and goats too. I wouldn't have missed Rosedale for anything. Hey, look it's getting sunnier. Jim's friend is sad to see him leave.
There is now more blue sky than clouds. Now we head north into the wind on county road 4 for four miles, which is also a busier road. We turn east on county road 23 and see some more lakes. On county road 1 we head northeast and soon arrive at a small lake that has a number of cormorant like birds swimming on it. One bird leaves the lake and flies over us. It joins two others over 300 feet above us.
It is time to head toward Litchfield where we soon come to Lake Ripley. We ride on Pleasure Drive along Lake Ripley. Then we head to our motel and arrive at 4:30pm. It's a bright sunny afternoon now. We have dinner at the Farmer's Daughter Supper Club. My dear mother always taught me that if I couldn't say anything nice about a place, then I shouldn't say anything at all.
Our motel offers a delicious breakfast of Fruit Loops and English muffins. With our stomachs full, we start riding at 7:30am on this nice sunny day. Once again we decide to reroute. This time it is to avoid a busy highway, even though once again, it will add more miles.
We head east on highway 12 a short distance and then turn north on 620th Ave. Did that sign say 620th Ave.? Does that mean we're 620 blocks from Minneapolis and they're still counting? If not, then what are we 620 blocks away from?
We travel east on 260th St. and see some mare's tails growing in a nearby wetland along with some yellow headed blackbirds darting about. There are a few woodducks on the water that is as smooth as glass. Not so much as a hint of wind. This is turning into a perfect biking day.
We are finding more hills today and the roads have curves in contrast to the previous two days of riding. We follow county road 24 northeast and then county road 4 south. This reroute is proving to be worth it as these are nice hilly back roads.
We come to Spring Lake and stop to see another mirror like surface on the lake as there still is no wind. We follow 4 down into the town of Dassel.
The Mushroom House in Dassel is our next place to visit. Our exit out of Dassel follows county road 6 south which then turns east just below Dassel.
Soon we come to Collinwood Lake where we stop and notice a few ripples on the lake. The wind is slight but present now. There are mysterious bubbles rising from the bottom of the lake just off the dock I am sitting on. Then we discover that the map is wrong and we cannot go east around the lake after all.
County road 6 turns into county road 31 as we enter Wright County. This take us to county road 3 and we head south down to county road 30. It's time to stop for a snack before heading onto Delano. Since the grass is still wet we end up snacking in someone's driveway. I hope he didn't mind. We then follow county road 30 for 19 miles to Delano. It's mostly straight and not many hills. There are a number of dairy farms in this area. We see there is lots of hay on the ground waiting to be turned to help dry it out after all the rain we've had lately. A nice sunny day like today helps the hay dry nicely. Also, it's neither hot nor humid - just a perfect day.
We enter Delano and have another fabulous lunch at the DQ. And I forget to eat the Mushroom Swiss Grillburger. I don't eat mushrooms actually because I decided long ago not to eat anything related to athlete's foot. Still, a perfect spot for lunch on a warm day.
After lunch we head right through the business district of Delano and see a nice Russian looking church. We head out of town and enter Hennepin County on county road 11. In an attempt to avoid traffic I head south on county road 92 but we bump into some dirt roads and end up going all the way to highway 12. Highway 12 is busy and loaded with semis. No tour is complete without a few semis blowing by though.
We take county road 19 to Baker Park Reserve (near Maple Plain) where I get a flat tire. This flat tire turns out to have a beneficial part in that we discovered a back way into Baker Park by watching another rider.
This back way leads us to Lake Independence.
We ride some of the scenic bike trails in Baker Park. The rest of this day's ride follows a standard way back to Minneapolis by following county road 24 to Medina. Someone honks their horn at us even though we're riding on a nice paved and reasonably wide shoulder. We ride through the city of Plymouth next and take a nice downhill on Sunset Trail and then ride into Minnetonka. We ride along the frontage road of I394 and enter St. Louis Park. From here it's a short ride into Minneapolis and the beautiful Chain of Lakes. Here we follow the bike paths along this part of the lakes.
Lake Harriet is part of the Chain of Lakes and has a nice bandstand, bike paths, and pedestrian paths. This multi-use area is quite popular.
We arrive back at my house around 5:00pm and it's still a beautiful sunny day. Another successful bike tour in spite of missing one day of riding.
276 total miles
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