Week 8: Bicycling Clam Lake, WI to Onamia, MN

  1. Total distance: 382.7 miles (slightly more than a week)

Day 50 – 64.1 miles – Clam Lake, WI to Edgewater, WI

Since our campsite was buggy, we went back out to the town and found a picnic table there to make breakfast. While we were cooking two cyclists stopped to chat with us. They were doing a shorter ride heading back the direction we had come. We swapped tips and stories for over an hour before deciding we all better get on our bikes.

Clam Lake is Wisconsin’s elk capital of the world. Shortly after leaving Clam Lake we saw a series of elk-crossing warning systems that would flash if elk were near by. We never saw an elk but we saw lots of flashing lights.

Highlight: Farmstead Creamery and Cafe where we bought two yummy local cheeses

Our route map didn’t show much in the way of food in our future today, but there were a few things marked that we thought we’d check out on our way. The first one was a bar/restaurant in a tiny town that had closed. The second was marked at the end of a gravel path with a sign that said it was 1/2 mile away. Gravel isn’t our favorite, but we were optimistic there would be something good at the end of it. We were right! We found the Farmstead Creamery and Cafe which was a cute cafe with local cheeses, homemade sheep’s milk gelato and a small restaurant. We bought two cheeses and a loaf of bread as a snack.

Theme: Lakes, and forests, and hills oh my!

The rest of the day was lots of little hills winding around lakes big and small. We made it to Edgewater, our intended destination for the night with only a few wrong turns.

Overnight: North Star Resort

We stopped at North Star Resort to ask about a campsite, but there wasn’t anyone in the office. Since we definitely weren’t biking any further today, we set up our tent on the grass and headed to the neighboring restaurant/bar for dinner figuring we’d pay in the morning.

We had a nice dinner at the bar and then went back to camp. The office was open so we settled up and then crawled in the tent to sleep.

Day 51 – 64.1 miles – Edgewater, WI to Fox Creek, WI

Theme: Just keep pedaling

Our goal for today was Cumberland, WI, which was only 39 miles away. Our earlier hopes of setting up a Warm Showers stay in Cumberland had fallen through so we were planning to camp again. Jess thought we should push for the campground on the other side of Cumberland which was an extra seven miles away since it was already going to be a short day. The biking was fairly uneventful, but after five 60-mile days in a row, we were tired. We were pleased when we made it to Cumberland.

Highlight: Louie’s Fine Meats where we got yummy bratwursts for dinner

Generally our bike maps have icons to indicate hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, etc., but Louie’s Fine Meats in Cumberland was specifically labeled. There was a huge selection of delicious-looking meats. Since we were planning to camp and would have a fire, we picked up some brats for dinner. Since our campground was only seven more miles away, we splurged on a refrigerated bottle of white wine.

As we were nearing the campground, Eric said he didn’t want to bike a mile over 45. We pulled into the campground as our computers registered 44.6 miles – phew! Except the place seemed pretty empty, and there was no sign of the office. We kept going further in expecting to find a place to register, but instead we saw RVs split in half by large trees, Port-a-potties lying on their sides, and branches all over the ground. We quickly figured out this wasn’t a good place to stay and headed back out to the road. On the way out we met the owners who said the campground had been hit by the big storm a week ago (the one we had experienced in Michigan) and they had only just gotten power back that afternoon. We quickly thanked our lucky stars we had been in Michigan and not Wisconsin last week.

Unfortunately for us, the next campground was 15 miles away and stealth camping wasn’t really an option as there were fallen trees everywhere. We called ahead to the next campground to make sure they would be open if we went all the way there (they were) and then started the long push. Eric, realizing we really didn’t have much choice, didn’t even grumble very much.

Overnight: DN (Do Nothing) Campground

We arrived at DN Campground around 8:30pm just as it was starting to get dark. We checked in at the bar, got some firewood to cook our brats, and set up camp. We drank our now luke warm wine as we worked, a somewhat sad reward for our efforts. There were tons of little frogs and toads we had to avoid stepping on while we were cooking and we fell asleep to the sound of them.

A camper told us the storm had wrought so much destruction that once-canopied roads in the area were now wide open, and new houses that had previously been hidden in the woods had been uncovered.

Day 52 – 26.7 miles – Fox Creek, WI to Shafer, MN

Theme: farms and easy roads

Due to our unplanned extra 15 miles last night (completing six sixty mile days in a row!), today was a refreshingly short day. We lazed about camp until noon before getting on our way to our fourth and final Warm Showers stay. We passed a lot of corn and soybean farms on the way.

We’re in Minnesota!

Just before arriving at Tom’s house we crossed into Minnesota, the final state on our multi-state tour.

Highlight: Our fourth Warm Showers stay with Tom in his geodesic dome

We arrived at Tom’s house around 4:30pm. He lives in a geodesic dome that he built himself 20 years ago. It’s a cool structure with wood paneling inside to highlight the triangles in the design. If you look carefully, you can see the pentagons and hexagon shapes that make up the dome. The space inside is divided into rooms which makes for a sort of funky, but quite functional house.

Overnight: Warm Shower #4. We stayed in Tom’s guest room downstairs. He was also hosting a triathlete from Airbnb who was in the second guest room downstairs. Tom served us dinner and breakfast and told us stories about velodrome racing, white water kayaking on a single wave, and how he became a massage therapist.

Day 53 – 47.5 miles – Shafer, MN to Saint Paul, MN

In the morning Tom served us bacon and eggs before taking us outside to try out his salmon ladder. Eric did pretty well. Afterwards we packed up and got ready to go, and just as we were heading out the door it started to rain – our fourth rainy day of the whole trip!

Eric on the salmon ladder

Theme: head towards the light to get out of the rain

The rain was pretty heavy at times, but we put on our ponchos and kept going. At some point we noticed that we seemed to be heading towards a lighter patch in the clouds. As we got closer to it, the rain slowed. Luckily our route was taking us towards the light.

Gateway Trail

As we got closer to Saint Paul we joined the Gateway trail which was a nice bike path free from cars. While we were on the bike path we didn’t have to pay too much attention to the map, but as we got closer to Saint Paul, the rain became more problematic. Since Jess’s phone isn’t waterproof, she couldn’t have it in the phone holder in the pouring rain, so we kept having to stop to look at the map. Eventually we made it to the Days Inn in Saint Paul. Our shoes and socks were filled with water and we were drenched from head to toe.

Highlight: Ethiopian food in Saint Paul and finally enjoying a hot tub and sauna at the Days Inn

The Days Inn had a hot tub and sauna which was a delightful upgrade from our tent given that we were cold and wet. We treated ourselves to some delicious Ethiopian food for dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening.

Overnight: Days Inn in Saint Paul

Day 54 – 13 miles – Saint Paul, MN to Minneapolis, MN

Theme: Friends and relatives 

On Monday morning, we biked to Minnehaha Park to meet one of Jess’s former coworkers for lunch. We went to the Sea Salt Eatery in the park and then biked to Jess’s cousin’s house in Minneapolis.

Minnehaha Falls

Highlight: frozen yoghurt at Yoghurt Lab

Mel and Jack made us chicken tacos for dinner. We brought a bottle of wine from the Cafayate wine region in Argentina which we had visited a few months ago (although we had acquired the wine at a local wine shop). After dinner we went to Yoghurt Lab for frozen yoghurt which was delicious!

Overnight: Mel and Jack’s house in Minneapolis

Day 55 – 0 miles – Minneapolis, MN

REST DAY

Theme, highlight and overnight of today were all Mel and Jack’s house. We left the house only to buy groceries at the nearby Whole Foods and then spent the rest of the day relaxing with Nala, Mel and Jack’s dog.

Outside Mel and Jack’s

Day 56 – 47.7 miles – Minneapolis, MN to Marine on Saint Croix, MN

Theme: taking the long way.

Highlight: Gateway and Brown’s Creek trails

Our goal was 96 miles due north, but we had four days to get there and our bike maps suggested heading east back to Wisconsin. We biked back the way we had come on Sunday, following the Gateway and Brown’s Creek Trails, until we took the spur that led to Stillwater. In Stillwater, we were supposed to take the bridge to Wisconsin, but the pedestrian bridge was under construction. We realized we really didn’t need to go to Wisconsin to get to Northern Minnesota and decided to abandon the bicycle maps and make our own path. We stayed on the Minnesota side of the river and biked north to the William M O’Brien park where there was a campground. The bike path didn’t continue north, but we were able to bike on the shoulder of Minnesota 95 which was a beautiful road with a river on one side and pretty rock formations on the other. We stopped in a small general store in Marine on St. Croix to stock up on dinner supplies just before the park.

Overnight: Savannah Campground at William M O’Brien State Park

William M O’Brien State Park

We checked ourselves into the Savannah Campground and chose a site in an area without any other campers. We made a fire, cooked dinner, and enjoyed a peaceful evening.

Our site in the Savannah Campground

Day 57 – 32.7 miles – Marine on Saint Croix, MN to East Bethel, MN

Theme: Enjoying the animals at camp. A squirrel helped Jess clean her breakfast dishes. 

In the morning we made a fire and cooked oatmeal as usual. We were again not in a big hurry since we had another short day ahead of us, so we decided to take a nap before getting on the road. We had left all of our breakfast dishes on the picnic table, which it turns out meant the nap was not very successful. Every time we laid down, we would hear these funny scratching or rustling noises outside. Jess sat up and saw a squirrel licking her spoon. When it was done with the spoon, it moved onto the bowl. While the squirrel was trying to eat all the last oatmeal bits from the bowl, it was listening for sounds around it. There was a sneaky chipmunk who was trying to sneak in to the trash bag we had left under the picnic table. Every time the squirrel heard something it would stand up causing the bowl to fall back on the table which scared the chipmunk away. At one point, the squirrel stood up so quickly it knocked the bowl off the table which scared the squirrel so much the squirrel ran into a nearby tree and only came back to finish licking the bowl when it was sure it was safe. Jess was enjoying this scene so much her nap never happened.

Since we were now making up our own route, we decided to pick a campground roughly 30 miles away and aim for it. We chose the Norquist Campground merely because it was roughly the right distance away in the right direction. After lunch we were rewarded with a beautiful, paved bike trail for a few miles before Google Maps sent us off-roading on gravel trails through a nature preserve. It was pretty, but gravel is annoyingly hard to bike on and there were clouds of bugs following us.

Highlight: Beautiful wooded campsite with another opportunity to hang the hammock. 

When we finally arrived at Norquist Campground, we found a sign that said to check in at the brown house, and if there was no one there, to go to the yellow house two driveways over. We could not see a house we thought was brown, so we tried to go two driveways over to find a yellow house. We biked around the whole campground and didn’t find a yellow house that looked like an office either. We did a second lap, and Eric walked up a hill to a house that might have been yellow to knock on the door. He didn’t find anyone there, but there was a baby bird being cared for in a box. The baby bird wasn’t able to help us find a campsite, but it was cute.

Baby bird

As Eric was walking back down the hill and we were wondering what we should do, a car pulled up and Eric said we were looking for the office. The woman in the car said, “I guess I am the office.” Eric said “Oh good! A mobile office!” The woman drove us over to the tent camping area which we had missed on the way in. It was a pretty field with lots of trees, and there was no one else there. Best of all there were plenty of trees from which to hang our hammock.

Our campsite at Norquist

We still needed to find food for dinner. Our initial research had indicated the closest store was 5.5 miles away, which meant we would bike 11 miles to get food without having made any progress towards our destination. With that in mind, Jess was in favor of biking 11 more miles in the correct direction, but the woman at the campground mentioned there was a convenience store half a mile away. That sounded a little more reasonable, so we set up our tent and then biked there. After 57 days of scrounging together meals from gas stations and convenience stores, Jess was feeling completely uninspired by the food choices at this store. She finally settled on a box of macaroni and cheese because it was the least unappealing item in the store.

Overnight: Norquist Campground. Jess slept in the hammock. Eric slept in the tent.

Day 58 – 58.3 miles – East Bethel, MN to Ogilvie, MN

Highlight: Blue jays and cardinals at camp

In the morning we had some homework to do. We had volunteered to put together an orienteering game for the family reunion. We had come up with an idea, but we didn’t know if it would work. We decided to use the trees in the campground field to design a course to test it. We spent two hours wandering around the field with a compass and a string measuring angles and distances from various objects to the trees and vice versa. All the while there were beautiful birds flying from tree to tree. We saw cardinals and blue jays among others. When we were reasonably confident our game idea would work, we packed up and started biking.

We had two choices for campground destination. The first was Fish Lake Resort which was roughly 45 miles away. The second was Woodsong Campground which was another 14 miles further. They were both in the same general direction, so we could make it almost all the way to Fish Lake before we had to decide whether we wanted to keep going. It was hot and now that we were so close to our destination, we were both getting a bit bored of biking for biking’s sake. The route had us riding on the shoulder of MN 65 which was a busy highway with lots of cars and the air quality was notably worse than a lot of other riding we had done. Every so often the shoulder we were biking on would turn into a right-turn-only lane which always made Jess nervous since we weren’t turning right, and there really isn’t a hand signal for “I’m continuing straight even though I’m in the wrong lane. The lane I was in before just disappeared, and I don’t want to move over into the straight lane where cars are going 60 MPH. Thanks.”

After a while, we were done with MN 65 and there were back roads we could take, but Google Maps kept trying to put us on gravel roads. In a few places we were able to plot our own detour, but sometimes the gravel roads were unavoidable. The gravel road were slow. We finally made it to our decision point around 7pm.

Decision point

Theme: One final push! Going a few extra miles to Woodsong Campground so our last day tomorrow will be easy!

We were tired and our butts and hands hurt, but we decided to go the extra miles today. Hopefully we would be able to avoid any slow gravel roads and we would make it to Woodsong before it started to get dark around 8:30pm.

Overnight: Woodsong Gampground. The Woodsong Campground was a beautiful family-oriented campground. We set up our tent on a nice patch of grass for our final night in the tent.

Our final campsite

Day 59 – 26.8 miles – Ogilvie, MN to Izatys Resort, Onamia, MN

VICTORY!

Theme: Our last day of biking!

We were aiming to arrive at Izatys around 3pm, so we had a lazy morning at camp before getting on the bikes. It was another hot day, so we were glad we had done the extra miles yesterday. We biked up MN 47 to Isle and then biked through Wahkon on our way to Izatys.

A gravel road we avoided

Highlight: Making it to Izatys and being rewarded with our first of many beautiful sunsets.

We made it to Izays

We arrived at Izatys on schedule and checked into our cottage. When we arrived, Craig who lives next door, was our welcoming committee. He was very impressed that we had biked ~2400 miles to get there and was surprised Eric had managed to talk me into camping along the way.

A few hours later the rest of the family showed up and our week at Izatys had begun. We were a little sad that biking/camping was over. Biking is a great way to travel and we’ve become rather fond of our tent, but there was a lot of excitement at Izatys to help us move on.

We spent the next week doing family olympics, yoga, aqua aerobics, HIIT workouts, happy hours, fish fries, pickle ball, bingo, countless games of volleyball and tichu, and nightly barbecues.

Sunset over Lake Mille Lacs

Week 8 was our final week of biking and the theme of the week was a lot of unnecessary biking. We biked an average of 38 miles per day, much of it just to kill time so we wouldn’t arrive at Izatys too early, but we had fun exploring parts of Minnesota we otherwise wouldn’t see. Our average daily cost of week 8 was 70.50.

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