Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 13--Day 1--A Bittersweet Goodbye

While I was excited to get going on my tour to Maine and back to Minneapolis, there were tears in my eyes as I waved goodbye this morning. I was sad to leave My Sweet Baboo and Little Miss. I've been at Kyle and Mallory's for nearly a month. It was time to head out. Kyle, Mallory, Grayson and Harper need to be a family of four without guests for awhile.


 Yesterday, Grayson and I played and played. It was all about what he wanted to do. We had a good time. I left a book with him called "Wherever You Go". It's about a rabbit who goes on a bike tour, but she eventually returns home. I told Grayson that's what I would be doing, and that I would come back. 

If only I could take him with me!




I left a little after 8:00. The first few miles were nothing new as I had gone that way on my ramblings around the Twin Cities. About 7 miles in, I got on the Gateway State Trail. It reminded me of the rail trails at home. At this time of year, it's a tunnel of green.

Gateway State Trail

 It was mostly flat, but I could sense that there was a slight incline. I was on the Gateway Trail for 14 miles, then turned onto the Brown's Creek Trail. I was a little nervous, wondering if there would be a sign. I needn't have worried. It was a big junction with multiple signs.

Junction for Brown's Creek Trail

6 miles to Stillwater



I sat down to have a snack. Some guys rode by in Twin City Bike Club jerseys. One guy, Bill, turned around and came back to talk to me. He said he had to ask. Where was I going? Where did I start? When I told him I was going to Maine, he said he had done Northern Tier from Bar Harbor to Anacortes awhile back. He told me how he had blown through numerous tires before figuring out that his hub flange had broken on the rear wheel. Every time he stood up to pedal, he would roll the tire off the wheel and destroy the bead. I told him how I had just started today from Minneapolis, but I would also be riding back to Minneapolis. He was a nice guy. I gave him a blog card. 


The Brown's Creek Trail was very nice. It was smoother than the Gateway Trail--perhaps it is newer. While the trail went all the way into downtown Stillwater, I really didn't want to do that. I would have if I hadn't already been there with the kids, because it's a cool town. Instead I got off the trail and took the road in, hoping to avoid climbing back out of Stillwater on the NT route. I'm not sure that I really saved myself much climbing (well, maybe one steep hill). The road I came in on had its own steep climb. It was a slow slog in very humid heat! Finally, I was on the Northern Tier Route. Now I could relax as I just need to follow the map.

The Third Street climb in Stillwater



A gal I had talked to near Stillwater had mentioned there was a great ice cream shop in Afton. In fact, it was the first ice cream shop in Minnesota. She said there is a reason the zip code in Afton is 55001. It took me a few miles of riding to figure out what she meant by that (or at least what I think she meant). I'm assuming all Minnesota zip codes start with 55. Afton, being the first town, got the first zip code. It's just a guess...


I rolled into Afton (the main drag of which 7 blocks of it is under construction), and found Selma's. Selma's opened in 1910. I had a scoop of Coconut Almond Bliss. It was, of course, delicious! Even more delightful was the air conditioned inside seating! 

Selma's in Afton

Selma's history



Upon leaving Afton, I started the majority of today's climbing. It made sense, even though it wasn't particularly enjoyable in the heat and humidity. I was aiming for either Afton State Park, or St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. The key word here is "Bluff". Afton sits down along the St. Croix River. As I was sweating like I was riding in a sauna, I decided to call it good at Afton State Park. In hindsight, it might have been better to go to the other park. 


Afton State Park is pretty big. The ranger station is at the beginning of the park, but the camping area is a good couple of miles away. Also, the main camping part is hike in only. As the ranger was telling me about it (it's up a steep trail), I thought to myself, oh that's going to suck! Then she told me there was another spot where they let cyclists stay. Whew! That sounded much better! Still, it was a steep ups and downs ride to get to this camp spot. At one point, the "bike trail" was so steep, I had to get off and walk. Okay, partly that was because my hamstrings and calves on both legs were alternating cramping (note to self--in high heat and humidity, drink more!), but it was still pretty steep.


I found the spot, and it is pretty nice. It's very secluded. There are no showers, but strangely, there is running water in the vault toilet building. The mosquitos are present, but being kept at bay by my friend, Ben (DEET). After I set up my camp, I decided to go for a little walk to check out the surroundings. I saw a sign for a swimming beach. I immediately went back and put on my swimsuit. It was a bit of a hike to the beach, but well worth it for the refreshing dip in the river. I didn't really swim, but I did walk out deep enough that the water was up to my neck. I just stood there enjoying the coolness! There is a stiff breeze which is helping to keep some of the mosquitos away. Hopefully, it will also dry my swimsuit and my sweaty clothes from today. With the humidity though...who knows.

Camp spot

Swimming beach on the St. Croix River




Miles for today: 44.3

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