Miles: 41.2 * Avg. Speed: 11.5 * Crashes: 0 * Wildlife: 1 * Hotel with pool and spa: Not this time!
This morning dawned a tad frosty – the overnight low was 36 degrees! We dug out our warmer riding clothes and got on with it. The bike shop owner had recommended that we follow the East side of the river leaving Little Falls for awhile before crossing the river and reconnecting to the official MRT route. He said it was a much nicer way to go, Jane and I agreed we should take his advice and I mapped out how to get from our hotel to the road he was recommending.
We left the hotel and quickly bicycled into a neighborhood where we took several lefts, then rights…until we reached the corner that had been described and made the final right turn and headed out of town.
We were on it for only about a mile total. A short ride down this path brought us to a bike/pedestrian bridge across the river.
It was right next to a dam.
While we were standing on the dam looking downriver, I saw what I thought could very well be an eagle flying. It was just far enough away to not be able to see the telltale white head, but as I watched it, I was sure it was an eagle -based on its size and how it was flying.
Not far beyond that, we found the MRT route and began to follow it.
What a fun day! As I sat down to write about it, I couldn’t exactly say why it was so fun…except the weather was perfect for riding. I enjoyed the scenery and the miles just seemed to add up without too much hard work. I am feeling so excited to be able to fulfill my dream of riding this trail.
There was a definite slight downhill trajectory for the route which would have been really fun if it hadn’t been nullified a bit by a headwind. Enough with the headwinds! The route used country roads and we rolled past farmers doing their harvest, some dairy farms, pine woods, stretches of the river and some wide open country in between, It was quite pretty and changed often enough to keep things interesting. By the time we crossed paths with a small town, called Rice, at the 24+ mile mark we were more than ready for a rest stop!
After Rice there was more of the same -although we saw the river a bit more.
We took one more stop at a gas station before we made the final push into St. Cloud.
Not long after the last rest stop, we came to a town called Sartell. As we passed through, I stopped to take some photos of the cutest park benches I’ve ever seen. They’re swings!
Jane and I had to pose on them:
Not far past Sartell, we came to Sauk Rapids, which is adjacent to St. Cloud. The MRT split there and for those passing over the river there to the West side was this neat pedestrian/bike ramp to get people up onto the bridge.
We were staying on the East side of the river, so we continued on. The next bridge we came to on the bike path had a small park next to and under it and I thought the underside of the bridge was really cool.
Before long we were back onto a combination of roads along the river until the last road we were following dead-ended into a really pretty park next to a bridge. This was the end of the ride for the day. We will need to cross over that bridge tomorrow when we pick up our trail again.
Once again our hotel was off the beaten track so we had Laura meet us at the park and take us and our bikes to the hotel. Laura and Jane picked our hotel while I was in Iowa. Since we were having our hotel “curse” where everything was booked -it was sort of the only choice they could find. It was called the Night’s Inn. It was one of those old style motels where you park in front of your door. It was surprisingly clean and decent and we were just fine there. The owners recommended a place for dinner to us -and we thought it would be fun to give it a whirl.
It was a country place with some fun decorations. Jane got a big kick out of this one:
And that was St. Cloud!
St. Cloud, MN to (almost) Coon Rapids, MN
Miles: 55 * Avg. Speed: 12 * Crashes: 0 * Wildlife: 0 (unless you count road kill!) * Hotel with Pool & Spa: Spa is “out of order” 🙁 * Wind: Stronger than ever
Jane: “We just put on our big girl panties today and did it!”
In a late night strategy session we realized that in order to position ourselves to get through Minneapolis/St. Paul in one day’s ride, we had to ride at least 50 miles today. We’ve been saying for several days that we thought we might be ready to hit the big 50…and logistics made us put our money where our mouths were.
We hoped to start earlier than usual, but for some reason it is really hard to get out the door much before 9 AM most mornings. This one was no different.
We decided to start out from the hotel, riding about 1.5 miles to the river where we picked up the trail right where we’d left it yesterday at the park.
We crossed the river and entered the campus of St. Cloud University. That solved a minor mystery from yesterday. When we had been waiting for Laura at the park the day before we could hear the tell-tale sounds of a football crowd and a marching band. We couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from -but fun to hear. Today we rode by the stadium for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. Just off the bridge, we connected to a bike trail that ran for a few miles, taking us to the outskirts of St. Cloud. Years ago, one of the paddling trips started in St. Cloud and I had hoped I’d recognize the place, but didn’t.
Once we left the trail our route followed two-lane highways for most of the day, with an occasional parallel bike path tossed in. We are stopping for a break every 10 miles or so and we kept commenting on how fast the miles seemed to be flying by.
The terrain was a bit rolling, but no really big hills to climb. The scenery was a mixed bag of small towns, farms, highways (we rode along side a very busy expressway for several miles) and houses.
At around the 30 mile mark we were rolling into Monticello. They had a cute park just before the city limits called Otter Park and they had a cute bike sculpture.
We thought about taking our rest break there, but went a bit further to a gas station instead. As we left Monticello, the route took us along the river on a short bike trail that ended in a park. I recognized the park and am 99% sure I camped in it with the river group.
When we were in the neighborhood, I had gotten ahead and got to an intersection and wondered where the MRT sign was. I kept going, but moments later my cell phone rang – it was Jane. She asked me if I’d turned any corners? I said no, I haven’t turned. She said she thought I’d missed a turn. I went back and sure enough, I did. There was an MRT sign at the corner, but no right-turn arrow, so I’d gone straight. She happened to glance to the right at that corner and saw another sign down that road. Great catch…or we would have really gone out of our way.
The route dumped us onto an older bike trail that I named the “haunted forest”. It was kinda spooky in there. I expected to see apples flying past my head from disgruntled trees. The one photo I took doesn’t look as spooky as it felt to be there:
We hit our 50 mile mark on the second wooden boardwalk. Jane said, “I don’t think Laura can come get us here!”
We had agreed that if we weren’t able to go past 50 miles today, we’d have Laura get us and get back at it the next day from the same spot. We were in the middle of nowhere with no signs of civilization -so we had no choice but to keep on going until we found a stopping place where Laura could locate us. Fortunately, we both were still feeling pretty good.
We eventually emerged from our bike trail exile into the outskirts of Anoka, MN (still 10+ miles from Coon Rapids dam, our preferred ending point) and decided we’d try to do 55 miles before we stopped.
Just as we were hitting the 54 mile mark, it started to sprinkle. I thought, “Are you kidding me?” The sky was blue -the sun was shining -and I was getting wet! Luckily, it only lasted about 5 minutes. We weren’t seeing any gas stations or other good places for Laura to find us -so we stopped in front of a church where they had two benches out front.
Categories: Little Falls to Coon Rapids