…It’s not a race, it’s a journey. Enjoy the moment. -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
St. Cloud, MN to Monticello, MN – 24.6 Miles
We decided it was about time to figure out a rest day. The distance between St. Cloud and Coon Rapids, MN was just a bit too far to do in one day, so we decided to do an easier day, a rest day, and another easier day. Today was the first easier day. I thought it was going to be about 30 miles, but it was under 25.
What a fun day! Mike said this day was what he expected riding on the MRT to be. It was chilly again, and overcast, but no headwind! Our route today was nice, but not much caught my eye that was “stop-worthy” (although I have been known to take pictures while still moving.) I am surprised to realize that I only took a couple of pictures.
We’d arranged with Laura to check out of our St. Cloud hotel at the usual time and meet us in a town called Monticello. We assumed she might have to wait a bit for us to arrive, but she was fine with that.
As we hit the road this morning, we both just felt really good. It seemed like the route was slightly downhill most of the way and we were finally riding at speeds that felt normal to us. The bike GPS said we averaged 14.5 MPH today. We left around 9:30AM and by the time Laura was checking out of the hotel at 11:00, we’d already gone 22 miles. We were surprised to realize that we were arriving in Monticello around the same time we’d expected Laura to get there.
Laura arrived at our pre-arranged rendezvous only a few minutes after we did.
We both felt so good today that we thought about riding further, so we decided to go to lunch in Monticello and talk it over while eating. We couldn’t figure out how going further today would work with our “big picture” for the next couple of days, so we decided to stick with our short ride/rest day/short ride plan. We loaded up our bikes and headed for our hotel in Coon Rapids.
When we got there, we weren’t very excited about the hotel and our room – mainly because it didn’t seem like the best situation for a rest day. We thought about maybe switching the plan up and moving further along. Mike and I wanted to discuss that idea as well as the upcoming day riding through Minneapolis and Laura wanted a nap, so we adjourned to the restaurant next to the hotel – the Muddy Cow- for a trip meeting. It was a fun little place with 2 for 1 drinks. Having our rest day in Coon Rapids suddenly seemed like a genius idea!
We ended up deciding to stay for dinner and texted Laura to join us.
Their bathrooms had cute refrigerator doors for the stalls in both mens and women bathrooms.
This vending machine was across from the elevator in the hotel. I kept joking that it was cool that the hotel didn’t want to stand in the way of anyone who might want to take the Tide Pod challenge!
Miles so far: 234.4
…See any detour as an opportunity to experience new things. -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Monticello, MN to Coon Rapids, MN – 33.5 Miles
The plan was changed around yesterday. We decided to ride again today and will have a rest day tomorrow. Our route today included getting shuttled back to Monticello, starting there and riding back to our hotel. That meant Laura (and us) had to be dragged out of bed pretty early! She’s always willing and ready to support us -but today was above and beyond. There was a possibility of rain later in the day, so we wanted to try to get “home” before we had to put our rain gear on. We’d hoped for a repeat of yesterday’s conditions, but that was not to be. It was warmer, but gloomy. The route was rolling hills with headwinds as the cherry on top. The wind wasn’t as bad as a few days ago, but it was enough to be noticeable.
As we started riding out of Monticello, the MRT took us through a small riverfront park where the bike path went under the highway bridge. It’s nice how often we’ve been routed under the bridges -so much easier for avoiding heavier traffic.
As we continued down the highway, the scenery was a mix of glimpses of river, farms, houses, hills. At one point we were cruising along and saw a sign for a little park boasting a scenic overlook of the Mississippi. We pulled off to see the view from the overlook and were sorely disappointed. It was good to stop for a bit anyway.
Down the road, we had to pass through a town called Champlin and the MRT signs turned us onto a bike path. It led straight into a chain link fence closing off the path! Mike did a dramatic pose for my picture.
We had to ride across grass and dirt to get to a nearby road. There was quite a bit of construction going on -and it was going on exactly where we needed to be. We stopped to try to figure out how to get past the construction without getting lost. I complained to Mike that these towns need to have bike detour/directional signs because people just passing through like us don’t know the area and have no idea about how to get around the roads being closed off. I was telling him that this had been a huge pet peeve with Jane and me too.
We checked our phone map and decided which way to go -and lo and behold- as we went down the road, there was a sign for a bike/pedestrian detour.
Just as we left that area, I saw what looked to be a very old marker on the side of the road -so we stopped for a look.
It says that from this spot in 1680 Louis Hennepin left Champlin to discover St. Anthony Falls. We were joking that it couldn’t have been hard to discover them since they are probably not more than 15 miles down the river? I bet Mike that Louis was back home in time for dinner. I’ve always sort of imagined that the early explorers generally came upriver from somewhere else, but many of the men who explored the upper Midwest and “discovered” things like the source of the Mississippi or St. Anthony Falls actually started their expeditions from places like St. Ignace, or in the case of Hennepin, Quebec.
According to the story, Father Hennepin accompanied La Salle on his 3rd expedition. At some point the expedition arrived at the Mississippi and Hennepin and two other men were sent to follow the river to the North. Apparently the group made it to the area of Lake Pepin before being captured by a Dakota Indian war party. The war party took the men further North (cross country) to an Indian village near Mille Lacs, in present day Minnesota. (Located about 40 miles East of the Mississippi). After being held captive for about two months, the men were given permission to canoe down the Mississippi as far as the mouth of the Wisconsin River where LaSalle had left some supplies for them. It was during this canoe trip down the river that they encountered and named St. Anthony Falls (in present day Minneapolis). While I was researching this story, I also learned that Father Hennepin is also accredited with discovering Niagara Falls too. Other explorers had earlier written of Niagara based on information given to them by Indians, but Hennepin was the first to see the falls in person in 1678.
Next we needed to keep our eyes peeled for a bike trail that would take us to Coon Rapids Dam. It ended up being well-marked and we followed it for about 2 miles before getting to the Welcome Center on the West side of the river.
From there we got to ride across the dam (this is one that I’ve portaged in the past with the River Rumble group -and I’d much rather ride a bike across it!)
After a rest break at the dam, we only had about 2 1/2 miles to go to get back to our hotel. As we left the parking area for the dam, I tried to follow an MRT sign and we ended up riding on this (unpaved) for a short distance:
We had already checked out the route to the hotel by car and knew that the entrance road to the park on the Coon Rapids side of the dam was under construction (everywhere we need to be seems to be under construction!) We got back on track after my little detour and took our time because our last 2 1/2 miles were on very busy roads. We arrived at the hotel just after 1:00. Our average speed was slow today -but any time we’re on bike paths or going through towns, we tend to have to go slower because of traffic, stop signs and stoplights -not to mention the twists and turns the MRT seems to take in cities.
We were able to touch base with a couple that we have spent time with in the Caymans for the last two years who live in the area. They ended up inviting us to their home for dinner. What a nice evening we had catching up with them, not to mention a really wonderful “home grilled” meal. It was such a nice change of pace from eating in restaurants. They introduced us to a new beer that is only available in Wisconsin – Spotted Cow. We thought that was funny since our hotel is adjacent to the Muddy Cow restaurant.
Tomorrow is our rest day. Time to catch up on things from home, work on the blog and plan out the next couple of days of riding.
Miles so far: 267.9