Monday 18th July to Tuesday 19th July – Stages 62 & 63.
Monday 18th July – Redwood Falls to Hutchinson (Stage 62)
We were on our way by 9am, so we could complete today’s ride before the stifling heat that was forecast for mid-afternoon. As we left town, we passed Memorial Park, which displayed a decommissioned Sherman M4A3 tank in memory of World War 2.
There was a steep descent in the first few miles as we had to cross the Minnesota River. We then had a short, but fairly steep climb up the opposite side of the valley.
Having conquered the climb, we returned to a familiar landscape of a long, straight road, penned in by maize & wheat fields.
Out of the blue we stumbled across the Birch Coulee Battlefield Historical Site. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 & commemorates the costliest military engagement for US forces during the Dakota War of 1862.
Overnight on 1st September 1862, 200 Dakota Warriors surrounded 170 US Troops & civilian support staff. Within the first hour of the siege, the Dakota had killed most of the horses, prevented the US Troops from escaping. The siege lasted a total of 31 hours & at the end of it, the US forces had lost 13 Soldiers, 50 were wounded & 90 horses had been killed in the battle. More horses & men died from their wounds afterwards. The Dakota lost 2 of their Warriors.
The historic site has self-guided trails & markers interpreting the battle from both sides.
Our next surprise was a section where the tarmac had been removed (as it was in a bad state of disrepair) & replaced with gravel. The Minnesota Department of Transport estimates that almost 50% of all its public roads are gravel, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised! We briefly returned to paved tarmac, but it didn’t last long as the road had been dug up to lay drainage pipes & we had to take a detour…..on more gravel!
I carefully map every stage, so we know what to expect & I’d managed Sean’s expectations at the start of the day with the statement “Good news, we’re on tarmac all day!”. As you can see below, we weren’t. However, we’re on an adventure & we don’t let a bit of gravel ruin our day – plus, I’m beginning to enjoy riding gravel now I feel a bit more confident riding on it!!!
After about 7 or 8 miles we returned to tarmac & picked up a slight tailwind as we headed North towards Buffalo Lake – this was our one & only hope for a coffee stop. Sadly the gas station only sold fuel & the local grocery store didn’t serve coffee. We settled for an ice cream each from the freezer & a can of coke, plus the obligatory refill of our water bottles.
We had 22 miles remaining when we left Buffalo Lake (no buffalo & no lake, in case you’re interested!). County Highway 8 had recently had its tarmac re-laid & we flew along the deserted road. We stopped briefly at Lake Allie County Park to admire the blue water & watch the dragon flies skimming across the surface.
The final 10 miles were on a variety of different roads, but the only difference in the views was the colour of the tarmac – the surrounding countryside remained constant. We arrived at our motel in Hutchinson by about 2.30pm, so we’d made really good time & treated ourselves to 20 minutes in the pool to ease our aching limbs & cool down from the ride.
This evening’s dinner was chicken pasta alfredo (that’s garlic bread, not toast!), washed down with coke – we’re hoping Minneapolis provides us with beer options tomorrow.
Stage Stats – 63 miles, 1,027 feet of climbing. Road closures resulted in about 10 miles of unexpected gravel riding.
Tuesday 19th July – Hutchinson to Minneapolis (Stage 63)
3 bowls of Frosties, yoghurt, toast (with peanut butter) & coffee to start the day – you can’t beat a big breakfast before a big adventure on the steel steed! We were on our way by 9am & picked up the Luce Line State Trail straight away that took us past a wildlife refuge (with deer, swans & geese), through Hutchinson Law Enforcement Park & past a pretty lake as we navigated across town.
The Luce Line State Trail is 63 miles long in total, following the old railroad – we only rode the 10 miles to Silver Lake (all paved), but in that short time we experienced a wide variety of landscapes as we passed small lakes & ponds, heathland, fields & wooded areas.
The 10 miles from Silver Lake to Lester Prairie was either into a strong headwind or crosswind (there was no protection from the wind), so we made slower progress than expected & as a result we chose to look for a coffee stop. We stumbled across the Central Cafe, run by Mary Kay with help from Shelby. We had an enjoyable 30 minutes talking travel, music & growing up in the 60’s / 70’s with Mary Kay – these random encounters with kind spirited people adds so much to the adventure.
We joined the Dakota Rail Trail as we left town – we would be on the paved trail for the next 15 miles to St Bonifacius. The early part of the path was through a wooded area, before returning us to maize fields. At times we shadowed the main road, as we made our way East via New Germany.
Passing through Mayer I stopped at the Carver County Veterans Memorial – almost every town has a memorial to remember those who fought & lost their lives on behalf of their homeland. The strong wind was whipping up white-topped waves on Lake Waconia & there were even a couple of brave soles wind surfing.
A cyclist passing the other way shouted “Watch out for the tree up ahead!” – an odd conversation opener, until we realised he meant a tree had been blown down across the trail!!! While we were taking the kit off our bikes so we could portage it over the fallen tree, a couple of other cyclists joined us & said the trail was clear only an hour ago when they were travelling in the other direction.
At St Bonifacius we stopped to top up our water, then followed the road for a couple of miles as we made our way to the next element of bike trail at Carver Park Reserve, home of the Lowry Nature Centre. Back in 1984, 6 young osprey were placed in Carver Park, with the aim of establishing a viable nesting population – it’s been a complete success & I was delighted to see a nest being used! This was the first osprey we’ve seen since Mount Rushmore almost 3 weeks ago – welcome back my friend.
The Lake Minnetonka Light Railway Trail follows the route of the old Minneapolis & St Louis Railway & we would be following it as far as the outskirts of Minneapolis. For the first few miles we were surrounded by mature woodland, but slowly the landscape changed as we passed through Tonka Bay & Shorewood.
The trail hugged the shore of Lake Minnetonka as we passed through Excelsior & Greenwood – we could see across the lake to the mansions on the far shore.
We were surprised when a gang of 3 turkeys crossed the trail in front of us (I prefer the term gobble, but apparently that’s not the correct collective noun!). I took the photo as I cycled past, so you can see they weren’t phased by two people on bicycles.
By now the trail was tracking Minnetonka Boulevard & our adventure on remote cycle trails was almost at an end. For me, the challenge of the day was starting in earnest, as I now had to get us across Minneapolis to our motel. My task wasn’t helped when the cycle path we needed was closed for repairs & I had to navigate by landmarks alone for a while.
I managed to navigate the couple of miles of detours & got us back on the cycle path into Minneapolis. No sooner had we re-joined the path, than we got our first views of the Minneapolis skyline! A train also arrived right on cue to welcome us to The Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St Paul.
I thought the complicated navigation was out of the way, but as we reached Downtown & Central Minneapolis many of the roads we should be taking were closed for construction projects. I’ll let you insert your own comment for the first photo -it’s a word I used a few times trying to navigate in Minneapolis! I was genuinely pleased to be able to stop at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team.
After just over five & a half hours we finally made it to the Mighty Mississippi, 2nd longest river in the USA (we crossed the longest a few weeks ago- the Missouri). Within 10 minutes of crossing the river we were at our home for the next 4 nights next to the massive Minnesota University complex. The 3rd & 4th photos below show where their American Football team play their home matches…..it cost $303 million to build when it was completed in 2009 & can hold 54,000 fans currently & is designed to increase the capacity to 80,000 in future!!
After a block of riding for 5 days, it was time to relax & toast our safe arrival in Minneapolis – we found Stub & Herbs for a burger & couple of beers. The perfect end to a great day & it looks like it will be another one tomorrow if Red Sky At Night can be trusted!
If you’re wondering why so many of the places in Minnesota have Minne at the front – (Minnehaha, Minneapolis, Minnetonka for example) it means water in the Dakota language.
Stage Stats – 73 miles, 1,732 feet of climbing. 3 different rail trails taking us through remote countryside before depositing us safely in Minneapolis for 2 days Rest & Relaxation.