Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Touring Series: To The Mighty Miss'!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

We rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it rolls into Rushford, Minnesota.....

Here the Root River Trail ended. We were in the first "real city" we had been in all day. We could see bluffs all around us. That brought one thing straight into our minds: That the road ahead would be anything but level. For now though, we gave our full attention to the local grocery store.

Here I was instructed to get Pop Tarts, the "manna" of the tour. We once again parked ourselves on the curb in front and ate our fill. Disconcerted shoppers scurried by us, not quite knowing what to make of vagabonds of our sort.

We decided to leave town eastwards, on State 16 towards Houston. We found that the road had a paved shoulder, which was good. We also found a supply of hills. These hills were quite challenging for me and I often found myself off the back going up. Coming down though, gravity was my friend. Outweighing my companions by a good 75 pounds gave me a distinct gravity assisted boost. This allowed me to keep up with the other two; although I didn't enjoy my yo-yo pace much.

Houston, and many bluff towns along the Mighty Miss', have their name spelled out for you on the Bluffs
We were entering Houston, Minnesota, and we could tell, since they had a brightly painted sign at the edge of town proclaiming their burg as "the entrance to Bluff Country". Ha! The irony was not lost on us, and we stopped and took our pictures under the sign that bright, partly cloudy day. Afterwards, we found a convenience store to raid for early afternoon refueling.
As I pointed out earlier, children were always very curious of us and our doings. Always willing to talk. Such was the case with Andrew of Houston. It seemed that Andrew's brother was a lazy lout, as he was reported to be still sleeping, and Andrew's dad worked in a local turkey processing plant. He also informed us that there wasn't much to do in Houston, Minnesota. The one thing Andrew told us that we were particularly interested in, I didn't like hearing.

"How are the hills east of town here?", Steve asked of the young man.

He promptly replied, "They're hilly."

"That's not the right answer, son.", I told him with a smile. "Try again. I think you know a better answer!"

Actually, Andrew did say that there was one doozy of a hill just outside of town, then it was pretty much going to be okay until the halfway point to Hokah. There he claimed there was another great hill. You know what? That little shaver was right!

That second hill- the one halfway to Hokah? Oh My! But I made it okay. Overall, I wasn't a hindrance to the others as I feared. maybe just a nuisance, or possibly a pest, but I made it. In fact, I felt in a groove, going my own pace up those hills.

Well, there isn't much to say about Hokah except that we went through it and pushed onwards towards Le Crescent where we would cross the Mississippi. Troy was anxious to put in some miles now. He was regretting all the morning stops. At Hokah, we were obliged to turn northwards and into a headwind. Troy let me draft behind him, and the Steve switched off with him and led me for awhile. Our pace was fast and we did not stop at Le Crescent. Well, except for traffic lights. Traffic was heavy here, as it is around all bridges leading over the "Mighty Miss".

We pushed on now towards the bridge and we were cruising on the right hand lane of a four lane highway. No headwind and a steady downhill to the river gave some slight relief to me here. We finally reached the bridge over the main channel, a two lane affair high above the river itself. I noticed that the bridge had an adjoining sidewalk which I desired to take. I noticed that Steve took no interest in getting on it and Troy was following him on a string. I yelled out, "Hey! Aren't we taking the...." Too late! The din of traffic drowned me out.

The sound of the car tires was very distinct and brought to mind one thing- Open grating! I don't like high places at all, so I kept my gaze fixed straight ahead and pedaled like a madman. Fear is a great motivator! I sped across and actually caught up with Troy and Steve. The steel knobs sticking up at each intersection of grating was a little tough to negotiate though. Apparently they are a reverse form of studded tires. This is what accounted for the loud noise of the tires all around me.

The bridge was past us now, but it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. Traffic was thick and loud. We did not have any clear idea of where we should go. 


Remember back a couple of installments ago when I thought I was going to have to die for being so stupid to think I could ride a whole week in hills? Well, the hills east of Houston made those hills seem like little rises. I wasn't doing too badly, considering the day I had before, but I wasn't doing well! I remember a few times feeling rather desperate, having lost sight of my two companions, and not knowing exactly where I was. Coming into Houston was one of those times I remember that being  the case. I was still a rank beginner at this, so anxiety levels were perhaps understandably high. 

Next :The Bastard Trail

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