Day 39 Fort Frances Ontario to Virginia Minnesota
A lake along today's ride - folks in Minnesota are crazy about lakes
Well, the wind forecast was wrong and I did another long day into headwinds. My last four riding days have all been 'hundred mile' days with the wind against me. Come on, the wind out here is supposed to come from the west and I'm heading east! Actually, as I go south the winds are more likely to come from the south west and, since there has been a big high parked over Minnesota for almost a week, I've been riding 'into' that high and into the wind. I'm must say I am tired of it! My ride today covered about 98 miles with an average speed of 13 mph. That doesn't sound too bad, but it was a hard day's ride.
Leaving International Falls heading south
I had a bad night last night. It wasn't the motel, which was fine, but my stomach, which was not fine. I made the mistake of eating about 1/4 lb of dried apricots - you can't eat just one! - as I composed yesterday's web-page / ride-report. Then I went to bed about11 PM. My tummy didn't feel too good and I had a lot of gas. That continued and worsened during the night, so I didn't sleep well. This morning I had a couple of cups of tea while packing and my system cleared itself out before I left the motel.
My first stop was to exchange money and get some of my VAT tax refunded. Then I crossed the border, and once again was required to act as a pedestrian. On the bridge, I couldn't find the entrance to the walkway, so I slowly rode on that iron grating stuff. I'm surprised I got through custom as easily as I did, since I was quite tense from the ride over the bridge. I rode on into International Falls, looking for a good place to have breakfast. I didn't see one in Fort Frances or in International Falls, so I stopped at a Subway and got a foot long sub; half for now and half for '30 miles down the road.' That turned out to be good move since there wasn't much open on Sunday morning on US 53 heading south.
A great shoulder, but lousy wind, Virginia 94 miles
A CN train heading north on the tracks next to US 53
The road was newly paved and the shoulder was wonderful. Traffic, almost all of it Minnesotans headed for Voyageur Park, was pretty heavy, but bursty rather than continuous. I debated putting in my ear plug, and chose not too, but I now think I should have. The noise from the traffic was hard on my left ear and tiring.
Much of my day was in this park
Since the traffic was recreational and this is Minnesota, there were lots of boats being towed and carried an lots of pickups, vans, and SUVs doing the towing. There were also several long, and noisy, trains that passed me during this ride
My first real stop was at the northern edge of the park, about 30 miles from International Falls. There was nothing open in the two little towns before that, so I had stopped by the side of the road for a snack after the first 20 miles which took me over 1:30 to ride. At the first road going into the park, there is a nice convenience store and service station, I bought a liter of Coke and a ice-cream bar, then sat on the porch and made a meal with my sub. I carried most of the Coke on with me for use later in the day.
The shoulder deteriorates a bit and the road goes over a long series of small ridges
After the park started, the road quality went down, although the shoulder was still very good, and the route became hillier and prettier. It was warm (80 F) and very muggy and the wind continued to blow from the south. I did not enjoy riding this section because of the wind, the noise and the lack of services. It was almost 30 miles with no services. I had been riding for about 4:30 when I finally got to Orr at 3:30 in the afternoon. Orr, with a population of 230, is the big town on this ride. It is a tourist town with standard services including at least one motel and two or three Cafes. I liked Orr.
Coming into Orr - a pretty place
I stopped at the Orr Café and had the lunch special. It was good and the café was a pleasant, and friendly, place to eat. I was quite tired and my second lunch really helped revive me. I bought a large 'ugly donut' to take with me for dessert.
Leaving Orr: Cook 17, Virginia 45 and a good shoulder
The winds had dropped while I was eating and that, combined with the pot of coffee I drank, really improved my speed and attitude. The next 45 miles would be a lot easier than the last 55 miles. Well, that held true for the next 17 miles to Cook. I was averaging 15 mph and the wind wasn't a problem. Then hubris got me.
Coming into Cook - Not as many services as Orr
In Cook, whose motel is closed, but there is café, I stopped at a service station / convenience store and got a cup of coffee to drink while I ate my dessert. It was good, but didn't revive me as much as my second lunch had. It was 25 miles further to Virginia and now the shoulder really deteriorated, traffic increased and the !$@$!# wind picked up again.
Leaving Cook - Oh, Oh
The shoulder, with the exception of a few potholed sections, was still quite rideable, but it wasn't pleasant to ride. With the increased traffic and the increased wind, I just pressed on regardless, stopping twice on the way to Virginia to snack and try to get my energy up. This section, like the section before Orr, was done on willpower more than anything else. A tourist need to get on down the road to the next place with services. I hurt - my left buttocks is sore and my leg was bothering me most of the day - and I didn't enjoy the ride, but I got here <grin>. So it goes.
The last five miles into Virginia is an expressway that continues to Duluth
There are five exits for Virginia on the expressway that 53 becomes about five miles north of Virginia. I took the first one because I could see that it had shoulders and led straight into town. There was a billboard for a motel, the Ski-View, which said it was one mile down that road. It was and I'm quite comfortable in my $35 (tax included) room. There is a café next door which will be open for breakfast, but nothing except a golf course clubhouse restaurant to walk to for supper. I made o with my supplies and look forward to good breakfast.
My ride today was dry, although some of the areas I rode through had good rain last night. The probability of me getting rained on is pretty high in the next few days, but not as high as it would have been if I were riding TC-11. International Falls was having thunderstorms when I checked the weather channel after I got my room. Hopefully I can get to Duluth, and possibly a good ways beyond, without too much riding in the rain. My immediate goal is Iron River MI, and a rest stop visiting with Dick Boyd.