Day 29 Arlington SD to Granite Falls MN
It was fairly long day (115 miles) and when I sat down to write this ride report my laptops video wasn't working. After poking and proding and tapping, etc. it is working, but I don't know when it will quit again. So I'm extra tired and it is extra late (in my riding day schedule) as I write this.
Riding out from Arlington, it was obvious I was not on the plains anymore. The road curved. But there was more direct evidence: trees, lakes, rolling fields of corn, etc. At the end of the day, as I rode into Granite Falls, I looked east over a valley and saw nothing but tree tops as far as the eye could see. It was a forest and I haven't seen one of those for quite a while. Speaking of forests, I saw a litter pickup sign before Brookings SD which said the SD chapter of the American Forestry Society (or something like that) was keeping that section of road picked up. SD and Forestry? Not out by the Badlands!
I stopped for breakfast in Volga and rode US 14 Bypass by Brookings. It looked like a nice town and it has South Dakota State University so it out to have some other good stuff, but I was in a 'getting to Minnesota' mood so I didn't stop to find out. Note that this was not a 'getting out of SD' thing - I'll miss the plains and the little towns like Miller and Wolsey. I just get excited about crossing state borders when I'm touring. Often there are interesting cultural shifts as well as topological changes.
The SD/MN border had a really big surprise for me. Wind machines, hundreds of large wind machines stretching from just north of where US 14 crosses the border all the way down, I am told, to the Iowa border. The world's largest windfarm with hundreds of machines capable of generating a total of several hundred megawatts. Wow! I know many of you may not be impressed, but to me this was almost the same kind of thrill that I got when I saw the Confederation Bridge stretching 15 km across the ocean from PEI to New Brunswick. What an incredible sight to see hundreds of wind machines, each the several hundred feet tall (blade tips are 157 feet apart), literally covering more than 20 miles of the horizon, slowly turning in the moderate wind!
A set of blades - that is a truck at the right end!
Wind speeds were, thankfully, much less today than yesterday. Wind direction was essentially the same, from the north - north west, but the average wind speed was less than 10 mph. It was better to ride east than to ride north east and worse to ride north, but the differences were a cog or two, a 10% to 20% sort of thing where as for the previous few day it was almost impossible (not quite, but close) to ride into the wind and very nice indeed to ride with it.
The shoulder on US 14 was, as usual, variable in SD. The part around Brookings was quite nice, but much of the rest was the two foot or less strip with rumble sections every 30 feet covering most, if not all of the shoulder. These roads are made of concrete sections, grooved across the road and often having significant discontinuity at the joins between sections. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump-rumble, - repeat every three seconds (no wonder my computer lost a screw..). When a vehicle goes by, add a high pitched scream from the grooves. Despite this it was enjoyable riding. Nice weather, very little traffic, and friendly people. When 14 entered Minnesota, the road deteriorated, but the bicycle rideability increased because the shoulder, while not great, was more rideable.
When I turned north east on MN 23 at Florence, there was a good wide shoulder. Later this shoulder became truly outstanding when it was not only wide (as wide as a regular lane), but also very smoothly paved. Ahhhhhh. This continued (good to great shoulder) all the way to Granite Falls. I'm hoping this will continue as I plan to ride it all day tomorrow.
I stopped for my first Lunch in Lake Benton, the center for all those wind machines. Then I stopped in Russell, a small town off 23, for desert, in Marshall for a second meal, and in Cottonwood for a second desert. Marshall is too big (12,000 +), but Russell and Cottonwood are really nice little towns of less than 1000 people. Delightful places where you expect to see Mr. Rodgers come walking own the street. "It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood." Note that you have to go off the highway to see these towns - MN build roads around, not through them and the businesses stay in the middle of town rather than moving out to the highway. Civilized state, this.
Granite falls is intermediate in size between Marshall and the little towns and lacks their charm. On the other hand it does have three motels and a state park with camping, etc. Not a bad place to stay. It is also just about 100 miles from St Cloud, my next destination. I need to visit a good bike shop to see about some new bike shorts and, it seems, a good computer shop to get a screw replaced (and a connection tightened) in my laptop. I suspect I'll do a rest day, or a least a half day there. My bad knee seems to be telling me I'm pushing too hard..