Day 30 Granite Falls to Paynesville MN
Another beautiful day of riding in Minnesota, but a short one. I didn't leave Granite Falls till 9:15 AM this morning and I stopped for the day in Paynesville about 4:30 PM. In between I rode SD 23, explored Wilmar, ate a couple of meals, and generally took it pretty easy. My left knee was hurting most of the day, although usually not a lot, and that was my motivation for both taking it easy and for stopping early. Many folks seem to consider riding 70 miles a normal day, so, for today, I'll just consider myself normal.
Riding out of Granite Springs on 23 east means riding east out of the Minnesota River valley before heading north. The view of the valley is quite nice and there is a view point with a nice description of the geological history of the valley. Glaciers and all that. The topology of this part of the country is heavily dependent on them. Fortunately for bicyclists, this makes for pretty gentle country.
MN 23 follows the railroad tracks south of Willmar. It also runs along a glacial drift (whatever that is..) and has only very gentle hills. The wind was light, mostly from the west - south west, and riding was very good. At Maynard, there was a long line of grain cars on the siding beside the road. The road through town was divided two lane (something I haven't seen very often) with a shoulder as big as each lane. Between towns it was two lane with a narrow, and sometimes bumpy, shoulder and a wide 'bailout area' outside the shoulders. This was not a problem since traffic was light. I rode in the lane near the white line except when traffic was coming from both directions. Then I would get on the shoulder or, if the traffic in my lane was a big truck or a RV that I didn't trust, in the bailout area. 99% of the time I was able to ride in the lane. Drivers were polite with very few exceptions and I was alert and therefore prepared for those.
I stopped at the wayside park in Clara City to eat some pudding and crackers and again at a convenience store in Raymond for coffee and a pastry. When I got near Willmar, I decided to go into town via 71. When I exited 23 and climbed to the overpass for 71, I saw that I was going to ride Wilmar's strip and that there was a lot of construction on it. I had ridden through Willmar on 12 when I crossed the USA in '96. I checked out the downtown and at a local cafe on that trip. This time I got to see another, less pleasant, side of Willmar.
I stopped and ate a good, if a bit expensive, lunch at one of those restaurant you find along interstates, then I rode the strip into Willmar. It wasn't too bad. I only got honked at once by a young lady who was in a hurry to get to a red light. I resisted the temptation to bump her car with my front wheel when I caught up with her sitting at the light. Willmar isn't very bike friendly, and feels pretty much like any small city anywhere in the US that isn't bike friendly. Part of the problem may be that it is near a resort area (I didn't realize this on my last trip), so you get a lot of RVs and bad drivers and people in a hurry to get somewhere. Anyway, after checking out the downtown again, I left without any desire to return.
Going north from Willmar on the combined US 71 and MN 23 meant riding through a lot of construction. The shoulder was good, but I still took advantage of a frontage road for much of that part. From the frontage road I could see that a beautiful lake with nice homes was just east of the highway. Looking at my map. I realized that 23 ran through lakes for about ten miles as it headed north and east of Willmar. Riding through this area was not too much fun since the traffic was relatively heavy. There were lots of water sport related businesses and resorts along the road. A popular place, but one I'd rather not bicycle through. I did see a few department store bike that looked like they could have been used by adults, but no one was using them. By contrast, the McDonalds in Marshall had a bike rack with several bikes in it and this morning in Granite Falls I saw several adults using bikes for transportation.
Once I got clear of the recreational area, 23 had a great shoulder and riding was quite pleasant. There were small hills (the only steep hills I encountered today were two on ramps up to overpasses) and the wind was sometimes a headwind. Not too long after this - a few miles after New London, I decided to stop in either Paynesville or Cold Springs and ride into St Cloud in the morning. That way I could have a break in the middle of the day tomorrow to visit a bike shop rather than having to wait for one to open in the morning. I could also quit abusing my knee a few hours earlier today.
When I rode into Paynesville, there was a somewhat upscale motel (because I'm still in a recreational area), an Alco discount store (I like 'em for getting biking food cheaply) and a Subway (for supper cheaply) almost in a row. I rode on to an A+W to get a good root beer float and then back to the motel. After I checked in I discovered that my room had a yellow pages book (there are some advantages to upscale motels) that covers St Cloud and that one of the bike shops in St Cloud has an 800 number. I called to make sure they had what I wanted and to get directions to the shop. As it turns out, I'll only have to go a few block off my route tomorrow. If my knee feels better, I'll probably ride on to near the Wisconsin border, if not I'll stop earlier.