Itasca to Bemidji: Paul Bunyan, Babe, and a great night’s sleep

Itasca State Park is so amazing – the pines, the lake, the bike paths, and, this night, the full moon. We woke on Monday – me earlier than Lisa – to yet another perfect day. I climbed out of the tent and started water for coffee and sat and listened to MPR from my phone and just relaxed and looked at the lake. I could have stayed right there for two more weeks (with a proper bed, that is.)

We didn’t have far to go on our last day so I felt fine not packing up and focusing on ‘making good time’ as my dad used to hope for on our family trips. Our breakfast was tortillas and crunchy peanut butter, and it was delicious. Our route was going to take us out of the park and back to Laporte, then north on the Paul Bunyan Trail to Bemidji and a hotel right on the lake

We packed up and rolled out – after one last visit to the Headwaters, where we saw a large topographical model of the Mississippi and we pointed out all the places we’d cycled to, from Itasca to New Orleans.

We left the park and got out on Highway 71 back to Laporte. We hooked up with the the Paul Bunyan Trail to ride north the last seventeen miles into Bemidji. As we entered town, I asked a couple of skateboarding boys where Paul and Babe were and they pointed and told me how to get there and it went quickly and then we were standing by these statues which have been there since the 30’s. I know have stood in that place many times. A nice couple helped us by taking some pictures and we did the same for them.

We checked into our hotel on the lake and our room had brilliant white sheets and big windows looking out at the lake. We showered up and walked to the restaurant nearby and sat on the patio as the sun set. We were tired, or at least I was, and after we got back to our room, it wasn’t long before we were deeply asleep in that great bed.

So, a couple of final thoughts and then Lisa has a post coming, too. These might seem random but here they are:

– We (Americans) drive big, fast, loud cars. After riding a bike in the woods in silence for hours it is jarring to be along a highway with hundreds of cars (actually, half of them are trucks) sometimes pulling trailers, speeding north for their lake experience. Trucks pulling trailers with three or four ATV’s or Jetskis. It seemed like conspicuous consumption to me. I completely understand that when you are in the car listening to All Things Considered on the way back from your cabin, it doesn’t seem that way, but when you are on the shoulder, it does. I say this not as a criticism – I drive more miles than I bike – but just to note how loud and fast our world is.

– We didn’t really see many Trump flags or signs, maybe a dozen on the whole trip. But they weren’t flying by the big, wealthy farms. They were flying by ramshackle dwellings, and it made me wonder how we’ve left those people behind and what we must do to pull them back into a healthy society. The urban/rural divide needs to be addressed, and I hope we can do it in the coming years.

– The US interstate highway system is really incredible and useful in a nation this size. It also left many rarely used highways out in the country that are fine for biking (or driving on at under 80.). US highways, in particular, have wide shoulders, and we bikers appreciate them.

– As we rode north, I increasingly felt the coming of fall. You know how you can kind of smell it? Like the leaves are drying out? There was one young tree in Itasca that was changing it’s colors, and our night there was quite chilly. I remembered starting this stay at home business in March when there was snow on the ground and everyday I had to turn up the heat in our home offices. Then the grass turned green and the garden exploded with flowers, then we had a few weeks of 90 degree days. To think that this continues as we move into fall, well, what is there to say.

So, that is it from me, for now. This was a fabulous trip, one of my favorites. Our total mileage was 336 miles, the weather was spectacular and it was a wonderful diversion from our worries. But we think the next month (we both work at a university) will be intense. I hope we can still get out on bikes again regularly, and I hope for the planning of our next adventure.