It’s all about the HILLS, and some great personalities 😸

The flight from Bristol airport to Palma in Mallorca is just two hours long and we suddenly find ourselves in warm sunshine ☀️ and eager to get on with the business of whizzing along some perfectly smooth asphalt atop our bikes.

Shuttled from the airport to Hotel Duva in Puerto Pollenca on the north east coast of the island and it all begins – hire bikes are collected, own bikes removed from their cases and reassembled and we’re ready to roll 🎉

First though important needs must be met so a small hungry section of the group pedal a swift one mile leg loosener to the port and lunch ‘al fresco’ under an azure blue sky:

Suitably refuelled, suncreamed and briefed by OGL on the route ahead we regroup with the remaining HellCats and begin the first gentle ascent of the tour in the direction of the Cap Formentor Lighthouse, a short 14 mile scenic ride guaranteed to set the mood for the next few days ahead.

Steady climbs, speedy flats and downhills and not a pothole in sight! Oh, and some utterly stunning views:

It was all a bit too much for some to take in:

Whilst others revelled in the freedom of release from the long dark British winter:

By the end of this short outing everyone seems in the mood for some proper long day rides and OGL is set to work on the routes for our first full of this brief tour.

Next up: the Monster Route 😈

Another little adventure – this time it’s fun, sun and sangria with the HellCats in Mallorca 🚴🚵🏿‍♀️☀️

I thought you might appreciate an interlude in the tales of my American journey and enjoy a little bit of fun and jiggery pokery with the HellCats, courtesy of Eric & Liz Cycling Tours, as we head off, for the second time, on a long weekend of sun, food and sangria in Mallorca, a sunny island in the Mediterranean Sea and internationally reknown as a Mecca for cycling at this time of the year.

Oh yes, there will be plenty of cycling involved as well as the obligatory coffee and cake stops and photo opportunities in abundance to keep Richard Fowler at his happiest. 

There will be long testy hill climbs (including the infamous Sa Calobra) that will leave Miles Sellick grinning  like a Cheshire Cat. Country lanes taking us through some stunning Spanish towns and villages as well as sublimely smooth road surfaces, the likes of which North Devon has not seen for many a year.

Hugh Paul will be leading the HellKittens who join us for their first overseas cycling tour. He may find the expected favourable weather (sun, sun and more sun ☀️) helps maintain discipline within their ranks following a recent spate of dodgy Tuesday evening forecasts back home.

And I’m sure OGL (that’s Nigel Honey for the uninitiated) has been poring over his maps during the long dark winter months and will unveil some spectacular cycling routes with something to please everyone.

As I write this it is 2:40am on a Friday morning and we are all aboard the coach heading to Bristol airport for our 6:05am EasyJet flight. A few sleepy heads at this time of the morning 😴

The excitement and anticipation has been building to fever pitch over the past few weeks. We’re at the airport and ready:


Big Sky Montana and Decision Time

After a hearty breakfast Joel and I set off from Medora to rendezvous with Tony Rucinski in Glendive, the next city along the route and almost 70 miles away, all of it on Interstate-94. It was a breeze – once again we had a strong and very warm tailwind on our backs.

We found Tony already pitched for the night in the Glendive city park. Introductions were made, beers shared around and talk of our respective rides so far as well as plans for the days ahead. Tony was back in his home state but still at least three weeks away from the end of his ride (he lives in the north west of the state and we were only just inside the eastern stateline).

Joel and Tony
Our route for the next six days mainly followed the general direction of the Yellowstone River and took us through or nearby some of the most historically important sites of recent American history – Little Bighorn Battlefield where a famous battle took place between the US 7th Cavalry and several Indian tribes including the Sioux and Cheyenne; Pompeys Pillar where Captain William Clark (ref: Lewis and Clark trail) signed his name on July 25 1806; and many more sites which are commemorated by very helpful plaques and information boards:

On our entry to Montana Joel gave me some useful advice – “watch out for rattlesnakes and goatshead thorns on the side of the road”. Well, I did see a few dead snakes 🐍 in the road but, you know, until you passed them it was never clear if they were dead or alive. The heart rate jumped upwards once or twice I tell you!

The goatshead thorns so nearly didn’t trouble me at all – until one day when I ventured off the main road to admire some wild horses in search of a ‘wheresmark’ photo opportunity. And then they hit me with a vengeance – I had stopped for a photo shoot while crossing the Yellowstone River and it was only when I remounted the bike I realised I had multiple flats. The tyres were pockmarked with the thorns 😡 We pulled over to a safe spot, removed all the wheels from my bike and trailer and spent a good amount of time extracting thorns from the tyres. I used up my supply of spare tubes and prayed there would be no more flats for the remainder of the day as we were many miles from the nearest bike shop and any hope of buying spares (the nearest was in Billings more than 100 miles ahead of us!). Thankfully, I did not have another flat for the remainder of my tour!

Three flat tyres
The weather remained dry, sunny and humid, becoming hotter as each day went by, until finally the mercury topped 100f. The prospect of end of day cold beers spurred us on and had never tasted so good:

And then it broke, firstly with an enormous overnight thunderstorm while we camped by the Yellowstone River in the city of Forsyth, the temperature plummeted to below 70f and I found myself wearing more layers of clothing than at any time on the tour. Our ride from the city of Custer to Joel’s sister’s house in Billings was a distance of 55 miles and in pouring rain the whole time!

Rain gear & thermals – first time in two months
It was there that Joel and I were headed and when we arrived wet and dripping from head to toe I was sure we would not be allowed in the house until we had dried out. But no, we were welcomed in, shown straight to our rooms, showered and dry, our clothes in the wash, and cold beers of course – howzat!!

Joel’s sister and her husband Grover looked after and fed us well; we played cards and dice in the evenings; they showed us around the city and surrounding countryside including a cave full of ancient Pictographs; arranged for my bike to be serviced at the local bike shop; took us for a fine Mexican dinner; and generally played the part of typically wonderful American hosts. Oh yes, I finally managed to sort out a SIM card from a reliable telecoms provider – I was back online and back in touch with the outside world!!!

A decision was needed before Joel and I could leave Billings. Should we continue west towards Missoula, the HQ of Adventure Cycling Association or be brave, bold and adventurous and tackle the Beartooth Pass climb, at 11,000 feet our entry point into Yellowstone National Park. Various options were discussed but in the end Joel made the decision for me – we would head for Yellowstone. Another adventure was about to begin for me!

And then I had a call from a local TV station asking for an interview……..Interview with KTVQ

Next up: the Yellowstone adventure

Junior Rodeo and Showtime in Medora

North Dakota part 2 – that is how I best remember the journey west from Bismarck to the stateline with Montana, with a few standout features – riding a US Interstate; the railroads; an open-air musical in a most surreal setting and junior rodeo.

The Interstate in question is I-94. It begins life in Port Huron, Michigan (north east of Detroit on the shores of Lake Huron), skirts the southern tip of Lake Michigan, heads north west through Wisconsin and Minneapolis to Moorhead/Fargo and then west in a straight line towards Billings in Montana, the western terminus. I-94 is 1,585 miles long and by the time I reached Billings I had covered many more miles than this one road itself and ridden around 200 miles of its length. Our paths had crossed more than a few times on my journey north.

Despite my initial misgivings, Joel assured me it was perfectly okay to ride the Interstate because North and South Dakota and Montana are, apparently, the only three states which allow cyclists to ride the hard shoulder.

After a lunch stop in New Salem, a small city proud of its dairy farming industry, we turned onto a short feeder road and joined I-94 for the first time. I must confess to being a little nervous at first because the shoulder was not more than 3-4 feet wide and there were rumble strips placed inconveniently in our line of travel, vehicles passed by at high speed and the blast of air from passing trucks was very unnerving to begin with. Things settled down soon enough and I was then able to appreciate the extraordinary landscape of North Dakota through which this part of I-94 travelled.

Surprisingly (for me anyway), at various stages of I-94 we passed a few other long-distance cyclists riding in the opposite direction (east to west). One of these made a daring crossing from the eastbound carriageway to stop and chat with us on the westbound side.

His name is Thomas Cole and he explained that he was riding the entire perimeter of the USA, a mammoth task! In fact, as I write this edition of my blog he is in Baltimore County, Maryland. Thomas is travelling with his ‘service dog’ Charli in a crate attached to the front of his bicycle and together they are “Bicycling around the country raising awareness for service animal access for invisible illnesses.”. Thomas blogs at and on Facebook. Good luck with the rest of your journey Thomas.

The more we cycled through North Dakota the more frequently we encountered the railroad and locomotives hauling huge quantities of coal, oil or sand. Joel explained how the cities of North Dakota sprung up following the introduction of the railroads and the strong connection of the economies of those cities with the railroad and the various industries, including farming.

The trains run day and night and the unmistakable sound of the hooter is never far away (two long blasts, a short one followed by a long one). We camped the city parks on our way through North Dakota and these were often within 100 yards or so of the railroad; the ground rumbles and shakes as the trains pass and you always know when they are coming, warned by the advancing hooter, even at 4 o’clock in the morning!

One Sunday morning Joel was keen to show me around a Benedictine Monastery, Assumption Abbey, based in Richardton (Stark County, North Dakota). The abbey has a school attached to it and Joel told me that many of his friends had been sent to this school for their education. Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the Abbey but what I saw of the building was most impressive.

Our plan for the day was to head back to I-94 and make as much progress west as we possibly could. Before we reached I-94 I spotted large numbers of trucks towing horse boxes heading towards an arena where a big crowd of people was gathering. Inquisitively, we diverted from our planned route and discovered it was a junior rodeo gathering, the North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Division. Not having seen a rodeo event of any kind before I was naturally interested to learn what I could. Boys and girls in separate events, showing their skills in lassooing on horseback or riding a bucking young cow with varying degrees of success, many landing painfully on their backsides. It was staggering to observe the size of the horse box trailers, often with a mobile home attached, and the sheer number of these on view. I recalled similar feelings of awe when I passed the Lebanon Valley Auto Racing circuit in New York state a few months before.

Back on I-94, with our next destination Medora, we cruised with the benefit of a strong tailwind for once. Soon the general landscape changed rapidly in appearance from vast open plains to something that looked more like a moonscape, a clear indication that we were entering the Badlands of North Dakota. We pulled into a viewing area on the edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and it was then I was able to witness with my own eyes a most amazing view:


We then rejoined I-94 and headed down into the valley for a campsite in the city of Medora. We checked in and pitched our tents. As I headed to the bathroom to freshen up for the evening show Joel had booked us to go and see I approached an RV and three ladies sat outside drinking rather refreshing looking glasses of rose wine:


They called me over and caught me by surprise by what they said:

“You must be the English cyclist?” “Yes” I replied. “We knew you were coming” they continued prophetically. “Eh, how did you know that?” I asked with increasing curiosity. “Tony told us you were on your way here” “Tony?” I said, and thought ponderously for what seemed an age, and then the penny dropped: Tony turned out to be Tony Rucinski I first met three weeks previously at the Adventure Cyclists Bunkhouse in Dalbo, Minnesota. The last I had heard of his whereabouts until two days previously was that he had been delayed in Fargo by serious bike mechanical issues. We had kept in contact intermittently and then only to exchange the briefest of messages, so I was pleased to find out that he left Medora that very morning before Joel and I arrived. We made contact and arrangements to rendezvous in the city of Glendive the next day.

“The rootin’-tootinest, boot-scootinest show in all the west!” is how the Medora website promotes the Medora Musical. Based at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre up in the hills overlooking the rugged Badlands the show is a Western style musical and a tribute to Teddy Roosevelt former President of the USA. The show begins as the sun sets, the last rays of light illuminating the stunning hills which form the backdrop to the stage. It is high octane entertainment, as you would expect from something so American; story telling and energetic music, enthusiastic singing by all cast members and generally good fun:


Medora sadly brought the adventure through North Dakota to an end. I say that with sincerity since I was at one point in time seriously minded to bypass the state altogether in my quest to cross the mountains to the Pacific coast and keep to my schedule of reaching Santa Cruz in California by late September. I’m so glad to have stayed the course for many reasons and not just because I saw with my own eyes some of the most amazing landscapes on earth (the Great Plains and the Badlands in particular).

In times of reflection (there have been many many such moments since returning home) and when I look back on my journey across the USA, I find that the North Dakota section represents a very significant turning point in the entire ride and raised my confidence levels by several rungs. I learnt to trust my own judgement with a much greater degree of certainty.

So, in conclusion, North Dakota wasn’t my ‘favourite’ place, nor the most ‘memorable’, and neither did it meet, exceed or fall below any expectations I may have had before I set off on the ride. It simply was as it was, long days of solitude on highway 34, vast panoramic views stretching as far as the eye can see, friendly waves from passing drivers and especially the many Harley Davidson bikers on their own long tours, stiff headwinds, what felt to me like a pressure-free environment compared to the hustle and bustle of our own small island, and full of surprises. I’d go there again.

Next time: ‘Big Sky’ Montana and decision time!

North Dakota – a few days more

Before we venture any further, allow me to apologise for the rather lengthy delay between this blog post and my previous one “Fargo to Bismarck”. What happened I hear you ask? Why have we waited so long to read the rest of your story?

If I say “writer’s block” will that help? No? Ok, it’s a little hard to explain but here goes:

My ride up to this point had a been a largely solo effort and it has taken me until now (four and a half months since my return to the UK) to understand and appreciate quite how much some things have changed since I set out on my adventure across the USA; far too much for me to write about in this blog (so I will deal with that in a future edition) but it has been an interesting time listening to feedback from friends and family when I talk about  the ride, picking up hints here and there and generally trying to make sense of so many things. In a nutshell though, cycling the remainder of the northern states with a resident American or two for company got me thinking about so much of my life thus far. I’ll leave it at that for now, a little mystery perhaps, but it will be interesting to see if you manage to pick up the clues from my blogs.

And so, back to my story of USA Coast to Coast 2016:

Allow me to properly introduce Joel Zimmerman. A fellow cyclist, also retired. Joel lives in McCall, Idaho and spent his summer of 2016 cycling from there to stay with friends in Minneapolis, taking in a few organised bicycle rides along the way; flew home briefly to see his wife Kathi who had been staying with their daughter and family in California; returned to Minneapolis and chose to cycle home via North Dakota and Montana. His general plan was to return home via Missoula, Montana which is home to the Adventure Cycling Association HQs. Well, that soon changed when he met me!

The first day of our riding together began with breakfast at the Hazleton Community Centre, a drop in place for the retired population of the city. A couple of very chatty elderly ladies served the local breakfast speciality – a tasty minced beef dish, bread and freshly brewed coffee. It was the first time I’d eaten mince beef for breakfast; I’m rather more used to it in a cottage pie as a supper dish. Anyway, this set me up well for the day ahead which was to lead us from Hazleton to Joel’s elderly relative’s house in Bismarck, a distance of only 46 miles but we still had to deal with the persistently strong headwinds of previous days.

Along the way we cycled highway 1804, a road that runs along the eastern shores of the Missouri River. This road gets it name from the year 1804, the year in which Lewis & Clark made their famous journey north west from Camp Dubois, Illinois via North Dakota to the Pacific coast at the mouth of the Columbia River. The story of this journey makes fascinating reading and we were to encounter a number of important locations during the course of our ride west and into Montana. I’ll refer to them as my blog develops. For the moment though, a couple of photographs of the iconic route:

We eventually arrive in Bismarck and Joel leads me straight to a local Irish bar, the Blarney Stone, for a couple of very welcome beers:

The Blarney Stone, Bismarck


Bismarck is the State Capital and location of, apparently, the tallest building in North Dakota. I found this picture of the State Capital taken in 1948:

North Dakota State Capital 1948
North Dakota State Capital 2016

Carmen, Joel’s wife’s aunt, was a gracious host and made me very welcome in her home, even though I’d known Joel less than 24 hours. I was treated to some tales of her own travels around the world many years ago with her late husband who, if I remember correctly, served in the US Navy.

Both Joel and Carmen are native North Dakotans and were keen to show me around the city so I could learn more about the state’s history and development during the last couple of centuries. We visited Peacock Alley for lunch, a bar/restaurant with a long history involving North Dakota politics; toured the State Museum at North Dakota Heritage Centre (I could easily have stayed more than the hour or so we had available to us); discovered a life-size buffalo statue; and drove around the city to see just how much development and expansion is taking place there.

Saturday morning came, Carmen treated us to a hearty and healthy breakfast, and we found ourselves back on the road heading west out of the city, but not before a further encounter with the Lewis & Clark expedition, this time a replica of the type of steamboat in use at that time:


And so we crossed the mighty Missouri River and entered Mandan, evidence of the oil industry in clear view at the huge refinery on the banks of the Missouri. Just south of Mandan is an Indian Reservation where major protests were taking place against plans to lay a massive oil pipeline through the Reservation. I’d heard a great deal about this issue my entire journey though North Dakota and note that it is ongoing under the new US President.

The journey west will continue in my next blog, but in the meantime a few shots of Joel on his bike, a Co-Motion frame fitted with a Rolloff hub and tough mountain bike tyres (which came in useful later, though almost not quite thanks to some ‘goatshead’ thorns) taken during our eventful ascent of Beartooth Pass a few weeks later:



Next up: Junior Rodeo and Showtime in Medora


North Dakota – Fargo to Bismarck

A quick check with the diary in the week or so before arriving in Moorhead/Fargo showed that I was two to three weeks behind where I thought I should be at that stage of my tour. Not that I was struggling with the workload, suffering unexpected mechanical issues or anything else untoward for that matter, it was quite simply that I was enjoying the ride and spending time taking in the environment and chatting with people I met as I passed along the way.

If I was to reach the Oregon coast and cycle down the Pacific coastline to Santa Cruz before the end of September I would have to dramatically speed up the ride and cover significantly more mileage each day and week and/or cut out large sections of the planned route.  I must confess that I seriously considered bypassing both North Dakota and Montana altogether, perhaps taking the Amtrak train to somewhere near the Oregon border and continuing from there. Maybe a few beers at the Junkyard Brewery and the persuasion of two drinking companions, Dan who was travelling the US by car and James, an expat Londoner living in Moorhead for the last 25 years, was just what I needed to set me back on the right track.

I departed my Warmshowers hosts on Saturday morning and crossed the Red River (and border) into North Dakota, promptly turning south in the direction of route 46. Almost as soon as I hit the road and turned west my mobile phone signal disappeared, and it stayed that way until I was able to change service provider three weeks later in Billings, Montana some 650 miles away. Access to reliable WiFi along the route was also sketchy, to say the least. I had become accustomed to a reliance on both for route planning and making arrangements with Warmshowers hosts – poor advice led to a bad choice of service provider. Camping became the norm as Warmshowers hosts barely existed along the route, with just one exception, the Honey Hub at Gackle, and I had a return to using old fashioned paper maps.

The first day of cycling on Highway 46 was long, straight and seemingly flat. Oh, and the longest section of roadworks I’d yet encountered:

What I hadn’t noticed was that although it appeared flat the road in fact had a gradual, barely noticeable ascent and before too long the elevation settled at around 2,000 to 2,500 feet. The roadsides were mainly huge fields of corn or soya with occasional county roads shooting off north or south into the far distance. None of these roads was suitable for a diversion because the surface was nothing more than rough gravel, very dry and dusty and, with it being harvest time, made unsafe by the regular traffic of huge trucks and tractors carrying the harvested produce away from the fields:

Day one was a fairly lengthy ride and ended at a very pretty campground in a deep valley called Little Yellowstone, perhaps one of the most tranquil locations I had yet encountered on the ride. I entered the campground quite late in the day and the sun was already beginning to set, casting golden rays of light over hills on the north eastern side of the valley. I did my best with the iPhone camera to capture what I could see and sense with the naked eye but I don’t think this picture does it justice:


I peered out of my tent early the next morning to find the entire valley shrouded in a dense fog:

When I announced my plans to cycle east coast to west coast across the USA it was pointed out to me that most touring cyclists head west to east as that is the direction of the prevailing winds.

Hammering home the point, I met the largest number of touring cyclists of the entire tour to-date in just one hour, all headed east:

It hadn’t been an issue so far on this tour and I was beginning to feel quite relaxed about my ability to cope with the varying winds. Well, I had also been warned that in North Dakota the wind direction plays a significant part and it hit me head on just as I was settling into a steady rhythm and comfortably managing a regular 60/70 miles per day. I had planned to ride from Gackle to Hazleton, a distance of 65 miles, but the wind grew stronger as the day wore on and I conceded defeat after 39 miles, camping in the city park of Napoleon for the night.

The wind forecast for the next day was even worse! And so it proved with an unceasingly steady headwind around 40mph, plenty of sunshine, no shelter of any kind and no civilisation until Hazleton some 29 miles away. Added to this the terrain began to change from pretty much flat to rather more undulating, not as hilly as one would find in Devon, but long, long rolling inclines and descents (but peddling hard just to keep moving downhill!).

Exhausted after over 5 hours of this at little more than walking pace I pulled into Hazleton and headed straight to the city park, pitched my tent and sought out food and a cold beer. I found the Road Hawg Grill to be a welcoming establishment and it was there that I struck up a friendship with another bicycle tourist named Joel and from there onwards my tour took on a completely different complexion, and so too did Joel’s as he was soon to find out.

Before closing this edition of the blog I’d like to share some more of the many fine views I witnessed in the first half of my ride through North Dakota:


Who’s the TV star???

I left off at St Paul heading towards Moorhead/Fargo and in anticipation of the journey through North Dakota.

My host in St Paul, Mary Sullivan, directed me towards the Gateway State Trail, an 18.3 mile scenic and (thankfully) paved bicycle trail which took me as far as Pine Point Regional Park. There I encountered several groups of road cyclists and numerous people out for a leisurely ride. We chatted, they gawped at the journey I was on, and then we all went our separate ways.

I soon found myself in the quiet little town of Marine St Croix and specifically Marine Cafe, clearly a cycling friendly refuelling point:

Good use of old wheels

A local resident exited the cafe while I was gathering my thoughts and introduced himself as Thomas E Warth, originally from Cambridgeshire UK. He’d just celebrated his 80th birthday which I must admit took me by surprise as I didn’t think he looked much beyond 60/65! Maybe the local waters have done him some good. Anyway, we had a great chat about my tour and other trivial matters before Tom disappeared off home.

Tom is something of a literary guru and the founder of a well reknown charity called Books for Africa. If anyone who reads my blog is able to offer support or assistance for this charity I’m sure Tom would greatly appreciate it.

Here’s one of Tom at a recent charity event:

Tom is 3rd from left


Cycling in Minnesota is definitely a pleasure and great trails abound. They even have fully equipped bike repair stations at many of the rest stops. What a great idea for the Tarka Trail…..

Bike stand, tools and floor pump

The longest trail section awaited me at the pretty town of Bowlus. I had cycled there from the Adventure Cyclist bunkhouse at Dalbo with a great guy called Tony Rucinski

Tony , ready to roll after another camp

Tony was on his way home to northern Montana having cycled in the opposite direction earlier in the summer to visit friends and relatives in Michigan. Bowlus offered up a great breakfast at Jordies  Trailside Cafe where we chatted away with the locals, almost forgetting we needed to hit the trail itself and move on to the next stage.

Tony and I said our goodbyes. Though we were riding much the same route our daily plans were somewhat varied and overnights sought in different locations (Tony was camping in the main; I sought out Warmshowers hosts wherever possible). Look out for Tony in a later blog.

I hit the trails – 107 miles off road and all paved. First the Soo Line Trail linking Bowlus to the lake Wobegon Trail at Albany. Then it’s north all the way, flat and straight with a fine tailwind, to Osakis whereupon it becomes the Central Lakes Trail, ending in Fergus Falls.



The day I set off for Fergus Falls began with a severe thunderstorm warning. I had departed from my Warmshowers overnight stop in warm sunshine and cycled through some beautiful lakeland scenery before the clouds started to build, the promised heavy rain began to fall, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled – my pedals turned like they never had before! Twenty miles later, soaked to the bone and feeling rather sorry for myself I arrive in Fergus Falls and headed straight to the nicest looking cafe I could find for some caffeine and donut indulgence.

My phone flashes up a message from Anne at the See Hear Centre to say a TV station in Fargo would like to meet up for an interview and it is arranged that this will be in Barnesville, a small town 30 miles north and on my route for the next overnight in Moorhead.

An hour later, dried out and fortified I set of for this meeting, excited at the prospect of being on the telly but nervous at the whole idea of being interviewed. I needn’t have worried, Nick the interviewer and Patrick the cameraman made me feel at ease and the whole experience was actually quite good fun. For his sins, Patrick revealed himself to be a Liverpool FC fan, never the best move in the presence of a supporter the Almighty Chelsea:

Patrick Conteh – KVRR TV cameraman and fan of a once upon a time succesful English football team




Nick Broadway – KVRR TV news anchorman

Watch the TV Interview in Barnesville

I finally reach my Warmshowers destination for the next two nights in Moorhead, a city in Minnesota that is separated from Fargo, North Dakota by the Red River.

Saturday morning arrives and, feeling suitably refreshed, I set off from Moorhead for my next stop, somewhere, as yet not fully decided, along highway 46 in North Dakota. The whole nature of the ride changed quite dramatically the moment I left Fargo. Tune in for the next edition to find out more.

I must apologise for rattling the collecting tin once more but I do feel a timely reminder is due that my journey is not just a personal quest. It is already well known that I am fundraising for the See Hear Centre in Barnstaple so please click on this link to go to the donation page and learn more about the valuable resources and services available to people with a sight and hearing impairment: Mark’s donation page

Thank you for reading.

Welcome to Minnesota and the Red Wing Brewery

No sooner had I crossed the Mississippi River into Red Wing, Minnesota than I found myself in the company of a vibrant group of young cyclists enthusiastically sampling the delights of the Red Wing Brewery’s craft beers – Team Jackhammer is their collective name and they had recently completed the annual RAGBRAI tour through the state of Iowa. It sounds like jolly good fun and a great social event as well as a bike ride.

At Red Wing brewery with Team Jackhammer

What a great bunch of people they were too, passing on tips and advice on the best breweries, bars and cycle route for my next day’s ride. I even gained a valuable contact and an amazing connection to someone I met nearly 2 weeks and several hundred miles away in Moorhead/Fargo; I’ll reveal that in a later blog.

Onwards to Cannon Falls and my first foray on the many wonderful bike trails of Minnesota. These became a feature of the next week of cycling – the picturesque Cannon Falls trail, long flat lake Wobegon trail and Central Lakes trails and the Gateway State trail out of St Paul, not forgetting the superb city bike lanes in St Paul and Minneapolis themselves, twin cities and both full of history, sights and fine breweries 🍻😉

On the Cannons Falls Trail
Echinacea in flower (Cannon Falls Trail)
Entrance to the Lake Wobegon Trail
Town on Central Lakes Trail
Central Lakes Trail – 1st view the Great Plains

My host in St Paul, Mary Margaret Sullivan,   excelled herself, despite my late arrival and the almost immediate onset of a tremendous electrical storm and flash flooding. Our dinner option involved wading through 6″ waters to the nearest restaurant.

The following day, Friday, was an expensive one! The bike went in to the locally recommended bike repair shop, Grand Performance, and came out with new front chain rings, rear cassette, chain and bottom bracket. Oh, and front brake pads. Plus a tune up. The result was a smoother-running bike and happy rider 😊

Later, Mary took me on a car tour of the twin cities and along the way we spent some time in the St Paul Cathedral:

St Pauls Cathedral in St Paul
Howdy partner?

I saw an American eagle!

Early Monday morning, fed a generous breakfast and a packed lunch provided by my hosts, I set off from Mishicot in thick fog! What was that – did you just say, fog?

 Ok, so which way do I go from here? Oh, that’s easy, just head across this road and keep going, the road’s long and straight….Yep, so it is. The fog soon lifted thankfully and normal sunny weather resumed.

My destination that day was Appleton, a mere 50 something mile ride but, as so often on this tour I never made to Appleton. In fact, and purely by chance and using my keen nose over lunch by Fox River

 I diverted and ended up at a State Park on Lake Winnebago that I later discovered is one the favourites of many. High Cliff is its name and the entire area is truly stunningly beautiful.
Before I reached the park I pulled into a town called Sherwood (yes, there is a forest nearby and guess what it’s called…..yup, Sherwood Forest and I did spot at least one reference to the famous Robin Hood). Feeling the need for something cooling I stopped at the nearest ice cream parlour and indulged in the most delightful banana split I have ever seen in my lifetime. Alright, I was hot and in desperate need, and I’m sure you’ll understand that in the ‘heat’ of the moment it worked wonders for me:

Banana split US style
The ride to High Cliff was a reminder of the effect of the high summer temperatures on some of the newly laid road surfaces and I once again found myself riding on soft tar. Thankfully, no loose chippings this time.
The campsite, for the first night at least, was quiet, peaceful and relatively private and set amidst dense woodland, the only sounds that of occasional birdsong. In the morning I decided to stay two extra nights; it was that good a camp I thought. With time off from touring I rode a much lightened bike down the lake shoreline and visited some very picturesque lakeside locations. At one of these I felt able to put the bike aside, sit down on the edge of a jetty and simply lose myself in the peace and calm of the still waters of Lake Winnebago. I think these pictures say it all:

Further along the shoreline I stumbled upon another stunning camping spot, on a county park practically adjacent to High Cliff and, in my opinion, an even more peaceful and picturesque location. See what I mean:

I return to camp only to find that I’m now sharing the site with 7 (6 girls & 1 boy) high spirited youngsters celebrating college graduation. Campfire lit, food cooked, plenty of noisy chatter, and the end of my peace and solitude! No matter, it made quite a pleasing change actually seeing how they were enjoying their recent successes and, no doubt, the chance of a few days away from the families. They made it up to me in the morning with a bowl of hot oatmeal and fruit and warm buttered bagels.

This park has a fairly decent beach and swimming area with stunning views across Lake Winnebago:

…’s no surprise really that it’s such a popular location.

Off we go again, cycling through more wonderful Wisconson countryside. A few days later I arrive at the home of my next Warmshower hosts John and Kathy Kulig in Pigeon Falls, a truly beautiful area of Wisconsin set amidst green rolling valleys. John came out and rode with me towards his home and showed me the way when I left two days later. This little collection showcases the best of the area:

The famous American Eagle

Blueberry fields
John ringing the starter bell
Adorable pets
Inside its a games centre
Outside its a traditional barn
A fine head of antlers
City park with its own lake

Two into one does go, or does it?

Before I begin I’ll ask the Wisconson and Minnesota residents to forgive me for including them both in the same blog post. Its not that I don’t think each deserves a separate story but rather their stories blend nicely together, in my opinion at least.

I left off, a few blogs back, having disembarked the SS Badger at Manitowoc. Coffee and food not far from the ferry port set me up well for the remainder of the day. And it was a day well worth remembering for a number of reasons.

So, I’ll showcase the best photos from that day and move on: 

Manitowoc as viewed from SS Badger
SS Badger building up a head of (coal fired) steam for the return sailing
No, I wasnt playing Pokemon but the coffee and donut were reallly good 😊
Manitowoc shoreline
Is this really lake Michigan?
Yep, it really is lake Michigan
Holiday paradise
A novel way to mark the location of your house

My Warmshowers host that night had himself only recently returned from cycling the ACA Northern Tier route. Bob Moczynski and his nephew had a 3 week window to ride from the start point on the Oregon West coast to his home at Mishicot, outside of Two Rivers near Manitowoc. They did it by following the maps to the letter and riding 100-150 miles daily! Not like my tour which includes numerous photo stops, coffee breaks, chats with the locals and other time consuming activities, such as taking wrong turns or generally lazing around and enjoying myself. I admired their commitment and also picked up plenty of useful tips, but I couldn’t ride like that day after day to save my life.

Bob was a great host. His wife Mary cooked up some wonderful food for evening meal with the two daughters and boyfriends and set me up well in the morning for my next day on the road. A foggy one too:

Where does this road go?

Oh dear! That one day in Wisconsin served up a few surprises and enough for one blog. I think we’ll move on to another post don’t you?