Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blue Ox, Blue Berries and Blue Highways.

(Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN)

Left last Wednesday for a three-day & two night, solo, tour of Northern Minnesota. Fortuitous winds and dry weather were unexpected and appreciated during my 140 miles.

Starting from a friend's cabin near Park Rapid's, Minnesota, I rode 20 miles into Itasca State park. Itasca is famous for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

(My LHT at the park's East entrance)

(The marker at the start of the Mississippi you can read it if you click on the image)
On day two I rode for about 30 miles on the Paul Bunyan Trail. The rest of the trip's miles were pedaled on Minnesota's "blue highways." This term was coined by William Least Heat Moon in his autobiographical book Blue Highways. The term refers to small, forgotten, out of the way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).

(A stretch of blue highway with blue sky and blue water.)
Heat Moon's book tells of his travels and describes the people he meets during his 13,000 mile journey. I met one notable man. I was riding between Bemidji Lake State Park, where I spent my second night, and my starting point near Park Rapids. Tired, near noon, I was looking for a rare patch of shade to rest in. Finally seeing one spot at a crossroads, I stopped only to discover that a lawn of poison ivy had beaten me to the shade. Hence it was a standing break.

While enjoying my time off the bike, a beat up old pick-up truck stopped. A man in his early 70's approached me with a well used ice cream pail half full of freshly picked wild blueberries. He reached it out and said with a semi-toothed grin, "take a handful of these while you rest." I barely said thank you before he hopped in his truck and drove off. I gobbled most of my berries up before I thought to take a picture.

He wasn't the only person I met. Earlier in the day a woman and her daughter stopped by to visit me in camp. Every Harley Davidson rumbling by gave me a nod or a wave. What is it about bike touring that disarms and brings out the best in the people? Maybe they too have the romantic sense of the road that made Heat Moons' book so popular.

(The sweetest blueberries I ever had)
(Dinner in Itasca State Park)

(Bike at the start of the tour with front panniers on. I use them to carry extra food because of the relative isolation of where I was riding)

(Bike at the end of the tour with front panniers tucked into the rear bags.)

(Bike during a rest break on the Paul Bunyan Trail)

(The Paul Bunyan Trail)

1 comment:

SeanH said...

Looks like a good time. Always nice when mother nature cooperates.