The Mississippi River is at flood stage but we are safe camping for the night on its bank.
We are so far North we are near the headwaters of this Gigantic Water route which bisects the nation geographically and culturally…the East and West as it has been for 200 years.
Over the past ten days we have been riding along this Great River, sometimes on the East Bank, sometimes on the West. In Minneapolis every time we used the Metro or walked out for errands we crossed back and forth from North to South.
Tomorrow bright and early I will cross it for the last time on this trip and head West.
From Muscatine, Iowa to here in Royalton, Minnesota it has been a constant reference point, one which now gives way to the vast Great Plains and the Oceans of Grass where the sense of direction is all but lost without the passage of the sun, stars, and moon.
As I sit here now and look across the river I wonder what it must have been like for the pioneers to make this final commitment as they passed. Perhaps with blind faith they leapt not knowing how vast and wild were the Great Plains. If they had known I am not sure as many would have come…I doubt I would have been brave enough to cross…
Today and for the next two days we travel through the wetlands of Minnesota towards Fargo, North Dakota. I learned last night that the Land of 10,000 Lakes actually has 15,000 to 20,000 bodies of water all untamed. These Wetlands are a protected environment watched closely by the State.
The definition of wetlands here is land on which cat tails grow.
Plain and simple.
If this plant exists the farmers are not allowed to use their own land.
One told us last night that it is common for farmers to track down the cat tail patches and pull them at night so Land Wardens cannot spot them from the air and designate the plots as off the cultivating grid.
All along the route today I can see beautiful farms interrupted by swaths and patches of Wetlands.
Here too for all to see is evidence of previous glacial activity moved aside so the fertile land can be farmed.
At one point in the ride Flossie rushed ahead…to flirt with a llama by the side of the road. Apparently Flossie does not speak Llamese as the conversation died before it even got off the ground…
She did better down the road…
As we approached our final destination, a park along the River, I looked up to see handwritten signs encouraging us along…written by local families with members who have MS…who have come to this riverside getaway to feed us tonight…from miles around.
“ It sounded like a good idea months ago…it still is”
” Wish I looked that good on a bike”
I must admit that after yesterday’s ride I was very tired and a bit discouraged…even the sun and warm air did little to lift my spirits battered by the previous day’s storm. But as I read each sign , about a third of a mile apart, my dark mood lifted and I remembered why I ride.
“ Keep pedaling your wheels of steel”
”Ride like the wind!”
As bad as yesterday was for two or three hours it is nothing like living with this dreaded disease.
And so reminded I move on…
Tomorrow we pick up the Soo Line Bike Trail which becomes the Wobegon Trail a bit West. For the next 140 miles I will not ride on roads but through the heartland of the Southern Lake Country in this Fairy Tale Land…at least so says NPR to all of us each weekend for an hour or so…
By the way, people here do in fact talk exactly as on the show, much to my amusement…but I don’t dare laugh because for them it is normal.
It is part of their Scandinavian cultural so different from mine.
If you thought that Somalian “Something Sweet Gooey Pumpkin” stuff was bad, the locals here eat many strange foods including a white fish soaked in lye called Lutefish…yes…lye…
sorry, not for me…pass the sweet potato pie, please.
But then that too is what makes this country so great, just another example of the Cultural Melting Pot being challenged by those that for a while in Washington “Be”
I suspect the pot will continue to simmer on as these divisive times pass…
I truly wish that those in power for the moment would take the time to ride a bike across America to see how “Great We Are” as a diverse people in the Here and Now…
Oh well…maybe I too should be a little more open minded… pass the “ yummy” Lutefish…since I’m here anyway…OMG am I really going to eat this fish??????
But I do know that tomorrow the Mississippi will be just a memory somewhere behind me as I pedal towards the Grasslands to the West…towards the Moon as it begins to set…
P.S. we were fed tonight by a local MS support group and guess who I met?
The woman who made the signs!