So in the previous post I discussed the prep work and the route that I had developed for an epic cross country trip. With Hurricane Dorian making unpredictable movements in the Atlantic Ocean I decided to fly back to Minnesota a few days early before flights were canceled out of Charleston. Since I had a few extra days in Minnesota I took the time to recheck my gear as well as to get used to how my bike handled while loaded down on the new Shinko 705 tires. I also studied up on the first section of the trip that I would ride which was down Highway 61 which is also part of the Great River Road.
The Great River Road is a collection of state and local roads that follows the course of the Mississippi River through ten states starting at the head waters in Northern Minnesota all the way down to New Orleans, Louisiana. While this route is completely paved it is a fun route to ride especially in the northern portions through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. These areas cut through the Driftless Region which was an area that was not covered in glaciers during the last Ice Age. Because of this theirs massive sandstone bluffs, deep forested ravines, steep ridgelines, and even mountains that are a geologic anomaly in the northern part of the country. When thinking of the Mid West and how flat and sparse it usually is this area is certainly unique.
I started my trip just outside Minneapolis in the suburb of Eden Prairie, I had to close on my house and unfortunately the closing was at 4 in the afternoon which meant I would have to detour around the southern parts of the city to avoid rush hour traffic which sucked up valuable day light. Once I got out of the city I worked my way over to the river town of Hastings and then started to ride down the Minnesota side of the Great River Road which is labeled as Highway 61. This portion takes you through the river towns of Lake City, Red Wing, Wabasha, and Winona. Along the way you pass Lake Pepin which is a massive lake on the Mississippi River, its at this point that the Mississippi is at it’s widest.
Around Wabasha I started to lose daylight which I wasn’t to much of a fan of because it was in this area where the route has very tight turns around sandstone bluffs and ridgelines and riding on tight curves in the dark usually isn’t to much fun. Plus anyone whose owned a KLR knows that they don’t have the best headlights and that was one area I really didn’t upgrade for some reason. My destination for the night was Great River Bluffs State Park which is outside of Winona, Minnesota. The interesting thing about this state park that I didn’t know is theirs two entrance points. One is for bicycles and hikers only and is conveniently right off Highway 61, the main entrance however is actually 8 miles up I-90 and takes you up a narrow gravel road to the top of a large bluff. This was kind of disheartening since at this point I was riding in the dark and deer were starting to come out and were crossing the roads.
Great River Bluffs State Park is a pretty nice state park and would be the first destination that I would camp at. I pulled into my campsite around 8 pm and got everything set up and made some dinner and then called it a night. My campsite wasn’t to bad and was nice and flat however it did have a bit of a slope going down to it and it was kind of tricky to maneuver a loaded down KLR especially in the dark. However, I was short distance to a bath house and had a water pump close by. This day I logged only 151 miles and only spent three and a half hours in the saddle which was full of twisty windy roads that had a speed limit of 45…however that didn’t stop me from having fun in some areas.
My next entry will go into day 2 where I continued south on the Great River Road before heading east into central Illinois to Siloam Springs State Park which would be my second camping stop on the trip.