Day 41 Wilton to Burlington, IA 71 miles (2551 total miles)

So sleeping in the tent was not great but not nearly as bad as I expected. Real pain getting in and out but I did manage to get a few hours of good sleep.

Got the tent before Appalachian Trail so have gotten some good use out of it. Purchased at REI. They’d probably replace for free…if I ever get near one.

Finally got back down to the Mississippi as I neared Muscatine.

Was in town by 8AM and at Harper’s Cycling when they opened at 9. Great experience. Family business.

Lucky that they fit me in as they are closed starting tomorrow for RAGBRAI. This is an annual bike ride across IA from Missouri River to Mississippi. 10,000 plus participants. I’ve been getting asked all through IA if I’m participating. Want to say that I’m doing that about 10 times!!

Greg let me watch him work on Gerty and was extremely helpful. Didn’t sell me a chain as he said wouldn’t do much good unless I get a new sprocket(?) as well. They are in short supply. He oiled chain and told me to do that frequently. He also told me I ride in high gear way too much. Oops! Just trying to go fast. Sorry, Gerty!!

Back tire is much more worn than front. Not unusual as there’s 25 extra pounds back there and that’s also driving gears. Front tire just steers. Will have to replace down the road.

Other than that all good with Gerty.

He told me there would be no services once I left Muscatine until I arrived in Burlington (almost 60 miles).

The first 12 miles out of Muscatine were almost perfectly flat. Tried to stay out of high gear. I’d give myself a C+ on that. Chain worked great. No slippage.

Greg was right about the no services. I was ecstatic to see a Casey’s convenience store as I got to outskirts of Burlington. Tired and almost out of water.

I then searched for a hotel room. Definitely not wanting 2 straight nights in my flat tent. First 2 hotels were sold out. Panic setting in. Lady at second place felt sorry for me and started calling around. Found me a room on her 3rd try. “Dated but clean.” Works for me!!

Will cross into IL tomorrow. Hopefully stay down in valley where it’s relatively flat.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 40 Dyersville to Wilton, IA 88 miles (2480 total miles)

The day started on a high note. I’ll say that much.

Field of Dreams was only a half mile off my route.

Kris and I had been there with a small group from work in 1990 (I think). It is still just a donation to get on/near the field.

Things are a bit more commercialized these days. There’s a concession stand, souvenir shop, you have to pay to go near the house, and they have a major league stadium ready to host Yankees and White Sox in August. You can see the lights beyond the corn.

Construction workers were busy on the stadium. Couldn’t get close to that.

This is the house from the movie.

It was a fun stop. I was there for about a half hour and then time to pedal.

Stopped at the Cascade Cafe for lunch at about the 28 mile mark. John, the owner, was flabbergasted by what I was doing. Bought my lunch. Also gave me $20 for charities and a mdiner gave me $4!!

John and Michelle (waitress)

At bike shop in Alexandria they said Gerty’s chain was a bit stretched. She’s starting to slip a bit in high gear so I called bike shop in Muscatine and made an appointment for 9AM tomorrow.

Muscatine is 80 miles from where I had lunch so I targeted Wilton, about 20 miles short of there.

Hard afternoon of riding but I got there about 6PM. That’s when things went bad.

Motel I was hoping to stay at is closed. Got picked up for doing 20 mph in a 15.

Actually didn’t get picked up. Asked officer if there was a place I could pitch my tent in town. He was super nice and escorted me to a town park.

Went to set up my tent and it’s broken. Back in MT I had to do some repair work on stretch cord that holds poles together. It was fine at Mr. Bloom’s but was not fine here. Tried to jigger it together but only made it worse. It’s now totaled.

Tonight I’m sleeping in a low rider!

I’m writing this from inside my tent. Not easy to get into and I’m guessing difficult to get out of. Also 0 headroom!!

Stephen King, on his best days, couldn’t make this stuff up. Here’s to better days.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 39 Marquette to Dyersville, IA 71 miles (2392 total miles)

We’re half way to Key West! Before I started people asked how long it would take me. I guessed 10 weeks. 4 days behind but I didn’t pedal for 4 days so, to me, I’m right on track!

Started the day with a big climb out of Marquette. 500’ in 1.5 miles wouldn’t be a big deal hiking but it’s lots of work on a bike.

Spent a good part of the day on the River Bluffs Scenic Parkway. We were up on the ridges above the river.

The only problem on the Scenic Byway was I didn’t see the river or the bluffs all day…unless you consider this a bluff.

I usually stop in the morning after 25-35 miles. Get something to eat and sit on something other than my bike seat.

This morning I passed a town with a couple cafes at 28 miles. Didn’t stop because there was another town 6 miles up the road. Nothing there. As was the case in the next town. Ended up going 54 miles until I found somewhere to stop.

Discovered that 40 miles without a stop is as far as I can efficiently go. We were pretty slow the last 14 miles.

It was humid but relatively cool today (mid 70’s). Good for pedaling. Thought it was foggy/hazy early in AM but later realized it was smoke from wildfires in west.

Made it to Dyersville shortly after my sole break of the day. It was only 17 miles so a fairly easy cruise.

Dyersville is the home of Field of Dreams. Think I’ll be within 2 miles of field tomorrow. Hoping to stop there.

It’s supposed to be hot and humid for next week or so. By hot I’m talking 95, not 105 like MT. I’ll take the humidity over really high temperatures. The heat radiates off pavement. Humidity doesn’t. I just sweat profusely.

While I’m at at, why do most bad things on a bicycle start with H? Hills. Heat. Headwinds. Humidity. Is this someone’s idea of a joke?

Ride on.

Just Pete

DON’T QUIT 

When Things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and debts are high,
And you want to Smile but have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out,
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up,
When he might captured the victor’s cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown,

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.”

Day 38 Onalaska to Marquette, IA 68 miles (2321 total miles)

Wowza!! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. Sooo appreciated. I’m 99.9% sure I’ll make it but this stretch will just be mentally difficult.

I have usually responded to questions about how I can do this by saying I’m stubborn. Someone suggested I use determined instead. So now I’m determined…and kind of stubborn.

Late start today because I watched Jeff Bezos blast off into space. I want to do that!! You gotta love Wally Funk. 82 years old. Incredible.

Rode through La Crosse, WI. Some nice paths but there was some major construction areas. I had to walk Gerty through several construction areas.

Once through that it was a pretty smooth ride.

I like riding through the river valley but the valley is narrow. River, railroad tracks, road, really big hills.

Lots of islands along the river. Pretty sure I’ll meet Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer along the way. Guarantee we’d be good buddies.

No offense to vegetarians but too funny to pass up.

Stopped mid-PM at a local tavern for a Coke. You may find this hard to believe but I don’t drink Bud while I’m pedaling. Chatted with the regulars and another walks in and says “Paddle wheeler coming down the river. Probably 5-10 minutes away. Idiots lined up along road taking pictures.”

5 minutes later I said thanks but have to go. Had to pedal hard to catch up so I could be an idiot taking pics!

I had stayed on the WI side of the river while the route was on IA/MN side. Didn’t need maps and was going to end up in Marquette either way. Just a question of where we crossed.

Not my greatest decision but far from a disaster. This was from the east channel of the Mississippi. River so wide here that there’s also a west channel almost as big.

The bridge over the west channel was under construction. One lane with stop light. When it turned green, I waited for about 30 vehicles to pass. I then pedaled as fast as I could. Knew I had to get across before traffic coming other direction was heading at me.

I kept up with traffic for a while but was a ways behind by end of bridge. Thankfully car at front of line heading toward me was patient. Blocked traffic until I got across.

Somewhere I’m sure there was a Welcome to IA sign. I was a bit focused on getting across bridge so I missed that one.

So many encouraging comments today. Thanks to all.

Tomorrow the route goes north and west from Marquette for a bit. Exact opposite direction I want to be heading. Also leaving the river valley. That means hills!

Ride on.

Just Pete

George Moriarty’s poem The Road Ahead or The Road behind:

And so the fates are seldom wrong,
No matter how they twist and wind;
It’s you and I who can make our fates,
We open up or close the gates
On the ROAD AHEAD or the ROAD BEHIND

Day 37 Stockholm to Onalaska,WI 77 miles (2253 total miles)

Today was a much more reasonable ride. Only a couple big hills. Really needed that.

Went through Lake Pepin. It is the birthplace of water skiing. Ralph Samuelson figured that out nearly 100 years ago (thanks, Kay Fisher). It’s also the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Spent most of the day riding in the valley along the Mississippi. That’s why the day was relatively shy on hills.

This pic made me think of the Appalachian Trail. I can guarantee the trail would run right over that ridge.

Wisconsin has to lead the nation in bars per capita. I went through Alma. Population 781. Must have been a dozen bars. I’ve noticed a similar ratio in other towns. Guess that’s the only way you can be a Packer fan!! 😁

Stopped at the Wing Dam Saloon in Fountain City for lunch. Great experience. Food was good but the highlight was meeting Lauren (bartender, waitress, and server). She was intrigued by my journey and really wanted to help me. I suggested donating to the charities I’m riding for but she really wanted to help ME personally. She bought my lunch. So cool! Thanks so much, Lauren. Awesome to meet you.

Businesses have been short staffed my entire journey. I feel very sorry for those businesses struggling to find employees. Please be patient with those folks that are working. They have enough pressure already.

The final few miles were on a shaded, hard pan bike path. Very relaxing.

The next 1500 miles will be the most difficult of the trip based on my prior experiences. I’m not talking physically. I really have no clue what to expect there. I’m talking mentally.

It was new and exciting at the beginning. Then I had Bristol to look forward to. I knew I had friends and support for a ways after that.

It’s way too early to even think about Key West so I’ll just be grinding miles out for the next 3 weeks or so. This is when I really need your support.

I read and enjoy every comment on the blog and I love to see donations to the charities I’m riding for (https://at-pete.com/pledge-information/).

I am fortunate to have a great network of support. I’ll really be needing it the next few weeks.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 36 Stillwater, MN to Stockholm, WI 64 miles (2176 total miles)

Dave and I had a great breakfast at Main St Cafe in Stillwater. We met Michelle and Kevin Hileman there. Michelle and I worked together 16+ years ago. Hadn’t seen each other since then so great to catch up.

Kevin has completed many triathlons and works at an athletic club. I had never met him before so I was a bit nervous he would show up with a carbon fiber racing bike and ride my butt into the ground. He had the bike!

Today was a lot like yesterday. Big ups and downs. Kevin has a gadget on his bike that measures everything. RPM’s, watts of power generated, incline of hills, etc. We were on an 18% incline almost immediately. I can’t even explain how steep that is…especially before you’re even warmed up.

Kevin took it easy on me all day. Thank goodness.

We spent the first 25 miles on the St Croix Scenic Hwy but only saw the river at Stillwater and 25 miles later when we crossed the river into Prescott, WI. It’s probably scenic in a motorized vehicle but on a bike it was just hills and corn!

We road somewhere up on that ridge.

Leaving Prescott I could see a high ridge running parallel to the river. I knew we were going up there. Unfortunately I was right!

There were no services (food, water) for 20 miles after Prescott. Kevin was out of water and I was low by then. We finally came across a campground that had a small bar. Had some lemonade and got some ice and water.

The regulars at the bar were curious about where we were heading. When we told them Stockholm, they kind of laughed and told us we would have a big (2 mile long) hill to climb. Great. 😩

We finally joined up with the Mississippi River. The close body of water is Lake SomethingOrOther. The Mississippi is in the distance.

The big hill was real. Not that steep, but 2 miles of constant up. Not easy after 50 miles but we made it. Video is at top of hill.

The good news is that we got to coast down the other side. Gerty and I were pretty happy.

We finished the 64 miles in 5.5 hours. That includes about 30 minutes of stops so we had ridden at a pretty good pace all day.

Michelle was waiting for us in Stockholm. They bought me lunch and a couple Buds. Michelle had also reserved (and paid for) a motel room for me. How nice is that!!!

Overall a tough but really rewarding day. Kevin taught me a few things and was a pleasure to ride with. Not sure I would have made it quite this far today without his company.

A big thanks to Kevin and Michelle. You guys are awesome.

Starting to think that in another 1000 miles or so I may actually be considered a cyclist.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 35 Osceola, WI to Stillwater, MN 28 Miles (2112 total miles)

Took my time getting out of Osceola this morning. I was comfortable there and assumed I’d just roll right on down to Stillwater.

Reality hit very quickly with a short but steep climb out of town. Not exactly what I expected.

There were crazy ups and downs the whole ride. The toughest pedaling since I was in MT. Gerty hadn’t been in low gear for quite some time.

I actually had to stop and rest on 2 different hills. Got going 40 mph down one hill. That’s a bit scary but I knew what goes down must go up. I was at 3 mph half way up the next hill.

Going slow is not fun. Not only are you working really hard…it’s also hard to keep Gerty going in a straight line at those slow speeds.

Osceola and Stillwater are at essentially the same elevation. Both on the St. Croix River. The route was on the hills up above the river. Actually only saw the river at beginning and end. Everything in between was like a giant roller coaster. Up…down. Repeat about 50 times.

St. Croix River at Stillwater.

Ended the day back in Minnesota. Almost felt like no progress but we’re now starting to head predominantly south. I guess that’s progress because have to head that way sometime.

Rolled into Stillwater about 1:30. Thirsty and hungry. Fortunately I rode right up to Charlie’s Irish Pub.

Spending the night at the home of Dave and Stephanie Adams. They also have a home in our community in FL.

Dave, Stephanie, Charlie, and Hannah.

Spent a very relaxing afternoon and evening at their house. Dave had Buds on ice for me and we had burgers and chocolate cake for dinner. Add on a couple hours of appetizers and I’m pretty well fed!!

Tomorrow Kevin Hileman is going to ride with me. He’s the husband of Michelle, a former co-worker. I’m pretty sure it will be as difficult (or worse) than today. At least I’ll have company to share in the misery.

Thanks to Dave and Steph for your incredible hospitality. I appreciate it so much.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 34 Milaca,MN to Osceola, WI 80 Miles (2084 total miles)

Crazy day that ended on a great note.

Was a bit lazy in the AM and didn’t head out until about 8:45. I usually wake about 6 but just wasn’t quite ready to start pedaling. That’s the toughest part of these adventures…the day after day grind.

Once we got going through we kicked butt. 30 miles to first stop in about 1 hr 50 minutes.

Had a great lunch and met a cyclist heading the other direction. Dan (didn’t get a pic) and I discussed what was ahead for each of us. I was at the lunch spot for 1.5 hrs!!

Had my first chasing dog. This time I was the impala! Fortunately it was on a bit of a downhill and he was more like an over-fed lion than a cheetah.

There are 2 seasons in these parts. Winter and construction. Talk about confusing.

I’ve heard the name, Richard Widmark. Guessing he must be kind of famous.

My goal for today was Osceola. 70 miles. 40 after lunch. No problem.

Cows seem to be fascinated by a cyclist. Get lots of stares. This guy really checked me out. No Rocky Mountain oysters from this stud. That’s not a 5th leg!!

Everything was great until that point. Only 10 miles to Osceola. Unfortunately I missed a turn. I just get rolling and forget to look at map. Happens quite a bit, right Dennis!

This one was pretty bad. When I realized I wasn’t on route, I figured I was paralleling route. Take the next right and all good.

I ended up at Taylor Falls. Actually had to ask someone what town I was in.

Saw an amazing view of St. Croix River.

Problem was that I was 10 miles out of my way. I was Just Angry Pete. Tried to blame it on Gerty but she was having none of that.

I headed in the general direction I thought Osceola would be and angrily pedaled for the next hour. I shouldn’t even admit this but…I had no clue Osceola was in Wisconsin!! Please don’t tell anyone.

My maps are horrible when not on route so I tried Google maps. No cell service. Tired, frustrated, and just basically pissed at myself.

Once I got to Osceola my mood changed. Amazing what dinner and a few Buds will do.

At dinner someone told me there was a town team baseball game. Osceola Braves vs Hudson River Rats. Wooden bats. Old school. I walked 5 blocks to Oakey Park.

What a great time. Bud Grant once played for Osceola and Joe Mauer played there for a St Paul team while in high school.

I had a blast…even though “we” lost 18-0 in 7 innings. Made lots of new friends. This is Kathy, Michelle, and Todd. Also met a super nice young couple, Alex and Monique. So much fun.

Awesome ending to the day.

Short trip to Stillwater tomorrow. Pretty sure that’s in MN!

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 33 Sauk Centre to Milaca 94 Miles (2004 total miles)

We got some more media coverage in South Dakota. The Roscoe-Hosmer Independent had us on the front page. Thanks Brenda Anderson for your PR work!

The first half of today’s ride was on the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail. No motorized vehicles…except snowmobiles in the winter.

22 miles on a repurposed railroad track. Trains must like hills as much as I do because it was pretty flat. There were also lots of trees and shade. Hadn’t seen much of that since Glacier National Park.

It was also a very fast track. We were in high gear. Gerty felt good after her bath and she was humming.

There was even a covered bridge specifically for the trail.

You have to work to keep your mind occupied doing things like this. There was no traffic or crappy shoulders to worry about so I invented a game. Plains of Africa.

There were quite a few cyclists out so when I would see someone out in front of me (you could see quite a ways), they became an impala…and I was a cheetah. Pedal as fast as I could until I ran them down. Don’t worry, I didn’t tackle them and drag them into the jungle for lunch…but I did fly past them really fast. Pretty sure I got my limit!!

After all those high speed chases, I needed some lunch. Not exactly 5 star but I had a chair (kind of) with a back (sort of)!

Crossed the mighty Mississippi River. Sure I’ll see her a few more times but I’m on the east side.

The last half of the day was on roads but the shoulders were good…for the most part.

I had planned to stop for the day at Curly’s Corner Bar. Not near a town but map said they had camping available. Perfect. Food and Buds right by my campsite.

About 1 mile away, I could see Curly’s. As I got closer I could see 1 car in parking lot. Not a real good sign but beggars can’t be choosers.

I pulled up and it looked dark and door was locked. Really bad sign. Especially since I was already mentally checked out.

Guy in lot (he was just parked) told me it had closed a couple months ago. I didn’t have enough water to tent in campsite so I asked the guy how far to next town. He said Milaca was about 5 miles ahead.

That didn’t sound right to me so I checked my map. It was really 15 miles. Total and complete bummer.

Had no choice so I started pedaling.

Of course there was a road closure with a detour. That would be a minimum of 2 extra miles. Screw that, I’m going through. It was just after 4 and I was hoping the construction workers were finished for the day.

Went around the barriers. Construction area was 3 miles long. A few sections of real soft gravel but most was pretty good. They’re really just widening road. I made it through and into Milaca

As a wise person once told me “There’s no such thing as an easy day.” Dennis Peterson, June 2021.

Safe and comfortable in a motel.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 32 Starbuck to Sauk Centre, MN 34 Miles (1910 total miles)

Believe it or not…Starbuck, MN is not the home of Starbucks coffee. It is a really nice town along Lake Minnewaska though.

Mary had me back to Starbuck at 8AM and I set off for Sauk Centre, the boyhood home of author Sinclair Lewis.

Where there’s pelicans, there’s fish. Must be lots of fish here.

Love having my camera operational again!

Soybeans to the left of me.

Soybeans to the right.

Here I am. Stuck in the middle with Gerty.

Mary picked me up in Sauk Centre about noon. She had called a bike shop to let them know Gerty would be coming in. No openings until August! Uh oh!!

The second shop said they may be able to get her in if we got there soon. We headed right to Alex Bike Shop in Alexandria, where Barry and Mary live.

The shop said would try to have her ready by end of day but no guarantee. Didn’t open until 10 next AM and I was really not wanting to wait until then to start riding. I would say I crossed my fingers that they would finish today but I can’t. Fingers still not totally functioning.

After we dropped Gerty off we went by Alex’s tourist attraction, Big Ole.

The “Birthplace of America” is local lore. Vikings are said to have visited here in 1382. Personally, I think that may be a stretch but who’s going to argue with Big Ole.

Got a call from bike shop at 3:30 that Gerty was ready. The shop said she looked good and that she had really good components. That was reassuring. Tires are good. Will probably need a new chain along the way because a bit stretched. They even gave her a bath!!

We celebrated by going out to their lake cabin for dinner.

Mary and Barry have been incredible hosts. 2 nights at their house and carting me all over the place. I’m so fortunate to have friends looking out for me. Thanks so much, Mary and Barry!

It was a good night at the lake and Gerty and I will be ready to roll in the AM.

Ride on.

Just Pete