“Oooh, you’ve got a ways to go then” said the heavyset man in a thick Minnesota accent upon hearing of my intended destination this day. The man was cruising along in the early morning stillness on a three-wheel bicycle (an adult tricycle, maybe?) in the small town of Heron Lake. I slowed to his leisurely pace of about 6 mph and struck up a conversation, as fellow long-distance cyclists tend to do. “I’m heading to Shaffer’s Crossing where I’ll turn around and head back”, he joyfully replied when I asked where he was headed. I’ve no idea where that is, but I’m sure he eventually got there and happily returned, waving to local townsfolk along the way. Further proof that it’s not how far or fast you go, but to enjoy the ride.
The big man on three wheels was absolutely correct – it was a ways to Mankato. 110 miles total. 66 degrees to start, 91 at the finish. Light winds (thankfully) throughout, except when I found myself in the middle of a huge wind farm – I guess they know to put those big turbines in wind-prone areas!
A nice and shady town square in Windom served as a good place to refuel after about 30 miles. Jax visited the local library housed in a grandiose building that formerly served as a bank. A lot of farmland, and small farm towns, and friendly folks wondering what we were up to… and offering up advice on detours. Summer is construction season in Minnesota, which caused a few extra bonus miles.
An unexpected ‘rural road bike lane’ offered a wonderfully wide shoulder and designated bikeway between the towns of St. James and Madelia, courtesy of the WATonwan COunty Trail System. A thank you and shout out to WATCOTS.
Approaching Mankato, the terrain turned from flat farmland to hilly treelined river valleys. Some might even say mountainous? Witness Mount Kato (a cleaver take on ManKato) – which looks to be a wonderful winter ski area, with at least 3 lifts. But I’m not sure I’d call it a mountain. Steep hill, maybe. It’s nestled along a stunningly beautiful path called the Red Jacket Trail. After 100 miles of farmland, the tree-lined recreation path (converted from a former railway) felt like a totally different world with singing birds, prancing deer… and free-range chickens (no kidding, perhaps they escaped from one of the nearby farms!).
More Rails-to-Trails tomorrow on the way to Red Wing, Minnesota. Looking forward to it!