Wabasha, Minnesota to Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin
Distance: 55.9 miles
Ascent: 3,183 feet
Cumulative Distance this tour: 809.4 miles
This morning we breakfasted in the AmericInn lobby with something masquerading as eggs and sausage. We learned that last night Phil was audience to a snoring duet between me and Jack somewhere about 1:30AM. He said it only lasted about 30 minutes.
Out of Wabasha, we took to the ACA route starting away from the river (MN60) and into an immediate 450 foot climb. Sorta hurts with no warmup. It reminded me of a similar morning back in 2011. (http://www.twowheeljournal.net/?p=2869).
As we ground our way up we were suddenly inundated with mosquitoes. I got bit numerous places, especially in the back where the little beggars can hide in one’s wake. With an adrenaline surge, my cadence increased and I was soon passing Phil. Rich: “Shit man, can you believe all these mosquitoes? Holy cow – they’re feasting on us!” Phil: “Yep.”
We reached a lookout point further up the slope above the swarms, but still applied repellant. In retrospect, it sure was good that we didn’t try to reach camp up here yesterday at day’s end. At least we were fresher for the climb this morning.
The route eventually leveled out into farmland, turned into a set of 9 or 10 rollers, and then gave us one more healthy climb of three or four hundred feet. A mild headwind made it that much more interesting.
CR4 took us north and back to the river. As expected, we were rewarded with a wicked fun 35 mph drop for a few miles back to river elevation, and we were soon in Lake City. This place is located on a wide section of the river called Lake Pepin. We found a waterfront park and decided to vegetate enjoying the morning sun.
Camping awaits tonight with no food sources, so we eventually rolled over to the local Fiesta Foods. I remember strolling the aisles hungry for everything I saw. A lady employee asked me if I needed any help, and I jokingly asked her what to buy because I couldn’t decide. Phil agreed to share fixings for PB&Js with me, and I also picked up some Pop Tarts, Coke, iced coffee, and some zip lock bags for the sandwiches.
North through neighborhood streets, another short section of US61, then a roll on CR2 riverside through Frontenac State Park. Idyllic riding – the reason we’re up here. One of those places where you can’t pedal slowly enough because you just want to take it all in. Phil and Jack got way ahead of me when I came upon a gorgeous little lake, then noticed an opportune bench and trash can. Perfect place to assemble the PB&Js – in paradise. I think I sat there for 20 minutes with a little grin on my face making 12 sandwiches and stuffing them into zip-locks. Doesn’t get much better.
In Frontenac, I soon found Jack’s and Phil’s bikes at the Whistle Stop Café. They were wondering where I’d gotten to. Pure comfort food there – hamburger steak, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, cottage cheese. Mmmm.
Phil finally expressed an ongoing concern he’d been having, one that he was somehow slowing our touring pace. Jack and I did our best to dismiss that ill-placed thought. One must ride one’s own ride, not someone else’s. There is no necessity to ride “together”. Jack and I ride at remarkably the same pace on average, but we seldom ride as a duo and even less side-by-side. I think maybe this is a convention that Phil needed to let go of.
The ACA takes another vector away from the river, but this time the three of us voted to instead stay on US61. More traffic and less interest perhaps, but a real wide shoulder and almost assuredly flatter. Besides, there were constant river views to entertain us. Eleven miles took us through Wacouta and then into some messy construction and backed-up traffic in Red Wing.
Took us a few minutes of bumper-to-bumper to eventually get onto the bridge to Wisconsin. Yay –a new state (no “Welcome to Wisconsin sign”, but we found the one below at a bar)! US63 is lousy for bikes, so as soon as possible we ditched onto various back river roads, hillier but safer. At times Harley motorcycles roared by us. We made a couple of stops, one at a bar where we talked to a guy skinning two huge catfish, another with a sweet lady interested in our riding.
We eventually made it out to Great River Road and continued northwest. The road climbs, following the river to tiny Diamond Bluff. It then turns away from the water, so we enjoyed yet another ascent to finish the day. The entire climb was only 350 feet or so but had a few true granny sections in it.
To Nesbitt Nursery, our destination. Jack had called here a few months ago in preparation. The place was closed up and no one was around. We finally found a guy with a lawn mower out back who walked off to find owner Leah. She made an immediate impression on us all – affable, sweet, and hard working. And hugely welcoming to cyclists. She opened up the store and then sat us down for a good 20 minute chat over cold beer.
We were eventually led to a big nursery garden of mature blue spruce trees. In the middle of it was an opening of mown grass for tenting. Wonderful! In case we needed it, Leah left the building door open if we wanted to use the facilities, wanted some RO water, etc. Man – camping in paradise among the pines! Doesn’t get better.
Dinner of PB&J – Phil didn’t want any <jeez!>. After that we all took off for solo strolls around the property. Mine consisted of an hour of sunset meandering around an apple orchard and pumpkin patch talking with Linda. So fine I thought I might be dreaming. Jack’s consisted of getting lost for 45 minutes in a big maze constructed from pine trees that had grown together. He later said it was pretty difficult. For instance, they place dead end markers for you, but then they play tricks by placing identical markers in different dead ends.
A thoroughly great place for our last night tenting. Thank you Leah and Nesbitt Nursery! And a great day of riding today. Drier and cooler, 56 miles and probably 3000 feet of climbing. My nodding-off thought is simply that tomorrow we will end the tour.