Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin to Stillwater, Minnesota
Distance: 35.5 miles
Ascent: 2,171 feet
Cumulative Distance this tour: 844.8 miles
Cumulative Ascent this tour: 34,412 feet
Up early this morning. It had been a perfect night of camping – serene and perfect temperature. I took another long stroll around the apple orchard. Magical stuff. At one point I startled 2 deer who bounded away in giant leaps. Around the pumpkin patch were lots of plants that reminded me of childhood in Pennsylvania…milkweed, goldenrod, and many others with unknown names.
Back in camp it was peaceful and slow. Jack and Phil were already gone, probably up by the building. I’d do a little slow packing, then sit and drink coffee, then more packing, then a PB&J sandwich. Just didn’t want to leave.
The Oasis Eatery hadn’t opened yet, but I found Phil and Jack sitting in porch chairs with hot coffee. Leah is one kind hearted soul. We soon were seated out front in the morning breezes, and even though I’d already eaten I couldn’t pass up breakfast. Veggie frittata, yogurt parfait, more coffee, and hey-why-not a glass of prosecco. A piece of paradise on earth.
Leah’s dad came around and talked various cycling adventures he’d had. He’d actually seen us yesterday back on County Road K out of Red Wing. Unfortunately, we eventually had to get rolling, and did some goodbyes and hugs with Leah like we were all old friends. I’m guessing if any of us is ever in this neck of the woods again, we’ll be returning to Nesbitt Nursery.
Ten miles to the next town, Prescott WI, and of course we dropped like a stone back to the river, plus a few interim climbs. Absolutely fabulous riding weather, clear skies and cooler.
The peace was tainted by heavy Harley traffic in this area, an unusual amount of it. OK, must pontificate a little. These machines are SO annoyingly loud and there are way too many of them. Sure I know it’s fun, but the noise pollution from these machines should be illegal – well, it probably is. I’m not sure how or why local residents put up with it. Born to be wild…over and over. Costumed in the same leathers and chrome. It’s as if these guys and gals are perpetually stuck in the 70s.
We found the bridge back to Minnesota and crossed. All the while Jack hunted for a “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign facing the opposite direction, but never did see one. We stopped on the sidewalk of the bridge to take in the river, right at the point where the St. Croix River joins the Mississippi.
Ducking north, we followed the St. Croix for the final leg. Our tour wasn’t going to end so easily. We were presented with a 300 foot climb, and then a series of 50-100 foot rollers all the way to Afton. In fact, this area is even has a ski resort called the Afton Alps. Fortunately, we found an authentic ice cream store there (Selma’s Ice Cream) for real milkshakes. Enjoying them outside under a tree would have been bliss if not for the Harley din, but the milkshakes were really good anyway.
Twelve more miles to Stillwater, and it turned out surprisingly flat and with a tailwind assist. My left foot was hurting the whole way due to the ingrown toenail – each pedal stroke, especially the upstroke, brought discomfort. In that regard at least, it was a good thing the tour was ending.
We reached SR36, and slogged up a hill for 2 miles to finally find our place, an America’s Best Value Inn. In the lobby, we played “shoot” to see who would sleep alone and Phil won again. He’d won back in Muscatine the same way, although I guess I’d gotten the single bed back there in Wabasha.
Must hoist a glass! We found the Lift Bridge Brewing Company nearby. One of their brews was called Farm Girl Saison, absolutely delicious Belgian stuff that reminded me of Tripel Karmeleit. Cheers to a great tour!!
Around the table, we did a little review of the tour and came up with these traits:
- There are views galore up here
- This was a riding test for every one of us. Hillier than might be expected around a river.
- As we had hoped, the upper Mississippi River affords great camping and lots of it. I especially loved that aspect.
- This area of the country was a new experience for us and represented new states too (MN and WI)
- And, of course, there is the absurd spectacle that is RAGBRAI
15 days of touring, 844 miles. With 1 rest day, that’s an average of 60.3 miles per riding day. We tent-camped 13 nights (6 with RAGBRAI, then in Iowa: Muscatine, Oxford Junction, Dyersville, Monona, in Minnesota: Brownsville, and in Wisconsin: Diamond Bluff ) and we spent 3 nights in motels (Muscatine, Wabasha, and now here in Stillwater).
Another beer please!