John and Pat’s
2011 Duluth Bicycle Trip
Home to Forest Lake
We left home at about 10am because John mowed the grass before we left. We traveled through the city with cloudy skies and had lunch at some Subway that was the fastest Subway I have ever been to. When we came out, it was just starting to rain. We were around 35W, in the area of the Rice Lake Trails and it was a neat place with lots of nice trails. We got slightly screwed up, but just kept heading North and East through the neighborhoods and got to the street we were looking for with no problem.
Throughout our day today we saw 2 woodchucks and 1 deer. For the most of our biking day, we were in light rain or drizzle or mist; not much of a problem, but I was getting cold. We arrived at Forest Lake around 3 and just biked around the city, and biked around the park down by the lake. From there we went to our motel – the Hitching Post. It was nice, almost right off the trail.
I can't remember all the routes we took through the city but John just went to google maps and put in our address as the starting point and then our motel address as the ending point and then hit the bicycle dude and the route that google presented was great for biking and included many bike trails. At Hugo we picked up the Hardwood Creek Trail. That trail turns into the Sunrise Trail at Wyoming (it's a different county) and it goes all the way to North Branch.
Forest Lake to Hinckley
We got back on the trail and and headed for North Branch, where the trail ends. The weather was good except there was a little wind in our face, though not much. At North Branch we decided to take Forest Blvd which is hwy 61 and somewhere it turns into 361 and then further on it is county 61. The whole way we always had a shoulder and usually it was a nice wide one.
When we first came into Hinckley our GPS said to turn on this one road, and after we went about half a mile we discovered it was a dead end. However there was also a guy with a boat who was having the same problem. Then there was another cyclist who came down the road who got out his i-Phone and noted that the road was not supposed to dead end. So the boater went back the way he came, but John talked to the other cyclist and they decided that if we bike down that gravel road, in a different direction from our dead end street, that it should, hopefully sooner than later, take us to a paved road. This guy was way faster than we were and he took off at top speed. Once he looked back to see if we were still coming and he yelled back “should I keep going?” and John yelled “yeah, go ahead”. We did shortly reach a paved road and very soon thereafter our motel. And we met our cyclist friend too.
We stayed at the America's Best Value Inn, ate at Tobies and then went and saw the Green Lantern in 3D. I thought it was great.
All in all, I lead the way today and didn't pace myself very well. And with the wind in our face, even though it wasn't a strong wind I was really tired after this day.
Hinckley to Moose Lake
The Willard Munger Trail was 1 mile from our motel in Hinckley and it was quite flat and even better, any wind was at our back. There were hardly any people on this trail, there were lots of flowers to see, lots of trees and swamps everywhere. John saw a Baltimore oriole and we saw 1 chipmunk.
Even though this trail was flat, we came upon about a mile and a half of a very hilly section. As we came to the first hill and started going down, there was this super loud noise that sounded like a trumpet sounding a single note over and over. As we coasted down the hill, we looked over and there were 2 sandhill cranes in the field. As we got closer we saw that there were 2 baby chicks with them.
The only other wildlife we saw were 3 ticks on John's leg. We are at the Moose Lake Motel in downtown Moose Lake and it is very nice and the city is small and nice too.
This was a much easier day than yesterday. Our mileage into Moose Lake was only 33, the rest of the mileage, as indicated above, was because we biked around the city and then found another bike trail that took us to Moose Lake State Park.
Moose Lake to Duluth
This was the best day yet. We did 47 easy miles. And throughout the whole day we saw 7 deer usually in groups of 2 – a mom and a baby. We saw a couple of squirrels, ground hogs and chipmunks. We also saw a big snapping turtle on the side of the road, right after crossing a bridge. She was digging in the dirt laying eggs. We also looked ahead on the road and saw what we thought was a white fox but as we got closer, it turned out to be a big white farm cat (with orange markings).
We left Hinckley around 8 ish being one of the few people on the trail. It is a very nice trail. The weather was 60 and little wind, the sun was shining. By the time we got to Carlton, we decided to eat. However the only restaurant was packed and after we waited forever, without seeing our waitress, we just left. There was a picnic table nearby and we ate some snacks there.
We left Carlton and immediately there were people all over the place on the trail. The reason, I think, is because Jay Cooke State Park was just a little way up the trail and I'm thinking many of the people were from the state park. We crossed over a bridge, of the St Louis River (I think) with rapids and running water everywhere. It was very beautiful.
A couple miles past that point the trail was more quiet again although for the rest of the way to Duluth we steadily saw more people. I had read somewhere that from Carlton all the way to Duluth it was downhill. It didn't happen exactly at Carlton, but all of a sudden we noticed that we were biking much easier. And not only were we going downhill but the wind was pushing us. It was wonderful!
Then all of a sudden, John couldn't pedal anymore. It turns out that his chain was not attched to his cassette and the reason for that is that the cassette has loosened. So he took off the back tire, got out the tools and used whatever it is to tighten his cassette. Put the tire back on, the tools back and we were on our way.
Next came the bad part of the trail. Right in the middle of nowhere, with no warning we went from pavement to gravel. It was a fairly short stretch. The gravel wasn't even too bad to be on and it looked like it had been this way a long time. However the next area that we ran into, unbeknownst to us, the gravel was terrible. And this time it was like we were riding on a very wide road and it was hilly, had rocks, dirt and even areas of sand that we had to bike through. And certainly there was nothing to suggest that they were trying to improve it in anyway. But we got through that and next we knew they were repairing 2 bridges ahead.
We were so lucky to be traveling on Sunday because no one was working on either bridge on Sunday. Both bridges had those orange fence barriers up, which all the cyclists just walked over. It was a little tricky to get Bob (John's trailer) across because there was just a small area to cross with a board about 2 feet long to get across the space between the trail and the concrete of the bridge. It was easier to cross (the restricted barrier) of the 2nd bridge. After that it was probably just a couple of short miles to the end of the trail. From there we went to Grand Ave., like right in the area where the zoo is. I was greatly relieved to discover that Grand Ave. had a shoulder. We stayed on Grand (ate at McDonalds along the way), and then turned onto Superior shortly after we passed Carlton Ave. Then we stayed on Superior until it automatically turned into Michigan. It may just have been because it was Sunday but no one was on Superior. When we turned onto Michigan, the traffic immediately picked up and I thought we would get caught up in that mess trying to turn onto 5th Ave. But lo and behold!! Right before we would have started up the hill into the traffic there was a “bike route” sign taking us over a biking/walking bridge over all the cars and it took us right down onto maybe Railroad St. where there was a bike path, plus we knew where we were. I thought it was a little tricky with traffic everywhere, but John got us easily to our motel – the Comfort Inn at Canal Park – with a view of the lake.
still in Duluth
It is awesome having a lake view. We went out walking, and crossed the lift bridge last night to walk along the beach. And we just walked around in general. Last night we ate at Angie's Cantina and this morning they had a wonderful breakfast here at the motel. It has been raining a little bit and it is quite chilly; 52 degrees with a NW wind. John looked out our window and saw a big ship so we walked down to the canal and got there just on time to see it go through.
It remained mostly cloudy with periods of super heavy dark looking clouds and storm warnings and flood warnings all over the place, but we got very little rain. Actually the only time it rained fairly hard was when I went out for a walk and got about 100 feet down the trail and it started raining kind of hard so I came back. It stopped shortly after that.
We went down to the Maritime Museum and learned lots of stuff there and at some point we got to see 1 more big ship go through. We also went for a little walk along the shore by our motel and picked up some rocks.
Duluth to Danbury, WI
We got up early and were one of the first people at breakfast and then left for the road before 7:30. It was way easier traffic wise today than when we came in on Sunday. We had no trouble at all getting to the bridge to cross into Wisc., the problem was that we didn't see the sign about the pedestrian/bike walkway and so we went up on the ramp like we were a car. In fact there was a great shoulder so all was well, plus we didn't get stopped by the police because I don't think we were supposed to be on the freeway. I thought it was quite funny because we were riding right smack next to the walkway, but we would have had to jump over a 3 ft. barrier. The bridge was really long, especially as we first got on, it was long and high with tons of stuff to see and then once we reached the top it was a shorter distance to get back off – onto the Wisc side. We looked down and saw where the bike trail was and where it would have taken us. The freeway left us off at a better spot anyway. We went through the city of Superior, which is probably the longest city in the world and finally got out on the highway (state hwy 35). There was a shoulder all the way to our motel. But shortly after we got on the highway we started climbing. I guess about 4 miles of non stop UP until we got to Patison State Park and then it leveled off. In fact it leveled off for almost 30 miles of very enjoyable biking. There were some hills, but not big and the wind would push us and then be in our face but it was all very good.
The last 10 miles we got a big down hill into the St Croix river valley and then had to climb out again. But our motel was right across from a restaurant/bar, so that worked out great. We're staying at the Trailside Motel right outside of Danbury.
Danbury to St. Croix, WI
We left our motel and traveled about 2 miles into Danbury because we had a coupon for our breakfast. A nice restaurant, we got our food quickly and it was good. From there we traveled a couple of blocks to the Gandy Dancer Trail. This was a crushed limestone trail, but it was fine to bike on. As we traveled onward, there was quite a bit of vegetation on either side of the trail, so we had a fair amount of shade. Sometime it would seem that we were only going uphill, but the problem was that the crushed limestone made those small gradual uphills seem worse than they really were. The trail took us through quite a few cities and we'd usually stop at a park, and we had lunch at one of the cities.
As the day went on, the wind picked up (in our face). We thought we would jump out on the highway and see how it was out there, but the wind seemed to be really bad out there, so we came back in on the trail. Then we hit a stretch where there were so many bugs. You couldn't stop because the mosquitoes would start biting. Then we hit a stretch where these million teeny bugs would pelt you in the face.
After a while that went away and we had a good ride, especially toward the end because it was obvious we were going downhill. We knew what road we wanted to turn onto as we approached the city of St Croix Falls, but they had built a bridge over the street and it was impossible to get down to it. So we biked a little further and chose whatever street we happened to be on and this street happened to be at the very bottom of the St Croix river valley and we had to bike up this extremely long, relatively steep hill. After that, we were near to our motel and got there (to the Holiday Inn) without a problem.
While we were biking today we saw 2 deer, 2 bikers, 2 woodchucks, 2 (very little) snakes and 4 gophers.
St. Croix Falls, WI to St Paul
We started up at our motel and got to coast all the way down to the St Croix river; it was great fun. There was a nice shoulder and the bridge was ok to cross. After we crossed the bridge however we had to climb out of the valley and that was a struggle. We got to coast down about 2 miles and so then we had to bike up about 2 miles. Once done with that, we stayed on the St. Croix Trail which was a nice road with a good shoulder, but hilly.
At some point we turned right onto county road 7 and this road was steeper than the road coming out of the valley. It was very steep, lots of twists and turns and no shoulder, although there were few cars. When we finally came out on top of the world we ate something as I was half dead and then we had a quite nice ride as we went on toward the Gateway Trail.
When we hit the Gateway Trail, at Pine Point Park, we stopped and had lunch and met quite a few other bikers who would just stop and talk to us. Since this day happened to be super hot and humid, the one lady said that we were lucky because the day before it was very nice out and there were lots of people on the trail, but this day since it was so hot there were hardly any people out biking on the trail. She was right. It was definitely hot and there were very few people out and about. It had been a long time since we had been on this trail and they have improved it vastly. They have more bridges taking us over busy roads and they repaved a lot of the trail and it was just very nice.
We got off the trail near Lake Phalen and biked a couple of blocks to our daughter and son-in-law's house where we spent the night.
St. Paul to New Hope
It was another hot day for the last day of our bike trip. We started on Wheelock Parkway and biked to Lake Como, got on Horton Ave and then onto Como Ave and this was all either a beautiful bike lane (starting at Como) or at least a shoulder to bike on. But the most wonderful part is that it was downhill for at least 5 miles. We went till Como dead ended and then turned north til Broadway, crossed the river on Broadway and then went home on 2nd St. Which is the way we always bike home after biking downtown along the Mississippi. Then we get onto Victory Memorial Parkway and we have a secret route through the neighborhoods, crossing over a little footbridge, biking through an apartment's yard and onto the little dirt path that leads right onto another bike path past Twin Lakes that takes us about a mile and a half from our house.
It was a wonderful trip. I loved it. I loved being in a motel with a lake view and it was great to be out on a bike trip again.