Northern Tier 2010

August 10, 2010

Onward to Iowa!

Filed under: Iowa, Minnesota, Section 07 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

Today’s early start worked out well, opening with a nice view of the sun rising over the Mississippi from my campsite, up on the bluffs, in Hok-Si-La park. The moisture blown up from the Gulf quickly formed a heavy fog, and Mother Nature let it be known that storms were coming. There was, yet again, a south wind from early on, but it wasn’t too bad in the morning. In the afternoon, however, I saw a northbound butterfly go by at Mach 2.

I had a good breakfast in a Wabasha coffee shop where several locals, clearly regulars and community builders, invited me to join them. It turns out some of them were involved in the fundraising for an eagle museum in town, and had I not been so focused on eating I wouldn’t have blown what in hindsight was an offer to get a private, pre-opening tour. Initially I didn’t even understand what the museum was, and I thought they were suggesting that I wait a couple of hours for it to open.

It was painful to bike away without seeing the museum once they had left, and I realized what they were offering, but on the other hand the riding was still good and storms were clearly coming. It started to rain before long, but at just the right rate to provide some cooling without getting very wet.

I was able to easily cover the 50 miles to Winona by noon, at which point it cleared and I did some laundry and enjoyed an amazing all-you-can-eat salad bar at a nearby grocery store. It was well stocked with fresh fruits, including kiwis and strawberries, in addition to surprising extras like grilled chicken. This was six dollars very well spent from my perspective, but certainly a loss for them.

The Northern Tier then took me west, away from the river and way up onto the bluffs. I almost modified the route to make it more direct, but I’m glad I didn’t: the south wind became much stronger, and the climbing was a welcome change of effort, plus the views from the bluffs were excellent. It was hard to imagine that just a few days ago I was at the headwaters, but now the river commands an entire valley.

When I descended back down to the river I met three eastbound Brits, clearly having the time of their lives. They were set on staying in La Crosse for the night (on the other side of the river), but my legs felt like continuing, so after chatting for a bit we parted ways.

From there I continued further than originally planned, but the campsite I had in mind was packed with RVs, and the fee for me to pitch my tent for the night was $20 — more than I was willing to pay.

So I decided to test my friend Bruce’s claims regarding the hospitality I’d receive in Iowa, and even though it was getting late decided to head for the border. The winds had diminished to almost nothing, so adding another 15 miles wouldn’t be too bad. Reaching New Albin, IA brought me to my longest day yet at 113 miles (by only a few tenths of a mile), but Bruce was right! Even though it isn’t designated as a camping city on my maps (nor are there any signs explicitly allowing camping), the park is clearly set up for campers, and it is very clean. I spoke with some residents across the street and they told me I’d be fine. Assuming I don’t get kicked out in the middle of the night, Iowa is okay by me!

The humidity is unbearable and, again, I can’t stop sweating in my tent. But, the sky keeps lighting up with flashes of distant lightning, and I’m safely under the park’s pavilion. Here’s hoping a big storm will bring some relief.



  1. Hey Henry! Just discovered this while checking my school e-mail account this morning,had to read through from the beginning to catch up on your trip. An amazing ride so far and you seem to be on track to finish strong. The national parks are definitely something to share with your wife.This will add much depth to your courses to be able to relate first hand observations. I will be following along in the days ahead. Good luck and lots of tailwinds.

    Comment by Rey B — August 11, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  2. Bruce, it was very sweet of you to call ahead and make sure everyone would be nice to Henry. I hope the rest of Iowa is just as great.

    Comment by Erika — August 11, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  3. Henry,

    What a great trip you are having. This is a wonderful blog. I just discovered it a few days ago and I’ll I can say is wow! You need to put this in a little book with a map of the trip and publish it. I’m glad you are safe and having such a good time.


    Comment by Andrea — August 11, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  4. If you go through WI make sure to enjoy some New Belgium beer (spotted cow) 🙂

    Comment by Lauren — August 12, 2010 @ 3:05 am

  5. What can I say? Iowa is indeed a very special place. To paraphrase DDE, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Iowa.” enjoy your time there. (RAGBRAI Lesson Learned: GoldBond powder on your legs keeps them from sticking together during nights of high humidity.)

    Comment by Bruce — August 12, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  6. Oh yeah . . . Yea for the “Welcome to Iowa” picture. They used to say, “Come Explore the Heartland,” my all time favorite. The new slogan, “Fields of Opportunities,” is OK and way better than the proposed “A State of Minds” (an attempt to promote Iowa’s nearly 100% literacy rate).

    Comment by Bruce — August 12, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  7. Henry–This is the best book I have read in quite a while. I look at it any time I need a break or some inspiration. I don’t think I could have made it to Barcelona (53 minutes) and back (80 minutes)last weekend without it. Jack’s is saving its best pancake batter for you just in case you stop by.

    Comment by George — August 12, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

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