Northern Tier 2010

August 9, 2010

Along the Mississippi

Filed under: Geology, Minnesota, Section 06, Section 07, Wisconsin — Henry Scott @ 1:00 pm

Today continued to be hot and humid, and I suppose I should expect that for much of the rest of the tour. It felt a bit easier today, but I think mainly because last night’s storm gave some relief, rather than I’m getting used to it. The humidity makes the evenings more difficult, too, because it is harder to get to sleep — I’m still sweating and it is after dark. But, it’s all part of the challenge, so I don’t mean to complain.

I got to Stillwater (back in Minnesota — the route crosses the Mississippi a few times as it heads south, but after today I’ll stay on the MN side until I reach Iowa) early enough to have breakfast before the bike shop opened. My left pedal has started to make a loud pop each revolution. They confirmed that the source is indeed the pedal, but didn’t have a solution other than to either ignore it or replace they pedals.

I continued on with the pedal, but the pedal noise combined with hills and humidify was too much. So, stopped at another bike shop in Red Wing and bought new pedals. The silence is wonderful!

This Mississippi has continued to grow, and it now looks like more like my life-long mental image. There is lots of activity along its banks including both industry and recreation, with small towns every five to ten miles.

Geologically, it is nice to see outcrops again after so many miles of gently rolling hills with almost no exposed bedrock. This is unusual for the Midwest and is additional evidence for the surprising lack of glacial activity in this region. The photo shows two things that don’t usually go together: vast fields of Midwestern corn and high outcrops.

I’m going to stop here to facilitate getting to sleep earlier; I’d like to get some miles in early tomorrow, hopefully in relatively cool conditions.


August 8, 2010

The Third H

Filed under: Minnesota, Section 06, Wisconsin — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

Yesterday’s south wind delivered the worst humidity, presumably from the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve experienced so far, and it made what I thought would be an easy day fairly challenging. The expression in the photo is staged…but it pretty much sums up the day. I knew from the start I’d only go about 75 miles because that would place me near Stillwater, and I’d like to spend some time there during the day. Thinking I had an easy day ahead of me, I took my time leaving the Adventure Cyclists Bunkhouse and, in hindsight, squandered the most reasonable riding weather.

I felt sluggish, and by mid afternoon each mile seemed to drag on forever. I got some welcome relief during a big, and quite good “home cooking” style meal in Harris, but that was quickly forgotten once back on the bike.

Normally biking in the heat isn’t much of a problem because there’s enough airflow to keep cool, but today reached the point for which I couldn’t ride fast enough for the sweat to evaporate. In addition to fatigue from overheating, I had trouble keeping my eyes open due to the constant flow of sweat. It was a long 75 miles, and a strong reminder that I’ve entered the Midwest. Several folks from home have told me about this summer’s oppressive humidity; now I can better commiserate.

Previously I had been thinking there were just two major factors that have the ability to slow me down dramatically: Hills and Headwinds, but now I realize there’s a third H — Humidity. From what I’ve been reading, the northeastern portion of Iowa through which I’ll be riding was spared much glaciation and is, accordingly, quite hilly. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to face all three H’s simultaneously?

Near the end of the day, while taking a break in Osceola, WI, I could see storm clouds developing to the west, and they were an incredibly welcome sight for hope that a good rain would break the humidity. The closest campground was in Somerset, about 15 miles away, and I decided to go for it. I started to get a few raindrops after only about five miles, but they brought immediate relief to the heat, and my legs finally started to come alive.

It was raining by the time I reached the campground, but I made it under a pavilion before the main event. It turned into a spectacular thunderstorm, and I had a great view. I’m now camped under the pavilion, the air does indeed feel much more comfortable, and tomorrow I’ll cross back over into MN to explore Stillwater.

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