Last night we planned our route to take us beyond Austin, MN today, about 30 miles. There are two challenges of navigating across southern Minnesota: (1) the plethora of gravel roads and (2) the high chance that rare paved road will have heavy traffic with little shoulder. But thanks to some online resources for biking in Minnesota, we left the hotel armed with a tentative route. Unfortunatley, that route rapidly fell apart due to neither of these challenges. Instead we met the great bike tourist nemesis: The Wind. Oh, The Wind. As we left the hotel and got on the road, we faced a 20-30 mph head wind. Right in our faces. For a little while it would be a cross wind, and then, it would be back in our faces. Stupid wind. Making forward progress was very difficult, to say the least.
After about 8 miles and an hour of gritting our teeth against the wind, Alan and I stopped on the side of the road to discuss our options for the day, and frankly, the rest of the midwest. We’ve been going back and forth about how to get ourselves across the middle of the country. We knew we would encounter headwinds and the weather is going to get much cooler and have a higher risk of snow as we head west. I’ve been reluctant to get off of our bikes yet, because I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of bike touring and every day isn’t made of suffering. But the wind today turned all that on its ear. So, as the wind whipped up the dirt around us, we decided to turn north, the direction the wind was blowing, to Rochester. We planned to stay in a hotel there for the night and research what it would take to get a rental car or purchase a car to get us to the west coast. A few backroads got us over to a road that took us all the way to Rochester. I have never pedaled so little to get so far in one day on this trip. Once we hit that paved road and turned north, I could only have gone faster with a sail. The shoulder was great and the road took us right to the hotel.
We traveled so fast that we had to wait around to check in at the hotel. After showers and pizza dinner, Alan found the best price on a rental car from Enterprise. We’ll pick up the minivan tomorrow morning, load it up with all our stuff, bikes included, and head west.