Monday, 30 June 2014

On the banks of the Mississippi

I neglected to mention that Bemidji likes to boast that it is "the first city on the Mississippi". This not insignificant as I left Bemidji via rear exit, namely the Paul Bunyan bike trail, a former railway track that runs among other places along the Eastern Shore of Lake Bemidji. (I had been on the Western shore of the Brome Lake sized body of water.) I rode the well paved trail until I crossed the nascent Mississippi River which was no bigger than the Massawippi at Lennoxville. (This analogy may mystify some of my readers. The Massawippi river was a feature of childhood.)

Unfortunately, that meant I had missed my cue to leave the Paul Bunyan trail! I backtracked a few hundred feet and back across the Mississippi and onto back roads guided by a handout acquired in Bemidji. It brought me to at least a part of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, crossing and recrossing the fabled river. I am a bit hazy on the precise geography of the Leech Lake Reservation (I wonder what the story behind that name is?) as my map conflates at least part of it with the Chippewa National Forest. To further muddy the waters, the band of Indians in Leech Lake refer to themselves as a band of Ojibwe. Chippewa is a synonym of Ojibwe. Various bands of Ojibwe in Minnesota describe themselves as Ojibwe or Chippewa in a manner that leaves me perplexed as to which is the proper term. Wikipedia seems to indicate that Ojibwe is the dominant usage.  I only assume there is some sort of reason behind it all and the Ojibwe/Chippewa and National Forest people have sorted out nomenclature as well as who can do what in the National Forest and the Reservation. I only hope that all the re-elect "Archie La Rose for secretary-treasurer" signs get taken down. (I should look up to see if he got in.)

The wind was out of the South West this sunny day.  I spent a good deal of the day crossing the Chippewa National Forest on a road that ran pretty much due East. The trees largely channeled the breeze into a very useful tailwind!  I made very good time indeed. In fact at lunch in Bena, I pondered pushing beyond Grand Rapids, my objective for the day. Consulting a "visit Minnesota" booklet and my map, I could find nowhere to stop, I pondered camping but opted to wait to see what conditions later in the day would bring.

As I was getting ready to leave a couple young guys left their truck which was towing a speed boat. One of them sporting an extreme sports T-shirt as me what kind of gas mileage did I get on my bike? I replied with equal sarcasm, the gassier I get, the faster I go!

A bit after leaving the National Forest, Highway 2 angled more to the South. As the land was more open, the Southerly vector of  the wind became larger, so given fatigue, I opted to stop at a motel in Grand Rapids which proved to have Adventure Cyclist sticker on the office door and a swimming lake behind.

After unloading my clobber and changing into my trunks, I went for a swim in the lake which a public beach without a lifeguard. There were a number of kids in about the four to nine age range who were being loosely supervised by a relatively small number of "responsible adults". I retrieved a flutter board from an area weeds and reeds for a four year old who seemed to be having an overly theatrical meltdown with obvious parental response. I swam back and forth keeping a loose weather eye on the kids given the relative lack of obvious supervision. There was one younger kid of about two years of age whose happy running around in the swallow water made me a trifle uneasy as he seemed capable of running out over his depth to the bigger kids at one of whom he was related to. I didn't want to judge or say anything but memories of a cousin who had drowned before I was born made me feel it was my duty as an adult in the area to keep an eye on things. This task was made easier by the fact he was a cute and happy kid.

I had supper in the steakhouse next to the motel where I chatted with a nice retired(?) couple from Madison, Wisconsin who were up for her aunt's memorial service.

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