I push myself on these trips. Sometimes, I know am doing it, others times...well it is only when I stop and try to talk to someone only to stumble over my words and I am suddenly stunned by just how tired I am. That happened a few times today.
Looking back I can identify several things that caused me to burn more energy than usual today. The first was getting from Duluth over the St-Louis River to Superior, Wisconsin. My intel had picked out the William Bong (what a name!) Bridge as being the one bikes were supposed to use. So, armed with a bike map of Duluth, I set off for the bridge which was upstream from downtown. When I got to entrance of the pedestrian and bike access to the bridge, I found it shut with orange construction netting. Grumbling, I found the car access route and rolled along keeping a close eye out for signs that actually said "no bikes". I didn't see any and the construction workers I saw around didn't bat an eyelash.
The bridge gave me a vantage point of some of the massive mineral loading docks complete with elevated railway lines so the minerals can dumped from the rail cars straight into the lake boats. (Great Lake freighters are called "boats" not "ships" even when they over a thousand feet long.)
Once across and on the streets of Superior, I was changing maps in my map case when a small detail caught my eye. There was a bike path that ran parallel to Highway 2 along the water front. Cross-checking between two maps I learnt there seemed to be bike path between Superior and Ashland (the day's destination). Intrigued, I made quick change in plans and got on the trail. At first, the path was a paved bike only trail that ran beside the waterfront which included the only surviving whaleback lake freighter. (Whalebacks were an odd and possibly dangerous form of cargo ship that had a vogue in the late 19th century or so. A link to Wikipedia will be added when I get home.) The trail gradually became a gravel former rail bed called the Tricounty Corridor. The surface was initially acceptable but became softer and sandier as the miles wore on. From the signs and the tracks, ATVs were allowed to use the Corridor which explained a lot, including the financing of the 61 mile length of it. However the surface made it a challenge to keep going safely. Eventually, I decided to return to Highway 2 as soon as the opportunity presented itself. This took a while and I guess I took in 10 miles of the Corridor. This was the second source of extra fatigue.
My tribulations were not over as there was a lot of roadwork being done on Highway 2 at about that point. Some of it was easy to negotiate but near the end I had to use the one lane available to traffic going East and the only safe way to do it was to take up the whole lane. The pickup truck behind me was very courteous but I really didn't wish to be too much of a bother so I pushed myself to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
Once past the construction zone, I had the concentration to admire the landscape of rolling dairy farms with their concrete silos so like the Eastern Townships. So like home that I felt I was almost home and therefore unconsciously pushed myself to go faster as I was "almost home".
Then there were the hills which while nothing horrendous did take some effort to climb.
Around 3 PM, I stopped at what turned out to be a bar for hunters in search of a cold drink. A trio of older people arrived at the same time. One of the women wanted to know about my bike and journey. It turned out she was the support team for her husband who was biking from Anacortes, Washington to Bar Harbour, Maine. We chatted for a bit over beer (root beer in my case). Looking back, I wonder if my thought processes had been so muddled that I may have neglected to possibly cajole her into adding my luggage to her van as they had already acquired a "stray". ;-) That and I neglected to give her one of my business cards.
All this to say that it has been a relatively demanding but rewarding. The weather was sunny with quietly favourable winds.