It was another good day of perfect weather, a ride with no problems, and good scenery, but sadly our last ride of this trip. After a breakfast at Walker Bay Coffee shop near the lodge, where we talked with bikers Jeff and Barb Hansen of Fargo, ND, who were also staying at the Chase lodging and who also told us to tell the Great Northern Bike workers that “Jeff said you would take good care of our bikes” (he had worked there for a while)” we were ready at 8:45 a.m. to leave the town of Walker and head back to the Heartland State Trail, which would take us back onto the Paul Bunyan State Trail on our way to Bemidji.
The scenery on this ride was much more like I expected the entire trail to be—some isolated hardwood and pine forests, some crop farmland, some pasture farmland, and lakes. Although this direction was slightly uphill almost the whole way, the environment helped us forget about our slower speed. We were much more isolated, crossing a few major public roads, but the roads that paralleled the trail were for the most part private or rarely traveled dirt public roads. We had some “loner” riding sections for individual reflections and some “together” riding sections where we talked about the upcoming CSRA (retiree group) planning meeting. We saw a deer on the trail, a lone duck on the trail, bunny rabbits, a variety of birds, and colorful wildflowers.
After 32 miles we reached the town of Bemidji, which I had heard a lot about when I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota back in 1969. It’s nothing spectacular, but it seems like a good Minnesota town, and it’s right on Lake Bemidji. It advertises itself as the first town on the Mississippi River because the headwaters of that river are not far from here, and the river flows into Bemidji Lake on the south side of the lake and out of it on the west side. Therefore, we crossed the Mississippi River twice today. Dean Beattie in the Tourist Information Center willingly answered all our questions about the original railroad line, the river, the town, and the newly completed trail all the way around the lake. It was here that we took our pictures with another Paul Bunyan statue and with Babe, the Blue Ox. After lunch at Subway, we rode another 11 miles north to the “actual” end of the trail and then into the “other” end of the trail in Lake Bemidji State Park. The “real” ending/beginning of the Paul Bunyan is quite uneventful and drab—there’s a sign at least—where the dirt Blue Ox Trail ends and the paved Paul Bunyan Trail begins.
The bike ride through the state park into the advertised end of the trail was gorgeous, but even there we saw no designed “Trail Ends” marker. I guess to most people finishing the trail is not the big deal it is to us. A friendly guy took our picture in one spot, and we used Martha’s selfie stick to take another picture of us finishing this last trail in another spot in the park. We then rode out of the state park and two miles over to Ruttger’s Lodge on Lake Bemidji, giving us a total of 45 miles for today. A good distance, and it makes our total on this trip to be 183 (34, 40, 64, 45) miles over four days. Not bad for my age.
Our cabin at Ruttger’s is rustic and nice. It sits probably ten feet from the shoreline and has a big screened-in porch in the front. After checking in, Martha and I went canoeing out on the lake and saw two loons (the state bird) quite close up. It’s quite an interesting, good looking bird. Martha got a good picture of them. They were something she really wanted to see, so I’m glad we were able to get that close to them. Now that we’ve eaten dinner and have almost finished writing today’s entry in this blog, it’s time to relax out on our porch and watch the sun go down on a good final Hall of Fame Trail day.
Tomorrow morning Enterprise Car Rental said they’d pick us up to get the rental car in Bemidji. Then we pack up and head to Fargo. On the way, we’re stopping at Lake Itasca, where the Mississippi River begins flowing, actually north, eventually into Lake Bemidji and then it takes a western and southern turn down through Minneapolis/St. Paul and on down to the Gulf. The story of shipping the bikes home at the bike shop in Fargo is the end result of our finding out just a few days before we took off that the Amtrak Station in Fargo is only open from midnight to 7 a.m., and we won’t be there then for the original plan. The Greyhound station in Fargo would have shipped the bikes but to Atlanta Greyound, but they didn’t sell bike boxes. So we even considered FedExing the used bike box from Milwaukee on up to Ruttgers, where we could FedEx the bike home to Atlanta, but we didn’t have time in the Milwaukee Amtrak station to walk the boxes over to the FedEx in Milwaukee. Finally, Martha was able to get hold of the Great Northern Bike Shop in Fargo. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they won’t have to take the bike apart so much for shipping that we have to pay someone to reassemble it for us when we get it to Atlanta. We’ll see, but I’m sure it will all work out. It always does.