We call it Minnesota Triathlon, since it consists of 695.9km of
bicycling, some swimming and a lot of sprinting. We managed it in seven
days. Total riding time was 43 hours 50 minutes, thus the average
speed being about 16km/h.
We took a bus from Bloomington, Indiana to Duluth, Minnesota. The trip took over 20 hours, three transfers (in Indianapolis, Chicago and St. Paul) and 231 dollars for both of us. We travelled with two bike boxes and three panniers. Some of the major experiences from this journey were: chilly buses, late (30-50 minutes) connections (all of them!), inefficient activity in terminals and despotic drivers. Both directions in the Chicago to St. Paul connection a guy was escorted out of the bus by a police just 'cause of having a big mouth; drivers don't tolerate any kind of complaints or questioning of their judgement. Furthermore, people kept on warning us about the weird people that travel on Greyhound. We did not find anything that weird. Of course, if one considers black and old and Amish weird ...
People warned us also about Minnesota's mosquitos; we probably saw few of them. No one told us about army worms. We called them popworms because of the sound they made under our bike tires. It was disgusting. The worms attracted millions of flies also called friendly flies (what a misnomer!). Our bikes, let alone any bare body parts, also attracted them whenever we stopped. It WAS disgusting. By the end of the week, roads had been cleaned from these bugs, but the smell of dead insects still lingered on sunbathed asphalt.
Besides bugs, we saw many waterfalls in the first two days.
In Illgen City we left North Shore and SR61 temporarily and took SR1 to Finland, Minnesota. Flies and army worms were still with us. We refilled our food supplies and enjoyed a simple brunch on the porch of Finnish Co-op. However, the only indication of Finnish culture around was the word 'tori' in the Midsummer fest advertisement.
We rode one third of our trip on gravel. The longest stretch was 85km in our fourth day of riding (that day's trip was 119km altogether). That was also the day we run out of (bottled) water in few hours in the middle of nowhere. We were prepared, though. We managed to find a sufficiently flowing stream, but gosh, how a couple of germ killing pills can make clear creek water taste bad!
Measured in hours, it was the longest day, too. We arrived at Ely by sunset and failed to find any dinner in town that late. What we found was a Steak house with forty something beers but nothing to drink and open mic night, which honestly sounded more like Karaoke. And someone playing Säkkijarven polkka with violin.
From Ely we headed south to the area that use to be one of the most vivid Finnish settlements, Sisu Heritage Homestead in Embarrass. Along the way we saw road names, such as Saari, Jarvi, Korpi, Aho and last names, such as Hotakainen. In a poster we also found out that there exists something like Finnish biscuits. We don't have biscuits in Finland!
If not only Indiana, Minnesota has strange alcohol laws, too. If a Brewery bottles beer, it is not allowed to have a restaurant, and vice versa. Grocery stores do not sell beer; alcohol is sold in liquor stores, which in turn are conspicuously advertised.
People are eager to start a conversation with ones riding bicycles.