6-30-10 Day 25: Ashland, Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota : 70 miles in 5:05 hours. Rt 2 west to Rt 53/2 west to Rt 2 west.
Yea, this was like a rest day ride compared to the previous several days of riding. Intention was to just keep it short today and relax in Duluth for the rest of the day at a little efficiency. Broke down gear, got packed and rode down to a gas station for coffee and some breakfast. Got a couple of bagels and a couple of Danishes and I was rolling down Rt 2 west by 7:45 AM. The wind was really light out of the west and the days opened up just stellar, with blue sky and much warmer temps than yesterday morning. Had to be ten degrees warmer than yesterday. And as mysteriously as the hill climbing had ended out of Michigan yesterday, it had begun again outside of Ashland, Wisconsin. These weren’t big hills, but long and gradual where I had to get OTS and use both the big and little ring. Pretty country though, so I didn’t mind the changing up in the riding styles as I floated down the highway.
Heated up to the point where I was juuuuuust about ready to switch out the long sleeved jersey for the tank, but the cool breeze coming off of Lake Superior make me think otherwise. There was a beautiful stretch through Chequamegon National Forest where it was just covered with fir trees, and kind of felt like I was riding on top of the mountains in Colorado. You could just soak in the smell of pine in the warm morning sun. This was the section that was the “rollingest” of the day. Made it to the jcn with Rt 53 where the road curved in towards Lake Superior and the town of Superior. This was kind of a crappy section of berm as it headed down towards Minnesota and Duluth. So I took this 2/53 down to where I thought I was going to go over this bridge, the Blatnik Bridge, and into Duluth. But as I neared the bridge there was the sign I was afraid of seeing: No pedestrians, bicycles, farm machinery, blah, blah, blah. No go there.
Turned the bike around and walked it back down the entry ramp way off on the berm and then road over to a gas station next to the entry ramp. Asked a guy pumping gas how the hell do I get to the downtown Duluth area without using that bridge to get across Saint Louis Bay/Superior Bay. He pointed me down the road to an alternate route that has a bikeway/pedestrian walk along the bridge. So I got on this Alt. Rt 2, Belknap Street, and took this towards the other bridge, the Bong Bridge. Yup, bong bridge! But as I was riding west I saw that there were barricades separating the lanes about a half mile up to the bridge, and then all the way along the bridge, and these things were like 5 feet high – and the walkway was on the eastbound lane! So I had to turn my rig around and ride against traffic on the crumbly old berm for a quarter mile to get back to the point to where I could cross over onto the opposite lane and then ride against traffic so I had access to the bikeway on the Bong Bridge.
Pure idiocy with no signs, no nothing to let you know where the bikeway is. So there I was riding again against the traffic to get to the bikeway. And slowly, off to my left, totally fenced in is the bikeway, separating me, riding the wrong way to get on the damned thing, from it. Once I got to the place where the bikeway fence ended, I still had to surmount a 4 foot high concrete barricade to get off of the berm and onto the bikeway. Dismounted, took the trailer off, and I lifted my bike and panniers up and over the barrier, hoping that I wouldn’t blow my back out. Then I picked up the trailer and set it on top of the barricade, climbed over and the took the yak to the other side. Hooked it all back up and started riding across the bridge. And it was actually worth all the work as the view was pretty darned cool. Had to be a hundred or two above the Saint Louis Bay, where in the middle is the state line between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Below a railroad bridge had just allowed a train through, and then turned around by 90 degrees to open the channel back up for barge traffic. Bridge had to be a mile and a half long.
Got to the other side and I was in Minnesota. Nine states down with 5 to go! Choice now was where to go for a place for the night. Downtown would be WAY too high rent for me, so I opted for a place just down the road a piece from the good old Bong Bridge. Ended up at a Super 8, where I pleaded for the “Old guy biking across America discount”. It worked because she knocked off 35 bucks from the bill!! Got a nice place for 40 bucks, with downtown harbor access about 3 miles down the road. I’m going to ride there and watch a couple of the barges come in and depart. The receptionist gave me a slew of departure/arrival times of the big barges down on the warf. I’ll head down there in a few and continue this later this evening.
Rode down to the harbor, half on road and half on bike lanes, and had a nice time just kind of people watching and ship watching. Duluth really reminds me of St. John’s Newfoundland, what with it’s mariner atmosphere and the plethora of pubs and restaurants down along the waterfront. It’s also situated on this bluff overlooking the harbor just as St. John’s is, and the streets run up the flanks of the bluff to the top. Wish I had the time to hang here for a bit with friends, as we’d have a grand time at the pubs!! Had to beat feet and head back as a little rain front was moving in and it was a 30 min ride from here at the motel down to the downtown district. Made it back just in time.
Tomorrow I’m going to ride up this monster looking climb up the bluff and out of town on Rt 2 west. I can see the climb from my motel and it looks like little cookie all the way. What a way to start the day. Then it’s Rt 2 west through northern Minnesota, and past a zillion lakes as I ride my way up to Grand Forks, North Dakota. With good weather I think I can reach Grand Forks by Sunday July 4th.
That’s it for the day. Good day all……..Pete