Day 7: Taylors Falls to Willow River, MN

84 miles : 444 miles total

Having a hard time concentrating on the post as mosquitoes swarm around me (that would be Chandra, but they are also swarming around Mike), but I will try to focus on the awesome day of riding and not these pesky bugs that are having me for their dinner. Mosquitoes rarely are an issue on the bike because they are extremely weak flyers. Even just a small breeze will keep them off you. (I wish I had a small breeze right now, but alas!). And there is no way that they can get us when we are hauling like we did again today.

We got our earliest start of the trip this morning. Granted it wasn’t any sort of alpine start but we were fed, packed, loaded and on the road by 9:15 am. On the road really meant crawling up a large hill just to get out of the campground. Good thing Mike fixed granny. Even better thing that Keiko had given Dunn Brothers. We needed both to get up that hill.

From there we rolled up and down the bluffs for a couple of miles in the cool morning haze with a goodly headwind keeping our speed down as well before the terrain flattened out considerably. We made good time up state highway 95 north until we turned off on to County Road 9 toward Pleasant Valley, which turned out to be a lovely country road. Really pretty. So we rolled along that for 10-15 miles or so, approaching Rush City. Mike tells me (but I have no independent verification of this fact) that Rush City is the source of the Robinson Clan. Whether true or not, we had our regular fare (except we had forgotten to restock the sardines) for lunch in the town park.

Après repast, we had a detour on a dirt road for five or so miles. Kind of crazy that they oiled the road down, but it helped with the dust, even if it is not so good for the groundwater. Maybe there’s some sort of high tech solution that they use now instead, but I digress. As soon as we turned off the oiled detour, we turned into what would be our companion for most of the afternoon— constant, pervasive (yes, i realize that is redundant) headwind. So there we were, rolling slowly along against the wind towards Hinckley where we had high hopes of afternoon pie, when what should Mike spy but a whole pie inverted and deserted in the middle of the highway. Don’t believe me? I have photographic proof (just because I can’t upload it now doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist).

In any event, we rolled into Hinckley around 3, looking for pie. Unfortunately, Rosie’s Cafe apparently closes at two. Even more unfortunately, the bake sale for the POW- MIA had sold their last home-made pie hours before. The best that we could do was a brownie sundae at a place called Firehouse Cafe, which had a great t-shirt framed on it’s wall that said “Hinckley Fire Department: We only lost the town once.”


For those ignorami (which would include me), Hinckley burned to the ground in a massive fire in 1894. The fire apparently started from logging slag during a dry summer. The town marker says flames reached 4 1/2 miles high, but we are skeptical. More interesting is the legend of a local train engineer (we think his name might have been James Jay Hill) who heroically drove the train through the burning town to rescue stander residents . . . or maybe animals . . . or maybe chickens . . . or maybe we don’t really have the story straight. Anyway, whoever he was, and what ever he did, he was a hero.

We were grociered up and on the road, well, now a path, by 4 PM and had just 25 miles left to go. We were on a bike trail called the Williard Munger (maybe he was the hero?) Trail, which is part of the longest paved trail in the world. More hyperbole? I dunno.

[UPDATE: according to Wikipedia (, the train engineer was a guy named James Root and Munger was a politician known for environmental causes.]


We made awesome time down the green paved tunnel which sheltered us from our friend Headwind. It was straight, very straight . . . and very flat. But we definitely noticed the gradual transition from the St. Croix River Valley to the north woods. Birch trees, pines and peat lands replacing willows and broad leaves. We made great time, passed a couple of day bikers and a man whose companion was 1/4 mile ahead of him (but when we passed her, we saw she had an electronic assist). The trail was great! Leave it to Minnesota to pave the bike trail, but leaves the roads dirt!


Nearly done, we passed a last thing funny enough to interrupt our push toward camp and cause us to stop and take a picture– Bonk Road! Every biker has been on this road, somewhere, sometime! Even my father has been bowed by the bonk! But not us, not today.


We pushed on quickly to Willow River. From the lovely path, we could see the holiday traffic headed north at a standstill Too bad they were not on a bike! We zipped passed them at a leisurely 20 MPH a few miles to a lovely state forest campground inhabited by few campers and a whole lot of mosquitoes!

While I have been typing this fascinating description of our day (while multitasking at masaquering mosquitoes), Mike has been making a really wonderful new camping favorite—mushroom tofu green pepper curry over couscous. Delicious, especially with a bottle of Chalone Vineyard Merlot. And for dessert, some almond and sea salt chocolate. Lovely, especially now that I am safely ensconced in the green (mosquito free) tent. Moral of the story– when life gives your mosquitoes, eat well, drink wine, and have a great tent.

Life is good, really good.

A final shout out, to my longest friend ever–Lisa Thomas–whose birthday it was today. As the usually lousy friend that I am, I am not celebrating with her. But because she is a better friend than I am, she gets it. Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LISA!

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