I woke to a light rain and my ribs shot pain through my abdomen when I tried to sit up out of bed. My riding gloves were sitting on the picnic table and soaked but I packed up quickly and warmed up some oatmeal for breakfast.
Just on the other side of town was a small restaurant and I was surprised to see it open. The rain had cleared up.
Mostly I just wanted to talk to someone and ask about the motel. I thought I might order a cup of coffee until I saw this.
How could I pass up a breakfast malt?
I talked to Tom the owner for a short time. He wasn't sure how long the restaurant had been open. An older fellow, he and his wife bought it 26 years ago and it had been open some time before that. He said the motel next door had shut down three years ago. He seemed unaware that I camped the night before. On the entire ride, this guy was the only one who asked me how fast my bike would go. I shrugged and told him it wasn't very fast at all. He went on to tell me about how he hears guys speed past on the country road out front on "one of those things." Again I shrugged and told him I'd never ridden a sport bike, so I don't know. I'm not sure he was listening and he continued to tell me about how "those kinds of bikes" will go 150 mph. If it has plastic, it must be a crotch rocket.
When I asked what I owed him, he thought for a few seconds and pulled the price out of the air. "Five bucks and we'll call it even." Is that the Canadian price? Sheesh.
An older worker wearing overalls and driving a logging truck pulled up just as I was heading out.
I continued to follow highway 1.
Road construction forced me onto some hardpack gravel.
And into the town of Babbitt, where there was a great display of retired mining equipment.
This part of Minnesota is known as the Iron Range
because of the iron ore deposits. The equipment here is gigantic.
My next stop was in the town of Ely, pronounced EEE-lee, and the Dorothy Molter museum.
Dorothy Molter, known as the Root Beer Lady, was the last resident of the one-million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Forest Service attempted to remove her several times, but they were stymied each time by her resiliance and popularity. In the end, they made her a Forest Service "volunteer" to report the conditions inside the park. I encourage you to read about her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Molter
At the museum, first a little movie and introduction from a tour guide.
And then to her cabin, which was disassembled and moved from its location in the Boundary Waters to Ely after her death in 1986.
Inside, as repeated by our guide over and over, everything was exactly as left by Dorothy. Everything in the house was authentic and belonged to her. Got that? 100% authentic. Just how Dorothy lived.
When I was young, my mom gave me a book about Dorothy, I thought about the book and bought a postcard to send to my mom.
I headed north out of Ely onto country road 116, known as the Echo Trail, a former logging road which today provides access to the Boundary Waters Canoe area.
The perfect pavement soon turned to rough pavement which soon turned to freshly graded gravel. The loose rocks made for a harrowing and slow ride.
I soon found the source of my riding woes.
And the teeth on the plow made the rocks loose and the riding hard.
Fortunately, they must have graded the road and parked the grader because after that point, the road was hardpack gravel on which I could ride comfortably.
The scenery was beautiful and desolate.
Desolate until I pulled into a BWCA put-in.
There must have been 40 vehicles crammed into eavey little corner. What I thought I had to myself was actually a metropolis.
The Echo Trail leads to the community of Buyck, which is immediately pronouncable.
Just beyond Buyck I saw three girls behind a lemonade stand, so I stopped. Just after I gave them a buck for a cup, the wind picked up and a cold front passed. The dark clouds coming in foretold rain was on the way, so the girls scurried to pack up their stand. Just before I left, I stood back and asked if I could take a picture.
I stopped in Orr for gas while rain started falling.
I've got a clever idea for a prop they could attach to the sign to help with pronunciation here, too.
Just outside Orr is the Mickey Elverum Bog Walk. There's a geocache there. I had to stop.
It's a neat walk through the woods.
And into the bog.
I did find the cache here.
The purpose of this whole ride was to visit my family who mostly live around the Twin Cities in Minnesota. When I'd called my mom a month earlier to tell her about my plans and that I might come down through Canada, she retold a story about my dad and her taking a trip to the border town of International Falls when they were first married in the mid-60s. She asked me, isn't there a highway 65 that runs down through there?
I looked at my map. She was right!
She described it as an especially scenic route through the forest, without any traffic at all. She was right!
She said, "There was even grass growing up in the middle of the road." I chuckled at her memory from 50 years ago. But she was right about that, too.
Along the 40 miles or so I stayed on highway 65, I didn't pass another vehicle.
But I did find one of my favorite placenames.
I rode into Effie, Minnesota on highway 1, heading west. I altered my route slightly when I saw this sign marking the northern end of the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway. I turned south and followed it.
I stopped in the town of Bigfork. Used to have a friend who lived here a few years back. I stopped at an Edge of the Wilderness interpretive center around sunset.
Don't think I didn't consider bunking in that flatboat on display. I needed to find a place to crash before dark but I'm sure some official would come by in the evening to lock up.
I located a state forest campground along my route and rode the narrow gravel to find it. To my dismay, it was filled almost to capacity, and the campground fee was bumping up against $20.
So, I followed an ATV trail back to a clearing about a mile away and pitched my tent.
I used to live in Minnesota and forgot about deer flies. Holy crap. Buzzing around my face, hair, and ears all the while I was trying to set up my tent. I pulled a stocking cap down over my head to keep them from driving me crazy. I opted out of sitting outside to make dinner and instead took some crackers and granola bars into my tent before bed and fell asleep listening to an owl nearby.