Bena, MN

June 23, 2010

This was errand day, and we had several. Post office, credit union, groceries, laundromat. I was careful to draw out a map while still at the KOA, since the internet connection was good there. There are no printers on the road. Oh, the things we take for granted! All the prep and packing took a long time, and we left the KOA at 10:45. But we intended it to be a short riding day in the first place.

On the way to downtown Bemidji, we passed a credit union, and I pulled some cash out of the drive-by ATM. Elliot noted the Arby’s across the street, and said he was hungry, so we had lunch. This surprised me, since it seemed we had just eaten continental breakfast at the KOA. We had the steakhouse combo, which includes a sandwich, waffle fries, and a drink for $3.95.

Next, we went to the Post Office. In line at the post office, a young man named Jason asked me if that was my Peugot outside. When I replied to the negative, he shared that his mother-in-law had a classic Peugot, and got him into cycling. He did rides from Bemidji to Grand Rapids in a single day, a distance which would take us two on tour. The woman behind me joined the conversation, and it came out that she was Christian. I told her that I was also a Christian, and that the bike provided a lot of time to think and meditate. “And pray,” she added. Yes. I mentioned that I had scanned a prayer request from someone in my home group, and it was on the laptop we brought along, so as often as I blog, I see it. (So Dean, if you’re reading this, your prayer request is being taken seriously.) The woman also had a request on behalf of her friend, whose son, Ryan is about to be deployed to Iraq for the third time. To anyone reading this, if you pray, please consider Ryan from Bemidji, MN, that he would do right, and of course, for God’s protection.

The Downtown Laundry was our next stop. I met the owner, Jeff Brower, an affable man who was suitably impressed with our trek. I left him a card. We also met Greg, whom I originally mistook for the owner.


Jeff at the Downtown Laundry in Bemidji

There were a lot of young women at the laundromat, many with accents. One was looking for a pen, so I lent her one of ours. She was from Australia, and her name was Kate. Doesn’t it seem like half the women from there are Kate? She said her mother was an avid cyclist, so to Kate’s mum, if you’re reading this, a big Howdy from the U.S. of A. Jen is from England. They, and about 6 or 8 other girls, are counselors at nearby Kamaji Camp for Girls. Apparently, the camp imports counselors from other countries, including Scotland and Denmark. They were not sure why. They get a day off, which is laundry day. They also get a few weeks vacation in the US after the camp ends, when most of them tour. I left cards with them.


Kate(L) and Jen(R)

As we left the laundromat, a outgoing girl on the street asked where we were going. She was originally from Ashland, Oregon, and knew others who did the cross country ride.



We left Bemidji at about 3 pm – late, but then again, we had few miles. My plan was to stay at one of the campgrounds 20 miles away. The terrain was rolling, so we decided to go further. This seems to be a pattern with us, always exceeding our aspirations. Then we hit this




I looked at the map, and there were no alternatives. I was worried because we would still be on road 39 for 5 more miles, until we hit Highway 2. I realized also that had we not taken the standard route, we could have stayed on Highway 2 all the way, and saved 10 miles. Nothing to do, so we started walking the bikes. Fortunately, the sand ended after a quarter- or half-mile. Then we had paved road, then more sand, paved, more sand, and finally paved up to Highway 2. Along the way, we could have simply stopped at a primitive campground, but that would have meant eating plain macaroni for dinner (possibly uncooked) with water, and a few graham crackers for breakfast. We hadn’t encountered any open grocery stores after the Laundromat, so hadn’t stocked up on supplies.

As soon as we hit Highway 2, this sign greeted us:


We didn’t get in this late, I took a picture of the sign after dinner


I inquired about camping, and the woman behind the bar, Melissa, advised me that they had no showers, and I might be better off 2 miles up the road. Who needs showers? She didn’t actually have campsites to rent (only cabins), but the cook (possibly the other owner or her husband) convinced her to rent the rear lawn (acres) to us for $15. No one else was there, so we had the whole thing to ourselves. We ate at the restaurant, of course, and I had Walleye for the first time. All the locals raved about it. It tasted sort of like wild-caught (not farm-raised) Tilapia.

While we were eating, an older couple punched up some country songs on the jukebox and danced. I later asked them how long they had been married, and it turned out they weren’t. Each had just lost their spouse a few years ago, and they were friends that enjoyed each other’s company. They were on a fishing trip. Marlene had ridden the RAGBRAI twenty-four times (until the last two years when her husband got sick), and was going to ride it for the 25th and final time this year. Ralph was a character. If you look at the placement of Marlene’s hand, you’ll know who’s the boss.


Marlene Giermann and Ralph Marten

There was no internet at the Big Fish, so I did some picture processing, but could not blog. We slept well, except for a freight train in the wee hours.

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