Grand Rapids, MN

June 24, 2010 11:31 pm

This morning, I thought I had slept late, because I was so tired. I checked the cell phone, and it was either 6:24, or 8:24. I couldn’t tell without my glasses. It was 6:24. A light rain was falling. The Big Fish restaurant was completely closed, and there was no sign of the owners, which also meant that the bathroom was any one of the trees on the property. It also meant no breakfast.

Elliot was tired. We considered simply going 2 miles into Bena proper (population 100 or so), and getting a room at a Motel for a rest day. We rolled up the wet tent, and left in the rain. By Bena, it was coming down hard. We discovered that there were no restaurants in Bena, contrary to what the map said. There was an abandoned building that said “Cafe” on the sign – that was probably the restaurant until the last economic downturn. We got breakfast at the gas station store, and ate at a table in the store. The store also rented cabins, but the guy said they were completely booked.


Gas station store in Bena

We found out that we could stay on highway 2, and go all the way to Grand Rapids. It would be flat and straight, and we would save 5 miles over the more scenic standard route. Nothing to see on a rainy day, anyway. Highway 2 took us through Deer River (a lot of towns on the Indian Reservation have names like this). There’s a lot of Chippewa stuff in this area – wild rice, Native American crafts. And Casinos.


We stopped outside Northern Star Cooperative (a grocery store, known locally as the Co-Op), and met Hugh Cameron (Sr), a former DA for Itasca County. His son, like Elliot, had been in Debate (no surprise, Dad is a lawyer). Elliot was already in the store, so I held the camera at arm’s length.


After lunch at Co-Op, we continued into Grand Rapids with no incident. Grand Rapids prides itself on being the birthplace of Judy Garland. There’s Wizard of Oz stuff all over – museums, painting, sculptures.

Somewhere along the way, Elliot lost the end cap to his handlebars. On the road, I could have whittled a replacement from a fallen branch (there are many here). After checking into the Budget Inn Motel, I went to the bike shop just a couple blocks away and asked if they had one. They did. I asked Adam how much he wanted for it, and he said, “Well… how about nothing?” This is typical for small-town bike shops, especially for long-distance riders. In the city, they’ll say a dollar, even if it’s a giveaway item, because they got you. Sam and Adam’s names were easy to remember, on account of the Beer by that name. They’re students in Moorehead during the school year, not far from where we started.


Sam and Adam (apron) at Itasca Trail Sports

And guys, if you’re reading this, the plug fit perfectly!

It was rather fortunate that we got into Grand Rapids so early (2 pm). When we turned on the TV at the motel, there was a Tornado Warning up for Lake Prarie, the town right next to Grand Rapids. In fact, the border of Lake Prarie was 4 blocks from our Motel. The warning was for possible Tornado and Golf Ball size hail. There was a crack of lightning and an abrupt, torrential downpour while we were in the room, but no hail.

That evening, in light rain, we walked several blocks to an Asian Buffet in a mall. The price was good – $9.95 for dinner. I don’t think I took any sushi. I would not expect Hamachi nigiri for that price, but would Saba have been too much to ask for? The Chinese food was tasty. Not what I was used to, but satisfying.



June 25, 10:23 am. This morning, I went to the lobby for continental breakfast, and met Minton, the manager on duty. He also rode a bicycle, but because he was legally blind. Like me, he had asthma, but his was severe, and people thought he would never make it to 50. Then, a couple years ago, Advair was his salvation. He rode to Jacobsen, which was our next stop. He’s also a ham radio operator, and writes Christian songs with his friend at the local Baptist church. Mackensie, the young woman, has lived upstairs at the motel for 2 years. She formerly played for the Minnesota Crunch, on defense as the Enforcer. I took a step back when I heard that. MacKensie, if you want a copy of this picture in high-res, just email us (see the About page), and we’ll send you one.


Minton got off as we checked out, so he escorted us a few blocks, since his house was along the route.


Note to cyclists: Graham Crackers in front pack + Driving Rain = Disgusting.


  1. Janice says:

    Wow how exciting – tornedo and the giant hail and a Wizard of Oz theme. Glad that you are both safe! Please post photos of the tornedo!

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