Finally I twigged on seeing the ten thousandth Harley Davidson rider passing me on the road. The Harley factory produces bike and riders on parallel production lines. The riders come off with standard 100 kilograms, red faces and white beards. Most select the free option of an extra 20 kilograms around the beer region. Decals are optional but rock band tee shirts and bandanas are mandatory.
Last report from Weyburn in Saskatewan. Ten days of riding since, first two with young French Canadian students, Claudia and Gael. Claudia a marathon runner, insisted on finishing the days with a run. Left them behind in a beautiful camp in Leleau, they were not equiped for the cold rain that set in that day. Thanks to publican in Ninette who dried my clothes as I ate some food.
Thanks also to the unknown lady next morning in Baldur who paid for my giant catch-up-calorie breakfast.
Across the border into Manitoba the road quality dropped instantly with unrideable gravel verges. Plains scenery dominated by "nodding donkey" oil pumps and wind turbines.
Arrived in the small town of Somerset, and was greeted by adventure backpacker, Ghislaine Grenier (GG) who owned a small restaurant in the town. A five minute conversation made a connection and I took up her offer of open house at her restaurant, everything I could eat and anything I could take away. Humbling generosity, and a further connection when I noticed a photo from her travels of Gunlom Pool in Kakadu in Australia. Barb and I sat in the same pool.
Really touched as every day some act of random generosity cheers me.
Crossed the USA border on a small country road. Somewhat surprised to have an easy passage, friendly official, no search and food supplies intact. Into Minnesota, manicured lawns, neat houses and US flags flying. Down to Thief River Falls in time to catch a music festival at the camp, dwarfed by the huge RV in the next camp spot.
My route through Minnesota was in the far north, from Thief River, remoteness kicked in quickly. Few cars, tiny towns. Red Lake had a hard human edge which had me on edge all night despite being given the keys to the beautiful Catholic Church (for shelter should I need it). I was greeted by two aggressive dogs, a pitball cross and a timber wolf, a sly pair which I had to fend off from the bike. Next morning the same two invited themselves to breakfast at the church grounds camp. They took some uninviting, I was ready with the bear spray.
The night was broken by loud speakers from the two prisons the town is wedged between. Female voice "Buddy you are the light of my life, I adore you". Male voice "Roger that, my searchlight is focused on you". That of course was the diversionary interpretation, I was sure the real message was "Dangerous crim escaped heading towards the Catholic Church". Four lots of screaming police sirens punctuated the remainder of the night. Drugs and ethnic anger can create a lot of fear.
Next night outside Effie I was hosted on Tim and Sheri's front lawn under a beautiful shady Willow tree, a much more comfortable night and some good conversation. Next night, more generosity with Hoodoo Camp providing a free site beside Vermillion Lake. A big push next day chased by wet thunderstorms to take shelter and warm up in a cabin in Finland. The ride through the pretty town of Ely was interrupted by Jim, who shouted me a coffee and introduced me to the reporter on the local paper, Tom Coombe. An interview over coffee, and hopefully some bonus charity impact in a great part of Minnesota.
Now I am based for a few days in Grand Marais, catching up with cycling friends Buck Benson, Lee and Scott Bergstrom. Buck's hospitality has been extraordinary with great food, a view from some of his favourite spots on the Islands in Lake Superior and some much needed rest.
Thanks also to Chris from Quest bike trailers who sent me a replacement suspension Spring for the trailer to meet me here.
Farewell to Claudia and Gael
Manitoba - oil pumps and wind turbines
Minnesota manicured lawns and US flags
...and big tractors
Dwarfed by my neighbour at Thief River Falls
Thief River Falls
Safe camp beside the presbetory in Red Lake
On the highway along the wilderness "edge" Minnesota north
Arrived on the shores of Lake Superior
First view of Grand Marais
Buck shows me one of his favourite spots Top of the World Spar Island Lake Superior
Spar Island fungi