Day 30 – Warroad MN to Fort Francis ON – Total distance traveled – 2902kms

I’m back in Ontario again! My plan was to stop in International falls, MN. But the beer sucks in the US so I decided it was worth the extra push to cross the Rainy River into Fort Frances, Ontario.

Oh, what a delight! Look, a TD bank! And there’s an LCBO! And finally, a Super 8 with a Boston Pizza next door! Oh my God, I’m in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong: Minnesota is awesome. There’s all kinds of things to do. Way more than I realized. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing even. There are more cycling trails in MN than in any other state in the US. The cycling was fantastic, the people were friendly, the drivers were incredibly considerate.

So why am I so glad to be back in Canada? I have no idea. I guess is just a familiarity. I know I can use my cell phone without ridiculous roaming charges. I know I can use Canadian cash. I know what to expect from a Tim Hortons. The music they’re playing in BP is exactly what I want to hear. Elton John, the Beatles, James Taylor, the Eagles.

And then there’s the beer. The restaurant last night didn’t serve alcohol,. Nether did the one in Steinbach. Bible thumping country? I don’t know if that’s the reason on not. But I need my beer, for medicinal reasons of course. You know, carbs and all that stuff.

Aside from all of that, I feel good about getting across the border. I’ll have another big day tomorrow and I need supplies which I have to get on the Canadian side.

Speaking about crossing the border, it was another interesting conversation with the customs agent. This one Canadian. Keep in mind that I’m in the car lane:

Customs Officer (CO): Where do you live?
Me: Ottawa, Canada.
CO: Where are you coming from?
Me: Vancouver, via Warroad yesterday.
CO: Um, where are you headed?
Me: Toronto.
CO: How long are you going to be in Canada?
Me: Actually, I’m Canadian.
CO: You’re on a bicycle?
Me: Yes.
CO: What’s you profession sir?
Me: I work at MTS Allstream.
CO: How did you get to Vancouver?
Me: I flew, with my bike.
CO: How long is it going to take you to get from Vancouver to Toronto?
Me: 6 weeks.
CO: And why are you doing this?
Me: It’s a life long dream and I’m raising money for the United Way.
CO: Well ok, I guess you’re good to go. I just never heard of anything like that before.
Me: Surely a lot of cyclists come through here in the summer?
CO: Yes, but they usually go through the pedestrian walkway.
Me: Oops, sorry.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How was the day? Awesome, awesome, awesome. Roads as smooth was glass. A tail wind (yes, really). Places to stop and look around.

I awoke to a beautiful sunrise in Warroad. I clambered out of my tent to use the washroom and perched on a dead tree above me was a Bald Eagle. As usual, by the time I pulled my camera out it was gone, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Sunrise on Lake of the Woods

On the way out of town I found out why this town is called “Warroad”. It lterally comes from an Indian word meaning “war road” but the “road” is a river, not a road. The Sioux would come down the river to war with the Chipawa for control over the rice fields. This went on for a long time, and the name stuck.

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Where the name Warroad came from

There are all sorts of old rusting equipment along the side of the road. But they’re displayed, not just abandoned. I’m not sure if they’re for sale, or it’s some kind of display of old machinery.
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Please choose a car from our line of gently used vehicles

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Wally the Walleye in Baudette, MN

The ride along highway 12 was pretty uneventful, accept for one section that turned out to be a workout, just after Baudette I faced the dreaded “Road Closed, Detour” sign. For a driver in a car this may not be a big deal, but for a cyclists: how long is the detour and can I get through anyway? I took the detour for a short stretch and it looked like it was going to be long so I re-joined the highway a little further up. Grooved road turned into dirt road which turned into soft sand, a cyclists nightmare. I stopped a driver who confirmed that I could get through and the that the sand/gravel only continued for another 2 miles. So I stuck with it and soon enough I was back on grooved road, and a couple more miles later back on pavement. The rest of the ride was extremely quite (most of the cars were on the detour).

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Cycling along the Rainy River

I reached International Falls by about 5pm, stopped to take a snap of Smokey the Bear, and kept going.

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Smokey the Bear – International Falls MN

After circling around Fort Frances for a few kilometres I finally found the Super 8, checked in, and had a long hot shower.

Now, where’s that beer?

Stats
Distance traveled today – 179kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 55 mins
Moving avg – 22.6kms/hour
Elevation – 358m

Giving

If you’re enjoying my blog please consider making a donation to the United Way here. The United Way of Toronto is about helping others in our community to have a better life. I hope that my journey will serve as inspiration for others, that if you sent your goals big and overcome challenges you can do amazing things. The United Way gives people in our community the support they need to overcome their challenges.

FYI, all the donations are collected through an organization called CanadaHelps through a feature called GivingPages, which enables people to raise money online for the charities they support, such as the United Way of Toronto.

Thank you all for the donations so far. They helped a lot to bring me closer to my goal of raising $1 for every kilometre cycled, or $4500, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Day 29 – Steinbach MB to Warroad MN – Total distanced traveled – 2813kms

I had a glorious day of cycling today: perfect weather, virtually no wind, very low traffic, great roads. I’ve now crossed the US border into Minnesota and am camping in the busy seaside lakeside resort of Warroad. It feels like the sea because Lake of the Woods is huge and it’s got that seaside feel to it.

I’ve just had locally caught Walleye at the Lake Side Restaurant and it was excellent. Unfortunately I don’t have my gear with me so I can’t import my photos from today but there were many.

Last night I got a nice little surprise when I flipped open my iPad and for the fun of it checked for wifi. It worked! The Steinbach campsite has wifi and didn’t even mention it.

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Waking up to a sunrise at the Steinbach Campsite

I saw a lot of wildlife along the road today: deer, falcons, and flying horses. The horseflies were particularly interesting. At first, there was just one circling me as I was riding. A few minutes later, two. And then four and then six. Now this is starting to get annoying. It’s ok while I’m moving but what will happen when I stop? I’ll be eaten alive, that’s what!

So I went into a higher gear and sped up to 25kms/ hour. Then 30. They’re still with me! Next, 35 and then 40kms per hour, My legs are really burning now, but they’re still with me. I don’t believe this! I’m already planning my next move: stop, dig out my tarp, get under it, and scarf down my lunch in the heat of the sun.

But a funny thing happened: when I stopped the horseflies kept on going! It seems they were just hitching a ride to the States to pick up a pack of Virginia Slim Jims. This really happened, Scouts honour.

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The grasslands along Highway 12 south of Steinbach

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Time for a nap at a rest area, 75km from Steinbach

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Site of a major forest fire that swept through the area a few years ago

About 110kms from Steinbach and finally there’s a restaurant off the highway in Sprague. Folks are really friendly and they happily got me a cup of coffee. You see I was literally falling asleep on my bike. Not enough sleep last night I guess.

By 4pm I was crossing into the states being interrogated by the border crossing guard: Alcohol? None. Cigarettes? Nope. More than ten thousand dollars? I wish. Ok, you can go.

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Minnesota! I can stick another pin in my National Geographic wall map.

By the way, for all the talk of mosquitos in Manitoba, I didn’t see any. Not that I’m complaining or anything…

Ten more kilometres, oops sorry, 5 miles to Warroad and I’m in a typically US city: flags are flying, liquor stores are open, it’s actually a really nice town.

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Lake Road in Warroad

You can’t mention Warroad without talking about Marvin Windows and Doors which has a massive factory here and is obviously the main employer.

You also can’t mention Warroad without mentioning hockey. For 50 years the Warroad Lakers won just about every tournament they entered, in the US or Canada. I can’t figure out why the Warroad website keeps referring to the team as “infamous” though. Maybe it’s because they seemed to have kicked every other team’s ass they play?

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Lake of the Woods

Tomorrow I continue on for another 150kms 95 miles to International Falls MN. Then I’ll cross the border into Canada and I’ll tackle Quetico Provincial Park which is almost the size of Algonquin Provincial Park. I’m psyching myself up for that and I think it’s going to be an awesome adventure. I’ve checked the weather and it looks pretty good for the next week. Tunder Bay, here I come (mis-spelling intentional).

Stats
Distance traveled today – 147kms
Moving time – 6 hours and 52 minutes
Moving avg – 21.3 kms/hour
Elevation – 330m