by Rhona & Dave Fritsch
Editor's note: This chronicle of the West Virginian authors' 1996 cross country tandem ride, which spanned 3,710 miles and lasted 47 days, is appearing as a series in the online newsletter of the TOYS: Tandems of York (PA) Society. Thanks to the authors and the newsletter editor, Carolyn K. Stafford, for allowing us to reprint it here. The First Installment of this journal appeared in Fall 1997 Features section of The Bicycle Exchange
Rhona and I began our great tandem adventure in Washington State and finished in New Jersey. Rhona accepted the major responsibility of compiling a journal each night. Her narrative is typed in upper and lower case letters. In the interests of historical accuracy, I added comments, in upper case italicized letters. --DAVE
Tuesday July 9, 1996
Hawley, MN to Battle Lake, MN (74 miles)
Beautiful ride today, probably the best of the trip so far. 70 degrees, light breeze in our favor, lovely scenery; gently rolling rises, green, lots of trees and a little lake around every curve in the road. Had lunch in Pelican Rapids where the river runs through the middle of and underneath the town. All Lutheran churches here, and names like Jorgenson on the mailboxes. I'm trying to get Dave to route us through Walnut Grove of "Little House on the Prairie" fame! My rear didn't hurt too badly today; took three weeks to toughen up. When this journey is over, I hope to never eat in a caf./hamburger joint again! Even when I order something which sounds nutritious and vegetarian, I'm disappointed. Lunch today was broccoli cheese soup (melted Velveeta and use a microscope to find the broccoli) and a cold plate---fruit (2 strawberries, tiny watermelon wedge), potato salad, cheese, white toast covered with butter, processed American cheese. However, tonight's dinner included very good salad bar and excellent homemade tomato soup. But this is such a rare exception. I hate how I'm forced to eat.
ANIMALS SEEN TODAY INCLUDED OSTRICH, LLAMAS, CAMELS AND BUFFALO. WE PASSED A SECTION OF FENCE POSTS WITH OLD BOOTS OVER EACH POST...MUST HAVE BEEN AT LEAST 100.
We lost our West Virginia license plate somewhere today.
Wednesday July 10, 1996
Battle Lake, MN to Long Prairie, MN (69 miles)
Up at 3:30 a.m. and took a picture of sunrise over the lake. Walked through town and young grocery clerk opened store an hour early so I could purchase breakfast. After sleeping very well for a week or so. I'm back to restless nights and early mornings. I told Dave we're not going enough miles to exhaust me!
Saw a fox running through field and another one killed on the road. Another day of pretty scenery. Walked up to Inspiration Peak, so named by Sinclair Lewis. Pretty view of lakes and fields but not what we expect when we hear the word "peak". SOUTH WINDS TODAY! EXPECT THE SAME TOMORROW.
Thursday July 11, 1996
Long Prairie, MN to Milaca, MN (81.46 miles)
I tried to get Dave to ride around the block so we could round up to 82 miles, but he said it would be "good for my soul" to have to round the number down. Otherwise, another pleasant day rolling through Minnesota farmland, although fewer lakes. Wheat fields appeared for the first time; saw soybeans and corn a few days ago. Most cows stare at us; we even caused a stampede one day. All the horses watch us till we're out of sight. You can tell we're in dairy country-they put butter on everything, even a turkey sandwich! (The bovine odor also gives it away). Tornado, flood, and thunderstorm warnings in effect tonight; very glad not to be in a tent!
THE COOK AT THE PIZZA RESTAURANT CALLED HER HUSBAND WHO WRITES FOR A LOCAL WEEKLY PAPER. HE MET US AT THE MOTEL AND INTERVIEWED US AND TOOK OUR PICTURE. WE EXCHANGED E-MAIL ADDRESSES AND I PROMISED TO SEND OUR JOURNAL TO HIM. The reporter had his three energetic young boys with him so it was an amusing interview! Jeff said it was a shame we didn't do the northern Lake Itasca route because the country is beautiful. That's definitely a drawback to rushing across the miles.
Friday July 12, 1996
Milaca, MN to Stillwater, MN (121 miles)
Had some rain today and the terrain got much more hilly after we crossed the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. Dave didn't think very highly of the route, and my knees didn't like it either! We hit the 2,000 mile mark today! Stillwater is an attractive town; reminds me of Pittsburgh's Station Square only there are many more quaint shops and exclusive stores. The riverfront looked lovely from afar and it would have been nice to walk around downtown, but our motel was at least three miles away and after showering and eating, all we want to do is collapse, not sightsee.
The Montana and Wisconsin fire department have an excellent procedure for locating rural properties. Each house has a metal plate (like a license plate) mounted on a post by their driveway, bearing a fire-identification number. I rewrote the lyrics to a selection from "My Fair Lady" (I Could Have Danced All Night).
"I could have biked all
night, I could have biked all night, and still have begged
I could have cracked my whip, as I have done this trip, to make Dave ride miles
I'll never know just why he stops so early; it almost makes us have a fight!
I only know when he says 'it's too dark to see', I could have biked, biked, biked
Saturday July 13, 1996
Stillwater, MN to Wabasha, MN (90 miles)
Hilly again through Wisconsin farmland. Saw a brown zebra. ST. Croix River and the Mississippi River join in Prescott, Wisconsin at an attractive point. Met two Scots (Jim and Jean) from Kenya early in the day, retired teacher/principal. Met up with them again, both of us trying to get a motel room in a tourist town on a Saturday night. One innkeeper helped us by calling the next town and we got the last room there. We offered to share it with Jim and Jean and they gratefully accepted. We got there first and just missed a terrible thunderstorm; they arrived soaking wet. It was a wonderful experience getting to know them; their lives seem fascinating; five grown children (son is a pro rugby player for Scotland, one daughter in Royal Navy-recently decorated.); Jean is a marathon runner, has cycled England alone, climbed Kilimanjaro! Together they've cycled all over Europe. They had wonderful pictures to show us (their son being married in a kilt). Scotland looks beautiful but hilly; they said it is very rainy. We exchanged addresses and they want us to contact them if we go to Britain/Europe on the off-chance they're home from Kenya. Dave is jealous because Jean saw a bear in northern Minnesota. We ate together at the Dairy Queen. It seemed a bit strange to share a room with relative strangers but it was also a thoroughly enjoyable experience!
Had a delicious fruit plate in Red Wing! Cottonwood puffs in the air have been annoying in certain areas of several states.
Sunday July 14, 1996
Wabasha, MN to LaCrosse, WI (72 miles)
SAW WHAT WE THINK WERE PELICANS SOARING HIGH ABOVE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
Jim and Jean left early. We almost caught up to them, had Jean in our view, then had a flat tire. The climbs today really reminded us of West Virginia. Toured an old flour mill which is being restored at Pickwick. Jim and Jean found us there.
Coming into LaCrescent, MN/LaCrosse, WI from the high bluff, we had spectacular views of the Mississippi River. We couldn't stop taking pictures! The ride down was very scary to me although Dave scoffed at that. I also didn't enjoy crossing the bridge over the river, even though we rode on the sidewalk. The railing between the river and us was high enough but it was like a grate (not a solid wall); the wall between the traffic and us was only two feet high. Give me a country road any day! Since we did such a short day, we had time to go to a movie, "Courage Under Fire".
Monday July 15, 1996
LaCrosse, WI to Elkader, IA (93 miles)
WE RODE DOWN THE WISCONSIN SIDE OF THE MISSISSIPPI DOWN TO PRAIRIE DU CHIEN. WE SAW MANY EGRETS/HERONS, WE'RE NOT SURE WHICH. THE VIEW OF THE RIVER VALLEY WAS IMPRESSIVE. MAYFLIES HAD HATCHED AND HAD A PROPENSITY FOR FLYING INTO NOSES AND MOUTHS. SOME LOCALS CLAIM AT NIGHT THEY HAVE TO TURN OFF MOST LIGHTS TO AVOID ATTRACTING THEM. IF ONLY ONE LIGHT IS LEFT ON THEY HAVE TO SHOVEL THE MAYFLIES AWAY WITH A SNOWPLOW THE NEXT MORNING. SOMETIMES SO MANY DIE ON THE BRIDGES THEY HAVE TO PUT SAND ON THE ROAD SURFACES. IOWA WAS GREEN AND FERTILE WITH ROLLING HILLS.
I called son Pete, and our friends George and Gayle W. had just gotten there. They were on a bike ride and Gayle wrecked, even cracked her helmet! I feel lucky to have gone so far and not to have even come close to falling. It was so nice to talk with them.
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