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Day 17: Minneapolis, MN to Red Wing, MN

Well, today my luck with the weather finally and truly ran out. I already knew from checking the forecast that it wasn’t a question of if I’d get rained on today, but rather a question of when, how hard, and for how long.

I had intended to be out the door at 7 to try to get as many miles as possible in before the storm, but given my difficulties in hitting the road when I plan to, I got out at 7:30. A mile east of Jason’s place I picked up the Hiawatha LRT Trail (so named because it follows both the light rail and Hiawatha Ave). The wind was whipping up in preparation for the storm, but fortunately it was a tailwind, so I made good time out of Minneapolis. The trail took me past Minnehaha Falls, but for the second time on this trip I didn’t stop at a waterfall because, hey, I’d already been there multiple times. (See also Snoqualmie Falls on Day 1.)

A bit farther along was Fort Snelling, but given the impending storm I didn’t stop to explore that either. I did however have to stop multiple times to check the map, because once again the trails were extremely poorly signed. At Fort Snelling, an incredibly steep connector path (and by incredibly steep I mean I downshifted to 1-4 on a freaking bike path) took me up to a bridge over the Minnesota River just above its confluence with the Mississippi. Sorry, no photos because by this point it was drizzling lightly.

A bit short of 10 miles in, the rain began in earnest. And here’s where my late start turned into a lucky stroke. If I had left at 7, I would have been in either a residential area or farmland, and it would have been very difficult to find shelter. As it was, I was still in a commercial area, so I went over to a nearby motel and sheltered in the breezeway. For over an hour. Less than 10 minutes after I got to the motel the weather was a full-fledged thunderstorm with a downpour. Half of the breezeway was even getting flooded because the rain was coming down sideways. Here’s my best attempt to capture it. You can see the streaks if you zoom in.

Around 9:30 it seemed like the rain was back to a heavy drizzle, so I hit the road to see how far I could get this time. The answer was not very. A little more than a mile down the road it started to hail. I immediately took shelter at the nearest building, which happened to be an office building, and noticed that there was a gas station 2 blocks away where I could at least get food and drink while I was inside. As soon as the hail turned back to rain I made for it.

It was now getting on towards 10. My original plan had been to be in Hastings, 19 miles further down the road, by 10 and get breakfast there. Instead I got it at a gas station a mere 11 miles from my start. By the time I finished breakfast it looked like the rain had lightened up once again, so I made another dash for it. This time I got more than 2 miles before the rain got too heavy. Somewhere in those two miles, I passed Thomson-Reuters headquarters. This is only relevant because my first-ever visit to the Twin Cities area was a business trip 9 years ago to T-R. There is no way I could have imagined that the next time I passed by their headquarters would be on a bicycle in a thunderstorm.

When the rain got too heavy yet again, I once again took shelter in the first place I could find, which happened to be an appliance shop. And there I stayed for the next two hours. Huge shout out to the good people at Appliance Depot for letting a random cyclist hang out in their shop for that long.

At around 12:15 it looked like the rain had finally lightened to something that would be safe to bike in, so I made a mad dash for it again. This time I was determined to go the remaining 17 miles to Hastings, come hell or high water (in the latter case, literally). So when the rain got a bit harder after a few miles, I kept going. Then the rain got lighter. And then, miraculously, by 1pm it had stopped. Halleluyah! Please join me in reciting the first and last verse of Psalm 118.

The only problem was that the wind hadn’t gotten the memo that the storm was over, and it was blowing hard from the east. And the last 10 miles to Hastings were more or less due east. Every so often it would let up and I was doing 16 mph easily, but when it was blowing I was struggling to do 10. And of course the road was still wet so I was kicking up all sorts of grime on myself and my bike. By the time I got to Hastings it was 1:45 and my average speed to that point was down to 13 mph, despite how I had sped out of Minneapolis.

Hastings itself has a cute, vibrant downtown though, so it was a nice place to grab lunch and hang out for a bit. They refurbished a lot of the building façades in the 90s to try to restore the look that they had had 100 years earlier.

Hastings also has a bridge that carries US-61 across the Mississippi. I think it was sponsored by McDonald’s.

Fun fact: This is the southernmost bridge across the Mississippi that doesn’t cross a state border until a bridge just north of Baton Rouge.

The other thing downtown Hastings has is a brewery! Spiral Brewery has been open 15 months now, and according to them the city had four breweries before Prohibition, but now they’re the first brewery to open in the city in nearly a century.

And here’s where things get lucky. If the storm hadn’t been bad, I would have gotten to Hastings by 10, and I wouldn’t have waited around for the brewery to open at noon. As it was, it was perfectly easy for me to hit the brewery at 2:45 after lunch. I’m not one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that most problems have an uncanny way of working out. Anyway, let’s get on to the actual beers.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the beers at Spiral. Everything I tried was at least very good. The two that particularly stood out were the Second Street rye saison, which was probably one of the top 10 beers I’ve had so far on this trip, and the Hard Left stout. It’s not often that I like a brewery’s regular stout better than their imperial stout, but that was the case here. The Hard Left was very smooth with a touch of sweetness, and it just worked really well. The Second Street meanwhile was one of those beers that made me go “Wow!” on the first sip. I think I have a thing for rye beers, as long as they’re not pale ales or IPAs.

By the time I left Spiral at 3:45, not only had the wind stopped but the roads were dry. At this point I’d decided that it only made sense to go as far as Red Wing today and I’d make up the difference tomorrow, when the weather is supposed to be beautiful all day. Hastings has a bike path that took me the first 2 miles out of downtown, and it was even halfway decently signed. But only halfway.

After another 10 miles, I turned onto US-61, and a ways down I noticed this sign:

Suddenly things clicked in my head. I think of it as US-61, but the locals just call it Highway 61. And this then brought to mind the words of another native Minnesotan who won the Nobel Prize in Literature:

God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God said, “No” Abe said, “What?”
God said, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’, you better run”
Well, Abe said, “Where d’you want this killin’ done?”
God said, “Out on Highway 61”

Yup. It’s that Highway 61. Maybe someday I’ll revisit it.

The last few miles of the ride into Red Wing took me off of US-61 and onto the Cannon River Trail, a nice paved bike path with good views of the river and its wetlands.

It actually goes 15 miles further upstream from where I got on it, but I didn’t want to take that sort of detour. The trail was also covered with debris from the recent storm.

I finally got to my hotel at 5:30. Yes, it took me 10 hours to go the 55 miles from Minneapolis to Red Wing thanks to the storm. Fortunately good weather is supposed to hold through most of the next week.

After freshening up, I went out to dinner at Red Wing Brewery. It was actually quite convenient to go there; my hotel is about a mile and a half from downtown, and the brewery is midway between my hotel and downtown, so it saved me having to go all the way into downtown for dinner.

Like Spiral, Red Wing is another winner when it comes to beers. (All told, I think I liked Spiral a little bit better, but that’s not to take anything away from Red Wing.) One really cool thing they do is they recreate old beer recipes. So they actually dug up at the Red Wing Historical Society some letters from a German immigrant who ran a brewery in Red Wing in 1896, describing a beer he had just created. And from that they made Remmler’s Royal Brew, which was even the original name under which the beer was marketed in 1896. It’s a quite good malty, German-style beer, even despite containing corn. I guess corn doesn’t automatically kill beer quality; it takes Budweiser and Coors to do that. Oh, and the other particularly good beer I had was their Steamboat Scottish. Just a very good scotch ale.

As I biked back to my hotel, I was enjoying the pleasant summer evening chill, and I realized it had been quite a while since I had experienced anything I could describe as a “pleasant summer evening chill”. Maybe Lincoln, MT? Certainly not since then. It’s nice to finally have some dry, temperate weather!

And now to bed I go so I can wake up early and bike a century to La Crosse, WI tomorrow. It’s time to move on to a new state!

Total distance: 55.2 miles
Average speed: 14.1 mph

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