Ride to the Rockies, Day Eleven
The next morning I was up and out of Stoughton by 8 am. I thought I had heard rain on the tent last night but this morning everything was dry. It must have been the leaves of the trees overhead rustling.
Canada is huge and the prairie much wider than in the US. It was taking me forever to cross it. By the time I got well into Manitoba, the empty prairie was replaced by something similar to the terrain of northern Indiana at times and of southern Michigan at others. There were still large fields, but instead of prairie grasses they were planted with crops. There were more substantial woods among the fields instead of the thin line of prairie wind breaks. Oil drills still were common most of the way east, then along with woods and planted fields appeared ponds and lakes. Deer and moose crossing signs were often planted at the side of MN 2, which SA 13 had been renamed when it crossed into Manitoba.
Windmills on the Canadian Prairie
I jogged south on MN 10 to catch 23 across the bottom of the province to avoid Winnipeg. It was a long time between gas stations again. Sometimes there were deserted farm co-op fueling stations I wasn't sure I could use. I had tried using one the day before and my debit card had not worked, but that one had an attendant, and I had to seek his assistance to get the pump to work and these were all self-service. I was expecting The Bonnie to sputter to a stop at any moment when I spotted a lone pump and saw that someone was there. Most, if not all, regular stations in Manitoba are full-service, although all but one time the attendant handed me the pump as the young man did at this stop.
I had passed through Ninette, where a parade was soon to start and I rode through the parade route with spectators watching me on both sides of the street all the way through the three block town. As I left town I passed groups of young people all dressed in costume and on horseback—apparently they were the real parade.
At Baldor, where I stopped for a much needed coffee long after I should have, as I had passed no hoped-for Tim Horton's on the country road, I asked if there was a holiday that day in Canada. I was told it was a Solstice Celebration, although technically that would be on the Monday following the current weekend. There were plans in Baldor or the holiday, too. The people in the little diner were friendly and we chatted table to table as I drank several cups of coffee and had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
I followed 23 eat until MN 75, which headed north toward Winnipeg. Before I got that far, however, I jumped east again on what would be equivalent to a county road in the US at 305 to MN 59 where I hopped a few miles south again only to turn east on MN 52 to my final highway out of Canada, MN 12.
By the time I reached the US border at Warroad, Minnesota, it was getting late, or so it seemed due to the high clouds and heavy overcast skies that set in just as I crossed into the States. But it turned out that sunset was very late at those latitudes, especially this close to solstice, and by the time I found a place to camp hours later, I would feel the sun on my back again .
Leaving Canada was a breeze; there were no border guards there at all and I simply rode through. Just past the booth was a souvenir store and I pulled in to look for a Canada sticker for my windscreen.
The last time I had left Canada for my home country was in northern Maine. There was only one other family with a dog and me and well got got searched thoroughly. When I had returned to my bike all my luggage was sprawled across the pavement surrounding the Bonnie. It seems that one of the qualifications for US border agents is to be a dick. I don't think they will even look at your resume unless you can prove to them that your are a dick first. This crossing was the same.
When I pulled up to the border, there was a sing that said “proceed when lane is clear” and then a big red and green light shining a solid green, even though a car was ahead at the window a hundred feet ahead. A green light is almost universally understood to mean move ahead, so I did. When I did the guard's hand was thrust out at me brusquely signally to stop, and the agent's scowl looked like he thought I was Public Enemy Number One. When I did move ahead, with his permission, he asked me where had been and where I was heading next. After answering him, I said, “You know, I didn't mean to move up too early, but the light was green.” I got another scowl and a short “The light is for an open lane and the sign says to wait until clear!” I understood, but it was rather confusing, but I would have wasted my breath telling him that perhaps they should rethink the signals as they could be confusing for other people, too. I probably would have only incurred his wrath and caused me more grief. I was glad I had dumped the pain pills, as if I had offended him too much he might have decided to search me and things might have gone sideways from there.
I don't think that the most anxiety-causing border crossing should be into your own country, and it is a shame that it is caused by agents who apparently don't know or care that they actually work for us.
Finally back in the US in Minnesota, by the time I reached Baudette I was ready to stop and thought I would surely find a campground, as they seemingly had everything else, including a bar, and I was hoping to have a cold beer after setting up camp. Unfortunately, downtown Baudette was closed due to construction and I was routed around the small town.
At a gas stop, I asked a man about a place to camp and was told to look for one “just after the bridge.” I crossed on on the other side of town where the detour reconnected with the main highway, Minnesota 11, but saw nothing and kept going. I crossed another bridge and still saw no campground.
I saw a sign for a boat ramp eventually and pulled in hoping I might be able to set up there, but a sign said specifically, “No Camping.” I saw a couple young girls at the ramp messing around in the water of the Rainy River and asked them if they knew of any camping spots nearby. They answered no, but said I could camp there; no one would care as they were the only ones who ever went there. I was hesitant, thinking if I did camp there I would surely be the one who got caught. It was not as late as I had thought now that the clouds were easing and the sky was lightening back up, even though I had spied deer moving around already. It was only half past six so I asked them how far it was to International Falls thinking there would surely be something there, being one of the larger towns along my route. One girl said a half hour and the other said an hour. I decided to try to make it there, but if something showed up before I would stop at the first chance.
Within a few more miles I saw a brown sign with a tent icon on it, along with a another one depicting a boat ramp that pointed to the left. I followed it and soon found myself facing the Rainy River, with Ontario facing me on the other side. Looking at my map I decided I must have been across from Emo, a town on the Canadian side of the river. And sure enough, there was free camping. There were a handful of camping trailers parked up there but there were still plenty of open spaces so I picked out an empty one right on the shore of the river, under a tree. The campers were apparently occupied by locals hanging out by the water for the weekend. I chatted with a couple of them and they all seemed friendly.
My camp on the Rainy River in Minnesota. Ontario is on the other side of the river.
I broke out the stove because as far as food not requiring cooking I only had a handful of peanuts. But I did have instant oatmeal. I connected the MSR bottle to the stove, let a little gas into the burner, turned it off, then flicked my lighter at it. It flared up and after it had burned down enough to heat the burner, I reopened the gas valve and a cooking flame roared to life. I boiled water for oatmeal and a couple cups of coffee.
With coffee in hand I walked over to one of the camps and asked if anyone had a forecast for the night and the next day. They replied that thunderstorms were predicted for that night, as was typical for thqt time of the year, but then should be nice the next couple of days. As the sun set the last of the coulds drifted off to the east and I hoped the rain would not arrive and I would have a good couple days ahead of me for riding.
I had been out of touch with home for three days in Canada, and I was hoping that day, now in the US, I would have a signal and be able to touch base with my wife. Apparently, at some point during my ride that day I had a signal because I could see missed calls from Andrea and my parents and a text from my daughter now on the phone. But where I was camping there was no signal. I texted back to Andrea anyway, that I was back in the US in northern Minnesota, hopoing the message would send tomorrow as I passed though signal areas. Nothing else could be done about it that night.
Miles so far 5,107.3