• Hutchinson to Northfield, MN
  • 101 miles
  • Last century of tour
  • Thunder showers
  • Clear, 91° in Northfield

It was hot in the gym last night. We both slept poorly. Sheila was up for about an hour around 2. Neither of us felt rested before we headed out on what was billed as the last century (100 mile) ride of the tour. Not surprisingly, we were near the end of the group getting out of camp. It was still early because Cycle America moved the schedule up 30 minutes to give us extra time to finish the longer miles. The weather forecast was for sunny skies and tailwinds. You already know where this is going.

We left dressed as we’ve been dressed for weeks, sleeveless tops, shorts, sandals with no sock, similar to how we look in this photo from our first full day of riding in South Dakota…on a 10 mile stretch of gravel. So, today, we tossed our wind jackets in the pannier because the sky was dark. What silly geese we were. We were making pretty good time despite winds that swirled and came too often from the front. I was absolutely drenched after 30 minutes because the humidity was so high and the temperature was around 80. It’s been like that for 3 days. I can’t get used to this muggy weather.

Then it started spitting. As we entered Arlington at 30 miles we saw the lightning and heard the thunder. We bee-lined it for a convenience store to use the bathroom and get a donut. When we looked back out the window, the sky had opened up. We cleverly decided wait it out.

When we headed back outside ten minutes later, it was still raining, but not too hard. Sheila was quickly as wet as I’d been all morning. But we soon rode out of the storm. We wished we’d kept our socks in the pannier so we’d have had them to warm our toes after the rain stopped. Instead we had to ride until we dried off. That took most of the time to picnic.

I’m excited to report, we had our first downhill run since a week ago Thursday. It was a wild 7% drop that lasted a mile. It was so nice to actually fly again. We’ve felt like birds with clipped wings on all this flat land. The down led to more ups, of course, but that was fun too. We used muscle groups that were beginning to atrophy. Delightful. Between the rain and the hills, we felt right at home.

After picnic we alternately fought and ran with the wind. When the wind wants to fight, it puts up a good one! Rows of corn or soy don’t do much to protect you from it. But that was one of the interesting things about today. We alternated between endless cropland and tree-studded copses. Small farmhouses were scattered everywhere. This was in marked contrast to the endless fields with no buildings we’d seen in the western part of the state or in South Dakota. Buildings and trees do a lot to liven up a landscape.

There really isn’t much else to report about the ride itself. Some terrible roads, some glassy smooth. The weather got better and better until we arrived in Northfield. The town is quaint. Our hotel is right on the river, just down from the old mill where Malt-o-Meal used to be created. We stopped at the local bike store just as it was closing and ended up schmoozing with the 3 guys there about cycling for nearly an hour.  Then we headed to the wonderful food coop, and finally we dined at an Indian restaurant in our hotel which had delicious food.

Now, to answer the photo question from yesterday. Those hoods are sugar beet dryers. They harvest the beets, stack them two stories tall on top of the hoods. Then they pump warm air into the stack to uniformly dry the beets without losing some to fermentation or spoilage. Thank you to those of you who guessed. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about it’s the next to last image on yesterday’s post. You can click on it to enlarge, as you can on all the blog images.

There's corn and there's corn
South Dakota to Minnesota