…continued from part 1.
I got to Laporte, got water, and got going. I saw some bikers in the woods and realized there was a bike path beside the road; so I, hesitantly, jumped on it. A real, paved, off-the-road bike path! I was enjoying it way more than I expected. I saw a sign for a parallel road after a few miles…a road that wasn’t 200, which I thought I’d been paralleling. Shoot. I sat, looking at a map and talking to myself, until some nice people drove up and told me the situation: I was only a few bike-path-miles from my destination of Walker. Sweet!
So, here I am, in Walker. It’s a resort town on Lake Leech–the 3rd largest lake in Minnesota (which, I’ll have you know, has 10,000 of them). This is probably the nicest town yet. It is an ENORMOUS lake with jetskis, sailboats, fishing boats (there was a strong headwind today, but it wasn’t too bad on the treed bike path, and the sailboat is LOVING it), new buildings and hotels, and happy people everywhere. I can tell they’re on vacation because they’re happy–“you-have-to-be-having-fun-and-be-happy-because-you’re-on-vacation kind of happy.” Which is, I must say, usually genuine. A “sports store” here was huge, but 100% hunting and fishing. I rode down to the city dock, and while deciding to stay here or keep riding, I received the most obvious sign of my life. Sitting on the turnaround behind the dock, 6 inches from where I happen to stop my bike, lay a pen. A PEN!
(ed note: what I didn’t manage to actually write in here is that the day before, along with losing ONE of my four socks (GGRRRRRR), my pen managed to run out of ink. Or I lost it. Or something. So I had catching up to do from yesterday’s journal entry, still, and it had been haunting me all day because I HATE(d) writing in my journal because it seem(ed/s) like such a chore. So YOU’RE WELCOME)
“Well,” I told myself looking down at the sad pen, “I guess I’m writing in my journal, about today and yesterday. Consider your-homeless-self adopted.”
As I sat on the dock, a nice couple approached me to talk. They told me that they’d passed me yesterday in Itasca State Park and had seen my bike again beside the dock. The man had been planning a tour (but, of course, had a partner bail) and wanted to ask lots of questions. I was sitting on the rocks in front of the dock by the water. His wife had a strong accent and was also interested in my ride.
I’m sitting on the dock now. It’s windy and cold and everyone is done talking to me and I’ve filled my journal in on yesterday and today and I’m off to explore more!
I can NOT find a place to camp on this lake! I’ve been riding my bike around for over an hour.
Alright, so I’ve gotta explain how hungry I always am. While riding around, “looking for a place to camp,” I’m pretty much just going from one restaurant to the next, looking in the window, weighing the costs and benefits of eating there as if it’s the biggest decision of my life, often walking into the restaurant and going so far as to be asked, “How can I help you,” at a place like Subway, and then–and only then–bailing and walking out, having finally convinced myself that I can wait longer for food. It is so ridiculous. I’m SO hungry, ALL the time. All I want is Dairy Queen, Pizza Place, Subway, candy, fudge, fresh fruit, chinese buffet–it’s all everywhere I look and I want to eat everything in the city.
So, I ride my bike around the nice town of Walker, near the lake, for an hour or so. I’m pretty much just wasting time because I don’t want to ride my bike any further today, and would prefer to stay in this nice town this evening. Too bad I have no where to stay.
Ha ha ha ha oooohh man are things awesome. This is just the kind of evening I wanted to end on before Aunt Nettie and Uncle Ron and Chelsea appear tomorrow, which is bound to change the social dynamic (if there ever was one) of this trip.
So I spent some time riding up and down main street, its parallels, and the shoreline’s bike path looking for a place to camp with a view of the lake. Then, my standards dropped (didn’t think it was possible?) and I was just looking for ANY safe place to camp. I had committed to staying here in Walker. Although I have a lot of biking ahead of me, I wanted to take my time and enjoy my last alone evening in my last town. But, without a camp spot, I’m screwed.
While on the bike path, I passed a house that I’d already passed 3 or 4 times as I continually rode up and down the same path. It had caught my attention during my first pass due to its open door and car in the garage. I mustered (not to be confused with mustard) up some courage, rode up the driveway, and knocked on the door beside the “BEWARE: killer attack maneating dog” sign. Instantly, I hear what sounds like an overgrown hamster yelping and a woman trying to get it to shut it’s little mouth. I’m suddenly not even remotely terrified. Martha answers the door. With barely any conversation, we talk to her neighbor Randy, who shares her backyard, and I’m offered permission to camp in it. I thank them, and 20 minutes later am standing in a grocery store, starving, buying way more food than necessary or practical. When I return to the house to set up my tent, her middle son, Scott, is pulling out of the driveway. He inquires if I’m the biker sleeping in the backyard. Apparently, word has already made its way through the family.
As I finished setting up my tent, the neighbor Randy comes out to offer a hot shower and some time in front of the TV. I took him up on a nice hot shower in his house, but knew that I’d only starve, fall asleep, or get bored (but most likely all 3) if I watched TV.
I was leaving to go on a walk down to a pretty lighthouse before dinner and Martha, 70, was leaving to take Tigger, the attack killer monster dog, for a walk on the same path. We talked for a long time until I finally asked if I could just join her for her walk. We walked and talked about bears and family and Alaska and all sorts of great things that 23- and 70-year-olds have in common, like wolves. (?)
Leech Lake has 640 miles of shoreline. It’s huge. We passed a broken bottle, and she initiated a glass-picking-up session. Everyone yelled, “Hey Martha,” as we passed. She was a celebrity. Harry, 87, her husband, was recently moved to a memory center to help cope with his dementia. She spoke very, very highly of him and his reputation in town, too. He was volunteering to cut the airport’s grass 5 years ago, at the ripe young age of 82, (well, actually he charged them $5 or something because they insisted on paying him) when he hopped off the lawnmower, it continued to move, he was run over, life-flighted, and lost his right leg. The complete story, which I heard in detail, is absolutely insane. It’s horrible. He is a town favorite, though, and along with being a volunteer fireman has volunteered at the annual marathon’s finish line every year–he’s only missed 1, ever. Everyone knows him.
Martha invited me into her home and we talked in her kitchen for a long time. She warmed up some veggie pizza for me, and also gave me some waldorf salad and delicious cookies. We kept exchanged stories; we were having a great time.
She told me about how she retired from teaching students with special needs 10 years ago and now volunteers a lot. Martha knows tons of cool local information and facts and loved to cook and tell me all about it. Tomorrow, she wants to give me a really nice locally-made cookbook before I leave. We talked until 9pm and could have continued, but I’m so tired I have to get to sleep. On her FINAL offer for a bed (out of many), I decided to take her up on it since I don’t know when I’ll finally get to sleep in a random bed again. I put my tent in the garage and now I’m downstairs in a comfortable bed. And this is all because I knocked on a random door; and now I have a new friend 🙂