We left on Friday and spent one night in an RV park in Clear Lake Iowa. Our driving distances are short, we arrive early at every destination – a rather relaxed way to travel! By early afternoon, we arrived in Estherville Iowa at a Harvest Host: Little Swan Lake Winery.
The main building featured the wine-tasting area and gift shop. The far door was the entrance to the music/dinner venue. The metal tower structure beyond that had two B&B apartments, the very top was an informal gathering area. There was a 2-bedroom apartment on the second floor at the left end of the red building. Included in the B&B was a bottle of wine and a hot breakfast (eggs in a cloud).
We were early into the tasting room and purchased a few bottles.
Scott, the owner:
When we booked this HH, we also reserved a table for the meal + music event that evening. What a great accent to this overnight.
Music by Lauren and the Drifters:
The meal was simple, a bison burger and cole slaw – everything was delicious. The place was packed. The B&B overnighters had their own staircase to come down into the venue and their own special table.
Everyone was having a great time. I took a little break to go to the bathroom, came back, quickly grabbed my camera .. a few people were having a REALLY good time (this is actually 3 people dancing together):
Little Swan Lake Winery also raise their own bison!
We’d planned to ride to Harmony even though the map said there were some steep climbs. We’d ridden uphill to Fountain, so how hard could these climbs be.
As it turned out, there are two trails out of Preston and we did not ride toward Harmony. Instead we rode to Isinours Junction, the intersection with the Root River Trail, then turned around and rode back to Preston. We took a selfie here a few days ago when we rode (right to left) from Whalan to Fountain and back.
From Preston, we now headed toward Harmony.
We crossed over Watson Creek many times.
Hazard! – but a small mown path over to the side.
Shortly after this, the climbing began. No thanks, we turned around, back to Preston. Fun ride and trail today – 25 miles. SE Minnesota along the Root River = a great cycling destination. I would come back here.
It was supposed to be the hottest day of the week, so we planned a short ride. Get up at 5 am – very foggy. 6 am – ok, slightly foggy but more light, let’s do this. We were able to ride along the campground trail
toward Whalen until we had to get onto MN-16 for a brief time. At this time of the morning, we encountered zero cars in either direction. There was a 12-inch paved shoulder and and 24-inch gravel shoulder right of that.
We stopped at Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe and got a scone before riding back. It looked like they also served really good breakfasts. The place was filled with the local guys maybe 20 of them. I think they solved most of the world’s problems this morning before leaving to start the day’s work.
We returned the same way we came for a short 13 mile ride. Crossing the Root River in Whalan:
We got back at 9, then the raindrops began to fall as I locked up the bikes. It rained for the next 2 hours. Thank you Mother Nature.
Today was supposed to be Tubing Tuesday, a 3-hour float down the Root River. But it rained off and on right up to our meet-up time and I was not keen on the whole idea anyway. Plan B: a “progressive dinner” working around a trip to the library which seems to have the most reliable Internet access in the area.
The first couple of places were closed. We walked through the door of Home Sweet Home at 1:55, five minutes before they closed. They were nice enough to make chicken street tacos for us as long as we’d eat on the patio. No problem.
Our plan had been to order one shareable plate at each stop. These street tacos were huge and delicious:
We went into a few shops as we walked back toward the library and stopped for ice cream at:
We were quite successful at the library for almost two hours and then, even there, everything slowed down and eventually stopped loading.
One last stop, Unwined:
Asian steak bites and the Driftless Tour – a charcuterie board of cured meats and cheeses from the Driftless Area of southeastern Minnesota. Applewood smoked duck breast, elk sausage, Capra Nera goat cheese, raspberry red wine cheddar, and crostini. Yum!
We drove back to Whalan at 7 am. As we were unloading our bikes, Ernie pulled over into the left lane and stopped to chat. When we told him we were riding to Fountain and back, he said, “Ohh .. that’s uphill.” But then you get to ride back down!
Less than 5 miles later, we rode through Lanesboro.
You can go into the phone booth and dial a special number that will tell you a stories about the town:
A different view of the waterfall dam:
The last 5 miles into Fountain was noticeably more uphill, but not too bad, I could pedal 6 mph.
Fountain is known for its sinkhole demonstration site and the western end of the Root River Trail. I took every picture I could think on the way here because I had no intention of missing any part of a nice downhill ride.
We drove 1.3 miles from the campground to Whalan – a very small town – to start our ride.
It was supposed to be hot in the afternoon, so we left at 6 am. As it turned out, it was foggy and quite chilly for the first part of the ride.
Note these black-eyed susans, you will see them again in about 3 hours as we ride back into town:
Billie made cheese omelets. We usually ride for a while, then stop for breakfast. We always look for a bench or table to stop at – a nice feature of some trails.
Rushford Village and Rushford – two different towns on the map. Several historic buildings were transported to this location on the trail.
I was more interested in finding the lefse shop. Merrilyn makes the BEST lefse every December at Christmastime – a real treat. Billie had never heard of lefse. Because it was Sunday, the shop was closed but we’re coming back.
That was our turnaround point. The fog had lifted.
And back to Whalan – the home of the stand-still parade.
We arrived at Harvest Farm Campground with a 10-day reservation, only to be told they had no reservation on file. But they could squeeze us in for 3 days. We are very careful when making reservations and, frankly, don’t make mistakes. We got right on the problem-solving task of where to go at the last minute right after the RV was set up. It was a great feeling when Eagle Cliff Campground in Lanesboro MN was able to get us in and it was only 25 miles away. When we went in to pay our Harvest Farm CG bill on Friday, there was another couple at the registration desk having the exact same problem.
So, the roads to and from Harvest Farm were white gravelly dirt. Even the paved roads had shoulders of fine white dust. The RV and tow car and bikes were filthy. We stopped in Harmony for fuel and to go to a car wash, bikes included.
Eagle Cliff Campground is beautiful and we have a good spot with a big “front yard” although sunny in the late afternoon. It rained early Saturday morning which kept up from riding. As soon as it cleared up, we drove into Lanesboro … to the smallest-ever farmers market.
And I learned something new:
Great little tourist town. We were glad to be here relatively early, before more people showed up.
We got a coffee at Parkway Market – very small but packed with unique items. They’re known for their:
There was also a big selection of Legos, sets in boxes in different areas of the store, but also tubs of random pieces by the front door.
Access to the Internet is not very reliable in the campground, so we took advantage of the local library to catch up on our blogs.
The weather window for a ride tomorrow looks pretty good. Fingers crossed.
We drove about 11 miles from the campground to a parking area near Cresco.
It was foggy which also meant it was cooler. We started early nevertheless. There were many signs like this on the trail. While this one seemed to be a mystery – yield to what? – most of the others were cut-throughs for farm machinery.
Leaving Ridgeway Park:
Our turnaround point was in Calmar:
Calmar is the location for this county’s “freedom rock”. The goal is to have one in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
In between the fields of corn, a head looked up and watched me until I rode away.