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Minnesota - "Community Development" and great bike trails

Minnesota - "Community Development" and great bike trails

Minnesota - "Community Development" and great bike trails

Post by Adam:
Hey folks, sorry about the gap between posts. Tiffany's working on one discussing the heatwave and Wisconsin post-Madison, but I figured I'd try to get back on schedule and discuss Minnesota and North Dakota.Minnesota was very beautiful, in a way similar to Wisconsin, with rolling hills, a fair amount of trees and lakes and abundant wildlife. The riding was pretty easy, as we got a lot of good info from locals about which sections of which roads were in good condition or had lots of traffic. One of the best tips we got was about a great trail that paralleled our route almost all the way to Fargo.

Our first night in Minnesota, we encountered the problem of all the state parks (and thus, the campgrounds) being closed due to a state government impasse regarding approval of their budget. Our tactic for finding camping when we're not near an official campground has been to inquire with local authorities about any 'unofficial' camp spots. Generally this works out pretty well, and most small towns have no problem with folks camping in the city park or on the high school athletic field. However, when we contacted the Sherriff's department the first night, the closest accomodations they could provide were 8 miles away at the county fairgrounds. After a 70+ mile day, an extra eight miles (or an hour on the bike) is just not a very viable option.

So, what did we do? We decided to ask at the local church if we could camp on their lawn. (This is also a good bet by the way, if you're in need of a tent spot). The pastor said that of course we could camp on the lawn, but that there was a woman, Mary Mobeck, who was a member of the church and would love to meet us, as she was a cyclist herself. He called her over and introduced us, and she offered to let us sleep in her (nice, cool) basement.

It turns out that she had been biking with her husband, who had passed away a little over a year ago, for over 20 years. They had been involved in a tandem cycling club, as well as a recumbent cycling group when they got older. Mary was 73, and she was hosting two other couples in their 70's and 80's who she knew through her cycling club and were visiting for her husband's memorial ride. These folks had been doing 20-25 miles a day during the last week, in the heat wave!The point of this whole anecdote is that we were struck by the role of religious organizations and institutions in small towns. While Tiffany and I are both somewhat spiritual, neither of us attends any sort of church, and we've always felt somewhat wary or uncomfortable about revealing that fact to relative strangers. However, on this trip we've been surprised at how often the people who extend their hospitality to us are churchgoers. While we can't say for certain, our theory is that church is one of the few place-based communities remaining in this country, and being a part of one makes people more accustomed to trusting others and opening their lives and homes to them. (For more on the ideas of place-based versus non-place based communities, check out "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam).

Mary was a great host, and it was excellent to spend some time with other cyclists, as it gets somewhat lonely not having anyone around who really understands what we're doing on this trip. She also told us about the Lake Woebegone Trail which runs from St. Cloud, MN to Osakis and then connects with the Central Lakes Trail, ending in Ferghus Falls.

Our theory about church and community development was reinforced by our couchsurf in Fergus Falls, with a college recruiter and triathlete named Dave. Dave was another excellent host, putting us up for just one night even though he was busy working at the County Fair for his recruiting job. He offered to take us to church, so we could see him play in the praise band, but we were planning to take off early in the morning and get to Fargo.

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