Left Leif and Marcia's just after 8:00 AM. Headed south around the lakes (Cedar, Calhoun, Harriet) then east along Minnehaha Creek towards the Mississippi following bike routes the whole way. Wandered on to the wrong one at Lake Nokomis and couldn't find my way back to the correct route for over ten minutes. The paths are too rough to enjoy, there are many poorly designed level crossings, and the bridge approaches are too steep for a fully loaded bike. These paths are designed more for casual riding than touring or commuting. It's one of the things that irritate me about bike paths. I can't seem to get into an appropriate rhythm and my speed suffers as a result.
Leave the green space network at Hiawatha Avenue (Minnesota Highway 55) and ride south through a series of freeway interchanges over the Minnesota River. There is a generous paved shoulder so it is safe. Looking at a map shows that there is no way to make this crossing using city streets. Head south on the unbelievably named Pilot Knob Road (Dakota County Highway 31), east on Dakota County Highway 42, which then merges into Minnesota Highway 55, north briefly on US Highway 61 to cross the Mississippi, and finally east on US Highway 10 over the St. Croix River and into Wisconsin. It took 40 miles of riding, a huge chunk of the day, just to get out of the grip of the Twin Cities. Urban sprawl at its finest. Cray Research and Rollerblade are in the same building in some nameless corporate park along the way. Seems like an odd combination of businesses.
The terrain is glacial flat but the two rivers lie in broad valleys called coulees with steep bluffs several hundred feet high along the sides. The Mississippi has carved a wide swath like a tire rut in the mud. The rivers feeding it run through narrower valleys. At the state line, I head southeast on Wisconsin Highway 35. Low traffic and an excellent shoulder. Riding along the Mississippi is very scenic with occasional outcroppings of weathered limestone. Large numbers of birds of prey gliding near the bluffs. The highway seems to run wherever it wants. Sometimes it's in the valley and sometimes it's atop the bluff. I haven't had a hill workout like this one in quite sometime. Some long downhill runs perfectly suited for a recumbent. The winds today are excellent. Give me hills over a headwind any day. Hills end in minutes. Headwinds last all day.
I begin looking for lodging after riding 80 miles. The towns along the way are tiny. My favorite was Stockholm, population 85. (Quick, get me the king of Sweden on the phone!) Every one of them is a dot on the map no matter how big it is. I stop in Pepin, "Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder". There's a historic marker next to the motel with a brief bio. She never graduated from any school she attended and was surprised by the reception of her first book.