Day 20: St. Cloud, MN - St. Paul, MN
Distance: 79 miles
Vertical: 945 feet
It's been alluded to multiple times in this blog that I am an unnaturally positive person. That may be true, but I like to think that I just have an uncanny talent for finding ways to always see the glass as half full. There have been multiple times on this trip that I have called home and said, "Oh man, I want to live in [INSERT STATE/CITY HERE]" but I have never meant it more than I mean it now. Minnesota is definitely a place that I could see myself calling home.
Before I tell you about the overwhelming positives of living in Minnesota, I'll address a few downsides. First, there are a lot of bugs. They aren't quite as aggressive as the mosquitoes we encountered in Saco, MT (the proclaimed mosquito capital of the world), but I would never describe mosquitoes as pleasant. Second, it's muggy. As we neared the twin cities today I could feel the air get heavier in multiple ways. It got hotter, I got a lot sweatier and I even slowed down on my bike because the air seemed to get so thick. Third, it's far away from an ocean. Not only do I hope to go on some boating trips in my future but I'm not sure I am ready for the drastic weather that the lack of a tempering agent like an ocean creates in Minnesota. While I have been enjoying the weather a lot the past few days I have heard many stories about the winter which sounds brutal. At the same time though playing ice hockey on any one of the frozen 10,000 lakes would be really fun. I've also been reassured by our host for this evening, Alec Johnson, that the winters in Minnesota are beautiful and that you can even catch glimpses of the Northern Lights.
Positives (shortened list): It's beautiful. The people are amazing. There's water. There's trees. It's flat, but not too flat. People are happy. There's so many bike trails. I love this place. So much good food. Matt asked me today if we were staying in the tri-cities, St. Paul or Minneapolis (hilarious). I ate a Juicy Lucy. There's actual people. I ate more good food. We got awesome photos taken of us.
I wish I could elaborate on all of those things but I'll defer to talking about a few. The first and foremost has been the biking terrain. We've all agreed that we hate biking on flats. After we got out of the mountains, we all realized that we actually missed climbing. The climbs in Washington were brutal, but the reward of climbing up a mountain to an amazing view and then descending 15-25 miles at 35-45mph is worth the pain. In Minnesota we get the best of both worlds. The climbs are not at all brutal, at most they're a couple hundred feet (if that), we get some speed on the descents and it breaks up the monotony of the flats. Additionally a headwind on a 5-mile stretch of flats is impossible to break where a headwind with rolling hills is broken and almost bearable. There's also an insane number of bike trials and they are everywhere. I thought Seattle was biker friendly but the number of bike lanes and bike trails that we encountered in the greater twin cities area today was absolutely absurd. Next is the views. There's more lakes than I ever thought I'd see, beautiful trees and cornfields which are a lot nicer to look at than wheat fields. If you think I'm joking with that last one, I'm not. Just bike across the country and you'll understand. We also spent the majority of today's ride biking along the Mississippi river which was really cool. As we followed the river South into the cities and we caught glimpses of the metropolitan area, we slowed down our average speed from 18-20mph down to 13-15mph. After biking through so much dreary landscape in the past two weeks I was in awe of everything that I saw around me. People, beautiful architecture, bridges, water... I had never really given the twin cities much thought but now that I'm here, I don't think I want to leave! And more than anything I keep talking about the people. The experiences we've had in Minnesota and the relationships that we've cultivated in just a few short hours are some of the most memorable ones that I think I will ever have. Scott, Renae, John, Linda, Alec (and more), I hope you guys are reading this because I am talking about you guys. Thank you all so much, I don't believe you guys fully understand how much your actions have impacted me. I like to think that I'm a good person, but the selflessness and generosity I have experienced from all of you has only inspired me to become a better person.
Put (almost) everything I love about life together and you have Minnesota. Throw a couple of mountains in here, take away the mosquitoes and move everybody I love over here and I wouldn't hesitate to pack up everything and set up home base here.
Until I find the next state I want to move to,