On our way into Caledonia yesterday, we noticed a number of barns with colorful patchwork quilt patterns on them. They were bright and attractive, but we didn't know why they were there. Reading up on the local sights, I discovered that they were “barn quilts.” It all began with one family who originally started it as a barn improvement project. The idea caught on, and over 60 barns now pay homage to the quilting heritage of the area, painted by local artists. For the start of this morning's ride, I enjoyed watching it for more of them.
The countryside changed from the previous day as well. Trees seemed to dominate the terrain, with farms carved into niches among the woods. That was quite different from the wide open fields we'd seen earlier in our travels. To us it presented a very pastoral scene.
As far as cycling goes, I'd have to say this was our easiest day yet. It wasn't the shortest, but we did most of it on a bike trail sheltered from the wind, with only gradual elevation changes, and cool temperatures. It doesn't get much better than that. But we still had our challenges.
The plan was to follow the Root River bike trail for most of today's mileage. So imagine our disappointment at learning that over half of the trail was closed due to flooding. We even stopped in at the trail center in Houston to ask about it. While they thought the water may have receded, it was likely the trail was still muddy and slippery. So we did the prudent thing, and took the road instead.
Once through Rushford, the wide shoulders disappeared from the road were were traveling and we were about to encounter bridge construction. Seeing the bike trail paralleling the road, it was easy to fall prey to the temptation to follow it… so we did. We were quite pleased to find it in good shape, and it was very pleasant to cycle down a tree lined trail with no traffic. We were feeling quite smug as we neared Whalen, thinking we had it made. Wrong! Suddenly we were mired in mud, left behind by the receding river. Not only had it buried the trail, but the adjoining dirt road was also reduced to muck. Forging onward as best we could, our bikes and shoes were magnets for the wet brown stuff. It took a garden hose and a good dousing before we could continue. Still, I'd have to say it was worth it!
The remainder of the trail was officially open, which by then was a relief. We enjoyed the flowering trees, wildflowers and birds that were in abundance. One portion of the trail was lined with high granite walls. Numerous bridges had just been reconstructed. And all along the way the swollen Root River flowed rapidly. The farm fields lining the trail were largely still submerged in water, far from being ready to plant.
A light drizzle fell for much of the afternoon – the first rain we've had while cycling this trip. But it was so light as to be insignificant. We arrived in Chatfield slightly wet and ready for shelter. I hadn't paid attention to the details of our accommodations for the evening, and assumed we were staying in a motel. The neighborhood just didn't look right, though – no wonder, Rich had booked us into another B&B! Unlike the mud, that was a very welcome surprise.