There was plenty of nature on display in Jackson County, Minnesota, where we spent two weeks in July.
Vibrant daylilies were in full bloom everywhere. I have never seen so many daylilies as we've seen in Minnesota.
The county's prairies, fields, trees, and lakes are perfect havens for birds. We heard and saw so many birds wherever we went. In the photo below, a Dickscissel (center) appears to be telling a couple of female or immature Red-Winged Blackbirds a thing or two!
Below is a Common Yellowthroat with a snack in its beak!
And there were storms...lots and lots of powerful storms. It seemed that every other night we'd be awakened by thunder, lightning, strong wind gusts, and pounding rain. We even had hail a couple of times. We were fortunate not to sustain any damage to our rig.
Brown South Campground experienced some serious flooding. Part of the road was completely under water, and the center grasses were surrounded by a moat of water. In addition to being within sight of Loon and Pearl Lakes, we now had a pond-front site!
Fields of crops were also flooded. We saw many scenes like this on our bike rides. This is not one of Minnesota's many lakes but a soybean field! I felt bad for the farmers.
Here is a very impressive shelf cloud over the campground. Although it looked scary, this particular storm was not violent and brought us just a little thunder, followed by a lot more un-needed rain.
By our last night in the campground, the weather was calm, and we experienced a gorgeous full moon over Loon Lake.
RIP Asus Transformer Book; I surely enjoyed using you, your bright red color and small form factor, perfect for traveling to Mexico and using as my only computer there.
I cannot tell a lie: I killed my little tablet/laptop in a valiant attempt to change the failing battery (NOTE: Do not try this at home.)
I followed instructions I found on a web page (not by Asus, just a user who did successfuly change out his battery) but still managed to crack the touchscreen in one place opening up the tablet. Ouch! That was probably reason enough to stop while I was ahead (er...behind), but I was determined to look under the hood anyway to see if I could salvage it for a little longer; after all, I'd already bought a replacement battery.
Once I finally pried the screen off the brains of the system, I discovered that my battery was not the easy drop and replace model as in the online instructions but glued to a metal backing plate. Asus must have changed this at some point. To replace the battery would have involved unscrewing lots of tiny, delicate computer components and putting them all back onto the battery assembly I'd purchased on ebay. Uh...no.
So I wanted to recycle both batteries. I also had an older full-size HP laptop with a large 12-cell battery that was dead, so I could take that one to recycle at the same time.
Checking online for a recycling spot, I found that a rural electricity co-op in the county seat of Jackson, MN would take laptop batteries. Jackson was about 15 miles from our campground in the county, so we decided to ride over to recycle!
It was a pretty ride on lightly traveled rural roads but very windy. No wonder there are wind farms in the area! These windmills were putting out some serious energy on this day.
Jackson is a small, pretty city with nice paved bike paths. The Des Moines River runs right through town. We took a wrong turn on a bike path (my fault) and ended up at the end of the path due to a construction zone. A friendly construction worker came over and told us how to get across the river on the road via a detour and pick up the trail on the other side.
We followed his instructions and continued heading north until we got to Highway 71, where the electric co-op was about 1/2 mile north, according to Google maps.
All in all, it was a very successful recycling ride. So far we're doing just fine without the extra expense and inconvenience of having to tow a car behind Pearl. I guess that's because we're willing to ride our bikes just about anywhere!
Although we were camping in Minnesota at Brown South Campground in the Jackson County Parks system, our closest city was Spirit Lake, Iowa. So most of our rides took in two states!
The campground was just over 2 miles down this nice paved bike path from the state line, so whenever we needed to run an errand, this was how our ride started. This was a pleasant and peaceful ride through the prairie, with the sounds of birds all around us.
Once we crossed the state line (unmarked) into Dickinson County, Iowa, we pedaled on lightly traveled roads, alternating with paved trail segments, to reach our destinations. This section of trails is designated as the Iowa Great Lakes Trails (formerly Dickinson County Trails). A large-format PDF trail map is available here.
Here's a Google map giving an overview of the area. You can see the park where we camped to the north, on Loon Lake, and the town of Spirit Lake, IA to the south.
In Spirit Lake, we were able to shop at Walmart or Hy-Vee for groceries or wash our clothes at a very nice laundromat, a distance of around 11 miles one way. We pedaled to each spot several times, a very enjoyable ride.
In this shot I am carrying our sheets in a laundry bag strapped to my rack. Barry carried the rest of our laundry on his bike.
The laundromats in this part of the country seem to be uniformly nice -- nicer than those in the south.
While pedaling around the town of Spirit Lake while I washed clothes at the laundromat, Barry happened upon this unique flower-garden front yard. He took me by to see it later. Lovely, right? More people should do this!
We were disappointed that we never made it south of Spirit Lake on the trails. We had planned on riding farther, but strong south winds (20 mph plus) on several days kept us from making the trek. In fact, on the last day in our campground, the south wind was so strong that we simply rode out and back on 715th Street, which runs east-west right outside the campground. It had recently been re-paved and was a joy to ride, with little traffic. The only negative of this road was a few pockets of territorial Red-Winged Blackbirds that squawked at us and dive-bombed us until we got out of their range. We'd experienced this before cycling in this part of the country in the summer.
On another day we rode to the county seat of Jackson County, aptly named Jackson! Stay tuned for that post, coming up next.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs