Our first morning in Staples, we rode the Legacy Trail, which follows the west side of town from near our motel to Legacy Gardens, a short ride of 12.3 km, but plenty long enough to be attacked by hordes of mosquitoes whenever we stopped. We stopped in the downtown at Stomping Grounds coffee, then cleaned up and went to Baxter, for a little shopping–used books, more coffee (Starbucks!), and to check out the town of Brainerd, across the Mississippi River.
Driving by a bike shop in Brainerd, we noticed an ELF, an enclosed electric-assist tricycle, parked outside. The owner, a woman about our age, was on a two-year exploration of the upper mid-West and had stopped to get a tune-up. What a neat idea–the machine is heavy, so electric assist is necessary, and the company does make a two-seat version, but the back seat is for a passenger, without any power input, and the payload is 160kg, limiting the machine to two skinnier people and no baggage onboard.
On our second day, we set out for the trailhead for the Paul Bunyan Trail, following signs off Highway 371 just north of Highway 210. However, the road was closed for reconstruction, and the detour signs were cryptic and misleading. Finally, we found the path through the construction zone to the Arboretum parking lot, which was also the trailhead.
We headed north to Merrifield through a pine forest on a nearly level railbed, meeting a number of cyclists and runners along the way, and a very large turtle. On our return, we stretched the ride to make exactly 30km, about the limit for saddle time and power output for our current state of training. Lunch at Starbucks and back to Staples to change clothes for our late afternoon appointment.
We met my cousin in Motley, where our mutual great grandparents are buried, and visited the family plot. We also visited my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s gravesites nearby, Then, we drove north between Motley and Pillager to where the Pietz brothers had their farms. None of the original buildings has survived, but we stopped near where great-grandfather Adolph had his farm and where I remember visiting in the 1940s and early 1950s (he passed away in 1953).
On the third day, we left Staples and drove back to Baxter, then north to Bemidji for lunch, passing Cass Lake on the way. Cass Lake is the eastern end of the Heartland Trail and Bemidji is the northern end of the Paul Bunyan Trail. We drove southwest in rain to Park Rapids, the western end of the Heartland Trail, where we will be based for the next couple of days.