Monday, August 3, 2015

Bicycling the Paul Bunyan Trail From Bemidji to Brainerd (Part One)

Last Sunday, Roberta and I took a week off to bike the Paul Bunyan Trail from Bemidji to Brainerd, Minnesota. Once again, we chose to travel car-free by Jefferson Lines bus and Brompton folding bikes. Unlike our other multi-modal excursions, this was the first time we were dropped off in one location and picked up in another. Previously, Roberta and I explored cities like Pipestone and Sioux Falls by bike, but stayed within bicycling range of the bus depot. This trip was a test to see if we could bike nearly 100 miles from one bus stop to another.

We packed up our bikes with our art supplies, clothes and other travel essentials and rode the Green Line LRT to Minneapolis and biked down First Avenue to the bus depot where we caught the 11:35am Jefferson Lines bus to Bemidji. As usual, our Jefferson Lines bus was clean and comfortable with plenty of leg room. Our bus driver, Clark was pleasant and informative about the towns we drove through on our way up to Bemidji. Some of these places we would bike through on our way back.

My sketch of our bus driver.
Roberta's sketch of our bus driver.
We arrived at our stop at Bemidji State University on time and unfolded our Bromptons and rode three and a half miles south to Country Inn & Suites hotel where we would spend two nights. Country Inn & Suites is a great place to begin a bicycle trip down the Paul Bunyan trail. Our room had a spectacular view of Lake Bemidji and the Paul Bunyan Trail running along the shore up to Lake Bemidji State Park.

In the evening, Roberta and I had a wonderful dinner at Sparkling Waters Restaurant. Sparkling Waters has an awesome bar and excellent menu.  I had an awesome bison burger and Roberta had the walleye ala meuniere (walleye fillets from the nearby Red Lake reservation). Roberta and I enjoyed sketching the festive decor of Sparkling Waters while we shared a dish of the restaurant's chocolate ice cream (nice and light, like a sorbet):

Roberta's sketch in Sparkling Waters.
My sketch in Sparkling Waters
We biked back the short distance to Country Inn & Suites and unpacked our art supplies. In addition to my journals, I brought a pad of Strathmore grey, toned paper and various pens and pencils. I planned to work mostly with a black ink Sakura Pigma Graphic Pen and Prismacolor and Faber Castell colored pencils. Roberta also brought her pens and watercolors. Roberta planned to work mostly on loose sheets of various watercolor papers, Annigoni, Strathmore Aquarius and Fabriano. Roberta did this awesome watercolor of twilight over Lake Bemidji from our hotel room.

Roberta's sketch of Lake Bemidji at dusk.
The next morning, we prepared for a full day of sketching and bicycling by chowing down in Country Suites sumptuous breakfast buffet. I especially liked the do-it-yourself waffle machine. The coffee was good and strong. Fully caffeinated and loaded with carbs, we biked into Bemidji to be interviewed about our journey down the Paul Bunyan Trail on KB101 radio (Paul Bunyan Broadcasting) by Heidi Boyd:

Roberta & I with Heidi Boyd at KB101.

After the radio interview, Roberta and I sketched the iconic Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox:

Roberta's sketch of Paul Bunyan & Babe.
My sketch of Paul Bunyan & Babe.
After sketching Paul Bunyan, I biked across the street to sketch Paul Bunyan's nemesis. a giant re-purposed Muffler Man statue dubbed Nanabozho and a case containing an embalmed wolf:

My sketch of Nanaboszho.
Roberta biked along the shore of Lake Bemidji and captured this view of the city:

Roberta's sketch of Bemidji across the lake.

By mid-afternoon, the weather in Bemidji turned hot and humid. We retreated to our hotel to cool off. In the evening, we biked to Brigid's Pub in Bemidji. Brigid's Pub has a great selection of beer and awesome pub food. Roberta had a walleye sandwich (also from Red Lake) and I had an awesome burger. I sketched the bar and Roberta sketched the contestants competing in the trivia contest:

My sketch of the bar at Brigid's Pub.
Roberta's sketch of trivia night at Brigid's Pub.
A thunderstorm rolled in overnight and the next morning, we ate breakfast in our hotel waiting for the rain to end. The rain stopped at 11am and we began our journey down the Paul Bunyan Trail. The trail starts off in rolling hills. The Paul Bunyan trail is a former Burlington Northern railroad corridor so the grade is usually gradual and from Bemidji, mostly downhill. We had a strong tailwind that also helped us avoid insects. We did not encounter many mosquitos, but we were pestered by biting flies. The flies left us alone after we doused ourselves with herbal insect repellent. The temperature was cooler, but the humidity was still high.

We biked a steady nine miles per hour on our Bromptons, stopping in LaPorte at 2pm for lunch. We bought sandwiches at Laporte Grocery and Meats just off the trail. After lunch, we biked the last few miles to our next destination, Embracing Pines Bed & Breakfast in Benedict, about five miles north of Walker. We had pedaled twenty-five miles and Embracing Pines B&B was a welcome oasis. Embracing Pines B&B is just a short distance from the trail. The Embracing Pines B&B has a log cabin, northwoods ambience.  After a short snooze, I sketched the cozy, knotty pine common room of the B&B:

My sketch of the common room at Embracing Pines B&B.
We had a wonderful breakfast the next day. Our hosts Dennis and Charlyne filled us in on the history of the Paul Bunyan Trail and local history.  Embracing Pines B&B is very bicycle-friendly and offers a shuttle service to the Paul Bunyan and Heartland trails. Embracing Pines has a deck with an nice view of the Kabekona River. Roberta sketched the tall pines around the house:

Roberta's sketch from the deck of Embracing Pines B&B.
The deck also has several bird feeders. The deck was swarming with ruby-throated hummingbirds. They seemed almost tame and it was a treat to be able to sketch hummingbirds up close:

My sketch of the hummingbirds at Embracing Pines B&B.


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