‘Hope is not a strategy’. I am quoting my daughter here as she informed a couple of weeks ago after I said for the umpteenth time that I hoped that the tiny town coming up would have a motel, or food, or a place to get in out of the weather, or something. That sounds kind of mean and bitter doesn’t it? But it shouldn’t as Sarah is living proof that even the best and toughest of us can lose patience with the kind of seat of the pants operations that I am prone to run. She could have said ‘you should have planned better’ but not really because a) she was implicitly involved in the non-planning of this little adventure from the beginning and b) who would have know that we were going to switch from running our 1000 km. Minnesota – Dakotas loop to bicycling the Western Loop of Lake Superior?

Someone wisely once said that ‘Life is what happens when you are busy planning something else’. True enough I suppose but tangentially a physicist by the name of Wheeler said something to the effect that ‘Reality can best be understood by the questions we put to it’. Now granted Mr. Wheeler was talking about quantum mechanics but isn’t there perhaps just a tiny bit of applicability to day to day living? (or maybe not)

I am going to devote a separate post to the 10 Things We Learned From This Trip but for now I will say that one of the big learning take-aways for me this trip is that of constant improvisation and problem solving. Unlike Marshall Ulrich who had a large mobilized support staff including a massage therapist when he did his 53 day record breaking run across the United States as reported in his best selling book ‘Running on Empty’ we started out with just a tricked out baby jogging stroller, a state map of Minnesota, and a netbook.

Naïve you say. Perhaps. But sometimes, if you’re a bit like us anyway, you need to strip away all the stuff and find out what you truly capable of and discover what it is exactly that you truly need. And we wanted to see what we could do operating under mostly our own power. And this kind of thinking goes back to when we were living in downtown Washington, DC when I sometimes speculated on what we’d do should a local catastrophe happen and we were left to ‘shelter in place’; the rather tongue in cheek euphemism the US government would use rather than to just say that you were on your own. So if aliens invaded and did something like blow up the capital building then what we as DC residents could expect from our government would be nothing more  than to expect the rather unnourishing words of ‘shelter in place’.

So here we are, back in Duluth after completing the beautifully wonderful 500 mile bike ride around the western shores of Lake Superior only to discover that we are once again at the mercy of our own unplanning. We had conjured up the idea of canoeing the St. Croix back to Minneapolis around the time that we were just beginning to realize that completing the bike loop was in fact doable. We were looking at the map and saw that there was a river whose headwaters were a scant 50 miles or so from Duluth and extended down past Minneapolis where it merged into the mighty Mississippi and we thought, ‘Why not? Why don’t we donate the bikes in Duluth; beg, borrow or steal a canoe and paddle the remaining 150 miles’? Brilliant. (or not)

We now have a day remaining to pull the details together and forge a plan because we must be dipping our paddles no later than tomorrow if we are to complete our trip back to Minneapolis to make our flights home on July 1. Doable? Maybe. But ironically if there is a true deal killer it won’t be logistical or planning related; lessing of course we can do all that paddling in a scant 5 days. Nope, the deal killer will probably be something like black flies; a tiny vicious insect that emerges during tourist season (aka summer) and is reputed to be highly attracted to insect repellant. We have the canoe. We have a ride to the headwaters. We have a tent and sleeping bags. But what we lack is information.

We’ve read from the National Park Service website that the water on the St. Croix is very high, due to the recent storms, but ‘floatable’, and that several of the most northern ‘landings’ are closed; also due to the recent storms. We are making a trip this morning to the marine provisioning shop of Marine General to see if they have the answers to any of our questions. Because we can’t make a decision until we learn exactly what a landing is or what floatable exactly means or what the black fly situation can be expected to be like.

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