Canadian cyclists stop in Little Falls on their way to Chicago

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Peter Mathewson, left, and Acey Rowe, left Canada July 22, headed for Chicago, Ill. A week later they found themselves in Little Falls and stopped at Coborn’s Superstore for some refreshments and supplies. They would run into Little Falls resident Lois Bieganek, who invited the two to spend the evening with her and husband, Ron, for a meal and a pontoon ride.

Peter Mathewson, left, and Acey Rowe, left Canada July 22, headed for Chicago, Ill. A week later they found themselves in Little Falls and stopped at Coborn’s Superstore for some refreshments and supplies. They would run into Little Falls resident Lois Bieganek, who invited the two to spend the evening with her and husband, Ron, for a meal and a pontoon ride.

Two 25-year-old Canadians left home July 22, heading to Chicago, Ill., on their bicycles.

Peter Mathewson of Toronto, Ontario, and his friend, Acey Rowe of Winnipeg, Manitoba, have known each other for 13 years, since the ninth grade, and thought this would make a wonderful adventure.

Mathewson, a graduate student pursuing a creative writing career, and Rowe, who works in radio production were excited about the challenge.

Mathewson is looking forward to seeing a Twins game when they stop in Minneapolis, and perhaps a Bears game on their stop in Wisconsin. “There’s no NFL in Canada,” he said.

Rowe, on the other hand, is excited to be headed to both Minneapolis and Chicago, to see what’s happening in the radio production world.

The two started in Winnipeg and average about 60 miles a day, Mathewson said. They estimated the trip to Chicago is about 1,700 kilometers, or 1,100 miles and guessed they will be in Chicago around Aug. 13.

“It’s a little hard to predict,” said Mathewson, who plans to meet his girlfriend in Chicago on the 13th.

When they found themselves in Little Falls just seven days after the start of their trip, Mathewson said they figured they were near their half-way mark. From there, they will follow the river to Iowa, east to Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin and then down to Chicago.

“It’s gone from people saying, ‘You have a long trip ahead of you,’ to ‘You’ve come a long way,’” he said.

Mathewson said this was his second bike tour. And for the most part, the duo had few problems. A flat tire the first night in Morris, Canada, left them dealing not so much with the flat as with lots of mosquitoes.

Rowe said she worked to keep bugs off his back as he repaired the tire, a type of repair he had never actually done before, and a truck stopped behind them to shine a light on the situation.

“It’s been pretty good,” said Rowe, although noting Mathewson’s bicycle was a bit of a relic.

He bought it used for $40 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“His most recent repair required duct tape,” she said.

The fender was rattling, he said. Duct tape did the trick.

While the friends brought duct tape, and a tent, they are traveling without the aid of a GPS system.

Mathewson noted that the bike trails in Minnesota were excellent. From Bemidji, they were able to come down to ride the newly-opened Paul Bunyan State Trail in Crow Wing County.

“Part of the trail just opened … it’s just phenomenal,” said Mathewson. “It’s my second tour and it’s some of the best riding I’ve seen.”

The bike trails near Minneapolis are also excellent, he said. The trails in Minnesota and in Oregon are the best he’s seen in his travels.

“Portland and Minneapolis have the two best biking infrastructures in the states,” he said.

A week after their journey began, the two stopped at Coborn’s in Little Falls for supplies, with plans to stay at Lindbergh State Park for the night.

That’s where they met Lois Bieganek of Little Falls, who offered them a meal and a pontoon ride on the Mississippi.

“She just stopped and talked to us,” said Mathewson, which is how it’s been going at each of their stops, he said.

“She (Bieganek) decided we were staying for dinner and went back in the store and bought two more of everything,” said Rowe.

“I’m astonished by the level of kindness and generosity,” said Rowe. “We’re not looking for it — but it’s always appreciated. We don’t know how to take it — we have nothing to offer in return.”

The two have decided they will send postcards to those who have shown them kindness.

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