Jay Maynard (jmaynard) wrote,
Jay Maynard
jmaynard

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This is a state highway?

I went to a meeting in Eau Claire yesterday. The drive back was going to be long, so I decided to at least see something I had heard about: Minnesota 74 is a state highway running from US 61 between Winona and Wabasha, to I-90 at St. Charles. As I found out for myself, the first 6.5 miles as you go south are unpaved.

Approaching MN 74 southbound on US 61, everything looks normal: first, this sign pointing the way to Whitewater State Park:

Whitewater State Park sign

As you get close to the intersection, there's a sign pointing the way to the highway:

MN 74, thataway

As you turn onto MN 74, it starts out normally enough:

The beginning of the road

About a quarter of a mile further down, it meets Wabasha County 26 at this Y:

The fork in the road

Wabasha County 26 is a nicely paved county road. Not so MN 74:

Where'd the asphalt go?

Note the 50 MPH speed limit sign. Anyone who drives the next 6.5 miles of road at 50 MPH will quickly wrap himself around a tree, as it's winding and has lots of loose gravel:

Windy, gravelly road

It's hard to believe you're traveling a part of Minnesota's trunk highway network, instead of a back road in the country. There are no reassurance signs (those signs that say "you're on highway <number>" every so often) on the unpaved portion, just mile markers:

Mile marker 50

The unpaved portion ends at this intersection with Winona County 30. Note the STOP sign. There are no STOP signs on the county road.

End of the unpaved portion

For the next 4 miles south of this intersection, the road's no prize. It's paved, but totally unstriped, with narrow or no shoulders, and only mile markers to let you know you're still on a state highway. It's still posted at 50, and this section isn't as twisty, so it can be comfortably driven at posted speed.

Finally, when you get to Elba, Minnesota, the road turns into something more like what you'd expect, though it's still a two-lane road, and the pavement is in fairly lousy shape all the way into St. Charles. It's a very pretty drive, but don't expect to get anywhere quickly.
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