Friday, May 6, 2016


Monday, August 8, 2011

Blue Ox, berries and highways

(Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN)

Left last Wednesday for a three-day & two night, solo, tour of Northern Minnesota. Fortuitous winds and dry weather were unexpected and appreciated during my 140 miles.

Starting from a friend's cabin near Park Rapid's, Minnesota, I rode 20 miles into Itasca State park. Itasca is famous for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

(My LHT at the park's East entrance)

(The marker at the start of the Mississippi you can read it if you click on the image)
On day two I rode for about 30 miles on the Paul Bunyan Trail. The rest of the trip's miles were pedaled on Minnesota's "blue highways." This term was coined by William Least Heat Moon in his autobiographical book Blue Highways. The term refers to small, forgotten, out of the way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).

(A stretch of blue highway with blue sky and blue water.)
Heat Moon's book tells of his travels and describes the people he meets during his 13,000 mile journey. I met one notable man. I was riding between Bemidji Lake State Park, where I spent my second night, and my starting point near Park Rapids. Tired, near noon, I was looking for a rare patch of shade to rest in. Finally seeing one spot at a crossroads, I stopped only to discover that a lawn of poison ivy had beaten me to the shade. Hence it was a standing break.

While enjoying my time off the bike, a beat up old pick-up truck stopped. A man in his early 70's approached me with a well used ice cream pail half full of freshly picked wild blueberries. He reached it out and said with a semi-toothed grin, "take a handful of these while you rest." I barely said thank you before he hopped in his truck and drove off. I gobbled most of my berries up before I thought to take a picture.

He wasn't the only person I met. Earlier in the day a woman and her daughter stopped by to visit me in camp. Every Harley Davidson rumbling by gave me a nod or a wave. What is it about bike touring that disarms and brings out the best in the people? Maybe they too have the romantic sense of the road that made Heat Moons' book so popular.

(The sweetest blueberries I ever had)
(Dinner in Itasca State Park)

(Bike at the start of the tour with front panniers on. I use them to carry extra food because of the relative isolation of where I was riding)

(Bike at the end of the tour with front panniers tucked into the rear bags.)

(Bike during a rest break on the Paul Bunyan Trail)

(The Paul Bunyan Trail)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Girls' Bike Tour 2010

We left the on the Girls' Bike Trip III Saturday morning after a slow start. Gear organization, family obligations and work had us leaving after 9am instead of our targeted 8am. No worries, we rolled with it heading from St. Paul to the Wilmar, MN trail head of the Glacial Lakes State Trail. We rode on the trail north through Spicer and New London where we headed west to Sibley State Park. Temperature forecasts were for 90 plus with high humidity and a 70% chance of thunderstorms including predicted severe weather.

The trip was full of unexpected good luck. Starting with the purchase of fresh, hot tortillas from a grocery store in Wilmar. Sat. was warm and humid, but clouds and a firm tail-wind kept us moving in comfort. We were able to get to camp, be set up and go for a swim before bad weather hit. We moved out of the lake because of lightning and waited out the storm by the park gift shop. We watched a wall cloud and the storm come across the lake whipping up rain, waves and 60mph winds, way more cool than scary.

After the storm past we swam again then headed to camp for Jiffypop. We had a bit more rain during our smore course, but were undaunted because of good rain gear. By the time we went to sleep we were able to point out the big and little dipper along with the North star to the girls.

Sunday morning we broke camp with only a few leftover rain drops falling from the trees. Breakfast was corned beef hash and eggs eaten in our tortillas. We used John's Aeropress for and outstanding cup of camp coffee.

Sunday we benefited from a tailwind on the cool side of the weather front. We rolled along to Spicer where we found the local fire department was having an open house along with pancake and sausage fundraiser. We climbed on firetrucks and ate more than we needed to.

We finished our ride and headed for home after a side trip for more tortillas. The girls', and dads too, did a great job on this fun outing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flowers and Food and Biking and Food with a Final Storm

The family and I woke up and headed to the St. Paul farmers market. We picked up some flowers and assorted locally grown veggies. The bouquet above was $6.

Next we finally found the Hmong Market. It's at the intersection of Marion and Como in St. Paul. The smells and thrown together buildings brought me back to markets in Asia. We had beef laab with tripe, cellophane noodle stuff cabbage rolls and round greasy meatball goodness.

More good food was to come. Our friends Mai and Mark invited us over for dinner. Mark is a Dane and Mai is Vietnamese. They always cook something wonderful.
I took the opportunity, as I often do, of biking the 26 miles to their home. Ling-Hui and the kids drive with the bike rack on. This way I can have a nice one way ride. The weather was hot and humid, but I enjoyed my route. (Click on it to view it.)

Mark and Mai created an incredible spread of Mexican cuisine. We had homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves, salsas, guacamole, skirt steak, chicken, mole, beans and more. I'm glad I rode.
Here's a picture of a tamale from our care-package.

The storms hit on our way home. Frequent lightning flashes helped illuminate the highway hidden by torrential rain. A couple of plastic bags and a few wraps of duct-tape protected the Brooks saddle on the way home.

This was a Saturday well spent.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Back from Dirt Burger

Thanks to Sov and all of the Decorah people for hosting fun under their bridge. I felt a bit weird heading to a venue where I didn't know anyone and am appreciative of the hospitality. Special thanks to Chuey, not sure of the spelling, for playing trail guide. Enjoyed chatting with Scally, Captain and everyone else whose names I don't remember. Friday night we rode into T-Bocks for a tasty burger, sans dirt. Lightning bugs flashes lit up the trail on the way back to camp. Next, we chilled around a fire until the the police came and shut us down. Like an army of ants with messenger bags and a Big Dummy we moved the party wood, beer and all up the bluff into the woods. Shortly after 2am we headed down the long hill hills back to our tents. Best night sleep in a tent in a longtime.

Here's the view I woke-up to Saturday morning. I made coffee and oatmeal and read my book. Then it was time to ride. We headed out on these trails, which kicked my ass. I crashed 3 times to the amusement of a local. The rain had made the trail greasy. Logs and roots slid tires out making the ride more technical than I am good. Not complaining though; I was riding in the woods, tired, happy and dirty.

A little of Grandpa's Pine Tar soap and a swim in the river felt great after riding.

Below is a random photo of some campers. Surly bikes showed up in force. 1x1s, Karate Monkeys, LHTs, Pugsleys, and Big Dummys all were present. One guy had a Karate Monkey with couplers renamed a "Flying Money." Several people who worked for Surly were present as well.

I'm up for Dirt Burger 2011.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Long Haul Trucker Fully Unloaded

Dirt Burger is is next weekend in Decorah, Iowa, and I need to get out of town and do something different. My dilemma is that I don't know what bike to ride. The full suspended Diamondback XR4 is riding well, after having Shockspital rebuild the front end. It is undoubtedly the most practical and fastest bike I own for riding real single-track, but the bike seems somehow wrong for the spirit of the event.
Thus, I stripped down the Long Haul(Dirt-Road)Trucker and put on my most off worthy tires, Ricthey Trailmix 700x35mm. A wider tire would be nice. The bike is specs say it will take a 45mm tire without fenders. I plan on taking both bikes; it'll be fun to compare them.

The Long Haul Trucker loaded for comparison.

Dirt Burger's flier:

I'm expecting a cool outing with great people.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Heartland Trail

The family's heading to Nevis to ride the Heartland Trail. We also plan to wet a fishing line -J- <^><) swim and cruise Lake Belle Taine. Bring on the heat.