This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A long weekend!

 I took a long weekend to make a trip to Minnesota, the southern part where it really looks like a taller Iowa.

It was a 10 hour drive (through Chicago) to get to Forrestville State Park which was chosen as headquarters for the Midwest Country Bike Rally.  This was originally conceived on the Rivendell Owners Group as a Riv Rally but many people choose to ride other bikes for the trip so Jim changed the name.  But that didn't keep several of us from Riv'in it up,
 there was a Soma San Marcos,
 an Atlantis in a custom yellow color,
 his and her Homers,
and a couple of Hunqs.
The idea was to take a "relaxed" ride over the course used for the Almanzo 100.   We broke it into two days and make it nice rather than a race.  On Friday night we began to accumulate at the park, the weather was horrible.  It was cold with massive thunderstorms in the area and hail predicted.   I was lucky, I got my campsite in order before the rain came down, was able to locate another rider to let somebody know I was there and then take shelter for the night.  It was a night that made me worry about Dorothy and Toto, but by morning it was a day with promise and it did deliver.
There were about 14 of us who were riding, I was the only foreigner, the rest were from Minnesota, but I have an enhanced drivers license and I knew I could get back into the real real world after my visit.  Our host,organizer and intrepid leader was Jim Thill, the owner of Hiawatha Cycles, in Minneapolis.
I had never met this crowd, but they proved to be a friendly and unassuming group of pedalers.  We got off at about 8 am for the first day's journey.  We warmed up on the asphalt to meet a few others for breakfast in Spring Valley where I was challenged by my first real adventure of the trip.
Only $2.75, how could I not try a peanut butter and egg sandwich?  Now that I have lived on the edge, I see a chunky peanut butter omelet in my future (gotta push the limits to live).  After assembling for breakfast we were off to hit the gravel.   It's a good road surface here.   In Michigan we are cursed with a heavy clay based soil which holds a lot of water and the roads turn into washboards quite easily.  After they do, the road commission drags them out and levels them with graders and the result is a few weeks of very loose gravel and sand like conditions.  Here in Minnesota, the limestone beds are a lot more solid and the pea gravel used to cover them a more consistent grade than what I ride in Michigan.

There were a number of places where fresh limestone had been spread and made it a little challenging.  Most of it was really pleasant riding, and if you look at the profile for the Almanzo you can see it is a roller coaster.  I definitely had a chance to display my "scientific" method of climbing; "granny down early and leave your ego at the bottom."  Many of the hills rivaled the grades we climb here in Michigan for the Mountain Mayhem.

  There are a total of 6 category 5 climbs on the 100 mile route.  Fortunately we were only taking on half the course each day and the group was far more supportive than competitive.  I was able to share the lantern rouge with Jack most of the day so I was not the last one up all the time.

  I am proud to say that my technique did keep me on the pedals all day and I was able to ride past many walkers on the more severe grades.  The descents, on the other hand, were exhilarating to say the least.  One was over 3 miles long on a grade exceeding 19%.  Many of the riders reached speeds over 40 mph on the gravel descent and it boiled the adrenaline levels..
On a trip like this you have to expect at least one mechanical problem and we had it.  It was the least likely part to break.  One gentleman had readjusted the saddle on his new Long Haul Trucker and broke the 6mm bolt.

 Fortunately there was an old farmer nearby, you know, the one who can't remember buying anything
-he just fixes it, whatever it is.

 Well while we waited, he failed several attempts to remove the broken bolt and dug up an old

 Murray from his barn, cut it up and made a new collar.  Now Sean has a custom seat post collar to secure his lugged seatpost.  A priceless moment in touring history.
The second day was cooler temperatures and sunnier skies.  Jim was great at giving us directions and encouragement.  The "encouragement" was so sincere it reminded me of the T-shirt I was given at my first Mountain Mayhem ride.

The riding was pleasant, conversations brisk and we covered the balance of the course without incident.  Except, the routed river crossing.

 I guess the racers make a point to ride or wade through the Rock River on this route, but we had had several inches of rain from Friday night and the river was swollen and fast.  Our intrepid leader took a close look at the situation and began to

 wonder what he was thinking.
We took the detour.  Most of the group split up at the entrance to the campground, some to get back to their cars in Preston or Spring Valley, some to ride a bit more and have dinner in town.  I had brought food to cook so I opted to stay.  I would have liked a little more riding but did not need dinner or another 3-4 hours the others experienced.
I had a good night greeting the others as they returned and the drive home the next day took me again through Chicago where I was reminded how the poor people live.  
The "poor people" who drive to work for a living.


  1. Thanks for the report. I really wanted to make the trip up from Texas to do this ride, but just couldn't pull it off. Maybe next year...

  2. it's a great group of people!