Monday, July 11, 2005

Baker Park Camping Trip

Henry and I went Bike Camping. I haven't Toured since 1980, when I was right out of college, so this has been a while in coming. The back story is that our church has an annual campout at Baker Park in western Hennepin County, near Delano. I had signed up for this, though I'd forgotten about it. Last Tuesday I got my confirmation in the mail. Hmmm, I owe $41.50. I suppose we're going camping. Karla doesn't like camping plus she has to work Sunday (Music Director, you know) and Geneva had a birthday party to go to plus a friend staying for a week. If Henry and I went, we'd only need a two-man tent and I could scratch up enough bike gear to bike out there and camp. I pored over the Twin Cities Bike Map, decided this was doable, took Friday afternoon off, and we did it.

Note: If you are wildly interested in the photos, these pictures are all hyperlinked to larger versions. That's true for nearly all photos on my blog and website.

Matt and Henry shortly before departure
Here are Henry and I about to depart Friday afternoon at about 2:45. I'm on my Atlantis and have my circa-1980 Cannondale panniers on the bike. These had been lying around the basement for years and Henry washed them out for me. I have a Thermarest sleeping pad, tent and down sleeping bag bungeed transversely across the rack and panniers. There's the new Ortlieb front bag I bought last week on front, two water bottles and a fuel bottle for the stove in the third cage, under the down-tube.

Henry is on the Trek 620 I bought for $100 in Iowa Falls in April. We had changed around the gearing on this from the Half Step Plus Granny it came with but is otherwise unmodified at the moment, though updates are coming. Henry has a Breezer Grocery Bag pannier on one side, with his sleeping bag and Thermarest in it, an Overland Designs pannier on the other side which is a small but exceptionally-useful unit I use around town, and a small cooler strapped on top of the rack. He has a Jandd front bag mounted; the bulky mounting wouldn't work on my Atlantis's short stem, hence my hurried acquisition of the Ortlieb last week. Henry has two water bottles. Oddly, for a bike designed for touring to the extent of having front rack mounting holes in the front fork and a chain hanger on the right rear seatstay, it only has one water bottle cage mounting spot inside the main triangle. The second one goes under the downtube, so he carried water in both these spots. Henry doesn't have fenders yet since the bike has oversized 27" wheels rather than the 700Cs it's designed for, something we'll rectify later.

The value of the Local Bike Store was shown Thursday evening. I have a Jandd handlebar bag which has a pretty clever mounting bracket. I'll be damned if I could find mine. Henry and I stopped by The Bicycle Chain at Lexington and Larpenteur in Roseville to buy another mount. They didn't have any, but they did have the Jandd bags. I was mulling how badly I wanted to buy another whole bag just for this mounting bracket when the salesguy said, here, I'll just sell you the bracket and order a new one in. So he did. This store is pretty good; the carry some nice bikes there and this is where I got my Marin lo these many years ago. Needless to say, Friday afternoon shortly before we left I found my missing bracket in a box labelled "Bike Stuff". Who'd have ever thought to look in there?

We set off. We went down Roselawn to the west, dropped down to Larpenteur to cross Highway 280 and get to Industrial Boulevard, a wretched couple of hundred yards of road with potholes, semi traffic and a big exhaust pipe lying in our way, then north up Industrial Boulevard to where it turns into Saint Anthony Parkway. We followed this, including one very steep downhill where we rode the brakes all the way down. I had Henry feel the rims at the bottom of the hill--they were very warm to the touch.

You go through some of the less-attractive bits of Minneapolis along this route.
Trainyards in northeast Minneapolis

Glamorous downtown Minneapolis was visible through the humid haze to the south.
Minneapolis skyline through the haze

We rode down to the Mississippi to cross on the bridge which becomes 42nd Avenue North. This sign was discouraging.
Henry by bridge over Mississippi

Looking at the sidewalk, I'm guessing they want us to walk because the sidewalk is narrow and the road-side guardrail is low, so that if we hit it we'd probably flip over into the road. I waited until a rollerblader coming across went past us, then we mounted up to ride over. Henry is deeply conservative in these matters; "Dad, if we get caught, you're in trouble." We lumbered a mile or so over to a Dairy Queen and had medium pineapple sundaes and a water bottle refill.
Henry at Dairy Queen

We worked our way west, crossing Highway 100 at 39th Avenue North. On maps, this doesn't look like it's quite continuous (see this Google Map), but if you switch the view to satellite, you can see that there's a pedestrian bridge to get us across. How did I ever get around before online maps? We worked our way through neighborhoods down to Medicine Lake Road, which we used to cross Highway 169, and rode down to Medicine Lake. Here we stopped to fiddle with Henry's bike. It was spontaneously shifting over bumps and also wouldn't shift onto the smallest chainring. A few minutes fiddling with these adjustments seemed to solve these problems. We also ate a Clif bar each. The high clouds had scattered and the sun had come out and I took some bike snaps. Here's my bike, all loaded.
Atlantis at Medicine Lake

The Atlantis as Tanker

The lower part of the triangle is busy. The white water bottle is one of the thermal Polar Bottles, the stainless steel one is one of the legendary Jongwon JSB-500s (read all about them on the Bicycle Coffee Systems website) which have astounding thermal performance. I loaded it with ice, then filled it with water, and it was still icy late that evening. If you like ice water on long hot rides, these work great. Too bad you can't find them any longer! The fuel bottle under the downtube is a Sigg aluminum bottle with Coleman fuel for our Peak One stove. This probably wasn't absolutely necessary but as we are "touring" I thought it set the right tone. I'll be getting a frame pump for the Atlantis but in the meantime have a Blackburn Mammoth pump under a water bottle cage.

Atlantis Cockpit

About a month ago I got what little hair I have left cut and the barbershop had some Bicycling magazines lying around. There were a bunch of bike reviews in this one issue. I was amused to see how these would describe the "cockpit" of the bike, like it was some complex arrangement of controls. Well, here's the cockpit of the Atlantis. I'd just wrapped the bars the night before; the brass bell is on the stem, keeping the handlebars clear, and I got a Sigma computer because it will mount on the stem as well, also keeping my bars clear. The Ortlieb bag is there with the excellent Twin Cities Bike Map showing.

Henry's Trek 620
Here's Henry's bike. He seems to like it quite a lot and is excited about the planned upgrades (new wheels, wider handlebars than the cramped 35cm ones on there, re-doing the cabling with somewhat less-extravagant curves, etc.). It's probably a comfortable bike, set up for touring and all lugged Reynolds 531. I'm guessing it's not unlike the Atlantis.

It was hot at the lake. The earlier clouds had cleared off. Here were some kids swimming at the beach we stopped by.

Kids swimming at Medicine Lake

We caught the Luce Line bike trail west from the south end of Medicine Lake. This was paved for a long time. It got us gracefully over or under many busy roads. Here is the tunnel under Interstate 494 from the inside.
Luce Line tunnel under I-494

And from the west side.
Luce Line tunnel under I-494, west side

At one road crossing the trail goes from asphalt to crushed limestone.
Luce Line turns to gravel

I was worried about this being some mushy thick layer of rock, a nightmare to ride on, but in fact it was basically hard dirt with tiny crushed rocks. We moved along pretty fast on this though it was noisy and kicked a lot of dust up. Along this trail you get to see how the other 0.5% live, at one point going through a country club with beautifully manicured fairways and flower beds.

We got off the Luce Line at Hennepin County 19 and rode north to the town of Maple Plain. We bought a couple of Gatorades, some milk, root beer and Doritoes here as well. No point in hauling all that stuff all this way! We rode on up to the Baker Park campground, arriving at about 7:20. We were 4 hours and 40 minutes out of home and had ridden 36.6 miles. Up went the tent, out came the stove, we made spaghetti with tomato basil sauce and some cheese in little paper packets from the Pizza Hut at Target, mooched some wine and beer (for me) from one of the other church folks and settled in for dinner.

Here's Henry having some root beer. He's a happy boy.
Henry at Dinner

Saturday was a static day. We cooked up pancakes (Krusteaz, only add water) with bacon (center-cut, it's smaller and fits in the frying pan better) and real maple syrup for breakfast. I rode into town, down to the beach and around some pathways, but nothing ambitious. I fiddled with the bikes; my crank had come a bit loose and needed tightenting and my handlebars weren't tight enough and had rotated down a bit. Tightening the handlebars in the stem required removing the Ortlieb front bag mount. I was nervous about this as it had been such a pain to put on, but it went well and I got it back on with no problem. Henry's front brake lever would pull all the way to the handlebar under heavy braking, so I adjusted that for him so it would hit the rim a lot quicker. Henry mostly swam and played with the other kids. We also engaged in our Camping Kabuki, camping rituals honed over many years. We've been mostly car campers in recent years but maintain the fiction that we're lightweight by using our old backpacking/canoeing/motorcyling/bike touring gear. Here are some of our trademark items.

Coleman Peak One stove generating at full throttle
The Peak One stove is a useful unit. The sounds of summer wouldn't be complete without a Peak One generating away on full throttle, as it is here with some of the flame deflectors glowing red. I even packed the stove in the old Sigg Tourist kit this trip; that's the Sigg windscreen on the stove. My stove, which dates from about 1983, is relatively new. When I camp with my buddy Paul, he uses an even older 1979 one on which most of the instructions and the plastic on the knobs has been melted off in a fueling mishap.

Morning Brew-up of Camp Tea
You can use the Coleman to make Camp Tea. We use only the best British teabags for this. One has to maintain standards, you know. These are British Tetley's and not the grass clippings Tetleys sells in the U.S. The water here was pretty good; usually at remote campgrounds the Camp Tea features scum floating in the tea.

Water Bag on Tree
We carry water in this water bag. It folds down very small yet holds about 2 gallons. I got this in 1979. I lent it to one of my sisters once and she melted a small hole in the nylon bag part. The Doritoes are lashed up out of the way of raccoons. I know, raccoons can climb trees, but they didn't. Maybe these are too Nacho Cheesier.

Candle Lantern in Daylight
I loathe Coleman lanterns. Instead, candle lanterns work great, make no noise and cast an astonishing amount of light. This one has lit up the whole campground! (Actually, I took the photo in the morning). A candle lasts something like eight hours and only once in my experience has it rained so hard that they wouldn't stay lit.

Sunday we had a big communal breakfast. Karla, who'd come out for dinner with Geneva and Sydney, had brought our eggs and OJ contribution. Henry and I ate scads of food, packed everything up and we rolled out at about 10:45 heading home.

Going home the same way would be boring. We rode down through Maple Plain, took the Luce Line a couple of miles back east to Stubbs Bay, then got off and rode south. We crossed the west end of Lake Minnetonka and saw how the other 0.02% live. High up on a bike seat, seeing over the fences and slogging along into a south wind, you can see a lot. Sprawling mansions, tennis courts, swimming pools, horse paddocks. Very nice cars drove by. Big-ass boats in the lake. I think they even have nice bikes; on Saturday in Dairy Queen in Maple Plain I was idly reading the Police Reports in the local free paper and someone's garage got broken into and a mountain bike worth $4,500 stolen. I may have an impressive fleet of bikes at the moment, but collectively they aren't worth that much!

We stopped at a SuperValue in Navarre for a lemonade and Clif bar and talked to a guy named Glen who was riding around. He was very familiar with the trails we were planning to take and we talked for a bit. Henry and I rode off, down through Excelsior and along the lake on the LRT trail.

We stopped at one point to admire the view. Here's Henry with the bikes.
Henry at Lake Minnetonka overlook

A tour boat cruised by. Lake Minnetonka is pretty big and very textured so that there are lots of islands and penninsulas in view.
Tour Boat on Lake Minnetonka

This lady was there. She offered to take our picture. I couldn't help but notice her back end, a Nexus 7-speed internally-geared unit.
Bike with Nexus Hub

We rode on down the trail, stopping at a Dairy Queen for medium pineapple sundaes in the blazing heat. It got to 93F today and hardly a cloud in the sky for much of the afternoon, so it felt pretty relentless. We cowered on the east side of the building in a small bit of shade and watched some people bring an assortment of musical instruments including guitars and a string bass out of the Dunn Brothers coffee place next door. There must have been some sort of concert in there.

The trail soon cut south towards Hopkins. It crossed a bunch of streets and goes diagonally through people's yards like only railroads do. As we rode by the north end of Hopkins I could see a street blocked off. We abandoned the trail and rode down the street to the firemen sitting at the intersection. Sure enough, a bike race was about to start. It's part of the Hopkins Raspberry Festival.

We were there about 2 minutes and the race started.
Start of 2005 Raspberry Festival Category 1-2-3 Criterium

It was the Category 1, 2 and 3 men's Criterium race, the featured event of the day. There had been youth, seniors and womens races earlier. We watched them go by a couple of laps. I asked the firemen if there was someplace nearby we could get Gatorades. You're in luck, they said, and opened a cooler full of iced-down Gatorade and gave us a couple. Henry and I thanked them and moved across the street to watch the race a while. It was to go 1 hour 20 minutes, so we figured we wouldn't stick out the whole thing.

We sat in the shade. Here's Henry enjoying his second Clif bar of the day and his free Gatorade.
Henry at Hopkins bike race

We had a decent view:
Our view of the race coming around the first corner

Then they'd zoom away:
The peloton southbound

Not everyone was racing. This guy's shirt matched his bike nicely:
Guy on Bianchi watching race

Before long a group of eight cyclists broke away from the main peloton. They began to build a lead and were soon 30 seconds ahead in a race where lap times were in the 1 minute 10 second region. We moved down the course a bit. The group of eight kept creeping ahead. After a while, they got the main peloton back in sight. Here you can see the whole peloton about to enter a corner while in the background come the eight breakaway riders. They should be playing the theme from Jaws.
Peloton pursued by eight breakaways

Are they getting closer? If this was Jaws, these two guys would soon be flailing in the water amidst fake blood while their girlfriends screamed and Roy Sheider looked concerned.
The Eight close in

We parked the bikes and talked to a corner marshall. He is a racer whose wife had their first child this year and so his training has fallen by the wayside. He said he's been running. Boy, he said, I just don't like running. Me either.

As a recently-active racer, he knew what was going on. I was asking who kept track of the number of laps as it seemed likely these eight were going to lap the peloton and get re-integrated into the larger group. He said that race officials track that stuff. We talked about how aware the racers were of what was going on, what the eight would do when they caught up (which they did while we were talking) and stuff like that. It was pretty interesting.

Still, we had to move on, so we rode over to 5th street and down to the LRT and Kenilworth trail to catch that eastbound. This was smooth asphalt and we had something of a tailwind and suddenly we were cooking along (well, 16-17mph) and it was quiet. That limestone stuff is noisy.

This trail comes in around the north side of Lake Calhoun. I'd meant to follow the Kenilworth trail around the north side of downtown but Henry was ahead of me and carried on, so we kept on to where the trail meets up with the Midtown Greenway, which I only rode for the first time last week. This is like a bike Superhighway. Here's a shot down the Greenway. You can see one of the "exit ramps" off to the left.
View down Midtown Greenway

The Midtown Greenway is along a disused railway right-of-way and is sunk down in the ground. It runs by the back of lots of old factories and has what must be dozens of streets crossing it on bridges. It must have been pretty useful rail access back when we actually made stuff here.

The steep banks are overgrown. We rode along and saw a couple of people picking berries. I finally stopped and asked a young lady if there were many berries up there (in the overgrown banks of the path) and she said yeah, come on up and get some. Henry and I lay the bikes down, took off the cooler and spent a happy 45 minutes or so chatting with Angela and picking blackberries. This is a painful affair as these are prickly bushes on a tricky slope. It's also messy if you squish the berries and Angela's hands looked like she was an ax-murderer, all red and dripping. She works with a group who provide shelter for homeless and unwanted teens. I think she was happy to see a father and son out doing stuff like this together.

Henry and I rode on down the Greenway to where it crosses Hiawatha, then went north alongside the light rail tracks. This goes by some biker bar where a band who was not very good but at least was world-class loud was doing a pretty awful rendition of Eleanor Rigby. Henry, who likes the Beatles a lot, was pretty indignant. We got off in Riverside, rode past the Hub Bike Coop and across the river on the 10th Avenue bridge. We were both kind of fading at this point, having lived on Clif Bars and pineapple sundaes all day. Down Como Avenue we stopped at Joe's Market for an ice-cream bar and Powerade, then headed on home. Como's under construction and we had to work our way past this. I took a picture of Henry along here but something didn't work; still, it looks kind of Impressionist. Didn't Monet just have bad eyesight?
Impressionist Henry

We rode up Como, past the park and then home. My overly-precise German cycle computer said 42.97 miles. I said to Henry, you know, if we ride to the end of the driveway and back, it'll be 43 miles, so we did. We went in all happy and proud, sunburned and sweaty and with somewhat purple hands from the berries. Forty three miles, even loaded with panniers and camping gear, isn't going to impress any serious cyclists, but it's farther than I've ridden in years and a real achievement when you're thirteen years old on a twenty-year old bike. We soon took showers to wash all the salty sweat off, I had a couple of gin and tonics and Karla provided a lovely Salad Nicoise followed by ice cream and our hand-picked blackberries. It was a delicious end to a terrific three days.


The Donut Guy said...

Nice write up:-)

Anonymous said...

What a great trip! I haven't yet gone camping by bike. It's good to know there are camping spots that you can reach within a few hours of the Cities.

Nathan said...

Sorry if you know this but just chose not to do it but Roselawn pops you off onto 280 going north where you can take an almost-immediate left onto Broadway to get over to I.B. You can return similarly by going north on 280 from Broadway, taking the first right (Walnut), and following that down to Roselawn.

Mmm, blackberries...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun trip. I'm looking forward to the day when I can go on a bike trip with my daughter.

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful with the shoes the other day.

Matt said...

Thanks everyone for the comments.

Nathan, I didn't know you could get across 280 at the end of Roselawn. I'll have to take a look at that, though perhaps on an unloaded bike.

Jim, happy to meet you at Freewheel. I've discovered how rare are size 49 cycling shoes!

Anonymous said...

Fun write up. Dick and I are novice bikers and this gives me a glimpse of what could be ahead. I have to pull out a map and reread so I know where these routes are--Greenway, etc.
Enjoyed the pics, too.