Monday, August 29, 2005

Riding to Duluth  Day One

The kids and I rode to Duluth.

We set out Monday morning and arrived Tuesday evening, having overnighted in Hinckley. I am writing these entries the following weekend, but posting them with the dates we rode. I kept track of where we were at the top of each hour. Ladle in some photos and here's how it went.

Matt with Atlantis right before departure
Me and my Atlantis. I got this frame in April, completed the buildout in June and just really like it a lot. This is a real relief as it's not a cheap bike, at least for me (though I see racing bikes in the local bike stores going to two and three times as much). It is a touring frame, made for long hours in the saddle over many miles carrying a substantial load. In this case, the load isn't that substantial; my wife Karla was going to spend a couple of days at the Dwelling in the Woods and then join us in Duluth, so was bringing nice clothes, extra underwear, etc. All we needed was cycling clothes, swimsuits and street clothes to get us from Monday morning through Wednesday afternoon, for which I figured a pannier each was plenty. I carried two of the panniers and a front bag, the tools and the pumps (I have this Zefal frame pump but don't like it much, so carried along the Blackburn Mammoth as well). I'm riding Rivendell's 700C X 28 Roly Poly tires.

Henry with Trek ready to go
Henry, aged 13, rode on his circa-1984 Trek 620 touring bike, updated as I've noted in other entries in the blog. His bike, a 24" frame, is the lightest of our three bikes. Henry carried his own pannier and a rack-top bag. He's also on 700C X 28 tires, some Michelins in his case.

Geneva with Novarra Bonanza ready to roll
Geneva, aged 11, rode a Novarra mountain bike. We got this for Henry three years ago. When we did Youth Cycling League last summer (2004), Henry proved nearly as fast as the kids on nice road bikes despite the beefy frame, knobby tires and suspension fork. To speed him up a bit, I put on higher pressure smooth-treaded 26 X 1.5 tires, and they're still on there. As the youngest rider and least-suitable bike, Geneva carried only a front bag with her own stuff in it (digital camera, rain jacket, Clif bars). This bike is Aluminum and presumably light but the downtube could be the mainspar of a jet and the whole thing is pretty beefy. We have a YCL Bianchi road bike she could have taken but she was not interested in it.

Three of us ready to go Monday morning
Here are all three of us!

8:56  We set off.
In a good indication, we hadn't gone more than a couple of hundred yards when Geneva turned to me and said, "Dad, you rock! This is going to be so fun!". Karla stood under a tree and watched us ride off.

9:00  Chatsworth and Roselawn, 0.6 miles
Geneva needs to stop and tuck in her shoelaces, which are snagging her chainring. The route we followed was one outlined by Dan, who did Duluth in a day in July 2004. We rode up Victoria, past Lake Owasso, over I-694 on Rice Street, then on Vadnais Boulevard, Centerville Road, the Goose Lake Road through the Gem Lake golf course where Henry and I played golf each Thursday all summer, and north on Otter Lake road.

10:00  Highway 96 and Otter Lake Road, 11.1 miles
We'd had bagels for breakfast. Henry said he was hungry. We decided to stop and have a snack when a suitable spot came along.

First snack at Otter Lake
10:18 - 10:27 First break, by Otter Lake, eat a Clif bar each.

11:00  in Hugo, MN at Subway, getting sandwiches. 19.6 miles.

I had neglected to bring a map with me for the first day's riding. In Hugo, I couldn't remember how far it was to the next town and there was a Subway right there, so we ordered sandwiches to take with us. We also got a couple of quarts of Gatorade, divvied up into water bottles, and some Peanut M&Ms at a gas station across the highway, then set off up Washington County's Hardwood Creek Regional Trail. This trail is on an abandoned railway right of way paralleling Highway 61. The weather was gorgeous, the winds generally light out of the WNW, so only slightly a headwind.

I'd bought Geneva some Andiamos (or similar) underwear to wear under any trousers and make them like bike shorts. I had also got her a pair of baggy black bike shorts. Ever the thorough girl, she was wearing regular undies, the Andiamos and the cycling shorts. "I like lots of padding, Daddy". Well, north of Hugo the wisdom of my recommendation to wear just the cycling shorts or the Andiamos and not ever the regular undies began to become clear. She was complaining and I said she could change right here on the trail--there was nobody in sight, there were groves of trees and bushes shielding the road and Henry and I could stand looking the other way. She decided this sounded good and we did it, mirrors folded up, arms folded across our chest while Geneva switched down to just cycling shorts. Much better! she announced. We rode on.

12:00  South outskirts of Forest Lake 26.5 miles
Lunch at the Forest Lake beach
12:10 - 12:50 shores of Forest Lake for lunch, 28.2 miles.

Just north of Forest Lake we entered Chisago County and the trail became the Sunset Prairie Trail. The trail was pretty nice. On an early Monday afternoon there were hardly any other trail users and we could ride two abreast. I took some pictures along the way.

Kids on trail north of Forest Lake

Geneva on trail north of Forest Lake
Geneva sometimes wore her hair in a pony tail and at other times let it hang loose so it would fly back and show how fast she was. For a while along here we maintained a 14 mph cruising speed.

1:00  southern Chisago County, 30.7 miles
Space Shuttle in Stacy
1:35 - 1:45 Stacy playground, 37 miles, nearly halfway. These small-town playgrounds still have merry-go-rounds, which the kids love, and they frolicked on the one here for a few minutes. There was a milling plant across the road giving off the smell of muffins. They also had this Space Shutte plaything in the playground.

2:00  north of Stacy on Sunset Prairie trail, 40 miles

2:40  in North Branch, end of trail, 45.2 miles.
The trail comes to an abrupt end in North Branch. We rode over a few blocks to a Casey's convenience store for more Gatorade and peanut M&Ms. Hurrican Katrina was pounding the Gulf, we're fighting a war in Iraq, Peak Oil is approaching and gas is $2.50 a gallon, but the citizens of North Branch aren't concerned. When we pulled up there was a ratty station wagon sitting empty but idling at the curb. A worn, scrawny middle-aged woman came out of the store, got in and drove off. A big Dodge Turbo-Diesel pickup pulled up in the space and the driver got out and went in the store, also leaving his engine running. Maybe they're proud of the low crime or something. I guess I'd turn my car off before going in (and it was about 75 degrees and there were no kids or animals in the vehicles that needed to be kept cool, it was just some pointless and thoughtless oil consumption). I was interested to see that North Branch has a Municipal Liquor Store. Some interesting Big Brother aspects there.

Our path would now take us up the old Highway 61 (the one Bob Dylan revisited) but which now has several different identities. Out of North Branch it is Chisago County 30, and off up this road we went, riding on the shoulder.

3:00  north of North Branch on County 30, 47.5 miles

Kids north of North Branch on County 30
It was pretty busy for a while. We generally went single file with me in back in my high-visibility Crash Test Dummy jersey.

We got to the 50-mile mark for the day at 3:15. Henry was ahead a ways but Geneva and I were rolling down a gentle hill on the southern outskirts of Harris. I yelled to her that we were right at 50 miles from home and she stood up on her pedals and waggled her bottom in celebration. We stopped for a quick Butt Break in Harris, then pressed on.

Henry fixes pannier in Harris
Henry's bike fell over off the kickstand and the pannier came off during our Butt Break in Harris. Geneva snapped this photo of him on her Canon A85 as he re-attached it.

4:00  Highway 30, southern outskirts of Rush City, 58 miles

We stopped for another Clif bar in Rush City, sitting in the shade next to their City Hall and swimming pool. We were feeling pretty pooped at this point, especially Geneva. We did a potty and Gatorade break at a gas station and I looked at a map to see what town was next and how far it was. I need to bring my own map next time! The highway became 361 north of Rush City. We also passed a Minnesota Correction Facility, visible in the fields just to the east.

5:00  on Highway 361 in southern Pine county, 62.5 miles
The shoulder suddenly improved at the county line. This was a relief. We were slogging along in this stretch. I decided later that Geneva's metabolism is different than Henry's and mine and that she was possibly bonking in here. Fatherly words of encouragement and a hug seemed to help plus I think the snacks kicked in.

6:00  in Pine City, 68.4 miles
North of Pine City the road got less busy but the shoulder remained in good shape. It's flat through here, something of a relief, and we plugged along with renewed good spirits, making up new words to the Beverly Hillbillys theme song.

Kids on Highway 361 north of Pine City
You can see the good-sized, good-condition shoulder. Also, the drivers are being very respectful here. I was fiddling with the camera while riding and hadn't bellowed at the children to go single file, the overtaking car is giving us room and the oncoming car has moved over to give him room. With the exception of one pickup of yokels near Rush City who yelled at Geneva and I and threw a ball at Henry, half a mile or more ahead, we had no motorist problems.

Kids on Highway 61 north of Pine City
We were cruising along about 6:15 on the highway once again known as 61. There was little traffic. As the day got later the shadows got longer and longer. As we went north we rode by a sheep farm with a flock of very vocal sheep who bleated away at us as we passed. There must have been a hole in the fence as there was a group of sheep munching the grass in the ditch on the west side of the road. In a car, I might have pulled up to the farmhouse nearby and told them about the roaming sheep and maybe helped them herd them back in which might have been good fun, but it was getting late, the sun was getting very low and I didn't want to get stuck out here in the dark.

7:00 Highway 61 over I-35, just south of Hinckey, 79.0 miles.
Just south of Hinckley, Highway 61 curves west over Interstate 35. Just after you go over that bridge there's a right turn onto Highway 23 into Hinckley.

We rode north up Highway 23 and saw a sign on the adjacent Interstate 35 that gave us much joy:
Hinckley 1 3/4 miles!
Hinckley one and three-quarter miles! Even so, our sore bottoms needed a rest.

Henry's bottom must feel fine
Henry seemed best-adjusted to his seat, or at least complained the least, and just waited by a sign for us.

Geneva rests on railway bridge outside Hinckley
Geneva may have had the least-comfortable seat. You know it's bad when a concrete highway bridge is more soothing than her saddle after 80 miles.

Me flexing mighty muscles near Hinckley
Geneva asked me to flex my muscles so she could take a shot. Gotta remember to suck in my gut next time! I've ridden more than 100 miles with a fully-loaded bike over hilly terrain in the past, so 80 miles on a lightly-loaded bike on flat land doesn't amount to much, but I don't think I've ridden more than 50 miles in a day in more than 20 years so even I am happy. My achievement is much more modest than the childrens'; I at least knew what we were in for.

We cruised happily into Hinckley in the deepening shadows. Geneva in particular was very proud and happy; she had had a miserable few miles a couple of hours before but now all doubts about her ability to make it were gone. She had briefly entertained the idea of contacting Karla and getting picked up, but now that she'd made Hinckley she was determined to make it to Duluth tomorrow. We turned east onto Highway 48 which took us across Interstate 35, executed a left turn in traffic and rode into the Days Inn parking lot and up to the front door. It was 7:38PM.

7:38  Hinckley Days Inn, 83.1 miles

The stats?
10 hours 34 minutes elapsed time
7 hours 42 minutes 58 seconds ride time
10.94 miles per hour average, 27.7 mph maximum

The racers out there are not going to be too impressed with an average speed just under 11 miles an hour or nearly three hours of rest time over the trip, but I am ever so proud of the children. Geneva's longest ride to date had been to church and back, about 30 miles; Henry's was the return trip from Baker Park in July, 43 miles in blazing hot weather with a load of gear. Geneva had never ridden 35 miles in a day, Henry had never done even 45, and here they'd cracked off 83.

I checked in. We rolled the bikes into the room. For all the tiredness and fatigue of the ride, the kids could hardly wait to go for a swim, so we changed into swimsuits and had a good half an hour of splashing around. I soaked in the Jacuzzi for a while. We showered off the chlorine and suddenly discovered we were all starved.

We wandered across the highway to Tobie's to get dinner and all got the half-pound Tobie burger. Geneva devoured hers and finished first. The waitress asked what we'd been up to and when I said we'd ridden bicycles up from Saint Paul she mouthed "Oh my God" and asked a few questions. Both kids noticed this, and it gave them additional reinforcement that it had been a good day. The waitress later asked how old the kids were; I told her 11 and 13, and she said she'd guessed 11 and 14 when telling the kitchen staff about us. Henry and Geneva were impressed that she'd told the kitchen folks. Frankly, I was a little surprised that it was a big deal to her; the MS 150 ride overnights in Hinckley and there must be hundreds of people who ride that. I'm guessing some of them are even pretty young.

We went back to the hotel, got a rollaway for Henry as the full-sized beds were a bit small for sharing, especially with a kid like him who steals covers and kicks like a mule in his sleep. We watched a bit of CNN where the initial news on Hurricane Katrina looked ok, it had weakened a bit and not hit New Orleans directly. I also watched the Duluth news to see what the weather would be like; it looked like another gorgeous day in store for us. It didn't take long for us to drift off.

You can read about Day Two as well.


The Donut Guy said...

Awesome write up.

Only one thing though............

How often do you feed Henry?

The boy is pretty darn skinny :-)

Joe said...

That is fantastic!

I found myself vicariously proud of your kids, even though I do not know you or them.

That is the kind of day they will remember for the rest of their lives.

(I randomly stumbled across your blog by clicking links in sidebars in other blogs...)

Matt said...

We feed Henry more or less continuously. He is just a bundle of energy. We liken him to Tigger, he even has red hair!

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed the first leg of your trip. Good for Geneva! I'm proud of both of them actually. It's always great to see kids out exercising and getting a cultural experience at the same time. Also cool to see they have such a great relationship with their dad. :) I look forward to Leg #2.

Andrew said...

Wow, super cool! I'm in my mid 20s and have been thinking about doing my first century, and reading about your kids doing 80 miles in two days is oddly inspiring to me.
Also, you must have great kids for them not to have been complaining the whole time, and that they actually were into this idea in the first place! Kudos to you all.