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*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘bike camping

Touring Today

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Image of the author captured during the annual June ride in 2009.

This morning, specifically, at the hour this is published today, I will be packing up my tent and preparing my bag for the luggage trailer. Our gear gets transported to tonight’s campsite by truck, allowing us to enjoy the luxury of riding with minimal added weight for the entire day.

It is the start of the 2017 Tour of Minnesota bike ride.

Since this is a vacation for me, I will be extending the break from my routine to include a pause in my daily blogging habit, but don’t for a minute think I would neglect to prepare in advance for posts to show up while I am away.

Similar to years past, when I have reposted a week of revisited “Words on Images” creations, or last year’s portraits of biking jerseys, I have created pre-scheduled posts to entertain you while I’m gone.

This year, as much for my sake as yours, I am going to revisit some of my history with this annual June ride.

Since today is the start of this year’s ride, I will go back to my start as a participant in what was then commonly referred to as the “Jaunt with Jim.”

The “Jim” was Jim Klobuchar, who at the time was a columnist with the StarTribune newspaper. I had been a fan of his writing for years, as well as a long-time cyclist with a curiosity about days-long riding and camping. 1994 happened to be the 20th year he was conducting these rides, which he convinced the StarTribune to sponsor.

Their promotion of the event caught my eye at a time I was ready to give it a try. With little needed effort, I talked a neighboring 16-year-0ld to accompany me for this maiden voyage.

We made a good travel pair, despite our age difference, which freed most of my attention for discovery of the new people and experiences on the ride. One of the main things I remember about that first ride was what glorious weather we enjoyed.

It being the 20th year of this event, the majority of participants seemed to be long-time veterans, which led to a wealth of stories from their archives about the trials and tribulations of carrying all their camping gear on the bikes in most of the earlier years, as well as the varieties of difficult weather they endured on multiple occasions.

In 1994 we had it easy. It was dry, with pleasant temperatures, and on the few days with wind, it was at our backs.

That helped to plant the seed of inspiration that led to our eventual return. However, the real kicker that sealed my fate of riding again with Jim’s group was the fabulous people we’d met that first year and the amount of fun they had together as a riding and camping community.

This amazing collection of people have become extended family for me. In the middle of June, I do everything I can to be among them again, no matter what the weather dishes out.

Tomorrow… Who is the very first couple we meet?

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2017 at 6:00 am

Perfect Weather

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I am visualizing perfect weather for a week of bicycling and tent camping. It could happen.

This morning I will hope to get the property mowed at the last minute so the grass shouldn’t be too long when I return to cut it again next Friday. This afternoon I will load up my bike and gear in the car and depart for a week of vacation.

This trip may not offer much chance to catch up on sleep, but I will have ample opportunity to take a mental break from the daily grind, and I will eat and laugh heartily with some very special like-minded cycling friends. This trip is a wonderful mental vacation because I don’t need to make any major decisions. The daily meals, the route, and the camping locations are all predetermined.

I just show up and ride. Oh, maybe I will waffle over what jersey to put on each day, but that’s about as complicated as it will get. Last night, I laid out gear and clothes while trying to imagine the usual routines of the week, in attempt to prepare for everything.

I would do myself a favor to now review the choices I made and divide it in half. I don’t think there has been a year where I ever needed everything I usually pack. Last year, I tried traveling lighter than my usual. This year, I would like to improve on that.

Just hoping the days near Lake Superior won’t complicate things. That massive body of water is a very effective air conditioner and can drop the temperature dramatically if the breeze flows from the direction of the lake. Warm clothes and packing light conflict a little when it comes to my wardrobe.

Over the years, I’ve heard tales of a wide range of essential items being forgotten by participants. I would like to avoid making an unplanned purchase of a critical item, so I will be working off a cheat sheet. Oddly, it seems I have filed away my master list from the many prior years I’ve done this trip.

Making a new list. I can remember to bring everything on my list, but did I remember to put everything I want on the list? Yeah, that’s the trick.

As long as I have my bike, both wheels, my cycling shoes and helmet, tent, sleeping bag, and pad, I’m good. Other than some clothes, the rest is all non-essential. I will bring my guitar this year, though, since the weather is going to be perfect.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2017 at 6:00 am

Tight Tenting

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On Wednesday, our bike trip destination was Lake Bemidji State Park. We arrived in time to eat lunch there, before the baggage truck had even delivered our gear. Since this park did not have a group camping site large enough to house all our tents in one location, ride director Bob divided us into two groups.

Even at half the number of campers, it looked like we would barely fit. The tents were going to need to be set very close together. Luckily, this group knows how to do close.

Since we didn’t yet have our bags with the tents in them, people began to claim their plot by laying down their bicycles in the spot where they hoped to erect their tent.

DSCN4867eBy the time the truck with our luggage arrived, impending rain was beginning to threaten its arrival. The area behind the truck took on the appearance of an airport baggage claim station as folks took turns stepping in to grab their gear the second it appeared.

In a flurry of expert efficiency, our tent city popped up very quickly.

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In this situation, it was going to be very difficult to achieve much in the way of the isolation we value for reducing auditory sleep interruptions that happen at close quarters. Tent fabric is a very poor sound dampening wall material. We share every cough, sniffle, burp, fart, hiccup, and snore that human bodies are prone to do.

Actually, the more onerous irritant often doesn’t come from our bodies, but from our equipment. Tent zippers, noisy sleeping pads, and plastic storage bags can make an incredible amount of ruckus after it gets dark and voices have grown hushed.

My friends, Rich and Doobie, got creative and tucked their tents with mine between some bushes on a teeny strip of green between driveways.

DSCN4869eAny port in a storm.

We were so close that our rain flies were tied to each other to keep them from sagging onto the tent walls. It is a good thing we didn’t get much more rain than what fell, because there wasn’t a very good route for water to drain away from the middle spot where three rain flies all sloped together.

I’m happy to boast that I don’t have much trouble with these tight conditions, because I am always so exhausted by sunset that I fall unconscious asleep very quickly and miss all but the most egregious clamoring that sometimes can occur in the middle of the night.

When I do happen to notice a particularly loud snorer, I tend to return to sleep easily while pondering how in the world individuals who make loud snoring sounds don’t wake themselves up when they are so close to all that noise.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2016 at 6:00 am

Almost Gone

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Today is my last day of work before my week off to go biking and camping. That produces a natural desire to wrap up loose ends and clear my head of as many lingering issues as possible. Already, the biggest burden has been lifted. We learned yesterday that a significant meeting that had been scheduled to happen during my absence, ended up needing to be postponed. I won’t have to miss it after all.

Tonight, I hope to cram in as many ranch chores as possible before diving into the challenge of deciding what needs to be packed in preparation for tomorrow morning’s departure. Will it be hot, cold, wet, windy, or a little of each over the course of the week?TofM2016

This year’s itinerary for the Tour of Minnesota will be:

June 17th – camp in Brainerd
June 18th – bike to Walker
June 19th – bike to Park Rapids
June 20th – bike to Itasca State Park
June 21st – day off while camped in Itasca
June 22nd – bike to Bemidji State Park
June 23rd – bike to Pine River
June 24th – bike back to Brainerd

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At least I don’t have to worry about what to bring for a snack.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2016 at 6:39 am

Mixed Results

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IMG_iP1415eThere has been enough progress from my last application of organic weed killer to see where it works, and where it doesn’t. I’m getting mixed results. Close inspection of the image will reveal some remaining leaves of poison ivy that are very green and healthy. Either they are new sprouts since I sprayed, or I missed them completely.

It is possible that I missed some leaves, because there are so many other growing plants in the vicinity, it is hard to see. I wasn’t about to reach down and move things out of the way to get a better view. When I spray poison ivy, I do so at an arm’s length.

When the weed killer hits the mark, it works very well. I will just make a point of returning at the next opportunity to apply another dose. It gets easier each time to spot the leftover plants remaining. I learned last year that more than one application would be required, after new growth sprouted in place of the first batch I had killed.

I never got the chance to do that follow-up application, and instead focused on readying ourselves to make a fresh attack this summer with the new sprayer and a new gallon of concentrated citrus-based weed killer.

On another subject, speaking of mixed results, I mentioned to Cyndie that I was considering creating a custom sweet and salty trail mix to take on the bike trip this year. She had me make a shopping list of ingredients so she could pick some things up on a grocery run yesterday.

DSCN4817eWhat a bounty of choices I found on the kitchen counter when I got home from work! I concocted a bizarre combination of items, measuring each to calculate a rough sugar-grams-per-serving value so I would know what I’m getting when I dive in ravenously after a day’s ride.

When we arrive at the evening destinations, the first thing to be dealt with is finding the best spot for our tents. In that weary moment when helmets get dropped, bike shoes come off, and our baggage has been claimed, I find it an incredible pleasure when one precious friend or another shows up with something to munch on.

A primitive part of my brain is usually begging for sustenance to replenish the deficit it perceives after the day of pedaling. I don’t know why the body can’t just use up some of my extra middle inches for fuel at that point, but it never seems to work out that way for me.

It’s too easy to gobble up some new deliciousness before the body ever gets around to trimming the belly. I definitely gain fitness over the week of biking, but with all the eating we do along the way, the results are usually mixed.

An oft-used byline for the collection of folks who form the core community of this ride is… we are an eating group with a biking disorder. 

I resemble that remark.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2016 at 6:00 am

Pedaling Upwind

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Seriously, we agreed to go, and even paid for the privilege of riding bicycles in a region that is so windy that they hold National Championship windsurfing competitions and power companies put up wind turbine farms.

What were we thinking?

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Maybe more of us would have thought twice about dealing with that wind if we would have known that the region was also going to be soaked by repeating waves of massive thunderstorms creating flash floods that closed roads, destroyed crops, and trapped a lot of cows.

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We witnessed innumerable fields with large amounts of topsoil sediment dropped in the lowest draining corner, and even more fields with massive amounts of previous year’s dead stalks and debris pushed into piles where it flowed over roads, or dropped in winding patterns when flood waters receded.

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Luckily, the camaraderie and shared accomplishment of like-minded friends proves to be a superb distraction from how miserable we might otherwise feel were we to endure such dreadful conditions alone. Riding while chatting —when the winds aren’t gusting so severely as to make that impossible— is a great way to cover long miles and not notice how far you’ve actually gone. We had opportunities to experience a little of both situations on this year’s ride.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

To Pipestone

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The way my mind works, I’ve got the perception that it rained on us every day except the very last, but the opening line of my journal entry for Tuesday, June 17 is, “Did not rain during the ride.” This was the day that our ride leader, Bob, got up extra early along with a few others and set out on a scouting mission to ascertain the integrity of our planned route. Also from my journal entry: “Only 1 detour required due to flood.”

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When I left home for the start of this trip, I was in Wisconsin. We drove across much of the width of Minnesota to reach the departure for the bike ride. On Sunday we rode a stretch into Iowa and back again. Now, Tuesday, we crossed into South Dakota, reaching Devil’s Gulch Park in Garretson. I achieved 4 states this week! I’m glad we aren’t required to have passports to traverse state borders.

The park wasn’t actually open, but they were kind enough to accommodate us and our bikes, even though staff were in the middle of trying to reconstruct the entry road that had been washed out by flooding. We enjoyed quite a spectacle in seeing the gulch at a time when flood water was raging through.IMG_3990e

The myth associated with this gulch is that in 1876 outlaw Jesse James spurred his horse to leap across the 20-foot gorge, escaping a posse that was after him. I’m in the camp of those who consider this myth to be a tall tale used to enhance the allure of the park. It’s really not necessary when the water is high. There was some powerful water energy raging through that ravine while we were there, making our visit well worth the diversion.

Our lunch stop in Jasper was at a park. Most everywhere we paused for a snack or meal we found ourselves forced to navigate standing water around pavilions. This park offered the added adventure of trying to use picnic tables that were engulfed in the branches of a fallen tree. It seemed so darn appropriate for the type of week we were having that people simply carried on as if it was a normal everyday thing.

IMG_4018eWhen we arrived at Pipestone and showered, I was feeling pretty lousy with my sore throat and developing cold symptoms. I passed up a chance to go see Blue Mounds State Park and took a nap in my tent, instead.

When I awoke, I discovered that my tent neighbor, first-year rider, Doobie, had landscaped his front yard and assembled a welcome mat. Priceless.

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If there is any truth to the familiar advice to “feed a cold and starve a fever,” I was a champion of feeding my cold this night. After a complete meal with ice cream for dessert, I accepted an offer to walk to another restaurant for pie. Luckily, Julie shared bites of hers, because there was no way I could eat a piece by myself. I was stuffed.

Even though we didn’t ride in rain this day, that doesn’t mean it didn’t rain. My journal entry for Tuesday closes with: “Lightning show with thunder and rain while I was writing this in tent before sleeping.”

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2014 at 6:00 am