When my friend first suggested bicycling nearly 100 miles to camp at a lake in southeast Minnesota, I laughed her off. At that point I was stuck in the mindset that my bike was for commuting-–it got me to and from work, to the grocery store, and to happy hour beers with friends. Plus, I had serious doubts about my 25-year-old Schwinn’s ability to survive a long trip! It makes some squeaking and creaking sounds even when commuting the 8 miles to my office.
But she was persistent and soon enough had recruited a small crew of people willing to train together and plan a trip. Within our group of five, our bicycling expertise varied from “I BIKE ALL THE TIME; HYDRATE OR DIE” experts to “sometimes I dust off my bike” novices. To prepare, we began bicycling together two months before the trip. Our training rides fluctuated between 20 miles and 100 miles.
Finally the day arrived and we set out early in the morning on August 5. The plan was to bike from Saint Paul to Northfield, break for lunch, and then bike to a campsite near Lake Madison. We were able to send most of our camping gear with a group of other friends that decided to drive to Lake Madison and meet us there.
All in all, the route was supposed to be 85 miles and mostly on trails. We even had a Burley Travoy trailer with us filled with snacks, water, and basic repair tools!
We arrived in Northfield (about 40 miles south of Saint Paul) with no major incidents and had a delicious lunch at Hogan brothers. Our car-bound folks joined us for food, refilled our water bottles, and sent us off with cheers! (side note: big thanks to the folks at Hogan Brothers Acoustic Cafe –turns out I left my wallet and phone there, but they kept them safe until I could pick them up on Sunday!)
After lunch we had our first bit of rough going. About two miles outside of Northfield, we had three flats and a lost trail. Eventually we made it to Faribault and had to enlist the folks at the Chamber of Commerce to help us locate the next trailhead.
The last bit of the ride took longer than we expected and the trail was rough, but we were all in good spirits and stopped a few times to enjoy the view of rolling corn fields and prairie.
Finally we arrived at camp –and, of course, immediately jumped into the lake! The trip took us just under 9 hours and we’d traveled 90-plus miles.
The rest of the weekend was spent running, swimming, hiking, and reflecting on the bike journey –and planning for our next trip. Through this trip, I reconnected with what makes bicycling great in my mind –the flexibility, the freedom, and the social aspects of riding with friends down country roads (and, yes, singing some John Denver as we pedaled). I learned great routes in and out of Minneapolis during training rides and am excited to continue exploring the area surrounding the Twin Cities.
See you on the road!