A First Day That Was Almost Too Easy - A Most Unusual Bike Trip (By Normal Touring Standards) - CycleBlaze

August 14, 2005

A First Day That Was Almost Too Easy

Forestville State Park

Heart 0 Comment 0

My wife, The Feeshko, is awesome and so is my daughter, Kaylo.  First they drove me the 70 miles from our home to my starting point in Rochester, MN.  Then they patiently waited while I excitedly strapped my sleeping pad and tent to my bike rack and shouldered my backpack.[1]  Then they took a commemorative picture of me just before I pedaled off into the wonderful world of adventure. 

The Feeshko was even kind enough not to tell me how dorky I looked in that helmet.
Heart 2 Comment 0

I had barely rolled out of the liquor store parking lot before I had to make an emergency U-turn.  In my excitement to get on the road, I totally forgot to give goodbye hugs to The Feeshko and Kaylo.  I don't know for sure, but it's possible I was so focused on my bike trip that I rode right past their outstretched arms.

After I redeemed myself in the eyes of my family, I pedaled south on U.S. Highway 63.  The first 16 miles were characterized by cool temperatures and a slight breeze at my back.  There was a lot of traffic, but also a huge shoulder.

I exited the busy highway at the little town of Racine.  Its highlight was the tiniest bank building I have ever seen.  I've seen refrigerator boxes bigger than that thing. [2]

A short distance beyond Racine and its tiny bank, my route unexpectedly turned to three miles of hilly gravel.  Along the way, I made eye contact with a couple of horses.  This became my first discovery about bike travel:  getting to know the cows, the horses, the crows and the mourning doves made them seem more like real animals.  From a car they are more like roadside decorations.  The landscape is more real as well.  Hills are hillier when you have to pedal up them.

I had lunch, which consisted of water and a Snicker's Bar, at the Spring Valley City Park.   The park was well-shaded but I sat in an open area in order to watch a bald eagle soaring overhead.  I recalled the first time I ever saw one of those fine birds in the wild.  Bald eagles were considered an endangered species at the time.   I was about thirty years old.   These days they're very common and my kids have been lucky enough to have seen hundreds of them before they were half that age.

My eagle-viewing, Snickers-eating spot in the sun.
Heart 0 Comment 0

I also observed a minor dispute over who had the rights to use the park's picnic shelter.  A group of elderly folks were already occupying it when another group arrived in a Baptist Church van.  Words were exchanged and there was a lot of pointing,  gesturing and head shaking.  A police officer soon arrived to mediate.  In the end, the Baptists won because they had an official permit for that specific place and time.   A permit supersedes the first-come-first-serve rule every time.  Plus the Baptists probably had God on their side. 

I kind of felt sorry for the senior citizens as they unhappily packed up their stuff and moved to a group of picnic tables with no roof overhead.  I mean, how can anybody be expected to enjoy lunch in such conditions?

I reluctantly decided it was also time for ME to get moving before the cop came over to see what I was up to.  I was guilty of nothing, of course, but you never know about cops.  I probably looked like a no-good hippy drifter with no car, and in his view, a no-good hippy drifter with no car can only mean trouble.

----------------------------

I continued south to within twelve miles of the Iowa border, then turned east on County Rd. 12.  The air was heating up and the breeze had disappeared.  At first the view mostly consisted of vast bright green fields of corn and soybeans.  Normally I wouldn't give such a landscape a second look, but from my bike it was quite pretty-- picture worthy even.

If this wasn't a picture of a picture, it would better display the nice contrast between the bright green soybean field and the bright white storage tanks in the distance.
Heart 1 Comment 0
A tiny cemetery out in the middle of nowhere. Cool!
Heart 1 Comment 0

I passed a flock of geese that had taken over a pond that was clearly intended as a watering hole for cows.   I did my best goose honk but got no response.  Further up the road, I had a stare down with several cows, and later, a horse.  I mooed and neighed at them respectively, but neither the cows nor the horse were in a talkative mood.  Perhaps it was my human accent that made them suspicious of me.  To them, I was a foreigner.  And a foreigner who is also a doofus pedaling a two-wheeled machine with a big green bag attached to his back was probably just too much to handle.  I would ignore me too. [3]

Shortly after those animal encounters I began descending into the valley formed by Forestville Creek and the South Branch of the Root River. In that nice setting of forested hills lies my destination for today.

Forestville State Park
Heart 0 Comment 0
My state park campsite. I was happy that most of the weekend campers were gone so I got a pretty good one.
Heart 2 Comment 0

After quickly setting up my tent, I rested for a few minutes.  I had a weird feeling.  I was thinking I rode this leg of the journey too quickly and too easily.  I expected to be worn out, but I wasn't.  To prove it, I biked back uphill about a mile to a private campground to buy a bag of ice and hauled it back to my campsite.

I put some ice cubes in my cup and made a nice whiskey & water cocktail.  I put the rest of the ice on top of the groceries I purchased in Spring Valley for tonight's dinner.  I'm writing in my notebook while blissfully sipping the whiskey.[4]  It has been a beautiful day and I feel great.

Lest I get too cocky, however, I DO realize that the next three days might not be so easy.  As I get into the bluff country ahead, the roads will not be as level as they were on today's route.  And I probably won't have a tailwind.  And it's going to be hotter and more humid.  But that's something to worry about tomorrow.  Tonight I will celebrate,  I will keep writing about my day, I will cook up a crude batch of chili, and I will sleep in the great outdoors.

---------------------------------------

FOOTNOTES

[1]  It's very appropriate that I brought up the gear topic in the first paragraph.  I think my gear and how I carried it was the main rationale behind the title of this journal.  It certainly is most unusual by bicycle touring standards.  So let's get that part out of the way.

In the introduction I already wrote about the knobby-tired mountain bike, the one set of clothing, the pen and notebook, and the old-school camera.  In addition, I carried some sensible items such as rain gear and a good sleeping bag.  Stove and fuel.  A spoon, a cup, a pan, a lighter, a small percolator.  A headlamp.  Emergency food, water, snacks and whiskey.  A fleece pullover and one extra t-shirt.  A 30-year old transistor radio.  Maybe a few other things I can't recall at this time.

Here is where things really start getting weird.  I had no electronics and no bike repair tools.  I had no bottle cages.  My backpacking instinct told me I could just carry a couple of one-quart Nalgene water bottles.  I stuffed a folded up page of the Delorme map of Minnesota in the rear pocket of my shorts.  Every time I needed help with navigation, I would pull it out of my pocket, unfold it, figure out where to go next, fold it back up and return it to my pocket.  That ritual was conducted countless times per day.  COOL!

I bought a brand new pannier rack a few days before this trip, but I didn't buy panniers.  I didn't need panniers, I figured, because I had a medium sized backpack which could carry most of my gear aside from the tent and closed-cell foam pad.  And I wore that pack while riding.  WHO THE HECK DOES THAT?

Oh yes, the tent.  It's my most reliable piece of equipment.  It has never failed me in a decade of backpacking adventures in all kinds of weather.  I still use it to this day despite the fact that it's much heavier than the ultra-light tents most cycle tourists use.  As far as I'm concerned, it is worth every ounce of its 7.5 lb. total.

Thanks for reading the longest gear list I've ever written AND the longest footnote ever written by anybody. 

-

[2]  The refrigerator box comparison was obviously an exaggeration, but it truly was the smallest bank I had ever seen.  In retrospect, I cannot believe I didn't take a picture of such an oddity.

-

[3]  Attempts to communicate with farm animals have become a tradition.  They remain a well-documented part of ALL my bike tours.

-

[4]  No doubt, that's why this page is so wordy.

Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 36 miles (58 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Keith KleinHi,
I moi at cows and bark at dogs, too. Did you know that French dogs say « ouaf »? Cows say « meu ». My wife thinks I’m weird.
Cheers,
Keith
Reply to this comment
7 months ago
Keith KleinTo Keith KleinHi again. Maybe spell check is not such a good thing. I meant « moo «  not moi. There’s some bad puns in there somewhere.
Cheers,
Keith
Reply to this comment
7 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Keith KleinYour wife's "weirdness detector" might just be as well-tuned as my wife's.
Reply to this comment
7 months ago