On Friday I rode my bike 97.4 miles to a friend's cabin a couple of miles outside of Siren, Wisconsin. I had been planning this trip all summer and in fact was thinking of taking it in early June. I wasn't ready and spent the last couple of months training by going on rides ranging from 30 to 70 miles. The training definitely helped as I had plenty of energy as I finished the ride. My ass was (is) sore from sitting on a bike for 9 hours, but I definitely had enough gas to go even further. Here are some other thoughts as I spent nearly 11 hours going from Minneapolis to Siren on a bike:
There is a huge shift in the neighborhoods around the state capitol. One moment one is riding by mansions of former railroad, lumber, and milling barons and then next riding by tired old single family homes, public housing barrack-style housing, and rough looking bars. All in less than 10 minutes on a bike.
The ride took about 45 minutes longer than I had conservatively hoped. There were a couple of reasons for this: 1) My calves started cramping early in the trip. In fact after only 12 miles or so. I did lots of stretching but was never able to fully shake the cramps. I will need to talk to a doctor about how I can overcome this issue. 2) I was going against a steady head wind the whole trip. Look at the map above, it is primarily a north-east route and the wind was coming out of the north the whole day. 3) The Gandy Dancer Trail which I took from St. Croix Falls to Siren was crushed limestone, which I knew, and it slowed me down more than I thought. Also it was primarily uphill for 24 of the 32 miles on the trail.
Of the 97 miles. I would say less than 30 was not on a designated trail and a lot of that was on back country roads with wide shoulders so I felt pretty safe as far as car-bike relations went. The Gateway Trail from St. Paul to north of Stillwater is a very nice trail and quite interesting as one moves from inner city to suburban sprawl, to exurban development, to farmland. The Gandy Dancer Trail in Wisconsin is mostly through farmland and woods and is adequately maintained and quite empty. I saw no other bikers on the Gandy Dancer. Since it was Wisconsin, every time the trail entered a town, there were helpful signs letting me know where to find the local tavern.
When one is on a back country road and with no one else in sight with an I-Pod blaring in one's ears, it is natural to start singing out loud like one does alone in their car. If the woman who was getting her mail south of Scandia is reading this, I was singing the Talking Heads Building on Fire as I rode by, just in case you were wondering.
For the second year in a row I was able to accomplish a goal I set out early in the year for my bike. Which means I need a new and tougher goal for next year. Right now I am thinking of a bike trip to Duluth or Two Harbors, maybe with an overnight stay. I am open for suggestions however.