November 2011 Archives

Shallow end of Long Lake

Long lake Nov 2011 ride.jpgI went to bed last night knowing I'd take a ride early in the morning. I fell asleep thinking about the four ways out of town and which I would take. I haven't ridden west in quite a while because it is the most densely populated, so I figured it was time to head that way and take the loop around Long Lake.

The trip out included one short stretch of dirt road along the short north end of the lake. The road is the kind that curves up a steep hill so you can't see the crest until you are on the steepest part with about 50 feet to go. Last time out here I bucked off near the top and today was no different. It just keeps getting steeper, and the dirt road more rutted.

The dirt road empties out by the northwest corner of the lake into a perky planned neighborhood simulating an idealized small midwest town with 1930s and 40s architecture, but construction techniques, building materials and pre-recession square footage from the 2000s. I normally don't like going up there because, although there is a paved path along the lake, they don't allow bicycles on the path. Only walking. And dogs. It just doesn't seem like a friendly place. This time I kept to the roads with names like Liberty, Pioneer, Reunion and eventually reached a lake path outside of the planned zone where bikes were welcome.

Long lake profile Nov 2011.jpg

Coming back into town I tackled the hill on Pine Street. It is a steep downhill back into the St. Croix Valley that was challenging, but I used the "heel down" technique I noted in an earlier entry, and it was manageable.

I wish I had some new insight from this morning's ride, but I'm afraid I don't. It was just a nice ride on a cold morning through neighborhoods that I don't normally visit. Some rides are deeper than others. This one was more on the shallow end.

Blessed

shooting range.jpg
Glad I'm not this guy. I came across him on this morning's ride to Bayport. I noticed the target range across from the Stillwater State Penitentiary and just had to dismount and pose with the victim. Notice that most of the practice shots are targeting the stomach area. It is deer season so I dressed up in bright yellow to convince any hunters in the field that I wasn't a deer on a unicycle. Didn't want hunters practicing on me the way the jail guards practice on my friend here.

Further down the road at a local county park was a cyclo-cross race in progress. I've never seen this sport before in person, and It was pretty cool. The trail came down a steep hill, riders dismounted to hop over a plywood barrier, then splashed through a stream, slogged up a muddy bank, wove through some saplings, and dove back into the woods for more fun. A rider waiting for his race asked if that was my warm-up bike, which ranks as one of the most original unicycle comments I've heard yet. I half-seriously asked if there was a unicycle category because what I saw of the track was totally do-able, but sadly no. Looked like a lot of fun on two wheels. I think next weekend I'll go back and try it out when no one is around.

The ride today was all paved, but because it took me down into the river valley, there were lots of hills. At one point I was on a trail through a wetland described in the previous post and was bucked off descending a steep grade. It took me three tries, and from that experience I developed a new approach to managing those really steep downhill sections. I focus on keeping my heel down as I transfer the force of the wheel from foot to foot. That is, when the foot that is going through roughly 4 o'clock on the downward stroke picks up the force I make sure the foot is solidly catching that force by keeping my heel down below the axis of the pedal. I also tend to keep my leg straight and let the force push me up off my seat - using my weight to counteract the force of gravity, rather than trying to take all of the force in the leg muscles. This helps me slowly manage the steepest parts, and then I can revert to a more standard technique on the remainder of the hill.

The event ranking just about highest on the random meter today was on my way out of Stillwater when I came to a stop sign in a residential neighborhood. A white van had stopped at the corner and as I approached the window rolled down. Inside I could see a van full of nuns in white habits on their way to mass! Sister-behind-the-wheel put her hands together and shouted out the window, "we love you, that's so fun to see. I unicycle too!" What do you say to a young unicycling nun? We should go riding some time? Hmmm, maybe not. I waved and mumbled something lame about how fun it is and just pedaled past. Wow. Never expected that when I set off this morning.

After that encounter though I felt strangely invincible. Nothing puts a spring in your unicycle stride like being blessed by a van of nuns.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

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