Trees!

We have arrived in Northfield for a day off. My tent is dry, my laundry is in the machine.

It was a beautiful day – warm, sunny, breezy. I saw trees – not just tree or a windbreak, but actual woods!

Even the air smells and tastes richer here.

We saw the famous 2-story outhouse. I couldn’t figure out how you get in the upper door, and I wondered why there is a power line to it.

I also passed a sign for a “Man Sale”. I couldn’t figure out what that was. Later I saw a sign for a “Man Sail” and it appeared to be a garage sale of stereotypically male stuff. I also got a picture of our fearless leader hard at work.

The most remarkable thing about this group of people is how unremarkable we are. Sure, we have our eight time iron (wo)man and a former competitive arm wrestler (who retired when she broke her arm in competition) and the guy who has ridden cross-country seven times now (five of them self-contained), but if a bunch of us walked into a café you wouldn’t think anything of it if we weren’t wearing these weird biking clothes. If a bunch of NFL players walk into a café, you know it. We are a bunch of unremarkable people doing a remarkable thing.

Stuff

A while back I wrote about what to bring for a trip like this. Today I’ll talk about how that has worked out so far.

My duffle bag is infamous for its density. It contains tools and parts I hope not to need. The other night a rider needed a 16Nm (Newton meter) torque wrench. The one the mechanics have only reads to 6Nm. I had one.

I had my first “patient” (besides myself) needing Kinesio-tape. She saw the tape on my hamstring tendon insertion (which lasted a week, peeled off, and the tendon is now fine, thank you very much for asking).

I taped her Achilles‘ tendons and she told me that she rode pain-free for the first time after that.

I bought a new tent for the trip. My old one was pretty ratty. The new one has side entrances instead of at the end. They are on both sides and both have vestibules. I can store gear in one and use the other as an entrance.

It is a two-person tent so, when it is raining, I can keep all my gear inside with me. In addition to the usual gear pockets in the corners, there is a really handy net pocket in the ceiling, above my head, where I can safely store my glasses.

I bought a new sleeping pad. My old self-inflating pads are fine for a short trip but I would not want to use them for a bed for two months. This one is self-inflating and 2.5 inches thick. It is great, though would be heavy for backpacking.

I have a great fall/winter/spring sleeping bag but it is way too warm for summer. I have car camping bags (heavy, flannel-lined). I bought a new lightweight summer down bag. An unexpected bonus is that the zipper pull glows in the dark. I never realized that would be useful.

I thought about bringing only a flannel sheet and a fleece throw instead of a sleeeping bag. That still might have been a good idea.

I’m not mentioning brand names, lest you think this is a commercial site and someone is paying for my praise. If you want to know more, ask in the comments.

Some parachute cord and a few clothespins have come in really handy. While I usually wash my bike clothes in the shower with me, my collapsible kitchen sink has been handy when that was not possible (and to soak my feet).

I brought a mid-sized saddle bag; bigger than the one I usually carry that fits only a tube, patch kit, tire levers, and ID. It can’t hold rainwear or extra layers, but the straps that came with the sleeping pad  enable me to lash that stuff under it. So far it has been big enough.

Inside, it holds tire changing stuff (including patch kit, two tubes, two CO2 cartridges, and an inflator), sunscreen, Cytomax – not any more – I drank it -money, ID, and (currently) an emergency shot of espresso that I saw in a convenience store a few towns back. (Not any more – I drank I it in an emergency)

An item that goes unnoticed is a water bottle and cage. Having a combination that works makes life much easier. I can reach down, get the bottle, drink, and put it back without looking or changing cadence. That’s a bigger deal than it seems and, if your bottle and cage don’t work well together, can be a repeated pain in the *ss.

Stuff wears out and gets used up

Stuff I’ve needed to replace:
– tires (2)
– tubes (about 5)
– chain (new one going on tomorrow)
– shorts (they touch my under-saddle bag with each pedal stroke – repeat that enough times and they wear through)
– Dr Bronner’s soap (16 oz bottle almost empty – used as soap, shampoo, laundry soap), sunscreen (on my second tube), toothpaste, dental floss
– Cytomax (4.5 lb can of powdered drink mix gone)
– Hammer Gel (16 oz bottle of concentrated electrolyte/carbohydrate)
– chain lube (almost gone)

Across the Mississippi!

After a day off Sunday we will cross the Mississippi River into Wisconsin on Monday.

We have ridden >2500 miles. Five people are leaving after this week and 14 more are coming on. (I guess Wisconsin is popular.)

We’ll end the week with a ferry across Lake Michigan.

Six Days on the Road/Reprieve!

 

OK, I’ll admit it’s six days this week, a lot more than that total; but I will see my wife and daughter tonight and I haven’t used any trucker songs yet – a natural for all this time on the road.

This is my favorite version of this song, in part because, while trucking songs are mostly written, by, for, and about white men, this version is sung by an African American man (Taj Mahal) with a Native American guitarist (Jesse Ed Davis). It’s also really good.

We roll into Northfield, MN today, with Indian food for dinner tonight, a good local coffee shop in the morning, and a rest day.

In Hutchinson (Friday), we have access to a wireless network, so I can post. There are also some pre-written posts that are already uploaded, so they will go online as scheduled even if I have no further access – they may lack an update about the ride.

I also just learned that I may have access to a hotspot via another rider who has an unlimited Verizon data plan. So we may continue to be half-fast!

We were awakened Thursday night at 11:35 PM by a fire alarm in the school where we were staying. Police, custodial staff, and two fire trucks responded. A false alarm, so we got back to sleep.

Radar looked much more promising than yesterday, though we learned yesterday that looks can be deceiving. We rode under cloudy skies but only had a few minutes of mist/drizzle.

Wind was mostly from the north. It started from the northwest and was helpful. It moved north to become a crosswind and started to trend more easterly at the end of the day. Riding north was tough. East (most of the day) was great in the morning, getting worse as the day went on.

Minnesota looks totally different than the west. Lots of marshes and wetlands. Sugar beet fields completely under water. Corn standing in water looking small and yellow and I don’t think it is because they “planted the little and yeller kind.” The soybeans are the only thing doing relatively well.

California is full of irrigation ditches to bring water to the crops. Minnesota is full of drainage ditches to try to drain the water away from the crops.

We ate lunch in the “Corn capital of Minnesota”. They may have to relinquish their crown. The third picture is just because I can understand selling “chain, rope, and cable”, but I have no clue how you sell “nostalgic”.

Geek’s corner:
(Thanks Vicki! Shift/enter worked)
I normally ride 700x23c tires at 115 PSI. For this trip I changed to 700x25c and was running 105 PSI at home as a trial. I dropped to 90 PSI due to bad pavement out west and today, for the expansion cracks, I dropped further to 85 PSI. Did it help? I’d probably have to ride the same stretch of road with different parameters to know for sure. The bad pavement today came, for the most part, earlier than it did yesterday; so it’s hard to know if I feel less beat up from the lower pressure, because the cracks weren’t ditches, or because they came 40 miles earlier.

 

Rain?/On hiatus!!

Editor’s Note: The program is freezing and won’t let me add anything at the end. If the post seems to end abruptly, blame the software. It won’t let me insert the last photos at the end, so I’ll try at the beginning. This is the sky as we arrived at camp for Thursday night.

I just found out I have used up my family’s data allotment, even after doubling it. I expected wireless internet access much more often than I actually have it. This will be the last post until I have wireless, which I hope will be this weekend at St Olaf. After that, who knows?

I slept inside Wednesday night due to forecast for thunderstorms pretty much all night and all day today. I figured I’d at least start the day dry.

At the meeting, Greg asked who already knew they wouldn’t be riding. We were supposed to be facing thunderstorms and headwinds all day. Radar showed a low pressure area spinning over the road we’d be riding on.

We left Watertown with the sun shining, riding east into the gathering gloom. Some riders sagged right from the beginning, to avoid riding in the rain. Others left early, presumably to get it over with. I, on the other hand, lingered over coffee and donuts and was one of the last to hit the road.

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A few miles down the road I came to this billboard, which reminded me of the following Merle Haggard song. You can hear it with hipster irony if you choose to. It was certainly not Haggard’s intention when he wrote it at the height of the Viet Nam war. I’m not sure what he thought about the song 30 years later.9FF45D80-9FB5-435C-BDBE-E2655C417D23

The rain always seemed to be out there. Cars coming toward us had headlights on, but not wipers. And they were dry.

The wind shifted and became a tailwind. I flew down the road at 25 mph with minimal effort. I still wasn’t catching anybody. I guess they were all going that fast.

We crossed the border into Minnesota and it was getting hot in my rain jacket and shoe covers. I had already taken off the warm gloves and was just using them as padding under my hands. I jettisoned the rain clothes at the lunch stop.

I finally saw a few others at lunch. At mile 58 we ran into a section with major expansion cracks. They looked and felt like drainage ditches running across the road. I slowed and rose out of the saddle for them. Then I started bunny-hopping the bigger ones. My knees and wheels were taking a beating.

After 10 miles, smooth pavement returned. The sky remained dark in the distance, but the sun actually came out for the last 5-10 miles, when we turned south into a wind that had shifted again and was now coming from the south.

I think the wind came from every direction at some point in the day. It is amazing how much my attitude is shaped by the weather. A few days ago, pushing into a headwind, I wanted to go home. My thoughts were all I had and they were not profound. Today, breezing along, I was ready to do two days in one. I was having so much fun I thought I could go 150 miles.

77A50DC1-F5E1-49DD-A014-10379B6ADC61We arrived in the town of Montevideo and I think I found the first French Mexican restaurant – at least that’s what the sign looks like.

The town is the Sister City of Montevideo in Uruguay and has a plaza dedicated to Jose Artigas, an Uruguayan hero.54815928-1B6E-484A-9AC0-A58419BF1E97

We completed 82 miles by about noon so stopped at a cafe in town for espresso, then stopped again for a root beer float. 3F0742F6-8DE1-4A41-ADB4-ACA0773468FD

As we approached the school where we are staying, the sky became ominous once again. I brought my tent out and it began to rain. I decided to cover my bike first. By then the rain was coming down hard enough to convince me to forego the tent and set up in the gym again. Rain continues to dominate the forecast tonight and tomorrow. Vamos a ver.

El triunfo

July 19, 1979 marked the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution over the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua. I have to mark this day with “Hijos del Maíz”, by Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy y Grupo Mancotol.

For those who speak no Spanish, the song says that the Nicaraguan people are children of corn, and describes the many influences and uses of corn in their culture.

While in Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to hear his brother Carlos sing. He was described to me as “the Nicaraguan Bob Dylan”. That Dylan lacks a brother like Luis Enrique weakens the comparison for me.

I also have to mention one of my personal heroes. Ernesto Cardenal was born January 20, 1925, exactly 28 years before I was born. There is a 28 year cycle in many calendars, so this might mean something. It might just mean I’m full of myself to think I can compare myself to him in any way. Cardenal is a poet, a priest (who once studied with Father Thomas Merton in Gesthemany, KY), the former Minister of Culture of Nicaragua, and the founder of a communal artistic community on the island of Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua.

He is known mostly for long narrative poems and his poem “Zero Hour” (“Hora Cero”), about US imperialism in Nicaragua and the murder of Sandino, is one of my favorites. I had the pleasure of hearing him read from “Cántico Cósmico”, an epic poem of the history of the universe, beginning with the big bang. Yes, you can be Roman Catholic and recognize the big bang theory and a universe billions of years old.

He also wrote simple and short poems, so I offer this:

        Ésta será mi venganza: /Que un día llegue a tus manos el libro de un poeta famoso/ y leas estas líneas que el autor escribió para ti/ y tú no los sepas.

My own translation:

This will be my revenge:/ That one day a book by a famous poet will come into your hands/and you will read these lines the author wrote for you/and you won’t know them.

(I can’t seem to get line breaks to appear without extra spacing, thus the slashes for line breaks.) Somewhat the reverse of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”.

We are two days from Northfield,  where my daughter spent the last four years at St Olaf College, a running Ole and Lena (or Sven and Ole) joke.

Today’s Ride

We slept in today because it was a short ride. We were headed north-northeast, with a wind from the southeast. During northerly stretches it felt like a tailwind and during easterly stretches it felt like a headwind. We mostly rode north so it was an easy 61 miles. The sun was filtered and it stayed cool. The forecast is for thunderstorms tonight so we were eager to beat the weather into Watertown.

Riding out of town we passed the Wilder homestead where I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was also a writer and the oldest war correspondent in Viet Nam.

We stopped in Hayti for gumbo, so of course I thought of Hank Williams.

 

Leaving Hayti we rode along a lake, a great change from the endless miles of prairie. There were even trees! Especially welcome was the fact that we rode much of the day on state and county roads, not US highways. In my hierarchy of roads,  town roads are first, then county, then state, then US. We’ve been riding mostly on US highways.

Overheard at the rest stop (from a concept by The Cheeky Cyclist):

”It’s not a pull when  you’re trying to drop everybody.”

I needed to buy a few things and Google Maps told me there was a bike shop in town, so I checked it out:

The owner was surprised to see us. He told us the bike shop in town had closed and he knew the town needed a bike shop, so he opened this place a month ago. He specializes in restoring and re-selling bikes from the 1950s and ‘60s. He didn’t have what I needed but we had a great visit. He is trying to get a contract with Trek to sell their bikes. He currently sells no new bikes. About the only new stuff I saw was a small collection of water bottles. The shop is called simply “The Bike Shop”.

South Dakota has a program to raise awareness of highway deaths. They mark the spot of deaths like this:06376029-39D1-44F7-9209-C4A57FA089CDSome of the signs, instead of saying “THINK!”, say “WHY DIE?”. On a climb in the Black Hills I saw six of these signs at one curve, in groups of three, two, and one.

We are now in the Watertown Middle School. Another in a series of inspirational school posters:

Tomorrow we cross the state line into Minnesota, one more notch in our belt as we leave South Dakota behind. The forecast is for rain all day all along our route, with a stiff headwind. Oh, joy.