So, for the past month plus, I’ve been absent from this space. That absence has prompted a few of my friends to ask, “What happened to your Star Tribune blog?! Is that still a thing?” It is, but it’s just that my life got very busy. For starters, I got married in mid July. For seconders, this being a Minnesota summer, every moment’s been ultra packed, with shamefully little time to sit down and write like a writer should. But I’ve been doing a lot of bicycling! So here’s what I’ve been up to.
In early August, I went bike camping for the very first time, with my wife Nola and our friends Peter and Josey. A few Saturdays ago, we rode from Minneapolis to the Lake Cleary campgrounds in Prior Lake.
A journey of that length, 32 miles or so, would ordinarily be a good adventure, a few hours of nice bicycling, but nothing insane. What distinguished these miles was our haul: bike trailers full of camping gear (e.g., beer, wine and steaks, plus tents and sleeping bags, etc.). We all know that camping’s already fun. You sit in the middle of the woods, roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories around a fire, swimming in a lake. Now add the knowledge that everything around you, from the tent to your body to that super-cold 24-pack of PBR, arrived here on a bike. What a feeling of accomplishment!
It was certainly difficult. In fact, I’d say pulling everything from Minneapolis, and then back to Minneapolis, especially on the last, 10-mile incline to our campgrounds, was tougher than all 150 flat miles of the MS 150. But it was so worth it, and so fun. And Nola and I were so proud of ourselves when we got home that Sunday night.
Last Friday, I participated in the Powderhorn 24, a 24-hour endurance ride, organized by local Minneapolis–St. Paul cyclists just like you (maybe), that’s designed to celebrate the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Participants ride a 5-mile circuit of Powderhorn over and over and over, from 7 p.m. on a Friday night until 7 p.m. the following Saturday, interspersed with bonus activities that highlight local businesses and keep your mind engaged while the circuit turns you into a zombie. The finish-start line is at Freewheel Midtown Bike Center, and the course takes you deep into Powderhorn, from Peace Coffee’s headquarters to a random alleyway. It’s a grassroots event that’s assembled by highly passionate, obviously hard-working people, and it’s a helluva lot of fun.
For the third year in a row, I participated as a Solo Male. Last year, I rode 115 miles, which while hefty is less than many solo participants ride, including my aforementioned wife Nola, who placed fourth in the Solo Female division last year with 175 recorded miles. When you participate in the Powderhorn 24, you’re surrounded by people who are pushing themselves to ride in a way they never have before, to distances they’ve never reached. Many people pull off their first centuries on that five-mile circuit. They stay awake for more than a day and devote themselves (literally) to a life of bicycling. It’s an inspiring, impressive thing.
Because I was attending an afternoon wedding the next day, and wanted my dancing body fresh, I participated in only a few hours of this year’s Powderhorn, from 7 to 11:30 p.m., just to soak up the vibes and as an excuse to ride.
I rode from my job in downtown St. Paul and showed up to the start/finish at the very last minute, of course, then rode 8 laps (one very slowly, with everybody who’d signed up for the PH24; five with my friend Jamie, a mechanic at Freewheel; and two with Nola and my sister Emily). I felt energized this year. Returning to bike commuting, after long working a walk-distance job, has put me into awesome bicycling shape. My legs felt good. My mind was up for it. I feel in tune with my bike.
In total, including my ride to the start-finish, my laps during the ride, and a few Powderhorn-centric miles the next morning (I visited to cheer people on, pick up a backpack I’d left overnight, and chat it up with participants), I rode 75 miles, 40 of them especially for the PH. I’m counting all 75 as part of my Powderhorn experience to ease my guilt at not putting in more hours. Deal with it.
On Monday, MPR News launched a new spate of podcasts. Believe it or not, your long-absent writer is on one. It’s called Pedal Hub, and it’s all about the bicycling life of the Twin Cities. We give ourselves a topic or three, like whether you should wear a helmet when you ride, like why people bike on the sidewalk and why they shouldn’t, like how you should deal with B.O. in the workplace when you’ve pedaled in and can’t shower, and talk it out. We interrupt each other. We tell jokes. We already have a shared catchphrase (you’ll have to listen to find out what it is). I’m really, really excited about joining this podcast, and I think you’ll love it.
Listen at http://mprnews.org/topic/pedal-hub.