A Swedish writer made a stop in Minneapolis, marking the quarter-way point of an epic bike ride: New York to Seattle and back.
Anders Forselius is a 43-year-old Swedish magazine writer who is about one-quarter of the way from New York City to New York City on his bike. Via Seattle.
He throws in a marathon every weekend or two, which is what brought him to the Mill City earlier this month.
Dateline caught up to Forselius at the charming Whittier cottage of Jenny Heiser and Dean Zimmermann. It was a fortuitous day -- the Swedish national holiday of Svenskarnas Dag and Zimmermann's 69th birthday.
Forselius was delaying the start of his usual ride of at least 75 miles each day on a Fuji hybrid which, loaded with panniers, weighs 94 pounds or so. He'd run the Minneapolis Marathon the day before, so he could be forgiven for slacking off for another mug of "Norwegian Geritol," as Zimmermann calls his coffee.
"This machine wants coffees and beer," Forselius said, referring to the human power behind his vehicle. "If I see a Starbucks, I have to turn off." Dateline was led to believe that the beer waits until the end of the day's ride.
This day's ride was also delayed for debating the merits of the best route across North Dakota. Zimmermann, a native of Carrington, Minn., was lobbying for Forselius to follow Hwy. 46 and stay with several of his Nodak kin.
"For sure, I want to see Fargo because of the movie," Forselius said. We didn't have the heart to disabuse him of the notion that Fargo in the summer has any of its winter-chilled charm.
His view of Minnesota had been shaped both by a visit on a previous cross-county trip and by the movies. One of his favorites is "Grumpy Old Men." That led him to route his trip out of Madison, Wis., where he'd run a marathon the weekend before Minneapolis, through Winona. He fell into his usual bad company of beer and bikers there after chatting up a woman whom he ran across gardening in her yard and inquiring after the whereabouts of the bar in the movie.
"She said, 'If you want to meet grumpy old men, you should meet some of my friends,'" whereupon she hauled him off to a bar where a bike club gathers weekly. "I was a little disappointed because they weren't grumpy enough," Forselius said puckishly.
Lest you get the idea that Forselius sports the physique of a beer barrel, he's a slim 6 feet by 174 pounds. Since landing on these shores, he's done marathons in Boston, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Madison and Minneapolis and expects to run his total to at least 11 and maybe 13 before winding up in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.
Although the cross-training between running and biking is not perfect, he's been running respectable times around three hours and 30 minutes, with a personal best of 3:05. If he gets the chance to train more seriously near the end of his ride, he hopes to break three hours. Marathons take only a temporary toll.
"You're a little tired when you start to ride the bicycle again. It takes me about three days to recover. I'm so used to doing this, so this is almost like going out with the dogs ... the worst thing is when I have a weekend without a marathon."
Foreselius wound up staying with Heiser and Zimmermann thanks to a Web organization they signed up for last fall: www.warmshowers.org. It links bikers traveling long distances with people willing to throw open their homes to them. Forselius is the second overnight company the couple has entertained.
The resourceful Forselius has other ways of cadging stays. He often looks up local fire departments and even knows when they typically sit down for dinner. They'll sometimes call ahead to their brethren in other towns along his route to set up another night's stay. He's also stayed at Salvation Army shelters.
"I never feel that I miss my home in Sweden," he said. "I have a new family every night."
That helps him to travel economically. "I could easily do it for under $10 a day" -- if he skipped the coffee. Even with leaded mud and apple fritters, he rarely spends $20 in a day. "If I buy anything, I penalize myself because I have to carry it," he said.
There's a serious side to his travels. On a previous cross country bike ride, he stayed at a hostel in Santa Cruz, Calif. There he met a woman who lost a son to cancer when he was 12 years old and who expressed a wish to have his ashes scattered all over the world.
Since then, Forselius has carried a vial of ashes. His website -- www.bikingviking.se -- includes photos of friends that he has met in his travels helping him to fulfill that wish. Among the places they have done so is Oriole Park in Baltimore.
He's also working on a book in the voice of the dead boy he calls "Travels with Alex Blackburn." It's about their journeys together. He's also encouraging people to pledge to his New York City Marathon, selling each foot of his race for $1. More information is available through his website.
Although he eschews Swedish winters for Brazil, Forselius professes a fondness for Minnesota and Wisconsin during good biking weather. "I thought it would be too boring, like coming back to Sweden ... but people are so nice here.
"I'll be back in Minneapolis for sure."
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438