I arrived home last night, circa 10 p.m., still caffeinated on a cappuccino I’d chugged at a writer’s group that evening. “Let’s go for a bike ride!” I suggested to my sister Emily, who’s lived with us throughout August as she transitions to a new apartment in St. Paul.
Emily agreed, and we set off on our bicycles — into the dark, into the night, with my superpowered headlight illuminating the streets and paths and little path mice (I found one! I scared one.) before us. Sitting in my bottle cage was my brand-new but already beat-up Boom, a Bluetooth speaker that makes every bike ride into a dance party™. I hit play and we pedaled onward. Bright headlights, music, bikes — the full experience!
When Em and I left home, our destination was vaguey. I knew only that I had TONS of energy and needed to ride. The Cedar Lake Trail, Minneapolis’ bicycling superhighway, is a quick pedal from my place, and without much discussion, we headed straight there, bound for St. Louis Park.
The trail was awesomely empty and dark, and Emily and I rode past the old railroad yards right outside of downtown, then past Bryn Mawr along the CLT’s divided paths (one for joggers, two for cyclists). Each side is surrounded by huge bushes that whisp out into the trail and create an eerie-looking wall, in the dark at least, of bushes on both sides. My favorite CLT view is Cedar Lake itself, which is just gorgeous in the dark, especially with a summer night sky reflection.
We ended up in West End (West Ended up?), rolling around in the parking lot at Cub Foods and drinking water from jumbo-sized Jimmy John’s cups. Biking back home, again an empty, dark Cedar Lake Trail, again with the beat of my Boom powering us, I felt like I could bike forever. Or till midnight, at the very least.
THAT, to me, is summer: Saddling up on your bike and riding somewhere with no destination in mind — and ending up in a parking lot, chatting with your sister about nothing much.
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.
Have you ever wanted to bike, and bike, and bike some more, for 24 hours in a row? If so, join me at the Powderhorn 24, August 15 – 16, 2014. Sign-up is only $20, which includes admission and a kick[butt] T-shirt.
One of the cool things about PH24 is that, if you don’t feel like bicycling non-stop, you can bike for, say, 16 hours, and then hang out at the finish line for the remainder and cheer people on. Or, you can bike all night, brunch in the morning, and then go to sleep. It’s a freeform event, where how much you participate is up to you. Lots of superheroically amazing people ride the whole 24. Others just ride as much as they can. Basically, PH24 is a big summer party that’s centered around bikes.
Move quick. Online registration ends this Sunday at Powderhorn24.com.
Until early July, the project’s aim is to encourage women, moms and kids to ride, ride, ride their bikes, while giving away massive swag ($10,000 worth!) from companies like Twin Six, Lazer, Schwinn and Chrome. To lead the project, Pedal Minnesota has also chosen eight Bike Mom ambassadors who embody the Bike Mom lifestyle. The project’s ambassadors have blogged and tweeted about their experiences bicycling, from Mother’s Day onward. They’ve also tested out bicycling gear with their families and reviewed them for Pedal Minnesota’s website. Cool deal.
One such Bike Mom ambassador is Tracy Morrison, “a mom, a marathon runner, and a lover of dark chocolate,” who lives in St. Paul with her husband, three daughters (Eloise, Esther and Astrid), and their cat. On her blog, Sellabit Mum, Tracy describes herself as “neither British nor a nun … Just a Midwesterner with a headache.” Earlier this month, I asked Tracy a few questions about her Bike Mom life.
1. How did you get involved in Pedal MN's Bike Mom project?
I was contacted by them directly asking if I'd be interested. I'm a local blogger and write about family, fitness, local happenings, and other lifestyle topics.
2. What are your responsibilities as an ambassador?
I work with Pedal MN to share information from their website — from programs, posts, product reviews, and local activities. I also give feedback to them on certain products that I'm asked to try with my family that is related to biking.
3. How did you first get involved in the bicycling lifestyle?
I've always enjoyed recreational biking — and as a child of the ‘70s — it was our main mode of transportation as a kid. After taking several years off of biking while living in LA and traveling extensively for my job, I moved to Amsterdam and rekindled my love of biking as a main form of transportation.
4. How do your kids participate in your bicycling lifestyle?
My older kids now can head out on their own on their bikes and enjoy rides with their friends. It's their favorite way to hang out and get places near our home. We love family bike rides and are so lucky to live in an area with great bike routes both by path and dedicated bike lanes on our local roads.
5. What do you most love about bikes, and getting around by bike?
I love that it's just so easy to hop on our bikes and go just about anywhere. It's a great way to explore our communities, to get to know others, to enjoy fresh air, to get some exercise, and a way to enjoy time as a family.
6. Are you guys car-free?
Unfortunately, there's currently no way to live without our minivan. With three busy kids — we share in a lot of carpool duties with school and activities, and also we cannot forget winter and ice. But now that it's summer — we bike a lot more and would rather keep the minivan in the garage.
Thanks, Tracy! As Bike Mom wraps up, check out the goings-on at Pedal Minnesota. The Grand Prize Winner of the Bike Mom “Mother of All Bike Gear Giveaways,” with gear from 10 different companies, will be chosen on July 7.
This past weekend, my friend Zachariah Schaap planned a bachelor party for me (hashtag #pachelor, if you want to see the pictures). We ran from zombies at The Walking Dead Escape, stayed out dancing and grooving till 3 a.m., and walked all over downtown Minneapolis. The best part, though, as you might guess from the title of this blog, was that we bicycled the afternoon away.
At 1 p.m., I met up with Zach and my friend Matt at Target Field, in the midst of Twins traffic, and we rode from the North Loop to Minnehaha Falls to home, on a wandering route with a few detours, in no rush — soundtracked by a playlist that Zach had arranged for maximum meaningfulness.
Our first detour was the mudslide spot on West River Parkway, where 6 to 8 feet of mud beneath the University of Minnesota Medical Center had cascaded and sent 100 yards’ worth of trees and brush into the Mississippi River, closing the Parkway and “narrowly” missing two cars. We got as close as we could and examined the slide. I wasn’t, to be honest, that impressed by the sight, and took no photos. C’mon, hospital mud, make for better Instagrams.
Our second detour was a spot on the river bottoms, where we threw stones into the water and admired each other’s throwing form.
Our third detour was the Mississippi River overlook at the end of Summit Avenue, in St. Paul. Zach, Matt and I are all experienced cyclists, but none of us had brought water, or even a bottle for our cages. How’s that for failed expertise? So with our mouths already dry, we drank up as much from the water fountain as we could handle(bar), then pedaled onward.
Next, I led the guys from the overlook to Quixotic Coffee, in Highland Park, via an old favorite route of mine, on Fairview Avenue and Highland Parkway. We drank cold press and ate savory croissants from Patisserie 46, and I briefly dozed in my chair, with the summer sun on my face.
Finally, around 3:30 p.m., we reached Minnehaha Falls, and it was insanely impressive. Usually, Minnehaha is a gentle, picturesque sight, but the rainstorms of late have turned it into a raw beast who’s like, “Hey, guys, here’s a reminder of how powerful nature is.”
The water’s not so much falling from the fall-tops as gushing from it, like a hose on high. After ogling the falls, we descended to the creek — now more like whitewater rapids — and followed it to its end at a pond that attracts swimbathers. I took off my shoes and waded into the water, in a section that was very rapidy, just to feel the force of the waterfall from far away. It was lovely.
Before we left the Falls, we were joined by my friends Pete and Johnny, and with a place called White Sands Beach in mind, we set off. Fortunately, we didn’t know exactly where the beach was, so that meant stopping at random spots along the Parkway and running down steps and jumping (with our bikes outstretched in our arms) over logs and fallen trees. Like cyclocrossers, or adult-sized children. When we finally found the beach, it was flooded in, just like everything else along the river. Covered in new bug bites, and not even a tad disappointed, we rode back to downtown Minneapolis.
Zach later told me that, as we biked together that afternoon, he realized that he was smiling in a purer and happier way than he had in a long time. That’s biking for you. Pure happiness.