Saturday, November 14, 2015

On Riding, Writing and Sitting Still

I'm on a writing retreat at the Anderson Center in Red Wing and took a break from my writing yesterday and this morning to get out and ride the Cannon Valley Trail. The CVT parallels the Anderson Center's property and to get to the trail I only need to bike a few blocks down a hill. I simply can't resist  riding the trail when I'm here! The CVT is my favorite bike trail and although I've ridden it many, many times, I never get tired of riding the trail or the beauty that surrounds it.

With the leaves gone from the trees, I expected the scenery along the trail would be somewhat bland. But I was wrong. I spent most of my rides simply taking in the beauty along the trail. The sun shining through the bare trees. The green moss on rocks and fallen logs. The brown leaves covering the hillsides and carpeting the woodsy floor.

On my ride to the Welch trailhead this morning, I noticed a newly constructed Marshall Memorial Rest Area alongside the trail. On my way back through, I decided to stop and check it out. I'm glad I did! There are benches alongside Belle Creek and a walking path down to the water. It's a beautiful little spot.

Normally, I don't sit still very well but I felt compelled to lean my Vaya up against the bench and sit still for a bit to breathe in the fresh air and listen to the sounds of the creek flowing next to me. I probably sat for only 10 minutes but I felt so refreshed after my little break that it felt like I stayed much longer.

Had I know about the lovely spot, I would have packed a book or my journal, made a cup of coffee (I now carry a little stove, pot and coffee on my Vaya so I can make a cup of coffee at any time) and planned to sit and read or write all morning. But I wasn't prepared to stay and it was time to head back for lunch and my writing. "Next time," I promised myself. Then I got back on my Vaya and pedaled my way back to my writing retreat home away from home.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Milltown's Bikepacking Event - a recap

Owen and I have done some bike packing of the "credit card travel" variety where we slept in hotels instead of camping. We like credit card travel but want to branch out and actually go bike packing for "real" where we carry tents and sleeping bags and all. But, since our camping experience are mostly limited to camping with our families when we were children, and our most recent tent camping experience was, let's just say, rather stressful, we know we have plenty to learn.

We have many questions about bike packing from "What's a bivvy sack?" to "How do we carry all of our equipment on our bikes?" So we were super excited to learn that Milltown Cycles was offering a bike packing "how-to" event for beginners.

The event sounded perfect for us so I signed Owen and I up right away. I also decided to bring our kids, Rose and Ryan, because they've been wanting to go camping for some time and actually have more recent camping experience than Owen and I do.

We were not disappointed! The bike packing event was great fun and we learned a ton.

Here's what happened....

Last Friday, we packed up all of our camping gear (some on loan to us from one of my Northfield Women's Gravel Crushers friends, Katy) and drove to River Bend Nature Center where the event was to be held. We arrived a few minutes late but found our way to the outdoor amphitheater where a nice bonfire and the event's speakers waiting to teach us all about bike packing.
Awesome bonfire
The evening started with a great talk by bike packing guru, Dave. Dave works for Quality Bike Products and has an extensive knowledge of what kinds of gear to use and how to pack it on your bike.  Dave's talk was informative and fun. He had his fully packed Salsa Fargo on hand so we could see what a bike all set up for bike packing looks like. Dave answered all of our questions and was super helpful. Dave keeps a blog where he shares information about bike packing. Find it at:

Bikepacking Dave and his fully loaded Salsa Fargo
A shot of Dave's Salsa Fargo
After Dave's talk, we gathered around the campfire while local coffee roaster, Cody of Stoke Coffee, brewed up a cup of coffee for us and taught us all sorts of things about making great coffee while we're out bike packing. We all got to try the coffee Cody made and asked some questions - Cody knows his coffee! Cody's coffee roasting business, Stoke Coffee, is local and he sells his beans online, at farmer's markets and at our local co-op, Just Foods.
Ryan is taking in all that Cody from Stoke Coffee has to tell us
about making coffee (Ryan likes coffee)
Then we started roasting hot dogs over the bonfire and Curtis from Milltown made up three different kinds of camp food from Mountain House for us to try. He made it all on a little MSR camp stove. I've never had dehydrated camp food - actually, I haven't had much of any kind of camp food - and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted!

Well fed and full of information, we were all getting tired so we trekked back to the camping area and set up our tents with aid of headlamps and flashlights. Bikepacking Dave stuck around until we were set to call it a night. I think he might have been amused at how uncoordinated my family was at setting up a tent but we managed much better than the last time our family went camping! Rose, who backpacked for a week in Montana, is our most experienced tent-setter-upper so she directed Owen on how to set up the tent. I mostly observed because I think that "too many cooks spoil the broth" saying must apply to setting up tents, too, so I figured I'd do the most good out of the way. Once the tent was up, Ryan and I got our sleeping bags set up and things arranged inside the tent.
Our camp
Dave headed for home, we said our "good-nights" to the other campers (four others stayed the night) and soon it was time to go to sleep. It got down to the mid-30s that night but we stayed pretty warm and slept well.
Rose and Ryan - all tuckered out
In the morning, we all gathered for a breakfast of donuts, juice and meat sticks and I broke out my little Esbit pocket stove and made some coffee. Milltown had great giveaways of bike packing equipment for those who attended the event and we were lucky to win two travel pillows, a first aid kit, and a super cool Nemo sleeping pad that I think Owen will take with him on the Tour Divide next summer.
Rose is delighted with the handy packable first aid kit
Ryan shows us that the Nemo sleeping pad is so small and lightweight
he can easily carry it over his shoulder.
After breakfast, we packed up our tents, chatted a bit, loaded up our vehicles and talked some more. All too soon, it was time to head on home.

Thanks, Milltown, for hosting such a wonderful event. We learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and now feel better prepared to go on bike packing adventures and on car camping trips with the family. Good thing because Rose and Ryan are already asking when we can go camping again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ride a Century? Done!

On Saturday, I completed a goal I've had for quite some time - I completed a century ride on my Salsa Vaya!

100 miles - Done!
I'm proud of what I did - I'm getting kinda teary-eyed thinking about that moment when I realized I rode my bike for 100 miles! You see, a century ride is something that I never though I could do when I started bicycling six years ago. It's not something I thought I could do earlier this summer, even. But rides like the Box of Frogs, Riotgrravel and my bike packing trip have made me feel stronger both physically and mentally. As the summer progressed, my century ride thinking morphed from "Hey, I think I can do a century" to "When I do a century I'll ride my Vaya" (it's my most comfortable bike) to "I'm going to do a century this fall."

I rode my bike to train but I think the most important thing I did to get ready for this century ride is this - I told myself I could do it and started to believe I could, in fact, pedal my bike for 100 miles.

The best memories of the ride were the many short chats I had with people along the trail. I found that talking to people and hearing their stories energized me and kept me going. I'm going to write a blog post about that in the next day or two.

I could recap the ride in great detail for you but, frankly, most of what happened is I pedaled my bike for a VERY long time - just over nine hours.

There's more to it than that, of course, so if you're interested, read on for more info.


Overall, my body felt strong and my spirits were up most of the way. I was glad to have my husband, Owen, along for company. Owen's ridden several centuries before so knew what to expect and could remind me to focus on the miles accomplished instead of the miles to go. He's also great to talk to and good conversation really helps me keep my mind off of pedaling.

We had a gorgeous day for a ride - mid 70s, sunny, not much wind. For much of the ride I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the roads and trail. At times, the ride was boring. I had points when I was really tired. I hummed when I got a bit too tired and talked to myself sometimes, too. One thing I said to myself was "Little circles. Just make little circles." because my bicycling friend, Kate, told me to remember that all I have to do to finish the ride is keep moving my feet in little circles.

Physically my butt got kinda sore but I expected that. Nothing else really hurt during the ride - not for long periods of time, anyway. Both of my feet felt numb sometimes. My wrists got a little sore and so did my shoulders. I was pretty tired the day after the ride but not very sore at all. It's three days after the ride now and I'd say I've completely recovered.

My Vaya outperforms the Mukluk Owen was riding when it comes to speed so Owen had to work harder to keep up with his heavier bike. There were a few times when I had to slow down for Owen. That doesn't happen often (Owen's a fast rider) so it felt kinda good to be the speedy one for a change :-)  


  • Ride start at 8:08 a.m. (about an hour later than we should have, given how much I stop to talk to people)
  • Finished riding at about 8:20 p.m. (we had lights so were visible and could see where we were going)
  • Total moving time - 9 hours, 9 minutes, 7 seconds
  • Average speed - 11.0 mph (faster than the 10 mph I planned for)

  • I rode my Salsa Vaya 2
  • Owen rode his Salsa Mukluk 2 making this his first fat bike century
The Ride:
  • About 40 miles in, I was tired and wondered if I could make it but also knew I was stuck at that point
  • After the 50 mile mark (and a great lunch in Hutchinson) I was feeling pretty good and knew I would make it back. Still, I would occasionally worry that I would fall off my bike or something and not make it
  • We rode about a 12 mile stretch of gravel between Silver Lake and Lester Prairie. That might have been the hardest part of the ride but it was also really pretty out there on the country roads
  • I found it was NOT helpful to look at my odometer because it seemed to move way too slowly. Some of those miles felt super long 
  • I learned to celebrate the miles I had completed instead of focusing on how many miles I had left to do
  • Every 10 miles Owen and I cheered! I did switch this up and counted remaining miles after about mile 80, though
  • 80 miles was a point where I was just getting sick of riding my bike and wanted to eat chocolate
  • I realized when I was about .5 miles from our van that I was only at 97 miles so Owen and I rode back on the trail for a mile plus so I could get my 100 miles
  • I cried when I hit 100 miles - because I was happy. Overwhelmed. Amazed. Proud. Done!

The Route:

My main goal for this century was to make this a relatively "easy" ride so I could build confidence and convince myself to do an organized gravel century down the road. With that in mind, Owen created a mixed-surface ride that was mostly on bike trails. We avoided a lot of wind this way, had shade much of the time and also felt very safe not having to deal with traffic. We were super glad to be on trails at the end of the day because we finished the ride in the dark.

Here's where we rode - We parked the van at Wayzata Bay then road streets north a bit to pick up the crushed limestone Luce Line Trail. About 25 miles in, around Winstead, the limestone changed over to freshly paved tar. We stayed on the Luce Line all the way to Hutchinson. At Hutchinson, after a lunch break, we took the Luce Line back to Silver Lake rode gravel to Lester Prairie where we stopped for water and snacks. At Lester Prairie we picked the Dakota Rail Trail (limestone for a short bit then paved the rest of the way) back to Wayzata.

Until next time!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Coffee and Hammock Adventure

It's raining this afternoon so my mind is going back to last week when the weather was perfect and I went on a perfect bike ride adventure.

Last Wednesday, my friend Katy and I headed out for a bike ride from Northfield to Caron Park. Caron Park is a county park located about 8 miles south of Northfield. The route to Caron started out with a killer hill (called Question Mark Hill by the locals) and there are a lot of other hilly portions on the route as well. We managed to ride them all, though, and found our way to Caron Park.
Crushing gravel on the way to Caron Park
Zippy, my Salsa Vaya leaning on the Caron park sign
One of our plans for the ride was to have an adventure coffee like we did on our Coffee Outside Ride. I was out of fuel for my little Esbit pocket stove so Katy packed a one burner camping stove in a backpack so we could have coffee outside. First, though, we had to find an ideal location. Katy knew of a waterfall in the park so we set off on some single track (created and maintained by the local mountain bike club - CROCT - The Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails club). The trail was fabulous if a bit slick from a recent rain and leaf cover. Our skinnyish tired gravel bikes made for slow going and we walked portions of the trail which greatly lowered our overall average speed for the day but that just doesn't matter. Speed be damned. We were having fun!
Katy on the trail
Myrna on the trail 
We got to the end of the single track and still hadn't found the waterfall so we headed down another part of the trail system and soon found ourselves by a creek and beautiful waterfall. We walked our bikes across the creek and set up for coffee. Ah, I'm feeling relaxed just thinking about it.
The Waterfall in Caron Park
Our bikes leaning up against a bank by the creek
We made our coffee and then Katy, all smiles, said "I have a surprise for you!" I had no idea what sort of surprise Katy could possibly have. "I brought hammocks!" she said.
She was right, I was surprised - and delighted - at the prospect of hanging out in hammocks that afternoon because we had talked about setting up hammocks the last time we rode. The thing is, I don't have a hammock or really any idea of how to tie even tie one in a tree. But Katy's husband is somewhat of a hammock guro so she has access to many a hammock and knows the ropes (ha! pun!) of how set one up.

Katy took two hammocks out of her backpack and some rope and gave me a little lesson in how to pick a good hammock spot and how to get a hammock all set up. We put two hammocks side by side right next to the creek. After a bit of time getting comfortable sitting sideways in the hammock (I even managed to drink my coffee sitting there), I figured out how to get comfortable laying back. Katy did the same.
Drinking my coffee in the hammock
Hanging out in the hammocks
I'm not that good at relaxing. But that afternoon I just layed back in a hammock and Katy and I talked and rested and talked for I don't know how long. Time didn't seem to matter anymore. The fact that I had writing work waiting for me at home didn't matter, either. Instead, I soaked up the scenery. The sun shining through the trees. The sound of the water flowing over the little falls. I discovered that I was able to really be in the moment and forget about about my to-do lists back home. I truly relaxed!
My view
Katy's view
All too soon, we realized we'd better get back on the road or the kids would get home from school before we made it back to town. So we packed up our coffee things and hammocks, hiked with our bikes back up the trail then set off for the ride home.

The ride home was over way too quickly and the reality of getting back to the to-do list of the day set in once we got off our bikes. Yet, the memory an ordinary bike that turned into a grand adventure has stayed with me and even today when it's raining I remember the fun we had on our adventure bike ride.

Let's hope I can conjure up memories of laying in a hammock in the sunshine once winter sets in. Come to think of it, there's no reason I can't go for a ride, make coffee and lie out in a hammock in the middle of winter. Hmmm, I think I've got another goal!

**Thanks to Katy for sharing not just coffee and hammocks but several pictures for this blog post as well!!