Are we there yet??

11 06 2012

Our last day was a mini-marathon, since our cue sheets outlined an 88 mile day. Again, sleep was hard to come by with the requisite anticipation and curiosity.

Because it was such a long haul, we fixed extra snacks since we all knew we probably wouldn’t want to stop for any lazy respites along the way…

20120611-061254.jpg

PB&J has been a staple snack and it’s going to be a shock to have to titrate down to something less than 5000 calories a day, since we’ve all gotten used to eating every couple hours at our every 20 mile SAG stops! One of the many factors of re-entry! We’re also going to have to be thoughtful regarding the urge to just find a bush when nature calls!

The road through the wild Minnesota woods was beautiful, with a stop to examine this roadside attraction…There are several of these statues up here in the north country depicting the Paul Bunyon legend in this very touristy area. This isn’t the one I remember from my childhood, which is near Bemidji and which also features Babe the ox, but we weren’t going to bite off any more mileage, so this one sufficed.

20120611-062256.jpg

The road was long and very hot (in the upper 90’s!) , but I still got goosebumps when we finally approached this sign.

20120611-062422.jpg

The last long stretch took forEVER, but we finally made our way to the walking path where dozens of other pilgrims (including Shaunna’s dad who brought bottles and bottles of champagne!) were gathered to splash in the glorious cool water at the source.

20120611-063041.jpg

20120611-063054.jpg

20120611-063106.jpg

20120611-063154.jpg

Here’s the collection of goodies that rode with me every mile… (Mary Val, the moose lost its guts, but it’s essence is still intact!)

20120611-064638.jpg

Our celebration at the lodge was deliciously loud and raucous, with several hilarious presentations and performances.

20120611-065043.jpg

20120611-065053.jpg

20120611-065059.jpg

I was so grateful that we all had the night to absorb the magic before the reality of travel logistics and farewells ensued

20120611-065327.jpg

20120611-065339.jpg

20120611-065707.jpg

Two thousand sixty five miles and 39 days later, heres a big thanks to everyone for their enthusiasm and support. We couldn’t have done it without you!

That’s a WRAP!

20120611-065951.jpg
Lake Itasca at sunset.





Anticipation!

9 06 2012

Well, today’s the day we’ve all been anticipating…our last ride to our final destination… the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi.

It’s the middle of the night here at the Rodeway Inn of Pine River, MN and there’s no chance for sleep.

We spent our rest day a couple days ago in Little Falls (former home to Charles Lindbergh), which I think is the last place for us to see the river “acting” like a river as our trip north since has been through long stretches of wetlands and lakes.

Here are a few shots of the dam there. We were impressed with the volumes of brown water, which Minnesota Jane says is not from mud here, but from tannins leached from plants in the wetlands north of the dam.

20120609-011103.jpg

20120609-011123.jpg (Jane S. and Pat W.)

Strange and wonderful sights as we rode north along more of Minnesota’s excellent bike paths

>
20120609-012804.jpg

included a turtle race track and surf shop (??!) in Pequot Lakes yesterday.

20120609-011338.jpg

20120609-011346.jpg

Prior to our final feast by our incredible traveling chef, Lynn, last night, (BBQ!) intense negotiating ensued at the “yard sale” orchestrated by Yolande and Bernadette:

20120609-014307.jpg

20120609-014316.jpg

We’ll be having a celebration banquet and party tonight and may not have wifi in Lake Itasca Park (nor may I be in any condition to post from the final emotions after all this time planning this thing!), so it may be a few days before I get to that.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo of Monika’s feet, which represent quite nicely the strange tans many of us are sporting…

20120609-014527.jpg





Are We Having Fun Yet?

7 06 2012

“Are we having fun yet?”

“Hell, yeah!” has been our standard mantra answer for this oft-asked question since we began this incredible journey so many weeks ago.

The past few days have been relatively uneventful (and somewhat of a blur!) as we’ve made our way north through Minnesota. We’ve traveled often on the state’s excellent bike paths and rural byways.

20120606-202130.jpg

20120606-202138.jpg
(photo credit to Jane Skorina)

And seen some strange and wonderful things along the way…

20120606-202720.jpg
(Lea modeling with one of our favorite signs of the week… The real story for the sign is sad,
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbjorn/2330562980/) but we certainly got our own sophomoric pleasure out of it…

Today seemed like a very long SLOG of a day for most of us, since we’re just plain exhausted and today’s ride of 85 miles along pleasant but not incredibly exciting terrain just simply wore us out! Thanks GOODNESS for our wonderful sag stops which broke things up…

20120607-073359.jpg

20120607-073416.jpg
(Yolande demonstrating the essentials…)

The company was stellar, but as we slowly wove our way from Cambridge to Little Falls, Minnesota (home to world record holder in “joggling,” Meaghan Nouis… look it up!) we asked ourselves the “are we having fun yet ” question on a regular basis…

To entertain ourselves at one of our sag stops, we do often find new and different ways to have us some serious fun!

20120606-204035.jpg

In all, over the past few days for me anyway, I guess the most palpable sentiments are a movement towards nostalgia and thinking about our most special memories of the trip, as well as the mystery for many of us as to what re-entry into our “normal” lives will be like. That will be less of an issue for some of our touring veterans, but for me and other folks, there’s a fair amount of trepidation about this phase.

I’ve been planning and prepping for this trip so long that I imagine it’ll be a serious let-down similar to after a wedding or other huge event.

That said, I’m thrilled to be going home soon to Vermont and all it’s glories, and looking forward to hanging out with my sweetie, lying in the hammock and planting the garden before returning to work on the 18th.

We have only two days of riding left after our rest day here in Little Falls tomorrow before bussing it back to Minneapolis on Sunday. There will, no doubt, be more adventures to recount as we play in town tomorrow and find the source of our fair river at Lake Itasca on Saturday. Now THAT will be a tear jerker!





Road to Nowhere

4 06 2012

20120604-170145.jpg





Minnesota Americana

3 06 2012

We traveled today from Wabasha to Red Wing, Minnesota on our easiest day yet… 30 miles of flat, pretty terrain right along the river.

We passed through Lake City, which has two boasts…

1) it is the location of the widest naturally occurring portion of the Mississippi River and,

2) this distinction…

20120603-161338.jpg

Lea maintains that the sport started in Australia, but Wikipedia begs to differ with this citation:

“Water skiing began in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson used two boards as skis
and a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.”

On the way, we passed by this large structure…can you guess what it is?
Nouveau castle? Fancy family estate? Museum?**

20120603-161948.jpg

Finally, we visited the Red Wing Shoe Store, home to the World’s Largest Boot.
Constructed exactly like its more diminutive cousins, this size 638D monster weighs in at 2,300 pounds and stands 20 feet high.

20120603-162706.jpg

20120603-162715.jpg

Word is, it would be too big a shoe for the Statue of Liberty!

**Give up? …that beautiful structure was built in 1889 as part of the Minnesota State Correctional Facility! Very cool!





Nature…

2 06 2012

Of course, another hugely important part of this trip for many of us are the hours a day we get to spend outside communing with Nature.

From the flatlands further down south:

20120602-160534.jpg

To the lovely rolling hills in Iowa and Wisconsin…

20120602-160649.jpg

…it’s been so fine to take in the varied landscapes and faces of the river as we move North.

20120602-161154.jpg

20120602-161207.jpg

Years ago, when Claire was really little, we were driving around somewhere in the wilds of Vermont and saw a sight similar to this one:

20120602-161730.jpg

She said in her tiny, matter of fact voice, “Look Momma…a miracle…” So, of course I always think of her when I see sun rays streaming down from clouds this way.

***********
Now, here’s something you don’t see every day!

20120602-161313.jpg
(on a wonderful back road scouted by Jane Skorina on our way today into Wabasha, MN — our last state!)

And a bit further down the road, I was pleased to see a sign from my alma mater!

20120602-161544.jpg

Finally, we visited the National Eagle Center here in Wabasha

20120602-164426.jpg

20120602-164441.jpg

where we saw several live birds up close and personal,

20120602-163539.jpg

20120602-163548.jpg

20120602-163554.jpg

And were treated to a special feeding program…yum! Rabbit!

20120602-163736.jpg





Accommodations!

1 06 2012

They say that necessity is the mother of all invention, and that is certainly true of an epic adventure of this sort.

Many of our “adjustments” have been as a result of our changing weather, but other factors, including road construction and the some screwy directions have made us have to get creative.

20120601-164222.jpg

This photo is of poor Yolande’s feet as she was trying to make accommodation for our suddenly changed weather…from broiling hot to very chilly as we’ve moved farther North. She naturally wears biking sandals, but used what she could to warm her frozen tootsies…

20120601-162627.jpg

The next photo is one that I’m sure would make any Woman Tours veteran giggle. We came across this establishment in cutsie pie McGregor, Iowa (also home to the Ringling Brothers first circus).

20120601-162941.jpg

20120601-162950.jpg

The “green room” in bike touring is the euphemism for the side of the road where one relieves oneself after drinking the requisite liquids required for sufficient hydration in all the sweat, wind and grit of the road. After one or two days of touring, decorum and modesty go right out the window and people just basically “drop trou” any old place. The one rule is that no one is allowed to post photos of same.

Yesterday brought a tremendous new set of challenges when we awoke to rainy skies and relatively freezing temperatures. There was a massive amount of swappage of equipment and apparel as people tried to figure out what to bring with to stay comfortable.

Mary Drennan had the brilliant idea of stuffing shoes with plastic laundry bags (the corners fit nicely for each set of toes)

>
20120601-164941.jpg

and Pat White suggested usurping the hotel’s shower cap to cover helmet holes. Who needs expensive helmet covers? Here I am trying to look fierce since I’ve never REALLY ridden in that sort of rain before.

20120601-164348.jpg

Lea asked for a mug to send home to her friends just to prove how absolutely crazy she is…

20120601-164632.jpg

And then, of course, we had to model together…

>
20120601-164752.jpg

And here are the lovely Mary and Penny exhibiting their respective rain couture (Mary was our sag so didn’t have to make the actual accommodation of RIDING in that S$%#T!

20120601-164542.jpg<br /<br /

Yesterday was certainly one of the roughest days we've had all around with a final total of 105 miles for me and Lea over a twelve hour period.

There was triumph, however, in the final moments of our journey…All along this trip, I've been battling a tremendous fear of riding over the huge bridges that cross over the massive river. When we finally arrived at the bridge from Wisconsin to Minnesota after already riding 100 miles, Lea pointed to the pedestrian walkway and suggested that we walk across. At that moment of sheer exhaustion, I decided to that I was sick to death of being scared and opted to address that silly dragon. I suppose I finally got mad enough and just went for it…the result was that I just sailed across with absolutely no ruffled feathers whatsoever! Wow!

The final triumph was the sweet ovation we received from our pals when we finally arrived so very late, but still in time for the final moments of dinner.





Surrender Dorothy!

29 05 2012

The day started out innocently enough with a plan to take our time to casually see some Iowa sights today, including some caves outside Maquoketa and sights in Dyersville including the National Farm Toy Museum, the St. Francis Xavier basilica and the site where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed.

Prior to today, we’ve had a few days of lovely rolling terrain with great tailwinds, so I guess we got cocky about the powers of Mother Nature.

We did get in a nice visit to the caves:

20120529-175228.jpg

20120529-175326.jpg

20120529-175338.jpg

20120529-175346.jpg

20120529-175354.jpg

But when we started riding again, all hell broke loose with the wind. We had absolutely insane head and side winds that literally required getting off the bike from time to time in order to crest the rolling hills. Our recent smooth sailing ride became a slog of epic proportions, and after lunch, several folks decided to pack it in…smart cookies!

It sounded just like the tornado soundtrack from the Wizard of Oz and I really was ready to quit, but once again the main thing that kept us moving forward through the remaining 45 miles was the encouragement of our riding buddies.

The image of the wicked witch of the west writing in the sky with her broomstick also helped provide the inspiration to follow in good Dorothy’s ruby footsteps and finish the task at hand.

When we finally limped in to town, we all literally collapsed onto the sidewalk outside the trailer after diving into the Woman Tours beer/wine cooler as our reward. A cold beer has rarely tasted better!

20120529-202133.jpg

I feel like I’ve been hit by a semi, but can also happily say that I’m still in the EFI club… Phew!





“Back in the Saddle Again”

27 05 2012

Well, we’re “back in the saddle” again after a very nice respite in Burlington, Iowa. For those of you who missed the edited version of the last entry, Burlington is the “backhoe capital of the world,” (although Wikipedia didn’t explain why).

It is also home to the crookedest alley in the world, Snake Alley, which is where we witnessed a very fun series of bicycle competitions on our day off. We all thought it was nice of them to sponsor a special race event just for our entertainment!

The first fun race we witnessed was a criterium up Snake Alley, which is 276 feet long with five switchbacks in a sixty foot climb. We had a ball walking up to the various layers to witness the different categories of riders.

20120527-153223.jpg

20120527-153240.jpg

I gave my camera to another spectator to get this shot of Pat White, Mary Drennen, me and Lea Adams, taken in the middle of one of the switchbacks.

20120527-160027.jpg

Even more fun was the “Cobble Challenge,” which was a time trial up this sucker for fat tire riders of all ages.

20120527-153556.jpg

I got some great video of that one but haven’t figured out how to post that yet.

At dinner time, we ordered a cab for five of us back to town for a special welcome party for our new rider, Debbie Greitzer, and when the cab arrived, (as was common in this town), spots were already relegated to other riders. So, what else could we do than ALL pile into the back seat for the 10 minute ride in…We are quickly transitioning to something more resembling teenagers than 50-60 year old women!

20120527-154035.jpg

We had an easy 58 mile day today to Muscatine, which has the distinction of being both the pearl button and watermelon capitals of the world. Gotta love it!

The Melon City criterium is also here today (being held in Weed Park…like Carol says, “you can’t make this s&$t up!), but it’s too damn hot to go, so I’m going to Applebee’s soon for a cocktail instead. Gotta keep a fine balance between vacation and vacation, I suppose!

Here are a couple fun shots from the day.

20120527-160641.jpg

20120527-160650.jpg





So close and yet so far…Burlington……….. IOWA!

26 05 2012

I was so utterly wiped out and despondent after yesterday’s ride that I decided to take a day off from riding with other people and ride solo for our 52 mile trip to Burlington, Iowa today. Mostly, I didn’t want to subject anyone to my foul, doubting attitude!

I had sweet visits along the way, but really enjoyed the freedom to stop and follow my own lead for a while, which is the way I ride most often.

There were two big bridges today…the same one that damn near killed me between Illinois and Iowa in Keokuk yesterday and the one leading back into Burlington this afternoon.

20120525-195940.jpg

20120525-195951.jpg

I was so grateful that angels Jane Skorina and Pat White just happened to show up at the perfect instant to help sooth the passages across both structures.

It was a lovely ride in the end, and it helped me make friends again with my bike, after feeling like I wanted to pack it in and come home with my tail between my blistered legs…

There was some lovely scenery of our river along the way

20120525-200301.jpg

20120525-200313.jpg

Does this look like any suburb you’ve ever seen?

20120525-200415.jpg

20120525-200421.jpg

I arrived early enough to have an another solo adventure in Burlington (which is, by the way, the backhoe capital of the world!!) that included hailing a cab to a nail place on the outskirts of town to get my poor feet revitalized…

After little deliberation, I decided green would somehow be appropriate…

20120525-211514.jpg

The trip back was an eye-opener. The same surly cabbie arrived at the “Market” side of Walmart (where I had walked to purchase a huge supply of Epsom salts to soak saddle sores) to find two passengers already in the vehicle. The first was a thin, dark-glass be-speckled, African-American woman in a blonde wig with long floral fingernails and a murky demeanor, who was inhabiting the front seat. The second was a very round, lost-looking teenaged girl in the far side of the back-seat.

After picking me up in the front alley of the store, the driver backed up a couple hundred yards until there was a slap on the rear bumper, at which point he popped the back hood, and a small, older gentleman with long white hair and no teeth dropped three six-packs of Mountain Dew into the trunk before opening the back passenger door and forcing our dear teenager into the middle seat for the duration of our ride.

We drove for 10 minutes to the other side of town and into a terribly seedy trailer park, where she disembarked into a horrible, shabby single wide with peeling paint and a half-attached roof. We then proceeded on to my (now comparatively luxurious) motel where he left me off feeling incredibly lucky for all the gifts I’ve been bestowed in this life…