Sabbatical Straggler: a brief Minnesota bicycle tour

Yes, my sabbatical was over in May, but parts of it straggle on.

Included in my sabbatical plan was a poorly conceived goal of taking a bicycle tour of northern Minnesota. It was my dream to bike up the North Shore, circle west through International Falls to Warroad to visit my brother, head southwest to TRF to visit my parents and my other brother, and then head back home. I thought maybe I could do this in the late spring in about two weeks. What was I thinking?

Between the weather and Kylie’s graduation, there was just no way such a thing could ever happen. I did, however, put in 160 miles last Sunday and Monday taking the Willard Munger Trail from Duluth to Hinkley and back. It was my friend Andy’s idea.

Andy is a long time family friend, soon to be a junior at Denfeld High, and he’s caught the cycling craze. He scored a free room coupon at the Casino hotel in Hinkley somewhere and asked me if I’d bike along with he and four friends. I said, “Sure,” but called my friend Tanner for backup. Then, as things go, all of Andy’s posse dropped out one by one, leaving only Andy, Tanner, and I Sunday morning heading down the trail in the dust of some spandex clad bullet heads.

The Munger Trail is an old rail bed, one of many Minnesota bike trails developed over the last twenty years. I think I can safely say I now know every inch of it. Most of it looks like this.

I shot this from the hip on the fly. I like the Batmanesque tilt to the photo. Here’s the only picture of Tanner, for you Tanner groupies.

The sad news was that Tanner woke up Monday morning and puked his guts out. This, however, didn’t bother Andy and I. We abandoned T-Money at the Grand Northern Inn and headed north, taking an alternate route (six unexpected and character building miles of loose gravel) to Banning State Park.

Banning’s claim to fame is it’s rapids on the Kettle River. Our alternate route also revisited highway 61, which should please Andy’s dad, Big G, the biggest Dylan aficionado north of Antarctica (don’t worry, Greg, about any messages from God regarding your son).

Some other notable stops along the way were the Moose Lake City Park beach, where I won the cannon ball contest (Andy Silver, Tanner Bronze), Peggy Sue’s Cafe in Willow River…

…where Andy’s rear tire went flat and he fixed it in 15 minutes flat. Andy also handily devoured Peggy Sue’s double California Burger…

…TJ’s Country Store in Mahtowa (thanks for the strawberry rhubarb jam from the flea market, Mrs. Oberg)…

…some great bridges over the Kettle River, which kept reappearing…

…some woods (did I mention woods?)…

…and, naturally, The Ponderosa. Who knew?

Finally, this narrative wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Oregon Emergency Weather Radio I won at the Casino. To reserve our motel room, I had to become a Grand Rewards member, and my signing bonus was a chance at this lovely instrument. It’s still only partially out of the box, but I think it will easily make me the weather czar of my neighborhood.

Also, let the record reflect that we were buffeted by headwinds all the way to Hinkley and averaged 11.9 mph. In the night, the wind shifted, naturally, to buffet us all the way home; however, being it’s all down hill, we averaged 12.7 mph (thanks to our nifty odometers).

For those who doubt that I actually completed this journey, submit this final photo as exhibit A.

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3 Responses to Sabbatical Straggler: a brief Minnesota bicycle tour

  1. Sarah says:

    good job with photoshop: pasting your face on that guy’s body. You got the angles and dimensions just right. Head’s not too big…

  2. David says:

    A little easier than that trip you took from Albuquerque to Santa Fe? Or was that just one leg of a longer trip, I forget. Talk about uphill! Every morning on my commute, I wish I could have a week of riding somewhere nice.

  3. Jocelyn says:

    As a total Tanner groupie, I had to stop reading once the puking started.

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