Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 46 The Bonus Ride

Today was a great ride! 71 miles in 4 1/2 hours... I carried only 2 small panniers and just a fraction of the weight I was used to carrying. The temperature was a gentle 70 degrees, and the wind was at my back... a perfect day for riding.

The sense of urgency that had always been in the back of my mind during the main body of the trip was gone today... every peddle stroke was "gravy". However I did want to make it all the way to the Canadian border in order to have to travelled the entire length of the U.S. from South to I'd said that that was my personal goal from the outset of the trip.

This brings my official trip mileage to 1791 miles...only 209 miles left to go before classes begin on August 27th.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Day 45 Detroit Lakes to Thief River Falls, MN

We began today with the intention of stopping somewhere around Erskine... Well, we really hit our stride right out of the starting gate and with a nice tail wind we didn't need to stop much, even with the heat. So each time we discussed stopping it was always at the "next" stopping point. At Erskine we finally quit kidding ourselves and decided to just go for it and run straight to TRF.

It turned out to be a 95-mile day for us getting back home. I went out this evening and rode just five more miles to bring the daily toll for me right up to 100 miles. I keep thinking of Jay Trimble doing all those "century" rides back in Quincy, Illinois and I wanted one for myself... except I wanted mine on a loaded touring bike.

We rolled into Thief River Falls at 2pm, having done 93 miles since 6:30am. We were met first by Norma who had bicycled out a few miles into the wind to escort us back in to town. Along the way Andy's relatives were a veritable paparazzi, snapping photos at every intersection and then speeding ahead to the next one! Of course we had to stop at the city limits sign and take the group photo... traditions must be observed!

We stopped at the Hayloft for a late lunch (actually our 3rd or 4th meal of the day), courtesy of Andy's parents-- Thank you Janeen and Ken! Afterward we split up, each going our own way. It felt strange to be riding without Andy and April, but I reminded myself that we still want to make it to the Canadian border, so we'll probably do that jaunt together after a couple days off.

People have been asking me "how do you feel having made it all that way?" Well it feels GREAT to be home and in familiar surroundings, with faces that I recognize, and people I know and care about! As for the experience, I have learned that achievement is its own reward, and finishing is just one small part of the overall experience. It was the journey itself that was important, not just finishing. I can say definitively that whoever said that "the person who begins the journey is not the same person who finishes it" was absolutely correct.

I'm certain that Andy and April will agree with me when I say that the trip was absolutely worth every peddle stroke, every early morning, every swallowed insect, every discomfort and irritation. Meeting all the great people that we did, and experiencing the regions of the country as we did was an excellent adventure. I'm also certain that there are still many unforeseen benefits waiting to reveal themselves to us in the months and years to come.

Our total mileage to date is 1720 miles or 774,000 peddle strokes. The ride to the Canadian border should bring that to 1790 miles, and I intend to continue riding locally until I bring that total to an even 2000 miles.

I want to thank everyone that has been involved in this journey including: our sponsors, friends made along the way, loved ones and family waiting patiently at home, all the great people that offered us their encouragement, and of course those of you following along in this blog.

Its easy to forget amid all the excitement that our main purpose in making this journey was to raise funds for part-time student scholarships, and to raise awareness for these under-represented students in our communities.
If you haven't already contributed to the "Pennies for Parttimers" scholarship, please consider contacting the Northland College foundation and pledging to help us meet our fundraising goal.
We had a change in plans for our last two riding days:
Today (Saturday) we are going to ride as far as we can to take advantage of the 15mph tailwind that we'll be enjoying.
Therefore tomorrow we will not be starting out in Mahnomen as we originally planned. Anyone wanting to join us for the last leg of the journey should meet us either in Plummer or at the Casino turn-off. We should be reaching Plummer around 8:00am and the Casino turn off shortly before 9am. The forecast for Sunday is for a 10mph headwind and much lower temperatures so please dress accordingly if you're planning to ride with us.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Day 44 Fergus Falls to Detroit Lakes, MN

Fergus Falls is an interesting place to try to get through on a bicycle. The route through town is definitely a locals only secret, and it was an adventure just getting to county road 88.

However, once we hit county 88 our progress was good. No wind to speak of most of the way to Pelican Rapids, so the riding was easy.
Shortly after Pelican Rapids, I had an huge RV flag me down and tell me that one of my riders "was broke down a ways back". Andy then called and told me he had a flat tire... I am so used to not seeing him in my rear view mirror, that when he pulled off I didn't even notice! So April and I turned around and peddled back about a 1/2 mile and lent a hand to get him up and running again.

Just outside of Detroit Lakes we were flagged down again. This time it was Andy's parents, and they came bearing cold bottles of Gatorade. I told them they were too late to fix the flat, but the beverages were really appreciated! A huge thank you to Ken and Janeen for being the D.L. pit stop crew!

Once inside the Detroit Lakes city limits we were flagged down yet again, this time be the chief of police. I was fairly certain we hadn't been speeding, so we pulled up along side his squad car. He told us that there was a great deal of road construction just ahead, and pointed us in the direction of a frontage road around the traffic jam. Thanks Chief!

Tomorrow we're off to Mahnomen... so close now we can taste TRF in the air!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Day 43 Morris to Fergus Falls, MN

We started this morning out with a beautiful sunrise in Morris... and then made really good time into Barrett. However, after our brief rest stop in Barrett, the wind began to steadily pick up speed out of the north. Within the hour we slowed to a crawl by this daunting headwind. At 1:00pm we reached interstate 94 and I thought we were home free. But then it was another 5 miles into Fergus itself, and then at least another 5 miles all the way across town... by 2:00pm we were very glad to be reaching our stopping point for the day!

When I think back on the trip, the most difficult obstacle has not been the terrain, the traffic, the road conditions, or the over all distance. The most difficult thing to face has been the wind. It makes every peddle stroke an effort, and forces your mind away from music, daydreams, and other pleasantries, makes conversation impossible, and really tests your will to continue.

Speaking of peddle strokes, I counted 450 peddle strokes (single side count) per mile today. Our mileage at the time of today's peddle stroke counting was 1570 miles; meaning that our approximate peddle stroke count is 706,500!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Day 41 Willmar to Morris, MN

Highway 12 West, heading toward Benson could use a bit of shoulder work. The entire 30-mile stretch of shoulder is not much more than loose collection of crumbling pieces resembling a dried riverbed after a prolonged drought. Of course that surface does wake you up in the morning, but the charm soon wears off!

We made it to Benson in good order, but soon found it necessary to stop and don our rain jackets. About 50 yards further, we stopped and completely suited up. Thunder, lightning, and wind followed, but we received very little actual rain. After a few miles we realized we were probably wetter inside our rain gear than outside, and stopped to strip down to our normal riding wear. The humidity was powerful, and a steady side-wind did little to alleviate the clamminess.

We rode more or less straight through from Benson, through Clontarf and Hancock. It was a relief to see the outline of Morris materialize out of the haze... we had a day off to look forward to! We will be taking the 4th off, and I'd like to wish everyone a happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Day 40 Hutchinson to Willmar, MN

Today was an interesting day.
We started out with April's rear tire going flat right off the bat. Once that was fixed, we tried unsuccessfully to follow the Highway 7 detour out of Hutchinson. Twice we stopped and asked for directions and twice we became even more confused. Finally, a very kind Hutchinson city worker stopped and asked if we were looking for #7. When we said "yes", he told us that it was very confusing and that we'd best just follow him... he didn't need to tell us twice!

We did finally make it out of Hutchinson 45 minutes after we started, and then settled into a nice rhythm and a strong cross-wind from the south. Shortly before Corvuso a car pulled off in front of us at a field entrance and as we approached I recognized my dad. He had brought us a variety of "goodies", and we had a great chat while we took a break.

We had no more than set out again, when I decided to pull over and put on my rain jacket, as it had begun to sprinkle. 500 yards later, we stopped and very quickly pulled on all our rain gear... shortly there after, I was forced to spray a couple of dogs that attacked us in the driving rain, while their owner sat on his front step and drank coffee...thank you whoever you are. I have discovered on this trip that it is probably the snapping dog's owner that needs a good spraying and not so much the dogs themselves! From there we rode in driving rain, heavy traffic, and fading adrenaline from Cosmos to the 7-71 intersection.

We took quick break at Harry's corner to remove the rain gear, stretch, and have an ice cream. Then it was a 13-mile sprint into Willmar with a very strong tail-wind. We do like a good tail-wind!