Bob Hines rides a stretch of the Paul Bunyan State Trail that winds through woods south of Walker.
This story is an edited and consolidated version of blog posts I wrote while riding this year’s Pedal for Project Impact. It was published in the June 22 edition of the West Central Tribune.
I’m posting it now for people who might be considering participating in next year’s ride.
Like last year, next year’s ride will be multi-day and take riders from Willmar to Bemidji and back. The ride will begin Monday, June 16, and end Sunday, June 22.
We will be holding a meeting to discuss the ride at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec, 3, at LuLu Beans in Willmar.
Last year we rode an average of 75 miles a day through several rainy days. We rode without any sort of support team so we had to make it to each destination or turn back. Either way, we had to do it ourselves.
This year we’re going to try to make the ride more flexible. Not everyone participating in PPI has to ride the entire distance or all day or every day. If you can join us for a few days, that’d be great. You’ll have to find your way home or, if you join us mid-ride, you’ll have to find your way to meet us. If you have the time for the entire week but don’t want to ride 75 miles a day, we may be able to accommodate you, especially if there are two or more of you. Two or more part-time riders could spend their time not on the bike serving as a support team for their fellow riders.
I hope to see you Dec. 3. If you can’t ride with us, come anyway. We’d like to hear any suggestions you might have whether you can join us or not. Also, if you know of someone who might be interested, please share this information with that person and their names with us.
We look forward to hearing from you,
From Willmar to Bemidji and beyond
From June 3 to 9, Bob Hines and I rode a two-man fundraiser we called Pedal for Project Impact.
We pedaled from Willmar to Bemidji and back to raise awareness of and money for Project Impact, a program at Safe Avenues, the shelter house in Willmar. Project Impact provides services for children who have, in a variety ways, experienced violence in their homes.
What follows is an edited version of blog postings I wrote during the ride.
Day 1: Willmar to Long Prairie
Distance: 67.5 miles
Time: 5 hours, 46 minutes
Bob Hines and I began our ride at the Glacial Lakes trail head near the Willmar Civic Center. Sofia, my wife, drove me and Bob pedaled there from his home, which put 5 miles on his odometer before the ride officially began.
Connie Schmoll got up early on her first day since stepping down as executive director of Safe Avenues to ride the first few miles with us. My father, Russ, was also there to see us off.
Connie and her friend, Donna Krogsrud, rode with us to the outskirts of Spicer. We continued on the trail, riding it for a total of 17 miles.
We turned onto County Road 2 and stayed on it for 4 miles.
It was at that point that we experienced our only glitch of the day. My phone’s GPS system indicated we should turn right and Bob said we should go left on State Highway 55. We went left and, about 8 miles later, came to U.S. 71, which we took to our destination, Long Prairie.
We faced a 70 percent chance of rain on Day 2 and the likelihood that U.S. Highway 71 will be backed up by construction.
Day 2: Long Prairie to Park
Distance: 97.3 miles
Time: 8 hours, 27 minutes
It was raining when we got up. We took off at 6:30 a.m. through a light drizzle and headed up U.S. 71. About a half a mile out of town, we discovered that the shoulder of the highway was gone. We knew there was road work from Long Prairie to Bertha, about 24 miles, but didn’t realize they’d torn up the shoulder.
Bob took a quick look at a map and we headed back to Long Prairie to take a different route on back roads.
Bob at Blanchard Dam on the Mississippi.
But the weather was dangerous regardless of the road.
We faced a cold, wet wind as we rode county roads for about 20 miles without seeing a town. My arms were getting numb and tingly. Bob told me later that he was getting the shakes.
After about three hours, we arrived in Brouwerville and found the town’s laundromat. We threw as much of our wet clothes as we dared take off into a drier.
A couple hours later, our clothes were dry, but it was still raining lightly.
We took off and we were wet again in minutes. But we were wearing extra layers of clothing and heavier gloves which helped.
It took about an hour and a half to reach Bertha, the town on the northern edge of the road work. My bike’s computer indicated a total mileage of 46.67 miles — just shy of twice the distance it would have taken us to reach that point if we had been able to use 71. “We got to know Todd County roads way better than we wanted,” Bob said of the experience.
We stopped at a pizza place in Wadena for a late lunch. As we rode out of town, we passed a sign indicating 34 miles to Park Rapids.
There was just a hint of mist in the air. That mist became heavier as we rode and, as we closed on seven miles to our destination, it rained again. As if Mother Nature wanted to make our day complete, it thundered a couple times too.
When we got to our hotel, we deposited our bikes in our room and headed for the hot tub.
We planned to stay in Park Rapids on Day 3 and had hoped to bike to Walker and back. But a 60 percent chance of rain was predicted and neither of us cared much about going to Walker the next day.
Day 3: Park Rapids to Walker and back
Distance: 57.85 miles
Time: 4 hours, 57 minutes
After the ride from Long Prairie, we didn’t care if we rode to Walker.
Bob decided he cared.
It was still cold with drizzle to light rain as we had breakfast, pretty much like the previous day. But Bob’s the kind of guy who likes to be active. He was OK as we ate and he read a newspaper, but warned me that he’d be “climbing the walls” by noon if we didn’t do something.
So we got on our bikes took off for Walker.
The rain didn’t seem too intense, but, combined with the low temperature and a wind that was light but coming straight at us, slowly wore us down.
Not thrilled to be riding wet for the second straight day, I wanted to get to Walker and head straight back. Bob, however, was happy to be riding and kept suggesting that we leave the trail to explore some road or another.
I told him to go ahead and I’d see him back at the hotel.
By the time we reached Walker, we were in agreement: it was wet, we were cold and wanted to finish the ride as soon as we could.
Back at the hotel, we soaked in the hot tub before washing and drying the clothes we had worn on our day’s ride.
It had stopped raining and the hotel parking lot pavement was drying as we walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant. After supper, we headed back to the hotel.
It was raining again.
Day 4: Park Rapids to Bemidji
Distance: 83.6 miles
Time: 7 hours, 22 minutes
The clouds were dark gray most of today, but it didn’t rain. In fact, the sun tried, with increasing success, to shine.
It was threatening but the streets were dry this morning when we left Park Rapids. It was cool, but, as Bob said, that’s good biking weather, as long as it isn’t raining.
There were stretches of the Heartland and Paul Bunyan state trails that were wet, but we were dry and that was great.
Day 5: Bemidji to Pequot Lakes
Distance: 81.92 miles
Time: 7 hours, 22 minutes
We rode a fine line this morning.
As we pedaled out of Bemidji on the Paul Bunyan State Trail, there were thick, gray clouds to the west. Sunny blue skies were dotted with high fluffy, white clouds to the east.
A slight meteorological variation would determine the nature of our day and our ride.
It didn’t rain and stayed mostly sunny and cool the entire day.
The day’s ride cleared up a mystery for me.
Actually, it assured me that my memory still worked … a little.
Two years ago, I rode in another fundraising ride on the Paul Bunyan Trail and I remember a segment that was definitely not built on an old railroad track, as most trails are throughout the country.
This portion of the trail that I remembered featured some steep climbs and descents as well as several sharp turns. I thought the segment was closer to Bemidji and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t encountered it the previous day.
It was farther south and we rode it today. It’s a fun stretch of pavement, but a lot of work, which made me wish all the more that the route hadn’t been 10 miles longer than our online maps indicated.
Day 6: Pequot Lakes to Albany
Distance: 88.71 miles
Time: 7 hours, 49 minutes
We arrived in Albany this afternoon and looked forward to being in Willmar in a day.
The weather was iffy again, but it didn’t rain. Looks like Mother Nature is saving that for the last day of our ride.
We discovered some gems during our ride.
The Soo Line ATV Trail is paved from west of state Highway 10 to the Wobegon Trail and is open to hikers, bikers, rollerbladers and other non-motorized modes of travel. On that stretch of pavement, we rode on a bridge over the Mississippi River that’s parallel to the nearby Blanchard Dam. I took all the dam pictures I wanted.
Jordie’s Trail Side Cafe in Bowlus.
A few miles down the path is the town of Bowlus. From the trail, the first thing you see is the town’s restored train depot. Across the street is Jordie’s Trail Side Cafe and Catering. Jordie’s is a cyclists’ haven.
Then it was on to Albany.
Tomorrow we’ll probably have a wet and wild ride back to Willmar.
Day 7: Albany to Willmar
Distance: 49.32 miles
Time: 4 hours, 22 minutes
Bob and I made it home.
I won’t bore you by griping about the weather, which I’ve done all week. Suffice it to say that it rained this morning as predicted, but it was warmer than the other two days that we rode in the rain.
The rain diminished as we headed to Paynesville and it had pretty well stopped as we reached the Glacial Lakes Trail. I was a wreck when I got home, but food and a shower helped.
During our weeklong ride, we covered 526 miles while pedaling for 46 hours.