Bicycling Near And Far

Readers of the West Central Tribune’s Saturday Extra section may have read some of my stories about bicycling. I hope to blog regularly about all things cycling, including organized bike rides in the area, equipment (as much of it as I can understand) and mine and other people’s adventures on bikes.

During the past couple years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week now and again exploring different places on my bike. I’ve ridden in Colorado, northern Minnesota and southern Indiana.

But you don’t have to go far to have an adventure – or misadventure – on a bike.

I was reminded of that Jan. 5.

It was one of those unseasonable mild days we’ve had recently and I had the day off.

I wanted to spend part of it cycling. My friend, Bob Hines, had the day off too and had the same idea.

The bike he usually rides was in the shop so he was riding his mountain bike. I rode my mountain bike too so that we’d be traveling at about the same speed.

Bob really likes riding the Glacial Lakes Trail, which starts in Willmar and goes to Paynesville. I like the trail fine, but figure the bikes we usually ride are called road bikes (the kind with dropped handlebars and skinny tires) for a reason. When he can’t ride, I’m usually pedaling down some highway or paved county road.

But Bob was free and so we headed for the trail.

The thing about the trail is that during a normal winter, it’s used by snowmobilers. That’s obviously not happening yet this year, but the trail is never plowed.

So we hadn’t ridden very far when we encountered stretches of the trail that was pocked with ice. That only happened between Willmar and Spicer, Bob assured me. He’d ridden the trail past New London a couple day earlier and it was clear the rest of the way.

Things did improve as we headed from Spicer to New London.

But a few miles past New London there was snow on the trail.

There was brown grass, leafless trees and no snow for as far as we could see in any direction.

On the trail, however, there was snow.

Bob Hines rides Jan. 5 down a snowy stretch of the Glacial Lakes Trail.

It was a little more than a dusting, but would continue for stretches of as much as a quarter mile. In some places the snow was over spots of ice. It made me glad I was riding a bike with fat, heavily treaded tires.

We continued riding, our tires making a crunching sound as we rolled over the snowy patches, all the way to Hawick. Covering that distance meant I rode a total of 42 miles. Bob did a couple more because he lives that much farther from the trail.

As we pedaled back to Willmar, I couldn’t help thinking that we were experiencing record warmth that day and yet we were probably riding on the only snow in the county.