Supreme Court decision could hurt trails

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday in the case Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust et al., v. United States has serious implications for trails built on former railways throughout the country – even those that were converted to trails years ago, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Although the case pertains to the Medicine Bow Rail Trail in Wyoming, the decision could affect rail-trails that occupy federally-granted rights-of-way, including the George S. Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, the Foothills Trail and the John Wayne Pioneer trails in Washington, the Weiser River Trail in Idaho and the Rio Grande Trail in Colorado, according to the Conservancy.

Riding the Glacial Lakes State Trail is something my family and I enjoy several times a year. Such adventures might be threatened on trails throughout the country thanks to a Supreme Court decision announced Monday.

Here’s a link to the Conservancy’s Rail-Trail Supreme Court case info web page.

As I understand it, the decision could mean that builders of rail-trails, as the Conservancy calls them, might be required to pay for land on which they’re building new trails, even though the federal government had a right-of-way for the railway. They might also be required to pay for land on which long-established rail-trails are built.

Read the material and see what you think. It seems to be another situation where we have to decide whether value in dollars overrides any other significance something might have. As for me, I appreciate the money I earn, but treasure some of the memories – like rides on a trail with my family — that would be hard to evaluate in terms of dollar-and-cents.

Pedaling ahead: Concerned cyclists look at options in Willmar area

Bicycle Willmar hosts a meeting Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

WILLMAR — As the wind chill persisted in the below-zero range, area residents with variety of perspectives came together Monday to consider a warm-weather activity — bicycling.

There were parents concerned for their children’s safety, riders who like the area’s trails and wanted them fixed and extended and those who have seen how cyclists are accommodated elsewhere who wanted to share their experiences.

“We need to look at what trails we do have and where there are gaps,” said Jarrett Hubbard, an organizer of the meeting.

“There’s no good way to get to the west side of town,” Hubbard said, adding an example of challenges cyclists face in Willmar.

Twenty people attended a meeting hosted by Bicycle Willmar, a group formed by cyclists who want to bring a variety of efforts to improve area cycling together, said Steve Brisendine, who helped lead the discussion at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

More could be accomplished if the various projects could be brought together, he said.

Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation, said there are a lot of good things happening, such as construction beginning last fall on a trail from Robbins Island to downtown Willmar.

Crews work Nov. 1 on the biking trail near Robbins Island in Willmar. Plans have also been developed to help cyclists ride more easily around the city. Some improvements require steps as simple and inexpensive as applying some paint and putting some signs in the ground.

Plans have also been developed to help cyclists ride more easily around the city, Brisendine said. Some improvements require steps as simple and inexpensive as applying some paint and putting some signs in the ground.

The group’s email invitation to Monday’s meeting included a link to an online survey about biking in Willmar that more than 350 people have completed so far.

The first question asked why people ride bicycles and allowed them to select more than one option. Most respondents: 81.7 percent, listed recreation as their reason for cycling and 73.8 percent selected exercise.

Another one of the survey’s questions was about priorities, Brad Bonk, adult recreation coordinator at community education and recreation, told the group.

Bonk said 90 percent selected paved trails as their top priority.

Several people at the meeting echoed that sentiment. They said vehicle traffic — especially on South First Street — was too heavy and an off-street alternative would make cycling in Willmar more inviting.

But others pointed to efforts elsewhere in the state, in other states and overseas that accommodate cyclists and motorists. At Cross Lake near Brainerd, some crossings are designated for bikers, who have the right of way at those points.

The setup at Cross Lake is simple, several people said. It uses traffic cones and is similar to the pedestrian crossing at Ridgewater College.

One woman in the group lived in the Netherlands for two years and said she didn’t have to own a car because everyone bikes.

Others pointed out that educating both drivers and riders has to be part of any effort to get more people on two wheels. Cyclists riding city streets after dark without any lights or even reflective clothing was an example mentioned to illustrate how bike riders need to take responsibility.

But communities do adjust to more people riding bicycles, Brisendine said. He used the example of the area around the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities where cyclists have become more common on streets in recent years.

“The more you see of it, the safer it becomes,” Brisendine said. “You know you’re looking for cyclists.”

A meeting and survey of interest to Willmar-area cyclists

Here’s information about a meeting and survey that might be worth the time of anyone in the area who’s interested in bicycling. If you don’t have time for the meeting, please try to complete the survey. I’ve done the survey and hope I will be able to cover the meeting for the Tribune and this blog.

For those interested in bicycling and bicycle initiatives in Willmar we have a survey for you to fill out and give us your thoughts on future projects. The group Bicycle Willmar will also be hosting a open house meeting on March 3 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Willmar Education and Arts Center rehearsal hall. The meeting will discuss bicycle initiatives in Willmar and where you can help get these moving forward. Please click the link below to take the survey.

Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/N8TYXHF

Warm weather, bikes that leave me cold

This sculpture near Mallory Square in Key West captures the spirit of cyclists in the “Conch Republic,” as some natives of the island city have called their community.

It’s 7 degrees outside as I write this post.

I know that because I just checked The Weather Channel website.

When I go to that website, there are little icons at the top of the page with brief reports of conditions at locations I check regularly.

First among them is Marathon, Florida, where our son, Alex, and his girlfriend, Andrea, live.

Today it’s 80 degrees in Marathon, a town in the middle of the string of islands, or keys, that stretch from Miami to Key West.

We were there for about a week in late December and early January. I checked Marathon’s weather frequently as we prepared for that trip and that icon has tortured me ever since.

This is probably the safest way to ride a bike around Key West.

While in the keys, we spent New Year’s Eve – my 61st birthday – in Key West.

It seems like a few centuries ago, but the naval air station there was my first assignment in the Navy. As a result, I enjoy spending a little time in Key West whenever we visit Alex and Andrea.

Besides having more than 300 sunny days a year, another way the nation’s southernmost city distinguishes itself from west central Minnesota is the number and variety of bicycles people use there.

Key West’s permanent population is about 25,000, slightly more than that of Willmar, Minnesota, where I now live and have resided most of my life.

But given Key West’s compact island geography and constant influx of tourists, its downtown streets and as busy as many of the larger metro areas where I’ve lived or visited during my 20 years in the Navy and my 20 years since retiring.

Although it’s a much smaller area, traffic that fills the streets near the piers in Key West remind me of the congested, erratic traffic in Naples, Italy, a place where I wouldn’t ride a bike on a bet.

But there they were — all kinds bikes pedaled by all kinds of people.

I was a little slow taking this shot, but you get the idea.

There were apparent tourists on shiny new bikes. Some of them wore helmets, but they were about the only riders who took that precaution. And they seemed to be the only people paying attention to the cars, scooters and tourist-carrying, multi-trailer, faux locomotives known as Conch Trains.

Wide-tired, heavy-framed cruisers reminiscent of what I rode as a kid seemed to be the most common type of bike.

Some people made a living with their bikes, like the many pedal taxis I saw.

I didn’t see many bikes I’d want to ride and I really need a stretch of land longer than the short walk it takes in Key West to go from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded it if I could have taken some of that warm weather with me back to Minnesota.

I’d rather be riding my Surly Cross-Check than any bike I saw in Key West, but I wouldn’t mind it if a little Keys weather worked its way to frigid Minnesota.

Another look at fat bikes

There’s a fat bike at Rick’s Cycling and Sports Center in Willmar. It’s a Surly Pug Ops, a direct descendant of the first production fat bike, the Surly Pugsley.

Rick let me try it out after a recent snow. I took it out on Glacial Lakes State Trail and also rode it on a nearby gravel road and on Foot Lake.

I’m not sure why an old microwave was out on the ice in the middle of Foot Lake, but it made a pretty good bike stand.

Super stable is the best way I can describe the ride. Some people call fat bikes the ultimate mountain bike.

Their frames are often similar to mountain bikes without suspension except where they have to be modified to accommodate four-inch-wide tires, Some new fat bikes have five-inch tires.

I gave another fat bike a brief test ride several weeks ago at the Winter Bike Expo in Minneapolis. I reported on this blog that it handled fine on well ridden trails, but not so well on fresh snow. In a later post, I pointed out that the bike’s tires were probably fully inflated, which is not what you want for riding on snow.

Rather than 20 PSI — normal pressure for these tires — Rick had about seven pounds of air in the Pup Ops tires.

While there are no studs on those tires (a variety of websites offer instructions on how to add studs), the Pug handled well on glazed snow and ice.

It was great on a gravel road that intersects the trail and on the lake — I’ll discuss riding on the lake later in this post.

In a sense, I got to ride two trails. I rode the trail out past the gravel and decided to try the road on the way back. As I was on the road, a DNR worker drove a grooming machine down the trail. As a result, I had the opportunity to ride the trail while it had portions drifted over by snow and after it was groomed.

All the braze-ons for racks, bottle cages and other accessories indicate that the Pug Ops is ready for touring.

The Pug was fine on clear portions of the trail before it was groomed and great on the groomed trail. Pockets of loose snow on the groomed trail would catch the tires, but I could plow on through.

Snow drifts, however, stopped me. If I tried to push on once I plowed into a drift, the bike’s rear wheel spun — for as long as I could stay upright — just like the wheels of a car stuck in a drift.

Maybe studded fat bike tires would help.

After riding the trail, I drove over to Robbins Island. Both the boat ramps along Business 71 were drifted over and I couldn’t ride over them. So I pedaled a well-traveled road across the park to the lake access ice fishers use to drive out on the lake to their fish houses.

Following their paths out to the middle of the lake, I reached the fish houses without any problem.

I pedaled over the bumpy tracks left by their trucks and clear ice without any problems. But there were drifts on the lake that caught me just like on the trail.

This grooming machine coming by as I rode the Pug allowed me to try two different snow conditions on the same trail.

When fat bikes first hit the market, they were often called snow bikes.

I’m not sure snow bike is an apt description. Maybe Surly — the company that started the fat bike trend — described its line of fat bikes the best. On the Surly website the Pug Op and two other models are described as “OmniTerra.”

From what I’ve seen, fat bikes are good on some types of snow and better on all kinds of unpaved, uneven surfaces in warmer weather.

Rick says he wants people to try out the Pug Ops. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Bicycles in the culture wars?

I found the commentary that’s linked to below on the Bicycle Times Magazine website. While I’ve encountered some anti-bicycle sentiment over the years, I can’t say it’s always conservatives expressing those attitudes.

Sometimes it’s simply motorists who have had bad experiences with cyclists. And there are plenty of cyclists who ride carelessly. Of course there are also plenty of bad drivers on the road. I’ve encountered motorists who seemed willing to hurt or kill me in apparent attempts to assert their rights on the road that – legally – they didn’t have.

Experience like riding on this covered bridge on the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail at Holdingford makes cycling on trails all the more enjoyable. But the cost of building and maintaining trails makes a lot of people — not just conservatives — wonder if tax dollars couldn’t be used more effectively on types of roadways that serve a variety of types of transportation.

But the issues discussed in this Boston Globe commentary indicate future areas of disagreement that people on both sides should consider. There seems to be support in Minnesota for further development of trails that allow cyclists to ride where there are no vehicles. But trails are expensive and bike lanes and wider shoulders on rural roads would probably give tax payers – no matter what mode of transportation they use – more bang for their tax dollars.

Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes

Another take on fat bikes

Here’s another perspective on fat bikes. My experience with this type of bike may have been the result of the tire pressure being too high. Anyway, check this point of view out.

‘Fat bikes’ gain popularity as monster truck of bicycles

By Brad Dokken, Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The temperature had fallen into the midteens above zero, but the brisk north wind made it feel more like zero Wednesday afternoon as the sun dipped behind the dikes along the Grand Forks Greenway.

The cold wouldn’t keep Kevin Jeffrey and David Sears inside, though. In their world, it was a perfect afternoon to hit the snow for … a bike ride.

Yes … you read that correctly.

Jeffrey and Sears are among a small but growing brigade of Grand Forks-area outdoors enthusiasts to catch the “fat bike” bug. So-called for their extremely wide tires, fat bikes enable riders to go where no bicycle has gone before.

Think of a mountain bike on steroids, and you’ve got the idea.

David Sears, Grand Forks, rides his “fat boy” bike equiped with oversize tires in the snow on the bike path on the Greenway in Grand Forks. Forum News Service photo by John Stennes

Ridden at low tire pressure — anywhere from 5 pounds to 15 pounds of air depending on the conditions — fat bikes provide flotation, traction and stability in sand, rough terrain and snow that mountain bikes can’t match, riders say.

“I ride mine year-around,” said Sears, 45, a paraprofessional at South Middle School in Grand Forks who bought his first fat bike in 2009. “It’s just so much fun. It’s like everyone that hops on them … it’s like being a kid all over again.”

The tires are 4 to 5 inches wide, depending on the bike, and fat bike prices range from $1,500 to $3,000. Popular brands include Surly — a Bloomington-based company that was at the forefront of the fat bike craze — Mukluk and Trek.

“I call it the monster truck of the bicycle world,” Sears said.

Fun and fitness

An avid summertime bicycle rider, Jeffrey bought his first fat bike, a Mukluk Salsa, last winter and uses it to get outside for fresh air and exercise during the cold months. A knee issue made cross-country skiing difficult, Jeffrey said, and he didn’t feel safe riding icy streets and trails with his mountain bike.

“I needed a bike that I could trust on the road, even just doing the greenway trails,” said Jeffrey, 55, a multimedia specialist for Minnkota Power Cooperative. “That’s basically what I bought it for. I’m not so much concerned about going off road — just getting out, getting some air.”

Because of how they’re geared, fat bikes require more pedaling to turn the tires, but there’s less resistance than traditional bicycles.

“It’s a different kind of ride,” Jeffrey said. “It’s really slow. If you want to bust through a lot of snow, this is the bike to do it with. For me, I’m just doing it to get on the greenway.

“Even when the greenway’s snowy, you feel fairly safe.”

Sears, who owns two fat bikes, recently bought a Surly Moonlander with 5-inch tires but kept his first bike, a Surly Pugsley with 4-inch tires. He describes the ride as faster than a hike but slower than a traditional bicycle.

While Jeffrey stays on the trails, Sears takes a more hardcore approach to his riding.

“Wherever there’s a path, I try to avoid it and pick my way through the bushes and bramble and it’s a lot of fun,” Sears said. “Everywhere we go on those bikes, there’s no way you’d ever ride a regular mountain bike back there.”

The slower ride, he said, allows him to take in scenery along the Red River that he’d miss at a faster pace. Getting off the beaten path, Sears said, makes it feel like he’s not in Grand Forks anymore, even though he’s still in city limits.

“It’s just much more enjoyable,” Sears said. “On my regular bike I feel like I have to get somewhere fast.”

Supply-demand issue

The popularity of fat bikes can make them difficult to find for potential buyers. Pat White of the Ski and Bike Shop in Grand Forks said major manufacturers have started producing the bicycles, but demand for some models still outpaces supply.

The bikes initially were associated with riding in snow, White said, but that perception has changed.

“They’ve kind of exploded” in popularity, he said. “I think just the name itself rather than calling it a snow bike, keeping it as a fat bike has opened it up to a lot more markets. We’re seeing some growth in beach areas, sandy areas.”

That growth has made the bikes easier to find. As recently as two years ago, White said, the Ski and Bike Shop assembled most of its fat bikes piece-by-piece, and finding parts wasn’t always easy.

“It’s not as difficult anymore to go ahead and get a fat bike,” White said.

Some of the people riding fat bikes in Grand Forks use the bikes for competitions such as the Arrowhead Ultra, a grueling 135-mile winter marathon taking participants on foot, skis or bicycles from Tower, Minn., to International Falls, Minn.

More recently, though, people are buying fat bikes for the same reasons as Jeffrey — to get outside and stay in shape, White said.

“The last bikes that I’ve sold, I think only one of them is going to see any racing this year,” White said. “If you want to get back on a bike and haven’t been on one for awhile, this would be fun to get and make everything else pale in comparison.”

Not about speed

It’s not about speed, Jeffrey said. He’ll ride for an hour or two after work and cover no more than five to 10 miles, depending on how many tea breaks he takes.

Hot tea, he says, is the reward for cold days on the trail.

“For me, it’s just getting the air, getting some exercise in,” Jeffrey said. “The nights I ride, I sleep so good. You’re putzing along, you’re going slow and that’s what I’m looking for — something to get out and get the air.”

Sears said he estimates about three dozen people in the Grand Forks area now own fat bikes, a number that seems to be growing based on what he’s seen at the Ski and Bike Shop and the local Northern Star Cycling Club.

“It’s a pretty easy learning curve,” Sears said. “As long as you’re familiar with riding a bike, it’s just a matter of how adventurous you want to be at that point.”

White, of the Ski and Bike Shop, said he’s curious to see how the fat bike trend unfolds locally.

“I’m waiting to see when it makes it in Grand Forks as a year-round product,” he said. “We’re used to it being, ‘This is a snow bike for winter time,’ and it’s more than that.”

Interesting expo

In exchange for your ID and a credit card, cyclists could ride a fat bike all they wanted at the Winter Bike Expo in Minneapolis. Because of the cold, it was best to come prepared like this couple.

Attending the Winter Bike Expo in Minneapolis Saturday was a bit like living the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

That’s how we both described the expo when fellow “Willmarino,” Daven Kokkila, and I were asked how it was.

For both of us it was interesting in that it raised the same question: could at least some of the growing enthusiasm for fat bikes be a fad?

I first became aware of fat bikes when I started riding my bicycle in winter. My research on the topic revealed two approaches to riding during the cold months.

Some riders argued that using skinny tires cut through snow down to pavement. Other countered that fat tires allowed riders to float over snow and ice.

Fat tires, in those days, meant around two inches wide.

As I was riding and sliding around a snow-covered town, a new type of bike was gaining popularity.

At first, there was the Surly Pugsley. With four-incheswide tires, the Pugsley was Surly’s first “OmniTerra” bike designed to take riders over snow and other terrain mere mountain bikes couldn’t handle. When it was first released, it was often called a snow bike.

Daven Kokkila, right, talks with a Surly rep.

What was once a small corps of fat bike enthusiasts has grown to an increasingly mainstream trend as larger bike manufacturers have taken notice of the Pugsley’s appeal and produced their own all-terrain fat cycles.

The Winter Bike Expo at the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center in Minneapolis is sort of a celebration of all things fat bike.

The bike center has a street address but it’s really located on the Midtown Greenway, a paved trail that passes under city streets.

With the air temperature hovering around zero and the wind chill much colder, the Greenway was mostly coated with packed, glazed snow.

There were many expo attendees trying out various types of fat bikes on a course along the Greenway. The sponsors allowed people to try out bikes for as long as they wanted for free. They just held on to riders’ IDs and credit cards.

Several cyclists rode past the expo riding bikes with tires of normal width. They seemed to be able to handle the slick pavement without problems.

But several other cyclists passed by the center riding the slippery trail with no apparent difficulty on bikes sporting much thinner tires.

Daven is not only far more experienced riding mountain bikes, he races them.

We were both looking forward to trying out the Surly Krampus, a bike that features slightly thinner three-inch tires. While they were on display, none were available for trial rides.

So we settled for the fatter fat bikes offered for test rides.

Daven got a Pugsley and I rode a Salsa Mukluk.

Some experienced riders could make those fat bikes fly.

I don’t think either of us spent more than a half hour on those fat bikes. We could have spent all the time we wanted, but it was cold and neither of us was particularly impressed with the bikes.

Over the course, which was well packed because of its heavy use, the bikes performed fine. On loose snow, however, they slipped and fishtailed like bikes with much skinnier tires.

Admittedly, these were brief rides over terrain that couldn’t offer too much variety.

And tire inflation matters more for fat bikes.

Softer tires might have improved our test rides significantly.

But the experience left both of us wanting to try bikes with three-inch tires to see how they ride. Daven said that, although some in the fat-bike community argue that bikes like the Krampus aren’t really fat, they’re winning fat-bike races.

Still, we enjoyed the expo and appreciate the efforts of Freewheel Bike and the other sponsors.

It was interesting.

Winter bikes and summer rides

The Winter Bike Expo will is being held Saturday and Sunday at Midtown Bike Center, 2834 10th Ave. south in  Minneapolis.

Maybe Sasquatch hunters should attend the Winter Bike Expo.

Devoted to cyclists who don’t let the region’s cold, snowy winters keep them off the road, the expo will feature exhibits, seminars and opportunities to try the fatbikes offered by the companies represented at the event.

There’s even a craft fair nearby for significant others who have no interest in cold weather cycling. In other words, there’s somethng for sane people.

For more information follow this link to the expo’s website: http://winterbikeexpo.com.

And now for some completely different

Six cyclists attended the first meeting regarding Pedal for Project Impact Tuesday at LuLu Beans. Four other people couldn’t attend, but said they were interested. One avid and experienced tour cyclist, Gary Peterson, said he plans to ride the entire weeklong, 500-plus mile route from Willmar to Bemidji and back. Some others in attendance said they were considering riding a portion of the route, which we’ll be riding from June 16 to 22.

We’re not looking for a large number of riders so this is a great start.

We’ll be meeting again during the first or second week of January at LuLu Beans. If you’re interested in the ride, contact me through the comment section of this blog or email me at 2wheelergm@gmail.com.

Pedaling for Project Impact 2013

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.

Great!

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.