Pedal for Project Impact, Day 7

It was raining lightly as we loaded our luggage on Tom’s van for the final time Sunday morning.

Then, as we rolled our bikes out of rooms, had breakfast and turned in our room keys, the rain stopped.

It was raining in Albany as we prepared for the last ride of Pedal for Project Impact 2014.

Daven took off. No sense in holding back the racer.

But there were dark clouds above as the rest of us pedaled out of Albany,

We spread out over a few miles on Stearns County Road 10 heading to Roscoe on the first phase of the ride to Willmar.

County 10 from Albany to Roscoe is a rolling stretch of shoulderless road that I remembered from the same ride last year as being about 10 miles long.

I was in good spirits as I completed my first eight miles on County 10 and was rolling down a long hill toward an intersection.

I figured I had two miles left to Roscoe.

The sign at the intersection indicated I had six miles left to ride to Roscoe.

Stearns County Road 10 from Albany to Roscoe is 14 miles long, hilly and shoulderless.

Riding to Roscoe on County 10 offers a special reward: after 14 miles of climbing hills and looking out for vehicles, there’s one more steep hill to climb up to Highway 23.

There were few hills on the rest of the ride ro Willmar.

Bob caught up with me on the road to Paynesville and we stopped there at a gas station for coffee.

As we rode up the bridge over the Highway 23 bypass, we saw a cyclist at the top.

It was Jarrett Hubbard waiting for us.

He had planned to ride with us for the weekend, but couldn’t for a variety of reasons.

The three of us proceeded to the Glacial Lakes State Trail and met Tom a few miles later.

He drove to Willmar and pedaled back up the trail to join us.

We pedaled past New London and Spicer.

As we approached the trailhead in Willmar, we saw two women in the parking lot.

Sofia, my wife, and Aggie, Tom’s wife, were waiting for us.

There was hugging and photo taking and Pedal for Project Impact 2014 was over.

This year’s ride may be over, but you can still contribute to the cause.

You can mail a donation to: Safe Avenues, PO Box 568, Willmar, MN 56201. Please write PPI on the memo line of your check.

Donations can also be done online at www.willmarshelter.com. Just click on the donate button at the top of the home page and follow the instructions.

Pedal for Project Impact 2014, Day 6

Gary left us a day early.

He rode the 133 miles from Pequot Lakes to Willmar so he could be home for a granddaughter’s fourth birthday on Sunday.

He left at 4:30 a.m. and called me this evening to report that he arrived home at 6 p.m.

He said he saw something he’d never seen on trail before — a black bear.

“He saw me and hightailed it out of there,” Gary said of the bear.

Thanks for riding with us Gary.

Enjoy the birthday.

The rest of us took off and 7:15 a.m. with the intent of biking as far as Albany — a journey of about 89 miles.

We rode the Paul Bunyan Trail for the first 25 miles to Brainerd, then took Highway 371 toward Little Falls.

Daven drove the van as far as Little Falls, then Tom took over.

Tom got this photo of me heading down Highway 371 to Little Falls.

Daven and I were biking together as we approached Little Falls.

The shoulder of the highway is about as wide as a  lane of traffic, but Daven wanted to get away from vehicles passing us at 70 miles an hour, He turned off the highway onto Haven Road where there was much less traffic and a wide shoulder.

It also took us into the middle of a parade.

The only way get through town, that we could find was to join the paraders.

Spectators waved at us and actual parade participants threw candy to kids, sometimes hitting us.

We dodged kids jumping at the candy and, just past the end of the parade route, was the road we were looking for.

It took us to Hilton Road.

Bob, left, I and Daven have something to eat at Jordie’s in Bowlus.

Seven miles later, we came to the Soo Line ATV Trail (west of Minnesota 10, the trail is paved and only non-motorized modes of transport are allowed on it).

We rode over the trail bridge on the Mississippi by Blanchard Dam and continued to Bowlus.

There we stopped at Jordie’s Trailside Cafe for something to eat.

With the amount of food we’ve eaten on this ride, we probably gained weight even though most of us rode more than 300 miles.

From Bowlus it was 16 miles to Albany where we’ll spend the night and hope that we can beat the rain home.

See you in Willmar — or, better still — see you Sunday on the trail to Willmar.

Pedal for Project Impact, Day 5

What about Bob?

That was the question we were all asking ourselves after arriving today at the hotel in Pequot Lakes following our 72-mile bicycle ride there from Bemidji.

Four of us were there, but Bob was apparently still out on the Paul Bunyan Trail somewhere.

Tom was the last to see him as they parted company on my favorite stretch of the trail in Chippewa National Forest.

Daven was the only person to take some water as I waited for the riders in Backus.

It’s a stretch that goes on for several miles and is definitely a part of the path that was never a rail bed.

There are plenty of steep climbs, fast descents and sharp turns.

When he and Tom got through that stretch, Bob decided to follow another trail that, according the signs, went to the town of Walker.

He followed the route over trail, shoulder and bike lane and it did indeed lead to Walker, ending at a trailhead that, coming from the other direction appears to go no where, according to Bob.

And Bob should know, he tried earlier to find the trail from the other direction and couldn’t.

When he showed up at the hotel a couple hours after the rest of us, he had ridden 98 miles and was all wet for his effort.

Gary checks his GPS to see how far it is from Backus to Pequot Lakes.

A brief cloud burst caught him as he peddled the last few miles of his adventure.

I got wet to, but rode less than half the distance Bob covered.

I took over driving the support vehicle (Tom’s van) from Tom about 22 miles into the ride at Laporte.

After a few wrong turns, I found my way to Walker where I met up with Tom and Bob before they rode through the national forest and Bob was still wondering about that trailhead with no apparent trail.

After banking, having lunch and doing a few other errands in Walker, I drove to Backus to wait for the riders to see if they needed any water.

Daven arrived first, then came Gary, then Tom

Tom told me about Bob’s explorations and said there were plenty of places he could get water or anything else he wanted.

So I drove to the hotel, hopped on my bike and headed up the trail to ride a few more miles.

I had received a text from Daven so I knew he was already in Pequot Lakes.

I encountered Gary just a couples miles from the hotel and Tom three or four miles later.

But no Bob.

As I rode, I was expecting to see Bob.

Where was Bob?

What I did see was dark, ominous clouds coming toward me as the temperature dropped.

I peddled about 10 miles up the trail through Pine River and a ways beyond.

Then I turned around and covered about two miles when I rode right into a thunderstorm.

The heavy rain lasted only a few minutes — just enough to assure that I was wet down into my shoes.

As I approached the hotel, the rain was nearly done.

But I kept wondering: What about Bob?

Pedal for Project Impact, Day 4

It was a cloudy, cool morning. Streets were drying off after an earlier rain and it looked as though it might rain again any time.

Never the less, the stalwart cyclists of Pedal for Project Impact decided to ride as much as they could.

Bob reserved hotel rooms in Bemidji for two days with the plan that we could either rest or bike to Itasca State Park or around Lake Bemidji or do what Gary did.

Here come Daven, Bob and Tom headed in the opposite direction.

He took a wrong turn.

He ended up a few miles west of Bemidji, then found his way back to town and rode the Paul Bunyan Trail to Walker and back.

Bob, Daven and Tom rode around Lake Bemidji. I was going to stay at the hotel and read or sleep.

Then I decided to take a chance on the weather and to ride around the lake too.

I got lost.

True to the name Gary, I rode more than three miles and realized I was a couple blocks from where I started, the hotel.

Using the GPS on my phone, I found Lake Bemidji and was a third of the way around it when I encountered Bob and Daven and Tom.

Even though the day was dreary, it was still beautiful on the trail through Lake Bemidji State Park.

They were headed in the opposite direction.

Undaunted by my limited navigational skills, I continued on my route around the lake.

I pedaled through Lake Bemidji State Park and took the Paul Bunyan Trail back into Bemidji.

That route passes through some truly green and lush scenery that I enjoy every time I ride it — no matter the direction.

When I returned to the hotel, I found out that Gary was still on the trail and Bob decided to go around the lake again.

Pedal for Project Impact, Day 3

We made it to Bemidji today.

It should have taken us three to four hours, but it took nearly eight.

Tom drove his van in the morning and Daven was going to relieve him at one of the communities where there are trailheads along the Heartland or Paul Bunyan — the two trails we rode today.

Bob heads for the trailhead of the Heartland Trail in Park Rapids.

As the ride progressed Tom decided that Laporte was the place to do the exchange.

I arrived there sometime after Bob and Daven. I was happy because I had ridden 40 miles of a 60-mile route and knew I’d be in Bemidji soon and could give my sore butt a break from my bike’s saddle.

But Bob and Tom were talking when I arrived in Laporte and that’s never a good sign.

Bob thought we should ride back 11 miles on the Paul Bunyan Trail — back the way we had just come — and take the Heartland Trail along Cass Lake.

It would only add about 20 miles to the ride and Bob and I could ride a trail we hadn’t ridden before.

In other words, instead of being two thirds done, I would be only half done with the day’s ride.

I wasn’t interested.

Daven laughed as he heard me muttering something about crazy old so-and-sos trying to permanently injure me where the sun don’t shine.

Daven and Bob pose with Nevis’ most famous resident.

But the gang pointed out to me that it’s supposed to rain Thursday so we have to ride while the sun is shining.

That made sense and, realizing I’d ride very little if at all Thursday, I reluctantly agreed to go with them and take the longer route to Bemidji.

And the sun was truly shining.

It was a bit windy, but it was mostly a cross wind or a tailwind helping us to our destination more than hindering.

Then the trail ended.

As we were trying to read a map Bob had and figure out where we were, a pickup truck pulled and a woman in it gave us directions to the next segment of the trail.

“People are always getting lost here,” she said.

When we were back on the trail, Bob took off like a shot and soon we couldn’t even see his bright yellow jersey on the horizon.

Gary, right, and I ride together.

Tom, Gary and I rode the trail until it became a bike lane in Cass Lake and then disappeared completely on a county road.

But we could see a busy road up ahead and figured it was U.S. Highway 2, which we knew we’d  have to take to Bemidji.

It was U.S. 2, so we crossed, stopped at rest area to refill our water bottles and headed for Bemidji.

A few minutes later I saw a sign that said “Bemidji 14 miles.”

I had already ridden 78 miles and really hadn’t planned on riding 92-plus miles today.

As I was adjusting to the idea of a much longer ride, my phone rang.

It was Bob. He was still in Cass Lake.

He had seen a newly paved road that was closed and decided he was going to be the first cyclist to ride it.

So Bob was behind us. I told him to head to U.S, 2 and take a left.

He caught up with us as we were on Bemidji’s outskirts rode with us the rest of the way to our hotel.

Of course we stopped on the way for photos with the city’s best known residents.

I join Bob and Tom in posing with Paul and Babe.

Day 2, Pedal for Project Impact 2014

On most of the multi-day bike rides I’ve ridden, there are at least 100 riders.

That means as the cyclists who would be racers charge to at least the first rest stop. All the rest of us find our place at the front, middle or back of the pack of riders who aren’t in such a rush.

Just me and the open road

No matter where I was in that continuum — usually on the slow end — I had someone to ride with.

When there are four riders, however, it’s a different story.

We have a real racer, Daven. He warmed up for this week’s adventure by racing 100 miles Saturday. In the rain. On gravel. On a single-speed bike. He finished 17th out of 89.

Bob just has a lot of energy. He can’t keep up with Daven, but he’ll try … for a while.

Tom’s not far behind Bob.

He said today that riding up the hills were making his legs feel rubbery, but he said that as he rode past me.

No one to photograph but my shadow.

I seem to keep up the best with Gary. He has the steady, patient pace acquired during tours he’s ridden in places like the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Indiana and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

When I find Gary, I can usually keep up with him and still have enough energy to carry on a conversation.

There’s construction work on Highway 71 in Browerville and Daven and Bob rode right through it. Gary took the detour south of Browerville and I, needing to use the public restroom that I remembered was in the town park, rode into Browerville and back out to the detour.

I dodged semis using the detour, which is on narrow county roads and passed a couple horse-drawn vehicles used by the area’s Amish residents.

What’s that up ahead? It’s Gary!

By the time I was back on 71, I could see Gary up ahead.

I caught up with him and rode and talked with him until we were a couple miles south of Wadena.

Tom was there waiting at the edge of the highway with his van.

Gary, who had volunteered at breakfast to take over driving, loaded his bike on the van’s rack as Tom prepared to ride his bike.

Tom and I left Gary with the van and, before too long, Tom left me to … in his dust.

All this brings me back to my original point: if there were more people participating in the ride, I might have had someone to ride with on the remaining 36 or so miles to Park Rapids.

Gary takes over driving the van.

Maybe in the years to come, we’ll see some more people riding the full ride, but you can kee[ me and the rest of us company Sunday.

We’ll be riding back to Willmar from Albany and plan on taking the Glacial Lakes State Trail for the last 25 miles of our journey.

We’ll be leaving Albany by 7 a.m. because we can’t restrain Daven and Bob much later than that. So we’ll be on the trail in Paynesville by about 8:30 a.m.

You can meet us near Paynesville or anywhere along the way to Willmar depending on where and when you start.

Come out and join us for our return to Willmar.

Maybe then I’ll have someone to ride with.

Day 1, Pedal for Project Impact 2014

There were some clouds in the sky and it was already warm at 9 a.m. as we gathered to begin Pedal for Project Impact 2014.

Bob, from left, me, Gary, Daven, Tom

This year there are five riders: Gary Peterson, Daven Kokkila, Tom Meium, Bob Hines and yours truly. We’re riding pretty much the same route as last year — from Willmar to Bemidji and back — with stops in Long Prairie, Park Rapids, Bemidji, Pequot Lakes and Albany.

And, as the ride’s name indicates, we’re still raising money for Project Impact, a program for children at Safe Avenues, the shelter house in Willmar.

This year is also different because we have a support vehicle, Tom’s van, which he drove for the first 30 miles of today’s ride. Then I took over and then Bob drove.

As the rest of us pedaled down the Glacial Lakes State Trail, Gary said, “This is about as good as it gets.”

Although much of the sunshine had faded, it was warm as a tail wind pushed us toward Long Prairie.

The sky was significantly darker when we arrived at the Pizza Hut in Sauk Centre.

As we ate. I kept mistaking the noise made by passing semis for thunder.

There was no thunder, but, as we left the Pizza Hut, it was raining.

And the rain did intensify.

But it was warm, the rain never reached storm stage and that wind kept pushing us toward our destination.

The last eight miles were wet but we made it.

Misadventure ends well

Where do we go from here? Gabby and Bob check the map.

“This is what biking’s all about,” my friend Bob Hines said Friday as we watched barges being pushed down the Mississippi River toward St. Paul.

That event was the culmination of a bicycle ride that might be described as a misadventure. Bob, my daughter, Gabby, and I found ourselves within sight of Minnesota’s capital because of a wrong turn and a brief, but hellacious climb.

Bob was on vacation, Gabby had a day off she had to use by June and I had worked the previous Sunday so my work week ended Thursday.

Months ago, Bob and I planned to use that weekend to go on a three-day ride somewhere.
Then we realized it was Mothers Day weekend.

We had to modify our plans.

At Minnehaha Falls.

That’s when Gabby suggested that we spend Friday riding the trails that wind through the Twin Cities.

There’s a route that takes cyclists around several of lakes in Minneapolis, she said.

As Bob and I left Willmar, it was raining.

Weather predictions indicated that it might rain that morning in the Twin Cities, which led to my suggesting that we shoot for arriving in St. Paul around noon.

It was cloudy, cool and windy when we arrived, but not raining.

As planned, we went to an Asian buffet for lunch before riding.

After the buffet, we really needed to ride even though the weather hadn’t changed.

We were on course as we rode down Summit Avenue to the river by the University of St. Thomas.

From there we followed trails to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, a place Bob hadn’t visited before.

After a brief stop for photos, we took off for Lake Nokomis.

At some point, we saw a sign for Nokomis, but no path or bike lane. But we also saw a trail with signs indicating that it led to Ft. Snelling.

We made it to the fort, but only after a brief, but steep climb up to it. If the climb had been much longer, I would have been walking.

We were at the fort, but where should we go from there?

Away from St. Paul was Gabby’s answer.

The Sibley House.

That took us by another historic site — the homes of Henry Sibley and Jean Baptiste Fairbault in Mendota Heights.

Once we found the the trail after our stop at the homes, we pedaled along the Mississippi.

The trail would lead to a road and end a couple times as we rode followed the river. But we found that it would begin again a few hundred yards down the road.

While we rode from trail to road to trail, we noticed a long train. Its boxcars extended back into a wooded area that prevented us from seeing where it ended.

Not sure where the trail leads, but still riding.

Looking in the direction the train was headed, we saw lights on an old railroad bridge begin to blink. In moments, the bridge began to open — not by rising — but by swing sideways like a door.

We continued down the trail and, at clearing where we had a better view of the bridge, we saw a barge heading past the bridge and toward St. Paul.

We rode down the trail, across the river and back to St. Paul. We had to walk our bikes through downtown because people were pouring into the area to attend the Wild game at the Excel Energy Center.

Follow the barges.

Once through the crowds, we pedaled up Cathedral Hill to Gabby’s apartment.

Our ride didn’t go as planned, but the three of usl agreed we were glad it hadn’t.

Can you help?

What follows is a note from Christine Hilbert, the founder and leader of Bikes 4 Kids. The Willmar-area group collects, refurbishes and gives away bicycles.

Greetings
Your help is needed.
Yesterday I checked in with Jim Bode at the Northside Park bike shed.  He and Bonnie Pehrson were moving out all the bikes on the south side of the shed.  They swept the floor and sorted bikes, then brought them back into the shed.  Two Middle School boys helped for about 30 minutes.
Jim has 9 girl bikes and 4 boy bikes ready to go.  We have 2 girls and 23 boys waiting for bikes since last year.
Help is needed to get more boy bikes ready for the May 20th bike giveaway event.
Jim is at the bike shed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5:15 until 7:00.  If you have time, your help is needed now to:
-  Move out and sort bikes on the south side of shed

- Engrave identifying numbers on bikes
- Pressure wash bikes
- Repair bikes
Hoping you can help -
Christine

Child Guide Program Coordinator
Willmar Public School Dist. #347
Community Education and Recreation Dept.
1234 Kandiyohi Ave SW
Willmar, MN  56201
(320)231-8490
hilbertc@willmar.k12.mn.us

Did I mention the thunderstorm?

Notice the guy in yellow? And these are people preparing for the Ironman, not riders returning from the ride. “Only in Minnesota,” Gabby, my daughter, said seeing how many people showed up to ride in the rain.

   Since 1967, the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride has usually been held on the last Sunday in April.

 In Minnesota, that can mean just about anything can happen as far as the weather’s concerned.

 Last year the day of the Ironman was sunny and the temperature rose to the 60s in the afternoon.

 This year the weather was actually dangerous.

 So, of course, after not riding the Ironman for several years, my friend Bob Hines and I decided several months ago to try it again.

This time around, we were joined by two other Willmarites, my daughter, Gabby, and her friend, Daven Kokkila.

Bob and Daven planned to ride the 100-mile route (the Ironman is the oldest “century” ride in the state) and Gabby and I were going to ride 60 miles.

As Sunday approached, predictions of rain. high winds and even ice pellets caused us to modify our plans.

As Devan put it, he and Bob decided a metric century was more appropriate for the weather than an American one. So they planned to ride 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) not 100 miles.

Gabby — who didn’t want to get out of the truck — and I agreed to try the 29-mile route.

Daven Kokkila wraps his feet in trash bags. He discovered the hard way while riding the Ironman that plastic grocery store bags are better at keeping his feet dry.

It wasn’t too bad for the first half hour or so after we left Washington County Fairgrounds in Stillwater, where all the routes started and ended. It wasn’t raining and the wind was mostly to our backs.

 Then it started to rain and we turned in a direction that exposed us to the wind. But, in a couple miles, we were on the Gateway State Trail where trees sheltered us a bit. The warmest it got while we were riding was 41 degrees with a northeast wind gusting to 23 mph. Somehow we didn’t notice the snow the National Weather Service reported.

 Did I mention the thunderstorm?

 By the time we reached the only rest stop on the route, we were wet and cold. Then we heard a bus was arriving soon for riders who wanted to call it a day. We talked and decided to take the bus.

 evan was sheltering in the storage area in the back of Bob’s truck when we got back to the fairgrounds.

 After having two flat tires, Devan decided the 29-mile route was good enough.

 I was a shivering mess and just sat in the truck as the heater warmed me up.

Ironman riders take temporary shelter in a tunnel along the Gateway State Trail. A significant portion of the ride’s 29-mile route was on the trail.

As circulation returned to my extremities, I peeled off some of my wet clothes.

 Once I stopped shivering, we drove the truck to a nearby gas station to fill it up.

 That’s when Bob called.

 He was at the Scandia Community Center, a rest station on the 60-mile route about 30 or so miles from the fairgrounds. He said a bus would be by soon and volunteers at the center said they were shutting the route down and he should take the bus back to Stillwater.

I told him to wait and we’d pick him up.

 After getting Bob, we headed for Gabby’s place in St. Paul. Bob said that as he arrived in Scandia, EMTs were loading a rider in an ambulance and when he  entered the center, he saw five more cyclists wrapped in emergency blankets and shivering.

 The rain intensified as we headed for Gabby’s apartment — and hot showers and a hot meal.