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					The End of the Trails -- Notes from the 2013 Klobuchar bike ride
-- Doug Wilhide

In its thirty-nine years the Jim Klobuchar bike ride developed traditions that evolved, became established
and then changed. In the early days you biked 100 miles a day (or more), carried all your gear on your
bike, camped in god-forsaken places with few facilities -- and embraced the hardships. The number of
participants remained “selective.”

In the early 1990s things got a little easier. The StarTribune, where Jim worked as a columnist for many
years, publicized the ride. Distances shrank closer to 400 miles; you were permitted to load one bag of
gear on a truck; you camped at schools and local parks that usually had showers (sometimes with hot
water) and working toilets (sometimes with toilet paper). You bitched and moaned about the hardships.
Participation swelled to over 300 people.

In recent years the ride has become borderline luxurious. We have eaten, and even stayed, at “resorts.”
There is room on the truck for most of the gear you want to bring; we camp at schools that have working
showers, toilets and elegant dining areas. Distances are often under 400 miles. Some people bring cars
and spouses so there are avenues of escape if conditions get too tough. Topography and weather can
still make this a challenge, so we still bitch and moan about the hardships, but it’s usually done with a
generous spirit.

In its heyday, your fellow riders were often strangers: you knew them by their bikes or their spandex-
encased butts. Over the past decade, as we have grown older and our numbers fewer, the ride has
become more like a reunion. You know everyone -- maybe not their names, but their stories and the
roads you have shared. There’s a lot of remembering -- of hard stretches and beautiful ones, hills and
downhills, parties and bars, injuries and health issues and people who no longer ride. The Strib is no
longer involved and participation has shrunk to about 120 people.

A few things have stayed constant over the years. Jim blows his “conductor’s” whistle at 5:30AM every
morning. The first day we meet for breakfast, collect our t-shirts and Jim outlines the route. The lost-and-
found box always seems to include someone’s scanty underwear. The last evening Jim announces -- to
loud applause -- “Yes, there WILL be a ride next year.”

This year that changed. Jim said this would be the last ride he will lead. He appointed a new
“conductor,” so there will be a ride next year, but he won’t be organizing it. An era has ended.
Friday, June 7.
We leave the Twin Cities at 3:30PM -- an hour late, because we have to await the arrival of the lovely
Anduin, whose busy schedule makes her perennially late for everything. She finally shows up, we hustle
her gear into the car, mount her bike to the rack and take off. I’m worried about getting caught in the
Friday afternoon traffic but we manage to miss the worst of it and peace of mind settles in as we chat on
the way up.

It’s always nice to have company and this year both Andy and Jean are coming along. Jean and I have
been training as well as we could in spite of a very late spring. We jumped on our bikes whenever the
rain (or snow) permitted and have managed to log over 300 miles. Andy has far fewer, but she’s young,
which trumps training every time.

We make it to the Black and White restaurant in Little Falls, about 2 hours north and west of the Cities
and have a fine meal. This is the best restaurant for miles in any direction, with “Cordon Bleu trained
chefs.” We split crab cakes, onion rings an excellent house salad and Salmon Oscar served over risotto.

We drive the last half hour to our starting point in Long Prairie, find the high school and set up our tents.
Jean and I will be sharing “the Palace,” a large Eureka dome tent that easily holds us both as well as our
gear. It’s tall enough to stand up in -- a luxury. Andy sets up my old Timberland tent next to us. It looks
like a toy home next to a real one.

We greet friends, joke around and hug each other and meet up with Ed and Deanna Newman. Jean and
Deanna both have had knee surgeries in the past year and they have worked out an arrangement to
share the ride. They will alternate driving the Newmans’ car so they won’t have to bike the full mileage
each day.

It’s still early so we decide to go into town for a drink. The choices are few. There are Mexican
restaurants at each end of the main street and a bar in the middle with a big sign: “Stop the Invasion:
Close the Border.” Long Prairie sounds like a town with some issues. We try the American Legion,
usually a reliable choice. But it’s bingo night and patrons are intensely involved with their cards. We get
unfriendly stares. We go back to the school, set up camp chairs and work our way through a couple
bottles of the Newmans’ wine.

It’s a lovely, comfortable evening and people stop by to join us and catch up. There’s also a bit of drama.
Ellen, a woman from Baltimore, has biked across the U.S. and has been on this ride multiple times… with
a couple different boyfriends. She is distraught and in tears. It turns out that on the ride up she was
describing her feelings for one of the boyfriends and recorded some of the conversation on her cell
phone. She then inadvertently pushed “send” on the phone and sent the conversation to the current
boyfriend. She likes him a lot and feels she has “screwed things up.” On top of that, her mother has
recently died. They were very close. Friends try to console her, but there’s little that can help.

I talk with Jim for a while. He asks what I’ve been writing and I tell him I’ve just finished a two-year project
to recapture my memories of the years 1964-1968, when the country was changing dramatically and so
was I. I don’t expect more than 3 or 4 people will ever read it. Jim jokes, “That’s pretty good -- more than
I had as a columnist.”

About 10PM Jean and I crawl into our sleeping bags. The weather turns unexpectedly chilly and the bags
are not up to the task. I am wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a flannel shirt and in the middle of the night I put
on a fleece. It’s still cold. But the first night is always short on sleep. I’m used to it. I try to get what rest I
can.




Saturday, June 8.
This year’s t-shirts are orange -- a surprisingly trendy choice as biking colors go. The theme is celebrating
the bike trails that were built in central Minnesota by “pioneering” bike advocates over the last couple
decades. Jim greets everyone as we pick up our shirts and our “inventories” -- his word for itineraries.

There’s a surprise announcement -- Amy (aka Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior U.S. Senator) will be
joining us for the first leg of the ride. Jim repeats the story about how he and his daughter biked from
Minneapolis to the Grand Tetons one summer when she was in college at Yale. They biked 1100 miles in
10 days, heading west into the wind and gaining more than 9000 feet in altitude.

One day in Nebraska was especially difficult, with a steady 25 mph headwind and dust and sand blowing
in their faces. Amy wasn’t feeling well so Jim took the lead. After a while Amy complained that he wasn’t
keeping a steady pace. Jim replied, “Well, Ms. Klobuchar, if you’re unsatisfied, you can always lead for a
while.” Amy responded, “No Dad, I’m just waiting for you to improve.”

As it happens, I’m waiting for Senator Klobuchar’s office to improve. Our son, Sam, has been teaching in
Japan for the past three years and was preparing to return home in July with his wife, Jessica (who is
French), and our grandson, Noa. They went to the embassy in Tokyo to get the proper papers signed
and were “denied.” This has caused a great deal of hardship and heartbreak for all of us. I wrote to Amy
asking for whatever assistance she could provide. Her office responded, but said they were unable to do
anything.

I wrote an Op-Ed piece for the StarTribune on this issue, which affects up to 20 million American citizens
who are married to people from other countries. After it was published, Amy’s office got in touch and
discussed ways they might be able to do something. I appreciate their efforts, but so far they are still
ineffective.

My intention was not to criticize Senator Klobuchar, but to call attention to this problem and the general
mess that is our current immigration policy. But when Jim introduces me to Amy and we talk for a while,
she associates my name with the Strib piece and the conversation becomes... a little less free flowing.

The school ladies have served up a good breakfast of egg bake, sausages, yogurt, and fresh fruit. We
are a well fed and eager group as we set off behind a police escort to help us get easily through Long
Prairie. The weather is cool and sunny, the birds are singing, the lilacs are blooming and filling the air
with sweet aromas.

Amy’s bikes are in D.C. so she’s riding one of her daughter Abigail’s -- a heavy, straight-up trail bicycle
with large balloon tires. We happen to start next to each other and ride together for a couple miles. I can
tell it’s not a good time to discuss immigration policy so we talk about bike things, point out horses in the
fields and wave to guys driving Amish carriages on the other side of the road.

Our first stop is Leslie Community church, 11.9 miles down the road. It’s not much of a destination, but
there’s a crossroads and it’s convenient. We mill around for a while. Shannon and I try a duet of
yodeling. She knows most of the yodels I know and when we get it right we can set each other up and
even harmonize. Our voices are a little rough this morning, but we do OK after a couple tries. Amy
cruises up to Jim, eager as a teenager, “Hey Dad! I made it -- and on Abigail’s bike!”

We head south around Lake Osakis (oh-SAY-kiss) and after 20.8 miles stop at a church where there’s a
mid-morning break featuring coffee, muffins and delicious strawberry cream cheese rolls. I walk through
the sanctuary to find a bathroom. There’s a sign on the sink: “Germs and Jesus are everywhere. So
wash your hands and say your prayers.”

Amy has to leave, but she gives a short speech first. She’s very good at addressing small groups like this
-- funny, engaged, attuned to her audience. She talks about the early days of the ride when she often
went along. The daily mileage was always over 100 and conditions were “primitive.” She and some
friends did it to impress high school boys who couldn’t keep up and dropped out.
She talks about some of our upcoming stops -- Walker, where she decided to run for Senate after “a long
discussion in Earl Moss’ ice fishing house on Leech Lake;” Wadena, where she spent time with people
after the big tornado hit the town hard. The mayor was there and kept hugging her. “He’s a big guy and
he leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘I don’t want to be seen crying on TV.’”

She wishes us well and hopes we enjoy the ride. “Like you, I have every t-shirt from every ride... and it’s
unclear what to do with them when the ride is over. It’s a great deal -- a six day vacation that feels like six
weeks.” She leaves with a young aide who has been accompanying her -- “No, he’s not Secret Service,
and no he’s not my son.”

We leave Osakis and turn northwest on the Lake Woebegone trail, which soon becomes the Central
Lakes trail. It’s a fine path and the breeze is from the southeast, so we’re cruising merrily along. After
32.4 miles we pause by the trail in Alexandria and take pictures with Big Ole -- a giant statue of a Viking.
He’s wearing a kind of short skirt, so the joke is to have your picture taken looking up between Big Ole’s
legs.

I chat for several miles with Steve Weaver, a mechanic from St. Cloud who specializes in foreign
automobiles. He’s been away from the ride for a couple years, but we have had long talks about many
subjects over the years. On this occasion he asks, “So what do you think of the Bible?” Not a bad start if
you want to not think about biking for a while.

I tell him I think it is not one book, but a compilation from many sources put together over centuries and
edited and re-edited by church authorities over millennia. It’s hard to think of that kind of document as a
singular, “holy text.” I also say that I don’t trust people who back up their argumens by saying “that’s what
the Bible says.” The Bible says just about everything -- for every statement you can find its opposite. I
recommend The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, by Peter Gomes, who was a
chaplain at Harvard.

This leads to more general discussion of religion. Steve is unsure about most doctrine, but believes in
God and thinks there must be some truth in religion because it has meant so much to so many for so
long. He asks what I believe.

We still have a long stretch of trail before us so I launch into my philosophy of “the Vortex.” This is based
(rather loosely) on William Butler Yeats’ idea of a “Widening Gyre” as well as elements of Eastern
religions. Picture an inverted cone, with the small end at the bottom and the wider, open end at the top.
Then picture the soul as a point rotating around that cone. At the bottom we have only ourselves and our
journey is limited. We take in little beyond our own consciousness. Our soul rotates around a very small
circumference.

But as we get older and wiser, we begin to understand things beyond our own self. We take in more
knowledge, expanding the volume of the cone we move around. When we begin to understand the lives
and journeys of others we increase our awareness. When we get to the point where we do things for
others selflessly we move around a widening part of the cone. The opposite is also true: when we are
self-focused and do things that harm others, or harm the universe, we encompass less.

The goal -- not the right word, but the only one serviceable at the moment -- is to rise to the open end of
the cone, so our soul rotates around an infinite space. The further we get from the limitations of our self-
related viewpoint, the more we understand. If we live good, useful lives we get closer to enlarging our
soul and comprehending everything: we get closer to being one with God. There are a lot of meaningful
contradictions in all this -- getting beyond the self in order to enlarge it; a soul that is individual but also
part of a larger “life force;” visualizing the universe as cone shaped even though it includes everything.

Steve asks if I believe in life after death or reincarnation. I’m not sure. But it seems to me that our souls
exist -- I can’t prove it, of course, but it’s hard not to believe in some kind of life-force that inhabits you. I
think that the soul is both finite and infinite: we are individuals linked to something beyond ourselves. If
this “something” is part of the universe, then, like matter, it can’t be created or destroyed. So I believe we
go on.

I offer another analogy, based on something that used to be talked about in philosophical discussions in
the 60s (mostly in bars.) It’s called “information-meaning theory.” When we are born, everything is new
to us -- pure information. As we encounter more and more information we begin to see connections -- to
make meaning. When we die there is no more new information, only the meaning we have been able to
understand. So an individual life parallels a larger process of going from self-related awareness to
awareness of the greater universe that is “not us.” This is getting a little heavy for both of us, but we’ve
done 45.1 miles as we ride into Brandon.

The day has been very good so far, with a minimum of hills. The tailwind helps us maintain a speed of
16-17 mph. A few years before we rode the Central Lakes trail coming the other way. On that day we did
84 miles, but we had a strong westerly tail wind and I was cruising the last 30 miles at 20 mph. We came
into Osakis as storm clouds gathered behind.

Sam and Andy were with me on that ride and I was ahead of them, so I set up my tent then biked down to
dinner at the Walleye Lodge. Shortly after I arrived, the bartender announced that the doors were being
locked and everyone was to stay inside because tornadoes had hit the trail behind us and were coming
our way. I was frantic until I found that Sam and Andy had made it to the Walleye Lodge just before they
locked the doors. The storms hit a couple nearby towns and did some minor damage to our campground,
but we escaped serious problems. Being locked in a bar was not the worse way to ride out a tornado. As
we biked through Osakis this year it was sad to see that the Walleye Lodge was out of business and for
sale.

Jean has been alternating with Deanna, sharing riding and driving the car. I join them and other bikers in
Brandon’s Knotty Pine Bar and Grill, where an efficient waitress serves us delicious hamburgers and fried
stuff. Food is fuel. I help Jim Bassett figure out how to install a storage card in his new digital camera.
He has bought a 32 gig card and can take 10,000 pictures. He tries a few of our group and gets down to
9995 shots. I tell him he will need new batteries before he needs a new card.

We leave for Ashby with clouds building in the west, but the trail is good and the tailwind has picked up. I
talk for a while with Julie, a tall, strong woman and an avid biker, who has moved to Minnesota from
Sacramento. Her husband died of brain cancer in 1999 and she has been caring for her mother who has
died recently. Her kids are in Northfield, so it seemed to make sense to come back here. She has a
pension, some life insurance and Social Security survivor’s benefits, so she can be financially stable while
she decides what to do with the rest of her life.

We get to Ashby and set up tents around the school. The day is still nice and we gather in a small circle
to sip wine and talk. Ryan Beckers, a fireman from north of L.A., has a portable speaker. I hook up my
iPod and we listen to Beach Boys songs for a while, then I crawl into the tent for a nap.

Dinner is at the VFW hall -- steak, potatoes, salad. Service is a bit slow, but good beer is available for
$2.75 and we are a happy group. I’m tired but otherwise OK. The neck and headache pains I’ve been
suffering from for two years seem to dissipate the more I bike. My range of motion is a bit limited and my
knees ache, but a couple ibuprofen and a couple beers take care of the pain.

It’s a bit surprising to see the ubiquitous patriotism in these small towns. Long Prairie has a half block
veteran’s memorial in the middle of town. There’s a tank, a helicopter, various montages and a giant
mural of the landing at Normandy painted on a four-story building. At the top there’s a cut-out statue of
marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. There are signs everywhere reminding people to “thank our
veterans.” Every town has a VFW hall or an American Legion... or both. Sometimes they are the most
active businesses in town. The VFW in Ashby has a display case with explanations of ranks and ratings
of the various services as well as photos of people who served and what became of them in later life.
There are a lot of WW I monuments, even though very few young men served from these towns. Most
signed up in the summer of 1918 and returned by the summer of 1919. Few actually went to France and
even fewer saw combat. But that war left a lasting impression -- here as in other parts of the country.
There’s a flagpole next to our tent by in Ashby that was donated by the VFW and dedicated “to those who
served and those who will.” It feels like people are searching for something, or trying to hold on to some
idea that is emotionally powerful beyond the historical facts.

It’s a pleasant evening and we’re starting to get into the routines of the ride. It’s great having Andy and
Jean along. We crawl into our tents as the sky continues to cloud up in the west. 60 miles.


Sunday, June 9.
The rain begins sometime around three in the morning. It always sounds louder inside a tent, but this has
the feel of rain that will last. We dress, pack up as much as we can, then roll up the soaked tent, stuff it in
the bag and haul things to the sag wagon. By the time I get inside for breakfast I’m already wet.

The school ladies are taking good care of us -- omelets, sausages, excellent muffins supplied by a local
bakery, fresh fruit, bananas and coffee, all for $6. It raises our spirits a bit. Most of us are up early --
there’s not much point staying in the tents in the rain -- and we wander around the school (home of the
Ashby Arrows) reading signs posted by the Ashby Arts Commission for an upcoming class: “Picturing
Ashby -- Elements of Good Digital Photography.”

Jim tells us we will encounter “some weather” today, which we already know. He offers one of his
traditional mantras: “A little rain, yes, and cool temperatures and perhaps a bit of a breeze. But in the
long history of human suffering -- wars, pestilence, famine, plague... man’s inhumanity to man -- how
does this hardship stack up?” He then urges us to bike safely and not to leave “precipitously.”

Jean and Deanna have wisely decided to stick to driving today. They will help bikers who need it. Andy
and I set out into a driving rain with winds increasing from the east and north. We are heading almost
due north to Battle Lake. It’s a chilly morning, there are hills and the roads are not the best, but we
struggle on. Even though I’m low on sleep and the conditions are lousy, I’m actually feeling pretty strong.

Our goal is 18.5 miles down the road, a small gift and coffee shop just beyond Battle Lake called One
Fine Day. Jim has tried to fix it in our heads by humming the tune from Madame Butterfly, but most of us
think of the Chiffon’s 1960s pop song, which settles into my mind as I grind out the miles. It becomes a
theme song of the ride:

One fine day, you’ll look at me
And you will know our love was meant to be
One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.

The arms I long for, will open wide
And you’ll be proud to have me right by your side
One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.

Though I know you’re the kind of boy
who only wants to run around
I’ll keep waiting, and someday darling
You’ll come to me when you want to settle down

One fine day, we’ll meet once more
And then you’ll want the love you threw away before
One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.

shoo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo-wop-bop
shoo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo-wop-bop
When I get to the One Fine Day shop it’s swarming with bikers seeking shelter and warmth. There’s not
nearly enough room inside, but we huddle around, glad for a hot cup of coffee and a chance to take off
helmets and water-soaked gloves. Some of the bikers are having trouble with hypothermia and are
shaking and shivering. Many are looking for rides to the next stop. I chat with Jean and stick around for
about 15 minutes, then I figure I should leave and make room for others.

The next leg is tough. I’m already soaked through and when I climb back on the bike I’ve started to shiver
too. The rain is coming harder out of the northeast and the wind is blowing white caps on Battle Lake. The
bank thermometer says 54.

I planned to stop and take a picture of the large Indian statue at the head of the lake with his arm
extended. He’s supposed to be welcoming visitors but it always seems to me he’s saying “Sieg Heil!”
rather than “How!” In any case I need to warm up; there’s no time for pictures. I bike quickly past the
Indian and keep up a steady pace for five miles until the rain coming down outside my jacket is balanced
by the sweat inside. I finally stop shivering.

I think of bike stuff to keep my mind busy. We stay up on a bicycle because of gyroscopic motions that
defy gravity. Your front wheel is a gyroscope; your rear wheel is a gyroscope. When you’re peddling, the
cranks and peddles are another gyroscope. All this makes it surprisingly easy to stay upright, assuming
anything close to normal human balancing skills. The faster you go the more stable you are. For some
reason this is comforting.

We are into rolling hills now and I think of Sam who rides a bike to and from the schools where he
teaches in Kobe, Japan. There’s a small “mountain” between his apartment and the school and he has
only a one-speed bike, but he seems to enjoy the suffering. Up to a point. We talked with him via iChat
before we left for the ride and he was recovering from an accident. On a wet day he hit some gravel on a
downhill and the bike slid out from under him. He’s OK, but has some nasty scrapes and some bruises
around his ribs that made it hard to breathe for a while. He warns us to take it easy in wet weather,
especially on hills.

Which is what I’m biking in now. I’m a little uncertain of my front wheel. I have a new tire on it that is
slightly narrower than the rear one and it feels a bit shaky when I get up to higher speeds, especially if
there’s a cross wind. Normally I’m fine coasting downhill -- you feel you’ve earned it after climbing -- but
on this day I decide to brake early and keep my speed to 18 mph or under.

We’re riding on state highway 78, which has little traffic but is in bad repair. The road itself is rough and
the shoulder is broken and irregular. Every time we come to a crossroad, the shoulder seems to shrink.
We start with about six feet then it goes down to about four, then two and finally there’s only a foot or so.
The wind is still strong from the east, not so bad when there’s a hill or some woods to our right, but tough
when there are lakes or open fields.

I bike past a huge old threshing machine rusting away at the top of a hill. It looks like the skeleton of
some strange prehistoric creature. I reach the south shore of Ottertail Lake, a large lake sometimes
described as “an inland sea.” There are some newer developments, including a pretentious place called
Balmoral -- Balmoral Estates, Balmoral Golf Course, the Residences of North Balmoral, the Shoppes at
Balmoral Boardwalk. They all have some kind of coat-of-arms but this is nothing like the Queen’s castle
in Scotland. On a nice day, it might be a pretty place. This is not that day.

At one point I stop for a butt break and a lady comes out on the other side of the road to check her
mailbox for the paper. It’s not there. We exchange commiserations, two people having a less-than-ideal
Sunday morning.

As bad luck would have it, our lunch stop is a picnic in a rest area beside the lake. I think Jim may have
tried to change venues, but at this late date it wasn’t possible. We stop after 30.8 miles and gather
around an open shelter in a park. We stash our bikes in the rain and gobble cold sandwiches and chips.
There are a couple rough toilets, but they are in poor condition.

Some of the bikers scavenge for wood, tear up the bags and boxes that held sandwiches and try to start
a fire in an open grill. It takes a while, since the wood is soaking wet, but we have more than a few ex-
Boy Scouts in this group and they manage to get a fire going. We huddle around for a little warmth then
rotate out so others can come closer.

Jean and Deanna and others who have cars are busy shuttling people who don’t want to ride any more.
Some are just fed up with the conditions and some are really suffering from the cold, shivering so hard
they can’t control a bike. The shuttle service is in high demand. Later Jean tells me she ended up alone
at the shelter for 45 minutes, waiting for the car to return and pick her up.

It’s June, for God’s sake, but I can see my breath, and I’m soaked through. But I don’t want to linger too
long and let the cold catch up to me. So I set off for the next stop -- a gas station that Jim says is 8 miles
up the road but turns out to be 12 miles away. The road is even rougher now and traffic has picked up as
people get out of church and go about their Sunday business.

The rain increases as I leave and I ride most of this leg with a group of four other bikers -- it’s safer in
these conditions to try to stay in small groups. My left foot keeps slipping off the pedal, so I have to pay
attention to it. My knees are aching and I’m starting to have headaches. I’ve attached the hood of my
bike jacket and wear it under my helmet. I’ve never actually used this hood before. It fits into a back
pocket and I only take it out when I wash the jacket. It takes a while to get the adjustment right so it
doesn’t blow into my eyes, but it keeps the rain off my head and helps hold in some warmth. My bike
thermometer reads 52 degrees.

The gas station is a big store at the intersection of Highway 10, one of the principal routes in this area.
We jam the place, again seeking warmth and shelter. I find a machine at the back that dispenses hot
chocolate -- a welcome treat. There’s a small pizza kitchen that emits warm air and tantalizing smells. I
linger, waiting for Andy to show up.

Jim has arranged for another police escort to help us across Highway 10, so we wait until everyone is
there so we can leave together. Andy has parked her bike near mine and both are near Steve Weaver’s.
He sees us and begins dancing wildly around in the rain, waving his arms and shouting “the Vortex! the
Vortex!”

When we get on to Highway 10 things get a little easier. There’s more traffic, but the shoulder is wider
and in decent condition. The rain lets up, just spitting from time to time. I bike slowly, waiting for Andy to
catch up and we bike together for a while as the skies grow lighter and the wind shifts to the southeast --
behind us now. Parts of highway 10 have been fixed up recently. Riding across the smooth asphalt, wet
with the rain, is like riding on a mirror: smooth, glowing with the bright reflections of other bikers.

I’m still cold, but I feel strong for the first few miles, then suddenly I’m not OK. I know enough by now to
recognize when low sugar requires a stop. Andy and I pull off the road and share granola bars as trains
roar by a few yards above us. The BNSF -- Burlington Northern and Santa Fe -- carries coal and fuel and
cargo all day and all night in this area. Jean and Deanna pull up in the car a few minutes later to check
on us: “Mom patrol!” they shout from the window. Suzanne, a tall woman in her 40s, pulls up beside us
with a flat tire and gets on her cell phone to contact the Penn Cycle repair van. As she’s trying to dial,
HER mother (Gloria, a retired Botany professor who is along this year, but not biking) pulls up. “Mom
patrol,” we shout, as Suzanne sprints toward the car, requesting a ride.

We reach Frazee as the rain stops and the skies start to grow silver instead of gray. There’s a big sign
advertising the Turkey Capital of the World just outside of town and Andy and I stop to take pictures in
front of it. We bike into town and park our bikes near the large statue of a turkey in the middle of the
business district. A friendly guy approaches, introduces himself as the mayor, hands us information about
Frazee and takes our pictures with the turkey.
Several years ago, when my sister was on the ride, we biked through Frazee and she and I stopped to
have our pictures taken with the same turkey. A photographer took some shots and we were featured in
an article in the local paper. “Famous in Frazee,” has become our joke about the experience.

Andy and I are about to ride up a small hill to the high school when someone sticks her head out of the
door of a building across the street and yells “Beer here!” We eagerly delay our final few yards, park the
bikes in front and go into the Hostel Hornet, a friendly bar and grill in the middle of town. There are half a
dozen bikers already imbibing. Andy buys a round for the two of us -- single malt scotch, straight up.
Eight bucks for the two of them, including tip. Better than hot chocolate on this wretched day.

We’re worried that Jean may be waiting for us, but she’s grown used to these things and soon finds the
bar and us. We walk our bikes up to Frazee high school, which, because of the bad weather, has offered
to let us sleep inside and store bikes in the halls. It’s a very friendly town.

We’ve hunkered down in high schools across Minnesota to escape tornadoes, floods and other uncertain
June “weather events.” But sleeping inside is a mixed blessing. On the one hand you stay dry and
reasonably safe. On the other hand, sleeping on the floor with a hundred or more old people can be
challenging. There are snorers in this group that can make the earth tremble with noise measurable on
the Richter scale.

Jean has staked out a prime spot in the corner of the gym, but I opt for a distant hallway, thinking we’ll be
away from bright lights and some of the noise. It doesn’t work out that way, but we unroll sleeping pads
and bags and hang up what we can to dry on doors, lockers and improvised clotheslines. I search for the
shower room, ducking under laundry lines holding sports bras, spandex shorts, dirty sox, bike gloves and
various other articles. The shower is a delight -- hot water, adjustable spray, plenty of sinks -- facilities as
welcome on this day as a five star hotel.

We head down a block to the Frazee events center, where we’re treated to a delicious dinner: turkey
steak and real mashed potatoes smothered with turkey gravy, carrots and green beans, salad and cold
beer. It’s not Thanksgiving, but we are very thankful for the calories and the friendly people who welcome
us. The Events Center is a big hall strung with party lights, so it feels like a wedding reception or a prom.

When we come out the skies have started to clear and we head back down to the Hostel Hornet to join
dozens of other bikers who are celebrating the end of a cold, wet day. The Frazee teams are called the
Hornets (there are a few lockers salvaged from an old locker room) but we’re not sure about the “Hostel” -
- is this like a youth hostel, a home for the Hornets? Or a play on “hostile?” When the mind is muddled
by excess exertion and turkey these things seem to matter.

In any case, the Hostel Hornet is as friendly as the rest of Frazee. The bar owner tells me they’ve been
open only six months and are hoping to make this a center for people for miles around. She and her staff
are doing a great job, keeping up with the demands of 50 or 60 thirsty bikers as well as a few locals.
They keep the pitchers of ice water coming and serve up good, crisp gin and tonics. We feed dollar bills
into a jukebox stocked with old songs and crank up the speakers.

In the old days I used to marvel at how these people could get through a grueling day of biking, then be
ready to dance and sing and party afterwards. Now it just seems normal. Either I’ve grown stronger or
I’m just numb. We boogie down for a while, then “The Ballad of New Orleans” comes on and Joni finds
me and we go wild.

Joni is a small, fit woman, an ex-PE teacher with a sharp wit. Years ago we were in a bar in Elbow Lake
and they had a D.J. who, recognizing his audience, started spinning songs from the 50s and 60s and
didn’t stop. Everyone started dancing and singing. I was hiding back at the bar, being chatted up by a
local woman who boasted she had lost 50 pounds and now was down under 300. Joni came over and
rescued me and we shouted out the chorus to each other on the dance floor --
Well they ran through the briars
and they ran through the brambles
and they ran through the bushes
where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ‘em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s become a happy tradition and on this evening we’re into it quickly. So is everyone else -- it seems to
be one song we all know. When the song ends I pick Joni up and spin her around.

I go back to Jean and Andy and sip a final G&T while another group of bikers gets into a song and dance
I don’t know. It involves taking off articles of clothing and tossing them into a pile in the middle of the
dance floor, then retrieving them. I chat with Holly for a while. She likes the new dance. “Sometimes I
worry that we’re getting too old. There’s too much looking back to past rides, too much remembering. It’s
good to see something new happen.”

We hike back up to the school and prepare to hit the sleeping bags. I wander around, talking quietly with
friends. In the gym, where most of the bikers have set up, they dim the lights. The bikers who are still
awake break into a spontaneous humming of “Taps.”

It’s been a long, cold, wet day. I’m full of turkey and beer. It shouldn’t be hard to sleep. 56.6 miles.


Monday, June 10.
Not much sleep. Between the snorers and a squeaky door down the hall and lights that didn’t go off it
was a wakeful, restless night -- turkey, booze, dancing and hard biking not withstanding. I’m tired, but
otherwise feeling good as we pack up the bags, load them on the sag wagon and head back down to the
Hostel Hornet for breakfast.

It’s a pretty morning, with clearing skies above us and a thick haze rising into the trees. This will be our
longest day, but the weather seems accommodating. I eat with Jean and Andy, then look for a place to
take a short snooze. The only spot available is in a corner by the pool table, which is fine with me. It’s
remarkable how a bike helmet and a pair of bike gloves can make a decent pillow when you’re tired.

We set off as the fog lifts slowly and the temperature stays cool. It’s a nice first leg -- green farms, birds
singing in the trees, cows and horses watching us from the fields. There are soft, rolling hills but the
overall trend seems to be downhill.

We cruise along easily, comfortable on our bikes and in our bodies, wrapped in the beauty of a lush
summer morning. At one point there’s a 90-degree turn and I’m surprised again at the spectacle: when
you’re biking along in a row, you see narrow silhouettes ahead of you, but when the road turns sharply,
there’s this sudden flash of sparkle and neon colors as you see bikers in broadside. The effect is even
more dramatic this morning as patches of blue sky appear and the sun breaks through.

We stop after 16 miles at a house on the shore of Toad Lake (just up the road from Little Toad Lake)
where a family is offering lemonade, water, coffee and various kinds of cookies. It’s a short visit, just
enough for a butt break and a chance to adjust our gear, then we hit the road again. We are riding on
winding back roads now, passing through lakes and woods. The terrain gets a little hilly, but the day is
still cool and the conversations are easy. There are Amish farms around and horses loosely tethered to
fences. We pass a couple more Amish wagons.

At one point a friendly dog charges out and runs beside us. This is always a scary moment for bikers --
we don’t know if the dog is curious or angry. This one is small, but game and keeps up for a while. We
try to shoo it off and tell it to “GO HOME!” but it gets trapped on the right hand side of a row of bikers and
doesn’t seem to know what to do. We pick up the pace and leave it behind.
After 33.2 miles we reach the entrance to the Smokey Hills Wilderness Retreat. It’s an impressive place,
with waterfalls, landscaping, cabins connected by boardwalks and a big main building equipped to handle
large groups of people. Like many of the resorts in this area it has been hard hit by the late winter and
bad weather. Usually the fishing opener is one of the biggest days of the year, but many of the nearby
lakes were still frozen until just recently.

Jim picked the place to help give it a boost and it’s a good choice. There’s a big porch with comfortable
chairs and gas fire pits, an efficient buffet line, a big dining area and plenty of toilets. The food is
exceptional: beef barbecue, potato salad, pasta salad, corn on the cob, cole slaw and homemade
Ghirardelli chocolate brownies with cherry cream cheese icing. We wash it down with water, iced tea and
coffee. The little dog is safe: it belongs to the resort owners.

The next leg is easy, with a slight tail wind and level roads with good shoulders as we come into Park
Rapids. Our rendezvous point is a Burger King at 46.7 miles. Park Rapids is a busy place, a center for
people with lake cabins, fishermen, campers and others en route to adventures in northern Minnesota.
The Burger Kind sits directly across the road from the entrance to the Heartland Trail. A sign says it’s 27
miles to our destination of Walker.

Jean is biking this leg and I try to stay close to her and Andy, but they get tied up behind me so I bike
along on my own. I wait for them at Nevis, a small community best known for the Muskie Waters Cafe, a
trail-side establishment famous for its homemade ice cream. The “rum soaked cherry” is excellent. We
linger a while in the sun, enjoying the porch chairs, chatting with bikers who are joining the ride late.
Cheryl Anderson has come up to ride with her friend Jean English -- two ladies I met back on my first ride.
Andy’s boyfriend, Justin, is meeting us in Walker and has given a lift to Phyllis Kahn, a long-serving State
Senator.

Andy is anxious to get to Walker but wants us to stop at Akeley for a photo op. It claims to be the home
of Paul Bunyan (a claim disputed by Bemidji and other places) and has a giant statue of Paul, with his
hand extended low to the ground so you can sit on it. I set out, stop in Akeley and lie down on a picnic
table near the statue to wait for the ladies to catch up. They arrive minutes later. No rest for the weary.
We take numerous pictures, then get back on the trail.

We pick up the pace and catch up with Marilyn who has spotted some rare Lady Slippers, a wild orchid
that is the Minnesota state flower. It’s a bit early for them to be in bloom and she has seen only the
yellow ones (known as Yellow Moccasins) not the fancier pink ones.

Time is becoming a bit short. In previous years Jim has scheduled our Walker “boat-in” event for the
second day of our break, but this year it was difficult to get things together so the event is the same day
we arrive. We have to get to Walker, pick up our gear, check into the hotel, shower, clean up and get to
the marina by 6PM. It’s 27 miles from the Burger King to Walker on the Heartland Trail, but Walker is
spread out and the turnoffs are not clearly marked. Jean wants time to wash her hair. I’m hoping for a
nap. Twenty-seven miles becomes more than 30.

We’re making good time... then Andy has a flat a few miles outside of Walker. One of us was overdue --
the rain and poor roads have been taking their toll -- but this is especially frustrating. Andy tells us to bike
ahead and she’ll call Justin to pick her up.

We manage to navigate the turns in the trail, find our way to “Schoolhouse Hill” where our bags and
Deanna are waiting for us. Andy and Justin show up a few minutes later. Deanna takes our gear, Jean
and her bike to the Country Inn while I bike the last couple miles on my own. We’re running late and have
less than an hour, so we check in, park our bikes in the meeting room, change out of bike clothes and
take quick showers. I manage a 5-minute nap, then we pile into Justin’s car and head for the marina
rendezvous.

This boat-in event is one of our better off-day traditions. When we lay over in Walker Jim sets things up
with local boat owners to take us out for an evening of sailing. They coordinate picking us up, provide
food and drink, sail out into the big lake and bring us back. We pay $25 that goes to help fund youth
hockey programs in the area. It’s a good deal for the bikers, who get to go sailing, a good deal for the
boat owners, who get an extra excuse to go sailing (and show off their boats), and a good deal for the
young hockey players.

Because of the extended winter and late ice-out on Leech Lake, many boaters have only recently put
their boats in the water. A week earlier it looked like the event would be cancelled. When we left Long
Prairie it looked like there would be room for only 30 or 40 bikers. But more boaters volunteered and the
event was pulled together at the last minute.

We arrive at Cabins-on-Leech marina just in time. The organizer is calling the names of captains and
assigning bikers to boats in groups of 3, 4, 5, 6 or 8. Jean, Andy, Justin and I join Annan and Lucy on a
sailboat operated by Captain Chris and his wife Dorothy.

While many of the boat captains are “summer people,” Chris and Dorothy are a friendly couple who are
long-time Walker residents. Chris retired after a career as an executive at the local bank. The story is he
met Dorothy when she traveled from her home in New Ulm to take a summer job as a social worker. Her
boss and Chris’ mom conspired to get them together and the banker and the social worker have been
married for over 40 years. Chris comments that it was meant to be because he was “the most eligible
bachelor in town.” Dorothy shoots him a look and tends to the sail.

We spend a pleasant evening sailing around in light breezes, eat a snack of cut up Subway sandwiches
and quickly polish off a couple bottles of wine and some beer. We cruise by Chris and Dorothy’s nice
house on the lake near downtown, then the wind picks up briefly and we get a few minutes of real sailing
before we head back to the marina.

Justin ferries us back to the hotel where the clean bed and comfortable room are very welcome. 76.2
miles... and a boat ride.


Tuesday, June 11.
Our off day begins with a lovely morning by the shores of Leech Lake. We drive into town in Justin’s car
and are among the first to settle in at the Outdoorsman Cafe. Yesterday’s calories came up a little short,
so I’m ready to dig in. Breakfast is an ample western omelet, a stack of pancakes, hash browns, coffee,
juice and whatever I can scrounge from the plates of others.

The ladies go off to explore the shops on Walker’s main street and I tag along. One place has a rack of
XXXL hooded sweatshirts in bright neon colors paired with a rack holding XXXL sleeveless t-shirts -- a
matched ensemble that would scare away most life forms.

We meet up across the street in Reed’s, the huge sporting gear store that is one of Walker’s landmarks.
They have every kind of outdoor clothing you need -- from a complete stock of Keens for your feet to
fancy hats to protect your head. There are components for tents and camping, hunting gear, boating
supplies and half the store is devoted to fishing rods, reels, lures and more dumb t-shirts.

I try, but can’t convince myself that there’s anything I need to buy this time, so I wander over to the open
square in the middle of town where bikers are congregating around tables sporting red umbrellas, sipping
coffee and iced tea. I joke around with Charley and Mike for a while, then chat with Steve York and his
wife Mary, who has come up for the day.

A group of bikers recalls the adventure of Wayne’s World. Several years ago on a leg that took us along
the Canadian side of the Rainy River we finished the day in Baudette, a small town near the border in
northwestern Minnesota. It was another wet, difficult day and I skipped the campground in favor of a dry
motel room. After dinner we gathered in a bar and struck up a conversation with Wayne, a local guy, who
said he owned the bar and much of downtown. We were skeptical, but he was chatting up the biker
babes (so he thought) and offered to show us his place.
Wayne’s place was a maze of rooms and corridors that ran under the downtown buildings of Baudette.
There were bedrooms with mirrors, Coke machines that dispensed bottles of cold beer, a loud sound
system with speakers in every room and bars tricked out in Las Vegas style. Wayne’s World. He thought
he was making some progress with a couple of the biker babes, but he really never had a chance. We
were all together when we left the next day and Wayne was sleeping off the evening. One of the bikers
recalled reading something about Wayne a few years later. Apparently Wayne had disappeared from a
boat and had not been seen since. There was speculation he had pissed off some of the dubious
business interests in the area.

On a pretty morning the square in Walker is a fine place to linger with friends and watch the world go by.
Jim ambles along the sidewalk and his greeted by Mark Rosen, a long time TV sports anchor from the
Twin Cities who is on vacation with his family. They make an odd couple -- Rosen is a big guy, 6’4 plus;
Jim is maybe 5’8. But they’re friends and stand about discussing biking, Walker, the weather, sports and
the state of journalism.

Judge Larson wanders by wearing his orange ride t-shirt and rumpled khaki pants. There’s a copy of the
StarTribune stuck into the back of his belt. He gained some national attention in a case that pitted a
couple Vikings linemen against the NFL. The last time we stayed over in Walker the group staged a mock
trial of Jim Klobuchar, accusing him of disturbing the peace with his 5:30AM whistle and of crimes against
mathematics because of his underestimating of distances. Judge Larson presided in biking gear and a
British juror’s wig. The entertaining event required some delicate balancing: Judge Larson also presided
over a real court case when Jim was found to have been DUI.

All this leisure is enjoyable but I suddenly find myself in need of rest. I ride back to the Country Inn with
Jean, Justin and Andy. The young folks take off to explore the area on their own and I unpack our tents
and sleeping bags and lay them out in the grass by the motel to dry in the sun. I repack my gear, sorting
out stuff I plan to send back with Justin and arranging the rest as efficiently as I can. We wash a load of
clothes in the laundry room downstairs (“Laundry is life!” as Ed Beckers often proclaims.) I check on the
bikes, which are secure in the meeting room, and hit the bed for a nap.

I wake up after three hours and find there is a pre-dinner party planned. I have just enough time for a dip
in the pool, a sit in the hot tub and a shower. Then Jean and I walk down to the park and join the
festivities. Most of the bikers are there, eating chips and dip and sliced veggies and fresh fruit and trying
to work their way through coolers stuffed with chilled wine and beer. Ed Newman has talked with city
authorities and secured a permit saying we won’t sue anyone, so we’re actually legal this time -- a rarity.

Justin has been grilled by Charley and Mike and others to see if he is a fitting mate for Andy. He seems
to have passed whatever tests were conducted because he is getting his toenails painted bright green. I
talk with Ryan Beckers who tells us his dad, Ed, had to leave the ride. Ed, who lives in Hibbing and
taught English for many years at nearby Chisholm, has been suffering greatly this trip. He’s had back
surgery and has a lot of pain in his leg. He’s also dealing with “cognitive problems” and was found last
evening down by the city dock unsure of where he was. It’s too bad -- Ed loves being on this trip even
when he can’t ride and we will miss him.

I join a conversation with some bikers down on the lake shore. They are talking about Lewis and Clark
and the Corps of Discovery expedition in the early 1800s. One of the guys is a geologist and got a gig
with a project to retrace the expedition on its hundredth anniversary. They used helicopters, Lewis’ and
Clark’s notebooks and GPS to map out the route. The geologist had served in Vietnam and had a tough
time adjusting to the sound of helicopters, but after a while he got used to them. Some of the places they
surveyed were so remote they had to have a re-fueling helicopter go along with them.

The Corps of Discovery didn’t know, of course, whether the Missouri or the Yellowstone would take them
further west, so they explored both. They traveled blind all the way -- not knowing for sure where they
were going or what lay ahead, living off what the land offered and relying on peaceful receptions by
Native tribes. Sort of makes our bike trip challenges pale by comparison.
Jean and I were in St. Charles, MO recently, where the expedition started. There’s a big statue in the
riverfront park of Lewis and Clark and (for some reason) the sculptor’s dog. There’s also a nice museum
with replicas of the boats the Expedition hauled over half the country. The geologist points out a little
known fact: the Missouri River, with all its tributaries, is actually longer than the Mississippi. At one point
it was unclear whether the river should be called the Missouri or the Mississippi south of St. Louis.

The party breaks up and we join others in making sure we leave the park clean, then we walk a few
blocks downtown to our traditional spaghetti dinner at the Walker American Legion hall. Once again
there’s a bingo game going on upstairs, but they are ready for us downstairs with a good feast: spaghetti,
meatballs, salad, dessert bars. Dan Hicks has written a song, “As Miles Go By,” in praise of Jim and the
ride and has printed copies on sheet music. It’s set to the tune of “Danny Boy.” Rhonda and I lead the
group in a sing-a-long.

I join a group of the California bikers. These are guys who first started coming to the ride a couple years
ago. They are part of an informal group called “the Fishhook Club” based mostly around Long Beach.
One of them has connections to Minnesota and they thought it would be fun to join the Klobuchar ride.
They’re a congenial, sociable bunch. One is an architect who sketches the main streets of some of the
small towns we go through. Another is an aficionado of fine tequila and we shared a shot or two back at
the park -- “strong sipping wine” he called it.

We emerge from the downstairs of the Legion into a lovely, summer evening that just cries out for a
nightcap. We follow a group of bikers to a bar and restaurant out on a deck overlooking the lake at the
old Chase-on-the-Lake hotel.

This is Walker’s most notable landmark, a big old pile that has been up and down over the years, burned
down at least once, been restored, converted and re-converted. Many years ago, after an October
camping trip to Itasca State Park, we stayed here with the kids. We had been the last ones in the Itasca
campground, enjoying a glorious, golden, last warm day of autumn. Next morning we woke up to a heavy
snowfall. Rather than suffer in a tent, we packed up, drove to Walker and checked into the Chase. The
rooms were dingy and bare-bones, the lobby dusty with past glories -- a typical salesman’s hotel from
earlier times. But it was better than braving a blizzard in the woods.

I chat with Holly for a while. She has been retired for over a year now and is adapting to the changes.
She is getting annoyed at people who keep asking her what she’s doing with her time. They seem to
think that when you retire you should volunteer, or join boards or find new employment. Holly says “I’ve
worked more or less regularly since I was 12 and now I want some ‘me time.’ ”

I know what she means, though my experience is different. I only “worked” for 10 years -- if you don’t
include summer and part-time jobs as a student, four years in the Navy, four more in graduate school and
being a part-time professor. I worked for other companies for 10 years then ran my own business for 25.
“Retirement” for me has meant gradual adjustments rather than a sudden break from the routine of going
to an office.

We try not to overwhelm a minimal wait staff as we order a few rounds of drinks. The evening is calm and
beautiful, the lake is glowing in the twilight and the conversation is relaxed. We keep the swarming
mosquitoes at bay with a small bottle of DEET that I remembered to bring along.

We talk about how nice it would be to come back here later in the year, but we know it’s just talk. These
gatherings are so good because we’re surrounded by 100 or so of our closest, once-a-year friends. The
lake will be here, and the Chase, but we can’t duplicate the conditions of the bike ride. It’s fun to think
about returning and maybe biking along the Paul Bunyan trail, but it would take a lot of planning and it
wouldn’t be the same.

Ryan Beckers explains the difficulties his Dad is having, and notes his Mom, who lives in Minneapolis, is
also having health problems. Ryan is a fireman who lives north of L.A. (and has been inducted into the
Fishhook Club). He came out this year as much to check on his parents as to do the ride. He leaves to
go smoke a cigar on the dock and offers me one. It’s tempting but not as tempting as a good night’s
sleep.

The group breaks up. Justin and Andy and Jean drive back to the hotel. I choose to walk. It’s only a
couple miles and the evening is just too fine to let go, one of those perfectly balanced moments that come
along rarely. Or maybe it’s the beer, wine, tequila and G&Ts. I make it back to the room and find that
Andy and Jean have been working their cell phones to make sure I didn’t wander off. 0 miles. Plenty of
rest. Glorious early summer weather.

Review: Walker Country Inn. I’d give it 2 stars out of 5. It used to be a Country Inn and Suites, part of
the Radisson chain, but it now is run locally. It’s located just south of town, a 5-minute drive or 10-minute
bike ride. It seems to cater to small groups of fishermen and people like us bikers. The rooms are
comfortable, the A/C units work as do the showers, though towels and soaps are below par. There’s no
elevator, so carrying heavy stuff upstairs can be a challenge. The pool is too small except for kids. The
whirlpool’s jets are weak and it gets overcrowded if there are more than a couple people. There’s a free
breakfast -- standard fare for this kind of place. People are friendly but the place could use a makeover.
On the other hand, a room with two queen beds for two nights came in under $150, including fees and
taxes.

Couple notes: there’s a back road between the hotel and the lake if you’re walking or biking. There’s a
bar next door, but it’s not recommended -- there are better places to eat and drink in Walker.


Wednesday, June 12.
We’re up at 5AM, pretty much packed and ready to go -- it’s a lot easier when you don’t have to strike a
tent or share bathrooms with 100 other people. We load the gear into Justin’s car and Jean and I bike
over to the school. Jean finds the Penn Cycle truck and gets her derailleurs adjusted. I fill our tires with
air and lube the chains, which need it after the wet weather on Sunday.

Breakfast at the school is another good one: egg bake, those excellent bakery muffins, fresh fruit (cut up
oranges, strawberries, bananas), coffee, juice -- we’re well set up for whatever the day brings. Today’s
ride is a bit long, but again the weather looks pretty good. We feel like we paid our dues on Sunday and
have earned a break for the rest of the week.

A police escort guides us through the busy intersections of Walker then we re-connect with the Paul
Bunyan trail just outside of town. There has been some talk about the “Minnesota Alps,” an area of short,
steep hills near Walker often described as “scenic” -- not a favorite biker term. We’ve ridden it before,
coming the other way. I remember steep climbs, winding trails and 90-degree turns at the bottom of
downhill runs. Will we be in the “alps” today?

The first couple miles have some short, tough hills, but we are just skirting the edge of the real hills.
Things level out and the terrain seems to trend downhill, so we cruise along comfortably in the cool
morning under clearing skies. Birds are singing, frogs are croaking in the lakes off to the side of the trail.
Large squadrons of Canada geese fly in V-formations above us, heading north late after the long winter
(how do they know when to leave the warm weather in the South?). They squawk at each other and you
can imagine them ending sentences with “eh.”

I pull over after 13.7 miles in Hackensack. Jean has traded off with Deanna and Andy joins us so we can
bike together for the next leg -- or try to. It’s hard for me to match pace with them. If I lead I tend to get
too far ahead.. If I ride behind they seem to slow down. We stay together as often as we can.

When we pull into Pine River after 31.4 miles my knees are aching, but the ibuprofen helps that.
Everything else seems to be OK. They are serving Sloppy Joes at the Legion Hall -- five days in and
these are our first of the trip! Must be some kind of record.
Sharon tells us about Project Man-High in Crosby, our destination for the day. In 1957 an abandoned
mine pit was used by the Air Force to launch a man in a gondola attached to a helium-filled balloon. The
craft rose to over 100,000 feet and collected data about the upper atmosphere that would be used later
by NASA. The flights also provided important data about how humans might be affected by radiation and
other hazards lurking 20 miles above the planet.

The mine pit was 400 feet deep and allowed the balloon to be inflated without interference from the wind,
which would have destroyed it. The pilot, Dr. David Simmons, conducted tests and then had to survive a
thunderstorm on the descent. He was also dangerously low on oxygen, but he made a safe landing just
over the border in South Dakota.

His story was featured on the cover of Life magazine and Crosby had its place in history -- though the
details reveal one odd piece of trivia: Dr. Simmons never actually set foot in Crosby. He was locked into
the gondola in St. Paul and both were transported by train to be attached to the balloon. A month after
the Man-High flight, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and everything changed.

Clouds are gathering to the south, but it’s still a very pleasant day. I walk outside and find a spot in the
soft grass near Rhonda and manage a short nap before getting back on the bike. After 40.6 miles we
reach Pequot Lakes, where we leave the Paul Bunyan trail and travel on country roads again. The day
has started to warm up. There are reports of rain south of us and the clouds keep the skies gray above
us, but so far we haven’t run into any problems. The roads are not in great shape, however, and the
landscape has become a little hilly.

After 56.6 miles there’s a “lemonade stop” at the end of a farmhouse driveway. It’s to benefit a Girl Scout
troop -- the girls are gathered around, helping out under the supervision of the troop leader, who is also
the Mom, the cook and the mixer of lemonade. Jean has been waiting for me and has arranged with
someone to drive the car so she and Deanna can bike the next leg together. They take off, but I linger for
a while and chat with two of the young Girl Scouts who explain their merit badges: patches showing
they’ve been to an exhibit at the Science Museum and a program at the History Center in St. Paul. There
are also “earned” patches that prove they have passed tests on making crafts and using a web site.

I ride for a while with Dusty, an old friend and adversary. She’s a die-hard libertarian and we’ve enjoyed
exchanging insults over the years. She freelances writing projects, mostly helping people collect and
write their memoirs. She’s working on her own story -- about her stepfather and uncle and a collection of
WW II-era love letters. Apparently the uncle was having an affair with the mother while the step dad was
away fighting in Italy. No one really knew about all this until the letters came to light. The story gets more
complicated: the uncle was a very good jazz musician and played with several of the famous touring jazz
bands of the 1930s, but he was unreliable as a provider. It has all the makings of a good historical soap
opera -- or so it sounds. The day has become warm and humid and I’m getting a little dopey on the bike,
so I may have some of the details wrong.

There’s a snack stop scheduled at the Bridge Tavern, which sits at an intersection after 62.9 miles. Jean
and Andy and a couple dozen bikers are already there and tell me “there’s a beer with your name on it.”
Just what I need -- I have to re-hydrate and replenish what my body has lost in sweat. The beer and a
couple glasses of ice water are most welcome. You can re-hydrate on hot days with products like
Gatorade, but I find beer does the job better. I have to be a bit careful at my advanced age, but we’re
less than 10 miles from Crosby, and we have a tail wind now, so it’s a good spot to relax.

The news is that real romance has flourished. One of the long time bikers proposed to another biker the
night before in Walker. People are congratulating them and hearing details of their story. Other stories
proliferate at this beer stop.

 -- Jean found a tick crawling on her neck while driving the car out of Pine River. She had a cup of coffee
from the Legion hall and she put the tick in it...”where it died instantly.” She threw out the coffee.
-- Phyllis recounts an old joke about how much people from Brooklyn still despise Walter O’Malley for
moving the Dodgers to L.A: If you find yourself in a room with Hitler, Stalin and O’Malley, and you have a
gun with two bullets, what do you do? The correct answer: you shoot O’Malley twice to make sure he’s
dead.

-- One of the bikers offers a toast: there are good ships and there are wood ships that go down to the
sea. But the best ships are the friendships, and that’s the way it should be.

On the way into Crosby we get side-tracked along a local trail and have to backtrack. It’s only a couple
miles of extra riding and on this day we don’t mind. We find the high school and I help set up the tent.
I’m tired and take a short snooze before finding my way to the showers. We are being ferried to dinner at
a Banquet Center a few miles away, so the schedule is a little tight. The transport is luxurious -- big, fancy
buses with comfy seats and air conditioning. The banquet center is also quite impressive -- part of a
complex centered around an assisted living facility. Years ago this would have been the subject of much
humor, but now many of us have spent a lot of time in places like this, caring for parents. Some of us are
close to the point when these places begin to look like rational choices for our own near future.

We file in through the comfortable lobby, find tables, buy some beer and wine and wait for the food to be
ready. Our host is the school superintendent who fancies himself something of a stand-up comic. He
tells stories about Crosby -- the Man-High project, the mining days. He notes that another unique thing
about Crosby is its depot: trains never passed it. They came to load iron ore or deliver passengers and
supplies then turned around and went back.

A local leader of the area’s biking association notes that they have been working hard to bring tourists to
the area. Three bike trails now cross in Crosby and eventually they hope to link up to bike routes that will
go all the way down the Mississippi. There’s a mountain bike trail system that draws visitors from all over
the country. The abandoned mines have filled with groundwater and are very deep. Some have been
stocked with fish and others are favorites for scuba divers.

It’s encouraging to see these small communities working to attract new sources of jobs. The Range has
been in decline for a couple generations... since the biggest portion of the iron was mined out. There
aren’t many opportunities for young people and the population has been dropping. Crosby has lost 500
students in the last 12 years and has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

For a long time it seemed people were hoping mining and manufacturing would return, but that wasn’t
going to happen. On this ride we’ve encountered younger leaders who are enthusiastic and creative
about resurrecting their communities. It’s a positive sign -- though a long-term struggle.

Someone remarks that the schools we are staying in are in a lot better shape than they used to be. Most
have been built within the last few years. It seems an anomaly: fewer young people, very tight budgets
for education, yet there are new schools all over the place. The prime example is the middle school in
Superior, Wisconsin where we stayed last year. It’s glorious -- built around a five-story atrium with a glass
roof -- with nice gyms, computer labs, excellent bathrooms and showers, updated kitchens and big dining
areas that double as performance and meeting halls.

On this trip around west central Minnesota we’ve stayed at schools that are a little less grand, but still
better than some of the old piles they replaced. I don’t think we take a cold shower the whole trip. The
new schools are another encouraging sign for outstate communities.

Dinner is finally served and there’s a rush to the table. After a long day of biking we can’t seem to get
enough calories; we descend on the buffet like locusts. It’s a good meal: Grilled chicken, an excellent
salad, some kind of rice dish. After the meal we lounge around in the Banquet Center, taking advantage
of the comfortable chairs and couches and the nicely landscaped setting. Then we pile back into the
luxury buses and return to our campground.
I’m out of money -- sharing cash with Andy and Jean has outstripped my planning -- so Ed Newman and I
drive into town to find an ATM. On the way back we see bikers going into a small dive, the Midway bar,
and Ed drops me off. Andy and Jean show up and we sip gin and tonics. The Twins are playing on TV,
the juke box has old songs. I dance with Jean and talk with people.

Holly notes that this is the time when we truly get into the rhythm of the ride. It’s a bit later than usual
because of the rainy Sunday and having to camp inside the school in Frazee, but she’s right. The
routines for riding, resting, eating and repeating start to kick in. We are more efficient and at ease with our
bikes and our bodies -- though some of this is offset by our declining powers of recovery: we’re not in our
40s or 50s anymore.

Back at the school campground people around us are already asleep and rumbling in their tents. We will
be riding on roads tomorrow, leaving the bike trails, but the Paul Bunyan has been good to us. I crawl into
the tent, stuff the earplugs in and sleep. 70.3 miles.


Thursday, June 13.
We wake early, get into our biking gear, strike the tent and go in for breakfast at the school. Crosby-
Ironton (it’s twin city, a couple miles down the road) has been a small school athletic power for decades.
The trophy cases are full of big, fancy awards, from back when the whole region took great pride in its
sports teams and trophies were trophies, not shaped chunks of Lucite. A lot of these small schools are
especially good at fielding wrestling teams, a sport that doesn’t cost a lot of money and depends on
individuals and hard work more than big teams, big gyms, big fields and fancy uniforms.

Breakfast is another healthy feast -- quiche, sausages, yogurt, rolls and fresh fruit. We sit around for a
while as people fill water bottles and gather their cell phones and chargers that have been plugged into
outlets throughout the school. Crosby, like several of the schools we’ve visited this ride, has water
fountains with an extra feature -- automatic bottle fillers. You put your bottle on a small platform and it
automatically gets filled with cold water. The idea is to cut down on disposable plastic bottles, but it works
great for the bottles we carry on our bikes.

We stare at our maps, trying to take in information and make it stick. We’re heading to Wadena today,
but the first part of the ride takes us through the busy area around Brainerd and we need to be alert to
road changes and traffic.

The first leg is lovely as we head south along a straight stretch of a creek-sized Mississippi river -- bright
sun, blue sky, low humidity. Birds sing, the road tends downhill and we have a light following breeze.
Perfect! But we’re grouped rather tightly at the start and there’s an accident in front of me. A woman has
slipped too close to the road edge and been tossed off her bike, injuring her shoulder and elbow. I stop to
help, but more qualified bikers are already on the scene. One is a doctor and two are nurses. I help
guide other bikers around the site for a couple minutes.

The injured rider wants to get back and ride but she’s showing some signs of shock and the elbow swells
up. The doctor tells her to stay off the bike and Jim stops by and confirms the suggestion. This will be
one of two accidents today -- another woman falls and cracks a rib. But those are the only two serious
mishaps of the ride.

At 13.3 miles we pull into Brainerd’s Lum Park, a very nice patch of big trees, green grass and rolling hills
beside a crisp blue lake. It’s a bit off the main roads and I’ve never seen it before -- a hidden gem. We
lounge around, waiting for a police escort through the busy parts of Brainerd and its next-door neighbor,
Baxter. The escort is much appreciated as the roads are under repair and the traffic is heavy. We cross
the Mississippi three times and after 10 miles get clear of the crowds.

The next leg is nearly as pleasant as the first one -- lightly rolling hills and fields, heading west with a light
crosswind from the north. I chat for a while with Dick, a big guy who likes to sing. We have different
styles -- he doesn’t like to sing alone, so he joins choirs and barbershop groups. I’ve never been
comfortable joining groups, so I usually sing alone, or with small, impromptu groups. But we both agree
that singing in harmony is one of life’s great pleasures.

We stop at Motley after 37.9 miles and go into Brick’s for lunch. This is a combo gas station and cafe and
they’re offering a buffet: beef barbecue, cole slaw, cut up dessert bars, iced tea and lots of water. Andy
and Jean and I eat together and exchange stories. There aren’t any more scheduled stops, so we head
out without much of a plan for the rest of the way into Wadena.

The next town is Staples. We have a friend from there, so I pull off the highway to bike through town. It
looks bigger than it is -- some large buildings with old advertising signs painted on their sides, but
downtown is mostly deserted. I’m about to go back to the highway when I spot a bunch of bikes around a
bar. The Twisted Sister has a local reputation and there are a couple dozen bikers inside. It feels kind of
degenerate -- we just had a big lunch and it’s still early in the day, yet the beer is flowing. Steve York and
I agree that a Blue Moon is really nothing more than Gatorade with an orange slice, so it qualifies as a
sports drink.

The road gets a little long, but I’m still feeling strong, so I enjoy the miles. There are some light rolling
hills and small towns every seven miles or so. When the railroads were first built through this area they
planned towns so if a train broke down you would never be more than an hour walk from help. Of course
this assumes you can walk 3.5 miles in an hour -- more plausible for younger people in good weather
than for old folks or in the winter.

I ride with Joni and some other bikers and we get off the highway in Verndale and find the Bulls Eye bar.
We take a table outside as the waitress brings us cold beers and pitchers of ice water. There’s an auto-
repair shop next door and the owner emerges when he hears Joni’s voice. It turns out he’s the son of
one of her best friends from teaching days. They hug and talk and he goes in to call his mom, who shows
up a few minutes later. She joins us and we hear stories of the young teachers just getting started a
couple decades earlier. Joni’s friend has a granddaughter who is this year’s Little Miss Verndale and will
be riding in a parade that evening in Wadena. We vow to wave to her when the parade passes by.

The final 10 miles or so are a little tough -- the crosswind has picked up and the day has turned warm. I
ride with a quiet biker and we point out the spectrum of signs along the road: “antiques” “flea market”
“junk.” Sometimes they become the same thing.

The high school at Wadena is brand new. The old one was wiped out by a tornado two years earlier and
the new one includes a “safe room” -- a small gymnasium with deep foundations and re-enforced
structural beams. It’s rated to withstand an F-4 tornado and “missile” wind strikes of up to 250 mph. The
grounds are rough and treeless, but we set up a tent close to the school and I try to take a short nap. It’s
windy and hot so sleeping is difficult.

While I’m taking my shower I notice an injury. I stubbed my toe back at the hotel in Walker and it has
turned a deep red and purple. I don’t think it’s broken and it doesn’t hurt so I ignore it. Once again,
however, I’m thankful for my Keens, with their roomy, protective toe piece.

I walk into town with Ryan. He says his Dad made it home OK and is doing better, which is good news.
Ryan plans to finish the ride then drive over to Hibbing to check on things. He asks if we can take his
bike back to Minneapolis. We have a crowded car, but I tell him we can fit the bike into the back if he
doesn’t find a better solution.

He asks about my work in advertising and says he once wanted to be a copywriter. After graduating from
Carlton, one of Minnesota’s top private schools, he considered a career in advertising, going to graduate
school in psychology, or becoming a firefighter. Firefighting won out. He’s been one for more than a
decade.

I’m hoping to find Jean in the town park but discover she has been there waiting for me and left just
before I arrived. Waseca is having its annual celebration and people are starting to gather. I join Andy
and a group of bikers who have been working their way through a cooler of leftover beer from the Walker
party. One of them is the California guy who offered the excellent sips of tequila. He recounts the
background of the Fishhook club and how they managed to link up with a bike ride in Minnesota.

They all have fish-related nicknames. The rules are a little loose. One guy is named Grouper. One is
Steelhead. Another is Fish Stick. We try to come up with a fish name for Ryan. He prefers something
like Shark or Marlin. We insist he should be Crab Cake.

The California guy says they needed a club motto, but were having trouble coming up with anything.
“One day Steelhead was deep in thought. He was walking around with his head in his hand. Suddenly
he says, ‘I’ve got it! Spawn ‘Till You Die -- S.T.U.D!”’ We all crack up and I note that the line, “One day
Steehead was deep in thought...” would make an excellent first line to a short story.

We’re torn between staying in the park to watch the Wadena parade and heading over for our last night’s
dinner. Reluctantly we leave the town folk to their celebration, wait as a BNSF train roars through, and
find the Elks Club.

After we eat Jim introduces the town’s mayor who has come straight from the parade. He’s a big guy (the
one who hugged Amy Klobuchar), with an engaging manner. He is a local hero. After the tornado wiped
out a big part of town, he organized people to rebuild. The new high school is just one sign of success --
homes and businesses have been rebuilt and the downtown looks more alive than some others we have
passed through.

Then Jim makes his announcement. This will be his last ride. He’s turning things over to Bob Lincoln -- a
big, competent guy who has been a bar tender, waiter and restaurant manager and now is a teacher and
librarian. He has been on the ride at least as long as I have. The ride will continue, but it won’t be the
Klobuchar ride.

Some of us have anticipated this -- Jim is 85, after all, and has had multiple serious surgeries. But it still
comes as a shock. As we drift out into a soft summer evening I’m feeling a bit dazed. I’ve been planning
my life -- and especially exercise schedules -- around this ride since 1992. The winters last until I can get
on a bike. I train through the spring, trying to be ready for June. The year begins again after the ride.
The rest of the summer and fall are like afterthoughts to this one week of extraordinary effort.

Jean and Andy take the bus back to the campground, but I choose to walk and mull things over. I join
others and we talk about the news and what it might mean. Some are still planning to do the ride next
year. Some say they will pass. It feels like the end of an era to me and I’m not sure if I’ll do it again.

Back at the campground small groups are gathered beside tents talking things over, telling Jim stories
from past rides. We talk about his frequent underestimation of distances and note that this year seemed
different -- the distances on his “inventory” are actually greater than the miles we ride. The reason is
pretty clear -- he’s added 10 miles to each day. We wonder why he didn’t just do this earlier.

The evening is calm and inviting, but the mosquitoes are out. The trains roar through Wadena every 20
minutes or so, but -- like the locals -- I’ve stopped paying attention to them. I find our tent and wrap up in
the sleeping bag. Jean is already asleep. 64.1 miles.


Friday, June 14.
“Going home, folks,” Jim calls out over the campground sometime before 5:30, “Going home.” It’s his
traditional, last-day wake-up call but this time it feels nostalgic. I’m up early and wander around in the
pre-dawn, taking in the quiet of this scene: a hundred tents scattered around the grounds of a small town
school in rural Minnesota. They hold people from many walks of life and from all over the state and
across the country. We are here with our gear, our bikes, our brilliant-colored outfits, our aches and
pains, our memories. Soon we’ll roll down the road and this field will be empty... probably until a new
school year begins in the fall.
As I’m observing the transient whimsy of all this, a remarkable thing happens: clouds have been building
in the south and as the sun creeps up over the horizon a rainbow appears. It’s not raining on us, but the
rainbow grows brighter, fades, then gets brighter again. At one point the arc seems to settle over a white
church steeple glowing in the early sunlight. It’s all fraught with symbolic possibility -- the kind of image
you can’t make up (and shouldn’t), but one that has happened many times over the years.

Breakfast is scrambled eggs, sausage, toast and coffee -- fuel we’ll need since there are no scheduled
meal stops before Long Prairie. We linger in the dining area, taking last pictures, saying good-byes,
exchanging contact information. Jean is driving the first leg and I plan to ride with Andy, but her bike has
another flat, so she has to stop at the Penn Cycle truck to get it fixed.

I ride with Joni for a while and we talk politics. Like most of the people on the ride, she has read my piece
on the immigration screw-ups that will force my son’s family to be separated for months. She made
copies for her book club to discuss and most of them agreed the situation was a needless injustice. One
of the newer members is a conservative, however, and highly vocal with her opinions. She argued that
we need more “border security” before we let “more of them” into the country.

I’m not sure how building a bigger fence in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico will protect Boston, New York
or Washington, or what that has to do with my son’s French wife. If I had a choice between adding
20,000 more border patrol guards in the southwest and replacing the bureaucrat in the Tokyo embassy
who “denied” my daughter-in-law and grandson the right to return home, I’d choose the latter. But these
things -- facts, logic, reality -- don’t seem to affect conservatives.

It’s a nice enough early morning, with light rolling hills and pastureland. Then the road gets a little rough
and there’s construction for several miles on our side. We have to swing into the middle of the road and
watch for cracked pavement and bad potholes. There’s not too much traffic, but conditions require close
attention.

I talk with Ryan for a few miles. He has found a better option for returning his bike to the Twin Cities and
plans to drive directly to Hibbing from Long Prairie to see how Ed is doing. I wish him well and ask him to
give his dad our best wishes too.

The wind picks up to 12-15 mph, blowing from the southeast, which is where we’re heading. I come up
behind a couple of the California Fishhook members, big guys who are riding rental hybrid bikes so they
sit up high. Perfect wind shields. I think about saying something, but they’re chatting between
themselves so I just hide behind them for a few miles.

We pull into a gas station at Eagle Bend after 21.5 miles. I’m meeting Jean here as she switches off with
Deanna to bike the rest of the way. We linger for a while with other bikers looking for cold water to fill
bottles, then set out together with Andy. The road is level and, while there are clouds to the south, we’re
still clear of them. The wind is getting stronger, though, so we stop with a bunch of bikers at another gas
station 10 miles down the road in Clarissa. There haven’t been many jokes this ride, but suddenly they
come out.

-- There’s the story about Ole and Lena. Ole was feeling sick and Lena finally convinced him to go see a
doctor. The doctor examined him then asked to talk to Lena alone. “Lena,” he said, “Ole is in a bad way.
He’s going to die if you don’t take special care of him. You need to cook his favorite meals. You need to
let him watch his favorite TV shows. You need to massage his shoulders and his feet. And you need to
have sex at least three times a week.” Lena leaves with Ole and in the car he asks, “What did the doctor
say?” Lena says, “You’re going to die.”

-- Then there’s the story about the farmer who was worried because his rooster was getting old and his
hens weren’t laying as many eggs. He brought in a younger rooster. The old rooster asked the young
one if he could just “retire” and live peacefully in a patch off to the side of the coop. But the young rooster
said no way and told the old rooster he had to leave or he would kill him.
The old rooster said, “Oh yeah, well you’ll have to catch me first,” and takes off running to the farmer’s
house. The young rooster chases after him and the farmer comes out to see what’s going on. The old
rooster runs in circles around the farmer’s house, with the young one gaining on him. Then the farmer
comes out with his shotgun and shoots the young rooster. “Damn!” he says. “That’s the third gay rooster
I’ve had this month!”

-- And then there’s the story that got passed around just before we left for the ride. Seems a young
woman had a schnauzer dog that she thought was going deaf. She took the dog to a vet and the he
examined him and said the problem was too much hair growing in his ears. He clipped the hair and told
the woman to get some Nair from the drug store and rub it in the dog’s ears every couple of weeks.

She goes to the drug store, gets some Nair, and goes to pay the pharmacist. He says, “If you’re going to
rub that on your armpits, you may want to stay off deodorant for a couple days.” She says, “I’m not going
to use it on my armpits.” The pharmacist says, “If you’re going to rub that on your legs, you may want to
stay off skin lotion for a couple days.” She says, “I’m not going to rub it on my legs. Actually, I’m going to
rub it on my schnauzer.” The pharmacist says, “Well, you may want to stay off your bike for a couple
days.”

We bike another few miles to Browerville, where Jim has arranged a last ice cream stop. A couple local
people have supplied big tubs of ice cream in a shelter at a park just outside of town. We stop and dig
into some bowls of sugar calories, then linger a while to take more pictures -- mostly groups of bikers with
Jim in the middle.

The clouds are still building and the wind is really strong, so I don’t want to stay too long. Jean and I bike
together the final few miles. It’s always bittersweet: I’m glad the ride is ending, especially since we’re
fighting this headwind; but I’m also sad that these will be the last miles we’ll be together as a group. Most
of us won’t see each other again for a year... and now that Jim is retiring, who knows if we’ll be together
then?

We pull into the Long Prairie high school parking lot and welcome the sight of the car waiting for us. We
pose for the traditional end-of-ride pictures: I hoist my bike up over my head; Andy lifts hers off the
ground; Jean stands next to hers.

We load our bags into the car, remove bags and gear from the bikes and toss them in, then collect towels
and civilian clothes and head into the school for quick showers. I secure the bikes on the bike rack, we
say good-byes and head east for Little Falls where we’ve arranged to meet other bikers for lunch at the
Black and White restaurant. It’s only a half hour drive, but I’m getting a bit groggy by the time we arrive.

We improvise a long table and are eventually joined by about 20 other bikers. The staff is overwhelmed,
so we help out, filling glasses with ice water and re-filling glasses of iced tea. We split a couple helpings
of excellent nachos then I chow down on an even better walleye salad.

We say our last good-byes and leave Little Falls to head east and south. I’m driving the first leg, planning
to get us to I-94. It’s difficult. These last days can be dangerous, especially after biking into wind.
There’s something about riding in a car after being on the road that just induces drowsiness. Jean and
Andy are out like lights before we’ve been driving 10 minutes. (We find out later that other bikers had the
same problem -- instant fatigue -- and many pulled off the road for short naps.)

I keep slapping myself to stay alert as we run through some rain squalls. We change drivers before we
get on the freeway and Jean takes us the rest of the way. As usual, traffic is heavy coming out of town on
this Friday afternoon, but not bad going in. We get home late afternoon and start to unpack things. Andy
stows her bike in her car and drives home. I climb into bed, planning to take a short nap, and sleep for
three hours.
It was a good ride... we came through with no injuries and we have another adventure to remember. I
hope it won’t be the last ride, but it won’t be the same without Jim. The rest of the year lies before us.
We’ll do more biking. We have vacation plans. Sam will be back with us in August and we’re hoping
Jessica and little Noa will be able to join us as soon as possible. We’ll see what next year brings.

Last day’s total is 41.3 miles. My total for the ride is 370.7 miles. Jean does 161.2.

				
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