Gear List

I’ve had a few people ask me questions about the gear I use while I’m bike packing so I thought I’d list what I normally take on a weekend trip. This gear list was used for a short over night trip at 140 miles.

Seat bag
Nemo solo tent
Big agnes 45 degree down sleeping bag
Thermarest close cell foam sleeping pad (cut shorter)

Handle bar bag
Big Agnes down jacket
Montbell down pants
Rain jacket
Rain pants

Frame bag
Repair kit
– tire levers
– spare cables
– parachute cord
– patches
-tire boots
– tenacious tape
– knife
– spare tubeless valve
– 2 tubes
Long finger gloves
Arm warmers
Knee warmers
Spare socks
Water bottle

Front Top tube bag
– gu’s

Rear top tube bag
Personal items
– tooth brush
– tooth paste
– sun screen
– lip balm
– eye drops
– TP

On me
Cycling cap
Sun glasses

The bike
2015 steel salsa Fargo with whisky carbon fork
SP dyno front hub that powers my usb and main headlight through a switchable system
WTB nano tires tubeless
Air strike aero bars
All bags made by Muststache bike bags
I ran one 24oz bottle on the down tube and an 80oz camel bak
Full weight for this trip 42 LBS

Although this was a short trip it is a typical set up for most trips, for food I used gas stations, convenience stores and cafés along the way. I am happy to answer any questions anyone has.

Gear List

New stickers!

With my new focus these days on Bikepacking I decided I needed a way to spread the word about this role.  My first thought was a business card but that seemed too formal and too difficult to find when you need it.  I asked my brother (graphics/animation major) to design me a logo that is simple and catchy and incorporated what Bikepacking means to me – exploring the world from the seat of my bike.  Here is what he came up with.  After many conversations we finally agreed on this design.

bikepacking sticker

The goal of course is to spread the word about Bikepacking and the resources available to help people try Bikepacking.  I’ll be having stickers made with this logo to pass out whenever I’m presenting seminars on Bikepacking and probably always have a pocket full of them to pass out.  If you would like to help spread the word please let me know and I’ll sent you some.  All I ask is you be respectful with them.  Please do not cover the neighbor’s cat with them or stick them to a public sign.  The purpose is to raise awareness for Bikepacking – not give Bikepacking or Bikepacking advocates a bad reputation.

New stickers!

Challenge Accepted!

Early in the year I signed up for the Cup O’ Dirt challenge.  The Cup O’ Dirt tracks and acknowledges dirt riders through the year as they complete rides or races over 100 miles long (Century Ride) with 80% of the ride on non-paved surfaces.  There is also a Metric Century category for those looking for a shorter distance.  The reward for completing 6 Dirt Centuries in a single calendar year – a stoneware mug emblazoned with the immortal words Cup O’ Dirt.  Races such as the Dirty Kanza would count as 2 rides over 100 miles since it is essentially two, one hundred mile rides back to back.  More details and a chance to sign up for this challenge can be found on

The races that I used to qualify for my first 6 rides this year were:

  • 3/28/2015 – Dirty Kanza training camp day two in Emporia, Kansas – 110 miles
  • 4/25/2015 – Dickie Scramble in Elgin, Minnesota – 80 miles (didn’t count for the 100 mile rides but could have counted for the metric centuries (100 km) – if I were doing those)
  • 5/16/2015 – Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley, Minnesota – 100 miles
  • 5/30/2015 – Dirty Kanza in Emporia, Kansas – 210 miles
  • 8/22/2015 – Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska – 152 miles
  • 9/12 2015 – Inspiration 100 in Alexandria, Minnesota – 105 miles but with a wrong turn 115 miles

Challenges such as this are meant to engage riders and give them goals to strive for.  Challenge accepted and completed!

Part two of this challenge for me is to complete 12 such races.  I am currently planning to ride

  • Jay P’s Backyard Gravel pursuit September 26th 2015 in Island Park, Idaho – 120 miles
  • The 101 Gravel Ride October 10th in Perry, Iowa 101 miles
  • The Filthy 50 October 11th in Stewartville, Minnesota 50 miles
  • The Ten Thousand on October 17th in Stockton, Illinois125 miles with 10,000+ Feet of elevation gain.
  • The Dirt Bag on October 18th in Clearwater, Minnesota 88 miles

The short races are for filler, they allow me to keep the legs spinning and count towards “base” miles.  Also it forces me to make time to ride, with an already packed lifestyle finding time to ride can be a challenge of its own.

If my math is correct – completing these races will not give me my 12 Century rides so – in the spirit of the challenge – I guess I need to find some more rides.  I would love to hear any suggestions of favorite last season gravel rides/races.   I do not think finding the rides will be that difficult – finding the time will be much more challenging.  I guess I just need to ride my bike more – major bummer there!

Congratulations to everyone who has earned this beautiful cup – as soon as mine arrives I shall drink a toast to you!

Special thanks to the organizers of this great challenge!

Challenge Accepted!

Inspiration 100

Inspiration 100

The Inspiration 100 is an annual event on some memorable gravel in Alexandria MN.  It is a free ride hosted by Deek and Chinn and very well organized.  This would be my second time riding this race and I am a much stronger rider than I was a year ago.  I was looking forward to bettering my time on this course.  An unfortunate missed turn last year did not help my time and turned the 105 mile course into a 115 mile course.  If I could just stay on the course I knew I could at least cut off an hour or two of riding.

I live about an hour from this race so the plan was to head out early in the morning and arrive about an hour before race time.  Having got all my gear packed and ready to go the night before meant I could sleep in until 6AM.  There are many things to like about Minnesota but a clear crisp fall morning standing in the darkness looking at the stars is hard to beat.  Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia – yep they are all still in their proper places – time to roll.  The temperature on the dash of the VW Golf said it was a brisk 35 degrees and I was glad I had brought about every kind of clothing I had.

I was feeling really good about this race as I checked in early and then went back to the car to stay warm.  The temperature had risen to a balmy 39 degrees and the forecast said given time – it would approach 68 today.  I consider temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s to be ideal riding conditions and it looked like today would be perfect.  I also consider 0mph to be the perfect wind speed but it didn’t look like I was going to get ideal wind conditions today.  I could hear the wind blowing outside my windows as I looked at a vast array of clothing options for the day.  I consider clothing a very important part of a ride.  In this weather it would be easy to overdress or underdress today.  Arm warmer? Long sleeve jersey? Knee warmers? Leg warmers? Wind vest? After pondering my choices – I decided to stick with the clothes I had on.  My Salsa team kit, knee warmers, arm warmers, my buff as always, gloves, tall wool socks and a Craft undershirt was a safe bet.  It had being tried and true for many other events this year.  Thirty minutes before race time, I jumped out and gave my wind vest one last consideration before closing the door.  Every athlete will correctly tell you to never start a race without warming up the muscles – I took off for a 15 minute warm up ride.

My plan for the day was to ride with the fastest group for as long as I could.  I knew eventually I would not be able to keep their pace but I wanted to enjoy the benefits of group riding as long as I could.  After I watched them pull away, I generally just look for the next rider in front of me, catch them, and move on.  I find setting goals like this is good motivation for me and I felt I could finish this race with an average of 15 mph – a sub 6 hour finish would be great.  At 8AM, we left the start following the pace truck until we hit the gravel.  The gravel was wet from the morning dew and softer than I expected – my mind instantly started to second guess my tire pressure.  At this point I was riding with the lead pack and stopping to adjust the pressure was out of the question.  Stick with the lead group – that was the plan and I was doing well.  Perhaps the first mistake I made in this race was looking down at the Garmin while keeping pace with this lead group – we were cruising at 24mph on gravel – I knew I could not sustain this pace and began to drop back – fearing I would burn myself out before the end of the ride.  I dropped back to the next group and spent the next 50 miles playing slinky with them.  I would take off feeling like the pace was too slow and they would catch up 5 miles later.  I don’t mind riding with others but I am not a good group rider in events like this.  I prefer to ride my pace rather than the pace of the group.  This often means I’m riding by myself and today was not going to be an exception.

The only water stop identified on the course was at a convenience store at mile 55.  I was feeling great at mile 55, I had plenty of water and I chose to ride past without stopping.  This was not a mandatory stop and an easy point to pass a dozen riders.  Miles 50, 60, and 70 clicked by quickly riding by myself.  I was still on pace to finish this race in under 6 hours and feeling great.  I had no idea how badly the plan would fall apart in the next 30 minutes.

Riders in these event are guided by cue cards.  Well laid out directions provided by the race coordinators to define the course for the day.  With the aid of the Garmin telling me the distances between turns, these cards generally work very well.  At mile 86, turn right onto 435 road, the plan started to fail.  435 road was unmarked and I blew past it thinking it was the next road – it wasn’t – or the next road – it wasn’t.  I knew I had missed it, stopped, and turned around, back to the unmarked road and back on course.  The nice part about cue cards is they tell you what mile from the start line you need to turn.  This works great until you have added an extra 5.3 miles by taking a wrong turn.  Now – every mileage number on the cue card needed an extra 5.3 added to it.  It happened again another couple miles down the road and after third time – the cue cards caused more damage than help.  The best plan at this point is to follow someone who knows where they are until you can get recalibrated.   This was a mental defeat more than a physical defeat.  I was starting to feel the physical effects of the ride by this time but after losing so much time and getting frustrated with wrong turns – I had lost the mental game.  I just needed to find the finish line at this point.

Jake’s Bikes, a local bike shop, had set up a relief station at mile 95 complete with cold soda, beer, cookies, and chips.  Although the beer was tempting, I needed to finish this race.  Making a couple wrong turns had taken the wind out of my sails and I mentally needed to regroup.  I grabbed a cola and a bag of chips and tried to refocus.  No – my time would not be what I hoped – but in the end – crossing the finish line was the most important goal.  All other goals are second – not finishing haunts you much longer than the agony of getting back on the bike and pushing through the pain.  Ten miles left, 6 of those straight into the wind, I can do this.  I took off, moving slow against a brisk head wind.  I was very disappointed when my GPS told me I had now completed the race in terms of mileage and I was still on the course.  Gravel turned to pavement and pavement took me to the finish line.  The joy of seeing my finish time more than 3 hours better than last years’ time should have excited me more than it did.  I knew I could have done better.

According the race coordinator, Deek and Chinn, next year will be the last year for the Inspiration 100 and it is already on my schedule.  I encourage all gravel riders to join me in this final year’s race – I consider it to be a gem of gravel roads in Minnesota.  Thank you to Deek, Chinn, Jake’s Bikes, and all the people who made this race possible.

Inspiration 100

What Makes an Adventure

Almost every Thursday night I make the 30 minute drive to Revolution cycle and Ski for a group ride.  The Thursday night ride is billed as a somewhat casual ride, no drops, let’s have some fun, and we may have time to stop for a beer at the end ride.  Typically we ride 50 miles =/- and average about 18 mph. This week I decided to use this ride as a light ride day because I am riding the Inspiration 100 in Alexandria on Saturday.  I met the group of riders as they passed through Avon – roughly half way through the ride figuring this would be a good 20 miles to keep the legs loose.  At this point in their ride – they are heading back to Revolution to end their ride – I met them as planned.  This was the point of my plan where things started to fall apart – although I didn’t exactly realize it at the time.  We finished the ride at Revolution and a couple of us decided to ride the couple miles over to the local brewery for a beer.  On the way, we met a couple other riders who frequently ride with us – they joined in.  This made four of us, sharing a few beers and swapping stories of rides and races both past and still coming up this year.  A few beers and a few hours later and it was time to head the 20 miles home.  I hopped on the Salsa Carbon Warbird and headed down the back roads weaving through side streets to avoid the traffic but to take advantage of the street lights.  At some time between the end of the group ride and now – it had gotten dark and cold.  (Mental note to self: Do more research on the relationship between sharing beer with friends and the setting of the sun)  The sky was crystal clear and the night air a brisk 54 degrees.  After about 10 miles I found myself in St Joe on the Lake Wobegone Trail.  I have ridden this trail hundreds of times and it felt good to get off the roads this late at night.  I had two lights with me – a Petzl head lamp and a NiteRider Mako.  Once on the bike trail, I turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the view the NiteRider presented.  The round light danced ahead of me on the silky black trail seemed as if I were viewing the world through a port window or a camera lens.  Several times the light would catch the glowing eyes of animals on the trail – none of which were higher than me on the food chain – I find comfort in that.  Worst case scenario – that honor easily goes to the skunks that would be enjoying the warm asphalt on a cool night like this.  Several time I could smell them near but fortunately for me – lots of glowing eyes – none belonging to skunks tonight.  It might have been a cool night but after a few miles it was clear I needed to shed the wind vest.  I general do this while riding but tonight, I stopped and took this opportunity to be one of those animals enjoying the heat of the asphalt.  I laid my bike aside and took a strange but rather comfortable position lying right in the middle of the warm asphalt trail staring straight up at roughly a billion, plus or minus a few hundred million, gleaming stars.  Warm asphalt or not, I cooled off quickly and my private viewing of an incredible night sky was to be short lived tonight.  Another dozen miles or so – I was home.

The point of all of this is a simple lesson for all of us.  It has become common for me to travel hundreds or in some cases over a thousand miles to ride a trail, compete in a race, or just have an adventure.  Here, just a dozen miles from home, this dark night, the cool signs of Minnesota’s Fall weather, and the most incredible night sky made this an unforgettable ride.  This was important to remind me not every adventure needs a fully loaded bike and thousands of miles; sometimes all you need is a familiar trail, a night sky, and the silence of the cool night air to make an unforgettable moment.

What Makes an Adventure

Gravel Worlds 2015

Gravel worlds 2015

Before I start I need to make to two thing painfully clear.  1) Nebraska is not an endless flatland of corn and grain.  On the 150 mile ride of Gravel Worlds 2015 we climbed over 11,000 feet on long rolling hills.  2) When someone tells you that you will be riding in Nebraska in August, what they really mean is that you will be riding on the face on the sun in what can only be described as hurricane force head winds no matter which direction you turn.

It is Saturday morning just before 6am and still dark as 200+ people full of energy lined up in a parking lot waiting for the start of the 2015 race.  A few quick words about the day and the course and the racers begin their shoulder to shoulder slow roll into the darkness.  Headlights dance across the ground casting long and strange shadows on the gravel road ahead.  From my position in the pack, the hundreds of flickering taillights look like I’m about to ride into a swarm of fireflies on steroids.  As the pace quickens and the riders start to break away from each other, the air becomes think with chocking dust and tiny projectiles of gravel flying in every direction.  Having learned this lesson the hard way I reach down and pull my buff over my nose and mouth trying to block the chocking air.  I’m not exactly sure it helps all that much but it does make me feel like I was prepared.  The early morning race jitters are left behind as the sun begins to rise into the horizon.  The cool night begins to give way to warmth and the stillness which accompanied us in the parking lot just 30 minutes ago is replaced by a stiff breeze.  My body and bike quickly settle into the rhythm of the road as they have done all summer long and minutes and hours just slip past.  Checkpoint 1 at just 50.5 miles comes too soon and breaks that rhythm.  I am feeling good, very good, and was anxious to just be back on the road.  The next checkpoint is only 9 miles out and my plan was to spend as little time at this stop as possible.  I grab the required pipe cleaner, check in, and sprint away trying to chase down the dust of Seth Woods.

Hazards on the road are expected on any ride and as much as I would like to just zone out, listen to the sounds of the road, and peddle I know too well I need to be ready for the unexpected.  As I began to chase down the next group of riders easily a half mile ahead my eyes caught sight of a large shadow at the top of the next big climb and nearly instantly my head screamed bear!  I have encountered many wild animals on these rides and plenty of them pose unique dangers but a bear – in Nebraska – in what was quickly becoming scorching heat – I needed to rethink that hastily drawn conclusion.  It took me about another quarter mile to realize it was in fact not a bear but a rather large dog, roughly the size of a bear, hanging out in the road.  Man’s best friend is not always a bikers best friend and I needed to approach this situation with due caution.  As I approached, it was clear this dog posed absolutely no danger to me.  It simple sat and watched as I rode by with a swift wagging tail a great big grin on its face that said something like “It’s gravel worlds, its gravel worlds, I love watching bikes, I’ve been waiting all year, I love this day, have a good day, I wish I had a bike …”  I carried a grin on my face as I rolled into Powerball stop at mile 59.8 trying to imagine what that dog must be thinking.  A bear – what the heck – it must be the heat starting to get to me.

gravel worlds

This was a Powerball stop.  I needed water and to purchase a Powerball ticket to prove I was here.  I was welcomed with a smiling face and a gallon of cool water.  I filled my camelback, bought my ticket, and headed out of the General Store with a small group of riders which included last year’s 1st place women’s finisher and Salsa sponsored rider Andrea Cohen.  This group was moving at a fast pace and it wasn’t long before I could no longer keep pace as they climbed a long rolling Nebraska hill.  I knew as they pulled away, this was the turning point of the race.  As the physical demands of the ride start to catch up with you – the mental and nutritional parts of the ride begins.

Riding alone, in the middle of Nebraska somewhere, I am starting to feel the effects of the wind and sun.  There is no shade in this part of Nebraska and the sun glowing high in the sky is well versed at baking anything it can find.  Even the gravel under my bike seems to be relieved for the moment of shade my shadow provides.  I generally don’t listen to music while I ride but at this point in the race – I pull out the iPod.  I would like to say music helps me stay focused on the ride but really the truth is it just distracts me from the ride.  This distraction helps me block out what is really going on in my head and allows me to push and dig deeper – adrenalin for the brain.  Checkpoint 2 sits at mile 84.9 and is a sight for sore eyes.  A quick check of the time and at this point I’m still keeping to my plan of a sub 10 hours finish although I know the heat, humidity, and especially the wind are draining my energy quickly.  More water and some much needed shade – aaah – I could spend the rest of the afternoon sitting right here.  The camaraderie of the bikers on a ride like this is amazing.  Listening to the other riders at this checkpoint and you start to hear the first tidbits of how the race is going for everyone else.  A story of a crash, lots of mechanical failures, flat tires, are all typical of the checkpoint buzz.  All these were floating around, some exaggerated by the retelling of story after story but then a new mumble drifts my way.  Heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sever fatigue are taking out some riders as well.  At his checkpoint, the guess is as many as 40% of the starters are out.  As much as I enjoyed some rest and shade, I knew I needed to get back on the road.  The longer you spend in the comfort of the rest stops the harder it is to get back on the bike.

Rounding off 100 miles in Hickman I was still feeling good but it was obvious the heat and especially the wind were wearing me down.  This is a common place for me.  The physical, mental, and the nutritional parts of the race all collide.  I had spent a lot of energy to get to Hickman by myself and I knew the last 50 mile were going to be a much slower pace.  As the goal of finished under 10 hours slipped past my attention desperately needed to be refocused on simply finishing this ride.  Eleven miles outside of Hickman I hit the wall.  That dreaded point where your body simply says no more.  I knew I needed nutrition and water, my body need more recovery time.  I tried energy GU as I slowly rode along but my stomach defiantly rejected it.  I found the only bit of shade I could, dropped my bike on the shoulder of the road, and focused on just trying to lower my core body temperature and keep some food down.  I sat for almost 30 minutes trying to get refocused before climbing back on the Warbird.  The next checkpoint was under 10 miles away and I rolled into it with all the energy of a dead horse.  A garden hose was at that point about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and if soaked myself under the cool water.  I stayed here for another 30 minutes, enjoying the shade, eating animal crackers by the handful, and pumping my body full of water.  I was at mile 119 of a 152 mile course.  It was the sound of distant thunder and a wall of clouds that were obviously bringing rain that motivated me back onto the bike.  I envied my bike, laying calmly in the shade like an old friend – it was ready to go whenever I said lets go.  My Salsa TI Warbird had carried me well over a thousand miles this summer without an issue and I felt a tinge of guilt when I realized this was probably the last race like this with this trusted steed.  I knew at this point I had a new Salsa Carbon Warbird frame waiting to be freed from the box in my garage.  Riding out of the checkpoint – I knew the last 30 miles were going to be the hardest yet – stay focused – finish the race.

I certainly was not the only rider left on the course.  With the exception of the last 20 miles, I had been riding a strong race.  I picked up groups of riders and rode with them as long as I could before watching them disappear on the road ahead of me.  Riding in a group allows you to draft behind another rider and conserver energy.  Energy conservation was something I desperately needed at this point.  I focused on finishing the race and begged that thunderstorm to wait until I was finished before soaking that gravel road with rain and turning it to mud.

Head down, focused on keeping the legs pushing, I felt the slap of a hand on my back and the familiar voice of a good friend and shop owner of District Bicycles in Stillwater, Ok Bobby Wintle beside me.  I had actually thought he had dropped earlier in the race but I’m glad I was wrong.  No words needed to be shared at that moment – he knew I was struggling.  He simply said “come on Dave – let’s finish this together” before he pulled ahead of me to break the wind.  With less than 10 miles to go I fell back into my rhythm although it was a much slower rhythm than I started the day.  Five miles, three miles, the finish line in sight – this race was over.

I have ridden longer races and faced some of the same challenges I did in this race but never was I so glad to hit the finish line.  This was hard – probably the hardest ride I have ever finished.  The crowd of people at the finish line was amazing.  The gravel bike racing community is very close and every rider is greeted at the line with cheers, claps, whistles, and cow bells.  We were met by Kristi and Tim Mohn, good friends and the new the tandem champions.  Bobby’s crew from District was there and took our bikes so we could recover and share the moment with friends.  All the struggles of the day, all the physical and mental pain of the last 10 hours were all gone.  The adrenalin of the crowd takes over – the moment is victorious.

On the 10 hour drive I had the next day to get back to Minnesota I had plenty of time to reflect on the race.  What went well, what needed to change, what part of the race strategy could be improved – all thoughts racing through my mind as the miles passed by.  I was sad, knowing this race was over for the year.  I always find it hard to come back to reality after an event like this. I am at peace on my bike and I’d rather just keep riding the hours away.  Great rides like this do not just happen.  I cannot say enough about the great crew that put this together this year.  Cory and the crew at Cycle Works did a great job – thank you so much.  I’ll be back next year to challenge myself again.

Gravel Worlds 2015

Fourth of July Trip


Over the fourth of July weekend, a friend and I planned a ride from Minneapolis to Duluth.   This is a trip neither of us had taken before but well with-in our capabilities.  We left a 6AM, loaded with camping gear, bike essentials, and enough food and water to make it between the many stopping locations.  The weather was overcast and gave us near perfect riding conditions and a 17mph pace for the first 90 miles.  As we headed north out of Hinckley the sun came out, the air became thick and humid on the backside of a storm that had just passed and the near perfect conditions were gone.  We did not have a confirmed place to camp in Duluth so we held up at Jay Cooke State Park (150 miles) for the night and finished the last 25 miles in the morning.  The cold water of Lake Superior felt incredible on the tired legs.  This was a great 175 mile ride (14 hours on the bike) with many places along the way to refuel the body and stretch the legs when necessary.  This trip could easily have been done in a day.  Next time I plan to spend the night and ride it back to Minneapolis.  Great weekend ride!

The Trip Plan  

Minneapolis to Duluth (estimated 175 miles) through Wyoming, North Branch, Pine City to Hinckley.  Once in Hinckley, after refueling the body at Tobies, the plan was to follow the Willard Munger trail heading straight north through many small communities and into Duluth.


The Bike and Gear (loaded weight 53 pounds)

                2014 Salsa Fargo with 2.10 WTB Nano tires (tubless) and a SP Dyno front hub for charging and lights

Full Frame bag (Must Stache Bike Bags) – food, clothing, rain gear, head lamp, first aid kit

Top tube bag (Must Stache Bike Bags) – gu, chews, etc. – quick/handy energy

Rear Top Tube bag (Must Stache Bike Bags) – Tubes, tools, sun screen

Garbage can bags (Must Stache Bike Bags) – Remember people “leave no trace”

Viscacha Rear Seat Bag (Revelate Designs)-Down jacket, Big Agnes sleep bag, Nemo tent

80oz Camelbak hydration pack and a 18oz bottle on the down tube

Garmin 810 GPS


Noteworthy observations

  • The Willard Munger trail – although paved and well maintained – it is as straight and flat and boring of a ride as possible. If it were not for the curvature of the earth – I think I could have seen the North Pole with every glace north.  With the exception of a few local riders with-in a few miles of each little town along the way – we were the only riders.  This made for fast travel but the monotony and the monotony and the monotony really make you fight the mental game as we rode.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to chat with the people. The bikes and perhaps the clothing we wear seem to invite people to talk.  Where are you headed?  Where you from?  Are you crazy?  Wait – did you say you are going to ride it in a day?  Are you under a doctor’s care?  Never pass up an opportunity to share your biking enthusiasm as you ride.
  • MN State Parks cannot (evidently by law) refuse accommodations to bicycles/hikers after dusk. Even though Jay Cooke State Park camping was full – they accommodated us.  THANK YOU to whoever made that law.  The climb out of Jay Cooke State Park in the dark was NOT something I would have looked forward to doing.  Note – accommodate you is different than allowing you to stay for the weekend – we had to have our gear packed by 8:30AM.
Fourth of July Trip

Life in a small town

Its 6 AM, -12 degrees F with 17-25 mph wind, feels like -35 degrees, and the sun won’t rise for another two hours. I walk out to the garage and let the dogs out to run around as I ready the bike for a morning adventure. The air is crisp, clean, and fresh, nothing is moving, and the only sound to be heard is the wind in the trees as I throw my leg over my trusty steed, a Salsa Beargrease, and push off into the darkness.

The plan today is a short ride in the cold and dark to test some of my equipment and clothing in VERY cold conditions. For this ride of 50 miles my bike is loaded light but carries everything I need; it feels like home and life is simple. Even though I have logged hundreds of miles on the Lake Wobegone trail, this morning, in the still cold darkness with only 30 feet of light shining ahead of me, it seems like a new adventure.

I have often struggled in extreme conditions trying to manage moisture. The moisture in my breath and the sweat from my body needs escape from my clothing without freezing solid. It needs to escape. More than one extreme cold ride for me has left me with an outside clothing layer frozen into a solid block.

This year I made the decision to take as much weight out of my ride as possible. Fully loaded this morning, the bike, poagies, and custom frame bags are just under 25 pounds.

My plan was to ride from Avon Minnesota to Freeport. Charlie’s Cafe, made world famous by Garrison Keiller and National Geographic, was about the right distance to ride, refresh myself with a greasy spoon breakfast, and ride back home. The trail was fast with little snow, but the stiff headwind was brutal and killing me. Finally I saw the town’s lights off in the distance. It’s surprising how the thought of eggs and bacon can keep you going.

Rolling up to this local gathering spot, I saw a few locals sitting having coffee through the window in front. It is safe to say that the sight of a bicycle rolling up was not what they expected. I walked through the door and every eye in the place was looking at me. There were no conversations happening, no dishes clattering – time had stopped. All eyes focused on me as if they expected two heads to pop out from under my helmet as I peeled off a few layers. Not until I take a seat at the coffee counter does some brave soul at a table in the back start a conversation again.

As a very friendly waitress approached, the gentleman next to me asked if I was from town. “No. Just rode two hours in from Avon.” He leans to the man next to him to repeat the message,  “He rode two hours from Avon”, which then repeats its way all down the counter. The silence returns.

”Is someone coming to pick you up?” he asked next. “Nope, just getting some breakfast and riding back”, I reply. “He is riding back.” “He is riding back.” The message again traveled down the counter.

He finally turns back to me and asks, “Do you have a mental illness?” I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond in-between bites of egg and hashbrowns but I knew whatever my answer was it would travel to the end of the counter one person at a time. I also knew that they wouldn’t understand why someone would willingly go for a bike ride on one of the coldest days of the year. I tried to explain my passion for cycling and how I ride most days but I’m not sure I was able to sway any opinions.

While paying for my meal my waitress told me “You will be the talk of the town for weeks” and I remembered what it’s like to live in a small town. She went on to say “People will think I’m a celebrity, because I got to serve you.” I paid the bill, redressed for the ride home, and nodded to the room full of people watching as I left the restaurant.

It was a great morning ride.

Life in a small town