Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finding Independence

Independence Day Road Tour:

A few days before the 4th, Blake tells me he's going on a road tour and I want in. Having never done a two day, 200 mile, ride it's a chance to pick up new skills. Blake is more experienced on road tours so I will learn from him and get the experience of a multi day ride. I already know I like long rides so this ups the game and I have the Epic later this summer.
We do not have much of a plan or a map. We know we can navigate using our phone if we need to find something otherwise we expect to wander and ride. It isn't until we get out an hour that we agree to go to a state forest that allows dispersed camping. That means you use the land as is, no campsites exist. A little rugged but I can always find a proper spot to make camp.
It takes over 2 hours to get away from town and we already using phone maps more than we want but we are not making progress as we guess at what trails go north more than west or east.
 Finally breaking out of the metro.
We didn't know it at the time but this is the Anoka Country Correction and 'WorkHouse' campus. It's clean and quiet and without any signs of confinement. Kind of a downer so lets move on.

 Following the Rum River Trail is nice but it's not going to last.

 A short stop for a snack and some route planning. It's great riding but we are not having a great time because navigation is more bothersome then expected. Trails and road just are not working out.
Here we follow a trail for a few miles only for it to turn to gravel and then just stop. We have to ride back the entire way. At which point to take a road that also dead end. Maps show it goes through but a manufacturer fenced off the entire lot. More backtracking.
 Back on the road, we resort to primary road. Trails just are not working but the advantage is food and bev's almost at will. Now it's getting fun.
 Somebody didn't eat enough cookie at the last Munch and Run. Maybe 80 miles at this point.
 People have a lot of time to waste out here. Besides cutting acres of grass they so this.

Into 'camp' at mile 117. We ride up a forest road less than a mile and find this grass knoll. It's almost ideal. Far from the wood line keeps the bugs down, flat, and grassy means you can easily walk around. Downside is it's close to the road. 
 My gear rig worked good and the old steel Bianchi Road Champion was awesome.
I set up a tent. Blake goes with the bivi bag (orange bag). I almost used a bivi but I don't sleep well in a bivi unless it's cold out. Not knowing how the 2 day, 200 miles was going to affect me I wanted to know I was going to get a proper rest.
This is Blake and it's his first night in a bivi. He's already in bed (9pm, nothing else to do). He doesn't enjoy it; hardly a surprise. A bivi is a tool to protect you, not to be comfortable.
Morning arrives. I didn't use a rain fly because of a 0% chance of rain. This is condensation from heavy fog. It's nice.
 Fog clears, we don't bother having breakfast. We just pack up and head out. 
 We stop at a local shop for coffee but pass on food. Down the road we stop at a large convenience store for bananas and breakfast.
Using primary road and retracing our route we make great time and the weather is still awesome. We are both feeling good and the miles go by quickly.
 Frequent stops are welcome as all calories are needed to fuel the legs.
Getting lost payed off when we see the "ICE CREAM MAN!". I look at Blake and I already know he's down for the Ice Cream Man. It takes almost nothing to get her to stop. She sees the smiles on our faces and with all the gear she knows we are on a long tour.
 I get my childhood favorite, Rainbow Bomb Pop. 
 Blake get his, a 'Ninja Turtle'. A what? You got a silly green frog and I got a red white and blue symbol of the American Space Race on Independence day. Kids!
 Back at the Coon Rapids Dam.
Knowing the route we follow the river into mpls and it's parks, while throngs of families grill out and play in the parks.(not shown)
 Out of left field I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of this graffiti. It was on the back of a metal warehouse. I've seen a lot of street art but this is the finest detail and shading I've ever seen. I have no idea what the artiest was trying to say and I'm extremely comfortable not knowing.
 I said I road from my place to Blake's and that means I needed to ride back after dropping him off. An extra 17 miles. I feel ok when I leave his place and I know I should eat something but I don't. It's only 17 miles and I'm not rushing it. About mile 12 I bonk, real bad. Legs go to ham. I just have to push 4 more miles and I'll stop at a store and get something. I need to eat. Chocolate milk. I drink the entire 1/2 gallon in minutes. What you see is what I drank from the register to the sidewalk out front. I drink the rest on the mile home. 

It was an easy ride and I'm looking forward to a repeat. I've already registered for several 200 miles bikepacking trips in 2016. Going to be a lot more road tours in my future. I've found independence on the open road and a pannier full of camping gear.

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