I just got back from a two day, one night bike trip from Minneapolis to Winona, Minnesota. The story of this trip really started on the bike camping trip I did last year. That trip planted the seed both for the touring bike I built this winter and for the idea of biking to Winona, where my brother and a good friend live. Once the custom build Long Haul Trucker neared completion, the reality of what I had done set in. I built myself a bike with 27 gears, the capability of carrying massive loads without flinching, and slots on the chain stays for keeping extra spokes. This bike could cross Mongolia. I figured I’d better at least get it out of the Twin Cities this year if I hoped to justify owning such a machine.
The trip was fantastic. I think that touring, in general, is fantastic. I’ve long loved camping, but until last summer, the experience has always been mediated by between 30 minutes to 4 hours in a car. Having to drive somewhere in order to have a natural experience creates an artificial wall between “nature” and my every day life.
Biking is different. I am on the trip as soon as I am out of my front door. There are a handful of state parks within 30 – 40 miles of my front door, and the best routes to them often pass through city parks or other green, preserved areas. By biking, I experience the urban and the natural as overlapping continuums, not as mutually exclusive places.
This trip was particularly great, though. The ride was challenging but still fun. The weather was cooperative, the company wonderful, the scenery good. We rode 71 miles the first day and camped at a friend’s farm just west of Lake City, which led us to some of the best scenery and the quietest road we saw the entire ride. We ate good food, slept hard, and got up the next day to ride 56 more (somewhat less hilly) miles to Winona. My buddy who lives in Winona took the train up to Minneapolis to meet me and another riding partner. At the end of the trip, the two of us took the train back to the Twin Cities.
I plan to write more in the near future, about the route I chose, the experience of getting bikes on Amtrak for the return trip, and the Trucker’s handling on her first real trip. In the meanwhile, I leave you with the numbers:
2 wheels each
7 (!) Mississippi River Crossings (I’m counting Prescott, WI as the Mississippi and not the St. Croix. I could be wrong on that one, but it’s ambiguous).
1 train back to Minneapolis