We recently spent a week bicycling across Nebraska with the BRAN (Bicycle Ride across Nebraska). It was a wonderful adventure filled with amazing scenery, a diverse topography, the most genial and friendly people, and sunshine! We started in Chadron (west side of the state) and ended in Fremont (east side of the state). Our 400+ miles of travel took us through the Sandhills of Nebraska, fields of corn in the agricultural area, and the rolling hills of the eastern side as we were closer to the rivers. The flooding the state has dealt with this spring was evident as we saw washouts along the Elkhorn River and standing water in so many fields. We are appreciative of the people who welcomed us in their towns and were so generous with their Nebraskan hospitality. To me, a bicycle ride is the perfect way to see and appreciate the landscape, terrain, and people — it’s as upclose an experience as you can get on a journey along highways and biways.
We just got back from a 425 mile ride along the Wisconsin River, starting in the northeast corner of Wisconsin in Eagle River and ending in Prairie du Chien. For seven days, we got to experience the beauty of the state – from the lakes and woods in the north, to the agriculture and dairies, to the bluffs and the hills of the southwest. What none of us were ready for was six days of riding in the rain. Although it didn’t rain entire days, each day necessitated rain jackets and rain gear. And after five consecutive wet days, this was the scene overnight in Baraboo – shoes and clothes lined up on a gym floor hoping to dry out before morning. But as luck would have it, it wasn’t really necessary because we woke to rain again on the sixth day. Because of all the rain and storms, the Wisconsin River was over its banks and was roaring downstream – an amazing sight to see. The seventh day, our final day of riding, dawned with sunshine and blue sky. Needless to say, it was a treat to finish our ride without rain.
The winds have been from the south, bringing warm and summer-like temperatures into Minnesota. But the days are shorter and nature is anticipating the change of seasons into fall. Some of the trees have started the change in colors – a glorious outburst to the beauty of nature and autumn. I was riding my bicycle on the Gateway Trail yesterday. The sunshine was warm and I was breaking a sweat but the air didn’t have the fresh green smell of summer. The path was littered with dried leaves that had already fallen, and they crackled as my bike tires ran over them — reminding me of being a child and using clothespins to attach playing cards to my bike so they would snap through the spokes. The sound was delightful and I found myself swerving to ride through the leaves on the trail. Change is in the air.
After an unusually long hibernation, our bicycles have come out of storage and onto the roads and trails again. Although the bikes adjust quickly, it takes a bit longer for us to get our riding legs back in condition. We enjoyed two rides this weekend on the Gateway Trail. Minnesota has wonderful biking and recreation trails, and the Gateway is one of my favorites. This trail wanders from downtown Saint Paul, through the city, into the suburbs, and then out into the countryside passing farms, fields, lakes, and wetlands. The trail has numerous bridges that go over the main streets and roads, making it much safer for riders and drivers. Built on an old railroad bed, it was the perfect trail for us to help acclimate back to riding form. The weekend was a great reminder of how much I enjoy being on a bike, taking in the sounds and smells around me, and reveling in the trail and the physical exercise.
Last weekend I reached a goal I set for myself earlier this year – I completed 1,500 miles on my bike for the year. From back in mid-March when the temperatures were cool and our legs weren’t ready, we’ve biked and journeyed through Minnesota and even across the state of Kansas. We’ve seen prairies and wheat fields, lakes and flatlands, rain and wind, hills down and up. Sadly some of my final miles this year have been ridden alone as my riding partner hasn’t been able to be on the bike. But he was helping me along in all the important ways with his encouragement and support. So last Sunday with a SSE wind of 14 mph+, I headed northeast on the Gateway Trail, then meandered on county roads with that tailwind behind me. The final miles were north on the Sunrise Prairie Trail. My wingman met me in the town of Stacy where I watched my bike odometer turn to 5,000 miles (yea!) and the culmination of 1,500 riding miles for this year. My bicycle has brought me in contact with great people, amazing scenery, the best and worst of weather, a sense of accomplishment, and the most wonderful feeling of adventure as I cruise along on trails and roads. The kid in me enjoys the freedom of riding and the adult in me appreciates the bounty of sights, sounds, and memories. So this winter as the snow is piling up we’ll be planning our biking adventures and goals for next year.