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.
I’m pleased to say that with rest and medication my back is strong again. But after having taken a week to recuperate I was worried about the loss of training for our long bicycle ride that’s fast approaching. I did a test ride a few days ago and things seemed fine, so this weekend we were “cramming” our rides: 30 miles on Saturday, 40 miles on Sunday, and 50 miles today. I’m happy to say we succeeded (and we’re still standing too!). But our weekend brought a little bit of everything. The last half of our Saturday ride was finished in a torrential downpour. Although we waited out the thunder and lightning in a Subway store, we couldn’t wait out the rain and we arrived home looking like the proverbial “drowned rats”. Sunday’s ride was in 90 degree temps with high humidity and a 25 mph headwind. And today’s ride started with a 10 mph headwind and temps in the 70’s, but we turned the headwind into a great tailwind on the return. We’re fortunate to have access to some wonderful bicycling trails here in Minnesota. Sunday we rode on a segment of the Gateway Trail which originates in Saint Paul. Today we started our ride in Faribault and rode the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail through the woods and pasture-lands of the central area of the Minnesota. This area was once part of the “Big Woods” of the state and provided some welcome shade and beautiful surroundings. Being able to experience the landscape and surroundings on a bicycle is one of the best ways to see an area, and this week we’ve seen a lot!
This past week marked a new milestone for me, one I wouldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the year. On Wednesday I took advantage of a warm late-fall afternoon to complete an 18-mile bicycle ride on the Gateway Trail on the outskirts of Saint Paul. By completing this ride I have now ridden 1,500 miles this year — an amount that far exceeds anything I’ve ever done. All those miles have been filled with new sights, adventures, and shared conversations. The ones early in the year were done in training for the Bike Across Kansas, and the ones at the end of the summer and into the fall were for the exercise and the enjoyment of riding. I can’t predict how many miles I’ll traverse next year, but I know these 1,500 miles have plenty of enjoyable memories to carry me through the winter and have me looking forward to new bicycling adventures starting next spring.