Finally found something new to get me excited about riding again

I'm not sure if I should admit this publicly or not but in a lot of ways I don't really like riding my bike all that much.  I mean, I love it, it's the only way I will probably ever travel anywhere on a regular basis, but a long time ago the joy went out of it for me.  Now it's mostly just point a to point b, here to there, a means, a tool.  It's a thing that I do, it's part of my life, but I'm not totally in love with it the way that some other people are.  I often find myself envying new riders because I can see the joy and wonder in their eyes because it's all fresh and new.  It's great, I wish it was that way for me, but I'm just a rider. 

Imagine my surprise to find something new that makes me want to ride again.

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to actually get around to bicycle touring.  A lot of it is probably not really having the right bicycle or my own camping gear and not wanting to borrow people's stuff.  I don't really like borrowing things for some reason, I'd rather have my own stuff so I'm 100% sure of what I have.  I'm not sure if that makes sense or not, but anyway, I just haven't really gotten around to touring, because I always didn't have the stuff, or didn't have someone to camp with, or any one of a million other excuses for not getting out there.

This past weekend I finally got around to doing it, my friend Laura and I took a three day tour over into Wisconsin to visit the Love Tree Farmstead and try their fresh pizzas.  I have to say it was some damn good pizza and totally worth the trip. This is the route we took:

Map of our route to Wisconsin and back

Apprehensive the Night Before

The trip almost didn't happen, actually.  Laura had gone on another pizza farm ride earlier in the week and it had her completely wiped out.  I guess that trip was 100* temps and 100 mile days two days in a row, it sounded utterly brutal.  I don't know how she did it.  The night before we were supposed to head out she was gchatting with me sounding like she didn't want to go, and I don't really blame her for that.  We talked it out and decided that it would probably be OK, we were going to take this trip in a totally different way than the last ride, it would be fun and enjoyable time on the bike instead of brutal punishment.

I guess, maybe that's where I'm at with my riding, too.  I'm a strong enough and competent enough rider that the only real things to do to challenge myself is to make it more brutal and ugly.  To go further and harder and faseter for longer.  And I don't really want that.  That's not what riding is about to me.  I want to enjoy myself when I'm on a bike.  That's why I ride - to enjoy myself and my surroundings.  I like to ride with other people so that I can enjoy the company, not so we can all be hanging panting at the end of the ride wondering how we managed to hang on and not die. 

Anyway, once we decided that we were going to actually do the trip we got ready - I spent the night getting my winter hybrid spruced up and ready for the trip.  It's the only bike that I own with a rack, an old Cannondale hybrid with all the paint stripped off, straight titanium bar.  It fits 35mm nokians and fenders just fine, so it was a great winter bike.  I just upgraded the wheels on it too, but I never really rode it all that much.  It was fine in winter, but the straight bar just killed my hands, and after even just the commute into work my hands would be numb and hurting.  I really couldn't do that for 182 miles, so I hit up Freewheel to see what they had for bar ends.

I ended up going with these Ergon GC3 grips that looked like they would give a very comfortable ride.  They were expensive, but totally worth it.  My hands did fine for most of the three days that we were riding, and I was riding pretty much all day every day.  I installed these and packed my new Axiom Champlain DLX panniers and was (I hoped) ready for the ride.

Me ready to head out on the road

The longest, flattest stretch ever

I didn't have a way to actually look at the elevation and I don't know any of the streets that we were going to be riding on so I was kind of guessing when I plotted the route.  Google bicycling directions actually sent me that direction the first time I tried to use it to plot out a four stop two state bicycling trip, then later stopped routing through North Branch and had us heading up St. Croix Trail both ways. I had to add North Branch to the route to get it to route us that way.

For the record, bicycling directions have a ways to go - I'll explain more as I go, but they sent us off course or onto totally unsuitable roads in a few different occasions.

Anyway, we set out down Franklin to 27th to the Transitway then past the fairgrounds and out over around Como Park to Maryland.  Maryland was a perfectly fine street to bicycle on in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and made for a pretty nice level street to get over to the Gateway.  Unfortunately it was a different story coming back into town early in the evening on a Monday.  We had to aggressively take the lane two wide and force every care to go around us in order to keep from getting pushed off the road by assholes tearing past way too fast.  It was honestly much scarier than some of the 6" shoulders with 50 mile per hour traffic we'd been on the past few days.  At least there they saw you, slowed down or moved over most of the time.  If we do this ride as a yearly thing finding a good route to the Gateway is probably key, something that doesn't have too many hills right at the beginning of the trip.

Once we made it onto the Gateway it was a short jaunt up to the Bruce Vento trail and we started heading North.  We were going to be heading north for a long, long time.  First off it was the trail which was a really nice trail.  Then Buerkle road over to 61, and we started heading north again, this time with traffic.  Laura kind of picked up the pace at this point and we made good time, we even had a roadie paceline behind us for a few miles.  The freeway had a pretty decent shoulder all things considered.  We took that as far as 145th street, then we took a quick left and hopped onto Hardwood Creek Trail / Sunrise Prairie Trail.

That is, by far, the longest flatest straightest trail I have ever been on.  It just goes forever and ever with no hills and very few stops.  I was surprised that we didn't see any roadies out on it blazing away at 30mph in the aerobars.  We took it quite a bit slower, Laura was starting to feel the miles and I wasn't really used to pushing a bike that weighed this much so we took it slow and just kind of plodded along.  We stopped for lunch in Forest Lake at some Italian restaurant by the lake.  It was good pasta, perfect fuel for riding your bike along an endless trail. 

Laura caught some kids displaying exemplary traffic skills by the town's roundabout and took several photos of it.  You can check it out over on her flickr.  All of the photos that I'm posting in this post are by her. 

I didn't really take any pics because I was in super conservative mode with my cell phone battery.  It was our only real way of navigating on some of these back roads because the big paper maps don't have the level of detail you need on a bicycle route.  My phone also didn't like to stay powered off, so I had to take the battery out each time we stopped.  It was good in some ways because when we got lost or turned around it was like a little forced break to power on the connection to the internet and see where we were, then we'd go back to navigating by cue sheet and memory.  Ideally for touring I think I would want some way to power my phone as I rode, and perhaps then I could use the phone to power some tunes as we rode.  That would be nice if I do get into this more.

Anyway, after lunch we headed back out on the trail, and kept on it as far as North Branch.  The trail dead ends there right next to a Pizza Hut, and Laura ran in to find out where in town we could go for dinner and a beer.  The lady inside said right away "Pizza Pub" and we went.  I pulled out the cue sheet when we sat down and looked at it and it said "Pizza Pub of North Branch for dinner?" and I'd completely forgotten about it.  It was to be the first of our three nights of pizza.  We ordered the veggie a little custom - no cheese on her side and no olives on mine.  They were more than happy to comply and it was great pizza.  The beers were huge liters for $5 for people that drink, they had sodas and not much else for people like me that don't drink. 

They gave us two boxes and Laura skillfully packed the leftovers so that they would survive the next 30 miles or so and we headed out on the road again.

First view of the St. Croix Trail

Our route took us east out of North Branch along 95 / St. Croix Trail.  This road wasn't really designed with bikes in mind at all.  The shoulder has a rumble strip directly down the center of it about 18" wide making the little bit of space that there is pretty unusable.  It was ride-able, and we rode side by side for some stretches but the design could easily have been changed and should be changed next time the road is resurfaced.  The rumble strip should be off to one side to give as much space to the cyclists as possible.

We took this down to Co Rd. 70 or Oriole Street, then took that a little ways out of our way to the first poor routing choice on the part of google maps.  It was trying to route us 8 miles down a gravel road with the large pea gravel about 1/4 to 1/2" in size.  There was no way that I wanted to ride down that.  We stopped and got eaten by the mosquitoes while I checked the map and found that we could simply head back to the poor shoulder and take that up to Park Trail / Co Rd 12 and take that directly into the park.  We opted for this as it was starting to get late and we really wanted to get into the park.

Does the park even want cyclists?

About dusk we made the turn into Park Trail and noticed that the road was totally torn up.  There was no shoulder at all, it had been completely removed and there was nothing but a gaping hole there.  We were somewhat terrified of the idea of riding down this in low light but at this point we really didn't have a choice.  I was a little nervous about heading into the park at all, honestly.  We didn't have a reservation for a campsite so there was a chance we might not be able to stay there.  At this point it was starting to get dark as we rolled in, if we had to go back out down this road in search of a hotel or a friendly farmer willing to let us pitch a tent we were done for.

I'd tried to reserve a campsite earlier in the week but they were totally booked.  Laura and I had both heard about a deal where they can't turn you away at a state park if you arrive on foot or on bicycle and we wanted to take advantage of it.  I'd called and asked if they would have something in reserve and they said that the overflow campsites usually fill up Friday night and anyone showing up Saturday night would be turned away.  Not knowing if it was official policy or not I didn't ask about the fact that we were in fact bicycle touring, so I thought they might turn us away.  Laura called back and asked about the policy and they said they would find us a spot so we thought we were good, but still, there was a chance.  I was nervous.

They turned out to be super nice there, actually.  It turns out that the shoulder is torn up so they can install a bike lane which will be nice in the future.  The park had already had another cycling duo claim the reserve cyclists campsite, and first off the rangers in the front office went to put us in the same campsite as them.  Laura and I thought this might be kind of cool, the other people aparently already had a fire going and we figured if they'd just ridden up on a whim from Minneapolis like us they were probably pretty cool people and we'd probably get along and have stories to talk about riding.  We started riding to the campsite and another ranger out on the road thought better of our sleeping arrangements and caught us on the road and directed us back to the picnic area instead.  We were given a nice patch of grass right next to a bathroom and water fountain - what more do you really need?  We set up camp in the dark and passed out tired but still feeling good and strong. I had a little trouble sleeping because there was a concert going on in the amphitheater a ways away, it was low but annoying.

All in all it was a good day of riding, a nice entry to riding fully loaded without too many hills.  Laura said her legs felt like they loosened up and settled in about halfway through the flat stretch, and I felt my legs kind of do the same.  Hauling cargo uses some different muscles but it wasn't really all that different, I adapted well and felt pretty strong on the bike.

Wild turkeys in the morning

We woke up to a flock of turkeys wandering through the picnic area and a fleet of mosquitoes waiting to get at our tender juicy flesh.  Laura breaks out horribly when she gets bitten and these were some of the worst bites I've seen her get.  The bugs were relentless and did not seem to care about bug spray at all.  We packed as quickly as we could and took the trail out of camp.  After a quick stop at the gateway to lube Laura's chain we headed back out to the St. Croix Trail, then took this into Taylor's Falls.  We stopped for some burgers Romayne's that boasted the best charbroiled burger in Taylor's Falls.  I'm not sure who their competition was.  They were just opening up as we got there, not much else in town seemed to be open either.  There was a pizza place across the street that also offered ice cream that might be nice to check out on a future pizza trip.

The river crossing was really terrifying.  There was no shoulder and the cars were buzzing by at 70-80mph.  At the top of this huge hill we hit Washington which I thought was our turn.  Of course it was not marked, and from google maps had looked like the second left.  I didn't know if we needed to keep climbing, so we stopped and powered on the phone for GPS and a verification before we did anything.  After confirmation we leapfrogged it pushing our bikes and running to the center median, then across the rest of the road.  There was no way to get across if you weren't willing to take risks, no light or anything.  It really kind of sucked.

The hills really started after we headed out of town on Washington, which became 240th which was also County Road G.  We took it for a long way pretty much single file, the shoulder was only about as wide as our bikes and the traffic was pretty stiff and plentiful.  We only got buzzed a couple times that made me nervous, and only had to use our fingers one time, so I guess it was ok.  The route kind of zigs when G turns to stay on 240th which is now Range Line Rd / Old Wisconsin 87.  We took that up to 270th, then went right to 230th then went left.  It turns into gravel but fine stuff that's pea sized and well compacted and no trouble to ride on at all.  We took that up to Co Rd Z, then hung a right and ran right into the farm around the next bend in the road.  We were like, "Wow, we're already here?  That took no time at all!"

A wonderful pizza farm

Lovetree farm was everything you want in an organic pizza farm.  Wood fired oven, dining room made from recycled tires, just perfect.  We had the "Fresh" pizza and I forget the toppings - nettes and tomatoes and goat cheese.  It was super yummy with a slightly charred crust. They had livestock you could go and see, being a dairy farm meant that they have babies to pet because there were lots of nursing mothers around.  Laura loved the goats and the calves.  They didn't have any baby sheep but they had regular sheep, we didn't check them out.  The farm was out of a couple toppings because their delivery from another farm hadn't come through yet for some reason, it didn't affect our pizza at all.

We met a nice older couple who had great stories to tell about meeting on their own bicycle tours in the past. It turned out they know Steve Clark from Transit for Livable Communites from way back, I guess his son's bike farm is also out there very nearby.  That might be a good place to visit on a group ride as well, I could see that being a nice destination, especially if they let us camp there, I know I'd talked with Steve about doing a promotional ride through bikelove last year but we never did finalize anything.

The people at the farm also told us about the Gandy Dancer trail off to the east of us.  Mary apparently goes over and rides it fairly often.  They gave us some somewhat workable directions (we had to gmap it to figure out where the road was) to get us over to Luck Wisconsin, where we picked up the crushed limestone path that would take us back into St. Clair where we had reservations in International Park for the night.  The Gandy was pretty old and didn't look like it got a lot of maintenance, but it was passable.  Don't stop under the canopy of trees unless you want to be swarmed by mosquitoes.  The fields were better places to stop even if it meant no shade.

As the trail got close to St. Clair there were signs directing you to either the park or to the city.  We took the trail towards the park as it was starting to get dark and we wanted to check in before we went in search of dinner.  Unfortunately the trail just dead ends into Old Highway 8, which looks from the map to be just a loop to nowhere.  There are no signs telling you where to go so we decided to head back and take the route through town because we knew what that was. The ranger said that there is a pedestrian connector that apparently isn't on the map so we should have gone that way, we were only a few blocks from the entrance and back tracked a few miles and over a huge hill to actually get into the park.

The route into town took us down Louisiana which was a super steep downhill, then down Washington again which is the main drag through town.  Everything was already shut down at 8pm on a Sunday except for the gas station.  I was going to buy something at the gas station after Laura had already picked up a couple of things and it turned out the guy already shut down the register.  I ended up somehow leaving my regular non-biking shorts there but somehow didn't leave my little plastic bag with my id and cash that was in the pocket of the shorts.  I didn't find that out until the next morning, though, I actually ran back up some stairs with my bike to the road to head down to the gas station and look for them, but they weren't outside.  The next morning I was going through my jersey pockets and found my id and cash and credit cards, which was a great relief.  I went back up to the station again and I asked if they'd been turned in to get my keys and anything else that was left in them and they were gone.  I probably should have checked the dumpster out back, they were probably there.

Anyway, that night we crossed highway 8 again not knowing my shorts were now gone and google showed it's poor cycling directions again as we headed up what was probably the steepest hill ever, then sent us down a dead end street, then finally we found our way around to the entrance to the park and got our campsite for the night.

Best campsite ever

The ranger at the station was really helpful.  Laura asked if they had the same policy as Minnesota regarding cyclists and the unofficial answer was 'yes' but not to abuse it.  She told a story of catching some people that had driven and parked a mile away then got on their bikes.  We were like 'oh no, nothing like that, we're thinking if we get stranded on a tour or something.'  Our campsite was all the way at the bottom of a huge hill, the ranger gave us a secret peds and bikes only way out of the park that put you on a slight hill comparatively and had you right downtown.

At the bottom of the road the primitive campsites were arranged around a ring road with a spur off to the side, our campsite was along the spur off the road.  It was totally secluded from the other campers with a culvert on one side and the river on the other side and no mosquitoes for a change.  OK, there were a few mosquitoes but it was nothing like some of the other places we'd stopped or our campsite the night before.  The ground was pretty hard and there was no grass, that was about the only real drawback to the site.  Otherwise it was everything you could ask for.  The camp had hot showers we could have taken advantage of as well just a short walk away on the ring with the other campers.

I talked with my boss Robert and he said that when he'd been there and camped before it was on a weekend and there were a lot of teenagers there just spending the night up partying, I could see that being kind of an issue sometimes.  Hopefully if we do this as a yearly group trip we can reserve well enough in advance to put the cyclists in the three slots off of the end.

Anyway that night Laura was right off to sleep and I lay awake stressing about my lost wallet and money, kind of bummed at what it meant for the rest of the trip and the next few days after I got back to Minneapolis.

Off to Osceola

We loaded up our gear and kind of took our time getting out of the park Monday morning - we went on a short path down to the river and saw a raccoon and a fuzzy caterpillar that Laura took several pictures of.  It was nice, if we had more time it could have been fun to wade out into the river, but the current looked a little fast for actual swimming.  The back way out of the camp took us on some closed down roads by a fish hatchery that were gravel and then kind of poor pavement, then up a pretty steep but really short little hill onto Washington.

We hit up the gas station then went in search of breakfast but there wasn't really much that was open.  We went to a little coffee shop called the Lucky Cup.  It was a pretty sweet little place, they had these cup sized quiches and some pastries to munch on and the lady who owned the place was super into it.  She gave Laura a punch card even though we were tourists because she was so sure that we were going to be back again, and not only that, we had to know that Wednesdays were double punch day.  They looked like they were just starting to serve more food for lunch and possibly dinner, it should be interesting to see what the place is like next year. 

A loan officer was sitting a few tables away from us talking to a young lady and he told her that first and foremost the main thing that cities have to provide to their citizens is the ability to drive and everything else is just periphery.  We were kind of astounded to hear this and kind of had to talk about something else while we ate otherwise we probably would have confronted the people and had a scene about how little importance driving should have in the minds of city officials compared with other modes of transit.  Instead we kind of sat and talked amongst ourselves about how huge the buy in is to even own a car and live that lifestyle compared to what you get for buying into the bicycle lifestyle.  I hope they overheard some of our conversation, but I doubt it, and I don't think even if we had of engaged them we would have changed anyone's thinking.  Such is the way of things - if you ride you get it, you see it for what it is, and if you drive you can be just brainwashed and not see exactly what the car lifestyle is doing to you, your city, and your planet.

We left the Lucky Cup and talked to a girl with a super cute puppy then headed out down State Street.  It was a hill, but not a big one, and way less of one than Louisiana had been.  It kind of went right and became Vincent Street which became 35.  We took this out of town and back past the Park to County Highway S.  When we turned on the road there were signs saying that the road was closed and a huge hill going down - we didn't know if it would be passable by bike or if there was a detour or anything.  We stopped a lady driving out of her driveway right past the signs and asked her if she knew anything and she didn't even know the road was closed.  We headed a little further down to see if there was a way through on bike and ran into a pedestrian walking up the hill.  When asked, she told us that there had been a storm and some trees were blown down and they were cutting them up and that we might be able to get through, but it would be better if we went back up to 240th Street and then over to 113th Ave which she said everyone there called "The Top of the World."

Once again we noticed how different the knowledge was coming from a car vs a pedestrian.  The lady who walked around the area every day knew everything that was going on and the best routes to take as a cyclist - it was all downhill for us to get back onto S, and the entrance onto S was exactly right where the road closed sign was ended.  It was pretty perfect.  The lady in the car presumably spends the same amount of time in the neighborhood but she had no idea what was going on or how to help us out.

The pic below is the view from the top of the world.  The hill doesn't look nearly as long as it really was, I was riding my brakes the whole way and probably still hit 35-40 mph. 

County Hwy S was a pretty low traveled road, which was good because it was windy and there wasn't much of a shoulder.  We were able to ride side by side and single up when traffic came by.  It's a scenic byway for good reason, it was a really pretty and pleasant section of the trip.

We ran back int 35 a little bit outside of Osceola and hung a right.  It was back to the high traffic and narrow-ish shoulder, though compared to some of the ones we were going to be riding on it was actually pretty nice.  Not wide enough to ride side by side and chat, though, so we just singled it up and rode into town.

In Osceola we stopped at Mom's Amish Kitchen even though we really weren't feeling all that hungry, we just knew that we needed to eat or we were going to be hurting later on in the ride.  Overall on this trip I found myself eating a lot less than I thought I would, especially the power-bar style foods that I brought with me.  Laura and I split an order  of biscuits and gravy that was really good, and then split a piece of the most amazing pie I've had in awhile.  The crust was just perfect, it was strawberry rhubarb I think.  Very highly recommended, I think I will be stopping there in the future.

The turn onto Osceola Road / 243 to cross the river was just outside of town.  Laura stopped on the bridge to take some pictures but I didn't hear her or notice that she wasn't behind me until I got to the bottom.  We regrouped and climbed up out and over to take a left turn and get back onto St. Croix Trail again.  The rumble strip from earlier was gone so we had a better time riding on the shoulder for this stretch.  I can't actually remember if it was wide enough to ride side by side, though, I don't think so. There was construction on the other side of the road - it had a new shoulder that looked larger and was brand new pavement with a lane of new pavement next to it.  I don't know if they are redoing the whole road but if they are it could make this stretch around there much nicer for cyclists.

At Scandia Trail N / 97 we hung another right because this was the route suggested by google bicycling directions.  From the route it looked like it would be ok, low traffic roads pretty much in a direct line to the trail head of the Gateway in Pine Point Park.  At least Olinda Trail N / County Rd 3 looked like a good route when we got there - low traffic but the same width shoulder as St. Croix Trail.  We took that down to 170th St then took a right and then a left to get onto Norrel Ave N.    Norrel was our route for a good chunk of the way and it was 50mph traffic with only about a 6" shoulder.  Laura really didn't like it because someone could come around from nowhere on a hill or a turn and hit us.  There wasn't much traffic and I don't remember getting buzzed all that close but I have a pretty high tolerance for passing as long as I don't get hit it doesn't register as a stressor for me.  So I was good but she didn't really like it.  We might try staying on 95 and then coming in on Square Lake Trail N.  That looks like a better route.

Back to familiar places - the Gateway trail

We stopped in Pine Point Park and rested for awhile, we'd only been off the bike a couple of times most of the way from Osceola.  There were two little parks that we stopped in, one for water and one just to chill and get off the bikes for a second.  Of course a cop decided to pick that moment to patrol the park and we quickly moved on.

Pine Point Park was just like I remembered it, I've been there a couple of times before.  We powered on my phone and ate some food and tried to decide our plan for the rest of the day.  Still neither of us was really all that hungry so we decided not to head to Gasthaus Bavarian Restaurant like we usually do when we ride the Gateway, instead opting to stop at the Dairy Queen / Burger King along the way.  That probably wasn't the best idea, by the time we got there we were both pretty pooped and really hungry, Laura was almost hungry to the point that she couldn't eat and had to kind of force feed a nasty burger king burger in order to get on the trail again.  I was kind of choking my fast food down a bit too, it had been awhile since I'd eaten anything like that. 

We talked again about the buy in to a car centered lifestyle - you run out of time to do anything even cook or go out to eat and you have to eat while you drive and it's just icky fast food.  You don't really have this with cycling, most cyclists that I know that are serious about cycling at all are also pretty serious about their food.  It's your fuel in a very real sense, the better the stuff that you put into your body the better you are as a rider.

We got back on the trail and reversed our route back to my place, where we dropped off my gear and I switched to a messenger bag, then we did the same at Laura's and headed over to Galactic Pizza for our third night of pizza, to make it a true pizza trifecta.

While I was sitting at the table I got an email from my boss telling me that he was out of the office the next day, so if I wanted to work from home and not ride in the 11.4 miles that would be fine.  I was pretty happy about that.

Thoughts / Next Steps

Overall my first experience with bicycle touring was a very pleasant experience, and it's something that I really want to do more of.  Part of this I'm sure was the company - Laura has long been one of my favorite riding partners for good reason, spending three days with her was a joy.  The conversation was always intersting and intelligent and she had lots of good advice on stashing and stowing gear to make touring easier.  She'd been on several other one night tours but this was her first try on a mutli-day outing, so it was kind of a first for both of us.

Now that I know that I have a bicycle that will stand up to touring and some panniers and a rack for loading up my stuff I think I'm going to start planning out the next couple of trips.  I'd like to do a few more three day weekends over the course of September and October to use up the last of my vacation and get some miles in before it gets too cold.  I wish that I had of figured out everything that I needed earlier in the year so I could have done more this summer, but it's a little late for that.  I've always preferred riding in fall with a little chill to the air anyway, I'd rather have that than 100 degrees and humid if I have a choice.

Laura has offered to let me borrow her tent but she's booked all of September so there's no chance we can ride together again until at least October, so I guess I have to find other people to ride with - I think I might plan out a ride using bikedate.mn and see if I can find other riders that want to go, or find a group ride on bikelove if one exists.  I think I'm probably not going to like solo touring all that much unless I figure out some way to keep batteries charged for an mp3 player or something.  I like riding all day from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep but I kind of have to have other people to talk with if I'm going to do that.  I'd rather have people to talk with and camp with than an mp3 player anyway but I might end up doing a solo tour if I can't find anyone else to ride with.

I'm a little worried about touring with other people though, after hearing the horror stories Laura had to tell about the first pizza farm.  I think it's going to take quite a bit more loaded riding before I'll be able to do 100+ mile days on a tour.  70-80 is ok until the third day, then I start dragging a little bit but I could probably still do at least 70.  I also like taking things slow and just kind of slogging along, I'm not sure if people would be cool with this or not.  I'm sure I'll get faster as I do more of this, but for now I don't know that I could hang with experienced tourers used to riding completely laden down.

It was really nice to have cycling actually feel new again for a change.  I want more of that feeling.  It seems like these days I've been on nearly every little loop that you can do in under 6 hours around the twin cities.  That's probably not true, but I don't really feel like I get out to anything interesting or new very often.  And that keeps me from putting in any real miles because I simply don't care enough about riding.  It's always towards the bottom of my priorities because I do it every day as part of my normal life - unless I'm being social and going out riding with other people I don't actually do many miles.  It hurts me a lot of times because I end up not having as much of a base as other people that I ride with so sometimes I'm having trouble keeping up.  After just 3 days of touring I felt much improved in my legs - I could push a bigger gear faster for longer with less effort after hauling all of my gear up and down some of those hills.  That's a really good thing, too, again something I want more of.

It's also really nice to have a second bike that I actually want to ride for a change.  It's amazing what a difference those Ergon grips made - I went from a bike that I couldn't ride 40 minutes or 12 miles to work without pain to a bike that I could ride all day fully loaded without feeling much discomfort at all.  I'm sure I'd probably be happier with a dedicated touring bike, but for now this bike will do just fine I think.  I might look into putting a front rack on it, I'm pretty sure that will involve some welding but it might be worth it.

So yeah, Pizza Farm, it will probably be a yearly trip now, and we are going to want people to come with us next year.  So start thinking about it and if you want to go drop me a note or leave a comment or something.  It's a really fun ride.

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