Sunday, August 30, 2015

Meandering Sunday Morning

Today I am thankful for gravel girlfriends and meandering bike rides.

I met up with Katy and Joy this morning at about 9:00 for a gravel ride. Katy had not had coffee because her husband, who was camping with their two kids, had the French press. So our ride started with a short hop to downtown Northfield where we enjoyed a cup of coffee at Goodbye Blue Monday. 

After coffee, we headed out on a Strava bike route that we had ridden before. Even though we had a set route, we were liberal with how we followed it and made a detour within the first few miles to take a picture of our bikes on Waterford Bridge.
Waterford Bridge
It's important to take pictures of your bike leaning up against things. It really is.
Then we rode on and meandered around the country on a perfect Sunday morning. We rode with speed at times and at a slower pace at other times. We took pictures, especially of Joy and her new bike - Pixie Duster.
Joy on her new bike, a Twin Six named "Pixie Duster." I'm in the background on "Zippy"
We talked. We stopped at times to check our route. We stopped once because a wasp stung me (ouch). We enjoyed the scenery. We laughed. We smiled. We had a good time.
Katy and Joy crushing gravel
Life doesn't get much better than this, I think. Wonderful riding companions. About 20 miles of good gravel. A gorgeous Sunday morning. Yeah. Life is most excellent. I am one lucky gal.
 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bikepacking Trip Wrap up

Our bike packing trip is complete and now, three weeks later, I'm finally getting around to writing up what is probably my last blog post about the trip.

The first thing to address is the big question - do we want to go bike packing again? 

The answer? Yes! We definitely want to do more bike packing and include camping into future adventures. Bucket list routes include (but are not limited to) the Katy Trail in Missouri and the Elroy Sparta Trail in Wisconsin.

Secondly, a big Thank you is in order to the good people of Milltown Cycles, aka Milltown Premium Adventure Goods for equipping us with our bikes, our seat bags and for fielding lots and lots of questions about bike packing.

Now here's our bike packing wrap-up report with info on equipment, weather, coffee and other stats! Not interested in bike packing? Well, this might be kinda dry stuff so you might want to skip down to the bottom to the Coffee section of this post and call it a day.

Bikes: Owen rode his 2013 Salsa Mukluk 2 fatbike. I rode my 2013 Salsa Vaya 2. Both bikes worked well and were well-suited for the task. Since the Mukluk is a bit slow compared to the Vaya, Owen will likely switch over to a bike other than his fatbike for future trips.

Bikes fully loaded along the Gandy Dancer Trail
Dates: Departed Shell Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday evening, August 2nd. Arrived back in Shell Lake on Wednesday, August 5th

Milage: 169.2 miles.

Our Route:

  • Day 1 - County Road B from Shell Lake to Siren, Wisconsin.
  • Day 2 - The Gandy Dancer Trail from Siren to Danbury then all the way south to Luck, WI
  • Day 3 - Luck, WI south to St. Croix Falls then back north to Siren via The Gandy Dancer Trail
  • Day 4 - Siren back to Shell Lake, WI via County Road B
Gandy Dancer Trail Conditions: Trail conditions were excellent overall while we were on the bike-specific portion of the Gandy Dancer. As mentioned before, once we hit the ATV portion of the trail in Danbury, all bets were off for biking. Trail conditions were much better in Burnett County than in Polk County. In fact, we could see a distinct difference in trail conditions at the county line on the trail. The trail in Polk County was mossy in parts and there were also some deep sandy stretches where I had to get off my bike and walk for about a dozen feet. Not ideal.
The Gandy Dancer Trail in Burnett County
The Gandy Dancer Trail in Polk County

Mossy trail in Polk County
Weather: We had the great fortune of having great weather each day of our trip. Temps were in the mid 70s to low 80s at midday. The humidity was low. We could have biked another day but decided to reward ourselves with a day of sightseeing and relaxing before we needed to be at our son, Ryan's, Trumpet Workshop concert on Thursday evening (While we were biking, Ryan was attending a Trumpet Workshop camp at Shell Lake Center for the Arts in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Rose was at a Korean language camp near Bemidji). Good thing we decided not to bike on Thursday because the day turned out to be overcast and it ended up raining like crazy.

Bug report: We were prepared to deal with mosquitos and packed plenty of bug spray but found bugs to be almost a non-issue on the trip. Owen did get stung on the first day but a wasp or something and I had a small bug fly into my face and sting me. Neither sting turned out to be an issue, though.

Weight (of the bikes and stuff, not of the people):
Since we did not carry sleeping bags, a tent or cook food along the way, our luggage and equipment didn't weigh much. Fully loaded, both of our bikes were easy to ride. We could tell we had some extra weight behind us in our seat bags but never felt that the full bags made for more difficult going.

We probably should have weighed our equipment before we left but kinda forgot to. So we pulled our bike bags off our bikes when we got home and weighed them to see how much weight we carried. We factored in weight for the water (two bottles each) and snacks we carried and were pleasantly surprised at how light our bikes were when fully loaded.

Owen's packed bags weighed in at 16 pounds
My bags weighed in at 11 pounds

I'm not sure what "normal" is as far as weight goes but I do know that when people go on long bike packing trips they'll carry considerably more than we did.

Bags:

Owen carried a Bontrager handlebar bag, a Banjo Brothers medium frame bag, a Revelate Mountain Feed Bag and a Revelate Viscacha seat bag.

I carried a small handlebar bag (not sure of the brand), a Revelate Pika seat bag and a Bontrager "Pro Speed Box" bag on my top tube near my handlebars.

Overpacking? Yep. A bit. Both Owen and I felt we could have left some stuff behind and would have been just fine.
Here are some overpacking examples:
  • We had two 4 oz. tubes of sunscreen but could have managed with one.
  • Owen also packed his swimsuit (not sure why, I guess I mentioned swimming at some point) and had three shirts when he just needed one.
  • We both packed a second jersey and could have managed with one.
  • We had jackets and used them but didn't end up needing the tiny rain ponchos we packed.
  • I packed a tiny bit of makeup (BB cream and eyeliner) but by the end of the really didn't care if my skin looked all even toned or not. Normally, I'm a bit self conscious about going out without makeup but at the end of the day I was just like, "hey, I rode my bike all day and I feel great so therefore I look great and if you don't like how I look I really don't care."
What we wished we had packed: 
  • I thought I would be able to get shampoo at hotels along the way. That wasn't always the case. So I wish I had packed a small container of shampoo.
  • I also wish I would have packed a small tube of lotion.
  • Duct Tape. I almost bought some to patch up the cleat attachment holes on the bottom of my shoes because lots of sand snuck in the holes. I also just like duct tape.
Coffee:

I think bike rides are always better when you stop for coffee. I prefer a whole-milk latte and Owen likes a basic black coffee. We found two super excellent coffee shops along the Gandy Dancer Trail that are worth mentioning (there are likely other good coffee shops, too, but these are two we found). Both of these shops are within a block of the bike trail.

Fresh Start Coffee Roasters in Webster, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Nice decor. Art for sale including great photography.
Cafe Wren in Luck, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Excellent lunch food. Super nice deck/patio. Art for sale. Cool biking glasses for sale.

Well, that's it for our Gandy Dancer bikepacking trip wrap up report.

I'll report in with more bike adventure related news soon!



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to Day 3 - Bike packing adventure

It's coming on two weeks since Owen and I went on our bike packing trip so I figured I'd better get back to writing about day 3 as I promised to do in my last post.

We started Day 3 in Luck, Wisconsin with super weather once again. Owen and I keep thinking we'll get going early but it was about 9:00 a.m. by the time we had breakfast, packed up and were on the trail again. We headed south on the Gandy Dancer Trail for St. Croix Falls, an easy 15 mile ride and found our way through some city trails to downtown St. Croix Falls.

Owen wanted to see the falls, so we took some pictures then found a little coffee shop, Coffee Time, and had lunch. They were busy and we had to wait awhile for our order, but the two women working there were so sweet and the food quite good so it was well worth the wait.
St. Croix Falls
We wanted to stop at Cyclova, a bike shop a couple of doors down from Coffee Time, but were bummed to discover that they were closed on Tuesdays. We looked in the window instead and saw what appeared to be a good line up bikes including bikes from Salsa Cycles like the Salsa Vaya and Mukluk Owen and I were riding.

We decided to head back north on the trail but first we wanted to find the actual beginning of the Gandy Dancer Trail so we could say we'd ridden the entire bike friendly portion of the trail. We would our way around a bit and found the trail's beginning and took a couple of pictures then headed back north.
I'm about to ride onto the southmost start point of the Gandy Dancer Trail
Our ride north back to Siren was good and uneventful other than there are a few soft spots on the trail that almost caused me to wipe out. The soft spots occurred when the trail crossed roads and also at the exit of a short tunnel. After skidding about a bit in a couple of places, I got smart and got off my bike and walked through the soft spots.

On our way back to Siren, Owen and I stopped for coffee at a bike friendly cafe called Cafe Wren. It's right at the side of the trail just north of Luck and we had spotted it the day before and decided we needed to make it a destination. Very glad we did as it's my kind of cafe! Good coffee and snacks, bike parking, artwork from local artists and a huge outdoor seating area. We actually stopped back at Cafe Wren for lunch with Ryan on our drive back home - in part so I could buy some Luck, Wisconsin bicycle pint glasses they sold there.

Owen out on the patio at Cafe Wren
Luck, Wisconsin pint glass from Cafe Wren
After Cafe Wren, well, it was more and more pedaling. We stopped in Milltown Wisconsin to take a picture for our friends at Milltown Cycles (the shop where we purchased our Salsa bikes and a whole bunch of other things) then pedaled on until we made it to Siren, Wisconsin.
Milltown, Wisconsin
There, we checked in at The Lodge at Crooked Lake (we would have stayed at the Pinewood Motel again but it was full), cleaned up and walked across the lot to Adventures Restaurant for dinner. We walked around Siren a bit and over to Crooked Lake then settled in for the evening.

And with that, Day 3 was done.

Stats for Day 3
  • 53.6 miles
  • 5 hours 28 minutes moving time
  • 9.8 mph average speed




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

170 Miles Since Sunday

We have wrapped up our four day bike adventure and, to reward ourselves, have settled in at a B&B for the evening.

Since Sunday we have biked about 170 miles. The bikes worked great. Our bodies worked great. I'm a bit sore (methinks I need to lower the nose of my saddle a bit) and really can feel that my legs have been working. Other than that, though, I felt like my body was more machine than anything and once I got pedaling, I just kept on going. 

I'll write more about yesterday's ride later (in short, 54 miles from Luck to St. Croix Falls back through Luck and overnight in Siren) but here's a brief recap of today...

Today we slept in and got riding at 11 a.m.  Gorgeous day! Had a wonderful 30 mile ride from Siren to Shell Lake where we had lunch at The Pottery Shed (one of my favorite places). Rode to our van which was parked at our son's camp in Shell Lake, packed up the bikes and are now showered and settled in for the evening. 

I'm going to eat now!

Here's some pictures from today.