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. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

We're in Luck!

We're in Luck, Wisconsin this evening instead of Superior and we feel lucky to be here!

We had breakfast at a little cafe in Siren this morning and were on the Gandy Dancer Trail heading north by 9:00. 
The going was somewhat slow but the crushed limestone trail was good and we made Danbury by 11:00. We had lunch then I bought some fudge and made a comment to the lady in the fudge shop that we were heading to Superior. When she figured out we were on bikes she got worried and told us the trail turned into an ATV trail and said the trail wasn't good for bikes. We knew that to some degree  - but have never seem ATV trails so didn't know what to expect. We had done as much online research as we could but still didn't know how the trail would work for our bikes. We just knew we had a long 50 miles ahead of us to make Superior and that there were basically no towns in between. 
Well, we got on the trail and soon discovered why the fudge shop lady was worried. The trail north of Danbury was great for ATVs, somewhat possible on a fatbike but impossible on my Vaya. Owen said my back wheel was skidding all over. The trail was made up of deep sand and gravel and there were no packed sections in which to ride. We rode less than a mile and decided to turn back. 

Turning back was a good call. We decided to bike the trail south back through Siren and bike until we got tired. 

After an hour, we stopped for a coffee at a great little coffee shop in Webster, Wisconsin. 

Then we biked on through Siren on the well maintained trails through Burnett County. Then we hit Polk County and trail conditions changed and were not so nice.

Mostly, the trails were mossy and not well kept up but rideable enough but I hit a few spots of deep sand that I almost wiped out on. Scary. 

After almost 54 miles of riding total for the day, we decided to stop for the night in Luck, Wisconsin. 

Our hotel, The Luck Country Inn, is nice. We had a good dinner at the Bon Ton tavern (they have a great outdoor patio).

Tomorrow, we will likely ride the trail all the way south to St. Croix Falls then ride back north to Siren. That's the plan, anyway. As we learned today, plans can always change!

We're both tired but are feeling strong. Our bikes and gear are working great. We are having fun and are probably eating too much! Good night. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Safe and sound in Siren

Well we are safe and sound in Siren, Wisconsin and have finished day 1 of our bike packing adventure. 


We took off from Shell Lake just before 4 p.m. and headed west on county road B for Siren. At mile 3.5 Owen got stung by a bee or something so we stopped to check him out. Owen reacts terribly to mosquito bites so I was quite worried he'd swell up and have an allergic reaction. But he didn't, thank goodness. We biked on. 

We had about a 15 mph headwind all the way to Siren. That was a bummer but we managed. The ride went well. The scenery was beautiful. 

After 2 1/2 hours (27.8 miles) of biking we rolled into Siren. We're staying at a little motel, the Pinewood Motel, and we're having dinner right now at the Pour House. 


My foot is a little sore. Other than that, I'm feeling strong. 

Planning on 70 miles (Owen says it's all downhill) tomorrow. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

It's almost Go Time!

Tomorrow Owen and I take off on our bike packing adventure. We are mostly packed but will finish up in the morning. We have some time as we are not due to drop our son off at camp until 1:30 p.m. at the earliest. It's likely we'll leave our home for Shell Lake, Wisconsin around 10 a.m. and be biking by mid-afternoon.

At present, our plan is to bike 30 miles to Siren on Sunday afternoon and overnight there. We talked about biking to Danbury, another 10 miles further north, but I could not find a non-smoking hotel room open (at a reasonable price) at the local casino hotels. It's not that we are really picky about non-smoking vs. smoking rooms but that combined with the fact that we have just a few hours to get anywhere on Sunday made us decide we'd bike a shorter distance on our first day. Seems less stressful.

On Monday we plan to bike about 70 miles all the way to Superior. We'd make it a shorter day except that hotels appear to be scarce along the Gandy Dancer Trail so we'll just make a day of it and pedal away.

Once we're in Superior, we overnight then Tuesday morning head back south again for Shell Lake. I think we can make Shell Lake in two days of about 50 miles a day. If not, we'll take longer. We have an extra day built in as we don't have to be back in Shell Lake to get Ryan until Thursday.

I'm a bit stressed about carrying everything on my bike but I think I have things under control. I packed all of my clothes and some toiletries and a book to read (Neil Gaimon's The Ocean at the End of the Lane) all in my Pika seat bag. It weighs about five pounds and I still have room to spare. I'll finish packing a first aid kit, some other toiletries and some food in my handlebar bag tomorrow morning.

Tonight, Owen and I took the bikes out for a little test ride around the neighborhood with our seat bags all packed. The bikes rode great even with extra weight hanging off their back ends. In theory, we should have biked a lot longer and tested things out even better. But, oh well, we didn't. We'll be fine.

Here we are with our bikes packed and almost ready to go!
I'm feeling pretty excited about our upcoming adventure! I've wanted to go on a bike packing trip for well over a year now and I'm so glad we are making it happen!

I feel excited about something else, too. This morning Owen and I rode the 25 mile route of the Tour de SAVE charity bike ride that raises money and awareness for suicide awareness and education. We've done the SAVE ride several years and are glad to help raise money for SAVE. The weather was perfect for the ride this morning and the attendance was good - I don't know how many rode, maybe 60? I met some great people and enjoyed myself immensely.

I feel doubly good about the ride because 1) we helped raise money for a great cause and 2) I, for the first time ever, rode 25 miles without taking a break. Normally on a ride of 20 or so miles I stop and rest about 10 miles in. Today, I felt great and just kept on pedaling.

After riding so well this morning, I'm feeling pretty confident about being able to ride strong this week.

I'll write as often as I can to keep you up to date on our bike adventure!