Heck of the North

A seven hour drive, in trade for a 7ish hour bike ride. That seems fair. My mom agreed and we dumped my things into her car and headed North. A perfect weekend getaway, and by that I mean get as far away from Iowa as reasonably possible. The only way to justify this ride is to do it. It was awesome.

We woke up at 6am so we could arrive at 7am so my mom could volunteer and experience my events in her own way (the best way really). She was tasked with selling t-shirts and driving feed bags to the half way point. As she helped I settled in to watch people get ready and show up. Before I knew it I was on my bike lining up next to a fat biker and we headed off into the unknown.

We were instantly thrown into a bumping, rumbling, tumbling double track of sorts. I fell in line behind a lady on a bright yellow Macho Man. This lady was strong, I wanted to ride with her, so I stuck her wheel. After the rough start I learned her name was Beth. A Wisconsinite who works at a credit union, how unassuming. We plowed on to a wide open gravel road then back into a snow-mobile trail. Let’s just say I was delighted for about the first mile, then not so much. The trails were beautiful, but taxing, it was almost like maneuvering single track. Hidden rocks, squishy moss, and sticky mud would all challenge the bejesus out of me. Beth drove on and I stuck her wheel. Luckily none of the snow-mobile trails lasted longer than a couple miles.

Around 30 miles in we had collected a solid group of people to create a pace line of sorts. It started to rain around this point also, creating a peanut buttery gravel. Hooray. Also the snow-mobile trails were dubbed “Magical Fairy Land Mossy Trail of Squish”, if only that guy could have named all the trails in MN.  I still stayed with Beth.  Met a lady named Michelle who would become a friend later and we all charged on to the half way point and my feed bag.

Beth and I got to mile 60 in 4 hours. Soaked to the bone and hungry I shoved some kind of food in my face, put on a wind jacket, and headed back onto the roads. 8ish miles after that check-point I bonked. My tummy was twisting and wriggling and wanted to puke. I was having a difficult time choosing a line. I was either sucked in by washboards or ended up slogging through thick sandy mud. Beth waited for me up one hill and I knew that would be the end of our journey together. In the still pouring rain we hopped onto a paved road for about 5 miles and Beth pulled away.

Tummy still hurting and rain not stopping I decided to pause around mile 80 where some friendly faces handed me a bubbly drink to calm the knot in my stomach. It helped, and a tailwind paired with a long stretch of flat miles got me back on the bike. For the last 20 miles I spent a good amount of time talking to myself, cursing the rain, and cursing my failing derailleurs. As I turned into the last snow-mobile trail I started smiling, remembering why I love this stuff. I was moving considerably slower than before, but still moving, still upright, still picking lines that moved me past hidden rocks instead of into them. Finally I saw someone in my sights and it was Michelle. I rode with her for the last 8 miles of the ride or so. The snow-mobile trail turned into a sort of deer trail, spotted with gigantic puddles, and then turned into the trail we started this whole ride on. The end was in sight! I slowly pulled away from Michelle and cruised into the finish line covered in mud and rain but still smiling.

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