Although others might enjoy organized rides, such things do not appeal to me. In most of life there are people telling me what to do, that’s reality and I deal with it. In my free time, however, in my cycling time, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay money to be told what days to ride, what route to ride, when to start, when to stop, where to stop, and all with a crowd of other riders! No thanks. I need to have one small segment of my life where I am totally free to call the shots!
I was sitting at work one Wednesday back in July when I decided I needed a new adventure. I had ridden a couple thousand miles always starting from home and I was getting restless. The weather looked fine for the coming days so it was just a matter of picking a trail. I had been eyeing the Lake Wobegon Trail and Central Lakes Trails (101 miles total) for awhile, always with the thought that someday I wanted to ride them. It was now someday.
My original thought was to have my son drop me off at the far end and for me to cycle all the way back in one day. The more I thought about it, however, the less appealing one long ride became. What was the point in pushing myself so hard for one day? Might as well split it up and take time to enjoy the sights along the way. I decided that day one I would cycle up from St. Joseph on the Lake Wobegon Trail to Alexandria, meet up my son, and then drive to Fergus Falls for an overnight. Day two I would ride about back down on the Central Lakes Trail and overlap some of the previous days ride to get in about 120 miles total. I made reservations and mentally prepared myself for the journey.
The first day went well. I got to ride by woods, fields, lakes; I got to ride through small towns. Part of the trail had no shade and ran along the freeway, but I just kept pedaling. I came across a place called Memoryville that reminded me of the show “American Pickers”. I like these kinds of things, the stuff of everyday life from an era now past. I did not stop other than to take a look from the path. I still had miles to pedal.
Later that night at the hotel, I decided there was no point in overlapping any of the previous day’s ride. The world would not come to an end if I only rode 110 miles total rather than 120 miles. Once I hit the trail I was glad I had shortened the ride! I was not yet used to rural cycling and having 7-10 miles between towns was hard on my mentally. In the city there were always things to distract me as I rode so that the miles seemed to slip right on by. Out on this trail, there was nothing to break up the distances into smaller segments that were easier for my mind to accept. In addition to dealing with long segments, I spent the whole day pedaling into a strong headwind. I had to go deep within myself to reach a place where my whole focus was on keeping my legs moving. Just keep pedaling, keep pedaling.
The only break from my solitude was when I met a couple cyclists at a rest area along the trail at about the half way point. One guy had ridden from Seattle and was on his way to Michigan. The headwind was beating him up, too, so I had company in misery. The other guy had ridden down from Fargo to St. Joseph and was on his way back home. He had battled the headwind the day before and was now happily pedaling with a tailwind. Chatting with them briefly gave me a bit of a boost. Yes, the pedaling was not easy, but in a way, it was fun to be out there doing something that was not easy. I kept going and before too long I was pedaling through Alexandria to meet up with my son.
This is my style of riding with me making choices and adjustments along the way. I start with a loose plan and go from there to make it work for me, even if what I have taken on is difficult. I adjust on the fly and let some things go while holding on to others. By the end of this weekend in July, I had conquered these trails and shown to myself I was ready for all the new adventures ahead. Before this my rides were focused on the metro area, but after this I was off exploring trails here, there, and anywhere! Free as a bird!