Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota. It showed up overnight about a week ago and even brought unseasonably warm days in the 80’s after an April which almost never got out of the 40’s. The apple tree in front of our house burst into blossom over the course of a day and will be spectacular for the next few days. Over the long winter, we thought often of what we want to do on our bikes this year, and kept coming back to an idea we read about in the New York Times in November (“There’s a New 750-Mile Bicycle Route in New York. Take a Look.” NYT, 11/5/2021.)
Our dear friends Paul and Cindy, with whom we rode the RAGBRAI last summer were also interested in another bike trip, though not one that was 1500 miles. After several conversations, we decided that we could drive ourselves and our bikes to the western end of the trail in Buffalo, and ride along the Erie Canal to Albany. Lisa and I wanted to ride into Manhattan (along the Hudson River Greenway) while Paul and Cindy decided that Albany was a good endpoint. They will board the train in Albany with their bikes, and return to St. Paul that way, while Lisa and Dan will ride into NYC in three days and after a short stay we’ll take the train from Penn Station back to Buffalo, pick up the car and drive home.
We’ve spent the last few weeks planning our itinerary, arranging our lodging and looking for things to do along the trail. We’ll be following the Erie Canalway Trail and the Mohawk River and passing through Rochester, taking a side trip down to the Finger Lakes, Syracuse, Rome, Amsterdam and Schenectady before arriving in Albany after seven riding days and just under 400 miles.
Lisa and Dan will add another 200 miles heading down the Hudson River and right into Manhattan, where we have booked a hotel next to Bryant Park for two nights. We are planning a reading list with Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper, William Kennedy and others who write about the parts of New York we’ll be riding through. Our friends Larry and Holly (who gave us so much help last year in Pittsburgh) live in Syracuse, so we are anxious to see them again whilst bike touring.
Until the last week, the weather in Minnesota hasn’t been great for biking (too cold for me) so now we need to start getting out for long rides, as we did yesterday. We were in St. Cloud for a wedding and decided to try out the Lake Wobegon Trail, which runs from St. Cloud to the northwest and connects with other trails and systems making it possible to ride from St. Cloud to Fergus Falls, a total distance of a little over 100 miles. We didn’t ride that far yesterday. There was a stiff headwind from the west, and we decided after arriving in Freeport to turn around (after a little lunch at Charlie’s Cafe) and head back. We did a total of 52 windy miles, riding much faster on the way back than we did on the way out.
The trail is in the immediate vicinity of a terrible tragedy, the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling, an 11 year old boy who was on his bike heading down to a video store to rent a movie on an October evening in 1989. His case remained a mystery for 27 years until his abductor confessed in 2016 and led police to the place he buried Jacob’s body. For an 11 mile stretch of the Lake Wobegon Trail, and in honor and memory of Jacob, there is a sign every mile with a thought about how we should live – “Be a good friend”, “Be honest”, “Be a good sport”, “Be gentle with others” and so on. It was a lovely meditation.
The rivers are very high, following two stormy days last week that dropped many inches of rain on our state. I think that two days earlier, we might not have been able to ride portions of the trail – we could see the signs of very recent flooding. (We have experienced riding through a flood and aren’t anxious to relive it.) The birds were amazing, and we wish we knew more of them. But we saw dancing sand hill cranes, orioles, bluebirds, goldfinches and many other more common birds as well as a few beauties we didn’t know the names of. The migration is in full swing. It felt great, was a beautiful and blustery day and a wonderful way to kick off our training season. We have a few other long rides planned for the next few weeks, including the 72 mile Tour de Pepin, a hilly loop on both sides of the Mississippi starting and ending in Lake City, Minnesota.
More to come from us. For now, we wish you a very happy spring.