Ben gets his revenge

Published 10:05am Sunday, July 7, 2013
By Dan Urlich
Bike Rides

“You know what I want for my birthday more than anything?” asked my almost 16-year-old neighbor, Ben.

“What’s that?” I replied, focused on whatever project I had going in the garage and still engaging in the conversation, much like Charles Ingalls would.

“I want to go over to Albert Lea and have another shot at riding the trail that I never finished when I was 8 years old,” he declared.

Ben was referring to a ride we’d taken in 2006 on the Blazing Star Trail. I wrote a column about that ride and to this day it still stands as one of the most popular in the Bike Rides series.

We cut that ride short when Ben’s asthma suddenly kicked in, an attack which could likely be attributed to the fast food feast we indulged ourselves in just before launching. We ended up skipping rocks at the lake and enjoying ourselves anyway.

This year we were disappointed to find Ben’s BMX bike wasn’t in proper running order, but I quickly resolved that dilemma by suggesting he instead try riding one of my mountain bikes. Ben, after all, is taller than me now. It was a glorious afternoon when we left for Albert Lea with the moon roof and windows wide open in the little red Nissan.

“Ready to go?” Ben asked, as we shut the car doors.

“Yep!” I replied ignorantly.

“No, you’re supposed to say “Rock and Roll!” Ben asserted, referring to a ritual we started way back in the days of the first ride.

“Oh yeah!” I replied, regretting I’d missed his cue.

“You want to eat before we ride or after?” I asked.

“After,” Ben replied confidently. “I’m not wasting any time before I take this thing down.”

That’s when I realized how serious he was about riding the whole trail this time. Later, re-reading the original story from his perspective, I could understand. For seven years he’s had to live with that defeat, which I’d subsequently documented in the paper for the whole town to see. Ben wanted to set the record straight, and who could blame him?

At the trailhead, Ben eagerly assisted as I removed the pair of mountain bikes from the rear rack. We immediately put tire to pavement.

“Ready to go?” I asked.

“Rock and Roll!” Ben returned right on time and we were off.

There are a few formidable dips on Blazing Star. The first couple grades roll easily, then there’s a real doozy on the east end. Ben got excited when he noticed the “Steep Grade,” warning sign posted. We flew down it, reaching an impressive maximum speed of 23 mph.

In no time at all and without breaking a sweat, we reached the end of the five mile trail cleanly. I took Ben’s photo right at the spot where the pavement ended to document the success properly for my triumphant friend.

On the return trip the grade is even more sudden and steep. This suited us just fine, as these quick bursts of speed on two wheels can be very intoxicating.

Traveling behind, I was trying my best to keep an eye on the trail, Ben, and my cycling computer: 22…24… then 28 mph until it was no longer safe to look down, even for a split-second.

Afterward the “max speed” function revealed we’d actually topped out at 30.2 mph! That’s very fast, and we were both rightfully excited about this achievement.

It was Ben’s first time ever riding a mountain bike and he took to it nicely. Along the way we made note of the rich, summer green, wide-open prairies that occupy the landscape as you near Lake Louis State Park and the Big Island. It was a weekday afternoon and there wasn’t another soul in sight for nearly the entire ride. The gift of a gorgeous July day was ours to behold.

For old time’s sake we stopped at the lake to skip a few rocks, as we reflected on and extended our summer afternoon playtime before rewarding ourselves at Albert Lea’s fine Quizno’s restaurant.

Happy 16th birthday on July 7, Ben.

Rock and Roll.

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