Bike Rides: The Ride Continues

Published 7:24 pm Friday, April 1, 2011


Well, we’re back at it. After a year and half hiatus my Raleigh, iPod and laptop are ready to once again collectively hit the road.

It was October 2009 when the last “Bike Rides” column published, and subsequent second book “Let’s Do This Thing” was released. Dedicated readers showed up for an abbreviated tour of my hometown, Austin, Minnesota, in celebration. We established ourselves at the Hormel Institute and concluded the ride on Main Street, where we threw a book release and signing party graciously hosted by Rydjor Bike Shop.

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The family-friendly ride we tagged “Going the Extra Mile” to help fight cancer. A portion of each book sale was donated to cancer research. The group ride was preceded by my first ever solo “Century” or 100-mile bike ride, in celebration of the 100 columns I’d written. A hundred of either isn’t a major feat for seasoned riders or writers. But both tasks were fairly challenging for me, sporting a beat up mountain bike and an old, slow, spyware-jacked Dell laptop. But, we’ve had over a year to recover and that’s more than enough, even for an aging urban mountain biker and hack writer such as me.

I’ve done a lot of riding since then, and there’s a veritable trove of stories that which will go untold. But, after five years of riding together there was a certain freedom to taking a ride again without the commitment to document anything. But the breakup is over now and it’s good to have you back for our first “make-up column” together. From here I’ll be contributing monthly, every first Sunday.

I was in Sioux Falls recently on business for what turned out to be about the only really nice day in March. The sunny skies and the mid 60s temperature afforded me the opportunity to experience the first unofficial spring ride. Two years ago I remember inaugurating the season nearly a full month earlier in Sioux Falls. This winter packed a heck of a first-round punch in December and kept hitting through the late rounds, to the beginning of April. March came in like a lion and went out like a Charlie Sheen. I guess nature got tired of pretending not to be a rock star too.

Last year following torrential rains the Big Sioux River got a little cantankerous and jumped way out of its banks, so much so that the urban sewage system was apparently threatened. In desperation I guess the city actually purged millions of gallons of raw sewage right down Suzy’s esophagus.

The native river was swelling fast again this go-round, like a nasty mouse under the eye of The Ultimate Fighter. The ice was breaking out of the water right before my eyes and severely constricting water flow wherever it gathered. I experienced a similar problem myself last year that landed me in Mayo Clinic surgery. But I survived and so will the Sioux I guess.

I’ve taken a lot of rides near rivers on the rise but none were ever coming up this quickly. There were portions of the trail covered in ice chunks, pushed up and over the banks by the force of the swift flowing water.

Near the sewage plant, crews were taking drastic, last-minute measures to fortify the premises like a Libyan city under siege. I rode blankly through the no-fly zone, around barricades, over huge drainage tubes, and around utility workers, pretending like I belonged there all the while. It took me an hour and a half to trek nine miles down to The Falls Park.

On the return ride, I discovered the river had rushed a low spot in the park and the wild running Sioux had suddenly consumed the trail. The path had literally disappeared under the water as far ahead as I could see. With Interstate 229 to the north of me, a raging mad river to the south and a quickly setting, early March sun setting westerly, I had little choice but to forge on, right through the murky, swirling water. Both feet submerged completely in turns as I paddled through the current, before I finally discovered a peninsula of muddy grass above water and pushed myself to dry land from there. I slogged through the last couple miles slowly, back to my hotel to warm and sterilize my tired body with a hot shower.

It’s good to have you back. Thanks for riding along. 123

Traffic Tip: Bikers and drivers should always attempt to make eye contact with each other at stop lights and signs.