Bike Rides: Earth to Dan, BOOOM!

Published 6:47 pm Friday, December 2, 2011

Early in November the evening news blew their first winter storm forecast of the year. Consequently I’d left my bike home while on a three night business trip to Chaska, Minn. The day of the “storm” actually turned out to be the nicest day of the week. Left horseless, I seized the opportunity to take a little hike down a scenic unpaved state trail I’ve been eyeing for some time along the Minnesota River.

I’ve ridden my mountain bike along many sections of this vast waterway, reveling in her humbling presence and beauty from Mankato to Bloomington. But today I was striking out in an unfamiliar direction.

I walked/jogged/ran for about two miles with nary a sign of humanity except the occasional candy bar wrapper stepped into the dirt. The trail never strayed much from the river so it was easy to keep but this didn’t prevent me from getting lost in deep thought under the sun’s warm endorphin-producing rays.

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It’s perhaps times like this that we’re the most vulnerable to surprise. It takes a lot for me, the youngest of four children, to drop my guard. I’ve been conditioned to believe all my life someone has been lurking behind the next corner just waiting for the opportunity to jump out and scream “BOO!” I wouldn’t call myself paranoid but certainly guarded at least.

Nevertheless, the rare soothing warmth of the November sun cascading down my hoodie was the perfect recipe for deep-dish daydreaming. While my body was on cruise control my mind was hurling through space at the speed of sunlight a million miles from people, cars, houses, or other such earthly objects.

And then there was this:


Microsoft Word does not offer a font big enough, even with caps lock, bold and three exclamation points, to accurately describe in writing the titanic explosion that suddenly occurred certainly within a city block of where I was standing.

It wasn’t a stray deer hunter’s rifle shot or an errant firework launched out-of-season. It was the type of planetary rumba dance which can best be described as perhaps replicating the instantaneous and shocking thunder offered by a lightning bolt if it were to strike directly say… between your eyes.

This was a detonation with intent to destroy. Something very near me, for better or worse, with or without malice, by the grace of God, a military unit or perhaps hostile space-invading Martians for all I knew at this point, had been blown to smithereens.

The sudden, immense blast sent me crouching to the ground, scanning the landscape with half-squinted eyes like John Rambo, focusing for battle clues leaked by the always inferior enemy.

When my heart’s BPM went back below red-line I continued walking; but now my mind and my feet were decidedly focused. I wasn’t about to drop my guard again until I could identify the source of the epic disruption.

Around the curve, in the distance I saw a small crowd gathering on the other side of the river, looking down into the water at whatever probably caused the atomic blast. A little further and I figured I could see the destruction for myself, so I ran a couple hundred feet to the river’s edge.

At last the great mystery was resolved as I discovered a crew had just blown a massive concrete column out of an abandon train bridge to kingdom come.

A pile of concrete rocks spread about the river was all that was left of this once noble structure which had supported hundreds of tons of freight cars on her back for decades, with all the dependability, strength, and longevity of an elephant.

Later I researched the blast on the internet and discovered that over 100 pounds of explosives were necessary to drop the relic structure.

I even found a video of the implosion shot from ground level and up-close on YouTube and posted it at for all to see. Turn your speakers up and you may get a taste of the blast so shocking and awe-ing no one from Gutenburg to Gates could develop type adequate enough to describe it.

While you’re at check out the books “The Ride Begins” and “Let’s Do This Thing”. They make a truly unique, organic and local gift for anyone who enjoys a good, short read. Plus, you can finish your Christmas shopping at home without having to stand in line exchanging warning elbows with your fellow shoppers.

Books can also be purchased at The Coffee House on Main, The Rose Pedaler, Piggy Blues BBQ, or Rydjor Bike Shop. They really do make a great gift for anyone who grew up in Austin. And guys, they are so easy to wrap.

Traffic Tip: Time for winter riding rules: Short bursts separated by brief breaks to avoid overheating or overcooling.

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Dan Urlick is a resident of Austin. His column appears once a month in the Herald.