|The 2006 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour||Matt's Other Cycling Articles||Two Cities Two Wheels: Matt's Blog|
That's from the reading in The Blessing of the Bicycles. You might recognize a slightly adapted speech from Henry V by Shakespeare!
I rode the 2007 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour on May 19 & 20, my second time on this excellent event. Last year I did the Tour with the wide-eyed wonder of a new participant, delighted at the easygoing, laid-back and unhurried pace, a tour different from any other I've encountered. I'm not the only one; it once again got bigger and it's a common attitude, mine among others, that we shouldn't publicize this event to the general public at all but that each of us know a few selected like-minded people we'd like to invite along. Growing organically like this is perfect; it may be getting bigger, and I imagine it will again next year, but through the essentially viral spread of the word the people showing up seem to be The Right Sort and are welcomed right into the fold, as I was last year. Even then I said to Jon Sharratt, the Shirt Tail Organizer, that he'd better watch it, he'd got something great here, and word would spread and this would turn into RAGBRAI.
Some things changed for me from last year. In 2006 my cycling buddy Paul came up from Cedar Rapids Friday morning before the Tour with three wheels he'd built for my circa-1984 Schwinn World Sport, which we then converted into a rough, very rough, semblance of an English Three Speed bicycle. One wheel was a 1967 Sturmey Archer AW hub (I chose the vintage to match the hub on the Columbia Tourist 3-speed bicycle I got for my 10th birthday), another was a Shimano dynamo front wheel and the third was a Shimano Nexus Premium 8-speed wheel, which would replace the 3-speed wheel once the Tour was over. (You can read my thoughts on gearing in a PDF file here). It was a quick job, and I rode the 2006 Tour with the original red paint and Schwinn decals, two chainrings, no chainguard and open metal pedals. It was among the most flamingly inauthentic bikes on the Tour.
|The Quicker Vicar: Me and the Chatsworth on a Civil War-era stone wall in Old Frontenac. Note: As with nearly all the photos on my website, if you click on the photo, you'll get a larger version.|
I rode the bike the rest of that summer, with the Nexus 8-speed hub, and found that it was actually a pretty nice bicycle. It's what I'd ride to work and the grocery store and the Bicycle Film Festival, etc. Once winter set in I discontinued riding the bike (switching to my Marin Pine Mountain winter bicycle, though, to be honest, I hardly rode this past winter compared to the year before) and thought about painting it. I will detail the bike on a different page, but the short version is that on Wednesday evening I completed the rebuild of the Schwinn including new powder-coated paint on the frame, Wald steel chainguard and Honjo aluminum fenders (the paint is an RAL 5002 Aquamarine), new bottom bracket, crank, chain, brakes, pedals, seatpost, headset, saddlebag and basket. By this point all that was original from the Schwinn was the metal of the frame, and the only other parts surviving from when I bought it were the brake levers. Everything else had been replaced either before last year's Tour (the stem and handlebars, both wheels, kickstand) or before this one, either for the purposes of function (the bottom bracket was wretched, the pedals horrible and the headset steel) or vanity (the brake cable housings were, to my astonishment considering I mail ordered them, virtually a perfect color match). What to call it? Big Blue? The Dunstan? I decided on The Chatsworth, the name of the street our house's lot interrupts.
The bike looks great, and I got lots of compliments on it, and, although it remains among the least-authentic English Three Speeds on the Tour, at least it looks nice now.
Paul came up again for the Tour but this time he rode up on his 1965 Rudge Three Speed. Paul does a lot of riding and managed the 250 mile trip to Red Wing from Cedar Rapids in three days. He had a hotel room in Red Wing Friday night and I went down after work Friday to join him, avoiding having to get up before 6 to make it down Saturday morning.
Saturday morning dawned and we headed over to the parking lot where the Three Speed Tour was assembling. Jon Sharratt was there, and Noel Robinson, plenty of people I remember from last year plus lots of new faces. With newfound appreciation for the costumes involved, I chose this year to go as a priest, the Quicker Vicar (or Faster Pastor, if you prefer). I wrote a Blessing of the Bicycles to hold beforehand. The image on the front of the service bulletin is of a Rudge crankset, which has a hand cutout in it (handmade bicycles, you know, Paul rides one, and of course the bike is known as the Handjob). I'd brought this to one of the monthly meetings to run by Jon and Noel and one chap, Peter Martin, said he had a Rudge crankset lying around and would make a candleabra with it to match. Sure enough, the next month, he brought this excellent creation mounted on a pole and I brought it down for the service (it is, however, the item most likely to be left behind, as I nearly left it at home and then nearly forgot it in the hotel room, only noticing it on my customary final walkthrough before leaving). As it happens, Karla and I own one handbell, and I had that along as well, for the service only, though, I wasn't going to carry it with me.
Here are some shots from the morning:
|This is Tessa's tandem. That's Brady and Lucia Robinson riding the tandem and 11-month-old Tessa is in the trailer. Brady is Noel Robinson's nephew. This particular tandem is actually two bikes welded together, a 23-inch frame in front and a 21-inch in rear. It generally seemed to work ok except it had a propensity to throw the driver/stoker chain. It was also funny to see that chain run over a pair of, oh, about 52-tooth chainrings!||This is Mike Knudsen and his Pashley Roadster. As traditional as this bicycle looks, it's a current production model by Pashley in Stratford-upon-Avon. I've read about these before and particularly was interested in this model, the 24.5" frame with the double top tubes for "the taller gent". I thought about buying one, and even wrote the factory, but until Saturday morning had never seen one in person and was reluctant to cough up what might have been over $1,000 for a 50-lb. bike I'd never seen and wasn't sure I'd like. Well, Mike let me try this one and I cruised in stately fashion around the car park. It is a whale among minnows, as Pashley says.|
|This is Garth Ratner with his loaded cycle at the assembly point in Red Wing. Alan's off to the right, the willowy blue bicycle in the background is my Chatsworth. It stands tall in part because of the ESGE/Pletscher two-legged propstand, my favorite $50 cycle support unit.||I didn't take many detail shots this time, but I really liked Jon's Primus stove clamped to his 1935 F. W. Evans' top tube with a Terry clamp. I've always liked camp stoves, the stowage here is really alluring. Handy photo hint: plain backgrounds are less distracting.|
The morning was full of the usual excitement as the Tour group gathered, greeting friends from the year before, admiring bikes, wondering at acquisitions, questioning what certain parts were, asking where things had been found. There were lots of introductions and greetings, many people working on bicycles in a long row, tea and scones available, signups at the table where Jon handed out the guidebooks. Eventually we decided to bring things to order and we handed out the bulletins and rang the handbell to call the Blessing of the Bicycles to order.
You can read the service bulletin for The Blessing of the Bicycles to see how we did this. Suffice it to say that it went well, with me as Vicar, Noel doing an excellent reading (adapted from Shakespeare's Henry V) and Paul solemly holding aloft the crankifix, as we called it, as the acolyte. The candles predictably wouldn't stay lit, but the intent was clear. We did the Psalm, the Commandment, the Reading, the Hymn, the Lenton Observance and the Dismissal and I'm happy to say people really seemed to like it. Once the service was over, there were a couple of announcements, some drawings for prizes, a crack at a group shot, and then we set off.
Jon had asked that, rather than a huge formless mass of cyclists, that we ride two by two (also very Biblical, I thought we ought to have the Gazelles together anyway) to not take up too much road. We did. I was pretty far back but it was a bit like Red Wing Critical Mass as we weaved through downtown and out to the river bridge, where we went single file and headed across the Mississippi to Wisconsin.
The Tour quickly fell into its usual routine, small groups forming and reforming as people settled in with riders they knew or just happened to be alongside. Conversations sprang up, groups formed and dissolved, it's a highly social outing. The first stop comes along pretty quickly, the Bow and Arrow on the hillside, and there was a horde of cyclists there. More greetings, more photos, more milling about, and again people set off in groups or singly as the whim hit them. The whole Tour is like this, and it's one of its charms.
Along this stretch I decided to try photographing behind me. Last year, I did this by mounting a digital camera on my bike rack aimed backwards and fired with a self-timer. This met with some success but among the lessons learned was that the camera usually should be vertically positioned and also that the gear takes a beating back there. This year I didn't have the rack on (spoils the lines, old boy) but tried it just holding the camera back and to the side and aiming approximately. Here are some of the photos I got doing this:
|Carrie riding along.||Two riders cruise south along 35 north of Bay City.|
|A whole group here; Ian Lindridge from Cottage Grove, MN and John Palmer from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba lead this pack with Joanne (MN), Stuart (IN), Larry (MN), Carrie (IL) and Scott (IL) following behind.||Paul in his Brooks wool jersey, with traffic in the background. The whole ride has nice wide shoulders.|
Several of us stopped in Bay City; I'd forgotten to fill my water bottle so stopped in a café to get topped off, then set off up the Bay City Hill. Having started towards the back of the pack to begin with and then having stopped for water, I was now way towards the back of the Tour. I did chug slowly up the hill, passing one person but getting overtaken by half a dozen. At the crest there was the usual gathering of people celebrating and I pulled over. I celebrated by having, and sharing around, a snort of scotch (specifically, Orkney Island Scapa 14-year old single malt). Someone else had already passed around a bit of Maker's Mark bourbon and another rider offered some Irish whisky, of which I also partook. More riders trickled in up the hill, others set off down the Bay City Plummet the other side.
|Approaching the Bay City Hill Summit there's a group gathered at the top while a couple of cyclists start their descent down the South Face.||At the south base of the Bay City Plummet, it's a group shot: Tour Founder Noel Robinson, Mike Fienen and Chandra, Noel's brother Jim Robinson and Jim's daughter-in-law Lucia with her daughter Tessa and husband Brady Robinson.|
I had decided to try a video of this, as the speeds can get pretty impressive going down. I mounted my Kodak V705 on my new Joby Gorillapod on the front of the basket, started her up, and headed off. This worked fine for a while, and you can see speed building, but then the expansion joint bumps caused the camera to aim up at the sky, so you see trees going by. A couple of times I re-aimed it forward, but I was still picking up velocity and got too nervous to fiddle with the camera while riding one-handed. As it began to look like it might bounce off altogether, I laid it back in the basket so the movie really sucks, my head in the top of the frame with trees going by, until I finally reached down and turned the camera off. Nice idea, but next time I'm going to mount it more solidly and leave in a pack of cyclists so there are more people around me as we head down. I only overtook one cyclist going down, riding her brakes, apparently nervous about letting the bike build up too big a head of steam. Nothing wrong with that, it is a rapid descent. I gave her half a lane's space as I whizzed by and it would still have looked dramatic on video, but sadly the camera was aimed up blithely filming treetops passing by when this happened and you can only tell because I ring my bell at her. I was going to post this fairly worthless video but it's 30fps broadcast quality and runs 119 Meg so I didn't. You're not missing much.
Most people rolled off into the parking lot at the bottom of the plummet to mill about for a few minutes. During this time there were a couple of claps of thunder and a few drops of rain fell; this was good, since every 3ST has had at least some rain, so now it was official! There were a couple of more stop opportunities--I saw Jon Sharratt getting photographed by a Lake Pepin sign while I rolled on to the historical marker. People rode by or stopped as it struck their fancy, as always.
|Ron Gurth||Joe from Ohio|
|Garth Katner from Chicago||Another rider whose name I don't know.|
Paul and I saddled up and headed on into Maiden Rock. I parked my bike out in the street and got in line at the Smiling Pelican. They had the usual selection of lovely baked goods and, famished as you might imagine, having ridden, gosh, 8 miles or something since the stop in Bay City, I got a piece of kirschtorte and a root beer, then took it out in the garden to sit in the grass and eat.
|Paul waiting on the Smiling Pelican's front porch.||The scene inside as people order.|
|The scene in the garden next to the Smiling Pelican. A lot of people have dispersed, but Jon, Noel, Jim, Melanie, Larry, Joanne and Ian, all veteran Three Speed Tourists, are still here. There's no rush.||This is Mike and Chandra outside the Pelican. When they moved from San Francisco to Madison last year, they rode their tandem. Despite all the fashionable finery on display on this ride making everyone look harmless, there are some accomplished cyclists ambling along. Chandra's dress is notable; she mentioned to a neighbour that she needed a 1930s looking dress for this and the neighbour had her over to select fabric, pulled out a vintage pattern and made this garment.|
The next big adventure was the Maiden Rock climb. There are three options to this:
Feeling lazy, I went with Number 3, though we did stop at the Historical Marker under the overlook. I was hoping for a falling maiden or two, but no such luck, and no sight even of 3STers up on the summit. We did see vultures circling just off to the north, possibly over the upper elevations of the County AA ascent where Three Speed Carrion would be most likely to be found, but I don't believe there were any casualties.
|You don't go very far before another opportunity for a stop comes along. Here a small group comes up on the historical market at the base of Maiden Rock.||John Palmer from Portage La Prairie with his Dunelt in front and Maiden Rock behind. The persective and very wide-angle lens on this camera make John look like a midget on his huge bicycle, but both he and the Dunelt are normal-sized.|
Once in Stockholm we stopped at Gelly's. There were quite a few 3STers eating out on the deck though most had drifted off by the time we were done and headed out. It was getting pretty hot out. The sun would come out and bake things for a bit, then a welcome cloud would shade us for a while. I had a hamburger, beer and a water sitting half-in, half-out of the sun. If you're going to have a Serious Cyclist Panic Attack, it'll be at Gelly's. You'll be sitting there and finishing your beer and suddenly realize, hey, it's nearly 2:00, we've been on the road since 9:00, that's five hours, and so far we've only covered 22 miles! If you're lucky, a more experienced Tourist will bring you down gently and point out that it's seven miles to the bars in Pepin with only two stops along the way.
Once done eating, a group of headed off south down Highway 35. I rode for a while with John Palmer from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. He'd grown up in England and lived there and in the Netherlands as well as out on the high prairie. This was his first Three Speed Tour, he'd come down with Tom Majure from Manitoba (Tom was on the ride last year and I believe 2005 as well) and they were the first to sign up for the 2008 Tour, having done so in April! John was born in 1937 and can remember episodes from the Blitz (he grew up just south of London) so is right around 70 years old; I don't know if he was the oldest chap there or not, but that puts the age range from 11 months (little Tessa being pulled by the tandem) to about 70 and perhaps older if there were more senior riders there.
One of the charms of the Wisconsin side of this route is that it is peppered with stops. It seems like every two or three miles another marker, overlook, rest area or town rolls up and the Tour pulls over to mill about. One of the quirks of the Tour is that nobody really knows where everybody else is, and by now the leaders (first riders, not Jon and Noel, who know better, are usually well back from the front) must be miles ahead and certainly there is a crowd still behind, Noel and his County J ascenders at a minimum, plus the riders of the bikes still parked at Gelly's when we left. It would be annoying if you were trying to find someone in particular, but nobody cares much, there's almost always someone around to join up with and, as I said last year, it's never safe to assume there's nobody behind you.
Maybe a dozen of us clotted up together at the rest area just north of the town of Pepin. There was a discussion about motorists and near-misses and cyclists who ride like idiots and the increasing fear of getting run down from behind by text-messaging drivers, about the guy in Madison whose head got run over by a truck last week but who was unhurt (well, a mild concussion) but had a broken helmet, of other cyclist matters. It's a well-informed and thoughtful bunch, this crowd, one of the attractions of the group as a whole, mostly mature enough and self-aware enough to not be trying to impress each other in the chest-thumping way so many cyclists do, but attracted to the self-assured skill, knowledge, quirky gear, gentle humour and genuine welcoming of the group.
We self-assuredly (and skillfully) set off on our quirky gear secure in the knowledge that it was time for a beer after an exhausting trek of, what, five miles, and so rolled into the town of Pepin and down to the waterfront. Curses! The bar from which we got drinks last year wasn't open yet? Who's setting this furious pace that brings us so far so fast? It's 3:15 and already we're in Pepin? The Harbor View Café has stopped serving lunch as well, as we find out as some 3STers come out from lunch. We mill about in confusion. The Pickle Factory? The door to the restaurant isn't locked. Maybe we could buy a beer and sit out here and drink it? Who should go ask?
You guessed it: The Vicar! So in I go. There's a chap cleaning up behind the bar. I say I'm with a group of cyclists on three-speeds and we'd dearly love to have a beer and sit outside and drink it if that would be ok. He hesitates for a second. I said we'd be likely to have just one and would really appreciate it. OK, he says, you can do that. Was it my natural charm? Would he have said yes to anyone? Did the clerical collar tip the scales? Who knows? I popped outside and said hey chaps, it's ok, we can have beers out here and went back in and ordered a New Glarus Blonde. Soon there was a small crowd of Three Speed Tourists lolling about in chairs, watching the boats putter about in the harbour and drinking beers. This is traditionally (well, I did it last year) where I smoke my pipe, so I extracted it from my bag, filled the bowl with the Dunhill's Select from my tin, and patiently expended about fifteen matches getting it to light and stay going. Eventually it caught, and I puffed away; a couple of trains rolled noisily by; there was the quiet chatter of a bunch of folks having a beer or wine, playing with Tessa off to the side, admiring bicycles, talking of various matters. The average speed on this tour might be slow, but there is a pleasant satisfaction to the slow evolution of the day that you won't find riding a fast century.
|Three thirsty Tourists roll into Pepin.||Paul and I having a beer in front of the Harbor View Café where I also took the opportunity to smoke a bunch of matches filtered through the apparently flameproof tobacco I brought along.|
The Harbor View Café, where we'd got our beers, is pretty highly regarded yet doesn't take reservations (or credit cards, keep that in mind if you go). When I got my beer I'd asked the chap when they began taking names for the night, and he said they went out at four and took names for the evening. As 3:30 passed by and 3:45 approached some regular people, not Three Speed Tourists, came walking up. They saw in dismay the well-dressed group waiting in front of the café, and I noticed this and told them it was OK, we're on a bicycle ride and just having a beer, and that at 4:00 the café lot would be out taking names. We chatted for a minute and they moved on. Paul looked over and said, Cole, those people think you are a priest. Of course, I said, looking munificient as I puffed on my pipe and took a sip on my beer, why shouldn't they?
Paul and I had intentions of making tea, and I had brought along my new Kelly Kettle for just such a purpose. Thinking there was a rest area or park just south of town, we headed out. I stopped in a convenience store and got four little containers of Half and Half for the tea; I offered the cashier a dollar for them but, perhaps seeing my collar?, said no, that's ok, you can have them. We set off down Highway 35. There wasn't a park or rest area and instead the road descended into the valley of the Chippewa River. We rode along through the backwaters and finally came to the main channel. There was a boat ramp off to the left, so Paul and I rode down the access road. There were no picnic tables there and it was hot and buggy. I watched the river flowing by and looked to see if any other Three Speed Tourists would come across the bridge, but none did, and we decided to blow off tea and just head to Nelson, the Cheese Factory, and a nice cold ice cream cone rather than a steaming hot cuppa.
We rode on south the few miles to Nelson and found the Cheese Factory bustling with Three Speed Tourists and others. The ice cream there is very good and you should always get at least the double cone. We got ice creams and sat outside in the shade eating them and watching people go by, many of them on noisy motorcycles. Funny how the motorcyclists who argue that they need loud exhausts for safety seem so reluctant to wear helmets or protective clothing for safety. I guess safety's only important when it inconveniences others. There were other cyclists there from the Tour and somehow the word spread that someone had a flat back up the route, a rim tape problem, and that nobody there was carrying any spare 28inch rim tape (the thoughtless bastards), that things would be ok, that the flat tube was being cut up to make temporary rim tape, that all would be ok. I listened to this; I don't have 28-inch rim tape either. I figured there were still people back up the route, since we'd left some in Pepin who hadn't gone by at the Chippewa River boat launch and the Maiden Rock crew might not have passed us in Pepin. I could go back and perform Last Rites on the old tube, but it's hot out and now the sky had cleared completely and the sun was feeling pretty relentless. Sometime along here there was the Tour's only injury when Jane Stonich crashed just outside Nelson and got banged up. I didn't know about this at all until after I was back in Saint Paul.
Brady and Lucia rode off on the tandem with Tessa in tow, heading across the bridge to Wabasha with a small group. A few minutes later Paul and I saddled up and headed off as well, riding the last three miles over the bridge and into town. We rode around in confusion a bit before finding the Eagle's Nest Coffeeshop and the equipment truck. We retrieved our luggage (I had a change of priestly clothes for tomorrown, figuring correctly I'd sweat through today's in the heat) and rode out to the Wabasha Hotel and RV Park to check in, shower and change.
I watched the weather. Hot and sunny today (Saturday), a front coming through overnight, high Sunday in the 60s with a chance of rain and winds from the SSE. Wow, that sounds great! Cool and tailwinds! Monday, says the weather guy, mid-80s with winds 20-30mph from the south. Boy, Paul, that's sure gonna stink riding south back to Iowa sitting upright with a front basket on the bike. Good thing I'll be in my nice cool air conditioned office by then!
Once cleaned up, Paul put on a Great Kilt. This is a fairly comical garment that's just a huge piece of fabric that served, in Auld Scotland, both as clothing and as a sleeping bag. To put it on you lay this big weightlifting size belt on the bed, hand-pleat the fabric over it, lie on it, do up the belt, then stand up and fasten the remaining fabric over your shoulder with a traditional piece of clan jewelry or, in Paul's case, a toe strap. He's not Scottish, but his wife is a Kennedy and they have a tartan so his son's got Scottish blood so he uses that as an excuse. Once he'd gotten this thing on (and I can see why the Scots kept losing battles to the English, they must have all been writhing around on the ground trying to get dressed instead of charging into battle) we went out and rode back downtown. I rode behind at the start to warn him about any problems with the kilt and rear wheel ("you really should have a kilt guard on that bike if you're going to ride like that") but there were no issues.
|Paul riding the Rudge with the Great Kilt on.||Perhaps Great Kilts haven't become standard cycling kit because they catch the wind. You can see it billowing up here.|
The Eagle's Nest was a happy crowd. Dinner was laid on for us, beers flowed and an Irish band played and even did some Riverdance-like dancing. Partway through the evening Noel and I conferred with the band and then we handed out the lyrics I'd re-written to Loch Lomond (you know, "you take the high road and I'll take the low road', etc.). I'd meant this to be sung at the Smiling Pelican Bakery, which is where the words would be relevant, but the moment was never quite right. Now, however, everyone was here and most were at least a little liquored up, so we got their attention, ran them through the refrain once, and then sang through it accompanied by the band. This was really gratifying; Noel's got a great voice and I'm, well, enthusiastic, and together we had a good howl. I could see people laughing as they sang through the lyrics to Loch Pepin, possibly out of relief that it wasn't a hymn, and there was much applause afterwards. I think it would be really fun to fiddle with a pile of different songs that everyone knows (Silent Night, Danny Boy, Auld Lang Syne, etc) and have a small Three Speed Tour songbook and a lusty singalong at the Eagle's Nest. We'll see. There were a couple of short speeches and toasts, God Save the Queen!, and the happy bustle of the party resumed.
There was an odd episode on the way back over to the Motel, about a mile from the Eagle's Nest. Paul had already headed back, so I set out myself in the deepening dusk. A few blocks along I looked back and saw another cyclist riding without lights. I have a Spanninga taillight and Shimano dynamo hub and headlight, so I was OK. I rode on a few more blocks. I looked back and could see the cyclist still following, a couple of blocks back. OK, I thought, that must be one of the Tourists, I'll ride with them. I did a big circle. The cyclist caught up to me.
"Do you want me to ride with you to the Motel?" I asked.
"You don't have lights on. Are you going to the Motel?"
Oh. This wasn't a Three Speed Tourist. It was some middle aged guy on a squeaky mountain bike getting asked if he wanted to ride to the Motel (I at least wasn't wearing my priest shirt at the time). I explained to him that there were about 70 of us in town and I'd thought in the dark that he was one of us. He still seemed leery.
Sunday morning dawned cold and cloudy. Determined not to have hauled this Kelly Kettle all day yesterday for nothing, Paul fired it up outside the hotel room and boiled up water for tea. We had a cup each, then packed up everything and left, riding down to the Eagle's Nest again. Breakfast was on this time, $8 and laid out to feed us hungry cyclists. I ate a big breakfast sitting with a variety of people as folks turned over. A bunch of us drifted outside where it was cool (mid-50s?) and cloudy and admired each other's bikes. Any reticence newcomers might have felt yesterday morning was now long gone and everyone was happily comparing bikes, asking questions about gear, checking out parts, asking service advice, etc. A reporter from the Wabasha paper showed up and took some photographs and began asking questions; I directed him to Jon to get the facts straight. People seemed to be gearing up to leave. A handful of riders began to set out but, uncharacteristically for this tour, hoots and catcalls brought them back. We were going to be cermoniously led off by the proprietor of the Eagle's Nest!
|Kevin and LeAnne show expressions of remorse and guilt after their show of unseemly ambition in trying to leave early!||OK, now we can go. Jon and Noel leading the pack from in front of the Eagle's Nest Coffeeshop.|
And so, suddenly, off they went! It was at this moment that it began to rain. Yesterday, a bit of thunder and few spatters of rain fooled nobody and I saw no raingear come out. This time, it was clear that this was the beginning of a long, settled drenching rain and we all started suiting up. Out came the raincapes and jackets, hats, gloves, pants. I had both the smelly but not all that waterproof Carradice cotton duck raincape with me and also a Burley rainjacket, pair of Rainlegs Assless Bike Chaps (isn't that what the ABCE is about?) and an Ortlieb rainhat. I dressed in this faintly ridiculous-looking outfit (ok, ok, there's no "faintly" about it) and was ready to go. We were down to about a dozen riders still in the parking lot. I used the restroom and came back out and there was a delay; Tessa the 11-month old was having a bit of a squall. Brady and Lucia are experienced cyclists and they certainly didn't need an escort or anything, but I found myself unwilling to ride off leaving a crying baby behind. Others may have had the same thought, and what I figured was the final clot of cyclists left the Eagles Nest a good fifteen minutes or more after the leaders had gone.
|The lovely Chandra in some modern raingear outside the Eagle's Nest Sunday morning.||Lucia comforts Tessa who's had a passing squall. Tessa was remarkably good all weekend. Kids that age are if they get enough food and sleep. Come to think of it, so am I.|
The tandem threw it's driver/stoker chain in about a mile. We stopped for that. I fiddled with my chainguard against which the chain was rattling. By the time we got to Highway 61, about two miles after starting, the long, settled drenching rain had completely petered out and the rest of the day would be dry. As we rode up 61 past some deer carcasses I tried to stow my Rainlegs whilst riding; this turned out not to be too practical. I tried some more photography of other cyclists. We rode by Carrie and Scott and a small group dealing with a flat tyre. A couple of guys from Madison who rode yesterday were unable to stay for today's ride (some pathetic excuse about daughter graduating from college) but rode the Minnesota side Friday. They had reported a lot of broken glass along the Highway 61 shoulder. Maybe it was clearer in sunlight than in overcast, but I didn't really see it.
Still, not half a mile on past the first flat but up around a bend and behind some trees there was another group; Ian Lindridge had suffered a puncture as well, and had his bike upside down next to the road while he worked on changing his tube. On most rides, a flat tyre is an inconvenient annoyance; on the Three Speed Tour, it's an excuse for a party! Next thing you know there are about a dozen Tourists stopped along the roadside chatting and offering valuable unsolicited advice to Ian as he worked on his machine. Tessa and the Tandem rode on; I'd catch one more glimpse of them much later in the day, then not see them again until the end. Meanwhile, Ian said later he was really self-conscious about changing this flat. I suppose it would be odd--fixing flats is usually done alone, along the remote roadside or in the privacy of your garage, and here a dozen well-informed observers are watching and they all feel they know you well enough to be insulting! ("Really? Is that how you use your tyre iron? Interesting.") While this party was ongoing Carrie and the first flat group rode by. Ian was busily pumping up his tyre when someone took pity and pointed out that there was a pump in the support van, which had pulled up. Ian took the bike back and inflated it and, to what I imagine is his everlasting relief, it held pressure. (Have you ever pinched a tube putting the tyre back on so that it leaks like mad when you pump it up? No? Oh. Ummmm, me either. This would be a bad moment for that to happen, though.) OK, I figured, now this bunch has to be last in the Tour, right? Nope. Just as we're about to set out, a couple whose name I don't know came riding up. I hadn't seen them at breakfast. Were they the last? Probably.
|The First Flat: Carrie's bike is getting worked on. We're waved on.||Not half a mile on, but up around a bend and out of sight of Carrie's Group, Ian Lindridge has had the misfortune of a puncture with a lot of helpful riders still behind him. The observers gather 'round to watch the fun!|
|The crowds are tingling with excitement!||Ian works diligently on his machine.|
|Three Speed Tour founder Noel Robinson lends aid and comfort.||Alan watching the proceedings.|
|Chris Kostman riding north on Highway 61.||Tom Majure from Winnepeg and Melanie Steinhorn from the Twin Cities. Tom's on a 1946 Rudge Aero, Melanie's on a Moulton folder.|
While the Puncture Party was going on I took off the raingear. True to the weather forecast last night, we had a steady tailwind. It would have been chilly to ride into the wind in the overcast, but moving north it was ok. We set off, straggling along the shoulder. More photos. After a while we were strung out and Paul and I rode into the southern outskirts of Lake City. We stopped at the public restroom and a couple of more Tourists rode by. Ian and another guy pulled up to use the Lake City Loo as well, and Paul and I moved on. The Chickadee Cottage Tearoom is a featured stop on the Tour but my experience last year was not altogether positive so this year's plan was to stop in and buy fresh scones and then brew up tea in the Kelly Kettle down by the lake. I scouted out the likely tea spot while Paul bought the scones. Once again the Chickadee Cottage Tearoom failed to impress. I wasn't there, but Paul said the conversation went like this:
Paul: "I'd like two plain scones to go, please"
Surly Chickadee person: "There's no such thing as plain scones."
Paul: "Yes there are. I've had them before and sometimes I make them."
Surly Chickadee person: "Well, we don't have any."
As Paul said, it's OK not to have any, but don't give me this "there's no such thing" crap. He still had a currant scone from yesterday and didn't want another scone with stuff in it, so bought himself a piece of shortbread. I showed up and we went down to the lakeshore. There was lots of driftwood lying about; from a Kelly Kettle point of view, Lake City is the Saudi Arabia of driftwood. We set up to brew.
The Kelly Kettle is pretty new to both of us. I saw them mentioned on the Gentlemen Cyclist list and investigated online. It's an old Irish design, a metal chimney with a water jacket. You start a fire in this little pan using bits of paper and wood, put the chimney on it, and drop additional fuel down the top. The fire burns, the water heats up pretty quickly, and you have a boil going! Cool! They come in two sizes. I'd emailed Paul the links, too, and he said he was going to order one so I said get me one too. His interest was piqued by the review saying it leaked around the bottom--that makes it obvious it's a genuine piece of British equipment! He got the larger one with the accessory kit, I got the smaller one. Even the small one's pretty big, though it doesn't weigh much, and that's the one I brought (though Paul carried it in his Brooks saddlebag).
|Paul unpacks the Kelly Kettle while I eye the potential fuel supply in the background. Certainly there's enough there to boil a pot of tea!||The Kettle on the boil. In fact, it took just scraps of twigs and tinder, fed in through the top, and boiled about a litre of water in six minutes. Even though it was a bit hazy out, you can still see the curvature of the Earth on the Lake Pepin horizon. Either that or this Minolta's got some serious disortion at the wide end.|
Paul got the fire going while I took the photos. I hadn't brought a teapot per se, we just used his thermal water bottle. I had teabags. We made a pot. Paul had stopped at the Nelson Cheese Factory on the way up Friday and got clotted cream and some French wild blueberry jam. The cream we didn't use, but spread the jam on the scone (for me) and shortbread (for him). We drank tea and boiled up another Kelly Kettle full to make another pot, then poured the remaining water on the little fire thing to extinguish the flames. I finished my tea and munched away on the scone. Day old scones can be pretty vile, but this one was fine. We poured more tea. I was admiring the view over the lake when I noticed clouds of smoke. Crikey! We both jumped up. Some spark had fallen into the driftwood on the beach and the tinder was smoldering. Worried about the news reports of the Great Lake City Fire of 2007 (started by parties unknown but suspicions center on an unidentified tea-drinking priest) we kicked and scattered the tinder. We were out of water, but luckily we got it out. Whew. I sat down to have my second cup of tea, took a sip, and plphplhphll!, spat it out. Ow, @#$%$!! %^$@#$#@!! I said in most unpriestly fashion as I burnt the dickens out of my tongue and lips. That tea's hot, said Paul. Thanks. Ow ow ow ow ow. Between the now pre-heated thermal water bottle teapot and the pre-heated double wall steel mug, the tea was not cooling down at the usual pace and I had scalded myself badly enough that even a couple of days later it was uncomfortable to drink anything hot.
Eventually we got done and tidied up. I had to use the loo, so rode back over to the Chickadee. All the bicycles were gone, the Cyclist Teas sign was gone. I went in and spent a penny and filled my water bottle, chatted with a lady on the sidewalk for a couple of minutes, then we headed out. Were we last now? Nope. Paul pulled off into a Burger King to fill his water bottle and I rode up to the next intersection only to run into Larry and Justin, who'd just eaten the breakfast buffet at a restaurant. The three of us waited a minute and chatted until Paul caught back up, then off we went. I plowed on past a pulloff and overlook but Larry and Juston turned off into it. Before long, we arrived at the Old Frontenac turnoff and stopped to take a photo. A van pulled up and a guy got out and came up to talk to me. He'd seen all these bicycles and wondered what was up. I told him about the Three Speed Tour (and came up with what could be a slogan: Pack Light, Dress Well, Ride Slow, though that's somewhat ungrammatical. Maybe we could acknowlegde it: Pack Light, Dress Well, Ride Slow, Speak Good). He said he'd once ridden his ten-speed from Minnesota to the West Coast. I asked him when. Oh, about 1980 he said. He was the caretaker at Villa Maria, a former convent and now retreat center. He asked if I were a priest. Not really, I said, I'm a Universal Life Church reverend but it's just an online ordination. He seemed pretty jolly. Larry and Justin showed up. They were talking about some Indian burial mounds. These were across the road. I set up the camera to take a photo of Paul and I by the historical marker while the other two went up to the highway. Picture done, we went and looked at the map. There was a 0.4 mile hiking trail across the highway. That must be the mounds, and where Larry and Justin went. Let's go look too.
We crossed 61 and rode the grassy loop. Indian burial mounds can be kind of obscure, especially in woods. We saw some grassy knolls, maybe they had Indians in them, maybe they're just random mounds. We didn't see Larry and Justin. Perhaps they were just far enough ahead of us on the loop that we couldn't see them? We got back to 61 and they were nowhere in sight (in fact, it later turned out they hadn't done the Indian Mound loop or Old Frontenac, but just set off down 61 towards Red Wing). We went back and looked at the map. I wanted to go to Old Frontenac and take a photo on the stone wall, which I'd missed last year. I wasn't clamouring to do the Hill Avenue Road, and looking at the park map, there was an alternate route that looked interesting, through old Frontenac and back to 61, down half a mile, then left across the railway tracks. We'll try that.
Off we went to Old Frontenac. There's a new sign up now, put up last year. It's done by the Old Frontenac Historical Society and is discrete. Old Frontenac is now a quiet, historical, expensive backwater. At one time it bustled with activity. To quote the sign: "The village was renamed Frontenac in 1859 and prospered in fur trading, logging, limestone and and hospitality." Hospitality? I like that. That wouldn't be moonshine and whores, would it? We can't say that! It's unseemly! Hospitality it is!
|As Paul and I roll around the corner and into Old Frontenac we catch a last glimpse of Tessa's Tandem and a small escort climbing the hill in the distance.|
We rode up to the corner and caught last sight of any other Tourists; in the distance, setting off up the small out of Old Frontenac, I could see Tessa's Tandem and a small escort of single bikes (the tandem was easy to pick out at a distance, with the trailer and flag). Had we wanted, we could have chased them down, but I was here to take a picture by the stone wall, though I wasn't sure where it was. It wasn't on the main drag, or I'd have seen it last year. As we rolled down the street the little crowd of bikes disappeared over the hill. We wouldn't see another Three Speed Tourist until the end. We rode back a couple of blocks off the main drag and backtracked, finding the house with the stone wall. Pictures were taken. I spend a couple of minutes putting a bit more air in my back tyre, concerned it might be low and gravel might be coming. Then we set off, up past the Episcopal Church, down past the Hill Avenue turnoff. We peered up the road; couldn't see anyone. They wouldn't take that tandem up the hill and then down the farside, would they? Not with a child in a trailer? (Yep, they did!). Anyway, they were out of sight, so it didn´t matter much.
|Me in Old Frontenac with the Chatsworth Dunstan. This is the same photo I ran at the top of all this, but in black and white.||Paul and his Rudge in Old Frontenac.|
Down to 61 we went. We took a right and rode the shoulder for about half a mile until the turnoff signed for the Frontenac Ski and Golf. A break in traffic, nip across the road, and off we went. Ski Road (so it's called, though the Frontenac Ski Area no longer operates for skiing, just for golf) parallels 61 for a few miles. It started off paved, then, once past the old Ski Chalet, turned to gravel. It was actually pretty nice, half a mile west, quiet, past a couple of pastoral farms, through some marked DIPs, by a nature preserve area. Plugging along I was carefully inspecting the road surface. This was both to watch where I was riding and to see if anyone else had been this way. It didn't look like it. We had to be near the end of the Tour yet there was no evidence of other bicycles. After a while we saw another cyclist coming the other direction. It was some dude on a mountain bike, all attitude and fat tires, probably wondering just what the hell we were doing, a priest on a huge three speed and some guy on a black bike wearing a tie. As we rode on I could see the track he'd left; certainly no Three Speed Tourists had come this way.
Ski Road came to an end and recrossed the railway tracks. It rejoins 61 right opposite the end of the Hill Avenue downhill. Another break in traffic, and Paul and I zoomed across the road. Here there were tons of tyre tracks! Clearly a lot of Tourists had come through. I wondered about the tandem and its escort. If they'd walked the hill up and been cautious coming down, we might have overtaken them on our relatively flat route. I was hungry anyway, so we parked the bikes and killed five minutes eating some sesame crackers and a Fry's Turkish Delight and drinking some water. Nobody showed up. I was hoping a car would come down the hill and I'd flag them down and ask if there were still any cyclists up there, but no cars appeared. Finished with the snack, we mounted up and headed off.
If that didn't put us at the end of the Tour, the next diversion probably did. There was a Wacouta turnoff. We were getting perilously close to Red Wing and hadn't had a beer yet. Maybe there's a bar in Wacouta, or at least another side trip that'll skip some more of Highway 61? We rode off into Wacouta, took the left branch of the Y turn and rode along. A T intersection came up. There was nothing that looked like beer-selling commerce anywhere, but left would take us toward 61. We rode that way. We were cruising down and I saw a chap washing his car. I called out:
"Does this go to 61?"
"No" he said, "you need to go out that way" pointing where we'd just been. Paul was up ahead.
"Salamon!" I called.
"What?" he yelled back.
"It doesn't go through!" I yelled but just then he disappeared down a hill. I rode over to the crest of the hill. The road curved right and then around down into a valley. I stopped. If I followed, I'd have to ride back up, and there's nothing that looks like a bar down there. I started sauntering back up the road past the bloke washing his car. A couple of minutes later Paul caught up.
"What did you say back there?"
"I said it doesn't go through to 61"
"It does if we hold our bikes over our heads and wade through a swamp."
We rode back down to 61. If by chance we'd beaten the tandem to the bottom of Hill Avenue, no sure bet against those strong young riders, certainly this 15 or 20 minute diversion has let them by! We got back on 61 and chugged over to Red Wing, not far away. We pulled off the highway just past the Days Inn and rode through town. Across 61 downtown, over the tracks by the railway station, along the waterfront, past the docks and up into the dusty parking lot. Ring ring! Flag waving, Look! It's the Vicar!, and we were in. It was 2:30. (Looking at Google pedometer later, I'd estimate we rode 42 miles the first day, 37.5 the second). I'm not sure we were last; the tandem was already in, Larry and Justin were there, I'm not sure about the couple whose names I don't know. We milled around for half an hour, photos and names and emails, final looks at bikes. Some people with long drives were heading right out, others were staying the night before leaving. I retrieved my bag and Paul's from the luggage lorry, the last two bags in it. Nobody else arrived but someone rolling in at, say, 4:00, would have found us all downtown in a bar, so who knows? As I said, on the Three Speed Tour it's never safe to assume there's nobody behind you.
Last year, that was how it ended, an anti-climax in the parking lot after two great days. This year, a load of us went to the Stag's Head in Red Wing (it wasn't open last year on this Sunday) and ate and drank. I'll have a Bass Ale, please. It's really easy not to eat lunch on the Minnesota side, so I was famished, scone and scalded tongue notwithstanding. The Ploughman's Lunch looked appealing, but I was hungrier than that, so a burger it was, and another Bass Ale. Jon Sharratt got a Ploughman's. A happy two or three hours rolled by with an ever-changing group. Noel showed up a bit later; I think he gets tied down afterwards corralling all the loaner bicycles. Must make a note of that, and see if I can help next year. I'll try a Belhaven, please. People came and went, there were goodbye 'til next years! and lots of good conversation, and yes, I will have another beer pleases. I discovered one chap is a virtual neighbour of mine, living just three miles away near Luther Seminary, my preferred supplier of priestly shirts. A contingent was there from Chicago and they had had a marvelous time, thinking where they could do a similar event near Chicago. Lots of ideas percolated up; Galena, southern Wisconsin, Door County, the Fox River. Those all sound good, but I'll have a Pilsner Urquell. Lake Pepin and environs are remarkably well-suited to this ride, it might be difficult to find an equivalent. In what I think was the most telling comment of the day, and a great compliment to Jon and Noel, one of the Chicago women said "We need to organize a ride like this it was so much fun, I don't think I can wait a whole year to do it again!".
Eventually we took our leave. Paul rode over to the Super 8. I drove over with his stuff. He checked in, and spent about ten minutes organizing what he needed to ride home. I'll mail back his other stuff (his Great Kilt, for instance) just like he'd mailed it up here. We went out and had some Mexican food for dinner, I dropped him off, and about 9:15 I left Red Wing for the drive home, about an hour away. As I pulled out of the parking lot the Empire Builder Amtrak train went by, and it had some special observation car on the back, people sitting in the warm glow as they cruised towards the Cities. That, that should be the outing we do next, Amtrak and bikes.
Because I don't want to wait a whole year either.
Saint Paul, Minnesota
One's experience of the Tour tends to be quite different depending on who you ride with, whether you're up front or in back, whether you linger and enjoy the sights or hurry to be pointlessly early. Others have posted their photos and accounts as well. Take a look at:
I'll add others as I hear about them. See errors in here? Names I don't have? Want to ID your bike? Drop me an email and I'll fix it! Note: Photos all by Matthew Cole on a Minolta G500 or Kodak V705 compact digital cameras.