Its 6 AM, -12 degrees F with 17-25 mph wind, feels like -35 degrees, and the sun won’t rise for another two hours. I walk out to the garage and let the dogs out to run around as I ready the bike for a morning adventure. The air is crisp, clean, and fresh, nothing is moving, and the only sound to be heard is the wind in the trees as I throw my leg over my trusty steed, a Salsa Beargrease, and push off into the darkness.
The plan today is a short ride in the cold and dark to test some of my equipment and clothing in VERY cold conditions. For this ride of 50 miles my bike is loaded light but carries everything I need; it feels like home and life is simple. Even though I have logged hundreds of miles on the Lake Wobegone trail, this morning, in the still cold darkness with only 30 feet of light shining ahead of me, it seems like a new adventure.
I have often struggled in extreme conditions trying to manage moisture. The moisture in my breath and the sweat from my body needs escape from my clothing without freezing solid. It needs to escape. More than one extreme cold ride for me has left me with an outside clothing layer frozen into a solid block.
This year I made the decision to take as much weight out of my ride as possible. Fully loaded this morning, the bike, poagies, and custom frame bags are just under 25 pounds.
My plan was to ride from Avon Minnesota to Freeport. Charlie’s Cafe, made world famous by Garrison Keiller and National Geographic, was about the right distance to ride, refresh myself with a greasy spoon breakfast, and ride back home. The trail was fast with little snow, but the stiff headwind was brutal and killing me. Finally I saw the town’s lights off in the distance. It’s surprising how the thought of eggs and bacon can keep you going.
Rolling up to this local gathering spot, I saw a few locals sitting having coffee through the window in front. It is safe to say that the sight of a bicycle rolling up was not what they expected. I walked through the door and every eye in the place was looking at me. There were no conversations happening, no dishes clattering - time had stopped. All eyes focused on me as if they expected two heads to pop out from under my helmet as I peeled off a few layers. Not until I take a seat at the coffee counter does some brave soul at a table in the back start a conversation again.
As a very friendly waitress approached, the gentleman next to me asked if I was from town. “No. Just rode two hours in from Avon.” He leans to the man next to him to repeat the message, “He rode two hours from Avon”, which then repeats its way all down the counter. The silence returns.
”Is someone coming to pick you up?” he asked next. “Nope, just getting some breakfast and riding back”, I reply. “He is riding back.” “He is riding back.” The message again traveled down the counter.
He finally turns back to me and asks, “Do you have a mental illness?” I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond in-between bites of egg and hashbrowns but I knew whatever my answer was it would travel to the end of the counter one person at a time. I also knew that they wouldn’t understand why someone would willingly go for a bike ride on one of the coldest days of the year. I tried to explain my passion for cycling and how I ride most days but I’m not sure I was able to sway any opinions.
While paying for my meal my waitress told me “You will be the talk of the town for weeks” and I remembered what it’s like to live in a small town. She went on to say “People will think I’m a celebrity, because I got to serve you.” I paid the bill, redressed for the ride home, and nodded to the room full of people watching as I left the restaurant.
It was a great morning ride.
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER: DAVID MARKMAN
Dave is an enthusiastic cyclist, paddler, climber, and high liner. Always looking for the thrill of a challenge, he has paddled through the Arctic Circle and biked across the Rockies.
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