Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 31 - Mankato to Rochester

You remember Alex?

The girl who didn't train for this trip?

Yesterday she did a 5 hour century...

Yes, she biked 100 miles with 5 hours on the bike.

She has turned into one cool biker chick.

But she didn't stop at the apple orchard or talk to Shirley with the sweet corn.

We are definitely each living this journey in our own ways.

But we start the day together.

This morning - oooo! breakfast on white tablecloths.

Quite a treat after many days of scrambled eggs on styrofoam.

The talk at luggage load is all about The Hill.

Two blocks from the hotel - no time to warm up - is
a major steep climb.

I don't know the grade, but the truck has trouble getting up it.

Bruno is ready....

As is Daniel...

These are our two Swiss boys.

They are gendarms back in the old country

and they came to bike America with us even though English is a challenge for them.

But our hills are no challenge -

They are used to The Alps!

I, too, handle this monster with aplomb...

because I am "taking a leg up" again - which means I'm riding in the van to the first SAG stop.

Saves me miles and gives me a chance to take pictures.

I've realized I am on this ride more to see America... talk with people... see the sights...

...than to get so many miles under my wheels.

Today because of my "leg up" I got to see a new rider - Barb.

Barb is the wife of our ride leader, Mike.

She is also our den mother.

She has advised us on saddle sores and toilet issues.

We turn to her when we have any kind of problem.

She handles all the hotels and logistics.

She doesn't ride the bike much....

but we couldn't do it without her.

Here comes a pace line.

Mike led a big discussion about pace lines yesterday.

We've had 4-5 falls in the last two days - most of them related to pace lines.

We need to be careful not to get carried away.

These pace lines help us go faster and battle headwinds...

but they take great concentration and communication.

Yesterday in Al's pace line Mark from Toronto got a rock knocked between his spokes and went head over handlebars onto a busy road.

He's okay - but their group, the thoroughbreds, are biking separately today.

Speaking of horses, we attract the interest of the equines of the area with our bright colors and whirring wheels.

I stop to admire the big blue silos.

They always remind me of my Dad.

When he got a blue silo for our farm in Wisconsin he was so proud.

He always said those were the Cadillacs of silos.

We pass lots of old barns...

some with rotting wood and shiny new roofs...

And some just falling down....

I love old barns.

We have one on our Land in New Castle Indiana.

We restored it a few years ago with the help of Amos Schwartz from the old country.

Three generations in this country and he still speaks with a heavy Swiss accent - probably because he is Mennonite and lives in a close-knit community in Bern, Indiana.

We added steps so Tom didn't have to climb the ladder to the loft.

Amos built the new steps with woods left over from a covered bridge restoration he did a few years earlier.

Nothing goes to waste.

It's not just old barns...

We pass beautiful farmhouses with lovely gardens...

Cars for the local demolition derby....

...and chickens.

I get startled biking up this hill...

 the brazen cock-a-doodle-do of this rooster.

And who are these mega-bikers following me up the hill?

It's Al and her buddy, Jeff.

Jeff has become her biking and card-playing partner.

He must need less sleep than the rest of us.

I try to bike with them...

....but get distracted by the Monarda growing along the road.

One of my favorite flowers, the sweet smell of Monarda fills the air when Tom mows our random paths through the tall summer prairie.

Monarda is the favorite of butterflies, bees and hummingbird clear-wings - an odd looking cross between a hummingbird and a moth.

I bike by the beautiful fields - planted in alternating strips to avoid erosion...

...and suddenly run smack-dab into the middle of suburban sprawl!

Wow! What a contrast!

Once in town however, we join a lovely bike path.

Hoorah! They've planted native prairie along the pathway - my old friends, Monarda, big bluestem and all!

The path carries us safely under the major roads....

...and along small creeks....

The curving fence making a Frank Lloyd Wright design on the pathway....

...over the bridge...

and we settle into our hotel home for the night...

in Minnesota...

...home of the mighty Vikings!

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