View Larger Map
I always enjoy it when I have an opportunity to use my bicycle as a practical vehicle and not just a recreational one. Over Memorial Day weekend, my family went camping up at St. Croix Falls. I was on the schedule to work at Cyclova on Saturday and Sunday, and by Sunday morning the kids were tired and ready to go home. "No problem," I thought, "we can pack up the tent in the morning and my wife can drive them home and I'll follow after work on my bicycle." So it was that at 3 PM, I headed out from the door of CyclovaXC to my home in Chippewa Falls...92 miles away.
I did this same adventure last year with Ben and Jeff. You can read the write up here.
There really is some beautiful riding to be had between Chippewa Falls and St. Croix Falls (here's another link to the route I took). For the record there is a massive climb just North of Glenwood city--it's a curvy, switchback type thing that makes me think of riding in Colorado. I also noticed some nice looking gravel roads out that way which might merit some future exploration.
Last year when we rode, we left a little earlier and the route was a bit shorter since we took off from Wolf's house. Last year we also had a massive headwind that pummeled us for the first half of the ride--the same headwind that I ran right into this year. Still, headwinds are just a part of life, and it simply felt good to get out and mash some pedals.
90+ mile rides really are more fun when they are social events, but it can be entertaining to ride by yourself as well. I'm not really sure where my thoughts went through the duration of the journey, but it was a positive place, away from the stresses and preoccupations of daily life. I pulled into the gas station at Glenwood city and saw a sign pointing to Spring Valley, which made me laugh. Last year, Mullin put down a personal pizza, but I kept it to a Whatchamacallit and a chocolate milk (I thought these things went out of production like 15 years ago--they must have been working through some old stock):
For the most part, motorists were very courteous throughout the whole ride, although I did have one guy lay on his horn about a quarter mile before and after passing me. There is a very small percentage of motorists who just work themselves up into a rage whenever they see a cyclist, and something needs to be done about that. Still, he gave me a wide berth, so I can't complain really. Don't hesitate to report motorists who get too close however. Basically, the best attitude to adopt when cycling is to just assume that no cars see you. There's really no entitlement out there--always be safe on the road.
The ride ended up taking me six and a half hours, so it was getting pretty dark with about 10 miles left to go. There were advantages to riding in the evening. It was cool and the wind died down considerably. My only concern was cars, but I was sticking to county roads so the traffic wasn't all that heavy.
As it got darker, I became more and more conservative with vehicles. I started riding in the oncoming lane (unless I was going up a hill) because you could see the headlights coming from miles away. When I saw a vehicle way off in the distance, I checked behind me and if it was clear, I switched lanes. I do this when rollerskiing as well. In the case that two vehicles were going to intersect more or less at my position, I got off the road entirely. We get a little too used to sharing the road with vehicles, but really if visibility is low I believe it is imperative for cyclists to make sure there is a minimum of 10 feet or so between them and any passing car. I was grateful to have a reflective panel across the back of my jersey and a headlamp.
In the above picture you can see my headlamp is around my forehead. Originally I'd put it around my helmet and left it there for about an hour. As I was descending the last hill into Chippewa Falls, I thought to myself, "whew, I made it safely!" Right as I thought that, I hit a bump and it jarred my headlamp down over my eyes, momentarily blinding me! Not a big issue, I just pushed it up to my forehead, but it kind of made me laugh (I think I'll be going for forehead placement in the future).
Hopefully this is the first of many trips from St. Croix to Chippewa Falls this summer! You're all welcome to join me next time!