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Kids 'n Kinship

2007 Diary

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Day One

Gordy & John grab a drink in Marthasville, MO.

Our good intentions for an early start on our drive to Cherokee Pass, MO were mostly fulfilled.  However, we weren’t even out of Prior Lake, MN before our bucket of trail mix hit the floor.  The squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents near Gordy’s house are very pleased and probably on a bit of a sugar high.

We bucked a strong headwind the whole day.  Mercifully, we were driving and not yet biking.  Assurances by Dennis that it would be calm by the time we hit Missouri were greeted with skepticism by John and Gordy.  Apparently, there was reason to be skeptical….

We pulled into Marthasville, MO around 8:00 p.m. looking for an advertised campsite.  Finding the campsite out of business, we were told to go find Don (or Daw-awn to us northerners) at the concession stand at the ballpark.  After viewing us with some suspicion, Don set us up behind the left field fence.  It’s a good thing John looks so trustworthy.  We watched coed softball games with most of the residents of Marthasville until after 11:00.  Then the real action started.  Not more than 50 feet from our sleeping quarters, we were treated to a live-action Jerry Springer show.  There are better ways to break off a relationship than yelling at each other for an hour in a public place at midnight, but for my dollar there probably isn’t a more entertaining way.  Dennis had much advice to offer from first-hand experience, but instead chose to bite his tongue and listen to the show.

Dennis, John & Gordy near ballpark/campsite on Day 1.

Upcoming…the bike tires hit the pavement on Day Two.

Day Two

After conversation and pictures with fellow bicyclists camping in Marthasville, we were on the road again to our starting point.  We had hoped to be on our bikes by noon, but we encountered a small glitch in the plan – a wrong turn that took us 30 miles in the wrong direction down a winding, narrow road.  It was slightly reminiscent of “Dumb and Dumber”.  Baptist churches lined the road, so we are definitely in the Bible belt.  We also saw a fox scampering into the woods alongside the road, so we made the best of our day.

We finally got on our bikes just before 3:00 after a ceremonial picture next to a rocket.  Our ride was on the hilliest and most challenging route either of us has ever ridden.  Despite this challenge, we finished 50 miles by 7:00.  Upcoming days in Missouri look to be more of the same.  John said that he would either be in the best shape of his life, or we’ll be carrying him out on a stretcher.

We finished the day with burgers and malts in Lesterville.  Campsites are abundant in Lesterville; unfortunately, none of them have power or any other services.  We camped in a secluded, peaceful campsite (The Horseshoe Family Camp) and slept for nearly 10 hours.  We are well-rested and ready for more climbs sure to come on Day 3, the official start day of the ride.

Day Three

What a day!  After a bacon and eggs breakfast at the campsite, we made a 10:00 start on the bikes.  The day began uneventfully enough, other than the up and down terrain.  Did I know that I was going to bike in the Ozark Mountains?  There is no amount of training that either of us did to prepare us for some of these climbs.

Gordy cooking some bacon.

On our second leg of the day, we turned onto highway 32, a narrow road with no shoulder and heavy truck traffic.  John took evasive action to avoid being hit by a semi trailer after less than a mile.  Many of you can prepare to hear a more dramatic version of the story (as only John could tell it) when we get back.  After 5 miles on this nerve-wrecker, we caught up to Gordy, loaded the bikes in the trailer and jumped ahead 4 miles to our next turn, a much safer road.

Traversing the remote countryside, we were exposed to a definite slice of America.  We were chased by many dogs, mostly friendly.  At one point a boy stood in his yard with his rifle aimed in our general direction.  Apparently we didn’t look like “revenuers”, so we were allowed to pass.

We biked out of Potosi late in the afternoon on highway 185, the most dangerous road we have ever ridden.  Traffic was flowing steadily from both directions, and the road was rough, narrow and without a shoulder.  Missouri does not waste highway funds building shoulders.  After a few miles on this hazard, we pulled off to the side of the road to determine our course of action.  Gordy was seven miles ahead, and the cell phone in the RV had no coverage.  John decided to hike up his shorts and thumb a ride, and almost immediately a pickup truck pulled over.  Steve announced that a year ago he wouldn’t have stopped, but since he found religion, he’s a changed man willing to help others.  We heard stories about logging, attending college someday, and mule rides from California to Alaska (what??).  It was a very long seven mile ride, and I don’t know if John has ever had so little to say.

We loaded the bikes in the trailer, drove ahead to Sullivan, and finished our 60 miles for the day.  We are jumping ahead a total of 40 miles rather than ride on 185; we’ll make up the difference where we don’t feel so endangered.  Night three is once again being spent at the ballpark in Marthasville.

Day Four

We backtracked 20 miles from Marthasville to our starting point, biked 10 miles, and jumped on the RV just in time for a typical Missouri torrential downpour.  After a two-hour rain delay, we rode another 10 miles to Washington, MO, where Dennis stared longingly at an establishment called The Beer Box, which happened to be located on Hooker Street.  Outside of Washington, we reached the scenic Katy Trail, a crushed limestone trail running along the north side of the Missouri River.  Although it was not part of the scheduled route, the trail looked too appealing to pass up.  Dennis switched to his hybrid bike, and John stayed on his Bianchi touring bike, and off we went. 

What a great decision it was!  The Katy Trail is truly scenic, running from open farm areas to wooded stretches to areas right alongside the river.  The trail was dotted with very small towns and numerous old-fashioned railroad bridges.  Wildlife was abundant.  Most notably we encountered numerous indigo buntings (brightly colored songbirds), cardinals, a colorful woodpecker, and two fawns next to the trail.  We stopped next to the fawns and took some photos from within a few feet before they scampered into the trees. 

Fawn spotted along the Katy Trail.

John poses for a picture at the Tuque Creek bridge.

John also swallowed what he called a large flying tick (bigger than a fly and smaller than a junebug) – hopefully nothing hatches inside him.  In addition, there was a spotting of a large creature thrashing in the river.  John has taken to calling it the Missouri River whale, since Gordy and Dennis can come up with no other description or explanation.  He’s the boss, so he gets his way on this one, albeit with skeptical grimaces each time he mentions it.

We camped again in our home away from home, the ballpark in Marthasville.  Gordy grilled some fabulous medium rare steaks we brought from Von Hansons while John and Dennis cleaned their bikes.  That line was for Jay, our bike guy from Hollywood Cycles, so he knows that we’re not just leaving messy bikes for him to clean.  Tomorrow we depart from Marthasville for good.  We will miss Don’s hospitality.

Day Five

Dogs.  Lots of dogs.  Dogs run fast with gnarling teeth and scary demeanors.  Dennis tried to wear the dogs out by going through first, allowing John to come behind.  That’s Dennis’ version of the story.  John believes that Dennis is taking care of himself and leaving John to fend for himself in “survival of the fittest” fashion.  There’s no “I” in team, but there’s no “we” either, and there is a “me”, so you can judge for yourselves.

We started with a huge climb out of Marthasville; the legs weren’t quite ready for it, but there wasn’t much choice.  The rest of the day was filled with great scenery through rolling hills as we biked on a couple of scenic byways.  John was nearly knocked over by a buzzard munching on some road kill.  It’s a good thing we don’t believe in foreshadowing. 

Overall, it was a great day to be biking, and we only had one half-mile section of road where Gordy needed to come to our rescue.  Our final stretch was through a beautiful section of hilltops before descending into Clarksville, MO along the Mississippi River.  We finished at 4:30, our first finish earlier than 7:00 on this trip.  We mercifully stopped to wash our stinking clothes.  The Laundromat was decorated uniquely with 20-foot long driftwood, adorned with plastic flowers and plastic green vines.  It also served as a tuxedo rental shop, used TV store and antique tractor dealer. 

We drove across the Mississippi on a very narrow two-lane bridge to our campsite and for dinner.  While meeting a semi on the bridge, John decided to make some alterations to the passenger side of the RV.  Door hinges are overrated anyway.  We ate dinner at the Lighthouse Café and camped at a marina on the Mississippi River.

Day 6

The story of the day was wind.  We biked about 25 miles into a 20 mph headwind before John made an executive decision to see how life looked from the other direction.  All seemed brighter and clearer heading downwind.  Dennis’ temporary bouts of Tourette-like behavior even seemed to vanish.  Everyone was happy except for Gordy, who had the task of finding places to turn the RV and trailer around.  On this leg of the trip we had one large climb which peaked at a cemetery – how appropriate!

We chose to bypass 15 miles of roadway south of Hannibal, MO due to hazardous road conditions (at least it looked hazardous to our mental states).  This included the section of the map that said “merge right onto the freeway”.  No thank you.  In hindsight the freeway looked to be the safest road we’ve seen on this trip.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois and finished the day in Quincy as planned.  Backtracking to Hannibal, we set up camp at Mark Twain Cave Campground, a very scenic area cut into the hillside. 

Big Sky Team sets up camp at Mark Twain Cave Campground.

Our most interesting sight of the day was a large cow standing in the bed of a pickup truck at the gas station.  Unfortunately, we missed the photo op, since we were already blocking traffic by the time we saw it.  Maybe we’ll see another.

Day Seven

Gordy doing a little house cleaning.

John poses for picture after reaching Powellton, IL.

After another fantastic french toast, bacon and eggs breakfast served up by Gordy, we drove our entire route to Powellton, IL.  My story is that we were checking the safety of the roads and that it had nothing whatsoever to do with wind direction.  We hopped on our bikes at the North Suburbs of Powelton, and biked into Nauvoo.  Joseph Smith, Mormon founder and prophet, and his brother Hyrum settled in Nauvoo and were killed nearby.  Dennis stopped for a photo op at a huge Mormon temple and at the statue of Joseph and Hyrum.

Dennis poses next to a statue of Joseph and Hyrum in Nauvoo, IL.

With a gentle breeze at our backs we biked along the Mississippi River on the Great River Route for half of our ride.  The remainder of the day was through the Illinois countryside.  We stopped in Warsaw, IL to take pictures with lawn ornaments and furniture (huh?).  Dennis felt at home sitting at the desk, but was lost without a mountain of paper.

Dennis stopped to catch up on a little work at his satellite office in Warsaw, IL.

John stopped along a river to watch a guy bow hunting carp from the bridge.  There was no success in the hunt while John watched.  We also thought we made a wrong turn onto “the bridge too far”, but we made our way to the finish line.

Dennis checking the map at "the bridge too far".

We jumped into the RV and made a run for Burlington, Iowa for a Class A baseball game between the Burlington Bees and the Cedar Rapids Kernels.  The home team got pounded 7-1, but we still had a great time watching the game, eating hot dogs and generally taking in the atmosphere.  We camped overnight in the parking lot at the ballpark and had another cool night for sleeping.

Dennis enjoying a ball game in Burlington, Iowa.

Day Eight

The wind was blowing mightily all day long.  Thankfully, it was at our backs most of the way, although John does have a solution if there was a headwind.  Biking around the rural roads near Powellton, we encountered a couple riding a tandem bike.  Dennis waved to the couple, continued pedaling a few miles to the next turn, and waited for John.  And waited.  Anybody who knows John knows what happened…he stopped to talk to the couple.  If you want to know the adventures of Charles and Sue on their tandem bike, just ask John.  They don’t appear to be getting anywhere in a big hurry, and they could probably use one of Steve’s mules (see Day 3) to pack all of their stuff.

Annie, Kim, Lisa, we stopped at a yard sale in Lomax, IL in your absence.  If you see anything in the picture that you want, let us know soon, so we can go back to get it.  Nancy, we picked out two new horses for you.  They aren’t quite Eagle, but they are the best we could find.

Dennis found something he liked while passing a yard sale in Lomax, IL.

We rode our fastest times of the trip and finished the ride in Wapello, Iowa.  One of our big challenges is finding suitable campsites each night.  Today we stopped at a gas station in Muscatine to ask about campsites.  “Ace”, as Gordy called him, gave us three sets of directions to the Saulsbury Bridge Recreation Area.  Amazingly, we found our way.  We were serenaded by cicadas while we ate our grilled pork chops and asparagus, but the male cicadas gave up on their mating calls after dark.  There are many similarities among the various species on this planet – no further editorial comment is being offered at this time.

Another solid night of sleep ensued for all.

Day Nine

The wind blew strong all night long and continued blowing from the south at about 25mph as we biked north out of Muscatine.  Joe Kranovich, our accountant in Des Moines, had forewarned us that storms were moving into eastern Iowa by the afternoon, so we thought we should make our ride as quick as we could.

As each 15 mile segment was completed, we continued to watch for the thunderstorms rolling in from the southwest.  Once again our timing was favorable.  We began referring to ourselves as storm racers rather than storm chasers as we stayed ahead of the rain and, more importantly, the storms.  After we stopped for the day a few miles north of Onslo, Iowa, the RV was parked roadside as we packed up and showered.  John was showering when a guy stopped to inform us that a tornado had been spotted 10 miles south of Onslo moving in our direction.  No further motivation was needed as Gordy took off to the north.  John was not happy to be in the shower while we were moving, but he did a complete 180 when he heard why we were on the move.

We found a campsite alongside the Mississippi River in Dubuque.  The local storms all pushed through to the south and east of us, so we were once again able to set up camp and fire up the grill for dinner.  We will be spending two nights at this site in Dubuque as Friday is our scheduled day off for rest, laundry and short track races Friday night.

Day Ten

Gordy and John enjoying a night at the track in Farley, IA.

We took the day off and enjoyed the nice morning at the campsite before getting our necessary duties done, including laundry (where’s the magic laundry room?) and tightening the ball on the hitch (slightly important).  Our day concluded with a night of dirt track racing in Farley, IA, including a “Faster Pastor” golf cart race.  We had a great time on a beautiful, cool evening.

Dennis & John pointing at the "Faster Pastor" sign in Farley, IA.

As we’ve passed the midway point in our ride (470 miles down), we would like to reflect a little on the trip thus far.

Comments from John:

Greetings to Dante and his family, to Sherry and my family (including Ranger), to everyone at the Elder-Jones office (has anyone noticed I’m not there?), and to all of our supporters and friends at Kids ’n Kinship.  This ride has been a true adventure for me, and one that has special meaning knowing that because of everyone’s generous support, we are able to provide financial support to a wonderful mentorship program.

We have met many interesting people (and several dogs---not all of them interesting) along the way.  Yesterday, we discovered that the ball was coming loose from our Big Sky Trailer.  We stopped at an auto repair shop in Dubuque to have it tended to.  When the mechanic fixed our problem, and learned of our ride, he gave us a $5 bill for our ride. 

Not a huge donation, but what a nice gesture.

We have had to deviate from our planned route several times when we did not consider the roads safe for bike travel.  This has led to some beautiful off road scenery such as the Katy Trail in Missouri.  We now are also planning 120 miles along the Root River Trail in southern Minnesota.

Gordy and the Mothership help in so many ways, but the fact that he can move us to alternate safe routes is probably the most important.  Gordy has a firm opinion that next Saturday’s homecoming wouldn’t be very festive if Dennis and I weren’t around to attend!

I look forward to seeing all who can attend next Saturday.  And I particularly look forward to having my grandson, Nolan, ride behind me in the Burly cart for the last mile or two of the ride.

John watching a paddle boat on the Mississippi River.

Comments from Dennis:

Ditto…….Sorry, but no such luck.  Those of you who know me well know that I have a lot to say, regardless if anyone is listening. 

Foremost, I would like to thank John for inviting me on this adventure and for convincing me that I could get enough work done along the way.  He was right, as you’ve probably seen from the picture of my remote roadside office.  Also, thanks to Gordy for the outstanding support and fabulous meals along the way.

For the Elder-Jones accounting staff, my ride is possible because you are taking care of all the work (I know, what’s new?).  And thanks to everyone who has supported us with financial contributions and with your thoughts and prayers.  Special thanks to my sister Susan, who, unbeknownst to me, conducted her own fundraising effort for us and raised $500 for Kids ‘n Kinship.

Josh and Alex, I miss you guys.  Josh, have a great time at camp, and I’ll see you in a month.  Alex, I’ll see you next week when we make our return.

Although we have access, we have not watched a single minute of TV or DVD’s on the trip.  We are obviously far from roughing it, though, as we are never out of cell phone coverage and we almost always have a connection to “the internets”.

Comments from Gordy:

Thanks to John for allowing me to participate in the second annual Big Sky 900 Charity Ride for Kid’s ‘n Kinship.  Thanks, also, to my wife, Joann, for letting me have a few weeks away from home.  I appreciate all who have contributed again this year to such a great cause.

Day Eleven

Today was the most enjoyable riding of the trip thus far.  We started at Marquette, IA along the Mississippi River and rode through a series of small river towns – Waukon Junction, Harper’s Ferry, Lansing and New Albin, Iowa and Brownsville, MN – on our way to La Crescent, MN.  The first few miles were very busy with very little room to maneuver, but the remainder of the ride was on the Great River Road with reduced traffic and nice road surfaces.  Much of the traffic on the Great River Road was motorcycle riders enjoying the scenic views.  There were three long climbs early in the day, each of which was 1-2 miles in length.  The climbs were challenging, but not nearly as steep as the Ozark Mountains early in trip.

Dennis rode into New Albin just ahead of a Ford Model T.  After visiting for awhile, the owners told him to jump in for a picture.  John stopped as well, and after we snapped photos, we crashed a 50th wedding anniversary for Jim and Eileen.  We were trying to find out if their local town team had a baseball game that night.  While we were waiting, we conversed with some very friendly New Albinites, and ultimately we spoke about biking with a young woman named Mary.  Mary inquired about our ride and filled us in on her upcoming Seattle to Washington D.C. ride with the American Lung Association.  We wished each other luck and safe travels.  Gordy was thinking that this leg of the trip sure was taking a long time….

Dennis sitting in a Ford Model T in New Albin, MN.

Dennis with his new friend & fellow biker Mary in New Albin, MN.

Our next stop was the Minnesota border.  As enjoyable as the ride has been, it was great to see the “Welcome to Minnesota” sign.  After finishing our 62-mile ride (Gordy stretched us a little at the end), Dennis found a campsite in Money Creek (how appropriate).  We are only five miles from tomorrow’s start on the Root River Trail in Houston, MN. 

John and Gordy excited to be back in Minnesota.

John encountered a woodchuck and a beaver along the roadside during the ride.  Neither one of them gave chase.

Day Twelve

It was a beautiful, calm day with bright sunshine as we departed from Houston on the Root River Trail.  We stocked up on snacks and water and bid farewell to Gordy, whom we wouldn’t see again until the end of our 67-mile trek.  The trail made for very safe and relatively easy riding.  John commented that it didn’t quite have the feel of the Big Sky 900 ride. 

We rode the trail at a very moderate pace, enjoying the scenery and stopping for numerous photo ops.  We first encountered an un-restored antique Case tractor.  It would need some work before it would be serviceable at the farm in Ortonville.  There were also photos along the river and in some of the towns next to the area maps.  We stopped in Preston for pictures at an M60 tank and met a couple celebrating their first anniversary.  Perspectives are interesting.  John called them “honeymooners”, and Dennis countered that a year of marriage can seem like a very long time.  Finally, in Harmony we each chose one hobo statue among many and posed for a picture.  Judging from the picture, John has obviously been away from home too long.

John poses next to a un-restored antique Case tractor.

John & Dennis next to an M60 Tank in Preston, MN.

John's been away from home for too long!

We camped in Preston about 50 feet from the bike trail, so we will be able to take off in the morning right from the campsite.  We grilled steaks and veggies for dinner.  We had planned on chicken, but a mysterious chicken thief must have slipped into the RV when Gordy wasn’t looking.  Either that or John forgot to pack the chicken.  We’re going with the chicken thief story, since we also seem to be missing the Velcro ball and paddle game sent by our friends at Kids ‘n Kinship.

We finally broke down and watched a movie after dinner.  The feature presentation was “The Magnificent Seven”.

Day 13

Dennis & John on their bikes for Day 13!

We jumped on our bikes in Preston and headed back up the hill to Harmony and then turned around and rode back to Preston (nearly 25 miles).  Gordy had a plate full of watermelon ready for us.  We have really come to appreciate watermelon at the stops along the ride.

Guess they were hungry!

John cruisin' the trail...

Dennis in action...

Since the route was all trail riding and relatively flat, Dennis switched bikes for the day to his hybrid to work his legs a little harder.  John switched to his backup bike “Brownie” due to a repetitive clicking noise on “Green Girl”.  Yes, his bikes have names. 

Unlike most days, today we rode together at the same pace. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and the scenery and the ice cream at Geneva’s in Peterson.  There weren’t many other riders along the trail today.  Apparently, most people have to work.  At one point a deer jumped out of the woods onto the trail about 50 feet in front of Dennis.  Both Dennis and the deer were startled, but the deer came to its senses quickly and leaped off the trail.  Dennis has yet to come to his senses.

John at Geneva's in Peterson, MN.

We finished the day and headed back to La Crescent for tomorrow’s start.  We made a quick call to Jay Saterbak (yes, I know, that’s a definite oxymoron), and Jay hooked us up at a great campsite in La Crosse where we slept 20 feet from the Mississippi River.  Jay called a couple of times to make sure we found our site and to see how we liked it.  Jay’s dad, Jerry, also called to ensure that we were set for dinner and that the campsite was adequate, so we definitely felt welcome in La Crosse.

One footnote….the chicken thief struck again.  John’s coffee cup has vanished.

Day 14

We departed La Crescent from the convenience store and shortly thereafter encountered our only substantial climb of the day.  It was a long, winding climb up the river bluffs.  From there we had a very picturesque ride along the bluffs.  We wondered if people living along there truly appreciate their views every day.

At Nodine we couldn’t pass by the giant “Culvert Man” without stopping for a photo.  We met Cole, who was enjoying a popsicle, but regardless how much we eyed the popsicle or how much John inquired about it, Cole wasn’t offering to share.  His mom will need to work on that.  Cole joined us in a couple of pictures, and off we went.

John, a "little guy" and Dennis standing next to the giant "Culvert Man" in Nodine, MN. 

Gordy spotted a Dairy Queen while entering Winona, and he waited for the inevitable stop.  This was only the second DQ we found on our trip, and there was no way John was going to skip it.  Nobody heard Dennis complaining either.  After the ice cream stop, John led Dennis through Winona, reminiscing about his days in college, pledging the fraternity, and his first apartment with Sherry.  Needless to say, Dennis now knows more than he is willing to share with our readers (Christian, we need to talk).  We stopped at the apartment building and visited with the current building manager.  We also stopped at the Merchants Bank branch to take a picture for our primary sponsor.  Surprisingly, we didn’t go inside the bank to talk to anyone.  How we finish our ride each day with all of the stops continues to amaze me.

John standing in front of the Merchants Bank (our title sponsor) sign in Winona, MN.

It was really a pleasant ride all the way to Kellogg even though it was a very hot day.  Since this was our last dinner at a campground, Gordy grilled three 24 ounce porterhouse steaks with asparagus.  There wasn’t a morsel or scrap left – four hours of biking sure can work up an appetite.

Dennis & Gordy grilling up dinner.

Day 15

Our route from Kellogg to Red Wing, through Wabasha and Lake City, can be ridden entirely along Highway 61 or with some deviations onto lesser traveled roads.  We chose County Road 60 toward Mazeppa and Zumbrota.  I do believe the mere mention of these towns will make some of our employees homesick.  Sorry, Derik, Sioux Falls was a little out of the way. 

Dennis riding with the scenic bluffs in the background.

We encountered a long climb up the river bluffs and reached a scenic overlook (picture time).  After riding uphill for a half mile, it toys with the senses to see a sign that reads “Scenic Overlook ˝ Mile”.  It was a guarantee that we wouldn’t be riding downhill to the scenic overlook.  As an additional insult, we weren’t yet to the top.  We were further slowed as an assortment of rescue and road workers was trying to lift a cement truck that looked to have rolled into a steep ditch. 

John riding in bluff country.

On this leg of the trip John had the first flat tire ever in a Big Sky 900 ride.  There were no flats in last year’s ride, and we had so far had none this year.  He is very experienced in changing tires, so he was soon on his way.  Meanwhile, Gordy and Dennis were up ahead waiting and speculating whether John had stopped to talk to the road crew.

John spotted a Dairy Queen in Lake City from about two miles away, so we stopped for cones and to plot the last half of our ride for the day.  We opted to bike straight to Red Wing on Highway 61 rather than more meandering through the hillside country.  We finished with a pleasant 14-mile ride on the Cannon Valley Trail.

After showering we drove straight to Miesville for incredible burgers and fries at King’s Place.  Since we were close enough to home, that was the direction we headed, so we could sleep in the comfort of our own beds.  John and Dennis spotted a Starbucks after dropping Gordy off in Prior Lake.  We couldn’t believe the door was locked already at 9:45, so we walked through the drive-up window.  The employees claimed we were their first-ever walk-thru customers.  We chastised them for not staying open late enough.

Only 65 miles to go – tomorrow we give Gordy the day off while we ride the Cannon Valley Trail.

Dennis writing the daily log & Gordy mapping out the days route.

Day 16

Other than the ceremonial 20-mile ride in on Saturday, our journey ended today with a 50-mile ride on the familiar Cannon Valley Trail.  All of that time on the bike keeps the mind busy, oftentimes with minutiae.  Our mindless trivia for the day relates to nourishment.  During our 900 mile ride John and Dennis consumed 60 pieces of french toast, 60 pieces of thick cut bacon, 44 gallons of water, 10 watermelons, 10 pounds of steak, and numerous pounds of hamburger, brats, pork chops, chicken, potatoes,  asparagus, bananas and grapes.  There may have been an O’Douls or two and a root beer float at the end of the day as well.  Despite this seemingly massive bingeing, we managed to lose a total of 14 pounds on the ride.

The last three days of riding were the most noticeably hot days.  Neither one of us minds riding in the heat; however, the water bottles seem to absorb heat and start cooking the water.  After 15 minutes the water is already warm, and within 30 minutes it feels hot.  Dennis resorted to placing a water bottle in the freezer, but this didn’t have the desired result in the heat either.  We had to force ourselves to continue drinking the hot water to stay hydrated. 

We endured the first two weeks of the trip with only one Dairy Queen stop.  Even more difficult for John and Dennis was the complete lack of Starbucks and Caribou Coffee along the route.  We grabbed a cup of coffee from Caribou on our way out of the Cities on May 30 and didn’t see another premium coffee shop until we made it back to Red Wing nearly two weeks later.  Note to Caribou:  there is a whole section of the Midwest that needs your services.

We made it back from today’s ride early, so Dennis could join the Elder-Jones softball team for a double-header.  Casey wouldn’t excuse him from participating, since the team would otherwise have been short one player.  It was a tough night to play, and Dennis’ legs felt like they were moving in quicksand.  The team absorbed two brutal beatings, but we had fun (ok, well, maybe not so much fun). 

It’s good to be home!

End of the Road (For Now)

We were back one day early and had essentially completed our ride.  We spent a few hours Friday morning unloading and cleaning the RV and trailer.  John’s mentee Dante and Dennis’ son Alex enthusiastically volunteered to help.  Dennis avoided work again by going inside to write the previous day’s diary.  Dante and Alex were completely soaked after washing the outside of the RV and trailer.  There seemed to be some dispute over who started the water war, but apparently no question as to who finished it.  

Our final day of riding was Saturday, June 16.  The 20 miles were a breeze, and we rode the final stretch to Casperson Park at Lake Marion in Lakeville.  Kids ‘n Kinship and Merchants Bank provided a wonderful welcome back.  Representatives of both organizations and family and friends and local mayors were on hand to greet us.  We led a short ceremonial ride along the lake and returned to the shelter for presentations, cake and prizes.  John presented a check for $18,000 to Kids ‘n Kinship (actual funds raised to date are approximately $19,500 as donations have continued to come in).  We have really appreciated the support along the way, and this reception was one more opportunity for us to acknowledge that support.

John presented check to Jan at ceremony at Casperson Park in Lakeville, MN.

One last story:  With about one mile left when we reached Lake Marion, we visited with Billy from Boston (I know, hard to believe we could find someone to talk to).  He initially thought we were joking about 899 miles down and one to go, but ultimately told us to talk to him before next year’s ride to see how he might be able to help.  We have met so many great people on our trip.

And, yes, next year…..From day one on this trip John was talking about next year and what he would want to do differently.  Dennis appreciates the forward thinking, but he was hoping to get at least a few miles on the road before worrying about next year.  That being said, we are both committed to next year, and John is hoping Ken and Tom can ride again.  Also, everyone is hoping that Gordy will agree to once again be our support driver and grill chef extraordinaire.

We are definitely looking forward to the third annual Merchants Bank Big Sky 900 Charity Ride for Kids!

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