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2013 Road Diary

May 22, 2013, This is How Things Roll

Today our two newbies, Larry and Dave, learned how things roll on the CEM.  Our planned departure time of noon came and went while John and Dennis dropped the RV and trailer in Burnsville to replace the wiring on the RV.  We are really excited to try out our spacious brand new (to us) 31 foot RV with two sliders and numerous beds.  Who would have thought this 2012 RV would have shoddy wiring that wouldn’t connect to the trailer?  Not us, apparently!

Several hours later the RV was wired and ready to go – but one of the trailer brake lights didn’t work.  Another half hour of work by the technician and things were finally looking good.  After picking everyone up and loading our gear, we made one more stop back at John’s for a forgotten briefcase and hit the road at 4:04 p.m.  No fanfare; no parades…just a drive off into rush hour on a cold, rainy, gloomy Minnesota afternoon.  In fairness, though, the Kids ‘n Kinship staff had provided a fabulous send-off luncheon a day earlier for the CEM team.

We drove through the Cities and into Wisconsin, stopping for a quick dinner and gas along the way.  I do hope that this 5 mpg on the new rig was an aberration, or we are going to be going through a lot of gas.  Continuing on to Black River Forest State Park, we pulled into the campground and were greeted by barricades.  Nice!  The campground was closed for repairs, even though the website made no such mention.  It seems to me that a campground should be open for Memorial Day weekend, but what do I know?

Being the resourceful bunch that we are, we drove back into Black River Falls with a WalMart parking lot in mind.  Instead, John spotted a wide open parking lot alongside the Falls Motel.  The proprietor of the motel willingly took advantage of our circumstance and charged us $25 for an electric hookup for the night.  He was quite the chatty fellow.  Among other things we now know the unfairness with which the State of Wisconsin treats ATV riders vs. snowmobilers.  He also told us that he once received a call asking if there were any nice motels in the area as cheap as the Falls Motel.  Hmmm…I’m not sure that is the advertising I would do.

Some traditions are definitely worth continuing.  After we set up for the night, John served us some of Sherry’s fresh rhubarb pie for a bedtime treat.  It was delicious as always!

On a separate note, Dennis Danielson will not be joining us on the ride this year.  He went to the hospital for emergency surgery, but all went well, and Dennis is home already, well on the road to recovery.  We wish him well and look forward to his return in 2014!

May 23, 2013, Welcome to Kirby

The rain came steadily for most of the night, and the day broke cloudy and cold.  Cocooned in their bunks in the back of the trailer, John muttered something to Dennis questioning the sanity of what we were about to do.  The tide began to turn, however, while we ate our first bacon, French toast and egg breakfast of the 2013 ride, Dave’s first turn at the grill quite nicely done.  The clouds began to break, revealing a bright blue sky and glimpses of sunshine.  Hooray for us!

We were able to bike straight out of the motel parking lot onto Highway 12, a lightly travelled, freshly paved road running parallel to I94.  We cruised quickly to Millston, which bore a sign stating, “Stop or we’ll shoot”.  We stopped.  Continuing down 12 our plan was to stop in Kirby, except there really was no Kirby.  Dave found a spot in a church parking lot just off the road past where Kirby should have been.  Dennis stopped.  John stopped.  Larry, however, continued past in his quest for Kirby.  Thankfully Larry stopped a couple of miles ahead and Dennis caught him quickly to get back on course.  When questioned about this mishap, Larry could only comment, “I was looking for a big Welcome to Kirby sign”.  More likely Welcome to the road diary…

The rest of the ride was pleasant, as we pedaled along a couple of scenic country roads toward Camp Douglas, where we hooked up with the Omaha Trail heading south.  The trail was largely unmaintained, the surface consisting of crumbled asphalt in many areas.  Overall, it was very passable and we made our way to Elroy.  Along the way John had a flat, but he and Larry made quick work of the repair job.  So much for a flat-free ride – we couldn’t even get through Day 1.

We were under the impression from our map that the Omaha Trail connected to the 400 Trail in Elroy, but instead it abruptly ended.  We meandered through Elroy looking for a trailhead, stopping for directions, counter to our man-instinct to never ask for directions.  Back on track we pedaled to our finish in Union Center, where we were greeted by a very helpful resident, Kim Brown.  Kim saw our trailer and being a big NASCAR fan, surmised that this Christian Elder was the former Busch series driver.  She took some photos for her Facebook page and asked us about our charity.  She even made a few calls to find us a county campground nearby.  Thanks Kim for all of the help.

Our campground was a definite step up from the Falls Motel, just as cheap but nicer.  Dave cooked chicken and potatoes on the grill, which we devoured completely.  We all struggled to stay awake for our rhubarb pie dessert, checking our clocks frequently to see if it was 9:00 yet, for some reason not wanting to go to bed too early.  Somehow we managed, after a few head bobs, and John and Dennis left the comfort of the RV for a very cold night in the trailer.

May 24, 2013, That Road Sucks!

We were on a mission today to get to Beloit for a baseball game, so we were up early; Dennis was working on the road diary by 5:30, and the coffee was on. It was a chilly start to the morning, 32 degrees on our thermometer, which gave us a good excuse to drive 60 miles to our starting spot while the day warmed.  After a quick breakfast we were off to Mazomanie and on our bikes shortly after 10:00. 

The first turn from County K was supposed to be FF, according to our map.  Dave cruised past a turn for County KK and around a curve when he decided something didn’t seem quite right.  He stopped and asked some oncoming bike riders for guidance, and they told him that KK is FF.  Interesting…I guess we were just supposed to know this intuitively.  Dave informed the 900 boys, who backtracked to KK/FF while Dave continued on an alternative route. 

We finally got to ride some hills!  The roads to Riley and then Mount Vernon had some very challenging climbs.  In fact we seemed to be going uphill disproportionately to the downhill runs.  This may not actually be true, and I’m sure there is an app that will tell us our elevations, but we would rather believe what we want to, regardless of the facts.  Our ride was exceptionally scenic, and the panoramic views were amazing, so it was well worth the effort.  Along the way we encountered more riders than we ever have on a road ride, so our routing must have been good.

After Mount Vernon we rode east on County A about 15 miles until spotting the RV in a farmyard along the road.  At our stop John was putting the best light on the cracked, crumbling, roughshod County Road A, when Larry piped in, “That road sucks!”  Yes, indeed.  Our route dictated another 8 miles on “that” road, before turning south to our finish in Cooksville, about 20 miles from Janesville.  We showered, loaded bikes and headed for the Rock County campground in Janesville.  The campground gate was open, but the grounds were largely deserted.  We found an electrical connection and tested it; we had power!  After disconnecting the trailer we were on our way to Beloit to see the Snappers play the Twins Class A team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.  What a beautiful night for a ballgame!  The Kernels kicked away a 3-run lead by surrendering two 2-run homers in successive innings, unfortunately emulating their parent team.

After the game we proceeded back to the campground with a modest concern that the gates might be locked.  There was no need to worry.  Being the creatures of habit that we are, we once again finished the night off with rhubarb pie.  Note to Sherry: our supply is dwindling…please send more.  We are nourished again for tomorrow’s ride!

May 25, 2013, A Rough Day

We are in the Columbus Community Hospital parking lot while John recuperates inside from injuries incurred from a fall along County Road T.  The doctors have assured us that he is ok, some scrapes and bruises to go along with a concussion and a separated shoulder.  They are keeping him overnight for observation, which is good because none of the rest of the 900 Boys is prepared to be his nurse tonight.

Today began like most others, Dave cooking a massive breakfast for us under the awning in a light rain.  After eating we learned that our campground had no dump station, so we searched online for the nearest one and headed north out of Janesville.  Along the way, John spotted a sign for Blackhawk Campground, so we decided to pull in.  It is always interesting to me how a series of seemingly inconsequential decisions leads to major events.  We analyze in the aftermath, with all of the “what if” questions lingering with the benefit of hindsight. The decision to stop at Blackhawk was merely one of numerous leading us to where we are now.

We drove into the jam-packed campground and stopped to inquire about the dump station.  A guy was cruising around with a portable dump tank and said he could do it for us or we could drive to the dump station and do it ourselves.  We chose option 2.  The drawback was that we needed to drive toward the campsites and turn around.  Perhaps we had enough room near the entrance to do this with a little careful backing, but John assumed we would be able to drive a loop around the campsites.  Unfortunately, the further we went the narrower the roads became, and the trees were encroaching on the roads.  John stopped to ask where we could loop and a camper pointed him around a cabin.  This was not a good choice.  Dennis suggested taking a quick walk around the area to scope things out, but we proceeded on.  The next noise was eerily familiar, and a couple of expletives may have been muttered.  The upper right section of the RV was peeled back by a large tree branch!

People quickly jumped in to help out.  We unhooked the trailer, worked the RV through the tight squeeze, and one of the campers pulled the trailer back to the entrance.  In the meantime, we delivered the RV to a couple of handymen, Doug and Shane, who proceeded to dismantle and reassemble the bashed-in corner in quite fascinating style.  The whole time they bickered like a Laurel and Hardy movie, but each step got them closer to completing their task.  About 3 hours later the RV looked as good (almost) as new.

It was now 1:30, and our goal was to ride as many miles as we could and to still leave enough time to find a place to camp.  We started riding on a county road north and east through Cambridge and straight north to Waterloo.  A 3-mile stretch of highway 134 made “that road” seem very nice.  The rest of the roads, however, were very smooth.  We departed Waterloo separately, and Dennis doubled back to make sure everyone was on course.  A question of “Where’s Larry?” led to the decision for John to keep moving forward and for Dennis to go back.  Back in town Larry had realized he had taken a wrong turn, but was now back on course. 

Dennis gradually gained ground on John, and had him in sight as they turned onto County Road T toward Danville.  Now within a few hundred yards, he looked around at the scenery and upon looking ahead, he saw John flat on the highway.  Sprinting ahead, Dennis flagged down an oncoming car, and a guy jumped out to assist.  John was disoriented and didn’t remember what had happened.  There was a great deal of pain in his shoulder, and his helmet had taken a big hit, but he seemed reasonably good, all things considered.  He kept asking for his phone, which will surprise no one, so we were fairly certain he was doing well.  Despite this, we still opted for the ambulance ride, and John left the road in style.  The doctors ran a full set of tests with very good results.  After visiting with John and the doctors and nurses until 9:00, Larry, Dennis and Dave headed back to the RV for salad and to strategize for tomorrow. 

Editorial Note:  This was a tough diary to write.  We all recognize the risks we are taking out on the open road, and this is a reminder of the importance of wearing our helmets and taking as many precautions as we can.  Even in ideal riding conditions bad things may happen.  That being said, the rest of this ride will be an odd experience without John riding with us.  Get well soon and back on those pedals!  

May 26, 2013, Moving On

While waiting for more information on John’s condition, we drove to a local grocery store for pancake mix and to stock up on a few other items.  Back at the hospital parking lot, Dave cooked pancakes and eggs on the grill.  We all went to visit John; Dave stayed while Larry and Dennis left to get the ride going.  We plotted a 30-mile route through town to the northeast with a loop around back to the hospital.  The wind was blowing 15 – 20 mph from the southeast as we rode the loop, and we experienced all directions of it while riding, tailwinds, crosswinds of all sorts and finally headwinds coming back into Columbus.  At one point a farmer pulling a manure spreader turned in front of us, flinging bombs onto the road.  We dodged and evaded, passing him as quickly as we could.

This was the first ride that John has missed in the 8-year history of the CEM900, nearly 6,500 miles without skipping a beat.  Kids ‘n Kinship is extremely grateful for all of his efforts over the years and very appreciative of his sacrifice.  He will definitely be missed by the rest of the 2013 team.

Upon returning we stopped up to see John again and learned that they were transferring him to Madison to the University of Wisconsin Hospital for an additional neck examination.  We were moving on, going our separate ways, and John gave us a pep talk as we wished him well in his recovery.  Departing the hospital for the final time, we headed west for our final 30 miles of the day.  Later in the day we were happy to learn that John was on his way home with his son, Justin, and wife, Sherry.  I’m sure our captain will be very involved in the rest of the ride on his phone from home.

Larry said he would like a tailwind for his last ride, so we took off to the west to Lodi.  We made one stop along the way, perfectly timed as the rain started just as we reached the RV.  We put our rain gear on and finished with a nice ride into Lodi.  Dave found a spot to park, and we waited for the replacement team of Jay and Bob, who arrived about 20 minutes later.  Jay located a private campground near Portage, and we all took off to set up camp.  After a meandering trip through downtown Portage, courtesy of Dennis’ misguided phone GPS app, we found our way to the campground.  We disconnected the trailer at the entrance to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s campground mishap and drove to our site on a winding, tree-lined road. 

At our campsite, Jay grilled steaks and potatoes for the team; Larry for sure had no intention of leaving before dinner.  After eating, Dave and Larry loaded their gear in Jay’s truck and headed for home.  Dave has set the bar very high for the other drivers.  Larry’s first ride was definitely interesting, but he rode great, despite some hills and wind.  Tomorrow we start with a new team.

May 27, 2013, A Pleasant Spring Day (Sarcasm Intended)

This flag picture is a tribute to Memorial Day…and more selfishly, to show just how windy the conditions were today!  Dennis asked Bob to bike about a dozen miles straight east into this wind at various times during the day to connect with roads heading north.  Bob didn’t complain at all; in fact he seemed quite cheerful to get out of that pesky sunshine and warm weather of Phoenix to enjoy this good northern climate.  Who doesn’t enjoy biking with temperatures in the 50’s with a nice steady rainfall and winds of 20 mph?  That sounds like a great way to spend a summer vacation to me.

The day began with overcast skies and rain falling in Portage.  Jay used some of our leftovers and gave us his version of a steak and potato hash with scrambled eggs; Bob wanted protein and that’s what we got.  We spent some time after breakfast rearranging the RV and trailer as the new team familiarized themselves with the set-up.  We were able to dump the RV and re-fill with fresh water right at our campsite (apparently that is what 50 bucks buys you on Memorial weekend!) so we were good to go.

Bob suggested that we make our way to the Marathon County Campground in Wausau, so he could walk to the nearby Starbucks for a wi-fi connection to complete some work.  Yes, he has done this with us before!  Consulting the weather maps and radar, which showed a huge storm system looming to the southwest moving our direction, we decided that we would drive north ahead of the rain and then bike further north to stay ahead of it.  Once again, the best laid plans did not work out as well in reality.

Stopping in Hancock near I39, we unloaded the bikes and discovered Bob’s bike had a flat.  No miles completed and he is already making repairs.  Jay and Bob made quick work of replacing the tube and getting the bike ready while Dennis planned the route.  This short delay was long enough, however, to allow the rain to catch us.  Or maybe there really were rain cells all around us, which seemed more likely.  Donning our rain gear we pedaled to the east in a steady, light rain, and we soon learned that the wind was blowing hard out of the east.  Doh!! We forgot to check the wind.  At least that is the story Dennis was telling Bob.

We mostly worked our way north, with periodic turns to the east as we moved around the east side of Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point.  We took nourishment breaks (carrot cake) in Almond and Amherst and headed to Rosholt for our next stop.  Having reached 51 miles at this point, Dennis and Bob decided to bypass the stop and instead rode a perfect 9-mile loop around Rosholt to finish the ride.

We loaded and drove to Wausau to camp for the night.  While cooking a simple dinner of brats, beans, spinach and carrots on the RV stove, Jay started a minor fire.  Luckily he was able to quickly extinguish it, or we might be looking for a new insurance company.  After dinner we walked to the nearby grocery store for provisions.  Bob had work to do in the morning, so he crashed early, but not before a root beer float nightcap.  Dennis and Jay were not far behind, the rain falling lightly with a mellow, sleep-inducing pitter-patter on the roof.

May 28, 2013, “Of Course I Know My Wife’s Birthday!”

Bob was up at 5:00 a.m. and off to Starbucks; however, the store was closed for construction.  Of course it was!  We lamented that this was very similar to bike trails, no indication on the website, so you don’t know until you actually get there that oh, by the way, we are closed.  After contemplating our options, Bob was able to make a connection at our campsite and begin working.  Jay whipped up some loaded omelets and managed to avoid any further fires.  Gas stovetops are great, except when you use them to store flammable items…kids, do not try this at home!

After breakfast Bob was still working but struggling with his gmail login.  He seemed exasperated as he muttered at the laptop things like, “What do you mean that’s incorrect?  Of course I know my wife’s birthday!” and “What is going on here?”  Jay and Dennis had very little interest in playing the role of IT support, because they really are not the A team when it comes to techie issues.  Eventually the problem was resolved, and we were able to move from camp.  Public service announcement related to Marathon County Campground: the bathroom/shower code is 1, 2, 5.  This very important information is not provided anywhere, and it is up to your own initiative to find out.  In our case, Bob remembered it from last year.  The numbers guy in our midst is very impressed!  Not bad for an attorney.

We drove a few miles to a safe departure point near Marathon City and started pedaling, primarily to the west.  While riding, Bob and Dennis were noticing very familiar landmarks and notable intersections.  We were on the exact route that we had taken a year ago.  This time, however, we bypassed a busy road into New Auburn and continued west on a flat, recently surfaced County A, aided by a light breeze from the east.  This road could have gone for 60 miles as far as we were concerned, but 5 miles later we turned north and then west again to meet Jay in Stetsonville.

Already 32 miles into our ride, we stopped for egg salad sandwiches and fruit and then continued west.  Immediately outside of town we cautiously rode through a 1-mile stretch of gravel due to an in-process resurfacing project.  The final 28 miles passed quickly without incident.  The day was dreary, overcast and 52 degrees when we started, but warmed to a balmy 55, still dreary and overcast, at the finish.  It had rained intermittently throughout the day, but our raingear kept us warm and mostly dry.  As of the end of today’s ride, Dennis had made up all of the missed miles from the shortened day and was now at 360 miles.  The integrity of the 900 miles must be maintained.

We drove to the O’Neil Creek Campground, a private spot outside of Chippewa Falls, so Dennis could wash his biking clothes.  The campground was very nice with flat pull-through sites, a peaceful setting, and a Wi-Fi connection for Bob.  They even had a bottle of Apothic Red in their camp store to go with our outstanding spaghetti dinner prepared by Jay with his home-grown, homemade sauce.  An hour later we ate a batch of bacon popped popcorn for dessert, made a few phone calls and went to bed.  These early mornings and all of this fresh air can certainly wear a guy out!

May 29, 2013, Sweet Redemption

The team has settled into a routine: Bob up and working by 5:00, Dennis and Jay up shortly thereafter, big breakfasts (today’s feature was big, fluffy pancakes), wrap things up in camp, get on the road by 10:00 or so, ride until around 3:30, find a campground, shower, eat a huge dinner, chat for a while until someone decides it’s time for a root beer float, and then start peeling off for bed, starting with Bob somewhere around 8:00. 

Today’s ride started straight out of O’Neil Campground north on a beautiful country road to New Auburn.  Editorial note: I know I mentioned New Auburn yesterday, but we were actually nowhere near it. All of these little towns are running together in my brain.  Plotting the route further ahead, Dennis saw the road with “the hill” that Bob had missed at the end of last year’s ride due to a flat tire.  Bob was game for the challenge and wanted redemption for the razzing he has received ever since.

We rode to Sand Creek, where Bob peeled off his long-sleeve t-shirt and threw it in the garbage.  The day was warming and he was ready to go with only a short-sleeve jersey.  Apparently he has had that t-shirt since the REO Speedwagon era, and his wife, Terri, will be happy to see it gone!  We continued to Dallas along a zigzag road with a least 2 dozen turns north and west, the redwing blackbirds keeping watch over us, lurking and chasing from a distance.  Yes, they are out here and biding their time, waiting for the opportune time to attack.  Also along the ride a friendly farm dog gave chase, running and barking happily until Bob started growling at him like a bear.  The poor mutt got scared and ran off with his tail between his legs.

At our final rest stop, Bob had one last chance to renege on the hill climb, but, sounding like Dennis in the Ozarks, he stated firmly, “Bring it on!”  That’s the spirit!  Riding north from Prairie Farm, we took a left on County Road D and started climbing.  Bob thought it wasn’t too bad, but quickly realized this was just the prelude.  Over the first hill and down to the creek bottom, we powered up the long climb to the finish.  Sweet redemption!  As Jay was loading the bikes, we heard a loud, long rumble of thunder and a couple of minutes later the rain came hard; we had luckily dodged a fast-moving thunderstorm.

After a short drive we pulled into the Turtle Lake RV Park, a barren patch of land with RV hook-ups.  Although it totally lacked in aesthetics, the RV park was actually very practical.  Jay grilled chicken with homemade barbecue sauce and also served asparagus, corn on the cob, beans and wilted spinach salad.  We should have been stuffed but still managed to eat our dessert.  Somehow, there’s always room for dessert!  Almost immediately, we went to bed, hoping for a continuation of today’s weather.

May 30, 2013, Storm Dodging

It stormed most of the night, wind blowing and rain pounding the RV.  The rain stopped, however, by the time we awoke.  Dare we actually wish for some sunshine?  Remembering one of the many lessons my mom taught me, wishing doesn’t make it so.  No sun again, but at least it wasn’t raining as we went through our morning tasks. 

The wind was blowing hard out of the south, and in a tribute to John, we drove about a dozen miles farther south from Turtle Lake to start riding northward.  Our first leg was nearly 20 miles to the northwest.  From there we continued straight north for 12 miles and saw Jay waiting for us at an intersection.  He told us that there was a tornado watch in our location and a severe storm just to the southwest of us moving mostly to the north.  Our plan was to ride to Indian Creek, and we made no changes other than Jay was going to stay nearby in case the weather turned bad. 

From here our route crisscrossed east and west while generally moving north for 10 miles.  At the end of this Jay pulled up the radar and showed us how we had thread a needle between 3 or 4 storm cells, totally unintentionally.  It seems some good fortune was on our side!  Riding into Indian Creek we took our second break of the day with only 12 miles to go.

Continuing east for 5 miles with hard-blowing crosswinds, we finally turned north for our finish.  We rode some nice hills during the day, but this final stretch had some long climbs to get our hearts pumping.  Along the way we saw a huge sign on the side of the barn that said, “Work til You Drop Farm”!  There’s a great advertisement for hired help, and yet another reason why we chose to be accountants and attorneys!

We loaded our bikes before 3:00 and drove a few miles to Spooner.  Jay and Bob went into the grocery store while Dennis looked online for a location to refill our RV propane, which was getting very low.  Many websites are truly useless and give no information at all.  Dennis resorted to making phone calls, but still had no options when Jay and Bob got back with groceries.  Jay jumped in the RV, looked in his rearview mirror and asked why we wouldn’t just go get propane at the tank 50 feet behind us at the Holiday Station.  Seriously!

We headed to Jay’s family cabin for the weekend, stopping at a tavern for fresh bacon (honest).  Only Jay would do this, but we know it will be worth it.  At the cabin we parked the RV, and Jay grilled burgers and veggies and made a salad.  We tried finishing all of it, knowing that what we don’t eat tonight will show up tomorrow in some leftover form; he is very resourceful in not wasting any food.  Before 9:00 Kathy and Jimmy arrived at the cabin.  They had seen John before they left Minneapolis and said he is doing great, and had even mowed his front lawn earlier in the day.  Something tells us he will be back on his bike in no time.

May 31, 2013, Rib Night!!

We awoke this morning to bright sunshine!  The wind was still blowing 20 – 25 mph out of the southeast, so after our breakfast of French toast, eggs and yes, thick slice Vanderhyde’s bacon, we rode north from the cabin.  The RV and trailer are parked for the weekend, so we loaded a cooler in the Avalanche; Jimmy took over support driver duties while Jay stayed back at the cabin to get some work done, and more importantly to us, to start smoking ribs for dinner tonight!

We stopped along our first leg to chat for a while, Bob mentioning some things which could be diary material.  Kathy protested, “My mom reads the diary!” which only encouraged Bob and Dennis more.  The morning was warming as we continued, and by the time we rode west into Spooner, Kathy was looking slightly overheated.  Considering that she was wearing 3 layers of clothing on a humid 75 degree morning, it wasn’t particularly surprising.  After eating some snacks at a small park in Spooner she was looking better.  Next we turned straight north toward Highway 77, sending Jimmy ahead to stake out a spot.  Oh boy, did he ever stake out a spot!  We found him on an approach 15 miles ahead “resting his eyes” in his words.

He actually looked quite comfortable, but we did need some level of support today.  After startling him awake, we pedaled ahead toward Minong where he stopped along the road to pick us up and haul us back to Spooner to do the same run again.  The road was perfect and wind conditions were favorable, so we were going to ride it one more time.  The sun had been shining the entire day up to that point, so we were shocked to see large black clouds to the south of us.  On our drive back to Spooner we hit the first storm, hail the size of quarters pounding the Avalanche. 

We drove through the heavy downpour, and the sun was shining by the time we got back to Spooner.  Severe storms were all around us according to our radar.  Despite this, Jimmy was still trying to drop us off in Spooner.  A decision had already been made to head back to the cabin and watch the storms; Bob, Kathy and Dennis were unanimous on this point.  The storms were extending in all directions, and from the dock and the pontoon we viewed storm fronts, a wall cloud, and clouds moving rapidly around us.  Although very happy with our decision to shorten the day’s ride, we also realized this was the first ever time to do so in the 8 year history of the CEM900.  More storms passed through during the evening and night.

Our rib dinner was fantastic!  We devoured rib after rib, although Kathy was scolding Bob for not eating all of the meat off the bone…her kids can totally relate.  Duly chastised he tried to do better, while the rest of us showed her our picked clean rib bones before being allowed to take another.  After cleaning up we used the rest of our ice cream on root beer floats and grasshoppers.  It was already 9:00, well past Bob’s bedtime, so we called it a night.

June 1, 2013, Here Comes the Rain Again

After some morning coffee the team went out for a quick ride to cover yesterday’s missed miles; Bob was adamant about getting his 300 miles.  He was also adamant about having one more meal prepared by Jay before leaving, a breakfast of omelets and pancakes.  Bob packed his gear, and he and Jimmy took off to visit John and Sherry for the day.  Congratulations to Bob on finishing his leg of the ride; he will surely be missed!

Another first for us today: one of our support drivers went along for a ride.  The morning had started completely sunny, but had quickly become overcast.  Now as Jay, Kathy and Dennis left the cabin for today’s ride, there was an ominous dark cloud in the western sky.  Kathy has a healthy respect for or fear of thunderstorms, courtesy of her mother, and she was immediately ready to turn back.  Jay was telling us of all the places along the lake where we could stop if we got caught out in a storm.  What he didn’t understand is that there would be no getting caught out in anything, if Kathy had any say in the matter.  Earth to Jay, we are not riding any further right now!

Back at the cabin we watched the rain move through very slowly.  This was looking to be an all-day type of light rain, so we decided to go get more miles.  We immediately split up while riding to the north end of Long Lake, Dennis taking off for an extended trip to get his 60 miles.  There was an eerie calmness to the air, nary a breeze blowing…hopefully not the calm before the storm.  It was misting but not raining, and the ride was scenic for his 20 plus miles to Stone Lake.  Upon turning back toward the west, however, it was certain to be a very wet trip back. 

The skies opened up and a heavy downpour ensued for the entire 21 mile ride back to the cabin.  It was a miserable ride.  Luckily there was almost no traffic – who else would want to be out in this crap?  Stopping to check the radar, Dennis realized that he could either ride through it or wait for a couple hours for the worst to pass.  Seeing no lightning and hearing no thunder, he decided to ride on.  Meanwhile, Kathy and Jay were comfortably dry at the cabin.  Dennis finally rolled in by late afternoon drenched head to toe, 72 miles for the day and on schedule with more than 600 for the ride!

Jay’s wife Darcy made the drive to the cabin, and the four of us had steaks and baked potatoes for dinner and chatted for the rest of the night.  We went to bed looking forward to a much-needed day off.



John is writing today’s Road Diary entry so that Dennis and crew can have a day off……off the road and off the keyboard. 

Jimmy and Bob spent Saturday evening at John and Sherry’s.  Not to say that we kept up with Jay on the grill, but the group didn’t have any problem finishing off four big rib eye steaks, yams, sweet corn, salad and both strawberry and key lime pie (we all opted for a piece of each).  The day was topped off with a great Minnesota Twins 10-0 rout of the Seattle Mariners.

On Sunday, Jimmy picked up Nate Cline and headed back to Wisconsin to join Dennis for the final 300 miles of riding.  This is Nate’s first year on the CEM 900 and we wish him the best.  Nate is trying to prove that minimal training can equate to maximum performance.  Hmmm….go easy on him, Dennis!

John delivered Bob to the airport for his trip home to Arizona.  Despite, rain, wind, hail, hills…..and more rain, Bob found a way to make the 300 mile run an adventure.  His next task is to trek up the Grand Canyon this summer.

A brief update on John’s medical condition:  I met with Dr. Buss, orthopedic surgeon (also heads up orthopedic work for the Minnesota Twins), and he feels I can be treated with physical therapy and only a slight chance of surgery.  I am gaining range of motion with my right arm each day.

I owe a great thanks to Dennis Hill for jumping to action after finding me face down on the pavement; along with Dave Goodermont and a passing Good Samaritan, I was in good hands until the medical team arrived.  They had my back all the way.

 I also want to thank the very caring doctors and nurses at the hospitals in Columbus and Madison.

Please be assured that I am recovering from the accident--one that I have absolutely no recollection of-- and that I will be back on the CEM 900 next year.  Dennis Danielson had to miss the entire ride this year due to emergency surgery a week before our starting date, and he too reports that he is mending and will be back on the ride next year.

Despite the obstacles and challenges of this year’s ride, which included a potentially disabled motorhome following contact with a tree, a downed rider, as well as rain, wind and hail, the ride continued each day.   Each rider and support driver arrived on schedule and took their turns on the ride; missed miles were quickly made up. 

With just 300 miles to go, I am confident that Dennis, Nate and Jimmy will roll in this Friday with another (quite memorable) CEM 900 complete—and perhaps a few more adventures to share.

I am very pleased to report that support for the ride topped $30,000 today.  We all thank those who have so generously supported the CEM 900—and ultimately Kids N’ Kinship.  And a special “thank you” to Merchants Bank for their generous support as our title sponsor for each of the ride’s eight year history.

We look forward to seeing all who can attend the welcome home celebration at Merchants Bank on Saturday. 

June 3, 2013, “I’ve Never Been So Glad…”

We spent one last night in the cabin, although now joined by Nate and Jimmy for the final leg of the 2013 ride.  Jay once again fed us a big breakfast of pancakes and bacon before sending us off down the road…or at least trying to send us off.  First Nate broke the stem of his tube while pumping air, so Jay helped him replace the tube while Jimmy watched, or supervised, according to Jimmy.  Since there are only three of us for the remainder of the ride, we disconnected the trailer, moved everything we needed to the RV and attached a bike rack to the back of the RV.

Nate took off for Birchwood, Dennis not far behind, while Jimmy drove back to Vanderhyde’s for more bacon.  It was a pleasant 14 mile ride with only a slight breeze and bright sunshine.  After a quick stop we pedaled on through a forested area southeast to Bruce nearly 30 miles away, an area with no towns in between.  Arriving at Bruce, Nate exclaimed, “I’ve never been so glad to see a water tower in my life!”  Less than 10 minutes later, however, he was filling water and asking for the next route so he could get another head start.  The young guys really do have a much quicker recovery time; not sure he can ride quite as long, though.

We were headed toward Cornell and the Brunet Island State Park; Jimmy was trying to convince us that it was about 15 miles away, coincidentally just what we needed to finish.  His fancy measurement gauge was the distance between his extended pointer and pinky fingers, which supposedly equals 5 miles on the map.  He claims it’s an “Elder thing”, but we weren’t sure if he was referring to his age or his name. Regardless, Nate wasn’t buying any of this and checked the map on his phone, learning the true distance was 29 miles.  We took off and met Jimmy at an intersection of county roads at our 62 mile mark.

Nate was starting to look gassed, but Dennis convinced him that we should keep riding the last 10 miles to get a few miles in the bank, since it was such a beautiful day.  Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days, so Dennis said we could offset some miles if we wanted, as long as we get our 5-day total.  Nate naively believed him; Dennis has zero intention of riding short on any future day.  Gotta love having these new guys on the ride!

We arrived in Cornell in mid-afternoon with 72 miles down.  Jimmy had already checked us into the State Park campground, and we loaded our bikes and found a grocery store.  Back at camp we relaxed and then Jimmy cooked burgers and beans for dinner.  We watched an old movie, “Dog Day Afternoon” with Al Pacino, and finished off the night with root beer floats. 

June 4, 2013, Another 74!

The Welcome Home Reception for the 2013 CEM900 team is scheduled for this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Merchants Bank in Apple Valley.  It’s a great opportunity for us to thank our supporters and to relive some of the trip’s highlights.  We really hope you can make it!

Another overcast morning greeted us as we awoke, but at least it wasn’t raining.  Jimmy fed us French toast, eggs and bacon while we completed our morning tasks.  Nate has not been sleeping particularly well and has made a point that at least he’s sleeping later than Bob Porter, which is somewhere around 5:30.  This also means he’s antsy to ride by 8:30, so today we let him take off while we finished at the campground.

We had decided to take the Old Abe Trail from Cornell to the outskirts of Chippewa Falls upon the recommendation of some other camp guests, who made a point that the northern end had been recently repaved.  What a great recommendation it was!  The trail was in pristine condition and very scenic as it ran along the Chippewa River, probably the best trail we’ve ridden since Iowa.

After 20 miles we took a turn off the trail and met Jimmy along a county road near Tilden.  We plotted our next leg to Colfax, during which we came to our first road closure of 2013.  Following the detour added a few more miles than we had planned, and we were already at 49 at our second stop, just after noon.  We did a search for campgrounds and located one near Chetek that we could bike right into, although it was 24 miles away.  Dennis tried the “banking miles” line, but Nate would not put any more into the mystery bank as he called it. 

We reached Sand Creek at the 62 mile mark.  Nate was feeling pressure to continue riding, and ultimately, he decided that it was fate to continue on, since it was one mile more than his record ride from a day earlier.  At the stop Dennis asked Jimmy if it looked like rain to which Jimmy replied that it looked clear.  That’s all Dennis needed to hear to put his raincoat on for the finish!  It was cloudy and misting off and on all day, and Dennis kept switching in and out of his rain gear.  Nate, on the other hand, just continued riding in his t-shirt, rain or shine, warm or cold.

Shortly after passing through Sand Creek for the final 12 miles, Dennis noticed his rear tire was deflating ever so slowly as he rode.  Rather than stopping to change it, he rode on until he was within a couple of miles of the campground, where he opted to refill it with a CO2 cartridge.  This did the trick for the short term, so he could fix it back at camp.  After making his final turn, Nate was checking directions while pedaling slowly when, in an instant, a vicious Rottweiler was trying to take a pound of his flesh.  The dog got within a foot before Nate was able to summon the energy to accelerate away from it.  We were questioning our decision to ride this last stretch, but hey, another 74 miles down!

We feasted on grilled steaks, baked potatoes and corn on the cob for dinner.  Afterwards, we connected our TV to Netflix and streamed “For the Love of the Game”.  None of us was ambitious enough to make dessert tonight, and we were sleeping before 10:00 again.

June 5, 2013, It’s For the Kids, It’s For the Kids…

Some days are just harder than others.  Today was one of those days, at least for Dennis.  There really is no logical explanation, but maybe it was more mental than physical, with no end to the dreariness in sight.  The rain fell most of the night and continued lightly while Jimmy cooked breakfast and Dennis and Nate changed the flat tire from yesterday’s ride and adjusted the brakes on Nate’s bike.  It may have been a pleasant campground, but we didn’t see much from inside the RV, although Nate went for a swim in the kiddie pool.  Sorry, no pictures of that!

A check of the weather radar revealed no viable option for staying dry, so we chose not to delay the inevitable, once again riding our bikes straight out of the campground.  As we pedaled through the town of Chetek and out to the west, the rain poured down for a solid 15 minutes.  Dennis was wearing rain gear, which covers everything but hands and feet; Nate, however, was in his usual t-shirt and shorts and was wet from head to toe.  Regardless, riding with cold, wet feet all day long does not make for happiness.

Nate has settled into a routine of getting a head start on each leg, telling Dennis, “See you at the first big hill”.  He may downplay his own riding, but Nate is doing great, even with the minimal training.  And rest assured everyone, Nate says his butt is doing fine; it seems to be the one question he is asked every time he gets a phone call.

We rode west to Prairie Farm for our first stop and then headed into the wind for 14 miles to the southeast before turning west again to Downing for our second stop, having reached 51 miles.  It had not rained for a while, but our feet were still soaked, so we both changed into dry socks.  Nate’s knee was bothering him.  Dennis’ whole psyche was bothering him, many times playing over and over in his mind, “it’s for the kids, it’s for the kids” to stay motivated.  Despite this, Nate plotted a route along a “rustic” road on our map.  Dennis warned him that rustic usually means hills and that we would be biking into the wind again.  Nate questioned if Dennis wanted to avoid the wind and hills.  Nope, just trying to look out for you, big fella.

A couple of miles south of Downing we hit the hill of the ride, Mount Kilimanjaro in Nate’s lingo, seemingly straight up.  About half-way up the hill, Nate muttered “Whose idea was this anyway?”  Yours, I do believe!  We rode the rest of the way to Hammond without incident and finished with 73 miles again.  For the first time with this team we loaded our bikes and drove to a campground, Willow River State Park outside of Hudson.  We are getting very close to home, less than 70 miles to go to hit 900!!

Since it was raining (shocker!), we chose to have dinner inside, leftover ribs from Jay’s cabin, along with corn on the cob and cottage cheese (yuck).  After cleaning up we settled in for popcorn and a movie, American Graffiti, Jimmy’s selection.  We finished the night again with root beer floats and were sleeping before 10:00, hoping for a dry day tomorrow.

June 6, 2013, The Long Ride Home

Any hopes for a nice, bright morning filled with sunshine were quickly dashed as we awoke again around 5:30.  Not only was the sun not shining, but contrary to weather forecasts, it was actually raining lightly again.  Jimmy said he wasn’t going to go outside to cook in the rain again, so he offered to find a restaurant and buy breakfast.  We declined the offer, thank you very much, but requested instead more bacon, eggs and French toast.  Jimmy cooked on the RV stovetop, and after a prolonged battle with the smoke detector, we enjoyed our final breakfast on the road.

We rode out of the state park to the north and west toward Stillwater.  Nate was hoping for minimal hills today, but there really is no way to get through Stillwater without riding some hills.  As we neared Stillwater we waited about 5 minutes for traffic to clear before we bombed down the hill and across the famous lift bridge.  We weaved our way out of town, looking for the least intimidating hills and opting instead for more gradual climbs.  Four miles north we finally hooked up with the Gateway Trail back toward St. Paul.

The ride on the trail was very pleasant, and we chatted as we rode along, at one point hatching a plan for Jimmy to make a batch of his chili for our second stop…we’ll just have to play our cards right.  We were meeting Jimmy at Northdale Park near the trail, but the trail exits were not marked at all and we rode off and back on the trail 4 times before we found the right route.  Even then things were not as they seemed as we meandered around a couple of miles before finding the RV right where it was supposed to be.  At the stop we asked Jimmy about 5 times if he would make chili for lunch before he believed we were serious and agreed to do it. 

Back on the trail, we eventually turned south on the Bruce Vento Trail past Lake Phalen and toward downtown St. Paul.  We pedaled easily down a gradually descending path, near the end of which Dennis told Nate that there would be a payback for this.  We started a steep climb up toward Indian Mounds where Dennis waited for Nate at a park bench.  Moments later we hit another steep hill up to the top, Nate stating flatly, “See you at the park bench.”  I think he is about done with uphill riding.

Continuing on we rode along the river through St. Paul, Mendota and Eagan, before finally crossing into Bloomington on the path next to 494.  Jimmy was waiting for us with chili, and we ate heartily, having ridden 55 miles.  John and Justin joined us at this stop, and we exchanged stories before taking off on our bikes across Bloomington and to our homes.  Jimmy drove the RV to John’s house, and Nate and Dennis finished the day with less than 20 miles to reach 300 and 900 miles, respectively.  Life is good; it’s great to be home!!

June 7, 2013, A Ride in the Park

Dennis biked to Nate’s house in the late morning for a finishing ride through Bloomington.  Upon his arrival Nate was excited to show off his brand new Gary Fisher jersey and bike shorts.  He was concerned that the outfit made him look fat, but Dennis reassured him that the outfit was perfect!  Stepping outside we admired the big yellow glowing orb in the sky, before it once again dipped behind the clouds.

Nate had described his training rides earlier in the week, rides along Old Shakopee Road and on 84th Street among others, so Dennis was determined to show him that there were safe, scenic routes in Bloomington.  We rode along Nine Mile  Creek Parkway, past Normandale Lake, on a bike path between East and West Bush Lake Roads, up a long winding secluded road and ultimately into Hyland Park.  Nate said he might have actually trained a little more if he had known about some of these roads and paths, which are much more pleasant than the busy roads he had been riding.

After surpassing our remaining goal of 20 miles, we rode to Joe Senser’s for a celebratory lunch on the patio.  It had to be nearly 60 degrees, but we were the only ones sitting outside enjoying the day.  It was actually quite nice compared to most of our days along the ride.  Not once on this 900 mile trek did I sit outside and compose the daily diary.  Several days we didn’t bother to get the grill out in the rain, but rather cooked inside.  We rarely ate outside at our picnic tables.  And I have an unopened bottle of sunblock…maybe I can return it to Target?  Despite this, and other challenges during the ride, we once again endured and completed our goal!!

Tasks were awaiting us at home, so we went our separate ways with a great feeling of accomplishment.  Hopefully Nate will join us again next year.

We hope to see many of you at tomorrow’s Welcome Home Celebration.