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2015 Road Diary

May 27, 2015, Preparations Complete

We have made our start to the 10th annual CEM900 with lots of promise, several rookie riders and a seasoned chef.  Things sure have changed in the past 10 years!  Jim, Jack, Kathy, Dennis, Bob and Jay convened at John’s house to load our gear and get set for the first 300K, Bob once again making the trip to join us all the way from Phoenix.  We have added a rented trailer “bunkhouse” to accommodate the increased participation, but we are short one driver for the first leg.  There seem to be a lot more moving parts this year, so the logistics could get very interesting; somehow we always manage, however, and we expect nothing less in 2015.

We drove from Bloomington to LeRoy, MN and pulled into the Lake Louise State Park, which has a small but scenic campground with only a couple of sites large enough to handle our setup.  After parking the rigs, Jay declared it Fiesta Night and put together a taco bar for us.  A lively conversation ensued, and the verbal sparring has begun, as have tall tales from various childhoods.  Certain tales are taller than others…

Our friends and supporters have begun questioning how we are managing to ride this year’s CEM900 in 9 days rather than the usual 16.  It began, as best as I can recall, with an innocent statement by John on last year’s ride questioning why he didn’t call this the CEM500.  Would people think anything less of our accomplishment?  The adventure is great, but 16 days on the road gets long for anyone, especially considering the crammed quarters and, let’s just say, diverse personalities.  Plus we had some perceived interest in shorter stints, possibly 3 days rather than 5, especially from younger riders with families and limited vacation time available.  In one fell swoop, we changed “m” as in miles to “km” as in kilometers and accomplished everything we wanted without changing the name and integrity of the ride.  I really love the metric system!

We topped off the evening with very fresh rhubarb pie courtesy of Sherry.  It tasted great as always.  The new guys are feeling spoiled already!  Tomorrow we begin pedaling, unsure of the unexpected turns of events in our very near future.

May 28, We are Shooting Stars

We started the morning off with biscuits and gravy, and then got our bikes ready for the day’s ride.  The Shooting Star Trail runs right through our campground and almost 20 miles to the west, so our plan was to leave Jay and the RV at base camp while we did a couple of trips back and forth on the trail.  The trail is extremely flat, which made the riding very easy.  In fact, the first town we approached, Taopi, bills itself as the “heart of the prairie”.  The trail is also mostly unsheltered, running near the fields and along the highway, and the large commercial windmills were spinning in the already increasing winds.  Luckily for us the wind was blowing hard from the south, giving us a crosswind as we rode back and forth along the east-west trail.

We pedaled through Taopi and then Adams and to the trail’s end in Rose Creek before making our return trip to Lake Louise State Park for a lunch of watermelon and Sherry’s yummy bowtie pasta salad.  Our ride was well over half way completed as we headed back out on the trail, this time turning around at Adams.  The final ride back to camp was even more windy, but all of the riders pushed their way to the end.  There were various wildlife spottings along the way: sand hill cranes, indigo buntings, a bald eagle, and the ever ominous redwing blackbirds (thankfully there were no attacks).

With no wi-fi to be found, Bob pedaled into LeRoy with a briefcase strapped around his neck so he could get some work done.  We didn’t think this was the safest setup, but off he went anyway.  The rest of us showered and waited patiently for Jay to finish grilling our rib dinner.  After our long ride, the ribs tasted amazing!  Our ever-present camp host Gerald with a “guh” (hard g sound) showed up at our table just as we started eating, a trend we have been noticing.  He turned down an offer of food, but stuck around to converse anyway.  We plowed our way through the ribs, Kathy in charge of inspections to make sure that everyone had eaten all of the meat off the bones.

After dinner we built a campfire while Jay and Kathy made blueberry cobbler in Jay’s cast iron Dutch oven.  Gerald with a “guh” showed up again just as we were serving dessert.  His timing is impeccable.  Despite this, he has been very friendly and helpful, even recommending a campground near Lanesboro for our Friday night stay.  We meet all kinds of characters on the CEM.

The fire burned out, and we packed everything up in anticipation of some overnight rain.  Most of us made it to 10:00 before turning in for the night, tired from an active first day. 

May 29, Barricade? What Barricade?

Our plans for an early start did not exactly come off without a hitch, mostly because we slept in past 7:00, even the early risers.  We must have worn ourselves out yesterday…or we were still in a rib-induced food coma!  By the time we got through our scrambled eggs, bacon and fried potatoes breakfast and finished our morning tasks, it was already pushing 10:00.  On our drive to Harmony, Jay in the lead vehicle decided that a closed road was no match for our rigs as he drove around first one and then a second barricade.  In fairness, the sign said “road closed to thru traffic”, and we didn’t actually go all the way thru.  Instead we turned on a gravel road, Jim providing detour navigation with his GPS.  A second turn on a narrower gravel road led John and Dennis to a “we’ve been down this road before” eerie feeling that next would come a dirt road and then a closed bridge.  However, this worry was for naught as we came to a highway that took us into Harmony.

Jay dropped most of the riders at the trailhead of the Harmony-Preston trail while Dennis drove the truck and trailer to Lanesboro, close to our ending destination.  While John, Bob, Kathy, Jim and Jack biked down toward Lanesboro, Dennis biked back to meet them near Preston.  We all continued down the trail and ultimately turned onto the Root River Trail, riding to Whalan for our lunch stop.  We had learned only a couple of days earlier that the trail was to be closed between Whalan and Peterson, so we had originally planned to load the bikes and drive to Peterson before riding on.  However, while we rested, 3 bikers rode through the stop and asked if the trail was closed.  We had seen no “trail closed” signs, so they decided to go check it out.

They didn’t return, so we decided to risk it and send Jay ahead to Rushford.  Barely a mile into the ride we came to a barricade, so we turned back to Whalan.  Jay had already departed, and our cell service was very spotty, so we bombarded him with text messages and voice mails.  A few minutes later Jay called from Peterson, where he chatted with the 3 bikers, who said they just walked their bikes around the barricade.  If they could do it, so could we, never mind these pesky rules!  We actually had to go around a few barricades as repair work had begun on the 5 bridges between the 2 towns.

As we reached Rushford, small storm cells were starting to pop up around us.  Following Kathy’s lead we decided to do an up and back to stay reasonably close to the RV in case of bad weather.  Luckily the rains that came were short-lived and with no lightning to be seen, but we all got at least a little bit wet and a couple of us were completely soaked.

After the ride we headed to Eagle Cliff Campground outside of Lanesboro, following the recommendation of Gerald with a “guh”.  We arrived right in the middle of the 2015 Egg Festival, dedicated to the small egg-shaped Scampi campers.  The grounds were littered with these eggs, and for once our RV literally looked like a mother ship.  After setting up camp, we made a quarter mile trek in the rain to the showers only to learn that these were pay showers.  Bob coerced some quarters from the office manager, presumably without threatening legal action, so we avoided the long walk back to the campsite.  On the bright side, the camp was providing live entertainment, geriatric folk singers performing endless classics like “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” to a near capacity crowd.  We skipped this in favor of a spaghetti dinner provided by Chef Jay with his capable assistant Jim.  We enjoyed another excellent dinner and followed it up with our first root beer floats of the trip.  Fully satisfied and very tired, we trudged off to bed hoping for a dry day tomorrow.

May 30 A Chilly Ride

The rain continued most of the night, but seemed to be finished by the time we awoke in the morning.  For that we were thankful; however, the day was overcast, cold and very windy.  Jay was up early making sausage and egg McMuffins while the rest of us went through daily preparations.  On our way out of the campground, John stopped at the office so he could settle our bill, $1.00 to pay for 4 showers that lasted exactly 4 minutes each. 

We debated our route options and ultimately reached a consensus to move the trailer to Rushford before driving to Harmony for the start of the ride.  The decision was based entirely on the desire to ride downhill from Harmony, even though it was essentially a repeat of our Day 2 ride.  At the trailhead we discovered our first flat of the ride, Bob’s rear tire.  Bob and Jim made quick work of the tire change, claiming to change it without removing the tire from the bike.  Whatever…

Everyone dressed in layers to stay warm on the ride, beginning with the first 27 miles to Whalan.  We met Jay for a lunch of leftovers, and then we finally broke into the oatmeal cookies sent by Marlys Nelson, the wife of former support driver Gary Nelson.  Marlys sent the cookies with explicit instructions that we share the cookies with Kathy this year.  Apparently Kathy had told Marlys that she didn’t even know we had cookies on last year’s ride.  Hey, this is a free-for-all with a bunch of guys, so she really needs to fend for herself.  We may or may not have shared the cookies with Kathy today…

This time we knew we could walk around the barricades on our way out of Whalan so off we went toward Rushford.  Along the way, Jack and Dennis came to a downed tree across the trail.  While discussing whether to move it, Jack reasoned “It’s a whole tree!” and “It’s so easy to step over.”  On they went without moving the tree.  When John and Jim got to the same spot, they jumped off their bikes and pulled the tree off the path.  Must be Boy Scouts!

After a quick stop in Rushford, we continued to the east toward the end of the trail in Houston.  About 7 miles down the trail we made a long climb up a steep hill.  The hill immediately descended on the other side, so John stopped at the top to assess the situation.  He tried to convince the rest of the riders to turn around, so we wouldn’t have to ride up the hill again from the other side.  He suggested riding back to Rushford, past the RV and out the other direction to get the necessary miles to finish our day.  Bob said that the next time he saw the RV he was getting in it and he had no intention of riding past it.  That was enough logic for everyone else, although John was the last one to be convinced (very grudgingly).  

We finished the ride, loaded our bikes, and headed back to Bloomington for our changeover to the second leg.  We pulled into John and Sherry’s driveway at 8:00, and Jay cooked burgers, brats and venison burgers for the entire team plus Jim’s wife, Jean.  We now have leftovers for the next 3 days.  We had a great time and laughed a ton, relating various stories about the ride and many other things.  We went our separate ways for the night, although Jay and Jack retired to their homes away from home in the RV parked in the street.

May 31, Northward Bound

We reconvened at John and Sherry’s house at 6:30 a.m. to begin the 2nd 300km.  Bob, Kathy and Jim have completed their 300km rides in outstanding fashion, and now Larry has joined us, as well as Doug providing junior support driver duties.  The morning was bright and sunny in Bloomington, but it was overcast and 50 degrees by the time we arrived in Brainerd to start the ride at 11:00.

Before we headed north on the Paul Bunyan Trail, we paused for a quick lunch of leftovers (we have plenty from last night).  We pedaled the first 22 miles from Brainerd to Pequot Lakes, an enjoyable, scenic ride on the tree-lined trail.  We rode the next 26 miles to Hackensack, a rougher and less interesting section of the trail.  Jack thinks someone should invent a reliable material substance to effectively fill the cracks in the asphalt.  Good luck with that…we’ll just have to endure. 

Jay and Doug were waiting for us in Hackensack.  I’m not sure how we are going to like this 2-driver setup.  Our drivers were up to some shenanigans, taking pictures of Dairy Queen malts along with the “leg 1” DQ gift card given to us by Kids ‘n Kinship.  Then they texted the pictures to Kathy, who once again this year did not benefit from a DQ stop.  Kathy replied good-naturedly (we believe), questioning who had put them up to this: John or Dennis or John and Dennis.  Jay and Doug contemplated throwing John under the bus, but were too proud of their accomplishment to let someone else take credit.

Continuing north toward the Chippewa National Forest, the trail was in excellent, smooth condition.  Our final stretch of the day was on a hilly, winding trail to the connector with the Heartland Trail just outside of Akeley.  Before we even started riding, Larry said this was his favorite part of the trail. We all really enjoyed this section of the trail, Jack remarking that this may have been his all-time favorite ride ever!  We stopped for a couple of photos near the trail end and then loaded the bikes and drove to the Akeley City Campground, nestled along Crow Wing Lake.  Our drivers hit a home run with this campground, our sites parallel to the lakefront, barely 20 feet from shore.  The clouds had cleared, and the sun was reflecting brightly over the lake.  What an idyllic setting!!

Jay prepared for us bacon-wrapped cherry pepper poppers as a teaser and steak and veggie kabobs with asparagus and fried potatoes for dinner.  We devoured almost everything.  We had a late start and a late finish today, so we moved right to root beer floats after the clean-up was completed.  It was already after 10:00, and one by one we all went to find our beds for some well-deserved rest.

June 1,  A Bluebird, Loons and a Big Black Bear

We have settled into a routine, one that involves very little productive activity before 8:00 a.m., other than Jay cooking breakfast.  This morning we started with French toast on the grill, and although we had very little else to do, it was after 10:00 before we set our bikes on the trail at our campsite.  Perhaps it was the chill in the air keeping us from moving too fast.  Doug was questioning our lack of activity, but he just needs to understand that this is how it is on the CEM.

We loved our campsite so much that we decided to stay here another night.  We rode from Akeley to the trailhead of the Heartland Trail in Park Rapids and then reversed the trip back to our campground, covering 36 miles in the process.  The trail is very nice and scenic, and we had plenty of opportunities for photo ops along the route.  We also encountered thousands of dragonflies hovering on the trail, many of them flying out of the way as we rode through, but others dive-bombing us like kamikaze planes crashing into aircraft carriers.  Thankfully, none of us got a mouthful; however, John did have one get stuck in his helmet.

John chose to ride out toward Park Rapids again for his final 26 miles, while Larry, Dennis and Jack rode east from camp and connected with the Paul Bunyan Trail.  This route led back through the beautiful hilly area from a day earlier.  Riding around a curve Dennis spotted a black bear crossing the trail about 20 yards in front of him.  The bear heard Dennis, looked in his direction, and scampered into the trees.  That was a very desirable outcome of this particular encounter!  The woods are thick here, and the wildlife abundant.  We have seen numerous deer, but also various birds, including a bluebird and an oriole on the trail, and herons, loons and a bald eagle on our lake.  But never did we expect a black bear spotting, the first ever on the CEM. 

Once we reached our turn-around points, we biked back to camp, where Jay and Doug had spent the day.  Jay worked all day in an attempt to keep his clients (and our accounting staff) happy.  Doug tried his best to relax after taking a long hike on the trail, but he seemed quite happy for the company as the riders returned.  The bean bags came out, but Doug couldn’t play until his assistant sous chef duties were completed for Jay. 

Jay made a couple of beer can chickens on the Weber while we relaxed.  The chicken was excellent!  Immediately after we finished eating, Jay brought over another Dutch oven cobbler, this time an apple cobbler, which we topped with ice cream.  The diets aren’t starting yet!  We debated watching a movie, but weren’t sure if we could stay awake for it.  Instead we played some rousing games of bean bags, Larry and Jay getting quite competitive as the night went on.  At dusk Doug quickly built a campfire before Jay could show him how to do it better.  There was very little conversation around the fire, so we didn’t stay out long before retiring for the night.

June 2, Kids, Pay Attention in Math Class!

Note to self:  do not leave a bag of open garbage outside the trailer doors!  That is unless a 5:00 a.m. alarm clock of crows cawing is the desired outcome.  John slept right through it, but Dennis was wide awake.  At least the diary was completed early, which was helpful, since we were shooting for an earlier start today.  Jay tossed together a full breakfast meal, and we fully enjoyed the food and the morning setting along the lake.  The lake was completely calm, not a hint of a ripple, but John reminded us that yesterday started like this before the winds kicked up by mid-morning.

We rode straight out of our campsite again, this time through Walker on the Heartland Trail and on to Laporte on the Paul Bunyan Trail.  As John had foreshadowed, the winds were picking up, but we were pleased that they were southerly winds as we rode primarily northward.  In all honesty, these trails are very sheltered, and the winds are marginally noticeable, another advantage of trail routing on the CEM.

In Laporte, 22 miles into the ride, we lunched (how can anyone be hungry already after our big breakfast??).  Then we continued 11 miles to Nary, which consists of a cemetery and an outhouse, unless we missed something.  Oh, and “Francisco” has an unsecured Wi-fi connection, which Doug and Jay fully appreciated as they streamed KFAN and music on their I-phones.

Before leaving Nary, Jack needed assistance with a particularly vexing math word problem (If Jack has ridden 33 miles and intends to ride 62 miles, how far does he need to ride before coming back to his current location?).  Kids, please pay attention in your math classes, because you will need to use it in the future!  We pedaled on through Bemidji, along Lake Bemidji and to the end of the trail near Lake Bemidji State Park.  Voila…14.5 miles!  Or maybe a little more – for that mystery bank of miles that takes deposits but no withdrawals. 

We turned back toward the wind, but even though it was blowing strong, the ride was not too difficult.  Gotta love the trees in northern Minnesota!  We finished the ride and loaded the bikes by mid-afternoon and then drove to a campground north of Grand Rapids.  Jay tried putting his shoes on, but somehow one of them was filled with peanut shells.  John had a sheepish, guilty grin on his face, one that his mother must have hated.

After a quick dinner of brats and beans, Doug and Larry left for home.  Doug got a couple of parting shots in before he drove off, but we will still miss him…sort of.  Thanks to Larry for riding with us again.  We’ve had an entertaining few days.  The remaining crew settled in for our first movie, Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan starring as Bond…James Bond.  Near the end of the movie Justin, John, Kyle and Matt showed up.  John was mostly concerned with the rhubarb pie that Sherry had sent with the boys.  Pie and ice cream was on the agenda, and John was about ready for sleep.  We talked a bit and ate our dessert before calling it a night, the new crew settling into the bunkhouse trailer.

June 3, Pulled Pork, Pork Ribs and “Porky’s”

The rain poured hard at times during the night, or it sure sounded like it from the top bunks of our trailers.  There was hope for us in the morning, however, as the overcast sky did not seem too ominous.  There was much checking of weather apps over our breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and it appeared that we were clear for the morning, but likely to see some rain by mid-afternoon. 

After breakfast we departed the campground for Grand Rapids and the trailhead of the Mesabi Trail.  Our new junior assistant support driver Matt had a few comments for his buddies about how they looked in their biking outfits…it’s almost like Doug never left.  We snapped a bunch of photos at the trail entrance, picked up a wheel pass for the group and took off on our way.

The first 25 miles of the ride was very scenic and remote with rolling hills and a couple of nice climbs along the way.  Jack had a flat tire, however, and Justin was on the spot to provide assistance, which to us means watching and taking pictures.  With the tire change completed, we all rode on to Nashwauk, where Jay and Matt had set up camp in the city campground.  Kyle brought about 15 pounds of pulled pork that he had smoked for the CEM.  Matt pointed us into the RV for smoked pulled pork sandwiches.  Inside we found a tin of cold pork.  We didn’t want to be critical (it is Matt’s first day, after all), but they could have at least warmed the pork for us.  We proceeded to take turns with the microwave until Jay walked in and asked why we weren’t eating the hot pork from the oven.  Hmmm…good question!

From Nashwauk, we headed east on the trail, Jack quick to point out that we needed to go 18.5 miles before turning around for the final run to the campground.  Apparently, yesterday’s confusion was a question of communication rather than math.  At least we were all on the same page.  The trail is less scenic in this section, but runs through small towns on the route and includes a really nice hill climb near Hibbing.  Jack had his second flat, and John helped him find a sharp object in the tire causing the problem.  Good thing, because Jack was out of tubes.  It began raining on us while we rode, just enough to get everything wet, but it was still a pleasant ride back to Nashwauk.

Meanwhile, Jay and Matt went to the Nashwauk Bottle Shop to pick up O’Doul’s and root beer for the riders.  The owner, Rodney, upon learning of our charity ride, enthusiastically donated 30 pounds of ice for our coolers.  We always appreciate the generosity of people whom we have just met!  Our neighbor at the campground, Rebecca, was also very helpful with suggestions, even offering to make a pie for us.

We feasted on ribs for the second time on the trip, everyone eating well past the reasonable capacity of consumption.  Despite this we still had room for an appetizer dessert, scotch-a-roos sent by Konrad’s wife, Melissa, and a full dessert of pie and ice cream.  We followed this up with an 8:30 showing of the classic movie “Porky’s”, all 8 of us jammed into the trailer.  This was a great ending to a very fun day!

June 4, “Trail Closed”, It Had to Happen Sometime…

We discussed names a bit yesterday, being we now have 2 John’s on the ride.  John Konrad doesn’t seem like a Johnny.  Little John?  And Big John?  No, that won’t work.  Ultimately we decided that young John would henceforth by known as Konrad on the CEM.  We have so many big issues to address!

Another cloudy morning greeted us, temps in the low 60’s as we went through our morning rituals.  One of our most important, as the new guys have learned, is the reading of the daily diary, which allows for corrections and edits before submission to the general public.  This typically occurs after breakfast, which this morning consisted of biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs.  We had to let that one settle for a while before embarking on our ride, at least one hour I believe my mom used to say.

Around 10:00 we finally pedaled out of our campground onto the trail, on a repeat ride to Hibbing but this time continuing past.  We rolled into Chisholm, the home of Moonlight Graham, and were greeted by John’s friend, Jamie, the breeder of John’s dog Ranger.  He had spotted the CEM trailer and followed it to the park in Chisholm, so he could chat with John.  It is truly a small world!

We lunched on WARM pulled pork sandwiches just after noon, and then the rain moved in.  We opted to wait it out as opposed to a ride in the rain, and I do believe a few naps were had.  The rain passed, and we were back on the trail by 2:00.  After passing through Mountain Iron, Justin, Konrad and Dennis came to a “closed trail” sign.  Unbelievable!  Justin had checked the Mesabi Trail website a couple of days earlier, and there was no mention of a closing.  We decided to take a chance on an easy walk-around, but after gliding down a big hill and around a curve, we came to a screeching halt as we approached a massive pile of dirt and mud as far as we could see.  This was no small project, but rather looked like they are building a highway through the trail.

We proceeded back up the hill and met the other riders in Mountain Iron.  We were on a 2-lane highway with a nice shoulder and very little traffic, a highway that runs straight into Virginia, our rendezvous point with Matt and Jay.  As we started our highway ride, however, it became apparent that it was the 3:00 p.m. shift change at the MinnTac plant, and pickup trucks were pouring out of the plant onto our otherwise peaceful highway.  The drivers were very courteous, thankfully, and our ride downhill into Virginia went without a hitch.

The trail map shows a steep climb from Virginia into Gilbert, the supposed highest point along the trail.   Our hard work paid off as we rode through Gilbert to the end of the trail into a fierce headwind to McKinley.  Kyle commented that this was the worst 2 miles of the trail, without question, and there was no disagreement.  Reversing course, we rode back through Gilbert and onto a spur of the trail toward Eveleth and our final destination in Fayal.  Our awesome support drivers had trays of pulled pork nachos waiting for us…their timing couldn’t have been better!

Konrad’s mom is quite ill, and he was keeping in touch with family members all day.  He decided that he needed to head home, so Matt, Kyle and Justin drove him to Duluth to pick up a rental car and send him on his way.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Konrad family. 

We drove separately to Jay Cook State Park outside of Duluth, arriving just before dark.  Matt brought salmon, which he had caught on Lake Michigan, and Jay grilled it for us for a very late dinner.  Jay also made one last blueberry cobbler, and we all enjoyed it immensely.  There was no movie tonight, only thoughts of sleep in the cool night air.

June 5, “We Went to Something Else”

Personal note to my fellow riders and support drivers from Dennis:  Thanks for pushing the schedule today so I could get back in time for our daughter Kaitlin’s graduation ceremony.  We made it with time to spare…I don’t want to consider the ramifications if I hadn’t, so thanks again!

Jay was awake by 4:30 and Dennis less than an hour later.  By 6:00 the cooking of breakfast and writing of the diary were well underway.  We were nearly on schedule when we rode out of camp at 8:35 on a short trail from Jay Cook State Park to the Munder Trail.  Less than a mile down the trail from this connector we approached the most beautiful vista on any of our trail rides of the year, overlooking the St. Louis River.  Water was pouring through the dam in the distance and rapids flowed around the rocks and underneath our bridge high above the river, providing an amazing scene for numerous photos.

 On the short ride into Carlton, the riders, sans Dennis, witnessed the first flight of a very small duck.  In fact, not only did they witness it, but they claim to have taught it to fly.  The duck was startled by the approach of bikes and started running away down the path, flapping its wings frantically and getting a little air before dropping back on the trail.  This pattern was repeated a number of times as the duck kept running and flapping furiously before finally gaining enough momentum to get airborne after more than a quarter mile.  It flew low over the trail before finally getting enough lift to fly away.  The boys were hoping that the duck would figure out how to land all by itself!

We didn’t have a Munder Trail map, so Dennis stopped at the trailhead in Carlton to coordinate the first rest stop with Jay while the other riders pedaled on.  A few minutes later Dennis came to a split in the trail, a sharp right to Hinckley or a slight left to Wrenshall on the Alex Laveau Memorial Trail.  He turned to the right on the Munder trail in pursuit of the other riders.  Or so he thought.   A couple of miles later he answered a call from John that went something like this…John: “In Carlton there was a sign pointing right to Hinckley and left to something else.”   Dennis: “Yes.”  John: “Which way were we supposed to go?”  Dennis:  “Right to Hinckley.”  John: “We went to something else.”  So much for the thought that trails are easier to navigate.  Oh well…ultimately all of the riders turned around and headed in the right direction, Kyle and Justin pleased with the extra miles “banked”.

The remaining ride was fairly uneventful as we rode south on the Munder Trail, other than we finally saw the sunshine break through after several days of cloud cover.  It was a pleasant day of riding as the day gradually warmed, trees along the trail mostly sheltering us from the crosswinds.  We reached Finlayson early in the afternoon, 13 miles to go to finish our 900k, and exactly 13 miles to go to the trail’s end in Hinckley.  It was meant to be!

We pedaled the final 13 as a group, a ceremonial ride with John and Justin in the lead, and Jack, Kyle and Dennis close behind.  At the finish in Hinckley, we hoisted our bikes in celebratory fashion and enjoyed a few moments to reflect.  We were still on a mission to get back to Bloomington, however, so we quickly loaded bikes and changed clothes before heading to the Hinckley DQ for a light lunch and ice cream treats!  In hindsight I probably should have gotten a dilly bar to bring home to Kathy…

On the drive home, we discussed the Welcome Home celebration planned for the morning and also started planning for the 2016 CEM.  In Bloomington we went our separate ways, the ride concluded for yet another year.