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2017 Christian Elder Memorial 900 on Crowdrise

Proceeds go to
Kids 'n Kinship

2007 Road Diary
2008 Road Diary
2009 Road Diary

2010 Road Diary
2011 Road Diary
2012 Road Diary
2013 Road Diary
2014 Road Diary
2015 Road Diary

2016 Road Diary

June 1, 2016, CEM No. 11, On the Brink

Yesterday we received a send-off luncheon at the Elder-Jones office courtesy of Merchants Bank and the Kids  n Kinship staff. Most of our record twelve riders and 4 support drivers were able to attend the gathering. Besides introductions and sandwiches and cookies, we reminisced about past rides and riders, mostly humorous (at least in retrospect). Rita Younger with Kids  n Kinship provided us with some additional inspiration with an article she had written called  Why We Ride . We ride in memory of Christian, first and foremost, and we ride for so many kids seeking mentors to impact their lives. It has been a great journey for 10 years, and we are ready to go for ride number 11!

Final preparations have been made, and today John, Dennis and Jim drove from Bloomington to join the rest of the group at Justin s house. Justin was worried about a wobble in his rear tire, and we hadn t even ridden a mile yet. After discussing the unlikelihood of a bike shop fixing it in short order, or perhaps pulling a wheel off one of John s extra bikes, Jim diagnosed the problem and was able to tighten the bearings. At least Justin s hoping that was the fix.

Mike and Matt were ready to go, but there was no sign of John K. and Kyle. We re sure there is a likely explanation, but the rest of us probably won t be accepting it. We're hoping this is not a sign of things to come from this duo. Finally we got on the road to Lanesboro and the unpleasantly named Highway 250 Campground. The campground is actually quite nice right along the Root River about a half mile outside of Lanesboro. Lead Support Driver Matt was tasked with his first solo grilling opportunity after apprenticing under Jay last year. The bacon cheeseburgers were adequate& actually they were very tasty. Matt is well on his way in his expanded role. Unfortunately, our pre-ride grocery shopper (John) forgot to buy ketchup and mustard. What else may he have forgotten, the rest of us contemplated silently.

After dinner the boys spent an hour getting a campfire smoldering with perhaps the worst campground firewood ever, wet box elder? Justin was relentless in fanning the few flames, but ultimately Kyle jumped in and stoked the flames when everyone was about to give up. That was the toughest work of the day, a task worthy of some of Sherry s famous rhubarb pie before calling it a night. We are certainly well nourished for our first day of riding, hopefully a beautiful ride on the Root River Trail. Stay tuned.

June 2, Near Perfection

We love sunny 75 degree days, and today looked to be one of those great days to start riding.  Matt got the breakfast sausage on the grill, and Justin whipped up some of his famous pancakes on the griddle.  It was a fabulous breakfast, although we wouldn’t recommend the blueberry sausage links from Von Hanson’s to anyone; they didn’t quite meet the CEM taste of approval.

Final preparations and bike adjustments were made, everyone geared up and we were ready to hit the trail before 10:00.  Matt took a send-off photo with the largest group of riders we have ever had on the CEM, and off we went to Houston.  The 31-mile ride to Houston was beautiful, and we were glad to see no trail closures and no other problems along the way.  Mike did have a close encounter with a deer, however, when the deer was distracted by a female rider coming from the other direction.  Luckily his evasive maneuvers saved the day!

Matt set up a great lunch stop for us in Houston, with Sherry’s pasta salad and smoked pork sandwiches courtesy of Kyle; I think we’re down to about 10 pounds of pork, so we may need to ration.  After turning to head back to Lanesboro, we realized that we now had a headwind, although we didn’t even know we had a tailwind on the way…a biker’s paradox I would say.  Kyle said there’s always a headwind -when you bike as fast as he does.  Whatever!  I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of that line.

We had a little more action on the return trip.  First John and Jim encountered some “damsels in distress” (their words, not mine) with a blown tire and no spare.  Apparently the CEM heroes replaced the tube with one of their own and sent the ladies on their way, although there is no photo documentation supporting their story.  Justin saw a butterfly on the trail that he wanted to photograph for his daughter, Leyna, so he got off his bike.  The butterfly took off and Justin ran after it on foot, telling us later that butterflies are faster than you would think.  We would love to have some video of that!  By the way, he never did get that photo.

 Finally Mike felt his rear tire losing air about 5 miles from our endpoint in Lanesboro.  Not wanting it to go completely flat on the trail, he booked it as fast as he could back to the campground.  Luckily for him, he made it, and Jim helped him to replace the tube.  The rest of us just rode our bikes, Kyle going for bonus points by riding an extra 10 miles, although a few of the boys were unimpressed with this go-getter attitude.

It is apparent that a lack of training by certain riders took a bit of a toll today.  There was not much movement in our campground, except to polish off some of Matt’s superb pork nachos.  This was just enough to hold us off until steaks and veggies on the grill later that evening.  After dinner we listened to Mickey Gilley around a roaring campfire (despite our ridiculing of John K. for laying the wood out to dry in the sun, it must have worked).  We finished our night off with root beer floats and looked forward to a great night of sleep in the cooling air.

June 3, A Little More Work

Another bright, sunshiny morning greeted us, and before long Matt and Justin had breakfast going.  On the menu for us today: pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, and of course, lots of coffee; so much for this being a weight loss boot camp.  After clean-up and normal preparations we were on the trail again by 10:00.  Our campground sits right next to the Root River Trail, so we are able to bike right in and out without moving the mother ship.  This is a very nice feature, and the campground is decent overall, but there is certainly some bitterness from our group over the 50 cent pay showers here, especially considering there is no change machine.

Today we headed west on the trail through Lanesboro and then took the Harmony-Preston Trail south to Harmony.  A few miles past Preston the climbing begins.  The reward as we crested many of these hills was an increasing headwind on the open plateaus.  Actually the real reward came on our return trip from Harmony, downhill with a nice tailwind (except for Kyle, who was generating a headwind with his speedy pace).

35 miles into our ride, we arrived at the Preston City Park for our lunch break.  Unfortunately, our lunch wasn’t there.  Nor was the RV; nor our support driver.  Matt had parked at a baseball field that he was calling the City Park, although there was no trail anywhere nearby.  Memories of Jimmy flashed through our heads.  The boys are using the Find My Friend app on their phones, however, so Matt was much easier to track down than Jimmy ever was.  That sure would have come in handy in years past!

Despite the minor setback, we had another great lunch stop before continuing down the trail.  We reconnected with the Root River Trail and continued west on a grueling 6-mile steady climb to the end of the trail in Fountain, Mike, Kyle and John K. going 3-wide for a photo op at one point.  At Fountain, we turned around and headed back to the campground to finish our day. 

Rain was moving in our direction, so we contemplated staying put for the night.  However, our camp host, Honest John, told us that all of the sites were reserved.  Looking around the sparsely occupied campground, we were very skeptical, but there was really nothing else for us to do but to shower, pack up and hit the road.  Jim departed for home, and the rest of us moved on to Iowa.  Since it was raining at this point, we made a rare exception and stopped at the Teluwut Bar and Grille for dinner.  I do believe our original choice of Matt’s special barbecue chicken on the grill would have been much better.

We finished our drive to Riceville and parked our rigs at the Lake Hendricks campground.  Since it was still raining, we retired to the trailer for movie night.  After some debate we selected the TMC-worthy Revenge of the Nerds.  As the movie ended, we agreed that Nerds ranks right up there with Porky’s in 80’s classics.  John K. pulled out some scotch-a-roo’s for dessert (not sure where these have been).  Cheers to his wife, Missy, who made them for us!  With nothing left to do we settled in for what was looking to be a very rainy night in Riceville.

June 4, Ouch, Road Rash or “It’s Just a Minor Flesh Wound”

After an overnight of heavy rain, we intentionally woke early with a goal of hitting the trail by 8:30, so we could finish our day early and make the return trip to Minneapolis for evening social commitments.  Everyone grabbed a quick breakfast and headed north on the Wapsi-Great Western Trail at varying times, but all before 9:00, so we were doing fairly well on CEM time. 

The trail was very scenic (it was new to all of us), rolling through groves of trees and winding through the countryside and over a long wooden bridge across a marsh area.  At one blind intersection we almost had a CEM first – a bike collision with a horse and buggy!  Mike was following John K., who allegedly failed to warn Mike about the crossing traffic.  Mike was quite dismayed, especially when John, in an apparent effort to redeem himself, yelled “deer!” further down the trail when there was nothing in sight.  The boys are having fun now!

Up ahead, about 11 miles into the 18-mile trail, Justin and Kyle encountered a rather significant setback, a huge section of trail excavated with a large culvert lying in the middle.  There went our plans of a nice 36-mile round trip.  We all turned around and headed back toward camp and a rumored 5-mile continuation of the trail to the south.  Dennis and Mike rode a mile past the campsite and into Riceville and then on streets to the south end of town in search of said trail.  It was not to be found, and confirmation of this non-existent trail was made by a local resident. 

We all decided to make another ride to the north to pick up additional miles before our break.  At one point Dennis must have been daydreaming too much as his front tire dropped off the trail around a curve.  That’s all she wrote, as they say…there’s no recovery to be made from this error.  Down on the trail he went, no worse for the wear, except for a serious case of road rash – and a bruised ego.  His bike tire was out of kilter, so he headed back to camp for repairs. 

Matt was waiting patiently to serve his sausage, cheese and egg scramble for our midway brunch, and finally, one by one the crew rolled in.  We made quick work of brunch and then set out to finish our 62 miles.  Within ten miles of the finish to the first leg, Mike got a flat.  Kyle stopped to help him with the change, but about a mile later the tire went flat again.  They had a total of one spare tube between them (not well planned), but luckily for Mike, Dennis rode to the rescue with two spares.  And they needed both of them. 

We all finished the ride, took quick showers and left the campground by 3:00.  It was a beautiful sunny day to ride, but just as we left for home, we were struck by torrential downpours that battered our rigs.  We were so, so happy to be inside and not on the trail at that moment.  Back in Minneapolis for an overnight stay at home, John and Dennis said good-byes to the rest of the leg 1 crew.  It’s been a great run with Justin, Kyle, John K., Mike and Matt.  See you at the finish line!

June 5, A New Beginning

We were joined this morning by two first-time riders, John Phillipich (Johnny for purposes of this ride) and Tony Olson, and a first-time support driver, Josh Hill.  After convening at John’s house, we drove to Maple Grove to pick up Jack and then to Brainerd to begin our ride.  By the time we reached the Paul Bunyan trailhead and ate our lunch, it was nearing 12:30, so it was a fairly late start, even by our standards.  John volunteered to drive one of the support vehicles, although we’re sure it had nothing to do with the strong headwinds blowing out of the north…right. 

Josh and John moved the vehicles 31 miles north to Pine River while the rest of us took off on our bikes.  A couple of miles into the ride Jack was splashed with spit, courtesy of Tony, who claims that he didn’t know the “old guy” was right behind him.  Welcome to the CEM!  Johnny and Tony were fired up and riding at a very fast pace with Dennis, causing Jack to wonder “Where’s the race?”  Don’t worry, Jack, those fresh, young legs will wear down at that pace.

The trail was lined with trees, which provided some shelter from the wind, but we began to curse each clearing as it approached.  We noticed that everyone we met was smiling and pedaling easily with the wind while we were gritting our teeth and driving on the pedals.  We wanted to be happy, too…it was time for a strategic decision.  We met John, who was pedaling south (with a smile on his face), about 5 miles from our stop.  We decided that John would continue riding back to Brainerd while we finished the northbound ride to Pine River.  Jack didn’t want John to ride alone, or so he says, so he turned around at that point.  Dennis, Tony and Johnny continued north for the final 5 miles, which actually felt like 8 or 9 by the time we got there as we pedaled headlong into the fierce wind.

We took a nice long lunch and recovery break before getting back on our bikes for the trip back to Brainerd.  What a much more pleasurable ride!  I think the boys had a little bit more fun after this turn of fortune.  We were well behind John and Jack, who later informed us that they stopped for root beer floats in Nisswa.  That seems a little cruel and unfair to the rest of us.  Josh met us in Brainerd with the RV, and we finished our ride 5 hours after our start.  We loaded up and drove 90 minutes to Akeley for our favorite lakeside campground, arriving after 7:30.  Josh and Dennis grilled chicken, since Matt left it for us, and we had corn on the cob with our barbecue chicken to finish the day. 

Sherry sent another fresh rhubarb pie, although mysteriously there is a large wedge missing.  John claims that the pie serves 8 people, and since we only have 6, he had to eat a couple of pieces at home Saturday night.  Huh…  Now he’s saying that we need to save it for tomorrow night, something to do with steaks in the freezer making the ice cream too soft to serve with the pie, so to bed we went.  Double huh… All I have to say is that there had better not be any more missing pieces when we get up tomorrow!

June 6, We Must be Geniuses!

Rarely have I seen a more unmotivated group on the CEM!  A cold front moved through overnight, and it was cloudy, cold and very windy.  And so we stalled, reluctant to make a decision that would put us out in the elements.  We enjoyed a leisurely French toast, eggs and bacon breakfast while Dennis worked on the previous two diary entries.  It’s been a long couple of days with no time for creative writing, but there was plenty of time this morning.

The weather forecast showed no improvement, so finally we made a group decision to drive to Bemidji and ride south with the wind.  After a 45 minute drive, we debated about how much cold weather clothing to wear and whether we needed rain gear.  It was well after noon already, a very late start considering we were camped right next to the trail.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, Jack spotted a bulge in his front tire.  While he made a quick fix, inserting a dollar bill between the tire and tube (yes, it actually works in a pinch), Dennis, Johnny and Tony began riding.  I actually believe the tire issue was a ruse by Jack to avoid riding behind Tony, aka the Spitter.

The ride was actually quite pleasant and within 30 minutes we were peeling off the layers of clothing.  By the time we reached our mid-ride stop in Walker, the sun was shining and the day was beautiful.  Johnny and Tony thought John and Dennis were geniuses for waiting out the weather, despite forecasts to the contrary, and we did little to dispel these thoughts.  Ten years of experience put to good use according to us! 

Josh was in a trailhead just outside of Walker with an assortment of lunch items, including pulled pork and leftover chicken, not to mention some outstanding poppy seed bread and banana bread sent by Johnny’s mom.  We devoured lunch and then took off for Pine River, Dennis opting for the longer, extremely scenic section through the Chippewa Forest, while everyone else rode through Walker and onto the Shin-go-bi Connection.  They meandered through unmarked detours (so typical) and a short ride on Highway 371, finally getting back on the trail south of Walker. 

We all rode on, cruising with the tailwind the entire way to Pine River, finishing well over our 62 mile daily goal, Johnny and Tony riding a couple of extra miles to reach 70 – as most riders know, you just can’t quit with 68.1 miles.

Now I will digress a bit.  On our last day of Leg 1, Matt was suggesting a Dairy Queen stop on the way home.  Ok, let’s be honest, subtlety is not Matt’s strong suit; pleading is more accurate.  John virtually ignored Matt, and I never fully understood why.  At least until we were loading the RV for Leg 2.  At that time we found the gift bags from Kids ‘n Kinship (including the DQ gift cards) in John’s car.  Sorry Matt.  Back to real time: the Leg 2 crew stopped at the Pine River DQ for awesome ice cream treats using the Leg 1 gift card.  Cheers to us!  We’re hoping to use ours tomorrow.

With treats in hand we drove back to our Akeley campground and steaks on the grill, finishing our dinner in the dark next to the lake.  Fully worn out we called it a night.

June 7, Johnny Saves a Puppy!

Right away this morning Johnny and Tony were commenting that the diary seems to omit stories about Dennis’ mistakes, such as misleading them on a 4-mile wrong turn detour into Walker a day earlier.  The new guys just don’t quite get it sometimes!  This is the CEM.  I write the diary.  The stories are carefully selected by me, and I have writer’s discretion and editorial license.  That’s just the way it is!

Now, on with the day.  We woke to a quite beautiful morning, sun shining over the lake and a light breeze blowing from the north.  After a coffee and cereal breakfast and a quick tube replacement on John’s bike, we began pedaling on the Heartland Trail 18 miles to Park Rapids and then back again, spotting several deer along the way.  The conditions were excellent and the ride smooth as we rolled back into Akeley in the early afternoon.  Josh was ready for us with leftover steak and chicken, lunch meat, cheese and chips, but he seemed to be hording the remains of the pulled pork.  Kyle, thanks again! We have made it nearly a week on the pork.

Our paths diverged in the afternoon as Josh and Dennis packed up the rigs to move them on to Walker; Johnny and Tony rode east to the Paul Bunyan connection to take a trip through the spectacular Chippewa Forest section and then back to Walker; John and Jack continued on the Heartland Trail through Walker and in the direction of Cass Lake about 8 miles to their turn around point.  Josh and Dennis made a strategic error while moving the rigs, turning down a GPS-led gravel private drive. Thankfully there was a connector road at the bottom of the hill, and they were able to circle back to the highway. 

We all finished up at around 4:30 and then headed toward Grand Rapids.  Stopping for gas in Cass Lake, Johnny spotted a small dog running on the highway, so he jumped out to grab it and save it from being run over.  Johnny is now known as the Puppy Savior, so both of the new guys have nicknames, although one much more flattering than the other.  We couldn’t just leave the puppy along the roadside, so into the RV she went and onward we drove. 

Continuing along Highway 2 the RV blew a tire.  This trip to Grand Rapids was just getting longer.  Luckily the blown tire was an inside tire on the rear, and John was able to continue driving, although at a very slow 35-40 mph.  We limped into the Itasca County Campground well past our appointed time to meet up with our Leg 3 riders and support drivers.  We greeted Joy, Kathy, Doug and Zach, and said our good-byes to Johnny, Tony and Josh, sending the Leg 2 DQ gift card with them, so they could get some food on the road.

The rest of us ate brats and burgers, finishing just as the 24/7 tire guy showed up to change our tire.  We are fine with changing bike tires, but prefer to leave the RV to the experts.  The tires all have some wear from sitting in the open all winter long each year, showing some separation near the treads, so we arranged to have them all replaced tomorrow.  We will alter our plans, but all things considered, we were very fortunate in all aspects of this incident, including location, timing and the actual tire blown.  It’s just another ho-hum day on the trail!  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

June 8, Life is Good

Ok…the update some of you have been waiting for.  Johnny brought the cute little pup, the new CEM900 mascot temporarily named “Christie”, back home with him from the ride.  From her dog tag he was able to contact Jenny, a Leech Lake Legacy co-founder, and coordinate a handoff.  Leech Lake Legacy works with reservation members in a variety of capacities regarding responsible animal treatment and welfare.  Christie, actually Princess Leia, is on her way back to her loving family, who is relieved and thankful that she was found and was doing well.  Two of the family’s children were walking her when she ran off, and Jenny knows the family personally and knows that Princess Leia is loved and well cared for.  Johnny said it was hard to say goodbye, but she is with a foster family in the Twin Cities until her transport back to the family on Saturday.

Now back to the ride.  We enjoyed another great night for sleeping, at least once we found enough storage cabinets to accommodate all of Joy’s clothes and gear.  I hope she realizes that her trip is a 3-day adventure…it looks to us as if she’s touring for a month.  Joy claims she’s just trying to be prepared for anything, but we’re not sure how “anything” can add up to this much stuff!  Joy is another of our first-time riders, only the second female rider ever, so she worked with a personal trainer and asked plenty of questions of Kathy leading up to the ride.  Kathy is a CEM mainstay, riding for the seventh time, so she was in a good position to advise Joy, although they must not have discussed packing. 

Regardless, they both looked fully ready as they joined John, Jack and Dennis at the Mesabi Trail starting point, where we snapped a photo and purchased our trail passes.  We headed off down the trail while Doug and Zach drove the RV to the shop for new tires and then drove our camper to the first stop.  The west end of the Mesabi Trail has great scenery, lakes, wildlife, and quiet forested areas rolling up and down through several small towns.  It was another perfect day to ride, sunny and low 70’s with a light breeze.  We made it to Pengilly, 21 miles in, for an early afternoon lunch break with Doug and Zach with only one minor incident.  Joy’s chain came off her bike while pedaling up a hill, but John and Jack were there to help her out.

After lunch we continued 10 miles to Keewatin, turned around and headed back to Pengilly, finding our support drivers either completely relaxed (Doug) or bored (Zach).  We made a quick stop, except for Jack, who has a tendency to dawdle at times, like anytime between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.  No worries though, since Jack pedals fast enough to make up the time.  We refilled water and grabbed light snacks and then made our final trek back to our campground in Grand Rapids.  Joy celebrated her first ever 62-mile ride with arms raised and a big smile.  Then she asked Kathy how she was going to feel tomorrow.  “Great!  Never better,” Kathy lied.

Doug and Zach had picked up the RV with a brand new set of tires and set up camp again.  After playing some bean bag toss, Doug cooked chicken thighs and veggies on the grill.  There were a few comments about making too much food, but we only had scraps left by the time we were done…must have worked up quite an appetite.  John had brownies and ice cream, but could find no other takers for dessert as we called it a night.

June 9, Has Anyone Seen a Teal Eyeglass Case?

The Grand Rapids area weather continues to be nice to us, something which we are very happy about, especially considering the rainy weather back home in Minneapolis.  Also, we had virtually the entire Itasca County Campground to ourselves, and we were certainly enjoying the serenity while contemplating the day’s ride and more importantly, what to have for breakfast.  We considered a quick meal of cereal and toast, but ultimately decided that French toast, bacon, sausage and eggs on the griddle was much more preferable.  John whipped up the French toast batter, Doug cooked, and we all enjoyed a full breakfast to fuel our ride.

While packing up the RV, we were unable to retract the slider more than a couple of inches.  A feeling of doom was hanging in the air; we sure didn’t need any more RV issues to slow us down.  Jack stated casually (Jack states everything casually) “I bet it’s a teal eyeglass case.”  Dennis was oblivious to this reference, but learned that Joy had been searching for a teal eyeglass case all morning.  John reached under the sofa and, with considerable effort, pulled out an object which was wedged in the retractor.  You guessed it…a teal eyeglass case!  Joy, this is why we can’t have nice things! 

We drove to Keewatin to start pedaling, since we had already seen the first section of the trail from each direction.  Our original plan had been to bike from Grand Rapids to Virginia yesterday and back to Grand Rapids today, but as you know, our plans are very flexible.  We took off through Keewatin, Kelly Lake, Hibbing, Chisholm and finally to our stop in Buhl.  Joy forgot her water bottle back in the RV, but Dennis loaned one of his along the way; this would have been a long ride without water.

After lunch we continued on the trail to Virginia, stopping in Mountain Iron for some photos.  Riding to our stop it at first appeared that Doug and Zach were parked in a cemetery, but they were actually in a beautiful city park next to the cemetery.  The trail ends in Virginia while the MNDOT works on a Highway 53 reconstruction project.  There had been a detour from Mountain Iron to Eveleth via highway, but we chose to stick with the trails for safety purposes.  Interestingly, though, the trails can be hazardous as well.  As Dennis was cruising on a downward slope nearing a blind curve, a boy on a 4-wheeler flew around the corner, looking back over his shoulder, accelerating as he came.  Options flashed through Dennis’ head (let’s be honest, it was just a brief moment of panic with no clear thoughts whatsoever), but with time to spare the boy turned back around and avoided Dennis.  By the way, kid, the Mesabi Trail signs say “No ATV’s”!

We all backtracked from Virginia for a roundtrip after our second lunch break, Jack getting a flat along the way to Mountain Iron.  He and John used both of their CO2 cartridges on the repair job, but Dennis dropped another one with them, plus Joy and Kathy had theirs on the trail as well.  Jack still rode a little uneasily to the finish, concerned that another flat may be coming.  The tire held, and one by one we finished our 62 miles.

Doug and Chas (as John has been calling Zach) had gone ahead to make a stop at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, which was closed by the time they arrived.   We caught up with them at Spafford Park, a municipal campground adjacent to the St. Louis River in Cloquet.  It was another late finish today, and by the time we were done showering and eating our steak and mashed potatoes dinner, it was well after 9:00.  We filed off to bed one by one, knowing that tomorrow is our last day of riding, hopefully one with an early start.

June 10, a Fabulous Finale (or Finally Finished)!

Today was one of the two days where we wanted to get an early start and an early finish for our drive home, so Doug was up by 6 a.m. making preparations for us, including eggs to order with toast for anyone interested.  Dennis was going to have cereal, but John had thrown out the Total, because it had been in the RV since last year, albeit in a sealed bag.  John had also thrown out a few other edibles, mostly since they were things he didn’t like.  The only thing Dennis wanted to throw out was the watermelon, our third mediocre, tasteless melon of the trip to go along with one really bad one.  Doug promised to get us a good one today, since he knows some secret trick for picking out the best…

We closed up the camper and RV and headed to the Willard Munger State Trail in Carlton.  It had been a very nice, but short, stay in our Cloquet campground.  The air had a feeling of fall, cold, cloudy and 48 degrees, but we knew it was very warm to the south, our direction for the day.  At Carlton we rode north for a bit first to see the scenic bridge over the St. Louis River, probably our favorite stop on all of the Minnesota trails.  After pictures we rode on down the trail, turning south back through Carlton.

Along the first stretch of trail Kathy approached a doe with her fawn.  The doe jumped off the trail, but the fawn didn’t follow, trotting slowly down the trail in front of Kathy for 100 feet, seemingly unafraid.  Kathy could not reach her phone quickly enough to get a picture, as the fawn moved into the tall grass in search of Mama.  We have seen numerous deer on our ride this year, a reminder that we are out in the natural environment riding through their habitat. 

Further down the trail Dennis rode with a biker, Kevin, who was on a training ride for a triathlon.  They rode together at a nice pace to Barnum, trading biking stories along the way.  We truly enjoy meeting interesting people on our tour.  Near Barnum the trail was ripped apart for a short section, but we were able to easily walk through the gravel to the other side, stopping for our late morning lunch 26 miles into the ride.  True to his word, Doug had sweet, juicy watermelon for us…you’ll have to ask him for the secret trick.

Checking the radar we saw a storm front moving toward us, so we made plans to reconvene in Willow River in 13 miles.  At about the half-way point the clouds were over us, and it began to rain.  We saw no lightning, heard no thunder and actually enjoyed the light, steady rain for a few miles before emerging to the other side, a noticeable warmth and humidity in the air as we reached Willow River.  We made a quick stop and headed down the homestretch for the finish in Hinckley.

We pedaled the final miles in increasing heat and took our traditional bike-raised photo to celebrate another job well done!  One last stop at the DQ for treats was our reward.  Thanks again to the staff at Kids ‘n Kinship!  We made our final drive back to the Cities, content that we had completed another great ride! 

June 11, Appreciation Day

Many of us convened at the Carmike Theater for the RV ride to the Merchants Bank branch office in Apple Valley for our Welcome Home party.  Jim, Kathy, Justin, Tony, Johnny, Dennis, Joy and John were all present; Mike, Kyle and John K. were unable to attend; Jack was missing.  We later learned that Jack had been to our location, saw nobody there and thought he was in the wrong spot.  The problem was that he was 20 minutes early…you would think he would have known after 15 days on the road with this crew over the past two years that we have never been early once.  In fact, we consider it to be amazing if we are within 30 minutes of our planned schedule.

Oh, well…we picked Jack up curbside before pulling into the new Merchants Bank location.  After delays and discussions about whether we could make the turn into the bank parking lot, we decided to go ahead.  It was all rather anti-climactic as we finally emerged from the RV to the cheers of our supporters, yes a little behind schedule as usual.  We told the new riders to act like astronauts on their way out the door.

We were welcomed by Skip Stovern of Merchants Bank, our title sponsor and largest supporter over the years, followed by Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland and Kids ‘n Kinship Director Jan Belmore.  Certificates and awards were handed out to the riders and support drivers, including ten-year participation plaques for Dennis and John (actually John’s 11th year of organizing and riding in the CEM900). 

John spoke about our appreciation of support from all contributors, but especially Merchants Bank, Elder-Jones, Inc., Single Ply Systems and Great Clips for their large corporate donations this year and for several years in the past.  He also spoke about the history of the ride and his involvement with Kids ‘n Kinship and the great work that is being done through this organization.  Next Dennis spoke about the riders and support drivers who participated on this year’s ride.  Kathy completed her 7th ride and Justin his third.  However, eight of the 12 riders were 1st or 2nd year participants, as were all 4 support drivers, Matt Stepanek, Josh Hill, Doug Gurholt and Zach Gurholt (or Chas, as the Leg 3 group now calls him).  We see a great future with this recent move to younger riders, which we attribute in large part to shortening the ride to 900 kilometers in the past two years vs. 900 miles for the first nine. 

Finally, John presented the check to Kids ‘n Kinship for $41,000!!  We believe the amount will be greater than this by the time the contributions stop, but we are extremely happy to provide this level of support.  Thanks to all of our contributors!  And thanks to all who have participated as riders and support drivers, and especially to those who work in the background:  Ann Gurholt, who tracks our donations and manages the thank you letters for us, and Cindy Higgins, who updates our CEM website and posts the diary and pictures each day throughout the ride.

Another year has concluded.  John can now begin planning for 2017!