Kicking off the 2023 ride

The time has come for the annual CEM 900 ride! Justin spent Memorial Day preparing the newly acquired mother ship in preparation for the rigorous journey ahead. John Konrad, Kyle Swartout, and Matt Stepanek met at Justin’s house at 7 am on Tuesday, ready for departure. The weather was warm and a there was a light drizzle of precipitation. The voyage ahead would take us to the southeast corner of the state to ride the Root River Trail. After a brief stop at McDonald’s for personal fuel we hit I-35 southbound, destination the Old Barn Campground near Preston, MN. The landscape changed from agricultural farmland to that of rolling bluffs as we descended into the depths of the Root River Valley.  Knowing we would soon be riding up these bluffs made for some moans and groans from the riders.  Upon arrival at the campground, of which check in was in fact in an old barn, we were greeted by  apocalyptic-like swarms of barn swallows, their droppings nearly encapsulating the old barn completely.  The campground staff could not have been friendlier, with camp host Stevie giving us tips and information regarding the bike trails and all of the amenities of the campground, including the paid 25 cent showers. Support driver Matt’s first task at the helm of the new mother ship was to back the trailer into our camp space. This proved to be a wildly difficult and at times stressful mission, though with enough time and attempts the goal was achieved.  

The time had now come for the riders to gear up and hit the road. There was great disappointment to start the ride when Justin realized he had accidentally grabbed one of his son’s youth helmets from yesteryear. It was a real tight squeeze to get on his head, but seemed acceptable and he would be able to proceed. Our decision was to get the most difficult portions of the trail done on the first day, and this included a massive climb out of the valley into the wind up to Harmony. In practice this was worse than it sounds. The climb seemed to last forever, and the temperature outside was climbing into the mid-80s. It was a welcome sight to finally see the small town of Harmony, with the mother ship in waiting. After some rehydration and sustenance, the riders hit the road, eagerly anticipating the long downhill run back to Preston. About a mile into the ride, with a loud bang Kyle’s tire erupted and he nearly lost control, not from the bike but because he was so easily startled by the loud noise. An inspection revealed not a hole in the tube but the actual tire, and as such Kyle coined a new term. Kyle proclaimed he would need to spend the day looking for a bike repair shop, but since this matter was out of his control he shall be granted “mechanical mileage credits” for the day. After a good laugh about that, Kyle walked his bike back to the mother ship and John and Justin proceeded down the trail. Justin went a full mile without even having to pedal once, and it was glorious. The fun was over upon reaching Preston, when then it was a long 4-mile climb up to Fountain. It was hot and the riders were getting fussy. The day was getting long and it was brutally hot, and the two remaining riders just wanted to get the day’s ride over with.  So off they went, back down the hill and rode to Lanesboro and then back to the campground, completing the day’s ride. Matt and Kyle were waiting, Kyle’s bike fully repaired and ready for the next day. Matt prepared a delicious dinner, and a lovely evening was spent discussing important worldly topics including irrigation systems, our pets, and the rewards and dangers of snowmobiling. 

One note to mention, before the trip Ann Gurholt had told us there would be no mosquitos at this campground, and these comments were met with great skepticism by our group. “There’s no way,” we said. Well, she was 100% right! We did not see one mosquito, and for that we were thankful. Some massive June bugs, but no mosquitos. Off to bed to rest up for tomorrow’s hot ride. 88 and sunny they say.