Still Alive: Circle Tour—Setting Out

Duluth (Day 3)

Departure day for our Lake Superior bike trip came with a downpour. That was okay. None of us were quite ready. I spent the day laundering my sleeping bag, and in the evening we talked gear. It ended up that the day we’d set to leave was actually the day we finally started talking seriously about gear. We also spent a lot of the next day figuring out our gear, and I had some doubts that we’d actually make it out the gate, but—at 3:45 in the afternoon—we finally rode down the gravel driveway of the country house I’ve been staying in, and took the first pedal strokes of the thirteen hundred miles around the world’s largest lake.

Hissing rain was blowing in our faces and we had forty miles to cover. We only made it, puffing in bedraggled at 9 at night, because there was saag paneer waiting for us. A friend of ours, Xander, has been living and working at a dairy farm in Port Wing. He’s spent the summer turning extra milk into paneer and picking lamb’s-quarters that grows in the cow pats to sub in for spinach, and combining it into the most wonderful saag paneer you could ever hope to have, especially at the end of five hours of pushing to your limit and beyond in a fizz of rain on highway shoulders through deepening darkness.

We dried off and warmed up over food and tea in Xander’s camper, then crashed. I slept in the hayloft. I’ve always wanted to sleep in a hayloft. It was as great as I could’ve hoped. He had swept the hay off part of the floor, and it was perfectly dark inside, with blurry moon shining through the overcast and in through the loft door. When I woke up, I felt like a mouse in the cabin of a mouse-sized ship on a rolling green sea.

We’ve put another fifty miles behind us in the days since. I’ve been getting to know my travel-mates at a deeper level: Katie, Maria, and Ava. Our first few days have been the time for us to shake out the bugs we didn’t work out before we left, both gear-related and group-chemistry-related. We rolled into Duluth in the early afternoon, all half-dead despite the easy day, because due to a miscalculation we’d barely eaten. By Nipigon or so I bet we won’t be making these kinds of rookie mistakes.

A group bike trip is very different from one on my own, I’ve been discovering, and despite how much I’ve traveled both solo and tandem in all sorts of modes, I’m learning yet again, and enjoying it. It’s still just beginning, though. I’ll keep you posted as possible.

File under: biking, Year of Listening · Places: Chequamegon, Midwest, Minnesota

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