Chippewa Herald * September 22, 2007   Visitor
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Traveling by bicycle can leave you two-tired

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

Pling! Crunch! Pling! Crunch!

Those are the rhythmic sounds of grasshoppers flinging off the spokes and being crushed beneath the tires of my bike as I pedal along the Old Abe trail.

I've been doing that lately during my lunch hours. I have a new goal this year: 1000 miles. (If riding 100 miles is a "century," does that mean riding 1000 miles is a "millennium"?)

Doing a millennium in a summer is no sweat for spandex-clad bike racers with their skinny little tires. But for a middle-aged guy in a T-shirt and shorts on an old touring bike, it's a stretch goal -- especially since I haven't ridden anywhere near that far in one year since at least the 1980s.

This summer got off to a slow start. My two sons and I had been planning our June bike trip to Duluth for a while, but I remember suddenly noticing on my bike computer on June 10 that I had ridden less than 100 miles for the entire season -- only ten days before our big trip!

So I got busy that week riding, and I started to get used to it. By mid-July, I already had logged 550 miles, so I thought I should shoot for the big 1000. I need goals.

By the way, I think I've heard more comments about that July 5 bike trip column than the rest of my 52 columns put together! I now have solid proof that my readership is well into the double digits.

Many people were surprised that my sons, only 11 and 13, could ride 174 miles in 48 hours. I guess people don't bike as much as they used to.

Biking long distances has always seemed natural to me, once I finally learned how to ride a bike. By the time I was 12, my younger brother Jim and I were riding our 3-speeds from Roseville to Stillwater and back, 20 miles each way. We loved the freedom and adventure of our all-day journeys.

The next logical step was biking to camping spots. Lacking panniers (saddlebags), we tied our tents, sleeping bags, canteens and foil dinners to the frames and handlebars of our bikes, and off we went.

Our first target was William O'Brien State Park, 38 miles from home. Once we tasted the thrill of touring by bike, we were hooked.

When we upgraded to fancy ten-speeds, our trips grew longer -- Taylor's Falls, 50 miles each way. When I was 18, in 1978, we attempted our first multi-day trip, from the Twin Cities to Michigan's Upper Peninsula via Duluth.

We learned a lot on that trip. For one thing, when planning a trip through northern Wisconsin in mid-September, do NOT assume that the weather will stay as nice as the day you left.

The warm sunshine we enjoyed that first day, which allowed shirt-less riding, was soon drowned out by the misery of riding along US-2 in a foggy rain on days that never reached 40 degrees.

One evening we even knocked on the door of a small church and begged to sleep on their floor -- everything was soaking, we were freezing, and we could not afford a hotel.

The next year, at 19 and 17, we were smarter and planned a bike tour for July. We recruited two other friends, and plotted a route from Minnesota to Niagara Falls, featuring a ferry ride across Lake Michigan to avoid Chicago.

Unlike the previous year's trip, this one was a rousing success -- we pedaled 1100 miles in ten days, carrying full camping gear. Several times along the way, people took us in and let us sleep in their house and even fed us. What a way to travel!

That all set the stage for the Mother Of All Bike Trips in 1982: The TransAmerica Trail. This baby took two months, as it snaked 4500 miles from Oregon to Virginia, crossing the continental divide 11 times. (I.e., we went "the long way.")

Armed with a new touring bike and new panniers, the only casualty of this trip was the 30 pounds of extra gear that we mailed home so we wouldn't have to keep hauling it up every mountain.

I didn't think we'd ever top the TransAmerica trip, but five years later, both now married, Jim and I convinced our wives to bicycle 1250 miles with us down the coastline from British Columbia to San Francisco. There's no better way to take in the spectacular Oregon Coast than cruising by at 15 miles per hour! Even the careers and car ownership of our adulthood could not take away our love of this mode of travel.

With young children, however, came a long drought in my bicycling -- until our kids started growing up.

Last weekend, our Boy Scout troop bicycled the Chippewa River Trail to Durand and back (see "" for photos). It was great! And I earned 72 miles toward my millennium mark -- I'm now up to 970 miles. Most boys don't bike much these days, but they all loved it and they all finished.

With a plethora of pre-teens in tow, I think I set a new personal record for slowest average speed. But that's okay; I'm thrilled to pass along my love of bike touring to the next generation.

If you see me whizzing along on my trusty Trek one of these lunch hours, go ahead and wave. But don't try to stop me to talk.

I have a goal to complete.

You can reach Tom at

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