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All Night Ride (Or Not.)

I skipped competing in the Tri-Loppet this year because I was going to join Rick, Brian, and Corey for the (now 2nd!) annual All Night Ride.


It doesn't get any prettier.

Start: Brian's house, South Minneapolis, 7:30 PM.

Turnaround: Somewhere near Hutchinson, McLeod County. 2:30 AM.

Finish: Bryant-Lake Bowl, Uptown. 9:30 AM. Breakfast and celebratory beer.

Distance: About 140 miles.

Chafing Factor: Severe.

Rick, Brian, and I started out on time, and rode down the parkway and around the chain of lakes up to the eastern terminus of the Luce Line extension. It was a bit more exciting than usual because there was a strong line of thunderstorms bearing down on the Twin Cities right about that time. As we crossed I-394 on Wirth Parkway, we could see a dark black storm to the WSW, with a disturbing amount of lightning on the horizon. The storms were blowing rain up out ahead of them, so we were fighting a little bit of wind and spit.

Corey was planning to meet us at the 35-mile mark, out at the western border of Hennepin County near Ox Yoke Lake. So the three of us turned onto the Luce Line and braved the elements. The section of the trail immediately west of Wirth Park was littered with downed foliage, everything from hand-sized sprays of leaves to good solid 2-inch branches - casualties of the previous week's storms. Today, it looked like the worst of the weather was going to pass to our south, and as we rode out through Golden Valley we only encountered light rain, although it was still somewhat windy. The most worrying part was the lightning, as we had to ride through some fairly open areas. Most of the bigger bolts were still about 3-4 miles distant (per the 5-second rule), so it wasn't quite as sketchy a situation as Colorado 2007, when a lightning bolt hit the ground within 200 meters of me. But we still breathed a sign of relief as we approached Medicine Lake and got into the more wooded sections of the trail.


The trail just keeps going...

That's not to say we weren't soaked to the bone, although it was warm enough not to be a problem while we were moving. The trail goes from asphalt to crushed limestone at Vicksburg Lane, and becomes the "official" Luce Line trail there. And the surface was so well kept up that we were able to pedal just as fast as on the pavement. But the visibility started to get worse as the spray now included dirt in addition to water, and my glasses soon acquired a semi-opaque film. As we headed out through Wayzata, I had to basically let Brian and Rick go ahead and just split the middle between their taillights, figuring that would be enough to keep me on the trail.

We stopped for the first time at a rest area in Long Lake, where I hunkered down in a port-a-pottie and checked the trusty iPhone for radar updates. We had gotten lucky - there was a small east-west gap with heavy rain on one side and a line of severe thunderstorms on the other, and we were right in the middle of that gap. Behind it, the rain cleared up.


And going...

We were also keeping up a good pace, between 16 and 19 mph. It was easy to sustain because the trail, being an old railroad grade, is almost dead flat. What hills there are, are extremely gradual and only needed a shift of at most one gear in either direction. The rain kept getting lighter and lighter, although the spray kept us soaked, and we all started to settle in for the long haul. Then disaster struck (...me).

I mentioned the amount of junk lying on the trail as a result of the previous week of stormy weather, and in some denser sections, we were forced to ride over it instead of around it. Shortly before we arrived at CR-92 to meet up with Corey, I rode over a branch and felt the sickening feeling of something jamming my pedals to a full stop. I stopped applying force as quickly as I could and backed off gently, but it was too late - the damage was done.

The shiny parts in each picture? They used to go together. The derailleur had completely sheared off and the chain yanked it all the way around to get hung up on the chainstay. I stopped, quickly figured out it was unrecoverable, and broke the chain to remove the whole mess while a cloud of mosquitoes descended on the three of us. Even after an emergency application of Ultrathon, we still had to expedite the whole process, and Brian started to tow me to the next available road. Luckily, that turned out to be CR-92, where we found Corey waiting in the parking lot of the defunct Ox Yoke Inn.

Luckily, it wasn't too late yet, and I was able to call for a ride. After about 20 minutes we got everything sorted out, Brian and Rick swapped me and my lame bike for Corey and her cool bike, and I headed up to the intersection with CR-6 to wait to be picked up. But I wasn't done yet - I planned to stay up all night anyway, dammit, and I was going to do just that. I resolved to get back to town, pick up my car, drop off the now useless bike, and come back out to play support crew. What had happened to me could just as easily happen to someone else, and this thing wasn't over yet.


And going... without me.

By 2:30 AM, I was heading west on CR-20 towards Watertown, and got a txt from Corey "meet us in Hutch at 2:15". Excellent! I had a gallon of water, three bottles of Coke, the Jet-Boil and some hot chocolate packets. The rain had stopped, however, and the night was still pretty warm, so I wasn't that concerned about the team getting cold.

Their ride from CR-92 out to Hutchinson wasn't exactly uneventful, as Brian relates. There was one all-team pileup on a slippery wooden bridge, and Corey seemed almost a little proud of her three "dismounts". So I pulled into the trail access on the east side of Hutchinson around 2:30 AM - which wasn't easy to find in the dark - and no sooner had I put the car in park than I looked up to see a bunch of white LEDs approaching from my left. Perfect timing! We moved a couple blocks away to a vacant lot to get away from the hordes of mosquitoes, and took a half-hour-or-so break to eat, drink, and be merry.

Three sore asses turned around and headed home. I drove back to the Vega Avenue trail access and took a quick nap while I waited. The alarm woke me up at 5:15 AM and sure enough, no sooner had I sat up than I saw three bikes come out onto the road. More perfect timing! It was light by now, and every mile they pedaled was closer to breakfast. Spirits were high, the weather was cooperating, and there were no further mechanical issues. I checked in with them once more at Ox Yoke Lake, where Corey peeled off, and then we all met at Bryant-Lake Bowl for breakfast at 9:15 AM. A good night overall, although it was disappointing not to be in it for the whole thing.