Sunday, June 24, 2007

1st Annual (?) Pilgrimage of Beer

Recently, I stumbled upon a vital new piece of knowledge -- Surly Brewing sells growlers. This is a big deal and when I found out, I immediately thought it would be cool to bike out to the brewery and get a couple. Digging further (which meant going to the Surly Brewing website -- you should go there too: ) I compiled the particulars. Due to regulations and staffing issues the growlers are only available on Saturdays from noon until 2pm. So, a couple new wheels starting spinning in my mind about how I could get two spoked wheels turning toward the brewery in Brooklyn Center.

I mentioned the idea to a few like-minded coworkers known for having a perpetual thirst. Pretty soon it became apparent that I should just email an invitation to a bunch of people. A name was assigned -- the Pilgrimage of Beer; a date was set -- Sat, June 16; a time and meeting place were decided -- 11am CRC Coffee Bar and Cykel Garage. All that was left to do was to wait and see who might show up. Here are a couple of photos of the crowd assembling in front of Hurl's shop, a bonafide Uptown icon, the CRC:

I was pleased. By the time we were ready to roll out at 11:20 we had 16 pilgrims. Amy C slid in at the last possible moment to make it 17. We pedaled down Bryant (BTW Panorama Video usually has good sales on all the titles you WANT to see), north to the Midtown Greenway, and headed west. Then we cut north on the Cedar Lake Trail to Wirth and eventually Victory Parkway. It was a pleasant enough ride with no problems aside from a troublesome pannier strap. Amy C lives near the brewery, so she led the group most of the way.A paltry 11 miles later, our force of 17 stormed into the Surly building and began placing our orders. Even with a few non-drinkers in our group we managed to snatch up at least 35 growlers. (Perhaps our numbers were so impressive because the rest of us are over achievers.) Surly's offerings of the day were CynicAle, Bender and Furious (a strong IPA -- my personal favorite).

Locked and ready to get loaded, we didn't exactly have a destination planned. Rude Dawg had a great suggestion -- head east to the riverfront in Camden. I had never spent time there, but it sounded as if it could fulfill all our requirements -- a relatively low key (and low brow) setting with bike access, a picnic table and a grill. A quick stop by the "Bunny store" provided the necessary grub (slim on vegan pickin's however). On the way there, the group moved fast. I think everyone was getting thirsty. I had to stop and secure a wayward bag of Doritos perched on my BOB trailer. The group kept on going. Fortunately, a few people waited for me and we set out to track down the group. I had no idea where we were going, but was a little ashamed to admit it. After one wrong turn we did manage to spot some fellow pilgrims who led us to our penitent camp on the west bank of the Mighty Mississippi. The only other souls around were a few people fishing a hundred yards away. Bikes down ...and growlers up! We packed two grills with briquettes and prepared to sacrifice our offerings.

Trevor prepping some vegan repast.

The Park Police rolled by once and kept on going. I thought for sure we would be moving our camp after barely getting settled, but we got lucky. Growlers aren't exactly the receptacles cops are planning to spot. Maybe they thought we were drinking jugs of iced tea? Matt, our resident legal counsel, had to take off to attend his high school graduation. He left us with the sage advice to answer "Yes, Sir/Ma'm" should the cops return. Shenanigans ensued. Three local kids even scammed 4 brats off of us. Dave Lee and Reid "Short-shorts" Gosmire started riding hot laps around the bike path loop. We began serenading Dave (using the chorus to the Police "Everything She Does is Magic") and booing Reid. Ah, good times. Then, Amy C passed out. When somebody passes out and you don't know why, that's scary. When somebody passes out because they have had 1+ growlers of strong beer and are currently busy horking off your growler (even though you're trying to get 'em to drink water), it's not too confusing why they are no longer conscious. Amy looked comfortable with her head on the table and the rest of us were having fun, so we kept partying. I remember mentioning something along the line of "Too bad we don't have a Sharpie." Well, Anthony Kamstra packs a Sharpie at all times. Insisting that it be tastefully done, we all watched as Reid gave Amy a very nice Sharpie tattoo on the base of the neck. Paul Rude was throwing another party and the crew was restless. But, we needed to make sure Amy got home. I was happy a portion of the group rallied for the task. We rolled out. I brought up the rear. My BOB trailer felt really unstable (the beer had nothing to do with it) and 30 seconds into the ride I took a good fall directly onto my ride side on the grass lining the trail. It was a hard hit but I hopped up and, of course, checked to make sure no one had seen my idiot maneuver. (Editor's note: Is it okay that it hurts to breathe and I just discovered that I broke my helmet?) I got underway again, popped out to the road and promptly discovered the group gathered around Amy C, being pulled up from the pavement. She'd steered directly into a parked classic Cadillac and had really smashed her shoulder good.

It's all fun and games until you have to try and sober up and act all responsible. Amy's front wheel was tacoed. We contemplated straightening it, but it was really bad. We checked her shoulders and head. Nothing looked broken; there was no blood. The real challenge that lay ahead was how to get her home. No real choice but to walk. And walk we did for about 20 minutes. A little mental math and I figured out we must be at least 3, if not 4-5, miles from her house. This was not going to be fun or easy because Amy was beginning to fade again and could no longer walk on her own.

Right about that time April called me to see when I'd be home. (Yeah, imagine that conversation.) I said things did not look good and if it were at all possible, she should come up and get Amy with the car. She agreed and we camped out in the shade to play the waiting game.

Everyone chilled out. Amy slumped over onto my shoulder for another beer nap. Reid and Pierre were fixing a tire, but it took so long I thought they must be repacking the hub, too. Pretty soon I began to wonder whether my foggy directions to a strange part of town were adequate for April to find us. But she pulled up and we loaded two bikes, the BOB trailer and a barely conscious Amy into the wagon. The saddest part for me was abandoning the ride and watching everyone else pedal away, but was definitely for a good cause. After one big-ass loop, a lot of contradictory directions and some second-guessing, we found Amy's street. We left her with instructions to keep icing the shoulder and take some Vitamin I.

It was more action than I was looking for on the pilgrimage, but I was happy it wasn't worse. I still feel pretty bad that Amy went down on "my ride," because it's hard not to feel responsible in some way. Amy's collarbone was indeed cracked and she'll be on the DL for a while. The rest of us didn't learn our lessons -- we're planning a growler refill ride for the afternoon of B-Rose's party! Check it out here:

And, thanks, honey, for saving the day.

60 Years and Counting

They planned and cooked all the food for their anniversary party to boot. Congrats G&G Fleck. You are both an inspiration and you make me proud of my decision to adopt the Fleck name. While we're at it, what the hell, let's throw in a couple more pictures. We traveled to Chicago for the celebration and got to stay in the Doubletree Arlington Heights. Enjoy readers -- these have nothing to do with ranting about cars, fossil fuels or other things in general that I so relish picking apart ...

Hannah and John in a rare moment of cooperation

April in disbelief that she actually has found a game she can't master (Yet, the bean bag toss seems so simple.)Refreshments will be served in Room 327

Why exactly do kids get to stay for free? They always seem to do the most damage.

"Wait, who are these freaks dressed only in their underwear?"Our sisters Hannah and Erin

Erin wrangling Julian and a cross-dressed Sylvia

If B-Rose can blog goats (, I can blog a monolithic moose.

The coolest thing about having a kid? You'll do things you never imagined. Like stopping at a cheesy resort exit on I-94 in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. I'm quitting the bike gig to go to work for glamour shots. I have an inside line on larger-than-life fiberglass game animals.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Conclusion

So there we were ... haven't you ever noticed that is the best cliche for beginning an adventure story?

I left off with a sleepy camp and flagging motivation. We bummed around for a while, rocked in the hammock and ate a breakfast of oatmeal and leftover dinner from the night before. Soon Sylvia and April got antsy, so we decided we'd make a trip over to the nature center. Sylvia was getting more and more cranky as the minutes went by meaning it was close to nap time. Dave and dawn said they'd catch up and decided to catch a little more sleep in the warmth of the late morning sun. As soon as we rolled out of the campground, Sylvia was out. We pedaled over to the nature center. A number of people were enjoying the trails and milling about the park. Sylvia didn't wake up and we knew she needed the sleep. We parked the bikes and trailer beneath the shade of a tree and stretched out on the grass ourselves. April napped and I did a bit, but although I was tired I just couldn't completely give in to slumber. Maybe it was because there were families walking by on the trail next to our family nap spot. My cell phone rang once and I couldn't get to it because of laziness. I finally decided I should just get up. I looked at the phone to discover Dave had called. "Maybe they couldn't find us," I thought. I called him back to discover he had received some bad news that his grandmother had passed away. He and Dawn were in the process of packing up. I unhitched the trailer and left Sylvia and April to make a run back to camp and see them off. They were sad; Dawn wasn't feeling well anyway and this news only added to the downtrodden mood. We were sad to be losing them for the weekend. hugs and well-wishes and they were on their way back to Minneapolis.

Alone, in an empty camp, I found myself all of a sudden with something I rarely get -- quiet time and no one around to place a single demand on it. I also had a pretty hefty stash of beer and no one else around to drink it. The seasoned backpacker in me is always conscious of "lightening the load." The poet in me is always ready to seize a moment of repose to jot notes and verse in my journal. I fetched my notebook and pen, cracked a beer, and perched myself at the picnic table to enjoy about an hour of uninterrupted time for writing and observation. When Sylvia and April did return they left again to head down to the lake. I was gifted another hour or so of writing time.

All good things must come to an end, however. The solace was broken by a rambunctious toddler again at camp. It was nice though since it was then time to begin preparing dinner. We ate another meal of roasted potatoes and vegetables. Dave and Dawn had taken hardly any of the food with them and it was becoming apparent how much we might be hauling back with us!

The campground scene modulated so much during the weekend. Some families cleared out Sunday morning only to be replaced by others popping in for one night. A few sites looked to have been left vacant all weekend. Everything seemed a bit more frenzied by Sunday evening. As April struggled to get Sylvia to relax and go to bed in the tent I noticed the cranky kids and parents in neighboring camps. Friends of campers drove in to say "hi" or drink beer. SUVs, trucks pulling boats and regular passenger cars cruised the circular drive of the campground. I don't know what it was but I reached a point where I just had to leave for a bit or I might lose it. I told April I'd be back and apologized for having to leave all of a sudden. Pedaling away I felt I just had to get to that meadow. It was near sundown again and sure enough -- the meadow was vacant. No one was out pedaling the trails; the field was all mine. I laid my bike in the tall grass and walked straight for the oldest, most secure object in the near distance -- an ancient oak tree with an inviting canopy. I marched through the prairie vegetation, dodging nettles, through deer beds and wildflowers. It was only a couple hundred yards and there I stood beneath the gnarled branches of that mighty old tree. I touched its bark in a sense to ground myself. It was inviting. In the sphere of shade it cast grew lush tufts of softer grasses. Not a bad place to bivouac or escape the midday heat, and the plants had done just that. I spoke with the tree a little, although I had to raise my voice over the din of cars speeding by on the highway a hundred feet to the west. I knew the tree was so much older than that road and had known a time well before its locale could have been considered a second-tier suburb. I pined for that time as if I could be the tree remembering. I wished that cars were slower. I shouted at a few; I cursed the drivers for their laziness. Why couldn't they shut off their engines, walk away from their death boxes and take it in? I coveted quietness and real solitude and they were wrecking it. But I calmed down and recognized the futility of my fury. Instead, I blocked out the noise and listened closely to the tree for a few minutes and I was better. I said goodbye, highstepped across the prairie again and picked up my bike. Mounting it, I glided through the chilly evening air at sunset and coasted into camp.

My spirits were much better. I'm used to the backcountry (I don't say wilderness because that is a misnomer these days). Car camping is tough enough for me. Camping in a civilized campground with a few hundred imbiciles is another matter entirely. But I had connected with the tree and I knew that I could sit back and relax, split some wood, stoke the fire and enjoy the opportunity with my family. Sylvia enjoyed her time around the fire and even threw a few sticks in herself. It reminded me so poignantly of my Dad teaching me about fire and allowing me to get close enough to learn. We spend so much time sheltering kids that I fear we scare them away. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying parents should allow kids to hurt themselves, but we should allow them the space to learn and discover. And another big thing I'm learning is that children emulate. If you want them to build good practices and form positive habits, model them yourself.

The rest of the night was uneventful. We had another helping of s'mores and went to bed. It was a peaceful night.

The most amusing thing about our final morning in camp was the vast difference between our routine and the routines going on with the car campers around us. They were all so frantic. They struggled against everything -- gear they rarely used and couldn't remember how to pack up, rusted hitches on camper trailers, kids rebelling against forced routines after a weekend of freedom. I built up the fire as usual and kept it going. We made breakfast and I banked wood to the side and set leftovers on the back edge of the grate. That way they cooked slowly while I leisurely packed up the camp. April and Sylvia played. I didn't mind doing the work of packing since I am so used to it and I like things done my way. I was able to wash the camp dishes before packing them up; shake out the tent and dry the bags; organize the ditty bags and group everything for packing into the trailer and onto the bike. About noon we ate a decent lunch. We chucked the re-used pie plates and set off from our temporary home.
April has since told the story of our trip to many friends. My favorite part is when she mentions how a normal camping trip begins and ends with stuffing everything into the car and then driving -- usually a long time -- to begin (or end) your "vacation." With bike camping, your vacation begins as soon as you roll away from your front door (headed to), or away from camp (headed home). We had another adventure ahead of us riding back. I carried the camera in my jersey pocket so I could capture spontaneous shots. I got April riding across my favorite meadow and another of her behind me on the paved trail. As we were winding around a curve about a half mile from the intersection with the LRT trail I heard a sound, not a scream exactly, but defintely not a positive sound from behind. I turned my head to see April falling over rather inexplicably. She hadn't hit anything and I was really confused as to why this might be happening. (The shot below was taken just before the mishap.)
It turned out that April had readjusted the quick realease on the BOB hitch to accommodate the Burley. She had inadvertently loosened the quick release, however, and had not retightened it. Under load, the BOB had crept forward and driven her rear wheel into the chainstays of her bike, creating a sudden and irreversable braking action. She lost momentum and fell over. Needless to say, after I issued a terse, but intense, lecture on the dangers of not minding your quick releases ("What if we had been descending a hill at 25 miles per hour?!") we remounted the trailer and got back underway.

Cruising the LRT trail was better than the trip out to Carver since we now had a tailwind. However, we now had to contend with the crowds of weekend warriors and general socialite riff-raff blocking egress of such noble a path. I took deep breaths but also had to tell a couple parties as we passed to clear the trail. I mean, a Starbucks or Caribou is never more than a stone's throw away. Get off the path if you want to gab.
The crowds necessitated another stop, which was fortunate since we discovered one of the gems of our trip ... a little known side park. The name escapes me now, but even if I remembered it, I wouldn't tell you. I want to keep it a secret so all the yahoos riding by don't begin dumping their empty beers and used condoms there.
If you find it, good for you. That means you need the respite from the crowds as well. Save a few rounds in your Glock by getting off the trail if you feel homicidal. But I digress ... We ended our trip at a coffee shop in Uptown. It was hot, we were tired and the kid was restless. But, I can certainly attest that it is all worth it when you see the look in your child's eyes. When you listen to her talk about all the bugs you looked at and the fire and the tent and the whole trip ... and not one single solitary word has to do with an automobile.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Loaded for Bear, Part II

(Continued from previous post, ya dig?) Upon arrival at camp, we pitched tents and unpacked the essentials. This didn't take long with four people working together. April and I had brought some food, but Dave and Dawn intended to shop in town. Dave and I ended up going out for supplies, since I had the yearning for some barley pop and they needed victuals. It was a treat to ride away on our bikes sans trailers. When you pull a loaded trailer any distance by bike you get the sensation of floating along once it is no longer attached. Our route retraced our pedal into the park, back across the beautiful meadow just east of the campground and onto the silky smooth park trail beyond. Once we met the LRT path, we headed west and it wasn't long before we were in Victoria. Dave and I ride home from work together a lot and we both like to set a good pace. The first business in town that met our eyes was a bar (a typical sign for an upper midwestern burg of any population). I counted at least 4 more bars but we could not find a grocery store. We ended up at a gas station next to a liquor store. The attendant told us there was no grocery in town. The liquor store clerk was more helpful and gave us directions ("just five minutes away in a car") to a large grocery store. I thought it better to be safe than sorry, so I loaded up a case of beer (half cans, half bottles) into my panniers and we set out.

Twenty minutes into our grocery odyssey I wished I had not been so eager to secure my payload of fermented fizzy goodness. The wind was gusty, mostly cross winds and some tail winds and I was already dreading the ride back into what would be a stiff headwind. Our trek to the grocery store turned out to be about 8.5 miles farther from camp. It was a nice ride, but it took us to a bustling strip mall in Chaska. All of a sudden I didn't feel like we were on a camping trip anymore. Of course there were no bike racks outside the Rainbow Foods. We locked our bikes to a pathetically flimsy sidewalk sign and strolled in. I learned something about Dave on this trip -- you shouldn't go to a grocery store with him if you're in a hurry. I was a little nervous because I'm a weather freak and can never stop watching the clouds and horizon when I'm camping or traveling. Before we entered the store the clouds were thickening and the temperature was feeling cooler. I kept imagining the ladies back at camp getting hit by a thunderstorm and I hadn't taken time to pitch the tarp since I was bold enough to observe (since the sky was clear and sunshine abundant) that "we shouldn't need the tarp all weekend." Meanwhile Dave was casually chatting up the produce guy who approached us because of our Surly hats. He wants to build up a Steamroller. I thought we should split up to make things go faster, so I took items from our collaborative mental list and walked the store up and down fetching them. Meanwhile, Dave was picking out fresh corn and focusing on the hunt for candy. I'd just about had enough of the store when we managed to decide we had actually gotten everything we needed. We walked outside and the temperature had dropped ten degrees from when we'd left camp. The wind had not dropped, however. I squeezed food into my already heavy panniers and we rolled back out to the road.

I kept imagining that Dave must be carrying a lot less weight than me because even with his single gear he pulled ahead on the open stretches of road. I remembered that I had neither eaten enough nor taken enough water all day. My body was telling me this in subtle code. The only remedy was to get back to camp, eat and relax. Bummer, I thought, that I'd still have to get a fire going and finish some camp chores. We navigated back to the LRT trail by a more direct route and got to the park faster than I thought we might. The sun was beginning its descent and I immediately felt my spirits lift. The lighting on a cool spring evening in MN can be one of the most tantalizing effects to witness. The air seems to draw everything from your hands gripping the bars to the infinity of the distant horizon into a sharp focus. Mental processes follow suit and the ensuing clarity is magical. With every pedal stroke I looked forward to making the turn-off toward the campground and back over that dirt road through the meadow. I told Dave I wanted to get a couple of photos, so we staged one or two with him riding by. I didn't quite get the image I was looking for, but the photos are nice nonetheless.

We rolled back through the campground loop fully laden with the spoils of our consumerism. The mood was light -- families gathered 'round their picnic tables, kids zipped by on bikes and wood smoke drifted through the air. We rolled into our camp and much to my surprise there was a healthy fire crackling in the fire grate. Everything was dry; no horrendous storm had flattened tents. Dawn had secured wood for the evening. All that was left to do was cook, eat, drink and relax. Nice.

Everybody was beat from our adventures of the day. Temperatures were in the 50s with a little breeze. The cold exaggerrated our fatigue. We all fetched layers and hats to ward off the chill. Dinner was chunked potatoes, squash, onions, hot dogs and whole corn on the cob roasted over the fire. The drive-in campgrounds always have nice, stout adjustable grates. We took advantage of this. I picked up a 3 pack of pie tins at the mega mart and we reused these all weekend to roast and reheat our food. We ate in courses as a fresh plate came off the fire. Sylvia was full of wonder and excitement. We thought she might never go to sleep, but she eventually did. Fortunately she loves sleeping in the tent. I can't imagine her ever being afraid of camping since she is so at home in the outdoors. We adults had plans to read aloud a Gothic short story by J Sheridan Le Fanu, but inspiration quickly faded. Instead, we made a few s'mores and Dave and Dawn turned in for the night. April and I closed down the camp. It was a pleasant surprise that none of our neighbors planned to party into the wee hours (or, maybe it was a disappointment that we weren't partying into the wee hours!) Sleep was welcome, however, and the bag felt nice and cozy.

One of my favorite things about camping is that I am usually the first one up and out of the tent. This is the reverse of home. April and Sylvia are always milling about before me. This quiet morning time is generally spent getting water for tea and rebuilding the fire from the coals of the night before. It was a chilly morning. I welcomed the heat of the fire which didn't take long to get going again. The wood we'd bought was cut too large and not sufficiently split. I struggled with a few chunks before I found a good system for sawing and splitting it into more efficient pieces. I am always amazed how car campers build and burn fires. They invariably construct a teepee out of fireplace-sized logs and quite often dump on some gas to get it going. I truly think you should only build a fire as large as you need and that you should burn every coal completely so the only thing remaining is fine ash (lessons instilled by my father). In order to achieve this goal, I spend a lot of my time at camp processing wood. That's okay. We didn't pack lounge chairs and even if we had I'm just not one to sit around much at camp. I carry a small camp axe (hatchet) and a folding saw. As a result I cut and split wood from a crouching position which is much safer than standing and taking full swings. I observed neighbors with their full-size axes pounding the hell out of dense logs, missing swings and glancing blows off to the sides. They might think my method underpowered and inefficient, but we were never without fire when we needed it, our meals cooked evenly and I still have all my fingers and didn't need stitches.

Soon April stirred and Sylvia wasn't far behind. The campground was coming to life as well. (Here's Sylvia and me enjoying the hammock. She played with it all weekend.) I hiked to the privy and was surprised how many camps were still shut up in their tents at 9:30 in the morning! I guess there's not much to wake up early for when you know you can run into town for coffee and hot food with your car. Me? I like to lay a good foundation for the day at camp during the morning. The problem was we really didn't have any plans and I wasn't feeling terribly motivated. My legs were flat and I felt groggy. I kept thinking how glad I was this wasn't a regular tour and I didn't need to mount up for a 70-100 mile day. While we served breakfast, like last night's dinner, in courses (some from the fire, some from the stove), we discussed ideas. The nature center a couple of miles away was the consensus. We weren't in any hurry though, so April took a spin to load up on more wood for the day. She pulled the BOB trailer and took along a strap to contain the load. It took her two trips but she was very proud to have accomplished the task on her own. Better yet, she hauled enough wood for the rest of our trip. I hadn't yet had to fetch a single log myself!

There is yet one more installment of our exciting life at camp. How will it end? Oh, more fun details await. Did we ever join in the dorky lawn games going on at camps around us? Did we die because we didn't have an auto to hop into and drive to town? Tune in next time ...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How did you spend Memorial Day?

We decided for Memorial Day we'd honor all the troops who have died (and are dying) to protect American foreign interests driven by the brutal inertia of the capitalist engine by not cranking up any vehicle with an engine at all. Our bikes took us on vacation. Joined by two adventurous friends, Dave and Dawn, we set out Saturday afternoon for Victoria MN, a small community about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Nestled just north of Victoria is Carver Park Reserve, home of Lake Auburn Campground, where we spent three days. Everything we needed (including Sylvia) was packed into two trailers and a set of panniers. We've been meaning to explore the possibility of camping as a family from our bikes. This exploration opened up consideration of a whole realm of possibilities that might simply be overlooked when one thinks about "going camping." That phrase inevitably means getting out of the city -- way out of the city -- to the northwoods or Wisconsin. And that requires a car if you plan to pack it all into a weekend. When you think with car logic, all of a sudden everything within the radius of your own backyard can seem so mundane and inconsequential. Well, I am happy to report that we were all pleasantly surprised. We did "get out of the city," but not that far. A decade or so ago Victoria would have been a lot quieter than it is now. Urban sprawl has caught up with it, as evidenced by the multi-story condos forming a mini skyline along the opposite shore of Lake Auburn. But the dozens of other families who pulled pop-ups and drove RVs to the place thought they were getting back to nature. I have a hard time buying into that illusion, but we were treated to sights, sounds and adventures along the way that the car campers will never know exist.

Here's April's rig with the BOB trailer, a contraption she learned the ins and outs of during this trip (more on that later). We traveled 27 miles from front door to campsite. The beauty of this excursion -- all but about 2 miles was on bike trail. We caught the Midtown Greenway 10 blocks north of our apartment. That took us west to Hopkins where we jogged over to the NW spur of the LRT Trail. The LRT is the crushed limestone path I was introduced to courtesy of Hurl and his Slick 50 ride back in March. The trail has a completely different character this time of year since it is compact and smooth. (No ice slicks and constant mud.) The weather was forecast to be stormy. We had dramatic cloud cover and some breezy, cool temps, but no rain. The trail was virtually desolate. We pedaled through urban forests, across marshes and along lakes for two and a half hours and saw few other people. Sylvia amused herself peacefully in the trailer with a new jigsaw puzzle. We did make a stop at a trailside playground to stretch and let Sylvia get her ya-ya's out.

If I ever design playground equipment I'm going to give kids some bouncy toys modeled after human-powered vehicles. Incidentally, that's Interstate 494 in the background. The LRT trail is kind of just there, unnoticed by many I'm sure. Except for the major road crossings and underpasses you'd think you were in rural MN for most of this trip. The rest of our jaunt passed uneventfully except for Dave attempting to pop a wheelie on his fixed gear while pulling a Burley trailer full of camping gear. That didn't go so well, but we weren't able to get photos since he jumped up so quickly and got right back on the bike. A right turn off the LRT trail puts you on the path leading into the southeast corner of Carver Park. The trail is smooth pavement, better than any trail I've ridden in the Cities. The last portion to the campground is the best -- it is an old, dirt farm road across a beautiful field and marsh. Judging by the trail building throughout the rest of the park, I'd say it's a matter of time before they pave a spur leading across that field. I sure hope not. One last photo for this post, marking our triumphant arrival at camp. We needed a few last minute foodstuffs, so Dave and I embarked on a grocery odyssey. That's where we'll leave off for now. Tune in for the next installment ...