Sunday, October 17, 2010

River valleys and bike trails: A 2-day trip to Red Wing

Some scattered thoughts about a 2-day bike trip I took to Red Wing last week:

  • The route I took can be broken down into four parts. I took the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail from Mankato to Faribault. From there, I hopped on Highway 3 and headed north to Northfield. Once in the town of Oles and Knights, I went west on Highway 19 to Cannon Falls (map between Faribault and Cannon Falls here). After that, it was a simple 20-mile jaunt on the Cannon Valley Trail into Red Wing. Collectively, it equated to being about 90-95 miles of biking one way and close to 200 miles both ways. A minuscule amount compared to what Eric and Christie Nelson pedaled (who are now back in Mankato after a 14,000-mile ride, congrats you two!), but a decent 2-day trip.
  • My reasons for taking the trip were simple. I had a couple days off in a row from work and was getting bored with the everyday rut I was in. It seemed like everyday revolved around either work or getting a good training run in; not my kind of routine. Aside from all that, I read about the Cannon Valley Trail in the bike trails book I rented from the library and wanted to see if I could make it there from the end of the Sakatah trail. Cannon Falls (the start point of the Cannon Valley Trail) is less than 30 miles from Faribault on back roads; turns out it was very feesible on a bike.
  • Since it was a 2-day trip, I had to pack a change of clothes and a tent on my bike somehow. I resorted to buying a $20 bar rack at Wal Mart and bungeed everything to it (see photo). I also packed a small bike repair kit on the front of my bike. The one hitch in this plan was that the rack wasn't designed for my bike and needed to be bungeed down to keep it from moving. Next time, I think I'll try someplace other than Wal Mart to do last-minute bike shopping.
  • I was initially going to use this trip as a way to explore the notion of connecting the Cannon Valley and Sakatah trails at some point. However, as the trip progressed, it turned into more of a juxtaposition of how much better shape the Cannon Valley Trail is in. See my column in Sunday's paper for further details.
  • Best part of the trip: Finding a random bar called Chuggers in downtown Cannon Falls to watch the Vikings-Jets game after setting up camp for the night. Good atmosphere, passionate fans, decent drink prices and an entertaining Monday night game. Not sure if I've ever head that many verbal barbs aimed at Brad Childress in one 3-hour stretch (which is saying something).
  • Worst part of the trip: The 16-mile stretch of road between Northfield and Cannon Falls. Rolling hills, no shoulder, busy traffic and curse-worthy swirling winds. Let's just say the beer at Chuggers tasted a whole heck of a lot better after that ordeal.
  • 2nd worst part of the trip: Paying $25 for a non-electric campsite to set my tent up for a night at the Cannon Falls Campground. I understand campsites need to make money, but charging the rate of a cheap hotel room for tent camping is a little ridiculous. I spent the rest of the trip wondering if I could have set up camp on the side of the road without being noticed.
  • Despite Red Wing being the destination of the trip, Northfield was probably the coolest town I visited. It's home to a very quaint (and bicycle friendly) downtown area by the Cannon River, complete with quirky shops and tasty local eateries. I looked around the mall there for awhile and, on the suggestion of locals and websites alike, ate at Basil's Pizza Place for dinner. GREAT pizza and very reasonable prices. St. Olaf and Carleton campuses were also fun to look at for awhile. Liberal arts colleges usually have some impressive old-fashioned architecture to admire, and these two were no exception. Considering Northfield is an easy 11-mile jaunt from the Sakatah trail, I might need to make that trip again sometime. The third photo on the right is a picture of Northfield from the viewpoint of the top floor of Larson Hall at St. Olaf. Beyond the buildings at St. Olaf, you can see Carleton College off in the distance on the left and can see the downtown area of Northfield as well.
  • I wish I would've had more time to explore Red Wing. I really only had about a 3-hour window to explore the town, and part of that was spent eating lunch at Liberty Restaurant downtown (recommended by locals; I wasn't a huge fan of it, too pricey). Red Wing apparently has some great hilltop vantage points from Memorial Park and Barns Bluff (pictured in the background in the first the photo, which is of Main Street in Red Wing). However, I didn't have the time to hike up to either of them. Instead, I looked at a few shops downtown, biked over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, and checked out the riverfront park. Definitely fun, but there was more to see in that town.
  • As par for the course with my other bike adventures, this one was not without equipment problems on my two-wheeled companion. My rear-wheel brake lever actually detached from the handlebar between Northfield and Cannon Falls (see photo), making it impossible to use that brake for the rest of the trip (not the safest biking I've ever done). Additionally, the extra weight of my gear caused a rear-wheel spoke to break on the second day of biking. Thankfully, I was able to locate a bike shop in Cannon Falls (really more of an old-timey hardware store, really wish I would've got a picture of it) to fix my spoke and duct tape the brake lever back to my handlebars.
  • The trip was initially intended to be a 2-day adventure where I would leave late Monday morning and get back Wednesday around lunch. However, thanks to a combination of a head lamp and my legs getting second wind in Faribault, I managed to make it back into Mankato late Tuesday night. Collectively, Tuesday a 120-mile biking day, with the majority of the miles pedaled after 1 p.m. Not the best idea in retrospect, I felt like crap the next couple days.

No comments:

Post a Comment