My weekend: Three bikes and some whitewater.

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Lake Superior on April 1st. If this was a normal year you’d be seeing the lake covered in ice right now.

We had what must have been one of the nicer April 1st in quite awhile. Pleasant temps for this time of year and a lack of wind. I got in my longest ride of the year on Saturday. Nothing to brag about, but it felt good to spend some time in the saddle.

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People at work were talking about the Annual Lester River Kayak Races happening this weekend. They are scheduled last minute to correspond with high melt water on the river. Lester River is located on the eastern side of Duluth. I headed in that general direction thinking I could end up at the races about time they were scheduled to start. I rode along the Lake front on the Lakewalk. It’s still odd to have the studded tires off the bike so early in the Spring. The bike felt fast with the smooth rolling summer tires.

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It wasn’t long before I reached the Lester River Crossing on the Lakewalk extension. I headed up stream to see if I could find the kayak races.

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Spectators waiting for the races to begin.

I found a place to watch just as the projected start time arrived. I waited 20 minutes but the kayaks never came. As per usual for me when the weather starts to warm up, I tend overdress and get a bit sweaty. I was starting to catch a chill standing around. So I meandered on my way without witnessing any of the racing in person. Here’s some footage from YouTube for an idea of what I missed.

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Bike ride number two on bike number two happened Sunday. It was an errand run to the local Co-op (not to be confused with Whole Foods Market).

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We’ve always kept a tight household budget. In fact we’ve been budgeting our expenses since 1998. Our food budget always challenges us and helps us from over spending. The down side of the food budget is we get low on basic food staples by the end of the month. Once a new month rolls around we generally do a couple of big shopping trips. The picture is of the Blue Truck/Xtracycle loaded up with four full size sacks of groceries. The xtra large canvass shopping bags were hand sewn by Susan and fit in the Xtracycle quite nicely.

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Bike number three may not be what you were expecting. This one has a motor other then me to power it. The snow is gone and it’s warm. I decided it was a good weekend to take the cover off the moto, drop in the battery, and start it up. I’m always impressed with this Honda motor. After sitting outside all winter, it starts up instantly and without any complaints. Luckily whatever animal was living under the seat was gone and hadn’t chewed through any of the wiring. Looking forward to another season of riding this machine along with all my other bikes.

Hope everyone out there had a nice weekend.

Cycle on.

 

 

It happened this weekend.

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The studded tires came off and the summer treads went on. All the tires I handled were Schwalbes. That will tell you the state of my thumbs. They are raw from coaxing those tough beads onto the rims. For those tracking things at home, the studded tires were 26 x 1.75 Schwalbe Marathon Winter. The summer tires I’m currently using on this bike are 26 x 2.0 Schwalbe Supremes. Interestingly enough, they measure almost the same width on the rim with a caliper despite being two different sized tires.

The annual ritual of removing the studded tires is always a milestone. It signals the arrival of above freezing temps. I’m not commuting by bike many days lately. Back when I commuted daily, the day the studs came off was always a big day. And a bit stressful some years. Take them off too early and get surprised by a late Spring snow storm, and you regret it. There’s been a few years when I’ve had to put the studded tires back on.

This years removal was about three to four weeks earlier than normal. On average the studded tires usually come off the third week of April. That’s about the time we no longer drop below freezing at night.

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The best thing about taking the studded tires off is the first ride on the bike. I feel like Superman on the bike with faster rolling tires. And the lack of the “sizzlin’ bacon” sound of the steel carbide studs on pavement is sooo nice. It feels like I’m gliding along effortlessly and stealthy quiet. To top if off I gave the bike a good scrubbing to remove all the accumulated winter grit and salt. It felt, and looked like, a new bike. You know what a joy it is to ride a new bike.

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Riding the local mtb trails on the Pugsley was definitely not an option. The trails are officially closed. We are into the mud season. Trails will be closed to all users until it drys out. That could be in two weeks or six weeks if we have a wet Spring.

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I chose to ride Skyline parkway. I timed it today so that I was able to get in a decent ride between rain showers. Skyline has extremely low traffic on a wet, cold, foggy Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed cruising along silently on my bike in the dampness, with the woods shrouded in fog. It was quite meditative. When I stopped to take the above picture I started to admire the look of the raw, unpainted stainless steel tubing used on this bike. All cleaned up the unpainted steel frame had an enticing shiny look to it in the low light conditions. I snapped a few pictures of it.

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These low light conditions also seem to “illuminate” Alex Cook‘s (the builder) frame building skills. One interesting highlight of this frame is the use of a 1″ steerer tube. While everyone else is building with 1  1/8th” headtubes or tapered headtubes, Alex suggested we go with a 1″ on this bike. He said it would blend better with the over aesthetic of this frame. I think he was right. In fact, I think he nailed it.

It’s always nice to have an enjoyable ride on a day that proved hard to get motivated to go out. Although I admit I was a bit chilled when I arrived home. A hot cup of tea was in order. My wife has quite a selection of loose leaf teas from The Tea Source in St. Paul, Minnesota. I picked a nice Roasted Chestnut black tea. Of course I used a mug I designed. I thought it was a fitting theme for today’s ride.

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My Spring sale at my store, Salty Pedaler, goes thru April 7, 2017. Use code spring2017 to get 15% off all orders.

Cycle on people.

The weird weather continues.

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On Skyline Parkway along Keene Creek.

It was only three days ago I posted about going for a fatbike ride with super snow conditions. Since then, we’ve started another big thaw. With near record temps yesterday around 50F degrees. And then this today:

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This warm of weather doesn’t normally happen until late April. Riding today felt like late April. Feeling the warmth, the snow quickly…very quickly….melting. People out everywhere. People out on their Harley’s. It didn’t feel like a February day that’s for sure. I’m not saying winter is over. You never know here. I’ve ridden snow on the Pugsley well into April a few years. I can also remember 2012 when we had a thaw in mid-February. One of the warmest March and April months ever seen here followed that. March is typically the snowiest month. So we will have to wait and see which we get this year.

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The Annual Polar Plunge fundraiser was today. They are usually jumping into a hole cut in the ice. Not today. They had open water. Really weird.

Sooo, on a February day when I would typically head out in the bitter cold to ride some snowy trails on my Surly Pugsley, I instead rode some roads on my A-train.

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I feel for the businesses that make a living off of winter sports, winter activities, and snow. Winter is becoming unpredictable in a place where winter was nearly always guaranteed.

Velo Duluth’s New Year’s Day ride 2017.

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I can’t remember how long I’ve been attending this New Year’s Day Ride. I reckon I started going around 2004 or 2005. I’ve gone every year since, with one exception. I missed 2009 because I was recovering from surgery for a shattered humerus bone in my right arm.  The ride dates back 35 or 40 years. Originally being a road ride. This year they added the option of a road ride or a fat tire ride on the local mtb trails due to the growing popularity of fat tire bikes. Since I spent the previous two days on my fatbike and was feeling the efforts, I opted for the traditional road ride.

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Velo Duluth is a bicycling club that has gone mostly dormant. I still pay my membership fee every year. It gets me an in-store 15% discount off parts purchased at Twin Ports Cyclery. This years ride attracted a modest group of around 12 or 14 riders. The temperature was a balmy 30F degrees. Unusually high. I started the ride with a small group of six. The plan was to head towards Canal Park and then out to Park Point. A nice 15 mile round trip. I ended up bailing on the group in Canal Park and heading home. My gut hasn’t felt right since the middle of last week. I was enjoying being out on the bike, but needed to be setting my own pace.

I was joking with Susan the day before. I was mentioning I was going to the ride. These days it is often the only group ride I do all year long. As an introvert, I joked, I try to get that group ride thing checked off the list on the first day of the year. Then I can say I’ve done my group ride for the year. It helps lower my social anxiety for the next 364 days.

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Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota.

It was a beautiful day to be out on a bike. Sunshine and “warm” temps. The street conditions were exactly what my A-train Super Commuter was designed for. Lots of sloppy slush, salt and sand with patches of ice.

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Duluth side streets.

The side streets are mostly covered in an inch of ice from the Christmas Day rain/snow/sleet storm. On top of the ice is a nasty mixture sand, salt, and slush. The A-train’s belt drive, Rohloff IGH hub, disc brakes, and stainless steel frame are impervious to this bicycle-eating concoction. It’s a dream to ride in these conditions.

Happy New Year to all the reader’s of this blog.

Photos from the week.

It’s been an unusual September when it comes to the weather. I generally look forward to September because the weather can be some of the best of the year. Dry, cool, windless days with brilliant blue skies. This year we’ve seen little of that. It’s been cloudy with chances of rain more days than not, and windy. I’ve been less motivated to get out. Sunday, after being inside all day I forced myself out the door for a bike ride around 4:30. That’s late in the day even for me to get going. It was well worth it. I did some exploring of the old industrial river front. It’s mostly abandoned, polluted super-fund sites nowadays. Duluth was established as a town to support the mining and logging industries. These and other heavy industries spent the next hundred years using the harbor and polluting it. It is slowly being cleaned up and areas, like Canal Park, are now tourist attractions. Here’s pictures I took during this ride:

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A picture of a bridge from a bridge.
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The Arthur M. Anderson off-loading a load of what I think is limestone.
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Another shot of the Arthur M. Anderson. This is about as far up the river these large freighters travel. It’s almost 5 miles up river.
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It’s a half mile to the river down this stripped piece of industrial land between two boat slips.
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This is on the corner where the boat slip meets the main shipping channel of the St. Louis River. Minnesota is on the right, Wisconsin on the left.

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The half mile long slip for a very large boat or two.
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An old mail car. I’m guessing one of the two historic railroads in town has plans to restore it.
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Signs that Fall is fast approaching.

Thursday I was motivated to get out for a late evening ride. After a week of clouds and rain it managed to clear off about 5 in the afternoon. Seeing that crisp blue sky is all I needed to get me outside. It’s also the night Susan is gone to St Paul for a night class. I was free to stay out as long as I wanted.  Here’s a few pictures from that ride:

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It’s almost too bright to photograph.

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A father and son using the mountain bike trails. Trails with a view. This section of trail was built in the summer of 2015.
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Glorious late in the day sunshine.
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Last light of the day looking south over the Keene Creek ravine towards the St Louis River and Wisconsin.

Today, Friday, I was off from work. It was another cloudy, windy day. No rain though. It took me all day to get myself outside. When I finally went I decided to walk some of the trails near my house including some of the Superior Hiking Trail. According to today’s DNR report our Fall colors should be in the 50-75% range.

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Some places it appeared this was accurate, other places it didn’t.

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Keene Creek
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Keene Creek

As always, once I get myself out the door I rarely regret it. This is a lesson I learn again and again and again.

I was told today I’m not needed at work on Monday. My current job is a part-time position. I work when they need me. With the day off I made some camping reservations for Sunday night. I’ll be doing an overnight bike camping trip. Really looking forward to it. It’s will be only my second bike camping trip of the 2016.

 

 

 

Late weekend report: A hike and bike weekend

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Bringing the Pugsley along to do a hike.

It was a three day

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Tower Overlook with a view of Lake Superior in the distance. On a really clear day you can see the Apostle Islands and the Bayfield Peninsula of Wisconsin across the lake.

holiday weekend here in the states. We spent Saturday volunteering on the Superior Hiking Trail. It’s our 15th season as Trail Section volunteers. As a Trail Section volunteer we are asked to walk our section of trail once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We then fill out a report for the Maintenance Supervisor and do any trail work we feel comfortable doing.

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Cramer Road (Cook County Road 1) near Schroeder, Minnesota. It’s hard to see in this picture but Lake Superior is in the distance down at the bottom of this ridge.

After more then 30 times walking our section we have the routine down. I drop Susan and our gear off at the starting trail head. I drive to the trail head we will finish our hike at, take the bike and ride back to where I left Susan. I lock the bike in the woods and pick it up later after the hike. An added plus is a nice, mostly gravel, and mostly downhill bike ride.

We carry saws, lopers and an axe. We clear the trail best we can. We leave the really huge trees that have fallen on the trail for the chainsaw crew. Above is a before and after shot of a couple small birches we cleared.

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The Falls Campsite. Break spot number 1.

When we arrived at this campsite there was a young couple on a three day backpack trip. They were drinking wine out of stainless steel packable wine glasses. Turns out he had just proposed to her at the waterfall right below the campsite and they were celebrating. She said yes.

It was great to be out in the woods hiking together. We have not done enough hiking this summer. Our section of trail, much like the rest of the trail, is very scenic. It follows the Cross River as it cascades down the ridge towards Lake Superior. There is only one place on this section that has a view of Lake Superior. It’s one of the pictures above and is called Tower Overlook.

On Monday, the Labor Day Holiday, I went for a 20 mile ride to the west of my house. One of my regular routes that I like to ride when I don’t want to be around cars or too many people. It is mostly gravel and rail trail with maybe 1/3 low traffic roads. If you’ve read my blogs in the past you’ll recognize some of the shots. I was feeling quite sad after the news of Danny Chew being paralyzed in a bicycle crash. I stopped for a long while and sat on the wall at Bardons Peak to think. Riding my bike helped. Here’s some of the pictures:

 

A full weekend.

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Saturday’s quick ride.

We had two 90F+ degree days on Thursday and Friday. At 3:00 am Friday morning a devastating thunderstorm came through and caused much damage in other parts of town. Parts other then where we live. Straight line winds clocking upwards of 100 mph, that’s hurricane level winds, blew through the area. It left 1/3 of the city without power and knocked down 100’s of trees. Power is still out for more then 20,000 people as of Sunday night. Some people may have to wait until late in the week to have power restored. We were fortunate our neighborhood didn’t see any damage.

All that to say, it cooled down on the weekend. Ninety degree weather is very rare in these parts. Some years we never see a 90 degree day. Yesterday (Saturday) when I finally got out for a short afternoon ride it was 68F degrees. That’s what life by the world’s biggest fresh water lake is like. (Biggest by surface area, not volume.)

My weekend was very busy. Still working on the kitchen renovation. I manged to make progress on that and still get in a bike ride each day. Saturday’s was a quick ride. I tried to get in a ride before another round of thunderstorms hit. They ended up missing us and going east.

Sunday’s ride was way more enjoyable. I got out for a 20 mile spin with some climbing, some urban gravel, and lots of views. The route I took is here.I’ll make the rest of this post a picture post. Enjoy.

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Gravel, woods, and solitude.
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I came across more new mountain bike trails.

This trail was only a few days old. They are building new mountain bike trails faster than I can keep track of it. This particular stretch starts on the south end of the old Mission Creek Parkway bridge. The bridge that crosses the Munger Trail. It’s mind boggling to me how fast the mountain bike trail system is growing. There’s not going to be anywhere in the United States that has anything like this once it’s done. An interconnected 100 mile system of trails all within the city limits.

In other news. My raspberries are doing fantastic this year. I love berry season.

This is bike related. How can a patch of raspberries be bike related you ask?

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That’s me in 2007 with my newly built Xtracycle carrying a bucket of raspberry bushes.

One of the first errands I did when I built my Blue Truck/Xtracycle back in the summer of 2007 was carry a load of raspberry bushes 10 miles across town. A co-worker of mine offered me the bushes. All I had to do was pick them up. So I did. And I did it on a bicycle. Her yard was being taken over by them. That bucket of bushes has turned into quite a nice patch that produces a lot of berries. Love those berries.

Braving the crowds.

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The A-train down by the lake.

We are now into week three on the kitchen renovation. Working on painting the cabinet doors. With limited work space I can only do one set of doors at a time. I put on a coat of paint and wait for it to dry. Repeat. Working outside hasn’t been an option with the frequent rain showers we are having lately. It’d be great if I could line up all the doors and paint them all at the same time. I’d be done by now if I could have done that.

I’ve been able to get in a few bike rides in between coats of paint. Yesterday I got out for a short ride late in the day. I haven’t been down to the lake front in awhile. I decided to head in that direction. I know Duluth is a tourist destination and the lake front can be swamped with tourists. I thought to myself how bad can it be? Turns out it was much worse then I expected. On the way to the lake front I rode past the Reggae Fest at Bayfront Park. The dog show at the convention center and the regular hordes of people around Canal Park and the lake front. An outdoor wedding had just finished as I rode through Leif Erickson Park. It was all a bit much for me. I retreated to city streets and made my way back home away from the hustle and bustle of the the lake front. Here was my route.

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Lake Superior.

Despite the crowds, the views of Lake Superior were nothing short of breath taking. This is what draws me to the lake. It is a constantly evolving canvas. It never looks the same twice. Today it featured mud colored water. The result of all the rain run off from the recent heavy rains flowing into the big lake. This view alone was worth braving the crowds.

Ride to see the high water on the St. Louis River.

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This 1 mile stretch of the Munger Trail is getting new surface.

After several weeks of kitchen renovation work, I finally got out for a ride. I’m still working on painting cabinet doors. I managed to get out between coats of paint. I chose to do an out and back on the local rail trail. As you can see above it is tree lined. With sustained winds above 20 mph and gusts well over 30 mph, the tree lined route makes for a nice wind buffer. My other destination was to check out the high water on the St. Louis River. The trail intersects it 16 miles from my house in Thomson, Minnesota. We had a large rain event on Monday. Many local communities are dealing with flooding and washed out roadways.

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Large volumes of water coming over the Thomson Dam spillways.

It’s not the highest I’ve ever seen the water. That was during Spring melt. But it was flowing high for this time of the year.

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All that water made a lot of noise.

It was great to be out on the bike. I didn’t even mind the wind. Anytime I can ride in wind like this and not be experiencing a windchill, I’m happy. In fact the wind helped me forget about the warmth and humidity.

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Old train trestle over the river gorge.
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Snack break at Hemlock Ravine.

According to a sign near this bench, this ravine contains Eastern Hemlocks. This spot is known as the furthest west in the United States that you can find Eastern Hemlocks. Other than this ravine they aren’t common in these parts.

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I have a hard time resisting taking photos of the dramatic cuts through the rock on this trail. Specially when the sun is shining on both walls. That only happens for a short time each day.

Days like these.

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City of Duluth mountain bike trails built and maintained by COGGS.

Yesterday I started work at 5 am. An unusually early start time for me. The good news was I able to get in an 8 hour work day and be home before 2 o’clock. Hmmm, what to do? Bike ride of course. I had enjoyed my trail ride on my Pugsley earlier in the week so much, I decided to try that again. I lack any serious mountain bike skills. I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve ridden summer trails on my Pugsley. My only “mountain bike”. Well, I do have the 80’s Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I don’t normally think of that bike as my mountain bike because I’ve used it for just about everything but mountain biking over the years.

I decided midday and mid-week biking on the trails would allow for the least amount of run ins with other bikers. I ride really slow and they always catch me. Then I get self-conscious about my lack of mountain biking skills and do something really embarrassing like riding off the trail or not making it up a tiny little rock without putting a foot down.

Turns out I didn’t see any other bikers, or hikers for that matter, at all. I really enjoyed the trails yesterday. I think I might try riding them more often. The trail you see above is a mile and half from my house. It was built in late 2014. In the next few years an access trail from neighborhood is supposed to be built through a new park at the end of my block. So I will be able to ride these trails practically from my front door. I don’t think the Pugs is the best tool for this job. But for now I’m having a great time learning to ride some of this fantastic local single track on it.

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Fat tire on very old rock.

Today I was able to get out again in the late afternoon. This time is was a quick out and back on the local rail trail. All but the first and last mile was on a paved trail.

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Riding the rail trail.

It wasn’t a perfect day because it was slightly on the hot side for me. But it was nearly a perfect day for being out on a ride. It wasn’t energy sapping hot and not humid at all. In fact I felt surprisingly energetic. I felt like I could have ridden a few more hours if time wasn’t an issue.

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I’m glad I got out and enjoyed the beautiful summer days the past two days. Once we’re in the middle of the warm season, it’s easy to forget it doesn’t last long in this part of the country. Most of the year it is a rare thing to be able to get out and be able to stop during a ride and not get cold. Looking forward to more days like these over the next two months.