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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
If you’re new to this blog in the past three months or so, you may not have seen pictures of the above bike before. It is my cargo hauling bike, my main errand runner, the bike that allows me to be mostly car-free. It will be ten years old this year in it’s current configuration. The frame is about 29 years old. I use this bike approximately 8 out of the 12 months each year. It hibernates during the the four coldest, sloppiest months of the year. I like to keep the number of bikes exposed to the harsh winters to a minimum. This one gets the winter off.
I wasn’t planning on getting it out today. We are members of a CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture). In the winter we get a farm share once a month. Today was the day. Our farm has an enormous root celler. They put up 50,000 pounds of root vegetables each year. So we have access to locally grown potatoes, carrots, onions, squash, rutabagas, parsnips, and beets all winter long. Susan uses our one household car daily to get to work. So once the Xtracycle goes into hibernation, she stops and picks up the farm share for us. I came home on the city bus today and had a bit of a walk from the bus stop. It was sunny with little wind and a temperature around the freezing mark. The March sunshine felt warm on my face. With the time change this past weekend it stays light into the evening now. I had an itch to get out on a bike. The roads happened to be dry and clear of ice and snow. I decided it was time to awaken the Blue Truck and go get our farm share. Susan typically works later then me, so she is more then happy to give up this task to me.
Even though “winter” can last well into April here in Northeasten Minnesota, the first ride of the year on the Xtracycle always makes it feel like Spring is here. Looking forward to a summer of errands on this bike and maybe even another decade of utility biking on this blue machine I call the Blue Truck/Xtracycle.
For those that have not heard the story. The reason I call it the Blue Truck/Xtracycle is because the last vehicle I owned was a blue 1994 Toyota Hilux Truck. I sold it in 2002 and haven’t owned a vehicle since. I used to do all my hauling with that truck. I loved having that truck. Now I use the blue Xtracycle for all my hauling.
I’ll count my Friday evening post-dinner, pre-sunset ride as part of the weekend. It was another one of those beautiful late summer evenings. We were sitting on our porch when I got the itch to go ride about 30 minutes before sun down. I grabbed the Brompton and went. It’s really become such a great bike for this kind of last minute grab-and-go kind of rides. This time I was on a bit of a mission to turn down any alley or neighborhood street I’d never been on. Above is the alley behind the local snowmobile/atv/motorcycle/small farm implement store. You can see the squiggly route I took here.
Saturday was 100% about getting our “canning share” of tomatoes processed. Along with our weekly summer share of veggies from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we order up a bulk share of tomatoes for canning. We’ve done this for 4 or 5 years now. That’s about how long Susan has been learning to can. And now I’m learning as well. I spent nearly 7 hours standing in one spot skinning, de-seeding and chopping tomatoes. While I did that Susan used the tomatoes I had finished to make salsa and pasta sauce and then canned those. It’s only one day a year we have to work on tomatoes like this, yet we reap the benefits of that labor all winter long. It is some good stuff. In paste years we received more tomatoes. So we’d make tomato-basil jam and can some plain tomatoes for making soups and stews.
No bike rides or hikes on Saturday.
When we bought our house in West Duluth in 2003 there were no official recreational trails anywhere nearby. Since then the Superior Hiking Trail has been extended across the ridge above our house. It is now, as of this summer, a 300 mile trail that runs from the Wisconsin border with Minnesota all the way up to Canada. It follows the ridge of Lake Superior. It is a premiere long distance hiking trail modeled after the Appalachian Trail. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, there is also miles and miles of mountain bike trails being built all over the hills above my house.
Last month a new section of hiking trail was opened on the ridge above us. This section created a loop trail when combined with the Superior Hiking Trail. It is now known as the Brewer Park Loop. I had planned to take a fairly long bike ride Sunday to take advantage of what could be the last shorts and t-shirt weather rides of the season. Turns out it also makes for great hiking weather. I asked Susan if she’d like to check out the new loop trail. Well, I didn’t need to twist her arm. The official trail is 3.4 miles in length when hiking it from a local parking lot/trail head. We chose to walk from our house and enter the loop from another direction. Thusly adding a few miles. Our hike ended up being 6 miles in length. The first and last mile were road walks. Here’s some pictures from this hike that lays completely in our neighborhood. Or at least above our neighborhood. The ridge line is too rocky and rugged to build on. It is mostly wooded open space:
It was a spectacular hike. It’s hard to believe this is a urban hike we can hike anytime right from our front door.
Today was farm share pick-up day. Lots of fresh goodies from the Food Farm. As always it’s the Blue Truck/Xtracycle that gets the call to carry the farm share home. This picture was taken behind our local coffee shop, Beaner’s Central. They allow the Food Farm to use some inside space for the share pick-up by farm members. This is an alley side seating area the coffee shop built. I like the bicycle wheels incorporated into the overall design.
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.
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?
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.
That’s my Blue Truck/Xtracycle locked to the giant carrot. When the local co-op opened this second store in March less then 1 mile from my house it cut down on my long tail biking miles. The other store is 6 miles and one big climb away from my house.
Food shopping at the co-op makes up a large portion of what I use this cargo bike for. The new store is walking distance. For small purchases I walk to the store.
One of the other errands I’ve been using the Blue Truck/Xtracycle for during the summer months is picking up our weekly CSA farm share. This was what motivated me to build the cargo bike 9 years ago. The first summer farm share is next Monday. Our pick up location for the past 11 years has been located three miles away. I would combine the pick up with my commute. This year we have a new pick up location. It’s less than a mile away. Again, fewer miles for the cargo bike.
I have to admit it’s sad to be putting fewer miles on the cargo bike. On the other hand I’m thrilled to have more access to these kind of services within one mile of my home.