I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love a Wintry Checkpoint.
By Judy Kerr
While I am not an avid winter cyclist, I do have my moments. My awesome partner and hero (JJ Kahle) is the epitome of a dedicated cyclist. I admire and wish I could feel that same level of love for bikes that they do.
To coin the creed associated with the organization from which I’ve recently retired, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words can also be applied to my partner and their love of cycling. I, on the other hand, sometimes have to drag my sagging self onto the saddle and force my legs to make the revolutions to propel me along, albeit slowly.
I have a bit of the naysayer in me, but usually after a few minutes of sucking in lungsful of fresh air, the oxygen reaches my brain and reminds me that riding my bike is a good thing.
What I love best about Minnesota winter is the random adventures, sometimes involving our bikes, that JJ and I set off on. New Year’s weekend was one such adventure. We loaded up the bikes and drove north… way north… to Grand Marais. Icy roads and snowy conditions be damned! After more than five hours on the road we reached our hotel on the shores of the mighty and wondrous Lake Superior.
We offloaded our bikes, the grey underbelly of the sky hanging over us, and rode through mushy brown snow to reach the park where the CheckpointMN site is located. The short ride was akin to pedaling our bikes through peanut butter. After only one minor mishap we reached our destination.
We miscalculated where the actual checkpoint was, though, and ended up not only riding/walking on the mostly unplowed road, but then locking our bikes and scaling an ice-coated barrier wall that led to a lighthouse on the shoreline. We were not the only ones brave (?) enough to skate along the wall toward what we thought was the checkpoint, a foolish decision perhaps, but still we embarked with determined caution.
About halfway across the wall, with the light fading fast and the steely waters crashing into the barrier below us, we decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of a broken limb or cracked skull, not to mention an ice bath, so we did an about-face to head back to solid, snow-covered land. Along the way we chatted with some people who were kind enough to clue us in that the checkpoint was across the parking lot from the Coast Guard Station and not at the end of the icy precipice on which we were slip-sliding along. We thanked them and slowly retreated from whence we came (sometimes on our butts because the surface was glassy and the icy claws of water reaching for us were a bit frightening).
Once back on the snow-packed trail, we unlocked our bikes (thank god we hadn’t tried to walk the bikes along the stony skating rink) and walked up the path to the little park-like area you see in the photo above. Nice solid ground well away from the chilly waters. I am hunched against the brisk breeze (thanking all the higher beings in existence for guiding us back to shore safely) and I’m fairly certain my face is about to crack with my attempt to smile, but we made it to our destination and snapped photos to prove it.
As evening descended upon the town, we churned through the brown squashy streets back to the hotel and stowed the bikes. We bundled up and walked two blocks to an awesome restaurant, “My Sister’s Place,” and enjoyed tasty burgers and beers. We’d survived another adventure and lived to ride another day.
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.