JJ Khale wrote this great recap from her experience with the Twin Cities 3-Speed Adventure Society. Sounds like quite the adventure! I might have to try this route soon!
Rails to Trails/ Sunday, July 8, 2012
The idea: take the Northstar Commuter train to Elk River, ride back to Minneapolis along scenic river roads and paths.
Photo by Flickr user Snak Shack, cc licensed
Organized partly on the Grease Rag Facebook group, partly on MplsBikeLove.com, a group of cyclists met on the Northstar Commuter train, set to roll north at 10:40 am. Luckily we found each other, as we were not the only bikers riding the train and cycling back... there were a lot of us! Our group was special, however, in that it featured three Raleigh 3-speed bikes. These proper English roadsters are beautiful machines, and their owners talk lovingly about their internal Sturmey-Archer hubs, the regal Brooks seats and their gorgeous canvas and leather accessories. Our ride was not going to be at “race pace,” and that was just fine with all of us. It was a beautiful summer day for a bike ride! Twin Cities 3-Speed Adventure Society (TC3SAS) is on Facebook.
The train ride took 20 minutes or so. We arrived at Elk River, poised to get our bikes off the train as quickly as possible. The watchful train conductor noted that there were many more than the 2 bikes each car was equipped to handle, but we had carefully bungeed the extra bikes together. Even so, there were two more bikers who had boarded en route to Elk River and made do by holding on to their cycles at their seats. We would have to act fast to get our bikes out at our stop, and we did. In fact, we detrained so quickly that one of our riders left water bottles behind. Ever the team players, we vowed to share water, and prepared to sally forth.I should interject that during the train ride, we were able to exchange first names and some information about the ride. Mostly I just listened, taking in the stories of tweed-clad Raleigh riders travelling very slowly (according to the narrator) on various group-led tours. Comparing those tales to the recent “Pizza by the Pond” bike tour I had just been involved with (and the relative youth of the group, the decidedly UNDEFINED dress code, and the variation of bikes ridden), I noted the diversity of cycling and smiled to myself.
The leader of the group—appointed to that position by the rest of us, who really had no idea how to navigate back to Minneapolis—explained that we would be riding through a series of neighborhoods, towns and countryside. We would be riding on the shoulder of county roads, on city streets, and on cycling paths. He pointed out that sometimes a “dead end” street would open to a cycling path, and basically we all just trusted that he knew what he was talking about. He turned out to be an excellent guide, and led us securely from start to finish.
We rolled through the town of Elk River, stopping at a Target for some provisions. We then set out on a county road, being quickly overtaken and left in the dust by the spandex-clad team of cyclists that had been on the same train. We rode a leisurely pace, and I was relieved to see the hills we encountered were nothing like the heat-waving looming monstrosities of our Wisconsin trek. These were easy little rollers and I felt happy that I had no problem keeping up with the pace that was set.
We stopped for lunch in downtown Anoka, at a Mexican restaurant. The beer was good, the taquitos crunchy and flavorful, and the water plentiful! We filled our water bottles, made a trip to the biffy, and continued on our way.
I was riding behind a Grease Rag friend of mine, who also had participated in the Pizza by the Pond Tour the week before. I noticed her back wheel was way out of true. I decided that at the end of the day, I would tell her to bring it to Grease Rag and fix it—it looked dangerously wobbly. However, I didn’t get the chance, because within a half hour of our post-lunch ride, her tire blew! She then revealed that she thought she felt/heard a spoke break, but was hoping it was nothing… We were in a shady area, we had lots of tools and all the necessary flat repair needs, and my friend and the group leader set to work, attempting to fix the tube. We discovered that her tire was badly worn and had actually blown out, so things weren’t looking too good. They repaired the tire the best they could, using a granola bar wrapper to try to strengthen the wall by booting it. However, the repair only lasted about a half hour more, and my friend had to limp off to the Super America to call for pick up, as her tire was beyond repair after the second blow-out.
The group continued on, and we rode through some beautiful park/picnic grounds along the river in Brooklyn Center. Soon we were nearing downtown, and we shouted our goodbyes as people peeled off to head for home.
I arrived home around 5pm. It had been a 40 mile day for me, and it was beautiful! I don’t know if I would trust myself to retrace the path without a guide, but I highly recommend the Elk River to Minneapolis ride!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recap with us, JJ! Someone posted this video in the MplsBikeLove thread where this trip was planned, and I wanted to share it. Bikes on trains, a novel idea that is not novel at all!