Miles Today: 96
Miles to Date: 2,492
States to Date: 13
A perfect riding day. Rochester has bike paths along the main roads, but construction obstacles prevented me from connecting to the Douglas Trail. Eventually, the giant suburban boxes cloaked in murky aluminum siding came to an end. My wide sidewalk ended. The road narrowed, then it turned to gravel. Seven miles out of Rochester and I am on a dirt road!. But the Midwest is nothing if not logical, so I just kept north and west, and, sure enough, found the trial I wanted.
U.S.52 is the main route running NNW from Rochester to St. Paul. Bicycles are allowed, and the shoulder is good, but the traffic is constant. So I zigzagged north and west and north again along County and State roads. Rather, boulevards. In Minnesota a ‘road’ is often gravel, while a ‘boulevard’ is paved. The land grew broad, the sky huge. Intuitively, one might think such a grand landscape would make me feel tiny. Actually, I feel expansive rolling across the immense, taut surface of the earth.
I stopped at 48 miles in Cannon Falls for lunch – my first Chinese Buffet! Chinese Buffet is the ideal lunch on a long riding day; a great amount of food, including soup and vegetables, that’s healthier than most other roadside options. Besides, I got spot-on fortune: Soon you will be sitting on top of the world.
By mile 75 I was in the city exurbs and looking for a break. Instead I found only miles of wide four-lane roads with wide sidewalks that double as bike paths with subdivisions off either side. I believe separated bike paths are actually more dangerous than bike lanes integrated onto the street, because motorists don’t see me as easily at intersections. At every crossing I have to watch for cars in all directions and make sure they see me. Making sure that I can be seen, I managed to miss seeing a curb rise between a pair of sidewalk ramps.
There’s this instant of unity and light when cyclist and bike are suspended in midair, unburdened by friction. You know instinctively that things are going to get very bad very soon, but at the apex of your flight you are suspended, together, in bliss.
Then I am on the ground, disconnected from my bike, my head on the concrete, eyelevel with grass and shoes. “Are you alright?” One, two, three people hover over me. “I think I’ll just lay here a moment and see how things feel.” My response to trauma is always deliberate. I take a deep breath, two. I move a hand, an arm. I might be rousing from savasana. My left side hurts, and my knee, but all my joints move. I get up on my knees. Make sure I’m not dizzy, and then I stand. My elbow hurts. That’s not good. I broke that elbow in my last bike accident, 19 years ago. “Are you okay? I’ve got a first aid kit here. Can I clean you up?”
Two men in uniforms stand in front of me. Men in uniform are comforting, even if there are from Bartlett’s Tree Service. We discover I have a bloody knee and elbow and a terrific raspberry bruise on the left side of my belly. Thank goodness I ate so much at lunch; I’ve got more padding there than usual. We clean my scrapes with iodine. Ouch! We apply bandages. I appear to be fine. The Surly, the warhorse of cycles, is fine. Actually, the left pannier seems to have cushioned the fall. Saved by my trusty two-wheeled steed! I take a picture of the offending curb, which is a poorly designed obstacle that ought at least to be painted yellow. I am shaky but there’s not much to do but bike on. Less than an hour to Minneapolis.
In city after city I cycle through miles of big box stores and fast food joints. Now, when I want one, I find nothing. I take the bike path across the Mississippi Rive on a perilously high bridge; take in the view from the bluffs of Fort Snelling. Minneapolis is rational to a fault. Numbered streets and numbered avenues run at right angles without the hierarchy of New York where Avenues are wide and rare and streets narrow and often. Minneapolis is a square grid. I have to get to the 4800 block of 38th Avenue, but after ninety miles plus an intimate connection with a sidewalk I am confused and go to 38th Street. Eventually I find my way and my yoga friend Ellen and her boyfriend Derrick have a great dinner for me, wild rice and salad and that Minnesota State Fair staple: pork chop on a stick. We talk until near midnight. I fall sound asleep wondering how sore I will be in the morning.