Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Descending the Trimbelle River valley

This one made "The Gram" but deserves a home here too. It was a "good vibes" ride, slow with a chance of deer. 

I left St Paul a little after dinner to take advantage of the late summer sun and hunt down some Guzzi roads in Peirce County. Uninterested in fast moving, I snuck out Bailey Road to Afton and onward to the headwaters of the Trimbelle River. 

County roads N, J, and W in St Croix county are beautiful motorcycle roads. Perched high above the sunken river valleys, they are open and unpopulated. You can almost peer into the dark, sinuous, deer-filled coulees below. I could ride all day on roads like this surrounded by distance. 

County Road J/W

County Road W descends an opening in the limestone bedrock where underground streams feed a river with ice cold water. To the West, Crystal Cave has been carved out under the Eau Galle River. Here the unnamed cave systems are hidden below farmland.

I feel the pull of County Road O and a leisurely trek back up Highway 35 towards home. It's getting late and the sun sets earlier behind the steep valley walls. The deer will be moving, nearsighted and hurried. I slow down and enjoy my time along the Trimbelle before we both reach the Mississippi river. 

There are deer moving, I can see them in the fields and along the road side. From the brambles to my right an eager doe leaps across my path and into the floodplain. My slow pace paid off and kept us both from harm. 

All but a short burst on I-94 were prime Guzzi roads traversed on a beautiful summer evening. From Highway 61, the sight of St Paul at dusk is welcoming.

- Ride North

July 27th | warm summer evening | 7ish  - 9:00 PM

Friday, September 9, 2022

Scott County

 Went for a Sunday morning ride in the country. Not a lot of "twisties" on this one, just corn and soybeans, small lakes, wetlands, and oaks. The area south of Prior Lake has slightly more topography than the surrounding area and hosts some small lakes and oak groves. Once the corn gives way to pasture and oaks you'll have found it.

Low water.

No water.

Highway 3 south out of Inver Grove is an immediate escape from traffic and strip malls; the pavement is nice. I turned west on 80, a gravel road south of Farmington, and continued on 2 to the Cedar lake area. Just north of Cedar Lake I passed a sign for Fish Lake Campground and did a 180 to investigate. It's a private campground with some long-term trailers but has plenty of "primitive" tent spots too. I don't think it fills up often, if you're looking for a quick getaway.  (try sites 8 or 9)

After my short but enjoyable time in Scott County, I ran up to Fairview to visit my father-in-law for lunch. I prefer highway 13 on the south side of the Minnesota River to 35W but it wasn't too bad on a Sunday.

- Ride North

80 miles | 60s | sunny

Monday, June 20, 2022

Biking in the land of OZ, NW Arkansas

Spring Break 2022!

I haven't gone anywhere for spring break since maybe 2005, when I last participated in one of the Upper Midwest's most prodigious institutions for learning. A gap in Jr. North's school schedule presented us with an oppertunity to pack up the Vista Cruiser and head south in search of spring. The snow would follow us to about mid Iowa but, we did find it eventually, in Bentonville Arkansas.

An on-trail, open air cafe.

The 10 - 12 hour drive to Bentonville, Arkansas was broken up with hotel stops in KC on the way down and Des Moines on the way back up. Thankfully, a hotel with a pool is all we need for a successful and entertaining layover. 

Stop #1, skateboarding in Des Moines.

That night we stayed in Independence, Missouri near the Bass Pro Shop. It's a destination shopping area but we were there for its proximity to the freeway and the indoor/ outdoor pool. Jr and I swam outside in the cold sunshine and we took an after dinner walk around the "lake," watching the waterfowl do their thing. It was very spring like.

Heading back North on Thursday, we stayed in downtown Des Moines, hoping to take advantage of the giant skateboard park and botanical gardens. It was cold and rainy in the morning, so we didn't get many outdoor activities in. Dinner at the Royal Mile, meat pie and English bitter, was a trip highlight.

And now for the main attraction, Bentonville Arkansas. Bentonville is a booming little town in northwest Arkansas and the home of Walmart. It's also home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the country. The locals sport an interesting mix of business casual and athleisure wear; the trails reflect that mix too. In town you'll find highly manicured bike trails and jump lines while just north of town there are at least 100 miles of back-country Ozark bike trails to explore.

Mrs. North in excellent form

My rig suffered a mechanical failure on the first day.
I was able to rent a "full squish" Orbea Occom!
Thank you Mojo Cycling!

We got a little riding in on the first afternoon but it rained the first full day, closing the trails. We spent day one exploring Eureka Springs, about a 45 minute drive to the east. It's a very fun town built into the hills, hosting many historic buildings, shops, and even a ghost tour. The rain and earlienes of the season kept many visitors away and we had it mostly to ourselves. 

Eureka Springs

Bedrock is a common motif.

Green, just like spring!

One of many in town.

On the return journey, we caught the last tour at War Eagle Cavern. It didn't blow me away with formations but it was a fun side trip. On a hot summer day, it's probably heaven.

This is what the underside of a sinkhole looks like,
 a very common topographic feature in south east Minnesota.

 A river flows through this cave system, 
making short work of any stalactites or stalagmites.

The following day we wandered the hills behind Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art while we waited for the bike trails to dry up.

We started out on some of the in-town "trails." The trails don't really close and they do dry up quickly. As complete newbs to the area, it was hard to know where to ride and we did get into some wet trails. Minnesota bike trails are often gated off until they dry out. These were built out of crushed gravel or built into the rocky hillside. The other odd-to-us thing is that most of the trails are two-way and are designed with that in mind. All the uphills felt like we were going the wrong way, but you get used to it.

Mrs. North

Mrs. North dropping in!

And Jr. too.

A water crossing on Black Apple Creek trail.

Good times!

Some of the more challenging trails.

There's no shame in walking the tricky bits.

More water!

Choo choo, the most fun I've had on a bike!

Community bouldering is available at the brewery/ café/ bike shop plaza.

That's Jr. North flying through the air.

Yet more signs of spring.

This was worth the drive.

We rounded out our visit with a hike at Tanyard Creek before making our way North to Des Monies.

Our outdoor activities, social distancing, and AirBNBs have kept us all (mostly) happy and  healthy in these turbulent times. The family bike rides, both near and far, have been a much needed diversion, a consistent reward, and a relief valve for us all. I very much hope that you and yours are finding balance, happiness, and satisfaction in your day-to-day or weekly routines.

- Ride North

cool | rainy, then sunny | April 3rd - 8th

Trail maps

Little Sugar - back country trails 25 mile loop