Friday, November 28, 2014


This is what my ride last thanksgiving looked like
Last year at this very moment I was biking back from Minneapolis to Waconia.  I had hauled my trusty steed to the Twin Cities area for a long thanksgiving weekend and was bound to make use of it regardless of the low temperatures.  This year, I had planned to do the same, although a nagging shoulder issue mixed with ice and snow on the ground made me decide to bag the idea and opt for two feet as my mode of transportation.

No, I didn't plan on walking all the way into Minneapolis from Waconia (over 40 miles I'm guessing), but I did plan on getting out there--and ice, fresh snow and almost record low temps (it was 1 degree when I went out yesterday) would not keep me in. I'm sure I've mentioned how unruly and cagey I become if I'm not "let out to play" on a daily basis.  When you add in long hours in the car and heavy food, "unruly" becomes a nice term if I'm trapped inside.

Caught without a fatbike and forced to walk (gasp) this year instead of bike

So I woke this morning, already sick of being in the 'burbs, without the ability to explore more than a 1-2 mile radius, and decided I would go on a bit of a walkabout.  I often explain to folks who don't know the twin cities, and who think everything is bike/ped friendly here from the articles they read, that once you get out of the Minneapolis/St.Paul circle, the area becomes extremely unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists--especially come winter.  The suburbs are little islands cut off from the rest of the area and one can rarely explore outside of them without using a car to connect the towns to the trails/safe roads.  For example, even though I biked into Minneapolis via trail last year, I had to subject myself to about five miles of terrifying roads to get to the trail.  But since I am so damn stubborn and since I was literally bouncing off the walls, I decided I was going to walk around Lake Waconia.

Lake Waconia at sunrise on black Friday--a much better view than from inside a store

Lake Waconia is roughly the same size as lake Monona in Madison.  I knew I could easily handle the 12 miles or so of walking, what I wasn't too sure of was how to avoid hwy.5--the only road leading into Waconia from one side of the lake.  No bother, in my mule like state I chose to hit that section last thinking I'd either be too tired to care about playing a life like game of frogger or I'd cut through farmland and prairies covered in snow until I hit a safe road.

I headed out without a map or music--opting instead for the sound of my footsteps in the fresh snow and navigating by a gut feeling.  Hell, it's just a big circle after all.  If I lost sight of the lake, I'd know I wasn't on the right road.  Besides, I had biked most of this route before so I was quite confident in my navigational skills and sense of distance.

One of the many farms surrounded by McMansions
Within a couple miles, the word "perspective" kept looping in my mind.  Things like this happen to me frequently while biking or walking for long periods.  I get caught up on words or ideas and can't let them drop.  I kept thinking about the different perspectives I had this year vs. last year even though I was on the same roads and trails.  The weather was different, I was moving at a slower pace (by about 15mph), cars most certainly treated me differently (I'm quite certain several drivers thought I was out of my mind for walking down Co.Rd 10--but I've heard it's used frequently by cyclists in the summer).  When I hit the North side of the lake, I was greeted by first an old barn, followed quickly by an 8,000 sq.ft. McMansion, then by an old lake cottage.  This happened repetitively around half the lake and I couldn't help but wonder what the owners of the farms and cottages thought.  As cars drove much too close to me for comfort, even on the small cottage lanes, I began to compare this area to the small towns in Southern Wisconsin.  Sure the occasional "buzzing" happens in my area, but it's never car after car after car.  A much needed perspective.

As I made my way back close to Waconia, I was faced with the daunting hwy.5, or several farm/prairie crossings.  Needless to say, I opted to trudge through the snow.  I laughed at the fact I was forced to do this, thinking about what the locals would think of me if they saw me.  In fact, I'm not sure anyone has ever attempted to walk around the lake in modern time.  A bit over three hours after I began, I got back to my mom's, pleased I had made it without getting squashed, and finally feeling a bit worn out (in a good way).  No, this wasn't nearly as much fun as my long cold ride last year, but it did feel great doing something I wasn't too sure of and making the most of my circumstances.  What felt even better was not having to start up the car, and for that I give thanks!

Coming off the prairie, this is what greeted me.  Welcome to the 'burbs!

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