by Nancy S
There were several reasons that we chose to ride our 100 MoN in the dark, starting with wanting to do something that we hadn’t done before, something more ill advised than all the other rides we’ve done. Once my brother and I began talking about the concept, we got pretty excited about how we’d pull it off:
- The highly excellent system of paved (former RR) trails in Minnesota became the obvious choice for safe riding after dark. Specifically the Wobegon, Soo Line and Central Lakes Trails:
- When I started looking at night lighting products for bicycling, there was no doubt that we’d be lighting up the night in a colorful way. For a thrill, check out Monkey Lights on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLtbeU8FJW0
- We would have several 100MoN poachers, all in need of a commemorative T-shirt. Twin Six carried the perfect shirt for our ride, especially after I added this 100 MoN graphic to the sleeve (yes, it’s the 2012 graphic, which T6 kindly let me use):
We are the Borg
Soon our enthusiasm spread to several of our riding friends/family and we ended up with eight riders (including one from Taiwan!) plus four support people. It’s possible they all recognized the futility of resisting the tide created by our passion for a “really good idea.” It’s happened before. Resistance is futile.
Joining us was Isaac N., a friend through Fatty. Wet conditions had kept the local MTB trails closed, so he was forced to consider alternative plans for his 100MoN. The futility of resistance.
And They’re Off!
Friday, May 31, 8 pm. Early dusk: For the first hour, we were able to ride without using our headlights but, as darkness fell, the forest closed in around us forming a dark tunnel. We all agreed that we were riding in a cocoon of nothingness.
Things get mystical
Weather forecasts for the night were grim, with thunderstorms likely all night long. We were prepared to suffer immensely. OK, that was a lie. Is anyone ever prepared to suffer immensely? All I know is, extreme suffering did not become necessary on this ride. In fact, it may be safe to say that we were all awestruck with how the night turned out.
11:30 pm, already past our bedtimes: By the time we first crossed the Mississippi River, roaring through the Blanchard dam, the sky was a sea of stars, with nary a cloud in sight. We celebrated our first crossing under the stars by sharing a bit-o-whiskey with the river.
12:30 am, June 1: Traveling southwest after our 2nd crossing of the Mississippi, we began to notice northern lights (aurora borealis) off to our right. When we stopped and turned off as many of our blinky-flashy things as possible, we were treated to the most spectacular natural light show most of us has (have?) ever seen. Keep in mind, we live “up north”, and we were still mightily impressed. Here’s the crazy, mystical thing about the light show: I had gathered several “door prizes” for our riders and the one shown below was the most special, the one I felt captured the sense of what we were doing, the one I planned to award to the rider most vexed with mechanicals. It’s a limited edition poster entitled “Flat” by Adam Turman, a Minneapolis artist who beautifully illustrates the bicycling life:
This made me a bit nervous about the skull themed gifts I’d prepared:
1 am: Shortly after our northern lights stop, we rolled through Holdingford, MN, where this guy sits along the trail and is ever willing to share his bench:
1:30am: Our second swing through Albany brought us to our stationary sag vehicle where we enjoyed sandwiches, Chicken & Stars soup (the jury is still out on the soup), other sundry snacks and world-class encouragement from our support, Laurie and Christine.
2 am: Now riding east toward our campsite, with ~27 miles to go, the half moon appeared on our horizon, dead ahead. Orange with a few wisps of clouds before it, the moon was our beacon for the remainder of the ride. As fatigue set in, we began to notice, profoundly, the washboard on each of the seemingly dozens of bridges we crossed. Soon we were all making that “ahhhhhhh” noise like little kids do when bobbling on Grandpa’s knee.
3 am: We’d advanced to sounding out chords as we hit the bridge decks. My brother, Del, determined that we’d struck the opening chord of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony which, he later explained, is noteworthy in that it is two completely incompatible chords blended together such that someone with normal ears would say, “What was THAT????” I thought we sounded good.
The moon, still with us, had risen higher in the sky and become inexplicably smaller. Explanations for this phenomenon do not work at this time of night. For me, they never work.
4 am on the dot: We arrived at our campsite, one hour later than originally projected:
With the rest of the campground fast asleep, and the police just down the road, we high-fived silently. In post race analysis, I now realize we were a generally geriatric bunch of riders. Only the three youngest of us still thought beer sounded good. At 55, I was pleased to be one of the three. It was a struggle, but I had a reputation to maintain.
And in the morning we had pie. Moon pie. Homemade.
- Not one mechanical issue, not one mishap, no bonks , no crying, and minimal whining (and only after 3 am), our 2013 Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere was a smashing success!
- I used the occasion of this ride to do some additional fund raising for Camp Kesem by registering as a non-rider in the Livestrong Davis event. With a few weeks remaining before the Davis ride, I’m confident my goal of $2K will be reached.
- Soon I’ll have video and more detail about the Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere on my blog: Nanabananabike.blogspot.com.
- Oh yeah. I won the women’s division.
Nancy in Minnesota