The Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere (Riding from dusk to dawn in the Minnesota Heartland)

06.6.2013 | 7:23 am

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:
  • 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):


Purloined graphic

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:
  • Oh yeah. I won the women’s division.

Thank you!

Nancy in Minnesota


  1. Comment by hannah | 06.6.2013 | 8:25 am

    Wow! Great ride up for what sounds like a great ride! I live in the Cities, and have not ever ridden this trail; sounds like something I will need to check out!

  2. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.6.2013 | 8:25 am

    Nancy. One of the BEST stories yet! Only thing missing is a video of the dark to make the nothingness of the endeavor complete.

    Moon Pies and Beer at 4am! You definitely know how to live!

    Can we get a Taiwan report?

    and on a grammatical note:
    natural light show most of us has (have?) ever seen.
    answer is…. “had.

  3. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 06.6.2013 | 8:30 am

    Nancy, that was a SWEEEEET writeup of your event! Thanks so much for sharing! Minimal whining is impressive for ANY 100 miler…and NO mechanicals? The cycling gods certainly favored you, that’s for sure. And Northern lights too…I think you’ll have a hard time beating that one. I already look forward to reading about NEXT YEAR’s event!

  4. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.6.2013 | 8:38 am

    What an awesome ride and write up! Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning.

    Now to find that kind of trail around here……

  5. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.6.2013 | 8:42 am

    @Nancy Thank you for the Monkey Lites link! Now my 9 y.o. son wants them for his bike! These are sooooo coooool!

    Can you imagine what the (formerly)Fatman could do with these on Rockwell, or SalttoSaint? custom graphics….’Fatty Wheels,

  6. Comment by rich | 06.6.2013 | 8:51 am

    What a great write up and sounds like you did an amazing job of organizing (door prizes even!) a really fun event…

  7. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.6.2013 | 8:57 am

    Nancy – you are my new hero! And if you are this cool at 55, then I have 7 years left to aspire!

    What an utterly awesome writeup, but I am dazzled by the planning and execution of the event.

    Encore, encore!

  8. Comment by Andy@WDW | 06.6.2013 | 9:08 am

    Bravo! What a fun ride! Great job on the write up. I’m so jealous about the aurora! We never get cool lights like that down here in Florida. Your musical bridge crossings had me cracking up. It really reminded me of a scene from the movie The Dark Crystal. Can’t wait to read about next year’s ride.

  9. Comment by wharton_crew | 06.6.2013 | 9:40 am

    I WANT that t-shirt! So cool! Excellent ride and write-up!

  10. Comment by ClydeinKS | 06.6.2013 | 9:49 am

    Nancy – great write up and awesome job coordinating the event, I wish I had the time and had thought of coordinating shirts for our upcoming event! Wish I could have joined in the Dark Nowhere spin!

  11. Comment by Isaac | 06.6.2013 | 12:09 pm

    Nancy – Thanks for inviting me along, and for the great write-up. Post-ride beverages were definitely welcome, even though it meant that the sun was creeping up by the time I hit the sleeping bag. Still, worth it!


  12. Comment by Fat Cathy | 06.6.2013 | 3:01 pm

    Pretty awesome write-up. Thank you for putting a smile on my face today. Beer and homemade moon pies. Doesn’t get any better than that.

  13. Comment by The Magnificent Egg Shaped Man | 06.6.2013 | 3:21 pm

    Thanks for inviting me, but since the event has already occurred, I will have to decline since my time machine is on the fritz.

    Seriously, I ride bikes. I drink beer. I can hum off tune. I can eat moon pies. I am old[ish]. Where was my invite? I never saw it.

    Glad you had a great time. Next year, my friend, next year.

  14. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 06.6.2013 | 4:33 pm

    davidh-marin,ca! You and Wife#1 will find that the whole darn family will want/need Monkey Lights. So fun! We had 2 of the non-customizeable models.

    Now FC? Programmable lights for sure! I’m imagining the night portion of The Rockwell Relay, improved by obnoxious strobe-like lighting. David, I’m sure you can think of what FC should program into his Monkey Light system.

    Video in the dark? We (more precisely, my son) are working on it. It’ll turn up on my blog. 1st year college finals first! I will say that the GoPro video is even more disappointing than I’d imagined. Simply not enough light.

    Wharton_crew That t-shirt is still available at They even had a long sleeved thermal version last time I looked.

    Here’s a little something from the Taiwan contingent, a poem Jason whipped up when he realized he’s be stateside for the ride:

    Dark Dark Dark One Hundred
    Sleepy Hamlets will be Plundered
    Dark Dark Dark Marauders
    Shush your Sons and Hide your Daughters
    Dark Dark Dark The Riders
    Seen By Terrified Survivors
    Dark Dark Dark Their Laughter
    Chills your Bones Forever After!


  15. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.6.2013 | 8:01 pm


  16. Comment by Barton | 06.7.2013 | 8:08 am

    Nancy – brilliant ride! I am jealous of the Northern Lights you were able to see (too much light pollution in the Cities).

    If anyone is around the Cities (that’s Minneapolis & St Paul) on June 22nd, Open Streets closes down Lyndale Ave for the day right by the Twin Six HQ. In the past they have had a “warehouse sale.” Great time to buy!

    And if you are unfamiliar w/ Adam Turman’s work – do check it out here. He is also having a “garage sale” on 6/22. Brilliant artist!

  17. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.7.2013 | 8:55 am

    Friday, it’s Friday!

    Yann and Dave
    their team to challenge
    The Man
    on his turf

    Ride on Dave!
    Power on Yann
    Rock well Team
    Carry all of us forward
    with you

    You may best the Fat Man
    and match Mr Jones
    But I fear
    The Dr. and The Hammer
    will be your

    Have a Great Rockwell Relay Race:

    thank you

  18. Comment by Paula | 06.7.2013 | 1:26 pm

    Awesome ride and write up! Love you blog too, and your Nephews poem rocks. Twin Six and Fatty need to put that on next years shirt!

  19. Comment by Dominick Lanting | 06.8.2013 | 10:17 am

    100 MoN in the dark? That’s really challenging. I’ve never tried riding from dusk to dawn since we don’t have any safe trail in my place unlike in Minnesota. I would really love to join that race.

  20. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 06.9.2013 | 7:45 am

    @Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC), For next year’s Dark 100 MoN (rather big assumption that this will become an annual event) I’ve put in a request for meteor showers.

    @Barton, Adam Turman’s “garage sale” event features beer from Surly, DONUTS, and Pizza Luce, and some art, of course! They’ll be printing t-shirts on the spot as well.
    I’ll keep my eye open for other Fatty fans… assuming they are wearing FC apparel.

    Maybe Adam Turman will make a poster featuring bicycles and meteor showers…

    Incidentally, the Moon Pies were very easy to make and the recipe can be found here:

    And the t-shirt (sans 100 MoN sleeve graphic) is still available at Twin Six, even cooler because the moon is blood red:


  21. Comment by The Hammer | 06.10.2013 | 9:36 am

    Awesome night ride of the 100MoN! Sounds like you guys had a great time. Congratulations!

  22. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.10.2013 | 11:36 pm

    So Nancy. Moon Pies or Whoopie Pies? An Iowa vs Minnesota showdown! Or will I have to come out there and find out?

  23. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 06.11.2013 | 7:21 pm

    Oh davidh-marin,ca! I am too distressed to speak. It appears I was makin’ whoopie….(pies). My investi-googling was not thorough enough to eliminate the false positives appearing on the initial search.

    Because they were delicious, I’ll make my Whoopie/Moon pies again. But what to call them? Dark Whoopie Pies? Drawing a blank here.

    Now, about Iowa… oh don’t get me started.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.