gravel lunch

DAY 2:

Woke up damp. Sleeping bags are either sticky saunas or just a gossamer barrier from the cold ground, they have no other temperature setting. I made a pot of oatmeal which I thought was a reasonable amount but soon bubbled over into a starchy catastrophe like a backwoods Strega Nona, each spoonful swallowed being instantly replaced until I felt defeated. I broke down the tent and spent some time observing the snail resting on my stuff sack. It seems to enjoy the nylon and I felt bad evicting it onto a nearby leaf. For my morning jolt I busted out these bags of coca leaves tea that had been gifted to me by a friend, he got them from a friend who visited Bolivia and since he’s a one beer type of dude I don’t think he was keen to test their potency. I needed to use them up if I wanted to avoid an awkward conversation with border guards.

The first brew tasted faintly of wet leaves so I added a squeeze of honey. Second mug I added the second bag and more honey. I became very aware of my teeth and my limbs didn’t require ibuprofen dosage.  I’m indifferent to the coco. While sipping on this brew, I had my first duct tape fix which was on an ember burned hole in my sleeping bag, as feathers flew when I tried to stuff it in the sack. The embers were from a warm memory, a campfire during last year’s Superior hiking trail trip where I roasted cherry tomatoes and sipped whiskey with a friend. The slapdash duct tape patch did the job just fine.

Before rolling out I was stopped by this kind woman who had helped me find my tent the night before. I got up to pee and got lost on the way back from the outhouse and she guided me back, warning me about raccoons. “They once walked away with 20 pounds of dog food” she said “they work in teams…” She came up to me in the morning and presented me with my first trail gift: two perfectly ripe bananas, lightly freckled. “The girls were packing up and thought you’d want these.” She had that mother worry wrinkle in her brow but didn’t say anything. I thanked her warmly and then pedaled off into my second day.

Google Maps is a sadist.

It was hard sliding back into the saddle after 6 spotty hours of sleep but the sun was up and I was still on a OH BOY ISN’T THIS AN ADVENTURE! high. I checked Google Maps for directions on the next stretch to St. Croix State Park and it recommended this route that was only 61 miles and seemed pretty simple. The first stretch of the day was this quaint pastoral gravel road with little dips and climbs. Gravel and I have a tough history, as my right knee features a purplished raised scar from a sharp right turn onto freshly poured gravel which caused my antique metal pedal to dig into my knee. I got a lovely view of my deep fatty layer, 3 saline bags of squirting out Minneapolis’ finest grit, 15 stitches (12 of those internal) and some solid flirt time in with some ER nurses. So yeah, gravel makes me a bit jumpy. The first few miles were pleasant withh lush trees and indifferent cows and bright red barns. I was trolling along, enjoying the novel rural landscape when I hear a few sharp barks then watch a grey muscular mass barrel out of a yard on the left side of the road, heading straight for my bare legs. Ohhhh fuck fuck fuck. All my training is for bears! And the pepper spray is in my pannier. I look at this dog in his focused, YER DEAD rage and just start shouting HEY HEEEY WHAT THE HELL YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? And he stops short of the bike and I see the recognition on his face, as if he’d been shouted at the same way when he licked the dirty plates in the dishwasher. I keep pedaling, swearing and praising the gods simultaneously. From them on my ride took a turn. The gravel got thicker, the hills deeper and the winds started to gust. Do you have a mantra? A phrase you can chant that keeps you in the present and away from the thoughts of inevitable death? Because you’ll need one when you’re throttling down a gravel hill and your panniers twerk and your bike begins to sway from side to side and you can hear the tire crunch of a pickup heading in your direction. (For the record, my mantra is EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY. it something I heard Jamie Oliver say on the TV while proudly gesturing to a completed pasta dish. It works).

The rest of the day was a slog through high winds and gravel dust, I saw signs labeling it as the “St. Croix Scenic Route” or just “Government Road” and something about it being established in 1850 or whatnot. SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT MY BUGGY. The farms turned into large extravagant houses with massives garages, which seemed odd but I don’t feign to understand the wealthy. One house featured a brillant gold winged lion sculpture in the front lawn, it was about 10 feet tall fr it’s paws to it’s wingtips. I wanted to take a picture but was deeply nervous as I did not want to attract the attention of the owners, as I imagined them to be a doomsday cult or at least housed a pretty extensive sex dungeon in their basement.

The cherry on top of this gritty Sunday ride was the moment when my noble steed betrayed me and fucking fell on me. Like a drunken man in an Oktoberfest tent. I was sweaty stopped on a street corner and checking my map when a gust of wind shoved bike and it toppled over on top of me, pinning my left leg and leaving a big ol bruise on my inner left leg. Touring bikes have a strong tendency towards tipping while still and especially this one since the front wheel is very responsive. I really wish there was a lock mechanism that I could employ while stopped so I don’t have to worry about the front wheel sliding fast and taking me out in the process. Any suggestions, put ’em in the comments!

After spending most of the day on gravel towards the end I got on a delicious paved highway stretch and I thought that would take me straight to the park but lo and behold, Google Maps had me turn on one last road and when I saw the gravel stretch out in front of me, I almost lost it. Those last 40 minutes of riding were some of the worst of my life. I rolled into the park defeated, bought a gatorade from the vending machine as I dialed up the 800 number to make a campsite reservation. St.Croix State Park is GORGEOUS but the campsite is a neat lawn with RVs and normally this would turn me off but it was nice to see roaring campfires and grandparents lounging. I set up my tent, made coconut curry noodles with dried shiitake mushrooms amd tofu skins and coughed up  he last bit of Wisconsin dust. GOOD NIGHT.

MILES RIDDEN: 61

SONG OF THE DAY: “Same Ol’ Mistakes” by Rihanna

ROADKILL.REPORT: just my dignity left in pieces on that dumb gravel.