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The 2017 All-British Cycling Event
1. The 2017 All-British Cycling Event  (September 15-17, 2017)
...and Robin Hood Festival

Robin Hood was a myth of course but the riders of the ABCE Robin Hood Festival elevated the story of Robin Hood to absolute fact; placing the Robin Hood bicycle into the stuff of legends. Many Robin Hood bicycles were in attendance and all proved their worth by traversing hill and dale, fen and field. Without question a worthy steed, this, and a prize possession to those lucky enough to find one.

Departing from Merlin’s Rest, the 30-some-odd Riders of the Realm easily glided to the Vento Bridge overlook for a quick break but it wasn’t long and we were off to Elevenses at the Freewheel Co-Op. A perfect combination of cycle store, bakery and tea vendor, we lingered while the commoners looked in wonder at the numerous and lovely bicycles.

Off we went down the Greenway, past Lake Calhoun and Harriet and on to the Minnehaha Creek trail. A busy day indeed as the paths were filled with cyclists and walkers but as long as we kept a modest pace there was no delay to speak of. Lunch was the order of the day and soon we arrived at 50th and Chicago for a variety of options.

We needed to move on and the plan was to cross the Mississippi at Fort Snelling but reports said the path was inaccessible. A quick u-turn put us back on track for the Ford Bridge and we made an easy glide down the St Paul side of the river to the beautiful overlook across from Fort Snelling. The next stop was the St Paul City House; a new place that was a flour mill and barge/rail loading facility on the waterfront. This is a lovely new spot that includes a restaurant, river views and historical significance.

We did not want to leave but as tourists, we must. The next obstacle was Ramsay Hill; a formidable barrier in the landscape that intimidated some to seek a rout with an easier grade. No matter; a long climb or easy walk was the choice and all the breathless Nutters regrouped at the top. On we went; wandering the lovely houses of St Paul’s Summit Avenue area as the anticipation of our return to Merlin’s Rest set in.

Whether you see yourself as Robin Hood himself, Maid Marian or Friar Tuck, your choice of Steed for riding the forests of Nottingham needs to be stout, reliable and smart. City streets, quiet paths or country lanes should pose neither limits nor problems. Without question, your bicycle of choice can only be the ‘umble Robin Hood 3-speed.
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The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour
2. The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour  (May 13 & 14, 2017)
Floating in the Bournemouth

Many years ago, a curious vision could occasionally be seen above the fields of Cardington; this large cigar-with-fins was an airship. Quite small when compared to Graf Zeppelin standards, this was the result of a lifelong fascination with lighter-than-air craft by Lord Ventry of Bournemouth and the newly formed Airship Club of Great Britain. Built from a surplus barrage balloon from the war, it was the first such craft built in Britain since 1929. By July 1951, the little Bournemouth was ready for its inaugural flight; 3 crewmen and Lord Ventry climbed aboard. It would not budge. Lord Ventry had to vacate and be replaced by a lighter man.
The maiden voyage exposed problems; it was tail heavy and had engine and steering problems, more work was needed. By August, it was ready and it was flown with Lord Ventry aboard. The view must have been spectacular. After a 35 minute flight, the Bournemouth attempted to land but instead, crashed into the roof of the station’s gymnasium. More alterations and repairs were made and, interestingly, a modified city bus was used as a mobile base for the mooring mast.
More trouble in the spring of 1952 resulted in the scrapping of the Bournemouth. Lord Ventry lived until 1987 and left behind a wealth of airship related written material assembled during his lifetime.
Fast forward a few decades and we find ourselves with an eager group of plucky aeronauts. Casting off from Colvill Park, we rambled through Red Wing, across the Mississippi and on to the Bow and Arrow Marker. In the distance we could see it, but over the years the marker has faded and become overgrown but it still make a valuable marker for cyclists and aeronauts alike.
Bay City provides a good location to catch our breath and prepare for the ascent of the Bay City Hill. Once free of our mooring, up we went, toward the sky with ears popping and legs aching. Once at the top, the view was the same as from the old Bournemouth; open vistas for miles and the entire valley was laid open before you.
Soon this flight had to descend and down we went; no-one crashed into a gymnasium roof but instead, we moored at the Smiling Pelican Bakery for Elevenses and a relaxing moment in the garden.
Airships are quite affected by the wind and as we set off for destination Stockholm, we were carried by a gentle and welcome tail wind. Many had lunch in Stockholm and with a little walkabout we noticed that every year, one more building is restored to perfection.
Rambling on, the heat was building and like the Bournemouth, overheating became an issue but with water available in Pepin, we did fine. Pepin to [Lord] Nelson was the usual long and difficult stretch but the tailwind continued to help and soon ice cream was the reward at the [Lord] Nelson Creamery.
Pressing on to Wabasha is difficult since we need to do one more ascent and the old airship was getting tired. All of us finally made it and Jan & Jim at the Eagle’s Nest provided a wonderful refueling stop.
Sunday morning at the ‘Nest was delightful and again, the fuel tanks were filled and we cast off from our mooring mast.
Onward we glided; through Reads Landing, Camp Lacupoulais and Lake City. A quick pause at the rest stop found many lying in the grass while others pressed on to Ohuta Park and the Brew-Up.
At the Brew-Up, picnic blankets were everywhere, tea pots were bubbling and treats of all kinds were being sampled. Perfection does not describe how amazing this was; beautiful vistas from this unknown lake shore park with the Wisconsin bluffs in the distance, light tail-wind breezes, fair skies and not a care in the world.
Pressing on, we enjoyed the quiet solitude of Old Frontenac and the Light-Up next to the Old Stone Wall at the corner of Manypenny Avenue and Faribault Street. We talked of rides past, rides future and simply enjoyed the day. Pipes emerged and if you were lucky, a whiff of pipe tobacco would come your way and instantly, your Father or Grandfather was there in spirit.
Whether you prefer the old Bournemouth or the old 3-speed, the advantages of 2 wheels cannot be denied.  The vistas are the same; indeed, they are better earned and appreciated on a bicycle. The same with the sun, the wind and the odd pastry; all are enjoyed without guilt. New friendships are made, old friendships are renewed and the miles will melt away with joy, all courtesy of your ‘umble 3-speed.

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The All-British Cycling Event;
3. The All-British Cycling Event;  (September 16-18, 2016)
We Go Out for the Day

If you were to choose a way to effortlessly enjoy a brilliant day or days, what would it be? Travel of some kind would probably be the most common answer. These days, travel is only concerned with destination, not the journey. We Nutters, on the other hand, prefer a different style of travel; one without time restrictions nor worry, in fact, a journey that lasts all weekend is a good start. On the ABCE, our travels begin on Friday with a modest reception at Barley John’s. A gathering of a dozen or so rekindled old friendships and enjoyed the evening. Later in the evening we clicked our glasses and declared “We hereby claim Barley John’s in the name of The Queen for all the Riders of the Realm”.

On Saturday, all the Nutters gathered at Merlin’s Rest for what could best be described as an “improbable journey” by modern standards; travelling leisurely, enjoying the sights along with polite conversation and treats at nearly every street corner. At a bit past 9am, we saddled up and began our journey. Moving down the trail, all 32 riders were an impressive sight and chit-chat was the order of the day as we wandered to the new Sabo Bridge. An impressive sight and a good view of downtown Minneapolis was our reward but we did not stay very long since the coffee shop at Freewheel Bike was waiting for us. “Elevenses” is a long lost tradition among cyclists; a bit like afternoon tea but with a very different time schedule. Treats were abundant and buckets of late morning tea were welcome.

We needed to move on; this seemed improbable but we had a loose schedule to maintain and, oddly enough, we were right on time so far. A lovely ride past Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and quick stop at the water pump at Lake Harriet put us in line for lunch at 48th & Chicago. Plenty of choices here; pub fare, Mexican and a wonderful bakery add up to plenty of energy for riding the rest of the afternoon.

We pushed off and found our way back to Minnehaha Creek and followed the trail to Minnehaha Falls. The Falls were roaring; an impressive sight with the cascading water and mist filling the gorge.

Next was the Mississippi crossing at the Ford Bridge; another impressive sight and the view upstream through the wooded river valley was beautiful. As we continued on, we found Summit Avenue with all its impressive architecture. By then it was time for more treats and we found them just off Summit on Cambridge and Grand Avenue. Many more choices here but most went for something from the case at French Meadow Bakery. Impressive, yes, but a poor substitute for Marlis’ secret tea garden.

We hated to leave but we eventually mounted up and moved on through a quiet neighbourhood on Otis Avenue in St. Paul; impressive architecture and a quiet road. We then turned on Marshall, crossed over the Mississippi again and this put us on Lake Street for the home stretch. Our destination for the day was back at Merlin’s Rest and soon we were there. Merlin’s Rest offers plenty of selections from a menu that seems perfectly English and with the appropriate beverage, was a delight to all.

Sunday dawned warm and sunny and it appeared that another ABCE would sneak by without rain. The Cycle Jumble is always an adventure with many Steeds on offer with enough parts available to fill your lorry. We soon departed for the Gravity Race and shorter Gentleman’s Tour and found the competition to be formidable; we had many a rider gliding to the runout area in contention. Barry took the crown for the hub gear category and Gary took the non-hub gear. After enjoying our pastries and discussing various strategies for next year, off we went for a short tour. We rode through St. Anthony Village and tipped our caps at the old location of Osell Cycles.

Arriving back at Barley John’s, the taps were opened and pizza ordered. Soon it was time to begin the “stories both true and otherwise”; a favourite of all. Stories and presentations were given and then prizes were given as well.

Indeed, a day well spent and a model for all our days to come.

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The 2016 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour
4. The 2016 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour  (May 14 & 15, 2016)
Beware the Boggart

A most unassuming group of cyclists gathered at Coville park in Red Wing were witness to an unusual bit of English folklore. Indeed, many legendary local events including earlier events during previous 3-Speed Tours will bear proof of the inescapable conclusions that we will make.

In 1856, Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis, both of Lancashire England, were beginning construction of The Pickwick Mill. While attempting to slide a boulder into position on the millpond dam, they were both distracted by something moving in the bushes. In that instant, the boulder slid off the side of the ramp and tumbled down the millrace. They were unhurt but old Tom and Will knew what it was and they took it to their graves; it was a Boggart, the Pickwick Boggart. In some of the old photos, you can still see the rock.

In 1995, a 55 ton boulder rolled down the bluff and into the house at 440 North Shore Drive in Fountain City WI, crushing the master bedroom. A freak occurrence, you may think, but in the spring of 1901, another boulder crushed the previous house in this exact spot. Was this the work of the Pickwick Boggart?

Compare the oddities above with the smaller, yet no less inexplicable, events below.

In 2005, Karl and Chris stopped to fix a flat on a small bridge on the west side of the Hill Avenue summit. After hearing something rustling under the bridge and in the woods, the flat was repaired in record time.

In 2010, a “gust of wind” sends a 3-speed toppling off the dock into Lake Pepin when the owner turns his back.

In 2013, the STO’s crankarm was broken on a slight rise out of Reads Landing; how often do crankarms break? Is it coincidence that Reads Landing is just a few minutes down the road from Pickwick?

In 2016, a strong and unexpected cold front found the Nutters of the Realm shivering in the wind while enduring the rigors of the check-in, prize drawing and Blessing of the Bicycles. Setting off from Colville Park, ice cream headaches were the order of the day as everyone struggled to cross the river into the headwind. Turning onto Highway 35 in Wisconsin, the headwind turned into a strong tailwind. It helped everyone up the Bay City Hill but did not help anyone stay warm since the sun had now disappeared.

The plummet down the backside was colder still, and the Nutters pressed on, seeking relief in any possible wayside rest, historic marker or bakery. Arriving at The Smiling Pelican, was it coincidence that Ian has a flat tyre when fingers are too cold to repair it? Nay, ‘tis the work of a Boggart.

Rolling on to Stockholm and then Pepin, most everyone had to ride hard to stay warm. Many found shelter in the odd restaurant or bar but most pressed on to Nelson and the final push over the bridge to Wabasha.

No inexplicable events at The Eagle’s Nest with Jan and Jim in control; they were ready for us and had a magnificent spread ready for all. Ham, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, salad bar, soup bar, dessert bar were the fare and there were no excuses for being hungry. Music was provided by The Ditch Lilies; Lisa and Kari were a delight and even managed to lead us in a stand-up version of God Save the Queen. A quick cycling poetry session and the Vicar’s delightful sing-along rounded out the evening.

Sunday found us shivering at the sight of frost on the roofs of all the houses but hot coffee and tea at the ‘Nest warmed our hearts. The breakfast buffet was stunning as usual and everyone was fortified for the journey ahead. The Mayor and Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce were there to offer thanks, encouragement, and safe journey.

A few miles past Reads Landing, Mike had his Sturmey hub lock up; surely, an act of mischief since this is not common for a normally bullet-proof hub. Mike managed a ride into Lake City and was done for the day. Again, an inexplicable occurrence in Reads Landing, not far from Pickwick.

Arriving in Lake City, the temps were moderating but no-one was warm enough to reduce the layers. It seemed a little better at the Brew-Up since the wind was moderating and we had a bit of shelter. Kirsten & Lew teamed up with sisters Carrie & Nancy to be declared Brew-Up Champions. Highlights included English cheese and sausage, tea with brandy and English crisps. The clincher was Plummer family heirloom silver service and an authentic English lace table runner made by Carrie & Nancy’s Grandmother.

Everyone was slow to leave but leave we must; a cycle tourist must continue since adventure waits around every bend. The next stop was the Old Stone Wall at the corner of Manypenny Avenue and Faribault Street in Old Frontenac. A cherished spot and it didn’t take long to find the entire length of wall covered with lovely English bicycles of all descriptions. Photos were taken, stories were told and a few curious locals stopped by to say hello.

A short distance out of town was the turn for Hill Avenue and some Nutters braved the climb and the mysterious bridge on the other side. Some Nutters did not, and glided the rest of the way into New Frontenac. Making the turn onto busy Highway 61 is a disappointment but alternate routes such as Ski Road will provide wildflowers, beautiful vistas and a bit of gravel to test your chaincase.

With that, Highway 61 is the last and only choice to get back to Red Wing. It is busy and noisy but it gives you time to collect your thoughts and realize that you have regained feeling in your fingers and toes.

While Boggarts may be folklore, they prove that there is much in the world that we don’t understand. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe, you, and only you, must be the legend. You must create your own story and your own path. No better way to do so than from the saddle of the ‘umble 3-speed.
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The 2015 All-British Cycling Event
5. The 2015 All-British Cycling Event  (September 18, 19 & 20, 2015)
Leading the Way Along A Different Path

Only three Nutters braved the steady rain and rode their Worthy Steeds to the reception on Friday, but they were rewarded with warm handshakes, hugs and greetings of friends that have not been seen for much too long. Indeed, a small and enthusiastic group gathered that paid no mind to the chilly breeze since all were warmed by laughter.

Craig brought a Union Jack, a photo of the Queen and copies of “God Save the Queen” for all. We stood, hats in hand, and sang a beautiful rendition. A quick peek at the rest of the patrons confirmed it; everyone in the outdoor dining section was standing and singing. Proof that leading the way will guarantee others will follow.

Saturday morning was clear and cool; perfect for a nice cycle tour. We departed about 9:30 and soon found ourselves at the Sabo bridge admiring the views and the perfect weather.

A quick glide down the Greenway and it was time for Elevenses at Freewheel Bicycle and coffee shop. A delightful place, this, and you may find yourself lounging in the comfortable chairs with a treat or doing a bit of shopping. An industry leader without question since access is by bicycle and bicycle only; the front door is on the path.

Soon we were rolling down the trail but the sound of an exploding tube had everyone pulling over and checking for bullet holes. The cause was much more innocent; a worn-out tyre had exposed the tube and the tube had worn through. Not a quick fix since it was a roadster but fixed it was. Lesson learned: replace the original cotton carcass tyres.

We rode around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet as the wind picked up and the sailboats on the lakes were clipping along nicely. Next was Minnehaha creek and it was quite high for September and we followed it to our lunch spot at 48th and Chicago. Plenty to choose from here and we enjoyed a long slow lunch.

Eventually we made our way to the falls and it was spectacular with plenty of water cascading over the ledge. While we enjoyed the view, we also enjoyed the coincidence of a great blues band near the pavilion. We chatted with many visitors curious about the odd vision of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen on stalwart bicycles.

Crossing the Mississippi at the Ford Bridge encouraged us to make a bee line to High Tea at Marlis’ secret garden. A lovely spot indeed and we revelled in Welsh Rarebit, cucumber sandwiches, raspberry trifle and chocolate torte. All this was served with pots of hot tea and fine china. Janet and Betty did the honours and no-one had an empty cup. A bang-up job and Marlis leads the way in hospitality, presentation and courtesy.

We hate to leave that treasured spot but leave we must. Up the steep alley to Summit Avenue and crossing over to Oakland gave us a break from the traffic of Summit. Lovely houses lined the streets all the way back to the river.

Crossing over at Marshall/Lake St put us within sight of Merlin’s Rest and our destination for the day. Pints of cider and ale were hoisted: pastys, fish and chips, steak and pudding, proper steak and mushroom pie were all consumed.

Sunday was windy, cool and the gravity race was a hoot. Mark Gutzmer was the non-hub gear winner and Ralph Karsten took the hub gear category. When we returned to Barley John’s, the cycle jumble was winding down to make way for the Keeper of the Cask to “…declare the taps open!”

Silver Knight Ale was the order of the day and everyone lined up for a pint. Soon we were judging all the fine bicycles and casting ballots for “Nutters Choice”.

Many stories were told; wonderful little tales of fine bicycles and how they didn’t get away this time. Stories of how lovely machines come together as if by magic; the only magic is the generosity of friends.

We may seem odd to most but in our hearts and minds we have chosen a different path in life, indeed, a path seldom chosen; a path of dignity, substance, vision and a path that has no end. What better way to travel that path than with our ‘umble 3-speeds.
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The 2015 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour
6. The 2015 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour  (May 16 & 17, 2015)
The Missing Man Formation

The 2015 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour was expected to be a difficult one. As the Nutters gathered in Red Wing the main subject was the weather. Missing from the start was a good forecast; rain was predicted for both days and Sunday was predicted to be severe but we pressed on with our opening festivities anyway. John Palmer read the letter from the Queen; she apologised again for not being present but wished us well and congratulated us on carrying the spirit of the United Kingdom upon which the sun never set, blah, blah, blah. The Vicar did a bang-up job with the Blessing of the Bicycles and soon he bid us to “Go forth and ride!”

With that, we were off. Ian and I hopped on the old Saxon tandem and soon I realised that proper tyres were missing; not more than a mile into it, the rear tyre broke a bead and the tube failed explosively. I managed to get it to the side of the road and both Ian and I were relieved. As we changed the tyre and tube (thanks to Andy and Noah) an unidentified gent rode up and wished us a safe journey on behalf of Dave Brierley. We scratched our collective heads because Dave was missing; having moved to Connecticut months before. The unidentified gent was his brother-in-law delivering a long-distance message.

Pressing on, we had a quick stop for some ice cream at Flat Pennies then faced the issue; the Bay City Hill is the nemesis of all the Riders of the Realm. Up we went, sometimes riding, sometimes walking, but it was up indeed. Some gathered at the top to catch their breath and courage but some (Ian and I) pushed off quickly and plummeted down the backside. The BCH is always a thrill but try it on a heavy tandem sometime and the term “terminal velocity” may have a new meaning.

A few more hills found us welcoming the hospitality of the Smiling Pelican Bakery. Sondra had prepared Bakewell Tart as the feature of the day and it was delicious. Many Nutters were overcome and had no choice but to nap in the garden or chat on the porch. We lingered as long as possible but the call of the road was unmistakable. Off we went, admiring the scenery, ignoring the slight headwind and enjoying every minute.

Just outside of Stockholm a front tyre problem nearly had us over the guardrail; another defective wire bead caused us to walk the ¼ mile into town. A tyre, tube and rim strip change went well but the highlight of Stockholm was the pie; chicken pot pie and vegetable pot pie to be precise.

On to Pepin; Marlis, Jeff and Rob made an important find on the Municipal dock; 2 gents with a pontoon boat were willing to transport the group, including bicycles, down to Wabasha. The first SAG ferry! If possible, we would like to arrange this for next year as well.

The rest of the non-aquatic Riders of the Realm had to trudge on through the Chippewa River delta and on to [Lord] Nelson. The renamed [Lord] Nelson Creamery provided ice cream for those needing a break, the rest, including the Saxon crew, pressed on to Wabasha.

The Eagle’s Nest provided a comforting sight and Jan and Jim provided a hearty meal for everyone; nothing missing here. Dark clouds and threat of heavy rain ended the evening early so we could not do our usual howl-a-long.

Sunday morning dawned with hope that the showers would continue to be missing but of more immediate importance was Ian; he was worn out and would be unable to continue. Now my stoker was missing and I was faced with the task of riding solo on the Saxon. Formidable it seemed. I faced the issue head-on and decided to load my gear in the Lorry to lighten up as much as possible. I had ridden the old Iron solo before and knew it shouldn’t be much trouble. The trouble would be the same as riding 2-up; the hills. At any rate, we had plenty of egg bake, oatmeal, pastries and fruit to get us to Lake City. After many good-byes, handshakes and hugs I was off.

In case of trouble, Melanie stayed close on the Moulton and we both flew down the road with the big tailwind. A little extra effort got me up the hills and the old Iron handled perfectly with only the captain on board.Lake City came up quickly and we were busy with the Brew-Up by 11am. In short order, blankets were spread, stoves were bubbling, crisps, cheese, tea, and sandwiches were appearing everywhere. Pimms Cups were a treat (where did Troy find fresh cucumber?) as well as Port and perhaps a spot of brandy for medicinal purposes. Again, nothing was missing here. Eventually, Noah and Andy Holzer were declared the winner of the newly-named Malcom Merriweather Trophy.

We wanted to linger all afternoon but the skies were getting dark and we wanted to gather at the old stone Wall in Old Frontenac. A cherished spot, this, and a welcome tradition; we chat, take more than a few photos and linger. The architecture of this neighbourhood is comforting and reassuring in a way that is missing in all modern architecture.

We eventually left that lovely spot and many Nutters chose an alternate route. Hill Avenue, Ski Road or Flower Valley Road to name a few. It’s all an adventure, of course, and these lovely roads are a way to make it last just a wee bit longer. Red Wing was the final destination and a wonderful place to bring the Tour to a close.

We all have voids in our lives; whether it is a missing stoker, friends or opportunities but we all press on. Not from desperation, but of hope. Eventually we fill that void with an alternate; new friends, routes, abilities and vistas. What better way to travel this path than the humble 3-speed.
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The 2014 All-British Cycling Event
7. The 2014 All-British Cycling Event  (September 12-14, 2014)
Wandering Among the Monoliths

The ABCE may not have a brick or stone edifice but it exists without question in the hearts and minds of all the Nutters. We began with the Friday reception at Barley John’s. A dozen were in attendance to witness the Claiming Ceremony whereby we “Claim Barley John’s in the name of the Queen for all the Riders of the Realm”. After the glasses were clinked, we settled into our seats and shivered in the cold evening air while our ales and porters remained refrigerated.

The Gentleman’s Tour on Saturday morning was a cold start; frosty roofs on the houses proved the temperature. Three layers, long trousers and full gloves felt good in the chilly breeze while we gathered in front of the block building of Merlin’s Rest. After many handshakes and a bit of hot coffee, we were underway. A beautiful vista was soon found on the Sabo Bridge; the glass buildings of downtown Minneapolis were glittering in the clear morning sun.

Moving on, we relished the stop for Elevenses at Freewheel Bike; an example of modern monolithic architecture in the trench of the Greenway. They have no street entrance; all patrons arrive via cycle and this makes for a very friendly place indeed. The treats were many and hot tea flowed like a river.

We stalled and lingered but finally we departed for the lakes. Como was the first and we hugged the eastern shore on the cycle lane. Soon we arrived at Lake Harriet and lingered for a drink at the hand pump near the whimsical bandshell; an award winning open air post-modern structure.

Lunch was approaching so off we went around the north side of the sparkling lake. Sailboats were enjoying the breeze as we glided past on the new-found tailwind. A mile or so found us turning to the east on the Minnehaha trail. A few more miles and we were at 48th and Chicago; our lunch stop. Since it was warming nicely, we enjoyed outdoor dining. Most enjoyed the Town Hall Tap; a lovely brick building in a neighborhood full of bungalows.

Moving on, we could feel the urge of high tea calling us so we continued along Minnehaha Creek, enjoyed a brief stop at the busy falls then underway again across the Ford Bridge into St Paul. We rode North for a bit and soon found our way onto Summit Avenue. A jewel of a street, this, and we viewed brownstone mansions, shingled cottages, half timbered cottages, Italianates, Victorians, Craftsman bungalows and every combination thereof. We were dizzy with beauty and we needed a rest; we found it at Maid Marlis’ Secret Garden.

A more welcome sight cannot be imagined; chairs and tables among the forest with an amazing variety of treats. We enjoyed berry trifle, curried egg salad sandwiches, chocolate torte, lemon curd and the pièce de rèsistance; a chocolate cake in the form of the Union Jack. Pots of delicious tea were welcome on this cool day while we lingered and chatted under the trees.

Rolling on back through St. Paul, we rode parallel to Summit Avenue to view more beautiful houses and soon we were back at Merlin’s Rest for a relaxing evening dinner.

Sunday morning dawned cool again with a bit of wind but this did not deter the Cycle Jumble; bicycles, bits and frames changed hands and many lingered throughout the Social Hour. Excitement was building for the Gravity Race and Pastry Joust and we decided to set off a little early. Down the hill we went and as soon as the first corner was turned, most were hit by the wind and ground to a halt. Many never made it to the pastry but some did quite well indeed. Tim McNamara on his McNamara was the repeat winner in the hub gear category and a controversial winner in the non hub gear category was Mike and Jasper on the Pennine tandem.

Soon we were on the wheel again and we tipped our caps as we rode past Terry Osell’s old shop and down the Diagonal Trail. Speed was increasing a bit as we knew we would soon be tapping the cask of Silver Knight Ale.

Our Keeper of the Cask Steve Brink and our Keeper of the Cask Emeritus Dave Brierley did a bang-up declaration and toast to declare the taps open. Pizza was conjured up and we settled in for the Stories Both True and Otherwise. Steve Hed, Paul McLeete, Dave Sieving, Owen Lloyd and others told wonderful tales as we enjoyed the afternoon. As a cap for the weekend, prizes and awards were given for many, many beautiful bicycles.

Whether our monoliths are cycle shops, glass skyscrapers, brownstone mansions or the glory of Stonehenge, we Vagabonds seek beauty in all we see. We wander among the scenery and, indeed, we choose to become part of the scenery from time to time. We prefer to travel at an enjoyable pace with enjoyable company. We prefer to travel with pride and, without question, we prefer our dignified choice of transport: the humble English bicycle.

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8. The 2014 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour:  (May 17 & 18, 2014)
All Hands Were Lost

HMS Holland 1, launched in 1901, had an original compliment of 8.

The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour had an original compliment of 14; now 100+.

Our Tour of Duty began with anxious anticipation of the weather; will it hold for our launch? Will it present us with unknown challenges? No matter, we are a hearty lot and always enjoy new adventure and meeting new friends. We also enjoyed the Message from the Queen delivered by Willy and John; The Queen was kind enough to send her regrets. The Vicar delivered the delightful Blessing of the Bicycles and since no rain was predicted, we were sprinkled with Holy Water.

“A rising tide lifts all boats” is a certain truism but, as we discovered, it also blocks our route out of the harbor so the certainly curious HMS Redwing Police provided an escort out into the channel. And with that, we were underway.

Crossing the Mississippi river out of Redwing gives and odd feeling that your ticket is stamped “one-way”. Thankfully, that is not the case and as we found Highway 35, we turned with the strong tailwind, passed the Bow and Arrow marker and settled in to the long journey ahead.

The Bay City Hill loomed in the distance and some prepared with a bit of ice cream but all leaned into the task at hand. Up they went, one and all; some egos were sunk, some were nearly out of fuel but all were able to complete the herculean task and meet at the top.

The Bay City Plummet was a delight; with caps reversed, the speed on the new pavement was impressive and all made it down the back side with brakes burning and wide grins.

On we sailed to the harbor of Maiden Rock and the Smiling Pelican Bake Shop. Sondra knew we were coming and we were delighted to see the many treats including the White Chocolate Rhubarb Rasberry Parfait. Indeed, a torpedo below the waterline. Many Sailors lounged in the garden on shore leave after sampling these delights.

Pressing on, we ventured to Stockholm; another safe harbor with many choices of treats, restaurants and sights. Some descended from the Maiden Rock Bluff but most arrived at sea level.

The town of Pepin was the next port of call and some took a quick tour of the waterfront. The old depot museum seems permanently closed since they lost the only volunteer.

The tailwind was certainly welcome as we crossed the long flats across the Chippewa River delta. Yes, a bit of a slog but the chattery birds were delightful and the trees seemed to leaf out as we watched.

Steaming into [Lord] Nelson is always a relief; many enjoyed more ice cream but most enjoy the fact that the long day is nearly done.

Wabasha was a welcome sight and Jan and Jim were ready to stand the push of so many hungry Nutters. Nottingham stew was on the menu, along with mash and our favorite; mushy peas. Noel did a rousing bout of poetry that was a great crowd pleaser plus a couple of volunteers did as well.

Sunday dawned clear and beautiful and again, Jan and Jim outdid themselves with various egg bakes, coffee, tea, bagels plus other treats to get all the sub-mariners to the port of Redwing. We feasted, gathered for a few words, and then shoved off for Lake City and the Brew-Up.

Many thought Ohuta Park would be, ironically, under water. It was not, but it was close. The Brew-Up is always a big hit and all the picnic tables are quickly taken and many blankets are spread in the grass. Elaborate displays and food seem to come out of nowhere. In the end, all were winners but the judges settled on one kit in particular; Sandra Muzzy and Mark Wagar were declared the winners.

We lingered at Lake City and truly hated to leave that treasured spot but a tour this is and so tour we must. Old Frontenac was in our periscope sights and soon we were underway.

The Old Stone Wall soon came into view at the corner of Faribault Street and Manypenny Avenue. We dearly love that shady spot and proudly line up all the Trusty Steeds along the wall for photos. The new Light-Up was a modest hit and many pipes were on display and exactly 3 were lit.

Moving on, we had many choices; Hill Avenue, Ski Road or Flower Valley Road. All are spectacular and all are lined with wildflowers and offer views that cannot be seen nor imagined from any boat.

As we rolled into Redwing, we experienced waves of grief that this lovely little tour has to end. Disappointing, yes, but the tour lives in our hearts and minds, and indeed, the friendships and memories are refreshed every year.

As the original HMS Holland 1 was an exploration into sub-marining, our merry band of 3-Speed Nutters are explorers in their own right. Happily, all hands were lost in our favourite diversions, bakeries, overlooks and routes. All hands were lost in the challenge of the hills, the flats, the naps in the grass. All hands were lost over hill and dale and back home again. Once again, the ‘umble 3-speed is the choice for all hands.
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9. The 2013 All-British Cycling Event  (September 13, 14 & 15, 2013)
Irksome Tasks and Weighty Responsibilities

The 2013 All-British Cycling Event was another in a continuing series of High Adventures and much like Robin Hood; our arrow flew right to the heart of the target.

The Friday reception and claiming ceremony was well attended and we bore our weighty responsibilities with a pint of cheer. Barley John’s was “Hereby claimed for the Queen and for all the Riders of the Realm”. Glasses were clicked and it finally settled in; another ABCE was underway.

The Gentleman’s Tour on Saturday morning started from a new location; Merlin’s Rest. A warm and friendly gathering spot that proved perfect as a starting and finishing point. 28 Nutters took aim and were let loose down the trail. The Sabo Bridge was our first stop at less than a mile and the view of Minneapolis is not to be missed. We did not linger since the call of Elevenses at Freewheel bicycle shop could be heard. Treats and tea were served while some shopped and some relaxed in the warm sun.

Eventually another arrow was pulled from the quiver and off we went to Lake Calhoun and then the vintage water pump stop at Lake Harriet near the band shell. We lingered a bit but we had to fly; our target was lunch at 48th and Chicago. A grand place it is, with many choices for lunch that include indoor plus outdoor dining. With fine temperatures and partly cloudy skies, it was perfect and we enjoyed it all.

Once we realised our next target, we jumped up and moved on. We had a long stretch to cover to get to Marlis’ garden and High Tea. We wound along Minnehaha creek, gathered and re-grouped at Minnehaha Falls and found our way through the Sherwood Forest trail to the Ford Bridge. The view from the bridge is always spectacular since it hovers hundreds of feet over the only gorge on the Mississippi. We found our way to Summit Avenue and we never tire of it. Fans of architecture and vintage houses were thrilled with the views.  After a time, if you watch in the distance, you will see the avenue seems to disappear; the Ramsay Hill is the culprit since it plummets seemingly off the edge of the earth. Thankfully, we turned left, a quick right and hit our target; Marlis’ garden.

Home baked cakes and cookies served with tea were the order of the day. All of it absolutely delicious! We relaxed in the hidden forest and enjoyed it all. A truly magic spot, this, and three cheers were given to Marlis; our very own Maid Marian!

One arrow was left for the day and we regrettably had to move on. Merlin’s Rest was calling and raindrops were beginning to fall. It seemed a false rain since we stopped to don the capes and shortly after the rain stopped. We found our way back to the River Road, the Marshall Street Bridge, and finally, Merlin’s.  

Fish and chips, buttys, pies, pasties and mash were all served with ale and cider and we laughed the evening away while the rain came down in buckets.

Sunday found the Cycle Jumble well underway at 10am. The weather was perfect; cool and with a light breeze. Many deals were to be had and soon we were anxious for the Gravity Race and Pastry Joust. An odd event indeed but it’s great fun to watch the Nutters take aim and pull a straight shot down the hill and struggle for every last inch of distance while dealing with irksome day-old pastry. Winners were declared and a quick tour past the long-lamented bicycle shop of Terry Osell and down the Diagonal Trail found us back at Barley John’s.

Dave, our Keeper of the Cask, declared the taps open and soon we were enjoying pints of Silver Knight Ale. Judges were busy and many were preparing for our favourite: “Stories, Both True and Otherwise.” Many tales were told of bicycle adventures, tours and discoveries. Many were humorous, some were historic and all were coveted.
Eventually the awards were given, prizes drawn and we clicked glasses one last time. Sadly, another ABCE drew to a close.

Whether our personal arrows are family pheons, Office of Ordnance designations, a hard-earned scouting sash worn with pride, or simple markers on a distant hillside, it is just the adventure known as life and few know the adventure like the Riders of the Realm. In the realm of Robin Hood or the modern Scout, the Order of the Arrow means brotherhood, cheerfulness and service. For the Riders of the Realm we cherish much the same; the brotherhood and reunion of old friends, the cheerfulness of conversation over a cup of tea, and the faithful service of our devoted steed; the three speed bicycle.

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10. The 2013 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour  (May 18 & 19, 2013)
P. G. Wodehouse Would Be Proud.

Like a page from a Jeeves-Wooster novel, oddly-dressed Nutters gathered in Red Wing unaware of the task they faced and the history yet to be made. Indeed, this was a cracker; an event imagined by some, overly-anticipated by others.

John Palmer read the Message from the Queen and it was sad news indeed; the new Royal Carlton was involved in a dust-up with Prince William and an un-named immovable object. Facing the prospect of the Prince’s broken leg, the Queen has promised swift repair of the bicycle and she pledged to join us next year.

With the Blessing of the Bicycles came responsive reading, a hymn about Chaps on Bikes and a revelation that it was Whitsun Eve. According to the Vicar, “White Sunday” was the day “the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and they began speaking in tongues so that even those from distant lands (Chicago, New Jersey) could understand”. With that sorted out, the Vicar pronounced it good and commanded us to “go forth and ride”.

The weather seemed pleasant enough; light winds and comfortable temps. A quick stop at the Bow and Arrow marker had us worried a bit; would our rain record remain? The dark cloud overhead seemed reluctant to accommodate but, finally, a mile downstream we felt a few sprinkles.

The darkness on the horizon had us worried as well; not rain, but the Bay City Hill. A little ice cream provided fortification and we took the bit and charged. Some claimed the hill had been changed; either lengthened or raised or both. Some walked, some pedaled but all stopped at the top for rest and a chat.

The descent of the Bay City Hill is always a welcome dichotomy, both cooling and terrifying. All made it and all managed to stop at the bottom to enjoy the vistas while the brakes cooled. We joyfully pedaled along and daydreamed of pie and other treats while views of the lake, bluffs and wildflowers rolled past.

The Smiling Pelican was a welcome sight and we filled the place with hungry Berties, Jeeves, Tuppys, Atillas and Aunt Dahlias. Pies, quiches, cookies and tortes were enjoyed by all the characters. Soon the talk turned to Rock Maiden and those interested in riding to the top were back on the wheel facing the steep climb up AA.

Others pushed on to Stockholm to lunch and a sit-down. An idyllic place to be sure and the Robinson, Miller and Feinan  clans took advantage of the fine weather and arranged a family picnic; some arrived by motor with a lavish assortment of treats including Pimm’s cups on ice. A fine idea, this.

No time to dawdle, the play must go on so we remounted and faced the gentle rolling hills into Pepin where we could dawdle some more. The waterfront is a wonderful sight and not to be missed.

The long stretch into [Lord] Nelson is always a bit of a grind but this year there were no flats or mechanicals so with a light headwind to keep us cool, we simply rode with the quiet.

Wabasha arrived with a final climb up and over the big river bridge. Jan and Jim were glad to see us and treated us to mountains of shepherds pie, mushy peas, bread and salad topped off with chocolate cake and rhubarb cake. We sang the evening away while enjoying ale and cider.

Sunday morning gave us a little rain but it soon passed and after a hearty breakfast, Java Jan and Java Jim bade us farewell for another year. With that, we were faced, err, pushed by a stout tailwind. Some chose alternate routes up and over the bluffs, some chose the wide shoulder of 61 but all were serenaded by a riot of songbirds and wildflowers on this fine day. Whether on the bluffs or 61, the vistas of Loch Pepin are magnificent; it seemed hard to imagine the distance one can achieve awheel when viewed in its entirety.

Lake City arrived quickly and preparations for the Brew-Up were underway. Fine linens, English bone china, silver service, vases of flowers, artwork, Pimms, Stilton and cheddar; it all seemed unbelievable and, indeed, many locals wandered by in amazement. Sandwiches appeared out of nowhere, tea was brewed on the spot and as everyone settled in for a leisurely repast, an obvious question bubbled to the surface: Why aren’t all cycle tours like this? But it gets better; Troy Mayne  and friends arranged a selected reading from  P. G. Wodehouse’s Right ho, Jeeves! Troy won the new trophy (graciously supplied by Christine and Mike Welsh) but a hearty runner-up was the Hollingsworth clan with a stunning variety of treats, 3 vases of flowers and several chaps with pipes.

Eventually we had to leave that cherished spot and find our way to the old stone wall. Find it we did at the corner of Manypenny Avenue and Faribault Street. Photos were taken, stories were told and the neighbors generally regarded us as odd-looking pests. A lovely spot, and one steeped in local history and lovely architecture. One bit of architecture lost was the outhouse at Wakondiota Park. If you are a fan of architecture, you’ll find that no other building will generate the reaction, stories and memories of an outhouse. Positioned at the outfield edge of the base ball field, a liner hit sharply to left center would have garnered quite a story.

We moved on, as cycle tourists must, some ventured up Hill Avenue or Ski Road or Flower Valley Road but all knew what soon lay ahead; Red Wing, a welcome destination but an unwelcome end of the journey.

With a touch of steel in our voices (and cycle frames) we can say there is no flat too daunting, no hill too difficult, no distance too great for all of us Berties. The key to our fortitude is the same as the code of the Woosters; “Never let a pal down.” And, indeed, the ‘umble 3-speed stands ready as our pal. Right ho, Jeeves!
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11. The 2012 All British Cycling Event  (September 14, 15, 16, 2012)
Victory of the Afflicted

On Friday evening, the Nutters gathered in New Brighton for ale and a renewal of friendships plus building of others. Glasses were raised and a toast was made during our claiming ceremony; “To claim Barley John’s in the name of the Queen for all the Riders of the Realm. With that, we knew we were afflicted.

Saturday morning was cool with light winds, in other words, perfect for a Gentleman’s Tour. Hands were shaken, friendships renewed and soon the Nutters were on the wheel. Threading our way through downtown Minneapolis is enjoyable riding since you can get a glimpse of the old Island Cycle warehouse and all the interesting architecture of the warehouse district, riverfront and the Post Office.

Soon we were southbound with a quick stop on the Sabo bicycle bridge and then eastbound to the Freewheel bicycle shop and tea house. The coffee cake was the treat of the day and, thanks to Peter Jourdain, they had laid in extra supplies. GC mugs were filled and drained and soon we were off again.

Rambling around the lakes was the next adventure and we enjoyed the sparkling waters of Calhoun and Harriet. The Harriet Bandshell is another sight to see and we stopped at the nearby hand-pumped well to fill our mugs again.

We easily found the wooded trail of Minnehaha creek but one ingredient was missing: water. It was dry; so dry, in fact, we saw one chap merrily jogging down the ex-watercourse.

Pressing on, we found our favourite lunch spot at 48th & Chicago. Plenty of restaurant choices ensured that everyone found something to their liking.

Eventually we left that idyllic spot and made our way to the Falls of Minnehaha but, alas, no reason to stop since it was dry. We continued on to Fort Snelling, crossed the Mississippi and continued on the trail along Shepard Road eventually gaining downtown St. Paul. We had a quick stop at the Irving Park fountain and then on to Cyclist Teas at Marlis’ secret garden.

If you travel over hill and dale, through fen and forest, a better setting could not be found. Tea was served in abundance and treats included savory scones, finger sandwiches, chocolate cake and clotted cream. We rested and chatted, reclined and dallied. Indeed, we were afflicted with this form of repast and revival. Must we leave?

But leave we must; cycle touring demands it and after all, the adventure is found in the journey. We tottered down Summit Avenue and eventually found our way back to the Mississippi. Our next diversion was the Park Rash switchback trail down the river bluff to the riverside. We wandered on to the boat house and dallied a bit since it was quite hot by then. Eventually we moved on and some parted for home, some to their automobile and some to dinner.

Sunday was another example of perfect weather; the Cycle Jumble was set up quickly and many deals were to be had. An affliction may easily be witnessed here; those infected souls are attracted to shiny objects, cannot see rust or dirt and have a shed/basement/garage with bulging walls. A most enjoyable disease, this, as it has the ability to sharpen the eyesight (for most anyway) and lighten the wallet.

The Sunday Gentleman’s Tour began with a curious bit of adventure in the form of a Gravity Race and Day-Old Pastry Joust; another odd affliction in that the object is “…distance via dignified coasting”. What could be more dignified than having a pastry during a race? Is this another affliction? No question it is.

Carrying on, we made it back to Barley John’s and without hesitation, our Keeper of the Cask (Dave) declared the taps open and soon we were giving out awards and telling stories both true and otherwise.

We all have our various afflictions whether they are collecting oddly heavy bicycles, stories of touring in strange lands, drinking tea in a hidden forest or even suffering the spectre of health issues but rest assured the noble English bicycle is the panacea for all.

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12. The 2012 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour  (May 19 & 20, 2012)
Houston, We Have A Problem.

The Nutters gathered for pre-launch festivities Saturday morning in Red Wing just before the countdown began. Several things had to happen on schedule before liftoff; 4) check-in, 3) prize drawing, 2) The Message from the Queen, 1) Blessing of the Bicycles.

The Message from the Queen was delivered by John Palmer and, in Her absence and Her honour, Noel was knighted, presented with a medal and “with faith, loyalty, courage and honour” pronounced Sir Noel, Knight of the Realm. The STO was awarded the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) “For God and the Queen”.  It is not widely known, but O.B.E. is actually Old Bicycle Expert. After much clapping of hands and gnashing of teeth, we moved on to the Blessing of the Bicycles. We had song, read responsively and with the Vicar’s blessing and Noel’s word, we lifted clear of the platform and blasted forth toward the heavens to begin the 10th annual 3-Speed Tour.

Not surprisingly, only a few blocks later we had our first flat tyre. No matter, a spare tube was offered up by the Vicar, pressure was restored and the journey resumed. The crossing into Wisconsin was deceptively easy with a delightful tailwind. The trouble began as soon as the route turned to the East. The headwind had been waiting for us and while this was not comparable to an exploding oxygen tank in your space capsule, it proved to be the ruling force for all the Riders of the Realm.

The heat was building by the time we began the ascent of Bay City Hill. Up we went; some riding, some walking, and some resting but, without fail, everyone made it to the apogee. The plummet was a controlled descent, not by parachute, but the wind.

Into Maiden Rock, the sight of the Smiling Pelican Bakery was certainly welcome. A special rum-laced treat of Banoffee was waiting for us and we were not disappointed. Well fueled and rested, the heat continued to build until another blast off. Some made the trek to still higher altitude at Rock Maiden; some maintained a lower orbit until Stockholm. More rest and more fuel was needed for the push into Pepin and the heat and wind made progress very difficult.

At Pepin was another catastrophe. One of the tyres of the Lorry trailer had blown. Help was available immediately with Trigger and Keith; they changed to the spare but it was flat. By stroke of luck, a service station with an air hose was within a block. The mission was saved…for now.

The long dreaded journey into Nelson was a treat this time; the clouds had arrived and the trees provided unexpected shelter from the incessant wind. Ice cream and root beer floats were consumed at the Nelson Cheese Factory before the final push into the wind across the river into Wabasha.

Jan and Jim had anticipated our arrival and prepared a feast of The Queen Mum’s Cottage Loaf. We ate, enjoyed ale, wine, cider and sang the evening away.

For the return journey to Red Wing we were hopeful for a tailwind but, to our horror, it was dead ahead again. The temperature was lower but the wind was fierce again. Just outside of Reads Landing, another catastrophe. The STO had broken one his French Chandeeze crankarms and, realizing that this could spell the end of the mission, resigned himself to failure. As luck would have it, many of the Nutters arrived within minutes to offer opinions of French metallurgy and questionable solutions involving tape, sticks and gravel but the real solution was within the 3-Speed Lorry Mission Control. A cotter press and a crankarm from Bobbi’s own Raleigh was procured, installed and soon the old Rudge was ready. One minor, uh, problem not previously discussed; a Chandeeze crankarm is curved. The pedals were no longer 180 degrees apart but were now considerably less. A cruel joke? Perhaps, but a solution nonetheless. The STO continued on into Lake City with a curious new cadence.

The competitive Lake City Brew-Up brings forward the best of the Nutters; hot tea, scones, clotted cream, Pimms, English cheese of all types, picnic blankets, table cloths and the list is endless. Eventually, the wind and light rain persuaded us to continue the journey toward Old Frontenac.

The Old Stone Wall in Old Frontenac is like an old friend. The beautiful dry-stacked wall is festooned with lichen and provides the perfect backdrop for photos of bicycles and Nutters. We rest, chat, take photos and embrace “our inner slowness” as Noel says.

The final leg of the journey was upon us; some chose alternate routes and some took the direct route but all were delighted with a gentle touchdown into Red Wing.

While the Apollo 13 mission was a bit more ambitious than our humble Tour, the plan is the same; a safe journey no matter the destination. Sometimes the path chosen has difficulties but whether the help comes from Mission Control, friends, family, Vicar or oddly-dressed Nutters makes no matter; the noble 3-speed bicycle is the vehicle of choice.
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13. The 2011 All British Cyclling Event  (September 16-18, 2011)
Spitfires and Hurricanes Filled the Skies

No Messerschmitts or Junkers were in the skies over New Brighton for The All British Cycling Event. Indeed, no hostile forces including German bicycles were to be seen anywhere. With air and land superiority, we opened the festivities with a modest reception at Barley John’s on Friday evening. Glasses were raised and we claimed our most familiar spot in the name of the Queen, for all the riders (and fliers) of the Realm.

Saturday morning dawned quite cool and a light mist was noticed but takeoff was soon underway! Across the airspace of Minneapolis we flew and, in time, we found ourselves on Minnehaha Trail and viewing the sights of Milwaukee Avenue, the Sabo bridge and the Greenway. Elevenses were found at Freewheel Bicycle and we were fortified with pudding and tea.

By no means was this a direct flight and so our next stop was the Peace garden at Lake Harriet; we lingered, chatted and took photos.

A refueling stop was secured at 48th and Chicago and the choices (and portions) were generous; no airline food to be found.

Off we flew to the Falls of Minnehaha, the Ford bridge and the Fort Snelling overlook and soon we were landing in St. Paul at Marlis’ tea garden.

A more beautiful setting, a more accommodating hostess could not be imagined as Marlis and her attendants served treats and tea to the weary travelers. We enjoyed the bonfire, the English cheese and even the weather seemed to sweeten as we rested.

The final leg of this flight took us down Summit Avenue, through the U of M campus, across the Stone Arch Bridge and back to the start.

The banquet at the Great Dragon gave us time to relax, enjoy dinner and recall the sights of the day.

Sunday dawned rainy and cool and, with time, grew wetter and cooler. A finer day for English cycling could not be imagined. The Cycle Jumble was held in the rain but the rain held off for the Gravity Race and Day-Old Pastry Joust. John Thompson, oddly enough, was the winner on a lightweight Vicount outdistancing all challengers on much heavier steeds. Peter Akimoto was second overall on his Raleigh Sports but taking first in the Hub Gear Category. A heavy mist was in the air so we decided to take the most direct route back over hill and dale.

As soon as possible, our Keeper of the Cask declared the taps open and pizza and ale was enjoyed by all. Sadly, our Silver Knight Ale was on a delayed flight and eventually a no-show due to pressurization problems.
“Stories both true and otherwise” were enjoyed by all and the highlight was Peter Jourdain’s telling of the Maurice Selbach story.

After awards and the overly-anticipated prize drawing, we realized it was time to come back to earth and return Barley John’s to the colonials.

Our own Spitfires and Hurricanes (whether they be Raleighs or Hercules) allow us to see the world unlike any aeroplane. We can enjoy both field and wood from an open cockpit and silently wander the beautiful landscape at will. We are not bound by gasoline or landing strips; we need only choose a direction and our humble Steed shall take us there.

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14. The 2011 Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour:  (May 21 & 22, 2011)
Rapture Found

Oddly enough, the day began with a cessation of the incessant rain that had plagued the area. We were then able to renew old friendships, load the lorry, and enjoy the Blessing of the Bicycles from the Vicar. Godspeed from the Queen was delivered by John Palmer and Willy Gobert. The Nutters were inspired enough to mount up and begin the journey to the Holy Land of Wabasha. Construction of the Ark would have to wait.

The First Commandment of 3-Speed Touring is “Thou shall not pass a bakery” so Noel and I, along with Mike and Courtney Bullis paid a visit to Hanisch for a treat; 4 blocks into the Tour seemed about right for a rest stop. 1 block later we found the beginning of The Curse; Henry Cole was the first of the flats. 1 block further it was Peter “Wrongway” Jourdain. The flats and mechanical issues continued all day.

Noel and I pressed on. We chose an alternate route that took us closer to the Bow and Arrow marker and, in places, right to the base of the river bluffs. Next was Bay City; a place to gather your breath, ice cream and inspiration before The Ascension.

We could delay no longer and our climb to the Heavens began. The Bay City Hill was the first moment of Rapture; a beautiful canyon lined with wildflowers and moss that continued up without end. Along the climb we heard Nutters talking in tongues; others were praying for mercy but in the end, all made the journey to the summit.

We flew with angels wings down the back side and since the rain had begun in earnest, braking was out of the question. A small canopy at the next wayside provided shelter for some but others continued on hearing the siren song of the Smiling Pelican.

Communion at the Smiling Pelican was a vision! Cookies, quiche, breads, hot coffee, pies of all descriptions fortified the faithful. We lounged in the gardens as the clouds parted and strength was regained; surely, this must be Rapture!

Capes were stowed as the journey began to the Maiden Rock wayside; a lovely spot beneath the infamous bluff where one sacrificed herself for the love of another. Indeed, Rapture can be found here with the sun, wind, rock, the view and the legend.

Pressing on into Stockholm alone, I stopped for a photo since a beautiful flower garden and shed had caught my eye. I posed my bicycle then stepped back onto the road for the quick photo. Oddly enough, there were no cars, no motorcycles, no freight trains and no bicycles. I stood quietly for what seemed an eternity. I could hear the songbirds and the waves on the shore. In the gentle wind I could smell the lilac and apple. Here again was Rapture.

Pepin came soon enough, some Nutters stopped to join the Vicar’s Table at the Harbor View and some napped in the grass. The pace was relaxed; the weather was pleasant and no-one felt the need to hurry along. Before Nelson, I had the pleasure of riding with Bob Gibbs. I pray that all us Nutters will still be riding so strong at 92.

Riding into Wabasha, we attempted a parting of the Mississippi. It didn’t take long before we decided to take the bridge. Surely, here is Mecca; the Eagle’s Nest Coffee House. Jan and Jim created another English masterpiece; bangers and mash with excellent mushy peas, several desserts and English Ale. A greeting was delivered by mayor Rollin Hall. The sing along was moved to the outdoor patio much to the chagrin of the neighbors.

Sunday dawned clear and pleasant; breakfast was another treat from Jan and Jim with various egg bakes, porridge, fruit and sweet breads. Not much time to linger after breakfast; the Nutters were eager press on to Lake City. Goodbye hugs were distributed and we were off.

Several chose alternate routes upon the bluffs where the views were  spectacular. A bit of rain to keep us honest came and went but all-in-all, high road or low road, the journey into Lake City was all vistas and tailwinds sprinkled with the odd flat tyre here and there.

The Brew-Up was well underway by the time I arrived. Marlis Schmidt and Juston Anderson had set the bar quite high with her silver tea set, English bone china and, believe it or not, victrola. This truly was heaven. Waiting in the wings was the combined 4-person team of Melanie and Chris Foss from Iowa along with Mike and Christine Welsh from Illinois. Sandra Muzzy and Mark Wagar were back with a formidable presentation as well. Ultimately, Melanie and Chris, Mike and Christine prevailed to take the Brew-Up crown just as the Heavens opened up and another downpour began.

The rain let up and soon the wayfarers moved on to Old Frontenac with a visit to the 1830s cemetery. Noel described it as a cathedral and certainly it was, for these lucky souls were buried in Eden. Before long we gathered at the old stone wall at the corner of Faribault Street and Manypenny Avenue. Photos were taken as we were humbled with the beauty of the architecture and landscape.

The final leg of the journey was upon us; some chose Hill Avenue but I prefer Ski Road as an alternate route. It borders a State Forest and rises gently to wonderful views. It was soon apparent that I was quite alone and a strong thunderstorm was upon me. It grew darker and the thunder and lightning was continuous. Fog was rising from the road and fields. I considered seeking shelter but I thought if my ticket has been stamped, what better way, what better setting and what better event to experience the final Rapture.

Obviously, I lived to tell the tale and I soon joined up with the group that descended from Hill Avenue. A final spin into Red Wing was upon us and soon a sinking feeling befell us; another Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour was over.

Rapture isn’t the Second Coming, end of days or an immediate ascension into the destination known as Heaven; it is simply a passionate journey right here on earth. Heaven is truly all around us for everyone to see. Beauty in excelsis is here with us and around us every single day of our personal journey; all we need is something to show us the way.
The humble 3-speed is, indeed, The Way.
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15. The 2010 All British Cycling Event  (September 17-19, 2010)
The Voyage of the James Caird

“Riders Wanted. For memorable journey. No cost, moderate weather, many miles of scenic views, constant conversation, safe return ensured. Honour and recognition upon completion.”

The 2010 All British Cycling Event would have been welcomed by Shackleton and his crew. No pack ice, no winter winds, no Antarctic darkness. In fact, pleasant weather was abundant as we gathered Friday for the reception and Claiming Ceremony at Barley John’s in New Brighton. Hands were shaken, old friendships were renewed and all the hearty souls reveled in anticipation of the coming journey.

Saturday dawned a bit cool and rainy but the musty oiled canvas capes were left under wraps as we set out to navigate the new route of the 35 mile Gentleman’s Tour. Scenic vistas were the order of the day as we left downtown Minneapolis on the Minnehaha Trail and traveled past car-free Milwaukee avenue. The Sabo Bridge connected us with the Greenway and soon we were having elevenses at the Freewheel shop and store located just inches from the trail.

Suitably fortified, we were off to the Peace Garden for another rest and lookabout. The next stop was lunch at 48th and Chicago; plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Minnehaha falls was next on the epic journey and from there we paralleled the Mississippi River all the way to High Tea at Marlis’.

No finer setting could be imagined as the tea flowed and treats were consumed by the hearty Explorers. Many photos were taken as we rested and revived in the hidden garden. We hated to leave that idyllic spot but, as explorers must, we shoved off for more adventure and vistas through St Paul and the University of Minnesota campus. Soon we found ourselves at the Falls of St. Anthony on the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge. Alas, time was running short and we departed for dinner at the Great Dragon.

Sunday provided another cool start but it soon cleared and warmed. The cycle jumble was a great success as many parts and cycles exchanged hands. Excitement was building, however, as it was soon time to depart for the 5 mile Gentleman’s Tour. New this year was the incorporation of the Gravity Race and Day-Old Pastry Joust. Off we went!

Soon we were at the top of the grade and an impressive bit of grade it was as the competitors flew downhill with caps turned to the backside. “Distance via dignified coasting” was the goal and it was provided in spades as Nutter after Nutter rolled out to the “Blue Fence of Victory”. Craig Holmlund was the victor; bettering all by a considerable margin and setting a new ABCE distance record.

Back to Barley John’s we went and immediately the taps were declared open by our Keeper of the Cask. Silver Knight Ale was a refreshing treat indeed and it was welcomed by all the thirsty Explorers.
Pizza and “stories both true and otherwise” were next on the schedule; many were told and some were believed and some were rebutted.

After awards and prizes, Barley John’s was returned to the colonials and we were both saddened and revived by the closing of our journey. Our ship of choice, of course, is the venerable English bicycle and whether we make South Georgia Island or tea in the garden makes no matter; it’s still high adventure indeed, and our humble Steed shall take us there.

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