Riders of the Realm establish base camp in Red Wing for an ascent of the many summits of Wisconsin and Minnesota that make up the route around Loch Pepin. Our baggage was deposited in the Sherpa 3-Speed Lorry, the sign-in was completed and the general fussing continued until our opening ceremony. We started with a greeting from the Queen, who seemed a bit confused as to why Englishmen were riding bicycles in the Colonies. The greeting was delivered by Canadians John Palmer with Willy as the standard bearer and the message of Godspeed was very well received. We noted with interest that the standard was a hockey stick.
The Vicar’s frozen lamentation warmed our hearts but, sadly, not our fingers or toes. The group photo seemed to go well but the images were blurred from the shivering. Eventually we had to face the task at hand and we were underway.
Crossing over the Red Wing bridge proved character building and, indeed, Sir Edmund Hillary may have had it warmer on the Khumbu for the frozen cross wind seemed to blow directly through the layers of wool. Once the turn was made on Wisconsin 35, however, some relief was felt since the threatening cross wind turned into a glorious tail wind.
A brief base camp was established in Bay City and for some, a fortification of ice cream and a rest was welcome.
With that, the ascent began. Up we went. Up and ever up. Rounding every curve was a new challenge, for above you loomed yet another grade steeper than the last that continued as far as you could see. The seconds turned to minutes, the minutes to hours. And still we climbed. We could not be denied success and, in time, everyone gathered at the summit in the cold foreboding wind for rest, a brief celebration and to prove the feat was accomplished, a photo. Everyone seemed to be doing well and any trouble with altitude sickness or hypothermia was averted by a ration of single malt. We must move on, we thought, as the cold began to catch us again. We needed to establish the next base camp in Maiden Rock for there was reward in this one: strawberry trifle.
The miles melted in anticipation and soon, there it was; The Smiling Pelican. No, not an oxygen-starved bird apparition but the bakery. The display cases were filled with trifle, banana cream pie, triple berry pie, chocolate cake, quiche, bread, countless cookies and other treats beyond description. Once the cases were emptied, the ascent of Rock Maiden was underway! The grade was formidable and for some, the route was a bit mysterious but eventually the overlook was found. The careful descent was done at high speed and the John Bulls were tested to the limit at the stop sign in Stockholm lest the Nutters end up in the frozen Loch.
Pepin was the next base camp and the still-strong tailwind made sure we made the journey while trundling along at ease in high gear. [Lord] Nelson was the next destination since home-made ice cream awaited at the [Lord] Nelson Cheese Factory.
The final base camp of the day was Wabasha and our beloved Eagle’s Nest where Jan and Jim simply outdid themselves with an outstanding dinner of shepherd’s pie and English peas. None of the Climbers of the Realm walked away hungry. The Carrigan Quarrel proved themselves with excellent Irish music and accompanied us in the many sing-a-longs.
Sunday morning dawned cool but the winds had blown themselves out and after another glorious breakfast at the ‘Nest we wandered away in the warm sun looking for our next summit to conquer. In other words, when do we get to the Lake City Brew-Up? The Nutters of the Realm swarmed the beachfront park and, it seems, a new sport was born. No, not rock skipping but competitive tea brewing.
Our final base camp was Old Frontenac where we visited a civil war era cemetery and then met at the Old Stone Wall at the corner of Manypenny Avenue and Faribault Street for our traditional photos and to contemplate our achievements, our mountains, our hills and vales.
In summary, this low-gear high-adventure tour cannot be done alone. We ride with a group of like-minded Nutters who share the discoveries and the hardship, and together celebrate the triumph of making it back to Red Wing and the Staghead. To quote Sir Edmund, "Today, it is still not hard to find a man who will adventure for the sake of a dream or one who will search for the pleasure of searching, and not for what he may find."
The adventure goes ever on. -
Date(s): May 16 & 17 2009. Album by STO. Photos by STO. 1 - 92 of 92 Total. 10685 Visits.
Once again I have happened across your wonderful piece of internet real estate to read about the 2010 tour. With much regret, I won't be able to make the 2010 tour. The irony is that I will be in England cycling around on my own.
However, I will be thinking about you all in May and hoping you have as much fun and great weather as everyone did in 2009! And if you all could wish for a little less rain over here, that would be nice too. ;)