Minnesota is midway stop for Kelsey Bjorkman’s 3,000 mile bike ride: Week 6

by Kelsey Bjorkman

Special to the Star News

July 3, 2011

Total Mileage to date: 1,809

Unlike my previous updates it feels like there is not a lot to write about this week. That is probably mostly due to the fact that we have had Friday and Saturday off from biking.

We crossed into Minnesota on Monday, June 28, after leaving Webster, South Dakota, that morning. For me it felt like one of the longest days due to a couple of factors. The first was that we were going a total of 106 miles, which is our longest day so far.

L to R: Samantha Gonzalez, Karl Feller, Kelsey Bjorkman, Rebecca Cunningham, Jessica Mahoney (front sitting), Riley Johnson (back standing), Tim Shaw, Dustin Burkhart (on shoulders), Jeramy Wheeler At the Minnesota border, just after crossing the Minnesota river.

The second was that we had a bit of a crosswind, which, compared to the tailwind we had the day before, made it feel like a lot more work to get anywhere.

The third reason, and probably the biggest, was that we were headed to Montevideo, Minnesota, the hometown of my boyfriend, Owen Hein.

Despite being delayed in the morning due to fog, we made good time throughout the day. We entered Minnesota just in time for lunch and were met in Ortonville, Minnesota, by my dear friends the Scholbergs. Their daughter Elena and I were college roommates my sophomore year at North Central University. They had created a welcome sign for us, as well as gathering some lunch and snack foods to share.

It has been such a joy to be back in Minnesota for several days; to get to see friends and family, and to be in a place where people are so excited about our trip.

Because Venture Expeditions is based out of Minneapolis, there are a lot of Venture people around this area who have participated in tours in previous years and are still incredibly passionate about the cause and the organization.

This has been the first place since Washington State where we have had other people join our team to ride with us for pieces of our day. When we left Ortonville, Minnesota, on June 28, we were joined by Elena Scholberg, her mom, Meg, and her brother, Joseph, for the next 12 miles of our trip. When we left Montevideo, Minnesota, on June 29, we were joined by my boyfriend, Owen Hein, for the first 22 miles of the day.

When we neared the Twin Cities on June 30, we were met in Wayzata by a whole slew of Venture people: Brian Elliot, who just completed a 210 mile run across the state of Minnesota to support the same cause as our team; Josh Iniguez, the trip coordinator of Venture; and Josias Hansen, Tyler Sevlie and Karl Pasche, who all rode on tours in previous years. They joined us and led the way as we rode from Wayzata to our host church, Oak Hills Church, in Eagan.

It was a delight to be off the roads and on bike paths for almost the entire second half of that day’s ride. It was also wonderful to be back in the Twin Cities, a place that is familiar and dear to me.

I felt such excitement as we crossed into Minnesota. Although it is only the halfway point of our ride, it seems like such a big mile marker for us all. I was thrilled to see the sign for Hennepin County as I knew we were then near the Twin Cities. I had such a great time pointing things out to our team members who are from other states; things I had not realized I missed until I was reunited with them. For many of our non-Minnesotan riders, Minneapolis presented the most biker friendly city they had ever experienced, with its paved trail and bike lanes. But the highlight in that regard was certainly the Greenway.

Essentially a highway for bicycles and pedestrians, it has two lanes for bikes and one for people on foot, off ramps, street signs, and even businesses that cater exclusively to those who travel along its route. There is also a sense of camaraderie between cyclists in the Twin Cities.

At one stop light our team was joined by a group of three bikers who asked about our jerseys. As we were explaining the cause we are riding for, we were joined by yet another biker who just completed a coast to coast ride to raise money for cancer research. All four of them pedaled with our group for the next ten miles or so, talking, sharing stories and enjoying the ride.

Dustin Burkhart on the Minneapolis bike trails

Today when we left Eagan to ride to Red Wing we were joined by eight other Venture people as well, bringing our group to a total of 17 for the 45-mile road. It is kind of crazy to think that is the size of the majority of the teams that Venture sends out. We looked quite daunting as we prepared to depart from the church.

Since my last update my flat tire count has risen to the double digits at 10.

It is amazing how something as tiny as a sliver of glass or a minute pebble can cause you so much trouble. At times the flat is instantaneous, as happened to one of our riders in Minneapolis when his tire literally blew, bursting the tire as well as the tube. But they can also be slow. You can be entirely unaware that something has punctured your tube.

However, if the issue is left unaddressed it begins to affect every aspect of your riding. You begin to feel every bump and crack in the pavement. Your smooth ride becomes rough as you begin to bounce slightly on the half inflated tube. You are forced into lower and lower gears as it begins to get increasingly difficult to pedal due to increased friction caused by more tire surface making contact with the road. But it can be so hard to recognize these signs sometimes.

For many of my flats I attributed these things to a variety of other potential causes. It was getting harder to pedal because there was a head wind or a slight incline. I was bouncing more because of dips in the pavement. I was feeling the bumps and cracks more because of the way I was sitting on my seat. But there comes a point where you cannot deny that your tire is flat. Part of me always wants to simply ignore the flat and press forward, as if that will fix the problem.

There seems to always be something in our human nature that would rather ignore an issue than face it head one and find a solution. It seems easier to just keep riding, but in the end it causes you more work. You wear yourself out trying to push against the added friction and bouncing, and still have to change the flat tire at the end of the day. Our desire for a fast-fix comes out when we are changing our flats as well.

It seems so much easier to pull out the flat tube, put in a new tube, and continue on our way. This is often a waste of a tube, however. If we do not carefully check every inch of the tire to discover the source of the flat, we will simply put a hole in our new tube as soon as it is inflated.

We need to take the time for careful examination to find the source of the problem before we try and find a solution. And each time that I remove my wheel, pop off the tire, and search for the culprit, I am learning how to recognize the problems.

Kelsey Bjorkman, halfway to New York

Each time I change a flat I get faster and better as my hands and eyes learn what to look for and how to implement the solution. They say that practice makes perfect and it stands for both the things we enjoy practicing and the things we do not.

So, halfway across the country, I have had 10 lessons in problem solving. And I am grateful for each one, regardless of how I felt at the time.

It feels unreal to say that we are already halfway across the country. It seems so strange to look back and think that less than a month ago our team met for the first time in Seattle, Washington; nine people from six states about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Now, over 1,800 miles later, having crossed two mountain ranges, passed countless cattle ranches, ridden in rain, sun, wind, hail and fog, having developed some of the most unique tan-lines of our lives, meeting people from every walk of life and seeing the country in more detail than many people will ever experience, we are only halfway to our destination.

It feels like such a huge feat, to have reached Minnesota. There is a sense of completion to what we have done. Like the day we climbed Steven’s Pass. We reached the top of the mountain and celebrated and then looked at each other and realized we had 40 more miles yet to ride. It is the same now. We are rejoicing at reaching Minnesota, and yet there is still so much more yet to come. Tonight we are in Red Wing, Minnesota and tomorrow we enter Wisconsin. We’ve gone 1,800 miles: two mountain ranges, and six states down and 1,500 miles, one mountain range, and seven states left to go.


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