Q: What is the best way to prepare for a 700+ mile bicycle tour ... in April ... in Minnesota?
A: I don’t know, but I’m going dog sledding.
As “Bike Tour to Save the Boundary Waters TOMORROW” flashed across my Google calendar yesterday morning, my mind flashed back to August when I dove headfirst into yet another adventure. I’m not keen on organization, so seven months is easily the most advance planning I’ve ever done for an expedition. I’ll attribute my surviving the preparation phase to three things:
- The mission. Gaining permanent protection for the Boundary Waters watershed is a cause for which I’m willing to lose sleep - and more. When your eyes are red from staring at a computer screen, educating yourself on all sides of the issue and your brain has been fully wracked thinking of what you’ll need, where you’ll go, and who else will support you, all it takes is one glimpse of the wilderness in a memory, a photo, or a glance out the window for some of us, to get a second wind.
- The team. There is an amazing group of people standing behind this operation. These people: the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters; Sustainable Ely; Piragis Northwoods Company; and our myriad of sponsors, donors, friends, allies, and of course, my fellow riders, are the reason this tour is a reality.
- Cross-training. What better way to get in shape for a 725-mile bike ride than leading cross-country skiing and dogsledding expeditions in the very place we are aiming to protect? I work as an instructor for Voyageur Outward Bound School in Ely and thanks to the hardworking team behind the tour, I was able to continue doing what I love throughout the planning phase.
For the month leading up to the tour I instructed a 30-day course in which we traveled on two separate expeditions and built a dog sled in between. With four incredible students, 13 quirky yet hardworking dogs, and one intrepid co-instructor, we were able to cover a lot of ground—physically and mentally—in some extreme temperatures and wind. We even made it up to see Curtain Falls at the edge of Crooked Lake—a sight not commonly seen in the winter due to its remoteness. That right there will have been worth the saddle-sore I’m sure to experience due to my lack of actual bicycle time prior to the ride.
Last night, the three of us riders have finally converged in the same place, the place where most great adventures begin—my parents’ basement in Apple Valley. It’s great to finally be in the same room with these two women laughing about everything and worrying about (almost) nothing. So, tomorrow we begin. Tomorrow we walk (ride) the talk and take action to save the place we love, need and want to share.
[Top photo: credit Justin Brewster]