For those who want to skip this insanely long post, here's the quick and dirty: The Rawland Fall Tour gets Guitar Ted's Dirty Thumbs Up!
Okay, for those who have the time and inclination to read all the way through this, here is the long version. (Got a fresh cuppa-joe? Good!)
I left for Northfield, Minnesota on Saturday afternoon to hook up with Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles and his wife. Mrs. Guitar Ted and I were going out to dinner with the Witts and we had a great time! I had never had Indian cuisine before, but I must say that Chicken Vindaloo with Nan is pretty outstanding! Well, we hung out in some Northfield bars for the remainder of the evening and then we went to our motel room and cashed it in for the night. Now that would have been enough right there to make for an outstanding weekend, but then there was the Rawland Fall Tour!
(Note: Click on any photo to enlarge it slightly)
Approximately 60 riders showed up in Dennison, Minnesota on what had to be the prototypical "perfect Fall day" for the ride. After some short words by Mr. Witt, we rolled off to gravel right out of the gate. Conditions were chilly but improving quickly with abundant sunshine and little to no wind. The dust was flying off the riders tires like it does off an automobile. It was pretty cool to see.
It is a "No Drop" ride, and it was to be undertaken at a "chill" pace, but after about 5 miles of 15-18mph, we had to stop and re-group to gather up the tail enders. Plus, directions needed to be figured out, and although lots of us had cues, we were relying on the ride leaders to guide us along.
Here is an example of a stop where we waited for the end to catch up and for the ride leaders to get their bearings.
Here is where things went a bit off track for me. First off, I and about a dozen others made a wrong turn right here and we ended up off the back. Then I noticed my rear tire was rather soft. oh oh! Flat tire! (Well, it would have been soon) I tried pumping it back up first, but that wasn't going to do, and since we weren't racing, I just pulled off and started fixing it. Soon about five guys, including Ben, had stopped to watch and chat as I worked over the tire.
I got it fixed, and we were off. The six of us went down about a quarter mile to a "T" intersection and went left. We were flying down a big, long hill when I looked and thought I recognized a turn we had made not long before. Yep! Wrong turn! Brandon, a bigger fella quipped. "Okay, who made the wrong turn and forced the 300lb guy to have to climb back up this hill?" Well, it was all in good fun, and Brandon wasn't really mad, but ya know, I totally understand the comment! More than once I thought the same after a wrong turn. Why is it that wrong turns are always down hill anyway?
The guys turning around after we found out we made the wrong turn and added three miles to our total.
Chris in the far distance, and Ben in the foreground, after we got back on track. There was still some small hope we would catch back on at the lunch stop at this point.
I'll tell ya what- The scenery was spectacular on the route. Ben Witt and company did a great job picking out some stellar roads, the weather was top notch, and the fall colors, while maybe not at their height yet, were awesome none the less. I could have stopped at every turn, over every hill, and taken a "picture post card" photo. My buddy Gnat? Fahgedda boud it! He would have been so busy snapping awesome pics we would have hardly talked! (But I still wish he would have been able to join us!)
At Oxford Mill we took a break to let the guys off the back catch up. Ben and I decided at this point we'd likely take the short cut back to Dennison. we were just not going to catch back onto the lead pack at our pace, which we were completely fine with. I was under a time constraint anyway, and to have done the whole course, I would have had to have flown after my flat to even have a prayer of getting it all in. I would have had to have ridden out on my own, and too hard. Nope! I stayed back with the guys I found myself with and we had a blast! We stuck around here and chatted, munched some tidbits and drank some water before moving on back into the hill country of the Sogn Valley.
Ben Witt climbing Shady Lane Trail. This was a steep, long, curvy climb in a great hardwood stand of trees that was spectacular!
Here is the look up from where I shot the photo of Ben above. Still a ways to go yet! There were about three false summits on this climb. Brutal, but beautiful, and fun!
Here's a look from the tip-top of Shady Lane Trail. Ben is down there waiting for riders to make the climb.
We had lunch on the grounds of this rural church, the Urland Lutheran Church. Spectacular scenery here, and I know it seems impossible, but really, the whole ride was filled with this sort of stuff.
After our sweet lunch of pasta, bananas, and cookies, we were obliged to take the short cut back to Dennison, which was on the paved road. We picked up Jerry, the used book store owner here, who waited for us slowpokes to come into the lunch stop. (Thanks man!)
We ended up getting about 33 miles in and it was a gloriously good time with some fantastic folks along the way.
Thanks to Ben Witt, Sean and Anna from Rawland, and anybody else who had a hand in making this an awesome experience. The route was fantastic, and the company was the tops.
Sounds like Ben and company will be doing this route again in a couple weeks, so if you are in the area, check it out! I highly recommend it.