For me, Father's Day is one of the most important days of the year. As usual, my soon-to-be-68-year-old dad is out riding his bike on the week-long tour around Minnesota that is organized every year by Jim Klobuchar, a local adventurer and journalist. We'll celebrate when he gets back. Enjoy the ride, Dad.
This year, I decided that I'd spend the Father's Day weekend with my 5-year-old son, Noah, on an overnight bike-camping trip to one of my favorite local spots. Noah refers to our off-the-map campsite as The Secret Place. It's a site I've been using as a quiet escape for the last 4 years. Only my dad, Noah, and I have been there since it was first used a campsite. Our plan is to keep it that way.
We rolled 50km on the Big Dummy with Noah seated comfortably on the Snapdeck between me and our gear. Kid + gear weight was about 35kg. Rear Axiom Panniers fit really well in the Xtracycle Freeloader bags, allowing access to all of the compartments without the need to remove them from the bike. Sleeping quilts and self-inflating pads were strapped to the rear of the Snapdeck, giving Noah a well-padded backrest. A constant headwind made progress slow at times, but I'm sure I would have felt more drag pulling a kid trailer behind the Long Haul Trucker.
My recognition of Noah's 5-year-old attention span is of utmost importance on these trips to guarantee that both of us enjoy the journey. We made many stops along the route to test playground equipment, fuel up on coffee and cocoa, peruse flea markets and garage sales for more crap we don't need, splash in lakes and puddles, climb trees, look at bugs, and take in scenic views. I got a few are we there yet? inquiries. But, overall, he showed a great deal of patience for a little dude.
Saturday afternoon and evening were spent exploring the park via deer and wild turkey paths. Many of the places were familiar to me, but they were all new to Noah. It's always uplifting to see the world through a young child's eyes again. As the sun set, we cooked dinner, stoked the campfire, and observed the local critters. At 9:30pm, unexpected high-speed, straight-line winds and heavy rain drops forced a hasty retreat to the Golite Hex 3 we called home for the night. The timing was actually pretty good. Noah was fighting to keep his eyes open, so we got him into his rocket-patterned fleece jammies and situated on his Thermorest pad and under the RayWay quilt I sewed last year. He was sound asleep in 2 minutes. When the wind and rain died down around midnight, I, too, dozed off to a restful slumber.
We awoke to a beautiful Sunday morning. After a simple breakfast of oatmeal, cocoa, and tea, we packed up and headed home, stopping at many of the same spots we'd visited along the way to the campsite. A couple of trees, across the trail, were the only reminders of the previous night's threatening weather.
When we stopped to buy some sandwiches for a lakeside lunch further down the trail, I spotted Paul Linden's Bean Green Surly Cross-check at a restaurant across the trail. Paul had ridden to Excelsior to have brunch with his father. Coincidentally, Paul is the craftsman who made the tall, custom passenger footrests, shown in a couple of the photos above, that Noah has utilized on my Xtracycle and Big Dummies for the last 2-3 years.
After a pleasant lunch at a sheltered, sunny spot on the shore of Lake Minnetonka and a stop at a trailside coffee shop in Hopkins, I utilized a nice tailwind and the effects of a tall mocha, fortified with an extra espresso shot, to push us home at a good pace. Once the big rig is up to speed, it doesn't take much effort to keep it moving. A few people passed us, but that was the exception rather than the rule. I never tire of the perturbed and or/quizzical looks we get from some of the full-kit roadies as we pass them at speed.
We pulled into the driveway a few minutes before 3:00pm tired, dirty, smelling of campfire, spotted with mosquito bites, and looking forward to the next trip to The Secret Place.