Forty Miles on the Cannon Valley Trail

Some people choose to relax on long summer weekends. Others prefer to partake in exotic forms of torture, like hammering out 40 miles on a bike with a leather saddle.

It was a rare warm and sunny Memorial Day, so Luke and I decided to celebrate by riding the entire length of the Cannon Valley Trail. It starts in its namesake town and ends 20 miles away in Red Wing. I knew what I was getting myself into, but my over-inflated sense of athleticism led me to believe the only preparation I needed for this kind of ride involved a pair of bike shorts and some Salted Nut Rolls to prevent chaffing and bonking.

We arrived at the trailhead around noon. Our goal was to finish the ride and make it to a friend’s barbecue by 4:00. “If we maintain a decent pace, it should be no problem,” said Luke as he clipped into the peddles of his speedy road bike.

I recognized trouble a half mile in. Luke rides fast, while I prefer to travel at a more leisurely pace and take in the scenery. Lush greenery surrounded us on both sides and arched overhead to form a dense canopy that filtered the hot sun into tiny speckles of light all around us. A steep wall of moss-coated rock stood on one side, while a gentle descent into the picturesque river valley lived on the other. Interesting life forms occasionally presented themselves in the shape of flotillas of friends riding tubes down the river and a brown deer running alongside us through the trees.

I did my best to not be distracted by the various natural and man-made wonders in order to keep up with Luke’s breakneck pace. For a while, it worked. We were blowing past almost everyone on the trail. We stopped for a moment to fish gnats from our eyes and I made a self-congratulatory statement regarding our hauling-ass-ness. Luke retorted with, “Yeah, we’re keeping a moderate pace.”

Despite my bike shorts not holding up their end of the deal and a painful hotspot forming on the ball of my right foot, I was so mesmerized by the beauty of nature surrounding me that I temporarily forgot we were within the boundaries of civilization. My jolt back into reality appeared near mile 17 in the form of a trailside pole barn barely visible through the trees. Soon, we were riding past big box retailers with increasing frequency. We knew the best scenery was behind us once we spotted an Applebees, so we stopped just shy of Red Wing and took a few minutes to lay supine in the grass underneath a grove of pine trees.

My need for frequent Salted Nut Roll breaks really cut into the “moderate” pace we were maintaining on the way back and we did not make it to the barbecue. But we did find a little gem of an ice cream stand that makes knock-off Blizzards with Nerds, once again proving that life is a series of trade-offs.

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