Local Photographer
Ariel Bracken


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Bike Rides 106
Buffalo Bill Days

I’m lucky to say I’ve got a pretty solid group of old friends. Probably because we’ve stuck to a couple of annual gatherings that continue to bring us back together. One is a yearly camping trip staged on a friend’s pristine property near Lanesboro, Minnesota. We’ve assembled for decades the first weekend in August to observe the city’s annual “Buffalo Bill Days” celebration. We used to engage in the city festivities more in our younger years, but that’s changed with time.

This year, the highlight came for me when my buddy who owns the land told us there was an old solid wood picnic table he wanted to get rid of out back. He said he’d supply a sledge hammer and we could burn it after we busted it up.

“We don’t need a stinking sledge hammer!” One of my craziest friends whose sense of humor still shines on like a crazy diamond after all these years exclaimed mischievously. “Urlick and I will take care of it.”

Together we proceeded to hoist the heavy table into the air and smash it diagonally into the ground, tweaking its corners over and over again. We almost lost our breath before a single board finally succumbed, nearly scratching us with its nails in a final desperate act of defiance as it popped free.

Using the defeated board we began prying and smashing the other weighty planks into submission in a humiliating fashion, the same way my older brother used to beat me up with my own hands as a kid.

Sweat was pouring down our faces as we excitedly escalated the ruthless assault on the seasoned table which for years loyally played host to countless soggy paper plates loaded with brats, beans and potato salad. What we really experienced was a momentary lapse of reason.

“Get it boys, get it!” my friend’s sister yelled, caught up in the pack mentality of the contemporary gangsta style beat down. Within five minutes there was nothing left of the once robust bench but a neat little heap of stacked firewood.

Saturday there was the usual group tubing trip down the Root River. The previous year I’d finally relented to peer pressure and tried the two hour, sedentary downstream drift for the first time. My body was actually uncomfortable spread out in a tube with little else to do the entire time. The water was chilly too, and whenever the sun went behind a cloud I shivered like a skittish Chihuahua. I was the first one in our large group to complete the trip by paddling my pale little hands quickly like a penguin treading through polar bear waters.
Somewhere in the middle of that journey I came to the conclusion tubing is an activity best enjoyed by children and intoxicated adults. The former of which, as much as I act like it, I’ll never be again. The latter of whom I left comfortably numb and hanging upside-down from a seatbelt in a pretty red Acura after roof surfing through a deep ditch north of Lansing many years ago.

This year while the others went tubing I brought my bike and planned a sober solo ride from Lanesboro to Preston, through the heart of cycling country in southeast Minnesota. Besides, when I’m writing a story I’m never really alone anyway. So I packed the Raleigh and set my controls for the heart of the sun.

At the Preston trailhead I took a break and purchased a couple of hand sewn pillows from an Amish vendor to use later as gifts. The two children working with him caught my eye communicating a universal greeting like only kids can with their innocent smiles artfully framed inside black and white bonnets, and powerful enough to transcend all cultural barriers laid between us.

Before leaving Preston I saw a guy oddly decked out in a complete spandex, Pink Floyd – “Dark Side Of The Moon” cycling outfit. I’m perhaps one of the greatest fans of both cycling and the classic 70’s album, but I wouldn’t have been caught on any planet riding my bike in that costume.

“There is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark.” I said to the perfect stranger meddling in his head and testing his knowledge of the legendary 70’s concept album addressing, among other topics, mental health and personal wealth.

The consequential confused look on his face was indication enough he’d failed the test. At least he provided me with the inspiration to cue up Dark Side on the iPod and blast off with my spacebike for a solo mission to Lanesboro or the moon, whichever came first.

"I've always been mad; I know I've been mad, like the
most of us...very hard to explain why you're mad, even if you're not mad..."

Thanks for flying along,

Traffic Tip: It’s a “bike trail,” not a “doggie path.” I don’t mind sharing with you but precious needs to move it over a little, a cyclist should not have to leave the trail to avoid striking a rogue pet.


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