Mr. Wildknits and I took the BMW's out for a little jaunt last week. I was excited to check out some bits of Northern Minnesota I have not been to in many years and talked Mr. Wildknits into taking a day off from work to check out some backroads and visit friends. I also had an ulterior motive - I had finished the "secret knitting project" and wanted to deliver it.
We left Duluth and headed north on Hwy 61. After a brief stop in Two Harbors to top off the tanks (there were no gas stations for the next 70+ miles and neither of us is quite sure of the mpg's on our bikes) we headed north on Co. Hwy 2. The road is in great shape, and is pretty straight and wide until after the intersection with Co. Rd 15. Here it takes a bit of a jog and then narrows considerably.
Co. Hwy 2 at the White Pine Picnic Area
Our first destination was the White Pine Picnic Area (part of the Superior National Forest). The pines are old and very tall and some grow so close to the road that they have reflectors marking them to avoid a collision at night.
This turned out to be a nice area to take a break and explore before heading north to Hwy 1 and then west to Ely.
A couple of airheads in the pines (1976 R75/6 & 1984 R65)
Of course I found a few species of flowers on the short hiking trail:
One-flowered Pyrola (Moneses uniflora)
Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)
Hwy 1 has a reputation amongst motorcyclists as a fun ride. I finally had enough confidence in my bike handling skills to tackle its twists and turns. Granted, it was not at high speeds, but I would argue that no one should be taking blind curves on a narrow road bordered by bedrock very fast - on two wheels or four. Add on the very real opportunity to see moose and a bit of caution is prudent. Within a few miles I was grinning as we navigated the road. The scenery is amazing!! As we road along I would see flashes of lakes, streams, bedrock and blue flag (wild iris species) amongst the varying hues of green from the trees and underbrush. Since it was a hot day I was hoping the moose were all off hanging out in shady ponds to stay cool.
At one point I noticed a car deep in the ditch to my right. I think it would have been hard to see from the vantage point of a car and wondered about it. There was no where to pull over (no real shoulders) and I had several cars behind me so it wasn't until 6+ miles later that Mr. Wildknits pulled into a side road. He had seen the car as well and we were both concerned that there may have been people still out there. Luckily the road we pulled into was the entrance to the Voyageur Outward Bound facility and there was a staff member sitting in her car in the pullout. She overheard us talking about the situation and volunteered to drive back and check on the vehicle*. She also got to witness my less than graceful attempt to turn on a down sloping gravel road and the subsequent "dismount" (the bike is okay, though windscreen is scratched. I got a lesson in gravel road slow turns and why my Aerostitch jacket was a good investment).
We continued on to Ely and stopped at the local DQ for a snack and to get directions to a friends house. It was time to deliver the knitting project I had been working on since April.
Healing Shawl (Malabrigo Aguas)
We topped off the tanks in Ely and then headed southwest on Co. Rd 21 to Embarrass to visit some friends. It was a nice time playing with a baby,
touring the new chicken housing,
and discovering a new (to us) species of inchworm.
Eventually it was time to head home. We hit Aurora as the town was gathering for it's Fourth of July parade, so had a bit of a detour before we found the road out of town and towards Hoyt Lakes. From there we headed south and then east until we reached Co. Rd 44 (aka Pequaywan Lake Rd). This was another narrow, twisty road through the woods, skirting several lakes and taking us through the town of Brimson (site of the Brimson Sisu run) before eventually morphing into the Normanna Rd on the outskirts of Duluth. At the turn onto the Jean Duluth Rd we stopped for a break. And boy was I grateful!!! I had been trying to telepathically communicate my need to get off the bike for the past 20 miles. Not only was I thirsty but also a bit 'saddle sore'. Mr. Wildknits is much more comfortable on his bike and will stand and ride as needed. I am not there yet and needed a break off the bike before the cross-town journey home.
Junction of Normanna and Jean Duluth Rds
This stretch of Jean Duluth was the worst road we were on all day! At times I thought bits of my bike would rattle off. Fortunately it improved after 5 or so miles and we were back to smoother roads for the rest of the journey. All told we put 232 miles on the bikes that day.
*We have never heard the outcome of the vehicle in the ditch. I am hoping all the occupants were okay (and not still in there when we spotted the car - our worst fear).
Monday, July 4th I headed to Tofte with a group of friends for the Tofte Trek 1ok. This race takes place on trails in the vicinity of Carlton Peak. The first half is all climbing and while it seems reasonable that the second half would then be all downhill I swear I ran a few ascents then as well. This race also has a well-deserved reputation for being muddy. This year, with all of the rain we have had, could have been an epic mud year. As with many small town races on the North Shore, it was also a great opportunity to catch up with running friends - kind of like a running family reunion.
I am still trying to recover from 3 months off related to a stress fracture. While my brain thinks I should be able to jump right in where I left off, my body has other plans. This was a hot race and early on it became apparent that my choice to carry a water bottle was a good one. I ended up power hiking a lot of the ascents in hopes of having something in the tank for the downhill bits. This allowed me to really enjoy the mud puddles! I waded right through the middle, never going past my knees and getting mud splashed all the way up to my arms and chin by the end of the race. I figured I may have been in contention for muddiest runner until I saw a little girl that was taking great delight in stomping through the puddles (she was in the 10k walk - and an inspiration!).
My performance at this race was useful in getting me to drag out some old schedules and get a bit more methodical about my training. I haven't used a schedule for over a year, but since I am essentially starting from scratch I decided it might be nice to have a plan for building my mileage back up to something that might allow for a return to Ultras this Fall.
With the shawl delivered it was time to cast on a baby sweater for a co-worker that is expecting in August. I chose the Tomten Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman (6th pattern down). I thought I had the month of July to work on this sweater but learned last week the shower will be this Thursday!! Fortunately I chose a worsted weight yarn and the knitting is progressing nicely, though it will be rare to see me without needles in hand if I am not running, at work, or on the bike.
Our transplants finally made it into the garden over the long holiday weekend. Poor things! The broccoli and brussels sprouts were immediately set upon by the cabbage moth worms. This meant a trip to the local feed store for some BT to sprinkle on the plants. I hear that our tomatoes are not too much smaller than those planted out at the normal time (yes the weather has been that bad!). It will be interesting to see what produce we get this year. In addition to the broccoli and brussels sprouts we also put in:
hungarian hot wax peppers
three + varieties of tomatoes
(Celebrity, Sungold, and 'cherry mix' - heirloom seeds I picked up at the Landscape Arboretum)
These plants join our garlic bed in the front yard terraces. The strawberries are setting fruit and are in desperate need of a good weeding (oat straw is a good winter mulch but leads to a weed issue in the summer).
I had thoughts this spring of giving up gardening when it seemed that the weather was never going to warm up and allow us to work the soil or put the plants out without little tiny jackets to keep them warm. I do still wonder if growing 4 beds of garlic would be unreasonable; it is such an easy crop relatively speaking, and might actually result in enough garlic to meet not only our needs for the year, but also provide 'seed garlic' for the following year.