Today I ride through a Mythical World, a place called Lake Wobegon.
Created for an NPR radio show this ideal of THE perfect place in middle America has touched the lives of so many souls. We all yearn for such perfection, simplicity, purity, clarity and tranquility…a place we wish we could call home.
Yet we all know it is the Stuff of Myths.
I waken at 6AM to a camp on the Mississippi River which is already alive with activity. Last night passed with thunderstorms but we all kept dry in our tents. I am told in a hurried voice that there is an hour clearing in the weather, precious time to break down a tent and store gear in near dry conditions. I hurry like the others and have succeeded before the rain drops start to fall again.
I am not yet dressed in riding clothes so I move to the shower tent which has been supplied with hot water , a rare event. As the rain begins to fall harder I find myself inside a wooden shed and can get dressed in relative privacy without worrying about getting wet.
Finished, I join the others in yet another bigger shed where we have been left 40 muffins for breakfast. There is a microwave in this particular building so I fix myself instant coffee and enjoy my morning meal lulled almost back to sleep by the pattering rain.
We can see on our phones that this rain will intensify for the next hour and a half, so given the short day of 55 miles we decide to wait.
Suddenly alerts pop up on our phones, a high wind warning, 25-30 mph with gusts to 55 mph .
Silence as we look at each other.
I for one have never ridden in 55 mph winds.
Across the River we see that the sky is clearing
and decide to leave in groups of 2-4 heading first southwest and then to the north. Today we have only bike trails,
no roads along the way.
Off on the horizon banks of grey rush by leaving behind small specks of blue mixed with dirty clouds. The wind buffets us around, sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right, and sometimes directly in our face.
We reach the first bike path, the Soo Line and suddenly the winds die down, we are protected by 6 foot walls of dirt and beautiful tall cottonwoods on both sides. The whistling air shifts to a soft whisper and the leaves sound like a distant roaring crowd cheering us on. I suddenly think of Heavenly Angels , but then I am a bit strange…
We have entered the world of Lake Wobegon.
All along the route I barely know we are surrounded by storms so protective are the dirt walls and glorious trees. In places the path is littered with branches and leaves but we easily ride through or around the debris.
At times the trees give way to wetland and the winds blast away at our sides but just as quickly we are again enveloped by the Magical Forest cradling us in its arms.
On we ride, dry, warm, and away from harm.
As the Soo Line ends it becomes renamed, and for all to see we have in fact arrived at the Wobegon Trail.
We turn northwest still protected from the storm which slowly dissolves around us knowing it can do no harm. The Greek Wind Gods will save their strengths for another day, another try against weak humans on simple machines.
The sun peeps out from behind grey clouds turned white and lights the day for the rest of our ride.
The corn near our route has not been so lucky…no forest protection blocking the destructive winds.
As I ride I realize I have become separated from the others along the way…nothing new for me when I lose myself in daydreams…
I am on a Rails to Trails path, an old rail line converted for cycling use. I think back to the times when there was in fact a working train on this route.
A time when settlers were struggling against these summer storms, not to mention the harsh winters 7 months long.
Times past etched in the memories of the older folk and left for the younger folk to see in rusted remains.
Today I am protected by the forests and mounds of dirt shoveled more than a century before to create a lifeline to the south.
Where was their such protection in times past?
Perhaps in family, perhaps in the Lutheran Church
perhaps in the creation of the myths like the Lake Wobegon World.
I tip my hat to those brave settlers from years past and thank them for their efforts that today smoothed my path.
But no…I will still not eat any of that Lutewoffy stuff they call fish…