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    Otso Journal — Waheela C

    Bikepacking on a School Night

    Bikepacking laughs at the best laid plans. That’s just how it is. At least that’s how it’s been in the half dozen or so trips I’ve been on. Extreme heat, severe weather, closed restaurants, miles of mud, just so many bugs, full campgrounds, also wrong turns. This particular trip had four of the aforementioned inconveniences.

    Lake Byllesby Regional Park is 23 miles from the Otso shop in Burnsville, or 40 miles if you plan a route that uses as many gravel roads as possible while remaining somewhat direct. The park itself is on a reservoir on the Cannon River, just east of the town of Cannon Falls. When I was a kid, my Cub Scout troop took yearly trips to the scout camp on the south side of the lake. This part of the state is known for brisk rivers and farm fields that yield to hardwood forests limestone bluffs. Our overnight trip would be my first time returning to the park in 25 years. I was excited.

    Then came the day of the trip. A cluster of storms rolled in by 2pm, just three hours before our planned departure time of 5pm. “It’ll pass and we’ll have perfect riding weather by the time we need to leave,” we thought. Three hours later, the rain was still coming down. With our bikes loaded up with gear, it would’ve been a heartbreaking defeat to unpack everything and reschedule. “Let’s leave at 6pm. It’s supposed to clear up by then,” became our next optimistic plan. We departed the shop at 6pm as planned, but the rain did not clear up. Instead, we biked for two hours through thick mist, drizzle, rain, and brief downpours.

    At 9:30pm, a full 90 minutes after our forecast arrival time, we rolled into Cannon Falls to find bar kitchens closed at 9pm. When you’re soaked and caked in mud and sand from the waist down while riding for over three hours, you rely on motivation to get you to your destination. That motivation for me was a bacon cheeseburger as my proverbial carrot on a stick and I sure as hell wasn’t about to let a kitchen closure crush my grilled dreams. Through some combination of shoddy salesman skills and survival mode, I was able to convince a cook to keep his grill fired up for one extra order. A round of double bacon cheeseburgers and pints of the finest house ales all around! This was the fourth time that food saved my life.

    By the time we paid up at the bar and headed to the campground, it was 11pm. A local junior sheriff deputy found it odd that five grown men were entering the park on bicycles. “You biked here from Burnsville? And you’re going to camp? Then you’re going to bike home in the morning?” The conversation was like convincing someone that Santa exists. After 30ish minutes, he left, allowing us to spend the night. It was 11:30pm by now.

    An early morning thunderstorm sat overhead from 3:30am-5am. The alarms that we set were no longer needed. Fortunately, the storm passed and we were able to pack up and head back to the shop by 6am. Three hours, 40 miles, five breakfast burritos, and four cups of coffee later, we rolled into Otso and Wolf Tooth HQ. A little exhausted from the trip, but ready for the day and our next bikepacking overnighter.