Second time around, or preppin’ for Pepin

It’s a philosophical question to Ponder: If you did an event once, and it was fun, should you do it again? To most people the answer is obviously yes, but once you’ve done the event once, the magic that you get from The First Time is gone. And after that, are you trying to chase that spark from the first time? It’s a complicated question, one that Mary over at Chasing Mailboxes discussed regarding going to the Paris-Brest-Paris rando event this year.

In just a litte over a week, I’ll be heading out to Minnesota for the annual Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. This will be the second I’ve attended this event. Obviously I had enough fun to want to go back! Yes, this is one of the most fun bike experiences I’ve had in my life, the right combination of a number of factors: bikes, scenery, beer, and people. Going into the ride I knew I’d have fun, but I didn’t think I’d have this much fun.

But returning to Lake Pepin is not easy, logistics wise, since I live 1,800 miles away from St. Paul. Most of the folks going hail from Minnesota or Wisconsin, with a few other midwestern states representing. So for them it’s a long weekend. But for me, it’s going to be a two week excursion, since I’m one of those “fancy” people who’d rather take the train, and I plan on spending time in the Twin Cities along with the tour, and there is the grand post-Pepin adventure, the three day bike camping tour in SW Wisconsin. This means I’m using up two of my three weeks of paid vacation this year. Not a super-big deal, but there’s lots of things I’d also like to do with vacation time. To do this trip “right” it means I’m forgoing another shot at riding the Oregon Outback. Not a super-big deal again, because that will happen next year too. (At least I hope it will!) But the long and the short of it is, unless I move to Minneapolis or some other spot in the upper Midwest, it’s a logistical challenge to attend Lake Pepin on an annual basis. Will I want to do it again in 2016, or want to use my time for another pursuit?

But I’m not thinking about that just yet, right now I’m concentrating on this year. And while you don’t have that particular magic you get from the first time, the big benefit to the second time around is experience. I know what to expect, and know what I want to do the same, what I want to do different. I don’t think I did anything particularly “wrong” last year, but there are things I wished I brought, and now this year I’ll have them! I’m also going to attempt to do more detours. I managed to hook up with folks last year that knew some good detour routes off the main roads (Wisconsin Route 35 and US 61 in Minnesota), so I’m going to hit those up again along with some other new-to-me detours.

It’s just about two weeks until Pepin, though I leave Portland on Saturday May 9, so not too much time to get ready! Thankfully I don’t have to do that much this year. Last year was, to put it lightly, a small disaster, as Rick just finished painting the bike right before I left, and so I had no time to test everything before the big event. Unbeknownst to me the pulley for the shifter cable was slowly sliding down my seattube for the whole ride, causing the gearing to come out of adjustment, the wheel to shift, and eventually the axle nuts to strip. This time around I have a tested machine, and besides a few minor tweaks and a trip to the bike shop for a once-over, everything is fine.

wayfarerinclarkcountyThe big thing this time around is how to effectively pack all my camping gear for the post-Pepin tour, as I want to avoid the “overstuffed Camper Longflap” experience from the Iron Horse trip last September. So this time around I’ll have my small handlebar bag, the Carradice Nelson Longflap (smaller than the Camper, but still large) and my two North St. panniers. While I haven’t had the time to pull off an overnight with this setup, I’m confident enough that this will work, as I’ve ridden with loaded panniers on the Wayfarer before. Well, I did do the Battle Ground Lake cabin camping trip back in February 2012 with this setup, so I did have something of a dry run, since cabin camping pretty much means you’d take everything you normally would minus tent and sleeping pad.

And this time around I’m back to the reliable Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. If the failed Iron Horse/Snoqualmie Pass tour in September taught me anything, it’s that the Panaracer Col de la Vie tires, as “nice” as they are, are not really cut out for loaded touring duty. Here’s hoping for no flats. (And for my pedal to not strip threads too.)

While I didn’t have a chance to do a full-on camping trip with the Wayfarer, I did the next best thing: a jaunt around town with a good load. On Wednesday the Wayfarer, the panniers, and myself rambled eastward along the Columbia to the Swedish Embassy of Shopping, where I loaded up said panniers with household goods. I then headed to one of my favorite “proving grounds” in the area, the climb up to the top of Rocky Butte. While the hill isn’t particularly high (about 600 feet in elevation)*, it is a decent climb for what it is, about 5-8% grade all the way up. Even with a load I managed to get up the whole thing without getting off and walking (well, except the last steep gravel climb to the top, which I usually walk anyway.) So that’s good. Most of the hills I’ll encounter in Wisconsin won’t be that long either, though I’m sure a few may be steeper. But then one can walk a bit! And the bike handled fine on the descent too, so I don’t have to worry much about that.

Now I think I’m ready. And I can’t wait to go!

*And remember, the low point in Portland is sea level, and I was pretty much at that along the Columbia.

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