The Wheel Deal team (Christina Neel, Ian Buck, Scott Kies, Phil Higley and team captain Norman Ehrentreich) went on a loop that took them first to Hastings and Inver Grove Heights back to Burnsville. After some nice tailwinds early on and easy spins on roads with a wide shoulder, we had our first pit stop at the Kwik Trip in Hastings (Mile 39). However, unlike a typical rando Kwik Trip stop, we loaded up two panniers that team captain Norman brought along on his commuter bike with pastries, hot coffee and other liquids and food. We then rolled down for another mile to a nice picnic area at the Mississippi river with a beautiful view of the Hasting Bridge.
We then embarked for the most beautiful stretch along the Mississippi river on secluded roads, bike paths, and some gravel stretches. We enjoyed the many sculptures of Dale Lewis' Sculpture Garden and rode through prairie fields with many “Bison Watching Rules” signs (although we missed the bisons). We cruised down to Spring Lake Park Reserve and Schaar's Bluff. The following winding bike path had some breath taking views and we stopped a couple times for pictures. However, due to the bad air quality that day and all the haze, some of the views sometimes reminded us of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable stretch over to Inver Grove Brewing for our final stop where we also met the Perforce and Friends team.
On the final stretch we needed to pay some attention to the 8 hour time limit. Christina Neel had informed me before the ride that she was canceling as she was concerned about speed and distance. I urged her to reconsider and I reassured her that a Dart ride would be the perfect event to tackle her longest distance to date as we ride together as a team and we are encouraged to take the full eight hours (Everybody, look at your RUSA results – you all got the 8 hours, whether you finished early or took the full eight hours). While I am sure that Christina occasionally second guessed her decision to join us, we worked as a team, stuck together and finished with 8 minutes to spare. Perfect timing from a Dart perspective. Congratulations to finishing your first randonneuring event, Christina. On to many more – I hope that by the time you read this, you will have already switched from “Never again” to “Maybe” or “Let's do that again.” Hope to see you again on one of our rides.