Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bike Camping, a first experience

Yesterday the Norvell men completed our first ever bike camping experience, a 62 mile round trip adventure. 

(the boys after pedailing 31 miles to the campsite) 

Ever since I started riding my bike full-time (for reader clarification: my family owns a van, but we try to bike as much as possible.  and we dont get paid to pedal) I have been thinking of ways to integrate bicycling more and more into the life of our family.  We bike to church, to school, to work, to the grocery store, to the park, to the lake, we bike with a canoe on a trailer, I've hauled supplies for my hammock post from Home Depot on my bike, & etc.  But we have yet to bike to camp. 

We love to camp (for reader clarification: I and my kids love to camp, my lovely and amazing and wonderful and highly perceptive bride is learning to love to camp) but to camp we load up the van and drive to a state park.  For the record Minnesota has some amazing state parks.  The state parks, for the most part are a good distance from Minneapolis.  So where to ride bikes for a camping experience?

Here comes the fantastic Three Rivers Parks District and the Carver Reserve Park with the Lake Auburn Campground.  Because our dog is experiencing separation anxiety only the boys and I went on this trip.  I wanted the boys to have a good experience so I loaded all the gear onto my bike trailer (the bike trailer is the former trailer that used to haul the kiddos in years ago.  I stripped it down and put a plywood base on it) so the boys would only have to pedal themselves to the destination. 
(Reader, you'll never regret purchasing a couple of those gigantic Ikea bags.  We use them for laundry, camping, hiding treats from people, storing old sermons, & etc.)

We loaded up the trailer with too much gear and began pedaling.  And here is the beauty of this trip: 98% of the trip was done on bike trails! Along Minnehaha Creek, onto the Cedar Lake Trail to Hopkins then the Minnetonka Regional Trail to the Campground. 

Now how did I get a 14 year old and 11 year old agree to pedal 31 miles to a campground?  I lied and I bribed them of course.  First, I told them it was only 20 miles.  When we passed the 20 mile mark I told them you can never trust google maps.  Second, I filled them with treats along the way.

The first stop was the Hopkins Depot.   This was our first time at the Depot; human do I feel like a sucker for not stopping there before - what a cool spot. 


What's not to love about coffee, donuts, youth run organization, bikes, solar panels, trains, a garden and grills?  What in the world are serious grills doing out there?  I dunno, but I can see a biking and grilling event in the near future. 

Then we just kept pedaling.  Reader, note that once you start pedaling on the MRT it turns into an aggregated path rather than a paved path; which means compacted dirt and gravel.  It will slow you down, but wont pop your tires. 

I was taken aback by how many churches lined the trail.  This one, St. David's especially caught my attention.  Come on, St. David's you should have a welcome bikers, hikers, walkers, explorers sign on the path with worship/prayer/meditation times.  I visited their website only to discover that the rector spent significant time in God's chosen state, West Virginia, therefore my critique of St. David's ends here. 

And we just kept pedaling.  Every time we came to one of those Three Rivers Parks kiosks with the poles pointing directions I would point something out so not to alert the boys of the mileage to the camp.  
This sign near Shoreview indicating there were 8 miles to go (when I told the boys it was just a little farther) could have ruined the trip but luckily the boys never saw it.   

We reached our site around 7pm after being chased and tormented by mosquitoes and horse flies and some kind of smallish horsefly.  The bugs...they were serious.  After claiming a site, setting up hammocks, securing firewood and checking out the surroundings we cooled off in Lake Auburn then it was the usual camping experience: brats, smores (with jumbo marshmallows, there is a Lunds & Byerlys right on the path in Hopkins) time by the fire and card games.  

Now is the time to ask why didn't we stay at the bicycle only camping spot?  The boys sure did want to know!  Well it was simple, there was a RV near the bike camping spot with a generator and I didn't want to listen to it run all night.  Next time, we probably will stay at the bike site.  Here is my only request for the bike camping site: how about some chairs. It is hard to pack camp chairs for a bike camping experience, some heavy duty outdoor chairs by the fire ring (and maybe a sheltered coin-operated massage chair).  Great idea, plus it is only $10/tent. 
The moon was only a quarter full, the sky was clear, & the stars were everywhere; so were the fireflies (a spectacle we rarely see in the city).  I awoke around 5am to the sun beginning to rise and the birds chirping.  It is amazing how only 30 miles west can transport you from the sounds of the city to the silence of the woods which creates habitat for all kinds of birds.  I loved listening to the waves of different birds until around 7am.  Around the 7 the boys awoke and were, of course, hungry.  But I had only planned on a one night trip.  So we took the camp down, loaded up the trailer and pedaled back to Minneapolis.  On the way we stopped at Cafe 318 for breakfast.  I apologize to the owner I am sure we stunk the place up with a toxic combination of body odor, campfire, bug repellent, and camp smell.  Then we kept pedaling with plenty of rest breaks and tom foolery.  
As we neared Minneapolis I pulled over to adjust the bags on the trailer at Lilac Park in St. Louis Park. 

 As you can tell the boys were starting to feel it. 

I had no idea the beehive was a grill.  Or that there were several roadside parks along Highway 100, "Lilac Way."  We had roadside parks in West Virginia, I kind of forgot about them.  Roadside parks, now turned into biketrailside parks.  I like this. But why dont they open up the beehive for grilling again?  It would be nice to pedal to the park, grill a couple of brats when the lilacs are in bloom, I'd do it. 

As we neared  home, the boys cooled off in a sprinkler at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. 
That was that. 

Next time: two days minimum, whole family, fishing gear, better bug plan, camp chairs (unless the park provides them), bike camping site, and telescope.  

I wouldn't trade living in the city for nothing, but I need frequent trips outside of the city in the midst of starry skies, with more bird songs, and less plane noise to restore my soul.  I'm thrilled to find just such a spot within biking distance of home.  Now to explore the other camping sites within biking distance...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

MSP vs. PDX (bicycling)

A couple weeks ago the family and I drove out to Portland, OR for the American Baptist Biennial (I know try to contain your excitement).  I was excited to visit the west coast, see the ocean again (still aint as cold at Lake Superior), see the Rockies and Cascades and Coastal mountains, sip some Pinot Noir, eat some Tillamook cheese, and etc.  But the real reason I was excited about going to Portland was to investigate the bicycling scene. 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet I have been able to learn some of Portland's bike scene via the Bike Portland page.  But I knew I would need to get on a bike and ride around the city to get a full sense of things.  Sad to say all of my time was accounted for and did not allow for a city investigation (however, I did get on a Biketown bike and set a record!).  Nevertheless, I did notice a few things that make me think, "Minneapolis/St. Paul we should be pedaling circles around Portland." 

1.  We're relatively flat.   Portland has all kinds of hills and stuff that make you sweat and wear your brakes our fast. 

2.  We have dedicate bike lanes and biking infrastructure.  Many lanes in Portland had a bike symbol on them but no space at all for a bicycle and a car.  Our bikes lanes, our bikes lanes, our bike lanes!

3.  Did I mention the MSP area is flat and easy to cycle?

4.  Minnesota Nice, use the passive aggressive culture to our advantage.  I watched bicyclists after bicyclists get cussed at, yelled at and swerved at in Portland.  Sure drivers are aggressive here in MSP, but mostly they internalize their anger and let it simmer for generations. 

It was great and inspiring to see so many people cycling in Portland, there is no reason MSP cant get to double digit riders.  We have the flat surfaces, the infrastructure, the niceness, and lots of biking institutional structure.  Come on Twin City-ans. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Father's Day Gift Suggestion

As a pastor no one every asks me for last minute Father's Day gift.  nevertheless, that has never stopped me from offering advice.

The most obvious gift idea: a nice pair nose hair trimming scissors.  No dad wants to admit they have out of control nose hair, but it's a truth.  Furthermore, even if your dad is losing his head of hair his nose hair will continue to grow with abandon.

Beyond the most obvious.  I want to implore you to purchase your father a Brian Doyle book.  The title does not matter, just get one.  Write on the inside cover how much you love your father, even if it is a troubled and broken relationship, even if you can only write "read this book please."

Brian Doyle was a gifted and talented writer but I think his deep treasure was his ability to make dads, especially, appreciate fatherhood in a deeper capacity.  I love my children and I love being their father, but Brian Doyle made me love my children and love being a father even more.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

Word of author's Brian Doyle's death circulated this weekend.  I and my family love Brian Doyle.  When I announced his death to my family all of us mourned.  His writing impacted every one of us from the way I include stories in my sermons, to great words he had for my lovely bride he signed in Grace Notes, to the stories I tell my kids at night (all rules are off), even to the way I talk to my dog (as a more cognizant animal). 

I saw him once a couple years back in Chicago; it was great.  He shared the most unusual writing prompts: describe the first time you kissed someone, when was the last time you hit someone, describe your favorite flower, tell me about the great sin you committed.  Oh those are some great prompts...

Doyle wrote this poem for the memory of Henri Nouwen, I offer it for Doyle as well. 

Poem for Henri Nouwen by Brian Doyle in Epiphanies & Elegies

The way he leaped up suddenly from the table
To make a point with the whole wild exclamation
Point of his body and the day his arm swirled
And swung and whirled and dance cheerfully
Around his cheerful face as he spoke and the way
As soon as he sat down he leapt up again to agree
Utterly and wholly from the bone of his being
With what you said rather than find the certain
Hole in what you said but then leaping off rom
What you said he would say something so new &
True and clear and refreshing and you wished you
Carried a notebook just for Henri but pausing to
Keep track of the swoop and zest of his thought
Would ruin the whole joy and verve of the thing
Which was a thing never before in the world and
Never again which was the sort of thing that gave
Henri a bubbling childish brilliant genius holy joy
Which was pretty much the point of Henri,
And what we miss most.

Brian Doyle, rest eternal.  thanks for catching (nutritious) stories and sharing them with us...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Let's Set a Record

So the last part of June and first part July the American Baptist Churches, USA will hold their biennial meeting.  This is a meeting of lots of American Baptists (clergy, missionaries, denomination staff, seminary staff, church delegates, institution folk, & etc.)  It is an enjoyable time. 

The last two were held in Overland Park, KS.  I understand why the venue was chosen but it felt like a fun desert to me.  You couldn't walk anywhere, poor bus service, and no bike share programs to be found.  This year, however, the meeting is in Portland!

Several months ago I began dreaming of a way to get clergy on bikes.  I thought what if we broke a record: most clergy on bikes.  I started researching and guess what: there are no clergy and bikes records!  So I filled out an application, paid my $5 Value Added Tax, and submitted my plans to the Guinness Book of World Records for a new record.  They said it would take several weeks, I haven't heard back yet; it has been several weeks.  But I am still hopeful.  Even if Guinness doesn't get back to me there are several other record books I have applied, they have accepted my record. 

Next came logistics: how am I going to get at least 250 bikes for clergy?  I asked some friends at NiceRide (Minneapolis/St. Paul's amazing bikeshare program) if they had any ideas.  Boy (and Girl) did they.  They put in contact with the person who is in charge of the bikeshare program in Portland: Biketown.  I got in touch with Biketown and sure enough they were game!

So the word started to spread and clergy began to get excited, but then a funny thing happened: non-clergy wanted to participate as well.  So the invitation was expanded to include both clergy and non-clergy.  So the record will be most clergy and most Baptists (religious group) riding bikes. 

It just so happens the stars were aligned for this event to take place: either other mainline denominations are not meeting this year or if they are they are meeting they are not meeting in a city that has a strong bike sharing program or if they are meeting in a city with a strong bike share program they do not have enough time to organize such an event (thus, why I have been so coy about this project).  But here is the fun part: I want this record to be broken.  I want the Lutherans or the Methodist to smash our record.  I want clergy and non-clergy riding bikes, getting healthy, exploring their communities, saving the planet, seeking economic and racial justice, gaining courage and putting a smile on their face.  Because the world needs courageous and joyous people right now.  But the Divine help us if the Southern Baptists find out about this record setting attempt; they have enough institutional might to overcome all of my obstacles...  They will crush the record, sanctify the bikes & then funk bike riding up for years to come. But who know maybe riding a bike will soften 'em up a bit. 

I hope you can join us for this record setting event, Friday June 30 8:30am - Portland, OR. 

here is the link to the actual press release, just in case you think I'm making all this up. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Need for a Clergy Union, part 73

many pastors may not know that our brothers and sisters to the north of us have a union for clergy, no foolin'.
but some of you will ask, but why would we ever need a union? personally, i do not. the good folk at Judson Memorial Baptist Church treat me great.  but one cannot define the world solely by their experience.  we are brothers and sisters of the spoken word. 

so have a look-see at what a church around the corner is doing to their pastor for easter: six back-to-back services, six back-to-back times he has to announce Christ is Risen (i cant help but think by the third time it seems a little melodramatic), not to mention when does the dude even get to go to the bathroom?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creative License

As a kid I was a sucker for any free toy in a box of cereal.  I especially loved the free bike license plates that came in a box of Honeycomb (you can buy them on ebay, of course).  Of course other classmates in elementary school were able to get license plates with their names on it at Kmart, but Travis was never to be found on the rack of license plate names (Tracy, but never Travis).  Nevertheless, I happily placed a state of Colorado license plate on my Schwinn and rode around town. Of course, no one ever asked me if I was from Colorado or anything about Colorado.  If someone had asked me anything about the state I would have looked at them like they had three ears or pedaled home as fast I could convinced they were trying to kidnap me.

Some of you may know that for the past couple of years I have had a CLERGY auto license plate on my bicycle.  For the record I totally swiped this idea off of Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.  I just had to have one of my own.  First I called Judson Press (publishing arm of the American Baptist Churches, USA) to see if they carried any CLERGY license plates, they did not.  Then I scoured the internet and found two places: the Methodist shop (aka Cokebury) and the UCC shop (aptly named UCC Resources).  Interestingly, Cokesbury no longer carries the license plate but they do carry a window decal, a "clergy" auto tag holder, and a "clergy" auto rearview hanger.  The UCC shop has them for $10.00.  I purchased one from the UCC shop, but seeing that the UCC one, rightly so, had the UCC logo I went over to the American Baptist Churches, USA resources page and downloaded an ABC,USA logo and taped it over the UCC logo.

Okay reader, go ahead and catch your breath and give your heart a chance to settle down, I know that was pretty damn exciting.

The auto license plate served me well.  But I really wanted a bike specific clergy license plate.  Sure enough thanks to the wonders of the information superhighway there is a company that manufactures personalized bicycle license plates.  And sure enough, I ordered one; for $10.

I like it.

you notice my bag to the left of the bike, I just got back from playing basketball; so consider this an action shot as well.