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Dirty Benjamin start – ready for adventure

What a crazy weekend it was! Saturday was the Dirty Benjamin, a 100 mile/160 km gravel ride. This year was my third attempt. The first year I didn’t finish because of heat exhaustion. Last year I didn’t finish because of the high wind gusts that kept blowing me off the road. This year I was determined that no matter what, I was going to finish. I was ready for heat. I was mentally prepared for wind, I was even dragging along a friend. There was nothing that was going to stop me from finishing even if it took 12 hours.

Except Mother Nature had another trick up her sleeve. Thunderstorms. I have ridden in the rain plenty of times. Being wet is not exactly comfortable when cycling but it is bearable. A little rain would not have made me consider stopping. But when, after about 50 miles, you have to find shelter because of yet another thunderstorm with cloud to ground lightning, well safety is more important than finishing the ride.

We had maybe a few miles when it wasn’t raining and it was great. But the rain kept pouring down, sometimes so hard we couldn’t see the road. We missed one of our turns and took a 15-mile detour before we got ourselves back on course. Even our Garmin GPS bike computers had problems with the storms and the mapping for both of us stopped working for a little while. We both had backup printed cue sheets but my friend’s had gotten so wet they fell apart. Mine were wet but still usable and it is these plus an assist from Google maps that got us back on course. Eventually our GPS maps started working again, which is good because my cue sheets started falling apart.

Sheltering under a barn overhang

At one point we thought we were finally going to get clear of the rain. The sky ahead was getting lighter and we could see the edges of the clouds. But then our route took us a different direction, right into the blackest of black clouds. The wind was picking up and driving the rain hard and ow, it hurt! Thankfully there was no hail, that really would have hurt. As we pedaled along into the storm, I hunched over my handlebars and yelled, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too!” And then started singing the Wicked Witch song from Wizard of Oz. I got a miserable smile from my friend for my effort.

Wet and cold waiting for our rescue

Not long after that the rain was coming down so hard we couldn’t see and lightning struck only a couple miles away. We turned a corner and there was a huge barn with an overhang. We pulled in out of the rain to wait for the storm to pass. Now that we weren’t moving we got cold and both started shivering. We paced around, had a snack, watched the rain get heavier and waited. And waited.

And waited.

Forty-five minutes and no sign that it was going to let up. The lightning kept flashing. A small river had formed at our feet just outside the overhang. We checked the weather and it looked like it was going to keep on like that for at least another 30 to 40 minutes. It was already approaching noon. We’d made it 50 miles and reluctantly decided to call a halt to the adventure. My friend’s husband was our rescue ride. She called and when he arrived about 40 minutes later it was still pouring. So we’d made a good decision. As we headed home, wrapped in towels and grateful to be warm, we drove by flooded field after flooded field.

The orange and yellow, that’s where we were

The Dirty Benjamin, I have decided, is a cursed ride. Three attempts and three DNFs. However, half the starting field didn’t finish so I don’t feel so bad. Safety is more important than finishing and with the lightning and flooding, the safe choice was the best choice. My friend and I will try again next year. The only thing left to stop me is a blizzard.

The poor garden is so confused with the weather. We keep vacillating between hot and dry and cold/cool and wet. The lettuce and spinach never sprouted and the carrots decided not to sprout either. The radishes are doing great though as are the beets, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins. And the beans. All the beans are going crazy. Maybe I should just grow beans. The shelling peas are growing but slowly. They don’t like all the temperatures changes. The snap peas are shooting up and don’t seem to mind the temperature changes at all, hot or cold is all the same to them. So if I only get snap peas this year, I guess I can live with that.

The strawberries are beginning to get ripe. My mouth is happy. Almost all the honeyberries have been picked, there are still a few more. For such still small bushes we got a decent amount—two batches of pancakes instead of just one. Or maybe pancakes (they taste great in cornbread pancakes) and a batch of muffins. We’ll see.

Judging by the raspberry flowers that have just passed and are now working on becoming berries, it should be another great year. But is it never a good year for raspberries? They are pretty hardy no matter what it seems. If we didn’t dig out all the suckers every year, the entire garden would be a raspberry thicket.

The garlic has started forming scapes. So excited! I will let them get a little bigger before snipping them all off. Garlic scapes will make it into dinner later this week for sure. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The apple trees appear to be doing well so far. Walter, our crabapple is loaded and Bee, our honeycrisp, is making a big production too. Bee had apples last year but she was ground zero for the Japanese beetle invasion in the garden and the apples either fell off or got eaten by the beetles. I was concerned that the tree might not do well after all that, but I was wrong. Since the winter was long and cold, my fingers are crossed that most of the hibernating beetles were killed off and won’t present a problem this year. When prepping the garden beds we found surprisingly few grubs. A good sign.

Climbing rose gone wild

One plant in the garden that doesn’t seem to be having any trouble with the weather this year is the climbing rose. Last year it had a smattering of roses and I worried that maybe something was wrong with it. This year it has gone completely wild and I am worried it is going to knock over its trellising and invade the neighbor’s yard!

I am on vacation this week. When I requested this week off a couple months ago I had planned to be going to all kinds of cycling events for the week-long Northstar Bicycle Festival. I was going to get to see some pro races even! Sadly a few weeks ago they cancelled the festival because there is so much road and bridge replacement construction going on around the Twin Cities that the original race venues were made impossible and it was too late to be able to get the permits to re-route anything. Grrr.

So now my week is completely unstructured. There will be cycling and gardening and reading but no big events to attend after all. Today will be an indoor day because rain is on the way as I type. That’s okay though since I was outside in the garden pretty much all day yesterday. Today will be a good rest day.

Tomorrow night is my last crit race in the State Fair race series. Bookman has Wednesday off and we are planning a little cycling adventure. If all goes well I will have some delicious photos to post later in the week. Other than that, I guess I will just wait and see what happens.

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