Cycling in Style

Day 1 – Island Lake (Duluth) to Virginia MN, 54 miles

Relaxed. That’s the best word to describe my first day on the North Shore Tour with Bike Tour Vacations, and my introduction to cycling on an organized ride. It’s a pretty nice way to travel, I will admit.

We first met our fellow travelers last night at a social hour, where we were treated to Jim’s homemade cheese. If his travel expertise rivaled his cheese, we knew were going to be in good hands. Our group consists of eight cyclists, including co-leaders Jim and Rich, and we have an additional non-cycling participant who is enjoying other outdoor pursuits each day. They hail from as far as Pennsylvania, Alabama and Florida. And we all sport gray hair, whether it shows or not.

Our day started with loading up the sag wagon to ferry us to Island Lake where we would start our ride. With plenty of time to hit Dunn Bros during the process and nurse my latte on the drive, I was already getting the hang of this no-hurry mode. It was a beautiful morning for cycling, and spirits were high as we assembled for our start, and after a quick pose for a group photo, we were off.

Rich and Jim load up the bikes

At Island Lake, eager to begin cycling

Our route took us along quiet roads lined with tall trees and grasses with abundant wildflowers. We quickly fanned out and cycled at our own pace, collecting about once a hour to gather around the sag wagon for drinks and snacks. My favorite part was cycling through the Cloquet Forest, with it’s towering pines and rich evergreen scent. While the route was mostly flat, we had a compensating challenge with a persistent headwind. But the day was so nice that no one minded. Lunch was a delightful spread alongside the road, served by Jim in his classy hat. There was no rush to move on. We still had plenty of time to reach Virginia.

Jim serves up lunch for everyone

The final 10 miles of our 53 mile day was on the Mesabi Trail. It was a delight to ride on a wide dedicated paved trail, free from traffic and winding through the countryside. Much of it covered old mining land, which is gradually being reclaimed by trees and undergrowth. We stopped for a view of Rouchleau lake that was formed out of multiple old mining pits.

Cycling the Mesabi Trail

Rouchleau mine lake

Upon arriving at our hotel, our keys were waiting at the front desk and our bags already deposited in our rooms. A pure class act. I could enjoy being spoiled like this. Our day concluded with dinner at a Mexican restaurant and a leisurely walk around town to admire the large murals adorning the sides of the buildings. We just took our time, enjoying the mild evening and golden sunlight.

I don’t know how many people would consider a full day of cycling to be relaxing, but I sure did. And traveling in style sure didn’t hurt either.

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