I’ve known of this tour for a few years now, and finally this year was able to join in on the fun. The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour is an annual ride around Lake Pepin exclusively English 3-speed bikes. I’ve done portions of this ride a couple of times before, but this is the first trip around the lake proper, and the first time riding it on my old 3-speed.
The weekend started cold and blustery, and we (my friend Krystal and I) were needlessly prompt to the 7:30 start time in Red Wing, arriving to a chilly 42° F and strong winds, but with hot tea and scones to bolster us and a readiness for adventure. After getting ourselves checked in and set, we took a few laps around the gathering crowd to keep warm.
We stayed for the blessing of the bikes, the reading of the letter of the Queen, and the singing of a song, but hit the head and missed the group photo before getting on the road.
We hit the road with about 90 other nutters, riding through downtown Red Wing and past the Sons of Norway, who gave us a rousing sendoff. We pressed on to hwy 35 in Wisconsin, and a most scenic stretch of road.
The morning was cold, but the wind was out of the north, and hence at our backs. With tailwind in force, riding was a veritable bubble of warmth, so our stops were brief, though our pace was leisurely. We took a good number of stop along the way for photo opportunities.
I have a few hundred miles under my tyres this year, but Krystal hadn’t done much riding this year before the tour. Nevertheless, she did splendidly, taking advantage of the first long stop of the day to replenish with a specially-made strawberry trifle at the Smiling Pelican.
Pretty much everyone stops here, and i was happy to be toward the front of the pack, taking advantage of the short lines and the lovely garden seat. The triple berry pie i had here was my favorite treat of the tour, though i heard of another pie stop in Stockholm (the next stop) that i’ll have to visit next time through (when the pie description from a friend (thanks, Pete!) includes the movement of land masses, you have to pay attention).
We continued on with a lovely lunch at Gelly’s in Stockholm (jalepeño burger and Rush City porter), then pushed through to a break for ice cream at the Nelson Creamery. Heading across the river again toward Wabasha, we found a great sign posted by the local bike shop owner in Wabasha. That same LBS guy got one of the tourists back on the road by re-tapping his (steel) crank arm for a new set of pedals after one of his (cross-threaded) pedals fell out 2 miles from town.
We opted to camp in Wabasha, in the city park, and it was a good decision. The weather was perfect; dry and cool, great sleeping weather. The whole crew at the Eagle’s Nest Cafe did a fantastic job feeding us and hosting the whole bunch of nutters, complete with wonderful music, and thanks to the local bike club for their help too. We had a fine dinner of shephard’s pie and peas (and Newcastles) for dinner, and a variety of egg bakes and biscuits and gravy (and other items) for breakfast the next morning. Well-rested and fortified, we continued on the next morning heading north on the Minnesota side of the lake. The winds were calm, and the day warmer, continuing the streak of perfect cycling weather. Indeed, not only did it threaten to not rain, it didn’t rain the whole weekend, a first in the 6-year history of the 3ST.
We took the Frontenac detour, as is right, and saw the old town and got our picture along the stone wall.
In the end, the tour was made great by the wonderful people on the ride. I met people from Indianapolis, Chicago, Calgary, Seattle, and the Twin Cities, all nice folk and interesting to boot. We were dressed in shortpants and ties and vests or jackets, but nobody was too serious about it, and all had a great time. I’m not typically a social person, but everyone on the ride was easy to talk to; stout people all, well-met. A friend described this ride as “civil war re-enactment on bicycles”, and it’s been said that there are only shades and degrees of geekery for the things we love to do, but this ride is right up my alley. As the 3speedtour site has said, there are maybe one in a thousand cyclists who would read of this ride and say, “i have to do it”, and i’m happy to say that i’m one of them.
This image, of the relatively few photos i took, sums up the feeling of this tour. It’s not the costumes or the funny old bikes; it’s the spirit of exploring our world at a pace that suits us, where we’re guided only by our noses and a curiosity in the big and the small, and a love for good pie and pints and new friends. I can’t wait for next year.