We had our trip all planned out so that we would leave home Saturday morning (After a quick breakfast and Jonathan opening his presents), drive 1 1/2 hours to the Mesabi trail in North Eastern MN and we would park the van at point A, ride about 35 miles to the campground, hauling all our gear on our bikes. We would camp and then on Sunday morning we would start back to the van stopping to go to church in the morning and then get back to point A and go home. That was the PLAN, however.....
When does life go exactly as planned? It didn't for us this trip anyway, but it didn't matter, we had a lot of fun anyway.
We did get started as planned. We were able to haul all our bikes and gear with our mini van thanks to getting a bike rack to attach to the hitch spot on our van. We found it a little challenging to load the bike rack the first time (in the almost dark on Friday evening) but through the weekend Ken got pretty fast at it.
This picture is of Mara with her bike all loaded and ready to go. I found baskets for $3 at Wal-mart that we put on both Mara's and My bike (using zip ties) so that we could haul stuff in front. We bought racks for Jonathan (he is pictured above Mara's picture), Mara and I. The racks for Mara and Jonathan just attached to below their seat and said they would hold 20 lbs. We got those at K-mart (Wal-mart, Target and Pamida didn't have any) for about $18 each. I then made Pannier bags to fit over them and we tied sleeping bags down on top.
I got a little heavier duty rack from Amazon and so I made myself bigger bags. (Don't you love the bright colors? I was using up some interesting fabric!) I found this site very helpful in figuring out how to make pannier bags. Hauling stuff in this way worked very well and neither the kids or I hardly noticed that we had extra stuff on our bikes. In my bags I was able to pack Megan's little sleeping bag, clothes for Ken, Megan and I and our cooking pot and some food and other cooking stuff. I also carried another sleeping bag on top of my rack.
Above are Ken and Megan heading out. The tent got to ride in the trailer beside Megan as well as some other odds and ends. Ken and my double sleeping bag had to be tied on top.
After riding around 5 miles (through some very pretty area and up and down some big hills) the boys thought it was high time we stopped for lunch. For lunch we had packed string cheese, trail mix (which I had made from nuts, dried pineapple, raisins, sunflower seeds and chocolate chips), apples, jerky and cookies.
After lunch those that needed to used the "facilities" (i.e. the side of the trail) at which time Megan (while I was holding her up over the weeds) asked "Is this a toilet?" very seriously. :-)
When we were getting ready to load back up all of a sudden one of the trailer tires went POP! We were thinking "Oh no, that didn't sound good!"We had brought a tire patching kit along but by the sound of it that might not work.
Ken took it apart and it looked like it might be possible to patch (at least we had patches bigger than the area that had popped) but it didn't end up holding air. SO...what to do next.
Ken called my mom who looked up bike shops on line. Then he called the bike shops and sure enough they had a 16 inch inner tube. The decision was made that Ken and Jonathan would ride back the 5 miles to the van while the rest of us attempted to get all of the stuff back 1/2 mile to the road.
First we left the trailer and rode to the road (Megan rode on my bar) where we unloaded our other baggage in the weeds on the side of the road. Then we headed back to get the trailer. Since the trailer had only one wheel it obviously wouldn't roll along so we hooked it up to my bike and then we propped up the wheel-less side on Mara's bike's handle bars. Then Mara and I walked the bikes (with Megan walking along beside and Aaron biking) back to the road. It was a bit of a challenge to make it work but we managed and made it back to the road just several minutes before Ken drove up.
We drove to Hibbing and got the inner tube (plus extra inner tubes for every size tire we had- we didn't want to have that problem again!). Then we decided to drive East of the campsite and then ride West to it.
We went to the tiny little town of Mtn. Iron (where the only place open that I could fill water bottles at was the bar and grill). At the head of the trail there they had an old train engine that you could play on. The kids found it lots of fun.
We got all packed up again (bikes off the rack, bikes loaded, everybody on...) and off we went. Things went smoothly until Ken's chain broke. It happened once and Ken was able to find the parts and put it back together but evidently he didn't squeeze it tight enough or something so a little bit later it happened again. The 3 older kids were ahead at this point and just kept on going while Ken and I were looking for the part again. We didn't find it and then I ended up riding around a mile to catch up with the boys to tell them to come back. Back we headed to get the van again!
We loaded everything back up and decided that we had better just head to the campground now as it would be supper time before long.
It was a little disappointing to be driving instead of biking to the campground but that is how it worked out and it was okay. We really had a bunch of fun throughout the whole trip even though it didn't go as planned. We loved all the beautiful scenery and praised God for His great works!
The boys helped Ken put up the tent.
We even had "Birthday cake" for dessert. Jonathan had requested cheesecake so I made individual ones in a muffin tin. I also brought along a container of frozen strawberries that served as ice to keep the cheesecakes cold on the trip.
Megan enjoyed helping me wash dishes after supper.
On Sunday morning we ate breakfast and packed up camp and then headed to Hibbing to go to church. Ken got the stuff to fix the chain at Wal-mart.
After church we enjoyed a big dinner at the Pizza Ranch.
Then we headed to the trail head but since we were close to the Hull-Rust- Mahoning mine (which is said to be the Grand Canyon of the North) we thought we should go check it out.
It was pretty fun to see. My pictures really don't do it justice.
We also had fun posing as miners. (Mara and I)
Ken and Jonathan are the heavy equipment operators.
What was even more fun for the kids was getting to sit in the drivers seat of this truck which is about the size of a 2 story house.
Here is Aaron is one of the scoops used to dig in the mine.
Here is just a little tire that had been used on some of their equipment. Tires like these cost around $20,000 a piece.
After that we took a bike ride on the Mesabi trail. We rode around 5 1/2 miles to Kelly Lake where we had fun cooling off a little in the water.
We also thought some ice cream treats would help to cool us off some more and get us ready for the 5 1/2 miles back which was full of hills.
Then it was time to head for home! We really had a wonderful time even through all are little mis-adventures! We hoped to try it again sometime though we plan on being a little better prepared!