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Eddie Bauer Historian Bikes Through America’s Heartland for MS
Posted on September 4, 2015

The group had 30 riders, but usually rode in groups of 3-5, and sometimes alone. Berg paused at this deserted garage at a crossroads on the way to Royalton, MN.

At Eddie Bauer, we advocate for an outdoor, active culture. Our crew at HQ bikes, climbs, skis, camps, fishes and travels, both in the vast wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest and throughout North America. But some of our employees are more active than others. One of those exceptionally active individuals is Eddie Bauer brand historian Colin Berg, who recently tackled a 1,000-mile bike ride through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana as part of the Bike the US for MS charity ride. Against consistent headwinds, braving endless rumble strips and on lonely open roads, he pedaled his ride from Minneapolis, MN, to Malta, MT. When his legs recovered, he provided us with his open road perspective on the journey. —LYA Editor

An open road, a morning ride with friends, a helmet-mounted GoPro, all backlit by the sun.

Words and Images by Colin Berg

SLOWING DOWN, EASING UP

The Lessons of a Thousand-Mile Journey

Two weeks and a thousand miles on a bicycle across the high prairie of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana has made me reconsider the meaning and power of tempo.

I signed up to ride a segment of the coast-to-coast Bike the US for MS charity ride. The team rode from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Seattle—a distance of 4,295 miles. I joined them in Minneapolis and rode as far as Malta, Montana.

It was transformative in every way—the experience sustained, absorbed, and savored slowly in the measured rhythm and cadence of a bicycle traveling 15 mph.

Colin Berg just after arriving at camp along the Mississippi River in Royalton, MN.

HOME SWEET MINNESOTA

July 1 – July 5

The reason I chose to start my ride in Minneapolis was that I was born in Minnesota. And despite the fact that I was only five months old when my family moved to the West Coast, I have always felt a visceral, elemental connection to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. I wanted to ride through the farmland and Lake District of my ancestors.

It didn’t disappoint. The first night on the road, our team of 35 riders camped in the small town of Dalbo, population 80. Usually, camping meant setting up our tents in a city park. But in Dalbo, local farmer Donn Olson and his wife Sherry have created the Bicycle Bunkhouse. Their remodeled barn has three sleeping rooms, a television, microwave, refrigerator, and pizza oven. Their silo has also been converted into a sleeping room (amazing acoustics in there, so snorers beware), and the covered patio holds several additional cots. There’s a solar shower, and a pit toilet. For large groups like ours, Donn and Sherry also open the basement of their home, where there are more beds and another shower. After we got settled, the Olsons fed us dinner—grilled brats, sloppy joes, baked beans, potato chips, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. All free.

That was a taste of the Midwestern hospitality we encountered all along the way.

The team’s hosts in Dalbo, MN. They’ve converted their barn and silo into the Bicycle Bunkhouse, offering cross-country cyclists a friendly respite and way station.

SITTING NORTH DAKOTA

July 5 – July 12

The Great Plains is not the picture postcard of the soaring mountains or the storm-carved coast. It offers a quieter, more demanding drama. When we left Fargo, North Dakota, and rode west onto the plains, we entered a landscape that remains unchanging for miles, the road rarely bending or dipping.

But that sameness is its beauty and its gift.

Cycling for hours across this terrain is a seated meditation. In Zen Buddhism, the practice of sitting zazen is often done facing a blank wall. The simplicity of the North Dakota countryside evokes a similar stillness and silence that I never found boring. On the contrary, it was continuously restorative.

The small towns that dotted the long expanses of open road were also home to some of the warmest, most genuine, and unassuming people I’ve ever met. When half a dozen of us rolled into Hazelton just before 8:00 one morning, we asked a resident if there was anywhere we could get some breakfast. She said, “Well, there’s a coffee shop around the corner that sometimes serves food.”

Unsure of what that meant, we went to look. Turns out, the Senior Center operates a volunteer-run coffee shop from 8 to 11 that also serves food one day a week. We weren’t there on that day. But when we walked in at 8:00, one of the volunteers, Arlene, saw our cycling gear and said, “Are you hungry? I can scramble you some eggs and ham, and we’ve got toast and homemade rhubarb jam.”

It was the best breakfast of the trip. When we went to pay, Arlene said, “We operate on a donation basis. Whatever you think it’s worth.”

We didn’t have that much money.

Berg’s First Ascent tent, bike, and gear at the General Shipley campground outside of Bismarck, ND. The team also occasionally stayed in churches.

SCALE: 1:MONTANA

July 12 – July 15

It’s easy to lose your sense of distance, or boundaries, in Montana. Its nickname, “Big Sky Country,” only paints half the picture. The land is equally unsettling in its vastness, particularly in the east, before the mountains start thrusting up their mass to break the unending openness of the horizon between earth and sky.

It’s a place where, riding alone on a bicycle, you feel infinitesimally small and inconsequential. And yet, strangely, incontrovertibly, connected. Ironic that it’s in the moment when our sense of self begins to fade that we catch a glimpse of the size of the circle of which we are a part.

The reason I chose to end my trip in Malta, Montana, was my grandmother, Emma Hought Berg. In 1915, when she was still single, she boarded a train in Minneapolis bound for Malta. She was going to join her older brother, Ed, to homestead neighboring quarter sections of the high prairie east of Malta and south of Saco.

On my last day of cycling, we rode past the Larb Hills that had been prominent in Emma’s Montana stories. We rode through Saco and into Malta where, shortly after she stepped off the train, Emma had seen a man shot in front of the hotel.

No tragic drama unfolded as my ride ended. We rode to the park where the team was to camp. We waited for the van carrying our equipment. I loaded my bike and gear into our car that my wife had driven to meet me. We said our good-byes.

And then the intensity of the lessons of tempo really hit home. As I sat in the passenger seat, now hurtling down the highway at 70 mph, I fought against a rising panic.

The two weeks since have been a balancing act of re-acclimating to the tempos of ordinary living while sustaining not just the memory, but the experience of traveling at that slower tempo, where sights and sounds, smiles and gestures are absorbed and savored and understood in ways that are healing, even when we don’t know we are wounded.

It’s a tempo I don’t want to forget, a journey I will definitely take again.

Chelsea Scudder, Brian Oliver, and Colin Berg (along with photographer Mark Francek) as the team crossed the Montana state line.

 

On a local level, an Eddie Bauer team will participate in Washington’s Bike MS Deception Pass Classic on September 12th and 13th, 2015. Learn more about an organized ride in your area or donate at Bike MS.

Author: - Friday, September 4th, 2015
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  1. Kaela Bartz

    Great post! Love the photos and editorial. Colin’s story is told so well, it really paints the perfect picture of his journey. Really makes me want to explore America’s northern territory outside of the PNW… now I just need a bike!

  2. Barbro Donithan

    I was just in Malta and out on the prairie where Grandma Anna homesteaded. What a closeness I felt there. A few trinkets of old broken dishes and car parts were all that remained. As I pondered, I just could not imagine how she could live out there.

    I enjoyed your story and pictures. Just perfect. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Mike Meru

    Good Evening Eddie Bauer Crew!

    Absolutely inspiring story as always! My name is Mike Meru and I’m a splitboard mountaineer currently supported by several wonderful companies. I’ve been using your gear for some time and have sought out your team manager to discuss possible opportunities together. During the coming season I will be filming a documentary with numerous first descents planned in the continental US, as well as a number of large trips to Canada and AK.

    If it would be possible to get the contact info for your team manager, that would be wonderful!

    Thanks!
    -Mike

  4. Mike Meru

    xGood Evening Eddie Bauer Crew!

    Absolutely inspiring story as always! My name is Mike Meru and I’m a splitboard mountaineer currently supported by several wonderful companies. I’ve been using your gear for some time and have sought out your team manager to discuss possible opportunities together. During the coming season I will be filming a documentary with numerous first descents planned in the continental US, as well as a number of large trips to Canada and AK.

    If it would be possible to get the contact info for your team manager, that would be wonderful!

    Thanks!
    -Mike

  5. Marcia Crank

    Colin your editorial of your trip is inspiring. As I read of your adventure, I could feel and smell the air and all that it has to offer. My bike adventures of another kind made me feel similarly, only that I wish we could have gone slower, as you described. There is a totally different sense when you are within the elements. Thank you for so eloquently sharing your experience.

  6. Colin Berg

    Thanks Marcia, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The trip was one of those great experiences that are at once a fun adventure, a deep learning, and a self revealing. We spend so much of our time moving fast that we sometimes forget how much we miss when we don’t take the time to be present. One of my favorite quotes is from author Stephan Rechtschaffen in his book TIMESHIFTING: “It’s when we slow down that we show up.”

  7. Jonathan Moore

    Every year we ride the MS 150 in Colorado and we would love to do the same tour you just did. What are great reason to ride and I always support MS. Thanks for a great read.


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