We almost didn't bike today due to weather and a minor family medical event that HIPAA rules prevent me from discussing publicly.

But, all the trades worked out and my annual Labor Day cycling event, now called BIKE WITH JOE in its 17th year, went more or less as planned today.

Up until yesterday, Weather Bug was calling for thunderstorms all day today, starting after midnight. Indeed, said storms did roll through during the night, though my sleep was largely unaffected by all but the loudest of thunderclaps because of my earplugs. The times I did wake up, it was mostly due to the musculoskeletal gymnastics of sleeping on a queen sized air mattress that very slowly lost pressure during the night, causing my torso slowly sink toward the floor.

The chance of non-biking didn't arrest my slumber much at all, though the thought of it was disappointing. In prior years, we usually tried to get on our bikes around 9 AM for the 22 mile or so one way trip to Stone Lake, our most common destination for the social ride (we have occasionally ended up in other places). I had my smart phone alarm set for 8 AM in hopes of a shift in the weather outlook.

"Could you turn that off?" I groggily asked Deborah, nudging her when my phone chimed in the morning on the window sill closer to her than to my aching frame.

Deborah rose from the air mattress and handily dismissed the alarm from my phone.

"Is it still raining?" I asked.

"Yep," replied Deborah. I rolled over and drifted back to sleep, resigned to the fact that biking seemed unlikely.

About 9, Deborah woke me up. She was fully dressed and made up.

"Are you all up and everything already?" I enquired. She had not gone back to sleep when my alarm had klaxoned, but had seized the albeit dreary day.

"Put your shorts on," Deborah commanded.


"Because people will be coming out here soon." The air mattress was positioned in the living room of my folks' rather small cabin, a communal area.

"Too late," I said, as my friend Sherry entered the living room, followed by Deborah's sister Julie.

"Oops," Sherry said. "Did we walk in on a private moment?"

"Absolutely not," I said, grabbing the prior day's shorts from the chair next to the air mattress and pulling them hastily on as I rose creakily from the air mattress.

I picked up my phone on the window sill and pulled up Weather Bug. The forecast had changed considerably. Instead of storms all day, Weather Bug was now calling for the night's rain to clear up by 10 AM, with zero percent chance of more precipitation until the evening.

"Good news," I informed the group. "Biking is on!" I conveyed the weather information and we started discussing ride logistics.

We ended up hitting the road a little before 11 AM, with a plan formulated for Deborah, Sherry, and I to ride bikes to the Roost, a greasy spoon diner about 8 miles down the road, where we would meet Julie and my mom (traveling by car) for breakfast about noon. Between the cabin and our breakfast destination lay the rolling hills of County Highway B and a rest stop called Rummel's Bar.

As soon as we crossed busy Highway 53, we came upon a couple of dogs on the loose milling about the side of the road.

"That could be dangerous," I thought.

Rummel's was just a bit farther along B on the left. When we arrived there, I had the bartender look up the county sheriff's number and called in the roaming dogs. The dispatcher said they would send an officer out to reign them in. I didn't want the dogs, which I think were a black and white Australian shepherd and a black German shepherd, to go to the pound. But that was better than them being hit by a car at highway speed. We had seen the black dog cross the road in front of a pickup truck, causing the driver to brake hard and lay on the horn.

We chilled on the outdoor back patio at Rummel's for a few minutes, petting the bar owner's two year old black lab, before riding on to the Roost. By now the clouds had given way to some sun. We beat my mom and Julie to the restaurant by a few minutes and got a table outside on their patio while we waited.

Deborah decided to bail on bike riding after breakfast. She loaded her bike on my car, which my mom had driven to meet us because of the bike rack on the back. Sherry and I wanted to push on to Stone Lake, another 16 miles down the road, and finish out the ride there, so a Phase 2 plan was formulated for us to all regroup in Stone Lake about 3:30.

While my mom, Deborah, and Julie went back to the cabin to drop off Deborah's bike and tend to the pack of small, wild dogs we had all brought with us to the cabin, Sherry and I pounded out four more miles (with a tail wind) to the Rockford House Tavern where we "carb loaded" for a spell. After the Rockford House, it was pretty much a solid 12 mile push to Stone Lake, the more "intermediate skill level" part of the ride relative to the "beginner level" of Phase 1, with its frequent rest stops. We had a tail wind most of the way, so we rolled into Stone Lake about 30 minutes ahead of schedule and had a victory beer at the Stone Lake Pub before crossing the street to Marie's Sports Bar, the aforementioned agreed upon meeting place.

When Deborah and my mom arrived (Julie had decided to repose at the cabin), we loaded the two remaining bikes on my car and drove back to the cabin to clean up and hang out. The skies had clouded over again during our ride from Rockford House to Stone Lake, and although it didn't rain on us, it was muggy and humid. So jumping in Shell Lake after we got back to the cabin was refreshing, and exhilirating...because the water temperature was brisk, to be sure.

"It was a lot warmer the last time we were here," Deborah commented as we all slowly and torturously immersed ourselves in the spring fed lake water with great protestation. Once submerged, it wasn't so bad. I got my dog Foster some exercise swimming out to fetch his tennis ball a few times. He is not a swimmer by nature, but his compulsion to retrieve a tennis ball at all costs trumped his mild aversion to water.

A nice spread of food after we emerged from the lake rounded out our successful day of biking.

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