I Hate Google Maps: It Murdered My Shoes…

Well the fact that I’m blogging today should probably tell you that we did not get murdered or kidnapped on our bike ride yesterday, which, you know, is good. Granted, we were close to it a few times (Vanna decided that the driveway with an abandoned, run down camper and about five ‘no trespassing’ signs was the right one to go down to ask for directions…fortunately, I managed to convince her it wasn’t a good idea before we ended up like European tourists in a horror movie) but we made it home okay in the end.

Nor, strictly speaking, did we get lost. We always knew roughly where we were, and we were never too far away from civilization…so yeah, we didn’t get lost either. Not really.

However…that doesn’t mean the ride went over smoothly, because it most definitely did. not. go. well. Sure, the beginning was easy, but slowly, ever so slowly, things started to unravel.

So, what happened?

Well, we started the ride sometime after six. It was still warm but not overly so, so I brought my sweatshirt in case things got chilly. As it turns out, this was probably the best decision I made. I might have been sweating terribly at the start, but once we ran into trouble, I would be very grateful I had it with me…but I’ll get to that later.

Anyway,  if you remember, the aim was to find a route to the Paul Bunyan trail without having to going through Nisswa or Pequot Lakes. I found a potential road (though the term road is somewhat flattering) on Google Maps which would get us to the trail a lot quicker than travelling to either town. The only problem was part of the road was blacked out, so I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to get around it. But hey, it is was worth trying, so I wrote down the directions and we headed out.

The first problem we encountered was finding the turning off the main road. You see, someone had cleverly changed the name of the road from Plant to Thane, so it wasn’t immediately registered in my brain when we passed it. What made it harder to find was the fact street view on Google (which is what I used to find the turning in the first place) was at least five years old, so the landscape had changed and therefore I couldn’t use the tree outline etc to find the road either.

But after turning back and passing it a second time, we figured that was the road we wanted. It was rough going, but we saw deer and stuff, so it was pretty good.

Then things started to go downhill. Literally. We went down a hill that was so steep, Vanna hit 30mph on her bike even though she was hitting hard on the brakes. Then things started to down metaphorically too, as none of my directions complied with the actual roads, so we had no idea where to go.

For example, we were supposed to reach a junction where we’d ignore the turn and go straight. Had we taken the left turn, we would go down Sunset road, which would take us home. In reality though, straight was to Sunset, and the left turn didn’t, uh, exist. So we went right and that took us…somewhere else. I have no idea.

Eventually though, we reached the dead-end that I think was the path. It was a mile closer than it should have been, but in terms of the geography (we were near the Cullen lakes, and I had studied where the road was in proximity to them prior to leaving the house; you see, I did do something right…). After several unsuccessful attempts to get around it, we decided to head home.

And that was the end of our journey, right? Not quite.

Because we didn’t want to go up the hill we’d just went down (seriously, it was mega steep), we decided to go along a different road and see what was along there.

This was our first mistake.

Our second mistake, and biggest mistake (actually second biggest: we’ll come to the worst one soon enough) was choosing to go down this snowmobile trail that went from the main road. Why did we go down this trail? Well, the road we were on had some big hills up ahead, and the sign pointing down the trail said it was just six miles to Pequot Lakes. And it looked nice.

Hey, it has a signpost! It must be a safe place to go down! Totally a good idea (it wasn’t).

Sure, it started off well enough; the terrain was okay, the weather was still nice and the scenery was pretty. At this point, Vanna and I were talking about how this was so much better than the road, and how we were so glad we went onto the trail.

Of course, we lived to regret this ten minutes later when we ended up in a bog.

Yeah. A bog. It wasn’t too bad to start with, as they’d covered the swampy bit with straw and mud, which, despite sounding stupid, worked fairly well. We pushed our bikes along it for a bit, which wasn’t too bad, so when we reached the bridge we decided to continue, because, well, how worse could it get?

This…this was our biggest and worst mistake.

You see, it got worse. A lot worse. Oh, man, it was so bad.

Slowly, it got boggier. And wetter. Before too long, our shoes were soaked. Shortly after that, it was reaching our shins (oh and it was so so so so cold). Then our knees. But we persevered, because it was easier to continue than it was to stop and go back. We pushed our way through standing water (don’t forget, we had our bikes, so not only did we have to keep our balance, we had to keep the bikes upright too…and they were really getting stuck in the mud) and through the thick clumpy reeds. You should have seen us. We were a state.

And it just kept going. And going. And going. We travelled through that bog for over TWO MILES! The only thing that kept us going was the fact the sun would be setting in half an hour (it was 8pm by this point) and we did not want to be stuck there when it was dark. That, my friends, would have been scarier.

Eventually we got out. But it wasn’t over, as we still had another 3 miles before we’d reach Pequot. It was getting darker, and colder (this is where bringing the sweatshirt became a genius idea), and the terrain, though dry, was fecking (‘scuse the French) difficult. Before we were able to cycle because it was either even, or straight. Here though, it was uphill. And rocky. And icy (yeah, turns out there is still some snow about. How great is that?). And because we were so exhausted from pushing our bikes earlier, building up any kind of momentum was just too much. It was the longest six miles of my life (and I’m a guy who used to walk up mountains).

What about Vanna? Um, she nearly passed out at one point. And a bird almost knocked her off her bike. Oh yeah, she had fun.

What else?  Well, we had a few close shaves going through the dark woods, as we couldn’t see anything in front of us. We had to loop around sewer treatment plant and were consequently stunk out for the last mile and, if that wasn’t bad enough, we’re pretty sure we heard a bear or something behind us before we got out. Yeah…

Anyway, it was 9.30 (over 3 hours since we started) by the time we got out.  We still weren’t done though. as we were in Pequot, a good 10 miles away from home.  We could cycle it, of course, but we’d be on the highway the entire time…in the dark…yeah, it would be a death wish.  Thankfully, we were spared that fate as the woman Vanna works for was still awake and she kindly gave us a lift home (we left our bikes there, and I picked up mine this morning).

Phew. So there we have it. An adventure that we didn’t really want (total time: four hours for 14 miles), but hey, we were finally home. Neither of us were hurt, our bikes were okay, and we now had a new story. There was no harm done. Right? Right?

Not right. There was harm done. There was one, horrendous tragedy that I’m, I’m finding hard to talk about even now.

MY SHOES ARE RUINED. I didn’t lose them in the bog, but I may as well have because they are gone now. Oh man I can’t…I just can’t.

Okay, I’m good.

My shoes. My poor Pumas. We washed them in the shower with sponges for at least ten minutes, but it was too little, too late. The bog had got everywhere, and no matter what we did, there was no removing it. My shoes were permanently stained, and, well, they had to go. I did my best to persuade Vanna that they’d be okay, and the smell wouldn’t be too bad, but my protests fell on deaf ears. Vanna…Vanna put them in the bin.

It’s a sad day, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve had those shoes for a good four years now, and we’ve been through so much together. To lose them now, to a stupid bog, is distressing.

R.I.P my little white Pumas. You’ll be gone, but never forgotten.

You’ve been good to me.

If only I had some good replacements for you, like a second pair of white Pumas, or something. Oh wait…

Hello, new friends!

Never mind.


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