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Bumps in the Road

Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway (MN 38)

Highway maintenance people must have a cruel streak in them. Have you ever noticed how the bumps in the road that they tell you about are always less of a challenge than the ones they don’t?

MN 38 from Grand Rapids to Effie is a case in point. It’s a state-designated scenic byway, so you’d think they’d maintain the pavement a little better. But then, this is Minnesota, where the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature can’t agree on anything, including transportation funding (don’t get me started!).

We first rode the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway five or six years ago as part of my research for Ride Minnesota. It’s a beautiful hilly, twisty road edged with lakes and the Chippewa National Forest. ┬áThe pavement has deteriorated seriously since then. There are long, rough tire grooves in some places. Patched cracks in others. The designated bumps. And the one they don’t tell you about.

We were south of Marcell, heading north. Ralph saw the crater and knew he wouldn’t be able to miss it. He stood up to lessen the impact. I didn’t have time to react. In a half-second, I was airborne. My feet flew off the pegs and there was light between me and the seat. In the next half-second, I slammed down hard on the seat. I landed with a loud, “UNH!” Twin bolts of pain shot up from my butt, along my back and up both sides of my neck. It took me a couple of minutes to recover. I wondered if there was such a thing as vertical whiplash.

That unexpected carnival ride took some of the joy out of day, which was clear, sunny and in the 80s. Don’t get me wrong. Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway is still a beautiful ride. Just watch out for the bumps.