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Bicycle encounters: All that cool gear leads to trips and friendships

Dave and Chris Riley, André Allarde and Coleen Thurston shared an impromptu supper Friday, July 5, in the Rileys' Red Wing kitchen. The two Canadians bicyclists are riding across the United States. Anne Jacobson / RiverTown Multimedia

The search for supper ingredients brought bicycling enthusiasts from Red Wing and Canada together unexpectedly Friday night. Their point of contact: Buchanan Grocery.

Chris and Dave Riley, who live two blocks away, walked over to beat the 6 p.m. closing time. Coleen Thurston and André Allarde also were racing the clock, but on bikes laden with tents, custom cooking pots, food boxes and a green stuffed frog.

Intrigued by all that gear, the Rileys were in no rush to get home. Chris said to herself, "I've got to figure where they're from and where they're going."

The Canadians ended up eating dinner at the Rileys' table and camping in their backyard.

"You don't know what's going to happen every day, and that's why the most magical things happen," Coleen said. "And it's like the harder the day that we're having—weather, hills, bugs, whatever— the more amazing thing will happen for us, like meeting people outside the grocery store."

She and Andre are used to such serendipitous encounters. After all, they met in 2014 while biking independently across Canada and in opposite directions. They shared pizza, ice cream and conversation at a spot above the Great Lakes before going their separate ways, but they exchanged texts as she met people on the road whom he had met. By the following spring, he left his industrial arts teaching job of 15 years in Quebec City and joined her in Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

"Gigi" travels with Coleen Thurston and André Allarde of British Columbia. Bikers seemingly always want to scope out other people's equipment, the four agree.

One of André and Coleen's more unusual items is a homemade "cozy pot" using premium heat-reflective insulation commonly used for air duct and a camp kettle. In it they cook the pasta, brown rice or quinoa used to whip up gourmet dishes featuring anything from coconut to curry and sausage to tomato pesto.

You bring the water to a boil, shut off your small gas stove, put the kettle in the cozy and let everything cook for the recommended time.

"We've been using the same fuel tank for a month," he said.

The two began their three-month cycling adventure on May 27. Averaging 60 miles or 100 kilometers—it sounds more impressive in metric, she says—their final destination is Bar Harbor, Maine, for no other reason than that's the most common endpoint on the Northern Tier Bike Route. The route is a popular one among bikers who enjoy quirky little towns, Coleen said.

They will continue to encounter new friends, providing their own pedal power and almost always cook their own food.

"We always have pizza and ice cream on Aug. 7," André said.

People can follow them via their Facebook page Cycle 101.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson is news director with RiverTown Multimedia. 

(651) 301-7870