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Three for the road
Ellen Zimmerman, Sampson and Sophie covered about 1,100 miles in 17 days-the first leg of their trip around Lake Superior.
Photo courtesy of Ellen Zimmerman.

by Kathy Magnuson

Ellen Zimmerman wanted to bike around Lake Superior solo, but she had reservations. She figured if she had the companionship of Sampson and Sophie, her Goldendoodles, along for the adventure, she could accomplish this challenge.

Zimmerman biked across the country in her early 20s at a milestone time in her life-with a group of riders. Two years ago, as she was approaching the milestone of her 50th birthday, she wanted to mark the occasion with another bike adventure-only with dogs this time.

She found a buggy for pets online that had a little canopy. After adding windows she thought it was perfect, like "a little RV."

Zimmerman trained over the summer, the last month with the dogs in tow, and in the fall of 2010 they set out east from Superior, Wis. She had shipped care packages of dog food and other supplies ahead to bike shops she planned to stop at along the way. Zimmerman, Sampson and Sophie covered about 1,100 miles in 17 days-the first leg of their trip.

"I didn't realize Lake Superior is the second-largest lake in the world! But it is!" Zimmerman said.

It was a fall of heavy rains and strong winds, so by the time the trio made it within 100 miles of Thunder Bay, it seemed like a good time to stop. They got a ride back home to the Twin Cities." It was a great adventure and we were all happy to get home."


Zimmerman speaks warmly of her pets. "My dogs are connectors," she explained. "Even though I was by myself, and more of an introvert, they opened up conversations with people. And, they were my protectors. At night I felt safer. At any little noise they would bark, not like an attack dog, but I felt they would keep away any negative energy."

The three of them are going back to finish the last 300 miles of the route this summer. She likes to imagine a "canine caravan" someday of people who love biking and dogs hitting the road together.

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