Well, well, well, I’m back. I don’t have to say what’s been going on in my life that has kept me from writing. I could just say, “2020.” But honestly, other than the fear of contracting Covid-19, 2020 has actually been pretty darn good. It’s given me more time to focus, read, work from home, spend time with Chelsea, and ride my bike.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the way things used to be. You remember, back when they were normal. That was some stuff. I think that I’ve changed. My priorities are different, my views are more defined. I have more compassion and understanding for others as a result of the extra time that I’ve had to think. So, 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. It’s sort of been a good restart. Yes, I know I’m not the only one to say this but personally, I’ve turned a corner. I’ve grown disenchanted of traditional beliefs and the ascribed values that accompany them.
Because I’ve grown tired of consuming the negativity and seeing the awful I thought that I’d start using my blog as a place to share the happy and good that I see. To start putting joy into the world in hopes of brightening someone else’s day. My plan is to gradually leave the politically co-opted social media sphere and use the blog as a place to share. I’m not going to promote this at all this time around. No goal of this becoming a monetized side hustle. Just a place for honest, outside-focused, dirty fun! I may do race write ups, trip reports, gear reviews, recommend adventure spots, or just tell stories. I’ll probably also share too much.
So, here’s to a new beginning. Things are probably going to get worse in our country and world before they get better but at least we can spread some joy in the healthiest way possible. That’s the goal. Elevate the global joy, fun, and health level.
So, that’s a wrap. The inaugural HAMR weekend is over. How’d it go? In a word: wild. We were up in the wilds being wildmen (and women) having wicked type-two fun.
Since I am only a little bit of a masochist I opted for the Team HAMR race this year. My partner and dear friend Adam flew in from Colorado to suffer right along side me.
The concept of this adventure was simple: 7 checkpoints total in a cool passport; 4 mandatory, 3 optional. The more checkpoints you hit the greater the time bonus when you hit the finish line. Twelve hours to get them and get back. Random wakeup time. Ready, set: GO. Part adventure race/ orienteering and part endurance cycling. Sprinkle in a little knowledge of the area and you have yourself an adventure.
My pre-race prep involved eating a burrito, drinking a few beers, and stuffing half a watermelon down my gullet.
Spoiler alert: I was one of the first people up to use the two porta-johns. This race-prep worked out well as I discovered the lights on in the race tent and some of the volunteers scurrying about. Win for Team Dirtbag Yuppie!
You see, the start time was random and my bubbly belly served me well by forcing me out of bed early.
“Africa” softly wafted through the loudspeaker while racers rubbed the sleep from their eyes. This song was the harbinger of things to come. Those blessed rains would come soon enough.
Adam and I took off toward the old 510 Bridge checkpoint in the same direction as the SledgeHAMR racers. (Those sick puppies did 186 miles). We rolled down to the checkpoint just as the sun came up, punched our passports and headed up 510 in the general direction of the next checkpoint. The watermelon demon again raised (or rather lowered) its ugly head and I was forced to make a pitstop at the pullout just before the new 510 Bridge. (Thanks MDOT for providing that one).
We headed north of CR 510 toward the Red Road.
The next checkpoint was south of Mosquito Gooch in the Mulligan Plains and the Red Road was the only way to get there. The steady light rain tamed the otherwise sandy road and made it nearly enjoyable. However, every time I started to get into a decent cadence I would get sucked into a sandy spot and reminded of the shortcomings of my 2.3″ tires. Adam and the fatty pounded on, mostly unfazed by the loose spots. Riding in nasty sand can be quite taxing and the roadside was loaded with wild blueberries so Adam and I took full advantage of nature’s bounty whenever we felt our energy dip. You know… every 5 minutes or so.
We turned north toward Mosquito/Mulligan and were immediately delighted to find that the road grew firmer with every rotation of our tires. We arrived at the very picturesque second checkpoint, punched our passports, and took some quintessential photos:
Surely, we thought that it would be time to start piling the miles on again now that we had solid trail under our tires. Unfortunately, we were sadly mistaken. We began to notice that we were climbing, which was to be expected, as we are in the Huron Mountain Range after all. However neither of us was prepared for what we encountered partway up the hill. As the road deteriorated into rubble we started pushing more and more.
Here’s Adam; he is suffering up some rocky crap. We saw many footprints of those who came before us. I thought it’d be fun to take a cute picture of him suffering. Shortly thereafter karma struck and mother nature rewarded me for my hubris. On the first descent following this enhanced climb, I tried a stupid shortcut. ‘Why ride around solid-looking mud when I could probably ride right through it?’ Big mistake. I shoulder-checked that mud puddle after going OTB. Rich, black, backwoods mud covered my helmet, jersey and most of the integral moving parts on the front part of my bike. Adam only heard my very manly screams as the mud consumed my pride. I washed my sins away at the Yellow Dog River crossing and we motored on.
After getting on the AAA road the checkpoints seemed to tick off with greater frequency. As we headed south on CR 510 on our way to the Wilson Truck Trail the rained picked up. (It rained about 5 of the 11 hours that we were on the course) After 15 minutes of hard rain on the well-packed CR 510 I turned around to apologize to Adam for dragging him out of sunny Denver to slop around in the cold wet midwest. My spirits were lifted and I knew that I picked the right co-pilot when I saw the smile on his face. He was soaking up the rain and sucking down gels with a side of sand.
We thought that we had lost our way en route to Wilson Truck Trail but ended up righting the ship with a little help from some friends on a tandem. (Thanks, eh?) There are few activities where competitors will come to each other’s aid. That’s one of the main reasons that I love riding mountain bikes and events like this.
Heading down, or east, on the Wilson Creek Truck Trail was a blast. We thoroughly enjoyed the creek crossings and even made a few stops to snap some semi-rad shots.
Letting gravity do the work in this section provided a welcomed reprieve from pedaling and gave us some time to recharge, chat, and eat more sugary gels and bars. This was also about the time that we both became oddly infatuated with the bag of Lays that was nestled in the van back at basecamp. We totally forgot about the free pasties but more on that later.
The last 22-ish miles and checkpoints 4, 5, and 6 are sort of a blur. This is mainly due to the fact that they were quite consolidated and close together compared to the first three checkpoints. The one that sticks out the most is Top of the World. Chelsea and I have made several trips out here and it was really cool to be able to show Adam the killer view of Lake Superior from this point.
After the final checkpoint dubbed “Chunky Summit” on some strange snowmobile/atv trail we emerged onto the Noque ski trail somewhere around the 17km marker. We made our way to the basecamp along a freshly flattened trail through the overgrown grass. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t sink mid-thigh in the “wet area” just before the bridges… At this point we were both rightly soaked and honestly I didn’t even notice the extra 3-4 pounds of mud that clung to my body and bike. (Why was I the only one that looked like an extra from Swamp Thing?)
The finish line at the basecamp came up quick and we had our passports cleared just shy of 11 hours in the saddle. Because we got 6 of 7 we received a 3 hour time reduction and ended up placing 5th of 20 teams. Not too shabby for all of the berries that we ate.
We finished up the party with a pastie, a gallon of ketchup, and a few bags of candy from our wives.
Something tells me that HAMR isn’t going anywhere. Like many endurance events, this one will probably get its own cult following and serve as jewel in many future crowns. I’d like to thank Beardsley and Todd for putting this great event on. I’d also like to thank Adam for making the trip out to ride bikes in poor weather, on an un-marked course, with this strange little man in the woods. Chelsea–thank you for supporting my childlike dreams and for putting up with my super loud trainer rides while you are trying to do yoga and achieve inner peace. Kathleen, thank you for the moral support, encouragement, and forcing Adam to pose for pictures. Michele, thanks for the Garmin and tutorial. Finally, thanks to Velodrome for allowing me to ride on Team Tamp Stamp and that dope little packet of instant coffee.
Oh yeah, that snorkel? The one from the famous #snorkdangle?
We didn’t friggin’ use it for anything substantive. We took a picture. I cannot wait to see what they make us carry next year.
Flyfishing and bike riding are two of my passions. They also have the capacity to be two of the most technical and confusing hobbies. I get it; I have a garage of bikes each with its own unique function. I also have many different rod, reel, and line combinations each for different species, water conditions, and times of year.
Sometimes you just have to shed all of those choices and complexity. Yesterday, rather than loading up my car with a few rods, multiple fly boxes, and driving out to any river of my choosing no matter the distance I chose instead to simplify the process. So I strapped my tenkara and its tube to the downtube of my Stache and started pedaling.
I’ve taken rods on the bike before but I have always had to strap them to a pack because of their length and the fact that the reel is usually attached. However the telescoping feature of the tenkara rod makes zip-tying it to the bike simple and effective. I just made sure that I could unscrew the cap without snipping the ties. The tube hangs below the bottom bracket a little more than I wanted it to but as with most home remedies the function outweighed the form in this case.
Here’s how it goes: get to the river under your own steam, shed the helmet, flip the bike, remove the rod, attache the tippet, and get in the water. Super simple. No time wasted finding a suitable spot to stash the car or picking the right rod. Just get to it.
This first trip was an experiment. Trying new things is always a little difficult for me for me and I was especially unsure about my rod attachment method. But it appeared to have held nicely and the rod went together without a hitch. Luckily finding fishable water is not a problem in our area and in 11 miles I was in the middle of a great trout stream without a soul in sight.
Earning things always feels better than having them handed to you. This was definitely an experience that was earned. I got to the river under my own power and used a very limiting technique which relies only on water reading and fly placement. It was beautiful, satisfying, and restorative.
Last week was quite stressful; work went late into the night tuesday-thursday and the puppy kept us up most of the night after that. I needed some kind of release. So, I put a little challenge to myself up on the blog. I committed myself to a “Big day.”
Essentially it was a nice leisurely-paced gravel/road ride up to Big Bay and back. But for me it represented a little more. It was proof that I could set a goal and achieve it. Sometimes we spend too much time working toward intangible things that seem to never come to fruition. Sometimes the upward tick of our bank accounts becomes a meaningless safety-net of numbers that we all know could be wiped out in a matter of seconds. Sometimes we rely on other people to do too many things for us. Personally, when I hit that wall, as we all do from time to time, I need to do something on my own accord. The last time that happened I hand split 10 cords of firewood. Talk about seeing the fruits of my labor. It was such a rewarding feeling seeing the rows grow and the pile of whole logs dwindle. I needed to do something like this again to reignite that feeling: accomplishment.
So I created a challenge for myself, and as you know I made it public. I have never done something like that before and I am pleasantly surprised to say that it worked.
When Saturday arrived the bike was loaded and the route carefully planned to avoid interaction with vehicles and people in general. I took off into a minor headwind which made the first 12-15 miles pretty miserable. But something clicked when I crossed the big bridge on CR 510.
I saw fewer cars and could feel that the remote gravel section was getting close.
This is where the trip really began. I have driven this road a number of times. It is quiet and it is wild. Rarely do you see a vehicle or structure. It is the perfect place to spin gears and unwind.
And spin I did. For the most part I had the gravel to myself. However, once in a while a hunter on his way to deer camp would blast past me on a side-by-side. In those moments I felt as if I were in some post-apacolyptic Mad Max scenario. I would laugh to myself and draw up images of some marauder chasing me down on my pedal bike and I would thwart him at the last moment with a well-placed juke.
I was warned by a friend to eat hourly even if I wasn’t hungry. Turns out that wasn’t all that hard. I lunched on the banks of the Yellow Dog. Jerky and fig bars have never tasted so good.
As the tannic waters flowed past I was able to completely give myself over to the rhythmic churning and the trance-inducing ripples. In that moment I was safe to release my mind and all of the worries and cares in it. It was beautiful. If you find yourself starting to get wound up head to a quiet stretch of river and watch it do its thing for a while. “I’m not saying that a river is a cure-all, only that your brain is unable to maintain its troubled patterns while in concourse with a river.” -Jim Harrison, The Beast God Forgot to Invent. (On a side note that man will forever be missed and I look forward to incorporating many of his gems in and around this blog.)
The rest of the ride was rather uneventful. I got in some good charges and even managed to launch into a few of those “yawps” that those Transcendentalists were always talking about. Rolling into town felt good. I had accomplished something and I had no one to thank but my own two legs.
My older generation Stache probably wasn’t the most efficient choice of bikes for this ride but the extra forgiveness in those larger tires and the suspension fork made it a little more comfortable and forgiving.
I dubbed this trip “The long way to Blackrocks” because in all honesty there is no longer route from my home to that wonderful brewery. Upon arriving I grabbed a 51k and sat on the porch looking at my bike. I thought about the places I have taken it, and the places it has taken me. Good gear is worth its weight in gold. But there is something special about the bond that you form with a bike. After the brew I spun over to Border Grill and had some tacos and chips.
This is the first of many rides that will start on CR 510. While planning my ride I was very excited to see all of the roads that branch off 510 and head into the McCormick Tract.
The pic below is the Strava info from the ride. I really enjoy quantifiable results and since I have started using Strava I have found the joy and worth that I have always felt while biking to be measurable.
My knee appears to be all healed up from my unfortunately-timed fly fishing accident. The recovery time was very difficult because I don’t do well sitting around. The rest was definitely necessary to prevent lasting damage to my knee.
Now that that’s over I am ready to get back into the swing of things again. The Lake Trout are starting to stack up in Superior; the darkness is coming sooner and sooner with each day; and the Woods are preparing for the first snow. I on the other hand am preparing for the inevitable over-eating and sitting around that comes with family time around the holidays. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy dumplings and a good roast. It just means that I have to get back on the physical exercise train before the wheels develop a flat spot.
The only way that I know how to function is to whole-ass things so to speak. So, what better way to push myself back into shape than to have a Big Day. I know, I know, some of your have Big Days like this weekly. I’m not there yet. Maybe this will be the start of something big. Hopefully. With that said, here is my route for my first Big Day in a while:
Roughly half of the trip will be on the beautiful dirt of CO RD 510. The other half is mostly pavement with a decent shoulder. I struggled this week thinking about bike choice but I think that the Stache is going to be the way to go. I would hate to miss out on some off-road stuff if it presents itself to me. This trip would go by much quicker on the CX bike but that’s not what this ride is about.
This bike takes on all terrain.
All bagged up and waiting.
Along with jumpstarting my fitness I will also be taking time on this ride to be thankful for what I have and mindful of my goals and the path ahead. Fresh air and physical exertion have a unique way of forcing mental clarity. We should rebalance once in a while; take time to slow down and get somewhere under your own power. I can’t think of a better place to do this than on the remote roads of Marquette County. Things will be different on the other side of this ride.
I will snap some pics for Instagram and have a decent write-up on here soon after returning home. With any luck I may even have a profound thought or two.