A Weekend Warrior’s Lament

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The stack of files is towering over my head and my desk chair is really cramping my style on this particular morning. My back and shoulders are super uncomfortable under my pressed white shirt and my tie is cutting off the circulation to my brain. You see, I’ve spent the weekend surfing, riding/racing bikes, and/or fishing. Oh bliss of bliss; having a life full of passions that involve entanglement with the natural world in ways that encourage mastery and conquest while never ceasing to remind you that you are only a mortal. The weekends come and I try my hardest to be wild and rad; to escape, and yet here I sit on an ever widening rear end; back to the grind.

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Seventy-two hours ago the texts started rolling in: “4 hours until go time!” “Finally getting out of here!” Pictures of gear jammed into vehicles, grocery cart of weekend fuel, and trail maps blow up all of the phones on the group chat.

The stoke is high. Cars start pulling up and we can all feel the week’s stresses start to ebb away. Crack a beer, eat a coma-inducing meal, more maps, youtube slopestyle videos on the projector, finalize plans, water, bed.

Fourty-eight hours ago we debated the merits of a light breakfast during gear checks and coffee. Toys in tow we head to the trailhead and strap up and prepare to let loose.

It’s go time, the moment that everyone has been waiting for all week. Sure each and everyone of us puts in a few after work laps of some sort but this is the chance to shine. This is the opportunity to not be overworked or crunched for time. Today is the day where we can play ’til our hearts are content. We shred all the gnar; seek out the secret trout spot; and maybe if the wind is right we catch a wave or two.

Twenty-four hours ago I cheerfully whipped up a camp style breakfast of churro crepes and eggs while my wife and friends played with Copper; everyone anxious for one last late morning session.IMG_2536

We all knew what was coming the next day so we pushed ourselves one last time. But Sunday rides are sad. Not like pointless sad, you know? But everyone plays it safe. We make loose plans for the next round of awesomeness (at an undetermined future date), and ease back to the tame, civilized, version of ourselves.

Monday: The lunch hour comes and goes and still my bike rests in the back of my car. Another training opportunity squandered. On top of the missed ride I also smashed a fistful of redvines and another cup of office coffee. Refined sugar and caffeine: great fuel for the after work ride which will serve as a release and reminder of what I am and what I could be.

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Weekend Warriors living their best life. Best life AF indeed!

So what do I do? Well, I certainly don’t quit my day job because no one is going to pay to support a middle of the road weekend warrior’s pursuit of action-adventure sports mediocrity. (If you are willing to do this, and why wouldn’t you be, please slide into my DMs and we can talk).

That leaves one real option: keep giving it hell. We’re not called weekend warriors for nothing. Not only do we train and strain for age group podiums, Strava KOMs, and the well-deserved beer and burritos which follow, but we also have to crush a full-on work week on top of it all.

So instead of a lament, let’s hear a battle cry from all of the weekend warriors out there. Get out there and do your thang you well-adjusted, slightly above-average doers!

-J

 

2018 HAMR

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Want to know the secret of the snorkdangle? Sign up for 2019.

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.

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Fresh Adam prepares for the Dogman.

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.

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Bring your bodies to 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. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e707

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.

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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. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e6fe

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.

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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.

Survivors!

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My Salsa Fargo carried me and waaaay too much gear 76 miles to the finish line. I should have bought a Fargo years ago. This thing has so many different possibilities and is an all-out grin-factory.

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?

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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.snorkel

HAMR: Let’s pound again in 2019.

-J

 

Marquette’s Beautifully Groomed South Trails with Tim

The past two weeks have seen several multi-day warm ups. In most places this would mean that snowbike trails become ribbons of unrideable mashed potatoes that only get worse when they freeze. But, if you live in Marquette it means that the wonderful groomers from the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) Single Track Section put in some serious hours to ensure that our trails are top-notch when the inevitable freeze comes.

The NTN groomers have come up with some very unique grooming implements that suit our local climate. Their hard work and innovation is the subject of a great new short called “Whack Jobs.” It’s a true testament to those hardworking volunteers that make winter riding not only a possibility but a real pleasure.

The riding has been stellar so far in 2018. Despite the warm weather, as long as the temps drop overnight the trails are primo early in the morning before the sun hits them. In these few precious hours the planets align and you can really rip.

This weekend my friend Tim came up from Wisconsin to revel in our beautiful trails. I set up the GoPro and we went to the woods. Check it out!

Did you get out and get after it this weekend?

-J

Sunday Spin

We’ve got a little piece of property in the country. It’s the kind of place that’s just far enough out that you have to make your own fun. We spend a lot of time playing in and around the homestead. Lately, the main focus has been turning it into a bit of an adult playground. We are constantly looking for ways to make our spaces more fun and playful.

This past week we have been panking down our own fat bike trail for some friendly festivities this upcoming weekend. The freeze/thaw cycle from last week really helped the trail set up so we spent a little time riding them in this afternoon. Things are getting dialed in! The light was just right today so we did a little filming. Enjoy.

 

I got some new camera items to play around with and I am hoping to film more this year. Stay tuned.

-J

Don’t be so serious

I have an honest confession to make: I have been Zwifting. Since a few days after Christmas I have been a card carrying member of the cellar-dwelling cycling contingent. Why, you ask? Because I decided to make a commitment to myself to be a more serious cyclist in 2018. I have some long fun-rides and “races” planned. Don’t get me wrong, I will not place in any of these races, but I need some sort of event/goal to spur my physical fitness on. So I caved, and I joined the ranks.

I have been putting down some miles. Zwift affords me the ability to get up, swing my leg over the bike, and start the day spinning. No hauling my bike to the trailhead at 6:30 in the morning in the pitch-black Marquette morning. No snow pants, goggles, or frozen water bottles.

When I got Zwift I vowed to not let it totally replace winter cycling. I wanted it to supplement my training without serving as the death knell of fat biking. Consistent morning rides on the spin bike and after work rides on the fat bike to remind me what it really means to be a cyclist.

Things have been going pretty well. But this morning didn’t line up right and I missed my Zwift. Regardless I packed up my fattie and headed to work. The workday sort of slogged on and I dealt with some pretty sad and heavy situations with my clients. While gearing up at the office I debated skipping my snowbike ride and putting in dedicated practice time on Zwift. But I told myself that I could just treat this ride as a training ride. Hit it hard and I wouldn’t fall off my loosely planned training regimen. That was the plan.

So I took off with a bit of a poor attitude. As I climbed Benson the direction of my attitude was inverse to the incline. The higher I went, the worse it got. It was like I forgot that riding outside would be much harder than my basement. The elements seem really harsh when you haven’t had to deal with them in a while. Needless to say I was not feeling it. The big fat under-inflated tires felt like they were working against me with ever pedal stroke. Mentally beaten down I plodded on. That is until it happened.

The wind picked up and the trees started to move around a bit. Unbeknownst to me all of that moving around dislodged a softball-size glob of snow. That glob floated down and smacked me right in the face. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. My poor attitude melted as quickly snow on my face and I wiped it all away. That’s all it took to turn things around. It’s like Ma Nature saw me struggling with some earthly crud and decided to set me straight. I was only half way into my short ride but the rest of the trail seemed to zoom by  with much less effort. I was back to enjoying riding my bike.

That’s what it’s all about for me; enjoyment, communing with nature, and maybe getting in shape along the way. Not mileage goals, race results, or Strava KOM. Everyone’s drivers are a little different and this ride showed me that I was going about things in the wrong way.

System re-calibrated, I pedal on with the same goals for 2018, but now I have a better idea on how to achieve them.

-J

Day 2 Portland to the Coast

If you know us you know that we do not live in or near a city by choice. That doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the amenities that cities provide. Prior to heading out in Vinny we spent some time in and around Portland availing ourselves of the city’s offerings.

First we had breakfast at J&M Cafe downtown. I tried scrapple, a pork-cornmeal sausage, which was uniquely delicious and Chelsea had two of the biggest pieces of bacon that I have ever seen. This of course was before we experienced the middle of our country and again renewed our vow to eat less meat and possibly move back toward being full-time vegetarians. (More on this in a future post.) The breakfast was wonderful and the service was perfectly Portland.

After breakfast we set up Vinny for what we will call Vinny 1.0 Initial Essentials. (Remember that he will be getting multiple build-out posts in the future) We set up the bed; organized the gear; and secured all of the personal items. The goal of this maiden voyage was to see how we would use the van and try to set up a possible floor plan.

We rounded out the morning at my favorite city spot: REI. Usually these trips are pretty conservative but this time Chelsea told me to get the things that I have been wanting for a while and well, we both went a little nuts. No biggie, it’s our honeymoon right? So we spent money on adventure facilitators that will bring us joy well into our marriage.


As morning quickly turned into noontime we headed to Justin and Valerie’s place for lunch. They moved out here last year from Michigan and were able to give us great insights on Portland and where to go on the coast. They live near Mississippi Avenue so we walked to lunch. As an aside, Mississippi Avenue and their neighborhood are both super cool places and we will certainly be going back to spend some time there. Stormbreaker Brewing has daily BBQ and Mac-n-Cheese specials. You read that right. It doesn’t mean that the day we were there mac was a special, it means that each and every day they have a special mac and a special BBQ: amazing! We shared both and they were quality eats. The beer was pretty dang good too. They offered outside seating under a carport and it rained. In all honesty this is exactly what we wanted from Portland.

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Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Justin and Valerie were super hospitable and let us hang around there place for a few hours while we waited for USPS to deliver the remaining outdoor gear but the day was slipping away and we wanted to get to the coast before nightfall so we had to leave before the package arrived. It eventually came and we picked it up on our way back east.

Pointed West we embarked on the adventure part of the Honeymoon. We took 26 (Sunset Highway) out to the Pacific Coast Highway. The van kept up with traffic through the mountains heading out of town without issue.

Portland’s temperate climate provides a great growing environment for many different flora but we were not prepared for the untouched beauty of the old growth forests as we entered the coastal mountain range and Tillamook Forest. We were both taken aback by the dense overhead canopy and its ability to make you enter a world of perpetual dusk even in the middle of the day. It was brilliant which was only made better by the on and off cloudbursts.

The night was quickly approaching but we simply couldn’t head straight to the campsite without seeing some of those famous Oregon sea stacks. Ecola Point, located in Ecola State Park, was nearest to the 26/101 turnoff. We meandered through northern Cannon Beach and took the beautifully paved, yet narrow, road out to the point. Chelsea had been dreaming about Oregon coast views and sea stacks since as long as I can remember. and the look on her face when she finally got to see them in person was truly priceless.

We lingered at Ecola Point until the sun was near to the horizon then we motored south toe Nehalem Bay State Park. This park offered access to the beach, power, delightfully-warm showers and, as you will see in Day 3’s post, surprising wildlife!

Our utensils were packed away in the yet-to-be-delivered supply box awaiting us back in Portland. Luckily we had this giant spoon from our Ikea trip.


This was our first night in the van and sleep came very easily. We were cozy inside as the winds off the Pacific howled outside. Rain was heavy and intermittent throughout the night and the waves could be heard through Vinny’s walls.

Keep reading, we did A LOT on day 3…

-J&C

 

Bike. Tenkara. Bike.

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.

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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.

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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.

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A few casts in I found a taker.

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.

Get out there, try something new, and squeeze more adventure out of your everyday.

-J


This is not a sponsored post. Learn more the tenkara method here. Check out this post for more Stache action.

How to Squeeze More Adventure Out of Everyday Life

The demands of modern society tether many of us to offices, desk chairs, and cubicles. These restrictions slowly nip away at your soul and cause serious burnout and mental fatigue if not treated properly. The mandatory course of treatment involves a release of some sorts. Breaking away from the day-to-day monotony that we are conscripted into. We need to connect to our inner animal, get back to to nature, and generally have fun with greater frequency.

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Weekday secret spot; not a soul around.

I have been scratching that itch with microadventrues and everyday adventures. Initially I thought of these as staycations but have since expanded them into further-reaching places. Alastair Humphreys has written some truly inspirational stuff on the microadventure. Microadventures and everyday adventures have saved many workaday dudes and dudettes from lives lived only to fill up retirement accounts and garages with unused crap. I highly encourage using microadventures and everyday adventures to break life up. Doing so will greatly increase the quality of your life and truly allow you to lead a more inspired existence.

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How the heck do you this?

  • Start small and do what you know. Week long trips are amazing. Weekend trips are great too. But what if instead of lamenting on how you only get one big trip a year you focused on your ability to do several lunchtime activities each week? Say you cut out a few minutes early and get a solid jog or spin around town in.
  • Make time for yourself. I totally get it; you need to respond to just one more email and refresh your Instagram feed just one more time before you go, and it is far too easy to schedule “working lunches,” but you need to carve out some “you time” more often.
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Less screen time, more squee time!
  • Don’t spend extra money. We could all use lighter gear and that would surely make us faster which would definitely lead to sponsorships and the ability to shove our jobs and do _______ professionally… hold your horses man. Why don’t you start by strapping on those perfectly good running shoes that have seen more bar rail time than trail time and just get out there. No matter what the pro shop bro’s tell you, new gear will not greatly enhance your experience. Commit to the bit and then upgrade as necessary.
  • Keep it local. Sure a yearly ski tour trip or backpacking excursion that you painstakingly plan and save for for months are great. But you would be amazed by the extra outdoor time you could log if you focused more of your time on enjoying those things which are just out your backdoor. Super cliche, I know; but face it: those 50 trips to the local, bombed out single-track will keep you out of the gym and in prime shape for your big trip to climb fire roads and blast the descents. Furthermore, by increasing your local participation you get a chance to shape the local scene and increase the experience for everyone.
  • Research your options. Make sure you have a general idea before you dive in. But pay special heed to the next point.
  • Stay out of your own way. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you haven’t biked, hiked, jogged, fished, skied, swam… in weeks or months or ever. Just do it. The first few times will suck and then it will get better, I promise. We put up far too many mental road blocks and yours are holding you back.

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  • Turn your notifications off. No explanation needed.
  • Do things by yourself. Getting together with other people to partake in your favorite pastime can be a reward thing, it can also be distracting and difficult to organize due to everyone’s tight schedules. This often leads to people giving up altogether and not doing anything. Wrangling your own schedule can be enough hassle: so get it under control and just get out there. You will be surprised by what solitude will do for you.
  • Get a headlamp and use it. The Earth gets dark; don’t let that keep you from enjoying yourself.

I personally like to hit the trails before work. I find that it sets a good tone for the day. If you get after it early in the morning it puts your head on right for the rest of the day and everyone around you prospers from your enhanced mood and vibes.

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Tacky morning dirt is second to none.

I have also been trying to insert microadventures and activities into my daily life as often as possible. This can include a simple walk to the lake at lunch, mid-afternoon bike ride or ski, or an early morning session at the river before heading into the office. Sometimes you have to just book off a day and really get out there though and we do that once in a while too. I admit that this is much easier given my occupation and the beautiful area in which I live. The Upper Peninsula and upper Midwest just lends itself to the microadventure state of mind.

Get out there; get after it; and get RAD!!

-J

Because Napping In Armchairs Is Lame

Does this sound familiar: you get to bed a little late on Friday night for one reason or another but you still wake up early to give the activity de jour hell. Trails are hiked, berms are railed, lines are stuck, holes thoroughly fished, and you are completely beat. Rightfully so, you just made the most out of your morning. Needless to say you have earned an afternoon off and maybe a cold one.

I’ve been there. After such displays of athletic prowess the last thing you want is to be domesticated. That’s not to say that you haven’t earned a well-deserve some rest. I suggest getting off your feet and settling into a supine position. To many this suggestion drums up images of Archie Bunker and sagging couch cushions. While I am guilty of crashing in the house during the shoulder season and winter months, during the nicer weather (which comes for a few months in our area) I prefer to kick back outside.

If it’s not too bro-y for you might I suggest a hammock? Simple, satisfying, time-tested relaxation. I always have a packable hammock in the back of my car. It often gets taken out after a refreshing dip in Lake Superior.

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Many Sunday afternoons have been spent recooperating from bike rides between two trees with mother Superior watching over me.

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When it comes to hammocks don’t overthink it; simpler and lighter is better. However, you will want to make sure that the hammock you get comes with some anchor rope. Strangely enough some brands require anchors to be purchased separately. Check the package. I highly suggest purchasing or making anchors that are a bit longer than you think you need; nothing harshes an otherwise chill afternoon like a never-ending quest for  trees that are just close enough to stretch your hammock between.

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How do you hammock? I ride bikes then take naps outside.

-J

The Living Great Lakes

It’s no secret that I love Michigan. The Great Lakes play a large role in that equation. Their vastness and depth are a mirror for the soul. Many a writer has attempted to put their beauty into words. Few have come as close as Jerry Dennis has with The Living Great Lakes. (TLGL)

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This book is an informative series of tales woven into the narrative of the author’s trip through the Great Lakes on the Malabar, a tall ship out of Traverse City, Michigan.

Dennis, an accomplished American author, writes rather matter of factly in a manner which feels like a regular guy telling you of his travels over a beer. He gives lessons on the history of man-made features as well as the geological happenings and cycles that shaped the region. His use of everyday language makes TLGL approachable, understandable, and very pleasant. The reader learns and is entertained at the same time.

I especially appreciate how he explains what certain groups are doing to protect this awesome ecosystem! His lauding contains subtle warnings about environmental issues plaguing the Lakes without being too preachy.

I read this book with a map pulled up at all times on my computer, I loved to find the places that he was talking about, then I would Google the story, or the area that he was describing and get lost researching the topic. While the book reads quite quickly, if you take the time to delve into the side stories and look up the events that Dennis writes about you will find yourself taking a little longer than usual. The extra time is worth it because it will only enrich your overall experience.

Since reading I have amassed a list of places and events that I would like to check out due to their descriptions in the book:

  • The Witching Tree
  • The Snow Wasset
  • More of Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • The Manitou Islands
  • and so many more…

This book describes the Great Lakes region with such familiarity that any reader will feel at home, even if you have never been near them. The familiarity is achieved through anecdotal additions which cause each story to ring true. I especially enjoyed the references to the places where I have played since my youth: Manistee, Arcadia, Traverse  City, Mackinac, and Leelanau. Now that I have moved to the Upper Peninsula I am rereading the book to see what new flames it stokes.

Guests to the area: I suggest you read this on your trip or before, it will provide you with a wealth of information and history of the area. It may also serve as a jumping-off point for your trip.

Residents of the area: I suggest you read this book, enjoy it thoroughly and research the stories. You will discover things about your town/ area that you would never have found before.

Pick this book up as soon as you can; read it; get inspired; start exploring.

-J