What am I up to these days? Where do we go from here?
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.
I hope that you join me on this journey.
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.
Weather plays a very important role here; it rarely stops us from doing what we do but it definitely alters the way in which we do things. While checking the weather report on Friday we noticed that we were under a gale force wind advisory out of the north which was slated to produce 10-15 foot waves on Superior. The waves were supposed to reach the upper level of their ferocity in the late afternoon so we planned our day around a trip to the lake at roughly that time.
The first spot that we stopped at on Presque Isle was largely sheltered from direct waves but served to whet the appetite and provide promise of bigger action.
While waves are easily enjoyed from a safe distance I tend to appreciate their magnitude much more when I can get down to their level. Our second stop on this tour de wave was at the Blackrocks. Most days you will find young shirtless human males trying to show their mettle and attract a mate by hurling themselves from the rocks into the water below. Today was not one of those days. Even the most boisterous of the males were tucked away in their dens weathering the storm.
Some of us can play near the waves and leave unscathed while others cannot…
We got to witness a real rarity on this wavy day, the Blackrock Falls:
Have you ever had the chance to see these mythical falls? They only manifest once in a blue moon and are quite fleeting.
Mother Superior really put on a show yesterday and I am so happy that we made it a priority to make it out before the final curtain.
Lake and Love.
“What’re you going to do when you get home from work?”
This morning while going through my mail I came across the cable bill. Instead of just eyeballing the charges and paying it I decided to do something that I should have done a long time ago. I decided to cut the television portion of the programming. We couldn’t afford to have television and internet while in grad school so we went for many years without. However, when we purchased our home we were lured into a sweetheart deal combo-pack with television and internet. I never felt like I really got my money’s worth out of the television portion of the package because we only watch a half hour of local news, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
So, having thoroughly assessed our television usage and weighed the costs we decided to get rid of television. The customer service rep at the cable company was very nice when the conversation started. She offered to cut the cost by $35 while still offering the same package. When that didn’t work she offered other lower level packages to try to keep our television box humming. Finally when I said that all I want is the internet and no television for the 9th time she asked me the most absurd question: “what’re you going to do when you get home from work?” She was very concerned about whether or not I would be able to discuss Game of Thrones at the watercooler, or how I would find out which team threw a tanned piece of animal hide through the other team’s goal. The fear and urgency in her voice was a terrifying marker of our society’s leisure-time activities. To be honest, her simple question really hurt my feelings; did she really think that we would sit at home and have staring contests while slowly losing our minds waiting for the next “tv+internet bundle” to come out?
Me, clearly waiting for the new season of Catfish.
If I hadn’t been so shocked by her question I would have had a much better answer for her. Instead I told her that I like to spend my time away from the office outside playing, riding my bike, and fishing. I should have asked here what she does when she gets out of work. I should have invited her over for a weekend to see how to LIVE a little bit.
This is how we do.
In retrospect, her question ignited a little introspection which lead me to this: What do we do when we get home from work? Well, for starters we:
- squeeze every last little drop out of the time that we have been given;
- seek out out-of-the-way places and experiences and try to inspire others to get outside and enjoy our great creation;
- geek out over outdoor gear;
- read a book;
- do some self-directed study; and
- support local businesses, causes and environmental groups;
In short; we are going to LIVE our lives and we hope that you will too. Get out there and experience things. But always remember that Netflix and Hulu will be there for your cheat days.
New Shop Alert: Bird’s Eye Outfitters
Few and far between: that’s how I would describe the state of quality outdoor shops in the Upper Peninsula.
Enter the new kid on the block:
It’s always refreshing to see a new silent-sports themed shop open up. However, when I saw the sign, I had mixed emotions: I was excited about a new outfitter, but hesitant to get too excited in case it turned out to be just another low-level jacket pusher for over-stylized hipsters who rarely leave the pavement. All of my fears were quashed the second I crossed the threshold.
Its well-lit, industrial chic showroom is accented with all sorts of shiny toys. I especially appreciate how they are not stacked like cordwood on sterile shelves or cheap pegboard. The owners have taken the time to work the product displays into an inspired art form. They have a wide array of products for the novice to the seasoned outdoors person.
Bird’s Eye caries the following top-notch brands:
- Temple Fork Outfitters
- Giant Bicycles
- Salsa Bicycles
Aside from offering those killer brands they also rent out kayaks and stand up paddle boards. They will soon be offering river tours and kayak/SUP lessons as well. Future plans also include bike maintenance and repair once lower level renovations are complete.
MMMM-fresh TFO cork!
Quite possibly my favorite of Bird’s Eye’s many great attributes is the beer and snacks! It’s really nice to be able to enjoy a pint while browsing gear. I love it when my favorite things mash up. The staff also told me that they will be offering Charcuterie plates in the future. I look forward to sitting down to talk shop over salted meats and libations. When you get there ask for the Bird’s IPA, it has hints of Cascade hops, Gore-Tex, and Prima Loft and pairs well with shiny paddle boards or fat tired bikes.
The front portion of the shop houses Superior Coffee Roasting Company. We will be doing a future feature on them but suffice it to say, they pulled me two delicious shots that I am still thinking about.
Head on over to 107 East Portage St., in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and check them out.
Praise For Four Season Fuel
Today is Valentine’s Day. While most people were out overspending and feigning interest over things that they will forget by the end of the week, Chelsea and I were immersing ourselves in the great outdoors and enjoying each other’s company.
The plan for the day was simple: stop by Down Wind Sports to pick up a boil in bag meal, drive up CR 550 and find a place to ski. We got a little over a foot of fresh snow in the last few days and we wanted to take make some tracks.
We grabbed some Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and started out and settled in the Harlow Lake/ Little Presque area.
After crossing the road we opted to head south along the NCT. The wind coming off the lake was a force to be reckoned with. The icy blasts plunged the “feels like” temp well into the double-digits below zero. This concerned me a little. I have read some negative reviews about the Jetboil four-season fuel mix and thought that if ever there was a safe time to test it out this would be it; we were relatively close to home and if the fuel failed to provide enough oomph it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
We tucked into a dense stand of pines and stomped down a kitchen. I pulled out our Valentine’s Day meal and lit the jetboil. The water from my bottle was pretty cold from our trek out and it took a little while for the stove to get it lukewarm. To my surprise and delight, after the initial coaxing, the water boiled rather quickly.
While the wind howled and knocked snow from our little shelter we huddled together and shared our bagged meal. It was tougher to wait for the noodles and beef to plump up than usual but it was worth it.
Truthfully the water did boil noticeably slower than normal, but considering the super-cool starting water temp; the gusting wind; and the generally inhospitable weather I think that the four season fuel performed as well as it could. It provided a steady stream of heat and didn’t sputter even once. I definitely think that I will bring the base out next time though. Keeping it directly off the snow may help.
After lunch we swapped skis and crossed the road into the Harlow Lake area. Chelsea had been using a set of Evo Glades that really weren’t working for her. In all honesty, they have never really suited her that well. After the switch I noticed that she was kicking and gliding with increasing confidence. Needless to say she will be taking over my Madshus Cadence’s for the rest of the season. I really like those skis but if they help keep Chelsea going then they are hers!
Get out there. Enjoy the simple things with the people that you love.
Hello, my name is John; I am a lifelong Michigander and lover of most things outdoors. My current basecamp is Marquette, Michigan. When I am not working I can be found on the trails, lakes, and rivers of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and fly fishing. Fortunately for me this area is ripe with outdoor opportunities! I have always thought that Michigan and the “Upper Midwest” boasted many of the same opportunities that other destinations have.
When I was growing up I read all of the standard outdoor-activity magazines: Outside, Dirt Rag, Bicycle Times, Climbing, Canoe & Kayak, and Fly Tyer. I always found it interesting and a little unsettling how very few articles in these publications mentioned all of the great opportunities for outdoor recreation found in the areas surrounding the Great Lakes. It seemed as if they were all promoting a lifestyle whereby you busted your butt working all year to have money to blow on a big 7-10 day trip only to come back to the same boring workaday life afterward. I quickly decided that that mentality made no sense in an area that is so full of outdoor rec activities.
The purpose of this blog is inspire, inform, just let you know what I am up to. I will also give readers a heads up on regional or topical events. I would really like to let other people know just how wonderful this area is.
Whether you call this area the “upper midwest,” “Great Lakes Region,” or “Lake States” I call it home and I would really like to show you how cool it is here.