Sunday, November 19, 2017

Be Kind Whenever Possible,

And it is always possible. Today was the first ride of this year's Fat Bike Series. I rode my Mongoose "Ralph" for this one. The weather was great! Cool enough to keep the sweat down, but certainly not warm. I was riding along on the High Trestle Trail when a smell wafted out of the timber and caught my attention. It smelled like a Ginko tree, but it didn't make sense that there would be a Ginko tree out in the woods, so I looked closer. When I discovered what was producing the smell I was shocked. There was a young deer, probably from last Spring's generation, that had caught it's hoof in a fence. It was hanging by it's leg, and had probably been there most of the day judging from the blood and the freshness of the dirt it had scraped in it's attempt to get out of the snare. I think that the smell was actually a distress scent.
I jumped off of my bike to find a non threatening way to approach the fence. Then I grabbed my Leatherman out of my Camelback and took a look at the fence to see which stands to snip. The poor little guy was squawking a little from the pain and fear, which made it hard to concentrate, so I just cut a strand of fencing. That seemed to help a lot, so I cut the other side of the same strand and he was free. Sadly, I think the hip was dislocated. The deer ran away on three legs and found a spot in some tall grass to lay down. I hopped back on my bike and rode the rest of the way to Slater to get my entry registered in the Fat Series. I checked to see if he was still laying there when I was on my return trip, and he had moved to some other location, which I took as a good sign. I hope he'll be ok and live as happy of a life as a deer can. Beats dying of thirst or exposure in most people's book I guess.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Duluth, the Whole Duluth, and Nothing But Duluth...

So my fascination with the town of Duluth, Minnesota, started back in 2003. I had really never heard of it before , not that I remembered anyway. I didn't know then that it was once the busiest harbor in America, bigger even than New York Harbor. I didn't know that at the turn of the twentieth century there were more millionaires per capita here than any other City in America. Did you know that American music icon Bob Dylan was born here? Sure was, he grew up in a second floor apartment in a row house. The Monacco of the Midwest, The Zenith City.
So, Kelli had decided that the boys were old enough to keep up with a vacation by this time and told me that she had found this place in Minnesota that looked really cool online. Marshall was 7 and Mitchell has just turned 3. They were both so full of adventure from our times spent it in the "Wilds" of Boone County that I knew they could handle it. She's the planner between us (I just drive and help ride herd on the kids) so I asked her what there was to do there. The response checked every box that a kid could have; trains✓, boats✓, ships✓, sea birds✓, lighthouses✓, more rocks than you could throw in a lifetime✓✓. Hard to believe that such beauty exists just 6 easy hours from my doorstep. We had an absolute blast there and I will never lose those memories. We went again in 2015 and would you believe we had even more fun. Two teen age boys still being mischievous, and Kelli and I looking at each other and laughing along with them. When the chance arose for me to go on a solo trip (Kelli had gone to Vegas with a friend earlier in the year, so I got a pass to go somewhere too) it was a no brainer to go North!
I sketched out some ideas of the things that I for sure wanted to do. Build a bike trailer and tow my gear along the famous North Shore, explore Duluth by bike, kayak le Lac Superieur, play some disc golf, fill and drain a beer growler with locally brewed beer, see an Aurora event from an area with a low kp number (Google it) look out over Palisade Head, and use pieces of my collection of camping gear that have otherwise sat in waiting. You have to leave the front porch if you want to see the world!
Now I knew that I would be challenged by some of my normal baggage, like leaving my family behind to go and " play" in a place that they all love so much too. Guilt tripped myself before I even left the house. Also, towing all of my gear has stopped me before (failed ragbrai attempt from around '08?) and the now perpetual questions and worries of my Mom's advancing Dementia, Dad's blindness, and my sons seemingly having grown too old to need me anymore. But it all moves on as life does. Nobody gets the answers ahead of time. One of my favorite sayings says, roughly, that life is a cruel teacher. First you take the test, and then you learn the lesson. It was funny, I welcomed the knowledge that it would all come to a boil on this trip. That tears would flow and the questions that all Dad's must ask of themselves would dog my every mile. "Have I done enough?" "Did I put enough in the boys for them to draw from it when they need to?" "Can I still be a teacher to them without giving tests first?"
My plan, loosely, was to explore for the remainder of the first day, and then to be cheap and add some adversity to the whole thing, sleep in my car instead of getting a motel room. Well, that was sure an adverse situation. I parked my car in a municipal ramp for$15.00 for the three days I was to be there. During the day the car was shaded well and I thought sleeping in it would be an ok way to get bye. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was pretty hot, so I thought about putting the windows down to get some breeze. Then it was too noisy and felt insecure with no barrier between me and the rest of Duluth. I thought for certain that I would be questioned at some point by ramp security or the police, but I didn't see a single soul in the time I was in my car. I estimate that I only had about two hours sleep that first night. When I woke up at around 5:30 I felt fine. It seems that I need far less sleep as I have aged, is that normal? As I began to assemble the components of my trailer and bike I soon realized that I had too much junk! I loaded and balanced everything and went down the ramp to see how it felt. I turned right around and took almost everything out. No food preparation (mini stove, pots, utensils) no dry food (rice and beans, Raman) no machete, fixed blade knife, hammock, golf discs, or binoculars. All I left in the trailer and Apidura bags was my growler, tent, sleeping bag, a few salted nut rolls, a canteen of extra water, a towel, off-bike shorts and shirt, and camp shoes. Pretty much meant that I would have to scavenge and eat at any opportunity. Why does this theme of poor nutrition seem to dog my every ride lately? I'm a little better than that I I think.
The pictures to follow will tell some of the story of how pleasant the ride up was. Pure joy. I have seldom felt so free on the bike. The "bike path" was seldom more than the shoulder of the road, which varied from six feet to a slim 18" our less. The polite Minnesotans gave me plenty of room though. Even the huge logging trucks get over a good five feet for bikes. That's nice.
Once I arrived at the state park at Split Rock Lighthouse I was lucky to grab a tent camping spot that another person had reserved, but lost, due to their failure to check in. I set up my tent, grabbed a shower (yes, a shower with warm water) and decided to have a nap before the highlight of the trip was to commence. You see, there are exactly and only two days in each year that the beacon of the lighthouse is illuminated, and as a royal bonus, my trip lined up with one of those two days. The two and a half hours that would follow my nap were Pure Grace. Only in God's infinite simplicity could the imagery and metaphor that opened to me have been so perfectly delivered...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Teaser Pic

Duluth, Minnesota, July of 2017. God's little slice of Heaven on Earth.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

You Know All The Answers Must Come From Within

I just realized that I have been delinquent in blogging about my riding. I assure you, the lone reader, that I have not given up riding, building bikes, discovering new trails and roads, or even poured myself into new hobbies. I'm a biker, can't quit if I had to.
The images here are from yesterday. I rode my age in miles, 52 this year. It's my own annual physical of sorts. Much like last year the weather was ideal, and my nutrition was dismal. I neglected to pack any food, only one water bottle, no tools, and no sun glasses. I paid the nutritional price for it too. I was walking hills toward the end that I would normally laugh at. I'm sure that I had a goofy look on my face. The vacant stare of a third world starving fool perhaps? Yep. Oh well, I survived. Seriously, these are some massive river valley hills that I rode, along with a Class C road that simply petered out into nothing.

 I'll go back on a proper gravel bike some day and show those miles who's the boss. My 40 pound Mongoose Malus was not the ideal weapon for these roads, but the tires just sound so good on that White Rock gravel that it's worth every aching mile. Still funny to me that one county (Boone) will have brown gravel and the next (Webster and Hamilton) will have tiny sized white rock. I much prefer the white as it puts a better coat of dust on your bike, but maybe that's just me? Badge of Honor kind of thing.
So here are some pics, and I'll do a write up on the trip I took to Duluth back in July and August. Solo ride to Split Rock Light House up in my absolute favorite place ever. That was a soul cleansing experience and I'm better off for having done it. Bikes can solve a lot of problems. Or, at least, they can empower you to solve them yourself. Later!

I have ridden many a gravel mile and never have I seen a feature like this. The county boys poured a concrete culvert right across the road. Must really be a rager when the rain is heavy. This area is known as Deception Hollow, on Maguire's Bend. You look at the river and it defies logic by flowing in what seems like the wrong direction. Super cool.

They put signs like this out there to tempt simple minded idiots like me. Speaking of, October 17th is the birthday of America's Greatest Showman, Evel Knievel! Alright, bye now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's Just a Phase

I completed another phase of my renegade bench project today. I bolted two wood planks onto the original cast cement structures, using the original nuts and bolts no less. I had taken some measurements on a previous ride so that I would be carrying fewer tools during the installation. I used a 16" Crescent Wrench to tighten things up. I was sure that my dad had a socket set with a big enough socket, but to my amazement he did not. The nuts are fairly well recessed into the sleepers.

I had spotted a nice old timber in Slater during the final Fat Bike Series ride, so my final task today was to retrieve it from the pile of discarded railroad refuse that it was buried in and haul it, by bike/shoulder, back to the bench.  A distance of about a mile and a half. I couldn't wait to drop that thing off! Very heavy, and awkward to balance 70 pounds while riding. Here is a photo that brings the scale of the bench into perspective.

The next phase should involve cutting the timber down to make a pair of sleepers to go across the cement castings, then drilling them out and attaching them with lag bolts. Once that's done all I need to do is cut some decking boards and screw them in. I may just do this as a final push, in one trip. Sounds like a good excuse to load up the Burley and ride all the way down. There's actually some nice winding gravel between Boone and this spot. Below is a cement culvert that I have probably ridden over more than 30 times without knowing it was even there! Another case of the bleakness of winter revealing the otherwise overgrown and hidden. ( like the beaver pond that I found on the Heart of Iowa Trail last year) It is about 9 feet tall at the crown of the arch, and about 50 or 60 feet long. Hard for me to imagine the sheer willpower it must have taken back in 1912 just to form the footings, let alone mix and pour all of those cubic yards of cement!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Renegade Made In The Shade

I used a narrow time window today to get in a short ride on the High Trestle Trail. The only thing I really wanted to do was get some measurements for the bench that I'm going to "contribute" to the trail. I saw this old trio of dilapidated, forgotten rail road apparatus during one of the Fat Bike Series rides and the idea to build a bench on part of it was immediate. I'm curious about what was built on these castings originally, but I'm quite sure that it wasn't a free shade bench.

The bright skies gave way to rapidly approaching clouds, which dumped huge globs of slush on me during the drive back to Boone. The slushy snowflakes were the diameter of a quarter. Yesterday we had temps in the 70s with tornadic winds, today was sun then snow then sun again, and the weekend looks like measurable snow. Only in Iowa.