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.

Spring Ramblin’

The snow has totally melted but the trails are not quite fully dried up yet. That means that I’ve gotta get my two-wheeled fix elsewhere. I have been spinning around on dirt roads, snowmobile trails and backroads, like I like to do this time of year. One of the great things about the UP is that you can leave the main road and tear off down a dirt road and be in the middle of nowhere fast. Sometimes I methodically plan my route via google earth. Other times I prefer to just go wherever the wind blows me. Lately, I have been leaving from my house and just ticking off miles close to home. Rambling and rolling through the unimproved roads of central Marquette County.

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Pounding these lesser-traveled roads in the spring is a great way to build base miles and fitness. It’s also a great place to be alone with your thoughts. You can do a lot of learning and growing on a bike in the backwoods. There are just some lessons that cannot be learned anywhere else.

I especially enjoy threading the needle through pockmarked sections like this. The rush is easily snuffed out when you make a miscalculation. I cannot wait for the road commission to come through and grade all of our dirt roads. Freshly graded dirt is better than any pavement.

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The Stache performs quite well in its new duties. While I will definitely still take it on trails once in a while it will not be seeing the same amount of trail action this season… full squish bike is on its way. My goal for the Stache is to make it a little more comfortable to ride over long distances and maybe even some bike backing. I am sooooo excited to start looking for bike bags and gear! I think that the first order of business is going to be some less aggressive rubberz. What a year we have ahead of us. I think that it will be a nice companion for the Safari that Chels will be piloting.

Backroads are like beautiful byways for bicycles. Unfortunately, the ditches are littered with garbage. Luckily for me, I live in Michigan and they are each worth a dime. In law school I would ride the gravel in Washtenaw County picking up cans in order to buy groceries. Now that I have a big boy job I have gone back to my roots and am picking up cans again. However, now I get use the can money for fun stuff. (Chelsea and I are planning something crazy cool and the can money is going to support that chapter… stay tuned) I am working on getting a “Can Counter” on the sidebar to keep track of the cans collected & deposits earned. These rides are like going to a gym that pays you to workout. I get to help nature and stash some cash at the same time.

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The Stache is in a period of transition right now so forgive the silly bent bars. The new upright position really suits this bike’s new purpose: exploration. (More on its replacement soon.)

The bent bars and slight riser stem have really transformed the Stache into a comfortable mile munching machine. (Alliteration is fun!). I am currently using the On-One Mary bars. The Jones Loop bar is definitely in the future once I figure out whether or not I like bike backing.

I cannot wait for the full-sus to show up but until then I will be building up and putting miles on the Stache.

Keep on ramblin’.

-J

 

 

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

Not-A-Wedding Planning

 

In our small circle we are known for doing things differently. We don’t really go on tropical vacations, preferring to stay north of the 45th parallel; we don’t hang out with large groups of friends; we spend almost every waking minute together and never get sick of it; we love being alone together, and we have stayed together for a very long time without rushing into marriage. (12+ years).

We survived grad school and law school:

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So this Fall, I took Chelsea to our favorite beach north of Marquette. The morning looked like any other Saturday: we browsed Downwind Sports (lucked out on the yearly sale!), got some coffee, and headed out for an adventure. We snapped pics, and talked about the beauty of Mother Superior’s rocky shore. Then I asked her, and she said “of course.”

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It wasn’t totally like the video below but…

Like I said, we do things differently than most. Now that we are getting married we have decided to do that a little different too:

It’s going to start with a very small ceremony with close friends and family on the southern shore of Lake Superior. No tents, no chairs, no elaborate arbor, no crepe paper, no flower girls, no “bridal party” uniforms. Just us, our closest and favorite people, our pup, and the natural beauty of Lake Superior’s rocky coast. After the ceremony the guests will be encouraged to take a hike, ride the trails or hit up a stream before the celebration. So BRING YOUR TOYS AND HAVE SOME FUN!!

The celebration is at our favorite brewery: Ore Dock Brewing Company (the “Ore Dock”). The Ore Dock provides a laid-back venue for what is sure to be a very chill afternoon party. We have decided to keep things small and low-key because we are not “big party” kind of people. In place of a big heavy meal, liquor-infused toasts, and rehearsed rituals, we’re opting for unique farm-to-table fare and the Ore Dock’s finest Lake Superior brews. No bouquet or garter toss (though I tried to persuade Chelsea to do a garter snake toss), no bridal party “high court,” and certainly no maca-cha-cha-train-slide. By eliminating all of the things you’re “supposed to do,” we’re going to be able to do all of the things we want to do: eat good food, drink good beer, spend time with our favorite people, and be true to ourselves.

We are very happy to be doing something a little different with our wedding. The Wedding Industrial Complex has created an unnecessary demand for use-once-and-destroy trinkets and paraphernalia. It has also created a ridiculous set of expectations surrounding the wedding itself. In my opinion it is spurring on a generation of picky princesses and bridezillas. Chelsea picked up a few bride magazines and was absolutely appalled when she saw tips on how to essentially force your partner into marriage (“persuade” and “hint” and “tell his friends what ring to get and when to ask”) and different things to expect others to pay for for you. I was never afraid that this would happen with our wedding but it was nice to hear that our wishes align and that we’d focus more on the adventures to be had than the color of the napkins.

I personally have an issue with huge weddings that seem to over-glorify the actual wedding event and not the relationship. I have always felt that many wedding ceremonies and the elaborate parties that traditionally follow them are an attempt to prove to others how important the marriage is and unfortunately don’t adequately reflect the existing relationship. We would much rather spend the time, effort, and money on a rad honeymoon and a corresponding “Year of Us.” (More on the honeymoon and the Year of Us in a later post (think many micro adventures)).

That being said, we are really looking forward to seeing how our friends and family spend their time in Marquette.

Our hope is that the entire experience feels organic; we are not going to be doing anything different from a normal John and Chelsea weekend. Guests should bring their outdoor toys and be ready to play.

Because we are Millennials we will be heavily documenting the entire process. Please stay tuned to see our story unfold.

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-J&C

 

Michigan Ice Fest 2017

Every Winter things start happening in Munising, Michigan. You’ve got the normal Winter activities: ice fishing, snowmobiling, xc-ski, fat biking, and snowshoeing. But for many years Winter has also brought another activity to Munising, ice climbing. Ice climbing is climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water. It involves lots of wicked gear, physical strength, determination, dynamic moves, good people, and takes place in some bitter environs. I dabble in many outdoor sports and for some reason ice climbing was not on that list. So, for 2017 I decided to give it a shot.

Mission: Learn how to find and climb rad ice just down the road in Munising.

Solution: Take the Intro to Ice class at the Michigan Ice Fest.

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For some reason, I did absolutely no training for this event. Nor did I geek out over the gear before trying it. The reason for this uncharacteristic approach is due to the limited timeframe for ice climbing and relatively high cost to get rigged up. I didn’t want to go all in only to find out that I hated being out there all day. I figured that in order to make sure I gave it a fair chance I should have some guidance and have the right gear. So, in November I took the plunge and signed up for the intro class which would provide a guided trip and demo gear from the top brands.

The week before Ice Fest I was pretty worried about the forecasted weather: hovering temps in the 30’s and 40’s. Not exactly stellar for ice formation. Luckily for my class Mother Nature had a change of heart, turned on the snow machines and fired up the ice maker. To say that we picked the perfect day for our class is a complete understatement.

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M-28 didn’t let me down on the trip over to Munising. Blowing snow is an understatement.

We picked up our demo gear at the elementary school in Munising, piled into rented cargo vans, and headed out to the Curtains. Our group was assigned two experienced ice climbers named Joe and Alec. Their advice was succinct and pointed: this is dangerous but it also super fun! Be safe and have fun. We went over basic knots, crampon usage, tooling, and body placement. After the introductory info was out of the way we got to learning. Place the tools; set a steady base; keep weight on your legs; and look for the concavities for natural tool placement.

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The Curtains are formed by groundwater seeping through the porous sandstone. In this area it forms wide sheets of ice instead of the pillars found in other places. It really provided a nice place to learn. For the most part the ice was very solid on the first two routes. It helped to build confidence and simple skill. Most of the ice was dry, but because the sandstone doesn’t stop weeping there were a few routes that had some pre-ice (running water) going on. Water running down the ice tools added some added difficulty. This is totally necessary though and allows the ice to be “reset” after a day’s worth of the climbing. Nature is pretty damn cool.

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As the group progressed we moved to some longer climbs requiring more precise tool placement and appropriate rest periods.

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Me on my favorite route of the day. This one had a really cool bubble to go over before topping out. I will certainly be back.

I have climbed on gym walls before and even had a woody in our apartment in Ann Arbor but none of that compares to being out on exposed rock and ice with a fierce North wind blowing in fresh snow. It was everything that I hoped it would be. This is exactly what I expected life in the Upper Peninsula would be like when we decided to move up here.

The festival runs through Sunday and plays host to many professional athletes leading climbs and giving talks. I highly suggest you drop whatever you have planned and make the trip to Munising, even if you come just to watch. I have to work the rest of the week but we will be going back on Saturday to meet Brendan Leonard and hopefully get my copy of The New American Road Trip Mixtape signed. I really want Chelsea to read that book before our honeymoon.

Time to start rounding up some new gear for next year. Let me know if you want to go ice climbing in the Munising area, I will definitely be down.

Get out there and enjoy this life.

-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

Gratefulness

I was recently listening to an older episode of TED Radio Hour. The theme was happiness: what it means; how to achieve it; and the science behind it. All of the speakers made insightful points. However, Monk, David Steindl-Rast made the biggest impression on me. He posited that we cannot and should not strive to be happy, rather we should strive to be grateful for for each and every moment and opportunity. (Hear David’s talk here: David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take To Be Grateful? Thank you NPR).

That sentiment really resonated with me.

Be grateful for everything and every moment. Your gratefulness will birth happiness.

-J

My Personal Heaven

I took a birthday trip up to Copper Harbor, seemingly the end of the Earth. People asked why I would go there to celebrate my birthday. Well..
To sleep under the stars and hear the world.
To listen to the water and watch the clouds march across the sky.

 

To sit and think without distractions.

 

To spend time with my best friend looking for adventure.

In other words: to be myself.

-J

Mission Accomplished

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

-j

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