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

 

 

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

 

The missing piece. 

We love to be outside. In fact, most of our free time is spent beneath the trees and alongside rivers. That often means that I don’t update this blog frequently enough. Trust me, I have a dearth of content to add when the weather turns on us. I also have a really cool longterm  Hiawatha project that I am working on. That’s all beside the point, back to the story. While I couldn’t think of a better person to spend time in the woods with I couldn’t help but feel like we were missing some quintessential and possibly cliche aspect of being a twenty-something outdoorsy couple. When I told one friend he said that he and his wife had previously been discussing our need for this thing that would enrich our lives.

To that end pease help us welcome the missing piece: our adventure dog Copper, king of the north. 


Right now he is 11 weeks of pure energy and excitement but Chelsea has been working extremely hard to whip him into shape. I know every puppy parent says this but he is a fast learner and might even be a genius. Dare I say smarter than your average honor roll student. He is very personable and loves chasing the blowing leaves. 

The process of finding a four-legged friend was not as simple as just unilaterally picking one up. We discussed dog ownership extensively and have rearranged our schedules to make sure that time is being set aside to care for Copper. Luckily Chelsea runs The Big Lake out of our home so she gets to spend a lot of quality time with him during the day. We also made sure that we were both on the same page as far as expectations and breed were concerned. We are very active and enjoy a diverse array of outdoor activities. While several different breeds made it to the final elimination round the German Shorthaired Pointer was really only choice for what we do. Couple that with the fact that both of our families have had GSP and it was a no brainer.


He definitely has big dreams: Climbing hogsback, kicking up birds, prancing down single track, ski-joring, trout fishing, camping, and kayaking. Yes, he will be going everywhere with us and honestly he is probably going to take over our attention and social media feed for a while.

We have much to learn and we welcome your input along the way. For example, I just found out that a tired puppy can be jostled awake merely by the sounds of my grumbling stomach. Now he is staring intensely at it.


Today after work we will go on our first hike along the river. We probably won’t put down any serious distance but I can guarantee that it will be a learning experience for all of us.

The adventure continues, but now it feels a little more complete. 

-J

Road Full of Promise

Today’s walk brought us to a perfectly packed dirt road and some older Avett Brothers lyrics.

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“When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.”

-Avett Brothers

The colors aren’t peaking up here yet but it’s definitely coming soon.

-John

Waterworks

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Lake and Love.

-J

“What’re you going to do when you get home from work?”

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Enjoy this pretty image and prepare yourself for a little bit of a rant. 🙂

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?

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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.

-J

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Get outside!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Get out there. Enjoy the simple things with the people that you love.

-j

Meet John

 

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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.

-J