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

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

Motobecane Sturgis Bullet Review

The weather has started to turn in the northern regions and no doubt you are starting to think about putting your bikes away for the winter. You may be considering giving fat biking a shot because they seem to not be a fad and let’s face it; months of hanging out in the gym just isn’t the same as outdoor exercise. I needed to keep my spinning outside in order to maintain for next season.

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I love spinning but it just doesn’t cut it.

I was at that same place last year. While I love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, neither of them provides me with the same pleasure as biking.

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After seeing fat bikes on the trails and all over the internet I thought that I might like to give them a try. I researched them online, went to local bike shops to drool, and finally came to two conclusions: first, I had to have one; second, I could not afford a brand new name brand bike. I searched the fat bike classifieds on Facebook and my state mountain biking forum (check this place out if you are in Michigan or the surrounding states, it is very well organized) but could not find anything suitable or more importantly in my price range.

After much thought and time I succumbed to the allure of Bikesdirect.com (BD). I have been led to believe that these are garbage bikes with all knockoff parts and factory seconds that will crumble underneath you leaving you alone in the woods. This was probably perpetuated by my much older biking friends who had seen many local bike shops close up with the rise of the internet bikestore.

Against their better judgment and with the mindset that it was better to be out riding than sitting around waiting for something to fall into my lap I took the plunge. I looked at the specs on their site and cross referenced it with many posts from the MTBR Sturgis Forum and finally came to the conclusion that the Motobecane Sturgis Bullet w/Bluto could not be beat.

While most of the offerings from BD use more economical technology like QR axles, square-taper bottom brackets, and loose-bearing hubs, this was not the case with the Sturgis Bullet. The Bullet is not the entry-level Sturgis (but even that bike comes with a much better component setup than most). An updated component list can be found here. (PS looks like if you pick up a 2016 model year you can save $200!)

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Shipping was much quicker than BD approximated which was welcome news to me. I rushed home on my lunch to unbox my new toy. Assembly was very quick: bolt the front wheel on; adjust the stem and bars; and check and lubricate the moving parts. It took me about 45 minutes but if I wasn’t so interested in inspecting each part it would have been more like 10.

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I started off with a simple shakedown cruise on the beach along Lake Superior. I braced myself but was quite impressed at how the fat tires floated over the loose sand.

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Since that initial ride I have taken my Sturgis across many different types of terrain on many rides. The only changes that I have made have been to the fit, I am constantly adjusting all of my bikes in this department. Other than that I have found the stock components to perform very nicely. The thru axles provide stiff, reliable handling even on the flowy trails in Marquette. The Bluto fork is really all that it’s hyped up to be. As if the big tires aren’t plush enough a little bit of suspension goes a long way when climbing and descending chunky rock sections. SRAM x7 provides a hardworking, no-frills drivetrain option. This year’s version comes with NovaTec hubs however it comes with lighter MuleFut hoops.

I was initially worried about two things when purchasing the Bullet: the tires and the brakes. The tires are Vee Rubber Snowshoes. They are allegedly 4.8″ but I measure 4.5″. They are not aggressive by any stretch of the definition. While on the road in between sections of trail they definitely have some rolling bias which makes me feel uneasy. Not that they are going to pop out from under me but at high speeds they tend to wander a bit. On dirt single track the tires perform fine; stable and predictable with low rolling resistance. On the snow however, they are quite bad. The tread pattern is not wide nor aggressive enough to give any bite. On truly hard-packed snow they will start to spin when climbing, especially if you get out of the saddle. On bermed and unbermed corners they slip from time to time. The real shortcoming is that their pattern lacks the ability to really tear through and give you dependable purchase in the snow. This winter season I will be switching to something with bigger knobs.

Tektro Draco brakes were definitely one of the areas where BD economized to get this build under budget. Brakes are normally something that I upgrade because honestly your life depends on them. I have had multiple sets in my cart and different times for the Bullet but after a full year of use I will not be changing the Draco out any time soon. After the initial wear in they have proved themselves to me. They lack the subtle modulation of more expensive brakes but give quite a bit of confidence in all conditions. I was more than a little nervous that they would fail me in some of the -15F conditions but they continued to work through the ice, wind and salty road crossings.

It rocks every season and most conditions. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. This bike has been ridden pretty hard this year and continues to hold up. It corners surprisingly well and is extremely playful for such a fat pig. Once I upgrade the tires it will be ready for another Winter of ripping. This is definitely a gateway bike. It showed me that fat bikes are totally capable and fun to ride year round. I am considering a full suspension fatty next. The Farley EX is currently on top of the list, any Trek riders out there?

We are also looking at the new Motobecane Sturgis NX. Chelsea has ridden mine and finds that the Bluto adds too much height for her to comfortably ride. This year’s version contains many upgraded parts and we cannot wait to check it out. Once we pick that up we will compare and contrast.

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Border Grill delivery machine!

TL;DR: Great high-performing, economical way to get into the fat bike market.

Please feel free to ask questions or add your own comments or recommendations below. Fellow Sturgis riders, what changes have you made to your ride?

-John

“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!