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

 

 

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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A Big Day

My knee appears to be all healed up from my unfortunately-timed fly fishing accident. The recovery time was very difficult because I don’t do well sitting around. The rest was definitely necessary to prevent lasting damage to my knee.

Now that that’s over I am ready to get back into the swing of things again. The Lake Trout are starting to stack up in Superior; the darkness is coming sooner and sooner with each day; and the Woods are preparing for the first snow. I on the other hand am preparing for the inevitable over-eating and sitting around that comes with family time around the holidays. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy dumplings and a good roast. It just means that I have to get back on the physical exercise train before the wheels develop a flat spot.

The only way that I know how to function is to whole-ass things so to speak. So, what better way to push myself back into shape than to have a Big Day. I know, I know, some of your have Big Days like this weekly. I’m not there yet. Maybe this will be the start of something big. Hopefully. With that said, here is my route for my first Big Day in a while:

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Roughly half of the trip will be on the beautiful dirt of CO RD 510. The other half is mostly pavement with a decent shoulder. I struggled this week thinking about bike choice but I think that the Stache is going to be the way to go. I would hate to miss out on some off-road stuff if it presents itself to me. This trip would go by much quicker on the CX bike but that’s not what this ride is about.

Along with jumpstarting my fitness I will also be taking time on this ride to be thankful for what I have and mindful of my goals and the path ahead. Fresh air and physical exertion have a unique way of forcing mental clarity. We should rebalance once in a while; take time to slow down and get somewhere under your own power. I can’t think of a better place to do this than on the remote roads of Marquette County. Things will be different on the other side of this ride.

I will snap some pics for Instagram and have a decent write-up on here soon after returning home. With any luck I may even have a profound thought or two.

-J