Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Animal Entertainment

While camping at Forestville State Park a couple of weekends ago we were treated to some animal everyday life.  It started out Saturday night when returning to camp after having completed the Almanzo bike race.  I was unloading some stuff from the car when I hear Kerry blurt out "Hey, we got a little critter in camp."  It was a bit dark so I turned on my headlamp.  By what she said, and how she said it, I was expecting to catch a glimpse of a little mouse or a chipmunk scurrying away.  Instead, when I looked over towards the tent, I saw a decent sized raccoon casually making it's way toward the picnic table.  I quickly ran towards it and shooed it away.  It was then that I noticed that it had already been at our site earlier and tore into a bag of trail mix and mixed nuts that we hadn't properly stowed (my bad).  As we went to sleep that night we quickly found out that the raccoon must have had a den nearby.  Frequently, throughout the night, we were awoken by chattering, chirping and general carrying on of a raccoon family in the brush.

The next morning, as we were making breakfast we got to witness a family move, raccoon style.  It ends up the family was holed up in a brush pile about 50 ft north of our tent site and mom was intent on moving them to a hole in a tree that was about 50ft SW of our camp.  Five times, the mom made the trip around the perimeter of our camp, carrying her restless little ones to their new home.

I love how she's got the little guy slung over her shoulder as she climbs.

Hold on, I'm going to throw you over into that hole. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


No pictures today, just the Almanzo experience.  I decided to give the camera a day off from bike rides after it took a short dirt nap with me, in the middle of the road,  last week.  

Almanzo weekend started with a short work day on Friday.  Scott was coming over around 3:30 to throw camping gear and bikes in my truck for the ride down to Spring Valley.  By the time I left work at 1:30 on Friday I had already made 2 trips to the bathroom and had to go again by the time I got home.  Hydrating was going well.  Knowing the forecast for Saturday (hi in low 90's, sunshine and strong winds), staying well hydrated would be a serious concern.  Dealing with cramping, heat exhaustion and delirium at any point in a 100 mile race is no fun.  As it ended up, we would witness many a cyclists having "no fun" in the ditches along the road.

We rolled into Spring Valley a little after 6 on Friday.  Perfect timing to get registered early and take part in the spaghetti feast at the VFW.  I loaded up on pasta and the wonderful assortment of bars that contributors from town had made.  After visiting with a few folks during supper, we made our way out to go set up camp.  On the way to the vehicle we ran into Chris Skogen, the man behind the event, and thanked him for what was already turning out to be another great installment of the Almanzo race.  The amount of work and effort that Chris and the other volunteers put into this event, to make it the top notch show that it is, is staggering.  Oh, and did I mention this event is FREE.  Thank you!  After setting up camp, building a small fire and drinking a lot more water, we called it an early night and hit the hay.  

Race morning, we got up around 7 and cooked up some banana pancakes topped with PB to take us through the first couple hours of the race.  After loading each of our bikes with 3 full bottles of water and decent clutch of food we headed into Spring Valley for the race start.  We lined up somewhere in the middle of the pack of roughly 600 riders.  Scott and I would start the race cruising out with people but then purposely worked our pace down to a very sustainable level.  The next 35 miles can be summed up like this:
-We're cruising, this tail wind is nice, for now.
-Oooh, fun downhill, we're gonna pay for it though
-So this is what it feels like to bike on a pile of marbles
-This crosswind sucks
-This headwind is really going to suck heading out of Preston. 

We hit Preston at mile 39 and proceeded into town where we ate some deli pasta salad and each bought a gallon of water to refill all our bottles.  Also liberaly, re-applied sunscreen.  Continuing out of Preston we were immediately hit with a battering ram, I mean, headwind.  this continued for the next 10 miles a we headed south to within 5 miles of the Iowa border.  The next 13 miles we enjoyed a bit of a tailwind, as we meandered our way north and into Forestville state park.  As we came into the old Forestville townsite, the area was filled with riders and bikes laying haphazardly in any patch of shade available.  From this point forward we came by plenty of riders, umm. . "relaxing" in this same fashion in the ditches and groves along the route.  We crossed the bridge into the campground portion of the park where we were very pleasantly greeted by our awesome wives as we made our way to our site to re-supply.  We knew there was a chance we'd see them somewhere along the way, but running into them in camp was truly a blessing as this lifted our spirits significantly.

We visited for a while and refilled all our food and water supplies for the last 35 miles.  We also downed a Starbucks VIA packet with some cold water.  A medicine of sorts at this point.  Jitzed up from seeing our wives and the coffee shot, we set out to tackle the hills immediately out of the park.  It didn't take long before the hills worked off the high and the only thing keeping us going was the thought that miles 75 through 90 were, for the most part, northbound, with the wind.  On one of the hills around mile 70 we came upon a girl who asked us to help her with a shifting problem.  Turns out the tension on her bar-end shifter had backed off and she was reduced to only her small ring in the front.  It was a quick fix, and soon after we were on our way. 

 Before turning northbound we also went through the small town of Cherry Grove.  Here we ran into some friendly, young kids hanging out on the lawn with a little water stand.  Two of the girls ran out into the road with a jug of water as we approached.  
"We've got cold water, do you want some?"  10 hours of pedaling in 90 degree heat.  Damn straight, I want some cold water.   
"That sounds wonderful.  Here, can you fill this bottle?" I said.  
They filled our empty bottles as I slammed the remaining contents of one of my others.  Just as we said thanks and were about to leave, the younger girl blurts out "You can pay if you want".  I nearly laughed out loud at the innocence yet boldness of the statement.  Knowing I had 93 cents jingling around in my jersey pocket since Preston I happily said "For sure." and emptied my pocket into her appreciative hands.  

Working our way northward, we stopped to stretch, eat and drink alongside the road.  I saw a DNR SNA sign and headed over to read it.  Turns out we were in the area of the natural opening of another large cave in the area.  Goliath's cave.  An interesting story and a little controversy surrounding the cave can be found on the innernetz.

Continuing toward the finish, I left our wives a message estimating our arrival time, which was now looking to be sometime after 8 PM.  It has been a long day but both Scott and I knew we'd finish this thing.  We saw lots of other bikes being picked up by vehicles along the way.  We knew we had that option as well but we came to ride this thing and that's what we were gonna do.  Just before one of the last crushing climbs (Oriole) we met up with fellow rider Larry.  Seeing Larry brought a smile to my face and it was nice knowing that we could all suffer through the last few miles and cross the line together.  Shortly after the last climb we caught up with a couple of other riders.  At this point I knew the finish was near and I was feeling pretty good so I told everyone to tuck-in and I'd pull us through the wind the last few miles.  With lights on, and as our wives and other onlookers cheered, we crossed the line to shake Chris's hand somewhere around 8:40 or so.   Almanzo 2012 was in the books.  I hope that A&W is still open!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ride pix

Saturday a few of us hit the gravel for a 50 mile loop.  It was absolutely beautiful out, and a perfect morning for a ride.  Roads were firm and damp, unlike now where they are sandy, loose and full of dust.  A little rain before Almanzo would be nice.  

Don's Game Face

Dad joined us for a portion of the ride and rode down into Marine.   This picture was taken right after I completely dumped it on a gravel road while fiddling with my camera.  Nearly took him out in the process.  

Enjoying some snacks at the Bikery Du Nord

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

UP Backroads

This past weekend, Kerry and I made a trip up to her parents place in Ontonagon.  We hadn't been up there since Christmas, so it was nice to get up there for a bit.  Weather turned out to be fairly decent on Saturday afternoon so I headed out with the mountain bike for some back road exploring, north and east of their house.  The loop turned out to be 40 miles and up until mile 27, where I ran into a dozen people on ATV's,  I probably saw 5 people total.  Those 5 people were a guy chopping wood in his front yard, a guy with a backpack headed out to 14 mile point on foot, one truck with a 4-wheeler in the back and a guy and his son exploring the beach at 4 mile rock.  

The beach at 4 mile rock.   Fat bike territory.

Bear Creek Rd.

This guy was out enjoying the lonely roads also.

Not much traffic on this one.

If my sister can hop streams on her 4-wheeler like she can pop over logs, I'd like to see her cross this.  

Top quality lunch