Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Ill-Conceived Winter Adventure

Well, my plans for a fun winter bike ride in the northwoods of Minnesota turned out to be somewhat of an ill-conceived winter adventure. So much for the "Trail Gods" smiling upon me.
Even Mr. Bill had great concerns about the plan. Ahhh yes, the plan. The plan was to spend a couple of hours riding the Sturgeon River trail system north of Chisholm, Minnesota. This system of trails has been in existence since I lived up north twenty-five years ago. With this in mind, you would think that I would have been well prepared, albeit for my lack of experience with snow biking.
My first problem was lack of a map. Right here I broke my number one rule...never enter the woods on your own without a reliable map and a compass. Fortunately my route finding proved to be spot on with the aid of my compass. Well, almost spot on. There was a wrong turn at one point that led to more than a couple of miles of unwanted hills and generally poor trail conditions. There are also enough forest roads in the area that make it difficult to truly get lost. Eventually you come across one. I was happy however to be carrying all the gear I would have needed in case there was an emergency. You see I'm not a complete idiot. I wasn't sold on GPS until now and I am still doubtful about winter conditions. I like to avoid things that need batteries especially when it is cold outside, but I may be looking into one.
My second issue and oversight was the gear ratio on my bike. I'm currently running a 32/16 which for here in the cities is just fine. Throw in hilly terrain, ski/hiking trails that are not bike friendly, and a couple of inches of fresh snow and this gear ratio proved to be rather inadequate and not very pleasant for my not so "Superman" like legs. I'm not saying they are weak mind you, but these were not ideal circumstances. I believe that before my next trip north I'll switch the gearing to a 32/18 or the 32/20 which I run on my 29er.
My couple hour ride turned out to be an "epic" five hour marathon in which I pushed, walked, and carried my bike nearly as much as I rode it.

Issue number three was the problem of my hydration bladder hose freezing up on me. Every time I thought to take a drink the bite valve and hose were clogged with a slushy hydration mix. At one point in time, I was riding with one hand on the handlebar, and the other was fidgeting with the bite valve and hose. Of course I hit a rock that was concealed by the snow and I went down with a rather hard thud. My left shoulder and neck are rather sore, but non-the worse for wear.
By the time I reached the last shelter I was pretty tired, disillusioned, sore, hungry, and thirsty. The trail was not as clear as I thought, many dead falls littered the way along with a couple of swamps that needed to be traversed. Fun, fun, fun!!!
I know that people with more winter riding experience are thinking...what a dumb ass! Oh well. what better way to learn. I love hands-on experiences.
I made it back to the car in one piece, with a good learning experience behind me and a huge appetite.

After arriving home and showering. My brother, sister, and myself took our parents out for a nice Italian dinner at Valentini's Supper Club in Chisholm. My mother kept watching eat and I really did try to control myself, but I was starving.

Afterwards I ventured out the local watering hole for some beer and cheer with old classmates and friends. Most of whom view my activities as rather odd. All in all it was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I have so much to be thankful for. However, it is good to be home resting.


Kenny said...

Do I have to say it?? Did you do this just for me?? I mean, come on, you go chasing in the woods on fresh snow on a trail you haven't been on since you had hair?? You make it too easy for me to say...


The Old Bag said...

Oh, the appetite. My dad once wondered if I was "doin' that eatin' and throwin' up thing" because I was eating like a horse, but thin as a rail. I tried explaining the high mileage and what it does to a body and an appetite, but he was skeptical!

Ali B. said...

Hey, great recap of your wintery adventure. It almost inspires me to get out in the snow on the bike......almost. I'm also reluctant to go for the gps, but always have those thoughts of how convenient one would be when I feel a little turned around & am about to start my panic mode.

p.s. Love the green marmot!

Madonna said...

After all of Jill's entries and her book...haven't you learned anything? Spite Kenny's remarks--sounds like you had a great time!

Vito said...

Bite your tongue Madonna. At least I'm out there doing it, or trying anyway.

Madonna said...

no need to get worked up. I'm just giving you a hard time. If I was out there (and I should be) I would still be lost.