Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bushwack skiing

Week between Christmas and New Years. River skiing and snowshoeing up at the hunting shack with oldest Son and mutt.

Making some wood for a friend. Wood splits nice at -2 degrees.

BALLS I Spring Ride 2008

It started out innocently enough the winter of 2008, as most things like this do. A couple guys sitting around in the dead of winter discussing the up-coming mountain bike season…ok, we may have had a beer or two during the day dreaming as well, and some that know us feel that may have had a contributing effect. In any case, Scott Baryenbruch, at the time of this story and current President of the Madison based CORP (Capital Off-Road Pathfinders) mountain bike club casually mentioned that he’d been told by Dave Vogt with the Bike Fed that the Cheese Country trail is "unridable" due to ATV abuse. I turned to Bear, as we call Scott, with the response to that assessment of the trail conditions "Let's do it".
With that inspiration or maybe it was encouragement? a plan was hatched and Bear started coming up with options. Bear figured the route and all logistics, all the rest of us had to do was show up. This is the story of CORP’s first Annual BALLS mtn. bike spring ride.
BALLS for short.....Big Ass Long Loop Shindig if it’s spelled out. The fertile? minds of Bear and myself started banging together to hash out a diabolical plan. Bear got into Goggle Maps and got the route figured out.
90-95%+ of the route would be on a combination of Military Ridge, Cheese Country, Sugar River, and Badger State Trails. The other 5 -10% would be on back roads.
Yes, it would be brutal. That was partially intentional. First thing Bear’s wife said was, "would you be in good enough shape for that"? First thing my wife did was just shake her head…was she thinking another mid-life crisis activity I dreamt up?
We picked early spring because the normal mountain bike trails wouldn’t be open yet and it would be a good goal to get in shape for upcoming season. Bear and I shared training experiences throughout the winter and early spring as he got on the bike trainer and hit the road to log as many miles as he could. Another participant and a friend of Bear, Brian Krey was mirroring Bear’s activities. As I ski the Birkie and run a late season snowshoe race I figured I’d be in fairly good shape for the spring show down. Late spring crust skiing had a new intensity to it and I hit as many rails to trails as I could in my travels throughout the Midwest, where my job took me.
We had one other local join us, Jin Lee, who I found out during the course of the ride, had taken a cross-country bike ride from Key West to Anchorage a few years ago. Half way thru BALLS he informed us that he would never attempted what we were about to do on that trip and would have ended the trip had he ran into what we did, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We'd leave Bear’s place in Barneveld early in the AM on April 26th, 2008....say 6am or 7am to give us a LONG time to complete the ride.
If you didn't click on the links it's about 100 and 63 miles respectively for each day.
Our overnight stop would be at the Earthrider Cycling boutique ( in Brodhead. We'll go out for dinner and beverage or two before crashing for the night then tackle the ride back to MadTown in the morning.
Bear tried to entice more local participation from the local club with the following:
"My wife won't let me go", is not a valid excuse. Couples activity this was going to be. Earthrider has five rooms and if we reserved all of them the hotel would be ours for the night. Yep, bargain price and great setup for a long day of riding and good place to rest with your sweetheart. We'll hook the girls up as a sag wagon and let them hit the bars/shops/lunch spots along our route."
It didn’t really catch on. The rest of the club snickered at us and chuckled beneath their concealed grimaces…”100 miles on mtn. bikes, you guys are nuts”
With that, the 4 of us took off. We had a 5th but due to scheduling issues, he was going to join us at Brodhead and join us for dinner and the 2nd days ride back to Madison.
Were we Crazy? We’d soon find out.

I’m disappointed to report we wimped out and only did 90 miles on Saturday toward our goal of 100 miles off road. We had one 29er SS, one 29er geared, one 26 geared and one road touring bike.
A 25 mph sustained headwinds with 35 to 40 mph gusts for the first 15 miles just shouldn’t have given us that much trouble, should it have? Maybe it was the 36 degree starting temps?

We heard rumors about the trail being a little wet. Those stories were verified as accurate.
We didn’t notice any ATV damage on the Cheese Country trail…..there was however a large chunk that had mysteriously disappeared as it was underwater!?!

I’m sure the 30″ of water we had to pedal through at one point couldn’t have helped cause us to lose that last 10 miles, could it?

There is a paved road from where we are standing to the sign in the background.

At Darlington the local authorities were getting ready to close a bridge as the water was threatening to crest over it.
At this juncture we decided to leave the rails to trails and continue on the back roads to Brodhead.

Bear ended up blowing a sidewall just out of Darlington. I pedaled back to town to try to find a spare, but no luck, Bear had to drop out.

That left 3... Jin Lee, Brian and yours truly.

What we gained from being on pavement we lost on the many, many roller coaster hills. I compared it to doing the Birkie ski trails on a bike. Only thing, as anyone who had ridden in southwest Wisconsin, the un-glaciated area, the hills are quite long and steep. If we’d have been able to stay on the old RR grades we’d have had a much easier time of if. It was nice to turn east and have a nice tail wind for a change, though.
90 miles, 7 hrs. in the canoe? 9 hrs. total for Saturday.
A couple of the guys said they would never have done it without being in a group....I have my own personal doubts, as well. The wind was brutal....even as a cross wind.

It was so windy that at one point I was riding with the wind at my back going down a hill on my GF 29er x-cal and my speedometer showed 32mph. I turned my head to spit and it landed in front of me.

End of the line, for the day! The 3 that finished. Bear was in the hot tub even before we got into town.

Sunday morning we awoke to a partly cloudy sky and only a slight breeze compared to the gales of Saturday. Our group increased to five as Bear found a tire and Richard had joined us the night before for steaks and brew.
At the tunnel of love/hate on the Sugar River Trail heading for home.

Bear, Brian and I peeled off once we got into Fitchbury and hit QR just to say we did it....My legs were so shot I couldn't make the climb by the asphalt pile along the fence.

So, what's your excuse??