2nd annual BALLS (Big Ass Long Loop Shindig) mtn bike ride. A 102 mile ride on 95% rails to trails and ATV trail. Everything from nice hard pack granite to loose sand and mud.
A good way to start the year.
1st BALLS is documented earlier in this blog....it was an amazing story and we hoped to not repeat the same conditions.
A core group of 10 riders. 5 kinda moved on toward the end, leaving 5 of us that kinda hung together. This is our story.
A Look at BALLS from the Rear (not that anyone really wants to, yuch!)
We consisted of the following:
Garett, a friend of Richard that started mtn. biking 2 years ago.
Tim, a friend of mine that started moderate rode biking a year ago and BALLS was his first time on a real mtn. bike (if ya wanna call my 29er GF x-cal a real mtn. bike, which I do!)
Jin-sore knees, but good experienced rider. (biked from FL to AK a couple years ago, stated during last years BALLS run it was the hardest single day of biking he ever did)
Richard- coulda easily been in the "fast group" but stayed back, thankfully
Me- more on that later
The whole BALLS group all hung together pretty good till we got to Mineral Point and things got backed up buying trail passes and from using the only bathroom there. Jin bought some refreshment for the guys and Tim was thinking of his first beer he'd down at Brodhead once we got done.
Mike, Nate's friend dropped out here as I guess he got sick.
We kinda regrouped at Darlington, our first food stop, and from there to Gratiot we yo-yoed back and forth as a group. Stops were made for various and assorted reasons. (see pic)
It was tough to really stop and wait too long for others due to being soaking wet most of the time and as the temps were dropping fast, it made the most sense to keep riding if you found a pace you were comfortable with otherwise ya just started to freeze up.
At Darlington, an ATVer noticed Brian shivering and he stated that that's the first sign of hypothermia, but Rich replied back he was sure there were 2-3 others we weren't even aware of!
When we started at Bear's it was 68 and by the time we finished it was around 45, I believe. Didn't count how many downpours we got caught in. Just a mile or so out of Mineral Point I waited back for Garett, Jin and Rich to make sure they found the trail from town and lightning and thunder made their first, and luckily their only, presence known.
About 2 miles from Brownstown, I lost a screw to my left cleat and couldn't lock in. We figured we'd limp in to Monroe to a bike shop, but then about a mile later, the whole cleat went missing and I couldn't keep my left foot on the pedal anymore. Everything being covered in sand a totally wet didn't help. I let the guys take off and I went back a 1/4 of a mile or so moving slow to try to find the cleat. No luck, so I decided to turn back and just do without it and hopefully find one at a bike shop in Monroe. Just on pure chance I decided to look in the pedal and there it was, with one screw still caught between the cleat and the pedal. Note to self, next time, look in the pedal first before turning back to search for it!
4 of the not so fast guys had waited at the picnic table for me and we then started to perform surgery on the cleat/shoe. For some odd reason, we couldn't find any allen wrenches that would fit. Luckily, Rich had a screwdriver that fit in well enough to get purchase and we got the cleat setup with one screw. We had to use our water bottle water to wash the zippers of our seat bags to just get into them from so much sand and mud buildup.
I still babied the last 6 miles into Monroe, with Rich taking off the last 2 miles to find a bike shop to get another screw so we wouldn't have to wait any longer than necessary once we got to town.
Jin, Tim and Garett were further back, but Tim came up and we met Butch, as he came back from the fast group to guide us into town and things got a little confusing from there. Butch and I were waiting for Jin and Garett, I sent Tim on to try to find the fast guys to catch some lunch and warm up.
Rich came back from the ACE Hardware with 2 screws and once we got Jin and Garett, we headed in to town for food and warmth.
We met the fast guys coming out as they were finished up, but no Tim. Tim never found them and had kept on going down the trail, but we weren't 100% sure of that. The fast guys took off to find Tim and the rest of us headed to warm food and coffee and to put my cleat on properly.
Well, since the unbalanced pedaling started, my right knee was beginning to bother some. Not too bad, but still noticeable.
I took off from McDonalds in front of Jin, Garett and Rich to try to hookup with Tim, somewhere.
27 miles to go to get to Brodhead.
I saw 6 distinct bike tracks on the much improved trail from the ATV trail we left. Figured Tim was up ahead somewhere and not roaming aimlessly back in Monroe, still looking for us or eating someplace other than the McDonalds we were at.
I never did catch Tim, but got into Brodhead within minutes of him. He said the last 27 miles were some of the best. We got back on a good trail and he got to set his own pace and not feel he had to keep up nor hold anyone back. He stopped to rest when he wanted and enjoyed the last stretch a lot. Mentally, he knew he'd made it and that helped him to just enjoy the rest of ride, as well he should have.
My right knee started to get real sore soon after leaving Monroe. The more I pedaled the worse it got. I started to pedal with only my left leg with the right sticking straight out. After that got old an idea came to me about the folks that use those tight bands around their joints and reached down with my right hand and squeezed applying tight pressure on the outside of the knee where I could feel the ligaments.
Presto! the pain decreased considerably, so for the last 10 miles I rode in one handed.
Luckily, the trail was nice, crushed limestone and flat.
After talking to some folks, it appears I had a IT Band injury. Normally this is caused by running on an uneven surface, like a crowned road. Bikers have been known to get it from too long a distance from seat to pedal and over extending the knee, but in my case, it was most probably caused from the uneven pedal stroke due to the cleat issue. The cold weather sure didn't help as the IT Band wasn't able to really get nor stay warmed up. I wore biking shorts, no leggings.
As of right now, Monday AM I'm back to 90-95% of full knee use and no pain....but I may wait a few more days to try to bike.
BALLS 3 awaits us all again next year!
Some pix provided by fellow rider, Richard Schick, thanks!
Started up in Rhinelander, WI where winter is lingering. Looked over the singletrack, but as you can see, ice on the trail and still wet.
Cruising a 20 mile loop, with just me and my shadow Some nice singletrack further south in Wisconsin Rapids.
Had to cruise into MadTown to see what the Tea Party fuss was all about.
A little washed out as Friday was a bright, sunny day. Met up with Bear for some rails to trails miles getting ready for BALLS coming up in a week. Had a couple brews after the ride in Blue Mounds. Salsa looks nice on the STeed.
Rode some 2-3 hrs of single track Friday near Madison with the GF HiFi (no pics) and ended the week doing some trail work at Blue Mounds and picking up a kayak for a friend.
In 2002 Chris, our oldest son, had just come back to MN from living in RI. He was a couple of years out of college. He brought a Honda 1100 Blackbird cycle back with him, at one time the fastest production bike made, from what I understand.
I still had my 1982 920cc Virago, an air-cooled twin. Kinda like Mutt and Jeff going down the hi-way with those two bikes or Speedracer and Easyrider, maybe?
We had a mini-family reunion at Lake Tahoe planned for the summer, so we decided to ride the bikes there. Chris left St. Paul, MN and I left La Crosse, WI and we met in Albert Lee, MN. We rode to Greeley, CO our first day. 915 miles for me and 900 for Chris and stayed at a nephews place.
The next day we decided to ride through Estes Park then south toward Fair Play. Somewhere around there we found a place to camp for the night, after picking up a bottle of something to go with the ice and mix in the Virago saddle bags. I think it rained some, but luckily by the time we found a campsite, it had stopped.
The next day we headed off in the general direction of Poncha Springs and eventually to Grand Junction. It was great riding, up, down and around the Rockies. Chris had been giving me a little crap about the condition of my tires and my bike in general. I kinda blew it off. Somewhere short of Grand Junction, at one of our stops, either Chris or myself noticed my rear tire had some cord showing through. ooops! We gently rolled into town and proceeded to try to find a bike shop that had a tire for me. I think we went to a couple before we found one that had a Harley name brand tire but the correct size for my bike. I told the guy to just put the logo on the inside and that would be fine.....
After the bike was put back together, the mechanic took the old gal out for a test ride and came back shaking his head, wondering how I could even ride it across the street, let along half way across the country. Seems he thought she was kinda wore out and needed a face lift along with some other surgery. Chris kinda mumbled "I told ya so" not wanting to be too much of a know it all, but obviously he was right. He'd been hinting maybe I could use an upgrade for quite awhile. As he had worked at a bike shop in RI, he had gotten pretty educated on bikes and was hinting that my ride was getting a little untrustworthy. Is it still paranoia when people are actually out to get you? I accused Chris of working the mechanic over to say all those hateful things about my baby.
Later, on the way back through Denver, we stopped at a Honda shop and we found a Honda ST1100 that he thought would be a good fit for me. It took me a few years, but I finally got one. I might be slow, but I'm still processing....
Getting it back to WI from CA was a trip, but maybe that's a story better left for another day.
We must have stayed not too far from Grand Junction, CO because we didn't have any problem getting our nightly supplies. Unknowingly, the next night proved a little more difficult.
We took off the next morning heading for Hi-way 50, labeled "The Lonliest Highway in America".
There is one stretch out of Green River on I70/US50 where it's 110 miles between gas fill ups. The Virago can only go between 100-120 miles on a tank but we figured we could always drain some out of Chris' bike, if needed, as his tank was a lot bigger than mine.
We left I70 and continued straight west on HW 50 and pulled into Hinckley, UT. It was late afternoon and we figured we'd do our normal, catch a quick bite, something other than subs, as we'd been eating them pretty regularly during the day, then get something to wash the dust out of our mouths from riding all day.
When we asked where we could pickup a jug of something, we learned that UT is a pretty dry state and everything was closed as it was after 5pm. We asked where the nearest alcohol was and we were directed to Baker, NV, 85 miles away, across desert with nothing in between. Did we want to chance a night crossing all for a bottle of rum? I don't even think we looked at each other and as Bob Seger says in Roll Me Away.
We just walked out and got on that bike
And we rolled
And we rolled clean out of sight
With that we gassed up and headed out. It was just getting dark and after we we out about 30 minutes I felt Chris wasn't going fast enough and passed him. We had decided that Chris would lead as his headlight was much better than mine...actually, mine was pretty much non-existent, they've came a long way in 25 years. That was one if not the major reason we decided to do all of the riding in day-light hours.
I didn't go a mile when an antelope came out of nowhere and I almost hit it. We got back into our formation and slowed down some. Figured Baker wasn't going anywhere as there was a casino there that was open all night so why push our luck. Once we got there we ate, got a bottle and went and found another quiet camp site out off the hi-way to solve most, if not all, of the worlds problems.
Well we made it into Tahoe for the reunion and hung out a few days there with family. It is/was a yearly thing with my brothers and sisters and our kids. We rented a sailboat we could all fit on, did some kayaking, sightseeing and even gave a few motorcycle rides around the rim for those that wanted to.
Then Chris and I headed back to WI and MN. Things were pretty much the reverse as when we came out. Swung south in CO again and picked up some more mountain/high plains riding down by Durango. Almost ran out of gas at one stretch and got caught in the rain climbing over a couple peaks in the middle of the night making our way back to Denver to meet up with Chris' friend from college, Angie. Gotta add a little excitement to things or is just wouldn't be normal.
The next day we decided to head north to see the sights of Mt. Rushmore instead of heading straight back. The whole trip we looked for excuses to stay off the interstate. Somewhere along the way we figured out we hit the final days of Sturgis. Moving up toward the Black Hills we ran into a hail storm. We stopped and tried to find some cover. Even with leather on, they felt like someone pelting you with rocks from close range.
Pics after the storm passed.
Pulling into the Black Hills there were bikes everywhere. Did the usual, Mt. Rushmore, and I think we checked out the Sitting Bull site as well. I had been to both a few times but Chris was only there once before I think when he was about 5 or 6.
We stopped to eat and enjoyed watching all the shapes, sizes and colors parade by and that was just the riders!
We decided not to even try to get into Sturgis and figured we'd hit the secondary road that parallels the Interstate heading east. Camping and motels were going to be at a premium, if we could find any at all, but we headed out of Deadwood, SD to see what we could see and find what we could find.
30-40 miles out or so we noticed a somewhat wooded area with a single lane dirt road off to our right. We pulled in and looked it over and decided this was the spot. We drove back out to the road, noticed a ranch house up the road a ways and pulled in to see about camping at the spot we found with the small pond with the grassy, wooded acreage. The rancher and his family all came out to see us as we asked permission. He didn't have a problem with it and we had our usual cocktails on that spot, our last night out. In the morning we swung by again, just to say thanks.
Little over 4200 miles round trip.
Of course it was a neat way to spend a couple weeks getting to know Chris again and maybe him me. He had graduated from college and had spent a couple years away from home so this was a nice way to welcome him back to the neighborhood.
I listened to this when I was young, as many of you may have. Always liked his smooth, soft, simple style. Kinda lost that for a number of years, what with the pressures of raising a family and always concerned about having enough money to keep the kids in clothes and food with a roof over their heads.
Funny, you change from the Son to the Father and then maybe get to go through all again when your son becomes the father.....??
This is David, our youngest son with Jason, born 2-28-09
the Potter's of Tomah/Warrens fame, my son that lives in MPLS and moi played at Afton in 2007. Had a great time. I think we were one of the few, if not the only ones, that camped both nights, Friday (during the race) and Saturday (heck, why not?)
Friday we biked till one of the Potter's lights started flaking out on the 2nd lap after dark (we decided to all ride together as we were normally trying to beat each other at the WEMS races and never seem to ride together) and we decided that when one decided to call it, we'd all call it, oh wait, Chris made one more lap, cheater. We then started lowering our liquid reserves some and got to watch the rest of the field make their way up and down some ridicules hills. But, before we crashed for the night we got to watch one light (pitch dark by this time) make it's way up to a tricky spot when all of a sudden the light started doing barrel rolls down the hill. No idea where the rider ended up....
Next morning, Saturday, we got up and started riding again....the Potters and I had to do one more lap than Chris to be even, he had crotch rot bad, that's what cheaters get, and it was the best lap. Stopped up on top and downed some Red Bull and took some pics, then came down and enjoyed the festivities at the end of the race. A buddy came in Saturday from the City about the time the race ended, his job to bring fresh ice and restock the frig and also bring firewood.
Very good vibe there with the participants and staff, highly recommended in my book. "The Kid" wants me to come back but this year I'll be in Denver that weekend but if anyone is going over, I'm sure Chris would love to meet-up and hang with ya. I'm pretty sure he'd be in for another round.