Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Polar Bear crosses the Pacific!

Yeah, believe it, only the Polar Bear in this case is a 30 foot sailboat manned Singlehandidly by Eric Thomas of Duluth, MN. I just had to put out a huge congrats to Eric who raced his small sailboat from San Francisco to Hawaii. He made the crossing in something like 14 days, I could not find coherent results on my google searches but I believe he won his class and also place very high in the overall results as well (if not top three). Not bad for a dude who trained on a Lake.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rich Narum, Duluth is Cool

This weekend we had a nice "festivus" at our home. Plenty of homebrew and great food too. Marg dubbed it the Free Range Food Fest and it was a party to kick off the Free Range Film festival. In any case Rich Narum got a great shot showing both my new Sauna and my new hat....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Its Free Range Time again

Ah, it must be mid-summer as it is time to sit in a barn, drinking BYOB beers and viewing some great homegrown cinema. If you live in Minnesota and you have not been to the Free Range Film Festival you need to change that. It is rolling Thursday, through Saturday. Tonights line up looks to be pretty awesome, a story on some of Alaska's lesser known history and another on Pond Hockey, imagine, learning about a great MN institution while sitting in a 100 year old barn!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The endless search for the Midwests best singletrack

Margaret and I took the week to kill two birds with one stone. We went to Southeastern Minnesota to visit family and to see if the reports of epic mountain bike riding were true. After nearly a decade of living in the mountains of Vermont and Montana we have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the singletrack mountain biking movement in the midwest and slowly but surely we are seeing it arrive and this trip proved it to me. It is not that I have any hard and fast criteria to define "epic singletrack" but suffice to say it is a moving target. Certainly the riding, the terrain and the soil have the biggest part to play. Volume or amount of riding is also key, we hate to feel like gerbils in a cage, we love long rides and the longer the better. Things to do after the ride also play a role. IE finding a good meal and beer is always nice, maybe some music, swimming or something and or a sweet coffee shop is great too. So with all that said we have been making a pointed attempt to go to the places where we are hearing rumors of all this happening. The area in Southeast Minnesota and Southwestern WI is perfect for Mountain biking. It is called the Driftless Area for a reason. It is also called the Blufflands as well. Mainly it is the area with dramatic terrain and valleys that drain into the Mississippi river. Although not huge vertical compared to the east or west, it has consistent rises of 300 to 500 feet in many places and that is certainly enough to create awesome mountain biking.
We started our tour at the Lowes Creek Mountain Bike Trails. We were pretty impressed with the amount of trails and the technicality of the trails. Although it is pretty flat the people who build the trails made up for the lack of vertical with twisty fun singletrack and it is all extremely well marked and it is obvious that the crews took the time to build awesome bridges and cobbles. My favorite ride was the Onion trail descent.
Next we hit the Human Powered Trails in Lacrosse, WI. I really love these trails. The Winona, Lacrosse area has perhaps the most dramatic relief and also the most extensive greenspace potential for singletrack and the HPT trails are just a glimpse of what could be possible there. They have true climbs and true descents for both entry level riders and hard cores alike. We actually took the TNT trail up from town to access the main cluster and I was amazed at the amount of climbing we had to do to reach the top. IF you could actually ride the whole trail I would bet it would be a solid five hundred feet of ascent over a couple of miles perhaps, it is as we say, in your face. After slugging it out at the HPT trails you can slide down into Lacrosse and check out the Bodega Brew Pub and dive into one of its 400 beers. Like I said food is a key ingredient as well when it comes to riding, you ride, you eat and why not eat well? My parents who live in Pickwick, MN fired up their Wood Fired Pizza oven for us and forty of thier best friends so we gorged on some of the best pizza you can imagine while we gazed down on historic Pickwick and its mill pond. While at the feed I spoke with many people who are involved with BLEW or the Bluff Lands Environmental Watch. While speaking to them my head was swimming with the realization that while the bluffs are being protected and the singletrack movement is happening there might someday be a chance to see Mountain Bike Riding as extensive there as in Vermont at the Kingdom Trails.
Some of these thoughts were realized when we headed to the Levis Mound trails the next day. This must be one of the only IMBA Epic trails in the central midwest and it shows it. The riding was incredible. Easy routes to follow, great twisty and fun singletrack with huge views and interesting terrain. While Levis had the most extensive and certainly the most interesting riding we found it lacking in places to hang and have a beer, however with that said we had not ventured into historic Neillsville,WI and thus we cant actually say for with authority that there is not a cool pub to hang out at. Hopefully there is. Instead of heading to Neilsville we hit the historic Trempealeau Hotel for some great bluegill and walnut burgers, made even sweeter since this is where Margaret and I were married four years earlier.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Liberty Cup Challenge

The Liberty Cup Outrigger Race is one of the coolest canoe races that I have ever done. The race takes place in NYC and you are literally racing straight through the heart of the city. The year I did it we still used the Statue of Liberty as a bouy turn.
This picture came in from our friend Nancy Andrews who is lucky enough to do the race ever year!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Minnesota State Conservation and Preservation Plan looks out 50 years

Listening to MPR yesterday I heard an interesting story on the Minnesota's Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan. This is a fifty year plan on how to protect and preserve Minnesotas natural resources. This is the first plan of its kind for ANY state and was done for about $500,000. However as the story in the Star Tribune points out the staff at the University of Minnesota that did the study also did the report with over 1 million dollars in pro bono work. I have not yet read through the report but I hope that it is truly the beacon of hope Minnesota needs as mining regains its legs and Tim Pawlenty is in office.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dave Watson

This winter I had placed a post on my blog about Dave Watson a buddy of mine who was a guide and consultant at the crazy Indian ski resort called Gulmarg. Dave a high altitude climber has made his part time home in Minneapolis while his wife finishes Med school at the U of M. Dave and I had been friends while we both worked at Karhu Ski. This spring after Dave's return from Kashmere we had a talk on the phone as he was getting ready to leave for his k2Tall Mountain Expedition. A trip where he intends to climb and ski K2 via the Cesen Route. A bad ass an endeavor as any I have heard of on skis. While talking over his opportunity to do this he related that he was going to be written about in a book called High Crimes a book that is tag lined "The fate of Everest in an Era of Greed". Dave had been part of the Conneticut Team that was hired to guide and summit Everest two years ago. Dave also skied several major lines while on that expedition. Dave did not speak to highly of the book and what it was going to say so suffice to say I was curious to see it once it came out. So you can imagine my surprise when my mother in law was reading it at the lake cabin over the Fourth of July, I had not realized it was in print. So now I am waiting in suspense until she finishes it so I can read it!

Cardboard bike

I am a fair weather blogger. I usually only post when there is something I think is worth putting out there. Well sometimes life is un-inspiring and thus I have not posted in a while. In any case I was perusing the blogosphere and ran into this interesting post about a Cardboard Bike that will retail for $30.00. It was too crazy to not post about, plus I was surprised to have not seen it on Cars are Coffins or The Piton or some other crazy industry site. In any case it seems like a sweet idea for those trips to cities where you need to travel but dont want to rent a car or spend the money to have your expensive bike shipped. Have it sent to your hotel then toss it once you need to leave..........or light it on fire and ghost ride it down the street giving it its viking funeral pyre burial.........