Hearing the slow rise of your alarm at 3am is never a welcome sound. No matter how jacked you are for whatever is getting you up at that ungodly hour, it's tough. This morning, I can say I'd be alright pulling the covers back around me rather than opening the front door of the Hungry Hippie Hostel, perched high on the hills overlooking Lake Superior just north of Grand Marais to check on the weather. My phone forecast couldn't be right, it'd deteriorated every time I'd checked it. 35 degrees with a 20, 30, 40, 75, nope, 90% chance of rain. Temps dropping to 27 degrees and that rain turning to snow around 7:30am. Stacked on top of that, the big cherry, 30mph sustained winds. If you're at home and considering a morning spin and you see those conditions, maybe you hop on the trainer, or most likely you fall back asleep for the foreseeable future. When you've enticed 10 other riders to join you on a backwoods expedition no matter what the circumstances, you shake your head and laugh when you open the front door of the cabin and everything is blowing around in the dark and the rain starts hitting you in the face...
Combing back over our adventures from the year I decided to unearth this one as a look back at the long summer we've had and remember the good times we shared with our friends and loved ones. We hope everyone out there reading this got to get in some good trips away from home, whether it was just a trip out of town to your favorite local spot, or maybe you hit the road for a few weeks on the grand adventure you'd been planning for years and were finally able to pull off. Whatever the case, we hope you had fun.
It started in the mountains. 7 days. 750 miles. 30,000 feet of elevation. Then down into the desert. Temps up to 117 degrees. Winds that blew relentlessly for miles on end. We followed Route 66. The dilapidated remnants of America's rush west. Cities that didn't make sense, shoved between parched peaks themselves between the scorched stretches of the endless desert floor. Then it stopped as soon as it began, on the 4th of July, at Lake Havasu City, at a sleazy resort, with an infinity pool and buckets of liquor with crazy straws and fireworks and bikinis and shitty dance music blaring over all of it.
Hey everyone, Zach here. This summer I'm taking off on my second (partial) cross-country unsupported tour. I'll be heading to Colorado to pick up and lead the Search Brigade through the Rocky Mountains, down across the vast desert expanses of Utah, Arizona, and California, up over the San Gabriel Mountains and to the coast in Santa Monica to dip that wheel in the Pacific. The Search Brigade left Times Square in New York on June 1st, and is currently working their way across the middle of the country via the road less traveled, after having ridden through the endless rolling hills of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and right now they're just beginning to climb into Colorado. Since it feels like the 1970's out there again with more and more cyclists taking to the road for extended tours, I thought I'd shed some light on how I pack up for a night, a few days, a few weeks, or even months out on the road.
For us, while we have a long history of MTB racing throughout the past few decades of the sport in the 80's and 90's and early 00's, these days we approach events like this from the perspective of personal challenge and community. We ride solo, or with our friends, we ride fast if we're feeling good, or we ride slow, take our time, shoot some photos, and have some beers and food along the way (stashing a cooler full of beer and food is a pretty awesome respite at mile 50 if you have time to plan the night before the race!). Hell, sometimes we even go out to race one of these events, which was the case with this year's Hungry Bear 100.
This whole thing started on a Friday. We’ve had some teaser snow this season, a few decent little storms that allowed us to get out and ride our favorite trails, transformed into white ribbons darting in and out of the trees, but nothing that really stuck long enough to satiate our desire to get the fat tires out and really feel like we had a go at full winter of fat biking. Having a bit of anxiety about that, I looked at the forecast for the coming week and moved the dot on the map north. Cuyuna was the natural choice, I’d been watching and living out what looked like a pretty rad winter, in contrast, from up that way via social media all season. I thought about it, weighed the options, and kept moving the map further north. I’ve had an affinity for the North Shore ever since I made my first trip up there with my family years ago, and having a love of that rugged coastline in the back of my mind, hit Duluth, which would have been another grade A option for this idea, and still kept moving further north. I settled on Tettagouche State Park. I’d been planning gravel rides and overnight camping trips up around that area for a while, but I’d never thought about taking it on over the winter. My mind was already made up, but looking at the forecast for the following Tuesday made me just about lose it. 8-16 inches of snow forecast over a 24 hour period. This was going to be perfect. This also gave us a chance to try out something new, the 8 miles of groomed fat bike specific trails in Split Rock State Park. This only amplified our excitement, and was our plan for wednesday morning after we rode back out of camp.