Some guys from the shop did this incredibly epic ride last year in the north woods of Minnesota. 3 days, averaging over 100 miles of riding a day, finishing in the dark, busted bikes, epic. I knew I had to do it this year.
I bought a new bike this spring right after finishing the Birkie and wanted to start riding it immediately.
And it stayed ski season. And I rode it some more.
And some more.
Eventually it was April, and I did the Strada Fango Spring Classic.
I even rode it this summer (and practiced trail side bike maintenance in case I broke down in the middle of the woods).
But I wasn't ready. Brutiful, is the new word I am trying to use in place of the over used term epic, but this was totally that. I don't know that it was an order of magnitude greater than anything I've done, but certainly a few factors more awesome than anything I've done yet.
Ready and waiting for Dallas to pick me up to head to Grand Marais.
We were staying in the Municipal Campground in Grand Marais and we went for a little trail run the night before. After the run I took a quick dip in the lake to wash-up. I even had a toy boat in the tub with me.
We rode into town for a little OctoberFest pizza at Sven and Oles. Dallas ate his half, I did not hold up my end of the bargain and could only manage 2 and a little bit more pieces.
The first day of ride was from Grand Marais to Grand Portage and was the shortest leg of the event. Roll out was at noon from Artist Point so we had plenty of time to get up, roll into town to get breakfast at South of the Border (not Mexican food, the other border) and go back to camp to prep bikes and an overnight bag.
The first day of riding was great. About 15 miles of pavement up Hwy 61 before diving into the north woods. There was a mix of nice gravel, some gnarly rocks, some ATV trails, and some sweet double track.
I gotta admit, I blew up around mile 40 of this 55 mile leg. I was chasing hard to catch back up to Dallas and I was within 50 yards or so and boom, I was done. The next 15 miles were pretty painful.
I think Friday night was the highlight of the trip though. As we all roll into the parking lot Mr. Gravel Conspiracy, Josh Stamper, is sitting there with a cooler of beer checking us all in. We all agree to check into the hotel and then meet at 6:30 to destroy the buffet. Only when we roll up to the buffer it is closed because of "water on the floor in the kitchen". We later learn that means the sewer backed up. We are directed that the nearest restaurant is just a 20 minute drive away. 20 cyclists, one pick-up truck, that isn't working.
Instead we descended on the convenience store like savages buying up all of the necessities for a cookout and then walked over to the RV campground and stole a spot for a campfire and cookout. This was so many times better than sitting in the casino and eating a marginal buffet.
Kitchen still down so it was omlets in a bag in the parking lot pre-roll out for the big 85 mile day.
This ride took us back to Grand Marais the long way. Miles along the Canadian border, some gravel, some double track, some seriously rocky ATV trail, even a game trail. This was some of the best riding ever.
Shortly after the above game trail, which apparently wasn't exactly on course (the GPX files were "this close" to being right this year), we were met with pizza and beer. Best "unsupported" ride ever.
It rained overnight Saturday night. It was pretty damp on Sunday. Despite that I probably felt the best that day. We had a nice little figure 8 course out of Grand Marais towards Tofte and back to Grand Marais. Mostly gravel this day with the exception of probably about 15 miles of double track.
After the ride Dallas and I refueled properly before heading for home.
According to my GPS I rode 199 miles and ascended over 13,000 feet over the course of just over 16 hours of ride time. Add in the trip to and from town and it was certainly over 200 miles.
This was everything I had hoped for. I met a ton of cool folks and Josh put on an excellent event. Josh has some pretty cool ideas for next year. If it all works out I definitely want in again. And so should you.