Star Spangled Bagger

Oof. Yesterday was tough, tougher than it should have been.  I set off on a Dirtbagging journey after a few days of delay.  It was in the mid 80’s already, but it was HUMID as all get out.  I could feel my body rejecting the heat after the first few miles. There was some decent cloud cover now and again, and riding through the Clive Greenbelt trail out to Waukee (and the start of the gravel road I was taking north) is nearly all shade.  Originally I had planned on loading my bike into the Sprinter and driving out to the RRVT trail head, then jumping on the Gravel from there. I was headed north towards Brushy Creek State Park, near the Fort Dodge area, then south and west towards Collins, then hop the trail back west toward Slater, then Madrid, then back south on the gravel to the Sprinter. It was a great plan, had I been able to leave on Saturday, and I was looking forward to getting some fresh air, three or four days of camping, and seeing some areas of gravel I haven’t ridden.

IMG_6508Monday morning it was decided that I would just ride from my house instead of starting with fresh legs on the gravel.  No problem, I planned on cutting day 1 short and camping at Ledges State Park, then rolling North for Tuesday night, then heading back towards home Wednesday morning.  Plan was cut short, but I also had things to do on Thursday.  I started off with some delays, then headed to Horizon Line Coffee, a new shop in the Western Gateway area that has all Vegan pastries.  I met one of the founders, Brad, and encouraged him to give me whatever he wanted me to have, which was IMG_6515an Oat Milk Cappuccino, and a day-old Vegan Chili-Lime doughnut. Both were damn fine, and I ran into a friend and chatted for a while. I am really digging the vibe there, and plan on making it a frequent stop.  Thanks, Brad and the Horizon Line folks for providing a new coffee experience in town that has Vegans in mind. It’s much appreciated.

I pointed the rig towards Ingersoll Ave, and my restaurant Krunkwich Ramen House.  I figured I should stop in and check on the crew, and annoy them with my constant bad stories and dad jokes (I’m a grandpa now, it’s my job.).  At this point I realized I had forgotten my flipper, which I always carry, at home.  I also remembered leaving my fourth water bottle (that should be in my frame bag) on the table by the basement door. Sweet. All good, I would stop by Walgreens in Waukee and pick up a cheap pocket knife and a big bottle of water for the road. No problem.  I left the shop and proceeded to climb Ingersoll, not a huge climb, but it’s pretty indicative of the hills I would meet headed north from the RRVT.  The sun seemed a lot hotter than the listed temp, and I felt the first of many weird cold shiver in my neck and arms that would happen through the day.

The hill was crested, and I coasted down to the trail head, hung a right, and started towards the Greenbelt.  It was surprisingly sparsely populated for a Monday morning, which was nice as I was piloting a fairly wide vehicle through the twists and turns.  Once I crossed under the Hickman bridge, the sun really came into play.  There is a long shallow climb into Waukee, and with the fully loaded fatbike it was a slow slog. I felt like I was pedaling in an Uneasy Bake oven.  A few miles up the road I turned north on what I thought was the correct road, but OF COURSE IT WASN’T.  I ended up in a new development construction, but I’m like “hey, I’m on a fat bike. I can ride wherever I want” and proceeded to ride through the soft soil of some new construction plots, then down a sketchy embankment towards the woods, and hopefully to find a place to pop out on the correct road (V Ave). I found a ravine that I was not at all prepared to try crossing, and ended up retracing my path back to the main road, then jig jagged around for a while until I found V.

IMG_6513The gravel has now begun.  I was around 20 miles into my day and finally reached the gravel. It was close to 1pm at this point, and the heat was on.  Big time. The once-distant storm clouds were passing overhead too quickly to provide any real relief from the sun, and I finally got into my first set of rollers. Now, I’m riding this loaded setup for the very first time, and this is my first time Dirtbagging with a Rohloff drivetrain. It’s a challenge finding the right gear at times, and to be honest, I’m not sure I like the twist shift operation. I DID appreciate it during the winter months when my hands resided inside pogies, and I was thankful for this sturdy drivetrain during the crappy weather, but on dry gravel in the heat, it isn’t as necessary.  I started thinking about how I should have stopped for a bean burrito and some cold water before headed north, and having some hardcore anxiety over dogs (I had just read a few article on all the dog attacks on the Trans Am Race, and also I haven’t ridden this road for a long time and don’t remember if there are any bad spots), and the weird cold shivers started happening again. I was already running out of leg, and I was only a few miles into the actual ride.  I stopped and drank water, had some Scratch Labs stuff, rested for a few minutes, but I just felt drained. The Mukluk was too much of a pig for me to push in this state.  I then remembered that I had been off the bike for about 7 weeks due to my tailbone injury  Yeah, that’s a problem. I should have/could have/would have packed all this stuff on my Fargo and at least I would be able to cover more distance in less time, but I HAD TO BE A HERO AND SEE HOW FAR I COULD RIDE THE MUKLUK IN ONE DAY.

The answer to that question of mileage: 25 miles. It was at mile 25 that the realization struck: It was still 10 miles or more to either Woodward or Madrid, where I was going to grab lunch, I was 5 miles north of civilization, and was averaging about 6 mph at this point. It would take me an hour to get back to Waukee, or nearly two hours to get to either town north. Then what? How was I going to make it to Ledges if I couldn’t even pedal to Madrid? I spied a pickup on the horizon, and went in to full on bagger mode. I flagged this gentleman down and he was so kind as to allow me to throw my bike in the back and sag away.  We discussed where I live, and what my minimum sag goal was. He did not want to go into Des Moines, and honestly I thought I would just stop for some food and water then head back north on the Mukluk. He says “you want me to drop you off at Mickey’s?” Brilliant Idea. We headed south.

IMG_6512I felt like a total schmuck for bailing and taking a sag backwards, for “failing” at TWENTY FIVE GODDAMN MILES. Sometimes you win, sometimes you just don’t win as much. Yesterday was that day.  We arrived in the Mickey’s parking lot, I unloaded the pig, said our goodbyes, and mounted up to ride over to the bike rack. I felt unsteady and weak. It’s really bizarre. Entering a post-lunch-rush, mostly-empty bar is kind of eerie, and in my state it was borderline surreal.  There were two guys at a front booth speaking in muted tones, and nobody else. I found a seat at the bar. The bartender emerged after a few minutes, I whined a little whine and ordered water and a Lagunitas IPA.  This is getting really long, isn’t it? They have a Hummus Trio on the menu as a special, so of course I got that. after a few bites of their spicy hummus the body started feeling a little more human again. We had drinks, shot flies with a Salt Gun, and was turned on to Tequila and Soda. Great Drink, I highly recommend it.  I started doing the run down of what the plan to get home entailed, or maybe I would head back north for another shot at getting to at least the Whistlin Donkey in Woodward. It was then my friend and past bail out hero Sandy from Rasmussen Bike Shop rolled in from a ride with her friend Tom. Sandy has the same Ti Mukluk and mentioned that it would fit on her car rack. DING. New option for the ultimate bail. They had lunch, then Sandy, Tom, and I worked to get my Bougie Hobo Bike on her car and back to the East Village.

We rolled in to my hood around 5:30pm, just in time to see the first wave of the thousands of neighborhood invaders that would arrive for Yankee Doodle Pops, which is held at the State Capitol Building aka one block south of my house.  Thank you so much, Sandy, for saving my sorry butt again. I wouldn’t have made it home. It would have been a coast into Clive, then a stop at every bar on the way home (in true bagging style), then bridge beers, three or four more bars, and me spending the entire day completely wrecked on the 4th.  I am thankful for waking up healthy, albeit sore, and motivated to get a bunch of things done at home (like re-skinning my drum kit and getting set up to record) before going out for a regular ole bike ride today. I didn’t make my intended ride, but I now know that I have a ways to go before I can just start plugging away at what I used to to on the reg. Guess I should go ride a bike…

Sam

CNB

The Good Intentions Tour

The Good Intentions Tour

Every year during Memorial Day weekend I have vowed to go ride my bike as far as I can, for as long as I can. This is a tour to push my spring limits, something to gauge what needs to be focused on for summer so that the fall gravel races are a little easier on the body than the early spring excursions.  It could be fully bagged out, it could be a dirt bagging trip, it could be a “credit card” tour with support and hotel rooms.  It could be anything, really, as long as there is a goal of at least 300 miles over the course of the four day weekend.

This is why it has earned the title of “The Good Intentions Tour”

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The fully loaded Ti Vaya, a formidable touring rig but not something to ride 100 miles a day in heavy rain storms. I will not be using this rig for 2017’s GIT

The Good Intentions Tour is just that. It’s a set of intentions (outlined in P1) that are more like a limit than an intention.  Last year I had decided that I was going to take an fifth day and ride a total of 400 miles.  What actually happened was I chose to take my loaded touring bike, I started a day late and rode into intermittent rain storms, at fried chicken, got stuck in a shelter at a city park waiting out a storm, made it to the Night Hawk in Slater, IA drinking with a team of woo girls that were woo-ing their minds out inside a sheet metal shed which houses the back bar at the establishment.  I rode north from Slater to Ames, IA, where I ended up in a hotel room as there were some very serious looking storm systems coming my way, then rode from Ames to middle-of-nowhere Collins, IA where I ran into BikeIowa.com founder Scott Sumpter randomly at a tiny bar, then rode to Cleverley Farms for the last historical Garlicpalooza.  At Larry’s farm we had a blast, but the next morning it was blazingly hot and humid and I made it to a convenience store in Bondurant, IA where I ended up calling a sag for my last 12 miles as I could not get my body to act right.  I don’t blame it, it had a reason to be hostile towards me.  Three Days, 99.4 miles. I couldn’t even bring myself to ride around the steamy block to get to an even 100. I was done.

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The fully loaded Ti Colossal, a killer self contained road-packing rig. I will be losing most of the bags and using this bad boy for GIT. At least I intend to. haha.

That is how it goes every year, first make a long list of good intentions, then say “fuck it” and just do whatever.  This year I will have a partner in Intentions crime, who has vowed to ride one of the four days with me (sounds like a proper good intention), and will then pilot Kira as my support in my quest to ride at least 300 miles.  I haven’t picked the bike yet, but I can tell you that it will not be my Vaya.  Day 1 or 2 will be on the Java, and since there is support involved this year I will probably just pack a very stripped down Colossal for the solo miles.  I can see this turning into a one day loop then a “tailwind tour” to wherever the time limit takes me.

No matter what happens, I am making my list of good intentions for this coming Memorial Day weekend.  I’m looking at routes, plotting miles, and looking at where I can stick a tandem loop in the middle of all of this, in addition to working in some #vanlife with Kira, and also putting together a bail plan for when I give up on my intentions and just want to go home to my lovely vegan kitchen to eat something other than road food.  That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, spending 3-4 days on the road while still sticking to clean Vegan eating.  We shall see how that goes, or if anything goes at all.

Sam

CNB

Hashtag Cult Membership Time

I did something very uncharacteristic of me today.  I obtained a motorized vehicle.  It’s very foreign to think of doing things that don’t require turning pedals, but after ridding myself of the “Deal Mobile” last week, and seeing as the venerable Gold Jetta Wagon (the Swagon) is all but sold, I thought that maybe I should start a new thing.  This thing I did gave me entry into a new-to-me hashtag subculture.  I already belong to a few of these groups (#vegancylist #cheflife #veganhashtagabuser #rifftober #rigsofdoom, the also-new-to-me #gravelfamily that I learned is now a thing as of this weekend, and many others), but this is one that I had never aspired to. I purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter today…

Enter the #VanLife

IMG_6029#VanLife is this thing where you live your life in, by, and for the Van. You buy a Van, you convert the van to a suitable mobile living quarters, then you go do shit in it.  You go camp, you drive to other places and meet new people, bike unfamiliar areas, explore.  You can save a ton on hotel rooms if you have either good enough facilities or can just make do with what you have brought with you.  As a bit of a cycling vagabond/traveller (and a person who has spent a little too much on air fare and hotel rooms the last few years) this has appealed to me since the day my friends Fresh Tank decided to ditch their living situation and travel the country living the #vanlife. It looks like they have been having fun.

 I had been dead set on a high top Sprinter, but the previous owners, Alex and Hanna, IMG_6028had done a lot of the conversion work like insulate and run power to the back area already, which made this a great base for what I was planning. Alex included a few cabinets he had made for their buildout, along with some helpful tips on the idiosyncrasies of this ole gal. She has some patina, and some quirks, but The Stoker and I are pretty stoked to have something that can accommodate bikes up to and including the Java Tandem, with some basic amenities for the trip to wherever that tandem is getting pedaled from.

Her name is Kira, after current day explorer Kira Salak, who has travelled solo to almost every continent.  My Kira will probably not leave this continent while under I captain her, but I do have some pretty major plans for her. I mean, one does not simply enter the realm of #vanlife without an adventure in their hearts and minds.  What’s my plan? Aside from making grocery runs for the restaurants and maybe doing some catering, you’re going to have to stay tuned to see what my #vanlife has in store.  I promise you it will be a journey into some unknown territory…

Sam

CNB