2015 Powderhorn 24 by the Numbers

Once again, we drove to Minneapolis to ride around in squares for 24 hours. I didn’t take any photos during the race, so here are the numbers.*

Miles: 101
Laps: 20
Beers: 23 (+/- 3)
High temperature: 97F
Low temperature: 76F
Bottles of water: 7 (+/- 2)
Burritos: 3
Cups of coffee: 2
Footlong hotdogs: 1
Ice cream sundaes: 1
Hours of sleep: 2
Times sprayed down with water by spectators: > 25

If some of this seems kinda lame to you, well…I was riding solo on the fat-bike and we left with 3.5 hours of riding time left, drawn by the siren song of more cold beer, hot showers, and air conditioning.

* Many of these numbers are approximate. Sleep deprivation, heat, fatigue and beer will do that.

Dumped

Quaffing my Friday morning coffee and reading feeds, I run across the weekly photo dump from Surly.

Normally, it’s stuff recently submitted to their Image Dump, but this week it’s single-speeds in honor of this weekend’s SSUSA (hosted in my home state, at Levis–no, I’m not going).

Scrolling down, I find this:

Yep, that’s the Ox in its Mk1 single-speed configuration. Also perhaps one of the better bike photos that I’ve taken. Maybe.

I’d forgotten I’d submitted to Surly.

A new (to me) road

It’s new to me, anyway. And ever so close to town. I’ve ridden past it countless times, but never had reason to check it out.

Features include: corn, soybeans, cranes, a hog farm, and some of the smoothest rolling pavement around.

It looks like it was repaved last year sometime, and still hasn’t succumbed to the depredations of winter and truck traffic.

Too bad I didn’t notice the cranes in the field until I’d put away the camera. They were about as close to the road as they ever get.

Mini-touring in Mt. Horeb

We’d intended to take a mini-tour the week of my birthday, but because of some extenuating circumstances, we couldn’t make any reservations until only a few days before we might have left.

While I was casting around southwestern Wisconsin for a vacation rental, I came across the Gonstead Guest Cottage in Mt. Horeb. It’s a little closer to Madison that I’d originally wanted, but we made a reservation all the same, figuring that we’d just take a rambling, leisurely two-night mini-tour close to home and enjoy what could be enjoyed.

Highlights

Beer and sweet potato tots at the Grumpy Troll, the best liquor store around in Trollway liquors, coffee and quiche at Sjolind’s, relaxing under the deep eaves of the cottage during a hard rain on Monday night, the best sound system in any vacation rental we’ve ever had, taking the tour at Cave of the Mounds, screaming downhill on the new Brigham Park connector, sitting on a park bench looking at the water at Stewart Park, tasting surprisingly good wine at the Fisher King, and leisurely riding to and from home on the Military Ridge Trail.

This mini-tour was a good way to ease my into the idea of bike touring. No camping required (and a good thing, given the rains on Monday night), within easy rides of home, and filled with plenty of good places to eat, drink, and poke around in the countryside.

Now she’s talking about planning more adventures. Mission accomplished.

Bike nerdery

K rode her trusty Soma Saga. She carried all of her clothing and other gear in a Rivendell ShopSack (medium) in the matching Wald basket, strapped down with a pair of John’s Irish Straps, also from Rivendell. Add a single Kleen Kanteen and she’s ready to go.

I rode the 650b Troll with a bunch of Revelate soft baggage: Tangle (tools, tubes, lock, map), Pika (clothing), Gas Tank (electronics, wallet), Feedbag (water bottle).

We were both comfortable and well-equipped, but we’ve both decided that we can refine our packing plan somewhat, both for non-camping trips like this, and for camping outings.

The Long Goodbye

Note: This post has nothing to do with bikes, and might make you feel things. Continue at your own risk.

On June 18, 2015–two weeks ago–we said goodbye to Jade, our rednose pitbull. She was nearly 15 years old, and had been with us for nearly 14 of those years.

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Enjoying the newly installed deck. Typical Jade.

Many dog owners will tell you that even if they own many dogs over the years, there’s often one (or more, if you’re lucky) with whom they share a special bond, closer than any other. For me, that was Jade. And the feeling was clearly mutual.

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What?…we’re just having a private moment…

How we met

Jade came to us as a rescue when she was a little over a year old, adopted from a married couple who both worked at the same company I did at the time. They’d just had a baby and couldn’t seem to cope with both being new parents and pet owners at the same time. When we went to see her, Jade was gated into a small entryway with little more than a piece of ratty carpet for a bed, food and water, and a small TV to keep her company.

I walked right up to the gate, stepped over, and sat down on the floor with her. Before I even finished sitting down, she was in my lap. I’d like to say that I decided to adopt her, but clearly the decision had already been made. There was no question that she’d be coming home with us, right then and there.

Love at first sight, you might say.

Of course, she needed training and socialization (our male pitbull Max was still in the prime of his life), but that only cemented the bond that we’d formed. That mostly went well, though she did have something of a stubborn streak about certain things. And I never could teach her to fetch properly–she just didn’t see the point of bringing anything back, if you were just going to throw it again.

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Fetch? What the hell for?

The middle years

The next ten years were filled with all of the typical ups and downs of dog ownership. Walks and trips to the park to chase squirrels, minor illnesses and couple of surgeries, lots of laying around the house–for she was most definitely a dog of leisure–and the odd bout of misbehavior. But there wasn’t a day that went by without her making us laugh in some way or another–whether it was a goofy fascial expression, or the way she’d wedge herself into an improbably small and impossibly comfortable position on some piece of furniture or another, or the lengths she would go to avoid being photographed.

And then there was the way that her big, blocky head would get hot (not just warm) when she was petted or got excited about something–and then give off the pleasing aroma of either jasmine, sweet-tarts, or corn tortillas. No idea why.

About halfway through this period, Max passed on and Jade became an only dog (though she still had to put up with the cat for a while longer). And even though she and Max always got on well, it was clear that she really liked being an only dog, largely because she had us–and especially me–to herself.

She took her sweet time growing out of puppyhood–it always seemed in retrospect that she only spent a couple of years as a serious-minded adult dog before she started to get old. But as she reached about 12, it was clear that she was starting to age more quickly. She got even lazier, developed some small health problems, started to lose some muscle mass, and got a little hard of hearing.

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Speed ears.

Old lady dog

In the last year or so, she started to age much more quickly. She went fully deaf (it was prescient on my part to teach her hand signals as well as voice commands all those years ago), developed a low-grade but treatable digestive condition, and began to lose muscle mass more quickly than before. She also became more and more arthritic, which we also treated the best we could.

Couch_dog.

Dog of leisure, becoming one with the couch.

Because of these infirmities, she spent the bulk of the last year of her life relaxing or sleeping on one piece of furniture or another (remember: dog of leisure). She came to favor a chair that my wife had trash-picked and refurbished. Many of the photos of Jade from the last year of her life find her in what I’m confident will always be known as Jade’s chair–even though my wife refurbished this chair for me.

And as tottery as she became, she never lost the ability to quickly and quietly get herself from one end of the house to the other and onto our bed (and my pillow) in the space of time it took to get the mail or take a shower.

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Hey, you’re in my spot…again.

The end

A few weeks ago, she began a more precipitous decline that we knew only had one outcome. On the morning of June 18, we scheduled a house call with our veterinarian and then bolted home from work to spend the rest of the day with our sweet girl. We spent some time letting her wander in the yard and gardens, sniffing whatever she liked–but for the most part she was content to spend the day–to no one’s surprise–laying on a comfortable cushion in the shade on a piece of patio furniture, dozing and watching the world go by.

The vet came at 3pm and a half-hour later Jade passed with one of my hands stroking her big, meaty head and the other on her heart. I felt her last breath, her last heartbeat, and saw her out of this world the best I could. Not that it could ever be good enough.

And I’ve been gutted ever since.

This one was special. For me, like none other. And because of that, I’m not sure whether there will be another dog, at all. We’ll take some time to let things settle, to mourn our sweet Jade’s passing, and to see which way we want to live.

RIP: Jade, 2000-2015.

The Bearskin

This past weekend, we went north for the annual summer gathering of my wife’s family. They live a bit west of Rhinelander and very near some fine mountain bike trails, as well as low-traffic paved and unpaved roads, and one of my favorite rail trails in Wisconsin.

I’d originally intended to ride some single-track at the Washburn Lake trails, but the recent wet weather–including a fair amount of rain on Saturday–made the trails just too wet to ride responsibly (even though I was riding the fat-bike).

So I opted for a run up and down the Bearskin Trail from the trailhead at Hwy K to Minocqua and back. I rode the northbound leg full bore–in part because it was raining a bit, but mostly to blow the cobwebs out of my legs–and my head. On the return trip, I rode at a leisurely pace, stopping on some of the many trestle bridges for photographs, water-gazing, and liquid refreshment.

You can see why this is my favorite rail trail in Wisconsin–at least of the ones that I’ve ridden. It’s all woods and water and trestles.

Finding the Groove Again

The past six months or so–or perhaps longer–have been somewhat unfocused when it comes to cycling (and quite a few other things, for that matter). It turns out that a little more structure is better than no structure at all.

A few weeks ago, I helped my wife make a training plan for a 25k trail run that she’s shooting for in early October. Since I was at it already, I used the same template to make myself a somewhat structured training plan using the Heck of the North as the target.

After a couple of weeks of getting used to the rhythm of this plan–and a holiday weekend during which I was riding the Bear 100–I’m starting to find my groove again and riding in more focused and concentrated way.

Besides daily commuting, riding the long way home at least three times a week, one fast hilly ride in the middle of the week, and the Saturday morning coffee-outside ride, I have a longer ride scheduled for Sundays.

Yesterday found me riding east and south of Madison on some of my favorite country roads for a 55 mile loop that I covered solo at 15.7mph average. Respectable, especially given that the wind was blowing from the ENE in the mid-teens and gusting to twice that much of the time.

And then I drank some beer, grilled corndogs (and other sausages), and sat around the firepit well into the evening. Recovery is just as important as training, you know.