Sunday, April 29, 2012

Joining the Minksy Expedition

The Cassin Ridge on Denali (center of photo)
I have been given the distinguished honour to join the Minksy Expedition this May in Alaska.  The leader of trip Sir Charles Edward Snyder III sent post inviting me on this exciting and grand adventure.  The task of the expedition will be take our dear friend Minksy to the summit of Denali, the highest peak in all the land, and spread his ashes there in salute to his brave and courageous life.

Sir Charles Edward Snyder III, or Chip as his friends call him, is letting me
know that we only have two pitches left to climb.
East Buttress El Capitan, Yosemite California
I first met Chip on a grand California Odyssey.  One that is sure to go down in the history books of dirtbag royalty.  I was sunning myself near the large boulder rocks of the Buttermilks in Bishop California, when this strapping young lad and his trusty dog approached me.  In a gesture of good will Chip offered me a smoke and sat down next to me to ask me where I was from and how I had managed to make it all the way out here into these vast and rugged hills.  

As we sat there enjoying a peaceful afternoon, smoking under the California sun, I told him about how I left the quite territory of Montana by way of a new contraption.  The bicycle, I told him, was about to change the world and would be forever known as one of the greatest inventions of all time.  I regaled him with the grand stories of adventure that I had had, peddling my little legs round and round in circles to propel my steel and rubber carriage.  I had ridden through many a new land to reach the golden mountains of the Sierra Nevada.  The Great Basin of the Nevada Territory, the strange and nuclear sites of backwards Idaho, and along the River of the Snake. And I told him that it was here in California, that my future was to unfold in a plan destined to make me rich beyond my wildest dreams.  

Chip listened closely as his faithful companion Cooper sniffed about looking for rodents or maybe a hare that she could bring us back for diner.  Those first days together in the golden mountains of California intertwined our lives together and we sealed our friendship by way of the rope.  

My California Odyssey, in the end, brought me wealth and riches far beyond the mark of material possession.  In what was to be a two or three month exploration.  Where I was supposed to climb the highest and most famous cliffs of California.  Turned into an eighteen month long voyage that brought me from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, to the Mojave Desert of Joshua Tree, and back up the coast of the Pacific Ocean through the alien landscape of Orange County all the way to the Great City by the Bay.

By the time I made it back to the Montana Territory, the bicycle had made a small revolution in the quite hamlet of Missoula.  There one could see families on day long outings, cruising the river side, picnicking in the meadows beneath the mountains, and stopping by the markets, overlooking the days fresh made goods that smell of fresh herbs, and ripe fruits and vegetables.

Denali,  The Great One, or The High One, as the Athabascan Indians
kindly referred to her.  At 20,320ft Denali is the highest peak in
North America.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Equinox Ski Challenge

Hi there everyone....   A little catch up on this springs events.  I just competed in my first bike race ever at the West Yellowstone Equinox Ski Challenge.  I rode in the solo 12 hour category.  This being the first year that they have allowed snow bikes on the ski trails.

I recently purchased a Surly Pugsley snow bike from the guys down at Summit Bike and Ski here in Bozeman.  And with a tender spot on my ass from a season of skiing and not biking, I saddled up for the 12 hour race.  There were 4 categories at the event; 3,6,12,&24 hours.  You could enter as a team or as a soloist, and you could run, ski, or ride; or do all three if you wanted.  The event was to raise money for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Montana, and all prizes were awarded through a raffle at the end of the event.

This was a place that people came to set personal goals, and personal bests... I set mine, for sure for sure.  This was also the first snow biking that I have ever done, and it took me getting spanked down hard to figure out the tire pressure thing.  These bikes can be ridden as low as 5 pound of pressure (psi) in the tires.  At about mid day I had let out a ton of air from my tires and I was still struggling hard.  I had an impossible time keeping up with the other riders, and at one point I was pasted by a jogger.  The conditions mid day were very sloppy in the soft snow and the bike course was getting rutted out and difficult to ride.  Finally a nice lady passed me and shouted, "Let some air out".  This was the best advice I heard all day, but by this time it was 6pm and I'd been on the course for 8 hours of butt blistering punishment.  I had been riding at about 9-10 psi, so I dropped down to 4-5 psi and my world changed.  The bike bounced on each peddle stroke on the soft tires, but at least I had traction and I was moving.  Then the sun went down and the course started to firm up again and I caught my second (or third) wind and road a couple of fast laps before my finish at 10pm that evening.

They were fast, I was slow
They were brave, I was just a happy fool

The night time riding was a blast and I wished at one point that I could have ridden the whole 12 hours at night instead of the day.  I even thought for a moment that I should have entered the 24 hour category.  Maybe next year, eh.

I was super impressed with everyone of the athletes that showed up.  Kat Hinkman won the 24 hour ski (again) this year. Way to go Kat!!!  She skied 291km in 24 hours.... ouch!

And Alex Lussier almost broke the course record with 319km skiing and biking for 24 hours.  He missed the course record by .9km... ouch!!!

It was so impressive to see these people set a pace and hold it all day, and then all night long... again,,, ouch!

In the 12 hour solo category I place 4th.  Riding 120km (74.5 miles).  I was also the only person that did not ski in the 12 hour solo category.  Which for most smart people, they started skiing sometime mid day when the snow conditions got to soft for riding in.

Other highlights where the very large bear tracks on the trails in the morning, the big face plant that I performed at high speed coming down a hill, barely missing a collarbone crushing tree, and right in front of the camera man.  I hope he got the shot.  I landed arms and head deep in soft snow and had to laugh a little at myself as this was my first face plant from off of a bicycle.

And finally the food...  We (Justene I mean) made a ton of amazing food for me for the race.  We had veggie meat patties, rice and beans w/ spinach, and the best damn date balls that I've had.  In fact, the food was too good and I ate a little to much at one point during the race and had to ride a couple laps burping up the sweet flavour of dates and honey.

Cheers everyone,,, go ride a bike!

Letting more air out of the tires 

into the night
all photos by Justene Sweet