Sunday, December 20, 2009

Every year...

I seem to be forming an additional tradition each Christmas season...getting sick. For the last four years I've become ill the week of Christmas, and it's getting irritating. It set in yesterday on the way back from Jay Cooke State Park, where friend Ty and I went for a winter day hike. On the drive home I noticed the sore throat setting in, and by 11pm I had full blown body aches and was burning up. Suck. So I slept on and off for 14 hours, and have spent today mostly laying around with the cat on my lap, watching tv and reading cycling blogs. I also finally got around to shopping online for a deal on a new crankset for my 29er. Found a good one on a Shimano SLX, and it should be here in a couple days. Good. It will be nice to replace the garbage-y Evolve XC that's been getting looser and looser.
I also spent some more time thinking about the next cycle-tour. Edward D and I have been cooking up ideas for one or two bike trips for 2010. Ideas of the CA coastline, Death Valley, Big Bend National Park, and other locales have been floating through our heads, and we just need to get things on the calendar. I'm looking forward to living off my touring bike again soon. Riding all day followed by camping, then doing it again is a good life.
I'll leave you today with a couple pix of Jay Cooke pre-sickness:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Status Quo

I was sitting in my chair tonight thinking about how I'd like to write a new blog entry, but had thoughts that there wasn't much to report on. Life has been going on pretty much as usual. But then I thought about what those usual things are, and realized even though they are "par for the course", they actually stand out as pretty interesting. Here's what's going on:

Gym climbing is picking up as usual as winter sets in with a tighter grip on the MN area. And since my frequency of going is increasing, so are the returns. I sent what was probably the hardest climb I've done in the gym yet the other day, and Alison did the same for herself in one night. Nice. And even though if you know me and have heard that I think grades are stupid, I'll oblige to give you the ratings- 5.11b for my send and 5.10a for Alison's. It's fairly arbitrary, as I've been up 5.11c's, and Alison has done well on 5.10c's, but the routes we accomplished recently were both bigger hurdles. It was a mean 5.11b due to the flexibility and control involved on my end, and Alison came a long way in understanding new movement techniques to send her project. Big progress. Good.

Winter biking has come to a halt recently, due to the need to replace the crankset I've been nursing for awhile. I'm not going to push it any further so as to not harm the actual bottom bracket shell of my frame. Yeah, the play in the crank got intense and I should have replaced it a while ago.

I was out for the first nordic ski of the year not too long ago. Not a lot of snow, but enough to get out on. Further southeastern sections of MN has the best snow in the state, but the Cities isn't doing too bad for being non-mountainous. I hope we get bombed with snow this year; the past couple years have been lackluster.

Running has been going well. Continuing work on the treadmill at the gym every time I'm done climbing. Still rocking the Vibrams. Getting stronger.

We have quite a bit of family holiday visiting coming up. It will be great to see everyone again. The Hovde clan is meeting several times the week of Christmas, and the Jensen's will be arriving in St Paul the week after to party. Mullet's got his dancin' shoes on and is ready for it.

Work is sucking bad. Wish I didn't have to say it but to be cliche, it is what it is. Terrible. If you think of any stories you've heard about airlines on the news in the past year, just try to think of one that has been positive. My bet is that you probably can't. Suckville. Alison is being furloughed Jan 7. My boss "resigned" today. It's walking through a minefield right now. At least we still have our travel benefits. I don't see any flying in either Alison's or my future in the next year or two, but we'll see. If you are young and looking for a career field, the only way I'd suggest being a pilot is if you absolutely love it and are willing for tons of disappointment due to a wickedly unstable industry amidst the satisfaction you get from the actual flying part. You will have issues. But I don't know that many other career fields are exactly thriving in our craptastic economy right now. Just go on a very long bicycle tour/climbing trip and wait for the country to turn around for now. :)

That's the update.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OK, I don't watch daytime TV, but I'm off today (a Tuesday) since I taught ground school over the weekend, and the Ellen Show showed up as I flipped channels eating a late breakfast. Just before I turned the TV off, I was impressed to see she was giving everyone in the audience a Specialized Globe bicycle as a Christmas gift. That's pretty cool. One point for silly talk shows I guess.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It hits every least here.

The North is cold again. Woke up below zero, with wind chills in the region as low as -30. The ambient temperature in Grand Forks, ND last night was -22. Glad I live somewhere a little warmer now (but not much). I don't miss GF in the winter.
We had our first snowstorm of the year here in STP in the last couple days. Not epic by any means, but I got out for a ski afterward, and before there was nothing but rock-hard dirt, so it was a successful snow. I didn't ski long, as I'm having boot-issues (blisters, and the need to return my boots), so I headed to our climbing gym with Alison for some steep fun and a short treadmill run in the Vibrams. I think that's the only place I can really stay interested in running on a treadmill, due to the fact that there is enough good music, live climbing to watch, and high energy in general around. It takes a certain amount of distraction for me to take part in any form of stationary simulation of real fun. Bikes are made to go places, and so are feet, but sometimes inside is the only option due to weather and time (time, really).
This morning, while waiting for Alison to wake up, I'm brainstorming a mixture of winter biking adventures, and places to fly off to to avoid being in the cold 100 percent of the time. MN is offering a lot of good cold weather 2 wheel exploration this time of year, resulting in finding out more of what you're capable of, and at the same time, it's sure nice to thaw out in CA and HI. Alison got a furlough notice at work last week, so we're planning on using some of the transitional time (to who knows what) to travel a bit on the cheap. If work lets you down after all you've put in, you leave and go have fun somewhere. Travel therapy. Work sucks anyway.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where to??

I am trying to figure out the details of a newly thought up trip this Spring, and would like to propose a question:

If you had a week (maybe a little longer) of time around March-ish this coming Spring and wanted to plan a bicycle tour (probably in the U.S.), where would you go??

Keep in mind that I am ok with some pain and suffering. :) Suggest away!

Thanksgiving ride.

I decided to earn my Thanksgiving dinner this year by biking to it. I wasn't interested in the standard guilt of having over-indulged in food on a day spent on sedentary activities. And since the weather has been incredible for November in MN (payback for a horrible October filled with cold and rain and gloom), biking to dinner seemed like an idea that would be silly to pass up.
Coon Rapids was the destination this year (yes I know my bike ride would have been way more epic if I was traveling home to ND :) ). My route took me down Summit Ave in STP, then pretty much followed the Mississippi River the entire way to the Hovde home. It passed through the U of M area, industrial gross-ness by I-94, then through a few suburban river park areas, finishing by crossing the Coon Rapids Dam and rolling into my in-laws place just in time for a shower, then dinner. Alison met me there with our pickup for the return home. If I had packed my bike light, I would have actually considered riding home at night fall too. Next year I guess. All in all it came out to be just over 25 miles; considerable less than I'd estimated, but still a haul considering I was riding the fat-tired Karate Monkey into a northern headwind the entire time. I really need to invest in a pair of cross tires to make that bike more commute-friendly and efficient. I tend to ride bikes that weigh a million pounds. I guess we'll call it training.
We'll see if I ride to Christmas Dinner too. Don't know where it's gonna be yet.

Leaving STP...

Passing through MPLS...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wet cold monkey.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I really haven't commuting to work via bicycle like "normal" for a while. I've been tied up with after work climbing, running, late work, or being hurt from running. I also mentioned that my coworkers had been razzing me for riding through the butt of last winter and then taken off a good deal of the nicer part of the year from commuting. So I decided today's forecast in STP was fitting to return to it. It was 38 degrees, windy, and the ride home included a steady soaking rainfall. And it was dark, cuz it's MN in November. Why not right? It's actually quite comfortable in the right clothing, as I've always said. People are just to close minded to try it. I rode in a lightweight longsleeve wool shirt over another lightweight shortsleeve wool shirt, with a Marmot Precip jacket over it all. Not much, but when you're riding you actually get pretty warm. And since nothing (yes nothing) on the market is truly waterproof and breathable, you get condensation inside. So thus the wool that insulates when wet. It didn't get very wet, just a few drops here and there...very comfortable. More people should ride when it sucks out. They think they would be worse off but I think they would be happier for it if they could just shake their preconceived ideas.

Arriving home.....

Dry enough, and plenty warm the whole trip home. I definitely advocate biking in garbage-y weather.

On another note...running has slowed down for the last week. I didn't follow the advice I blogged last entry, and I went to far to soon with the barefoot style running and ended up with a very sore right achilles tendon that got all swollen. It's starting to feel better again, but I'm going to wait a bit longer before easing back into it. I'd rather miss a few days than get hurt. Listen to the barefoot gurus, they advocate starting very very slowly. Guess I better take the hint.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Changing up my running.

Frustrated with the pain and suffering I described a couple posts ago regarding the running I've been doing, I read Born to Run, a book recommended by several friends of mine. Great read; I'm now also recommending it. One of the things the book highlights is a hotly debated topic of whether or not modern running shoes have done anything to actually help runners avoid injury. It suggests that they have instead caused more injuries than prevented them. This is supposedly because our feet are not able to react and function in the way they do naturally when not encased in a "protective" shoe. Instead of landing softly on the forefoot with a short stride when barefoot, the running-shoe-shod foot lands hard on the heel are rotates forward to the forefoot after a long high impact stride. And while the cushioning in a running shoe is designed to absorb some of this impact, it cannot possibly protect our bodies from the force generated by that kind of impact. Think about how much you weigh, then factor in the force of your foot's acceleration and landing, and it is rather silly to think an inch of rubber/cushioning will dissipate it all when landing directly on the heel. That's supposedly why we get injured more often now that running shoes have become so prevalent in the past 30-some years. Running barefoot, or close to it, allows the body to react correctly, and we run like we evolved to do. I won't regurgitate the book to you, but I'd totally recommend it. And don't think it's a boring comparative article either, it's actually a very entertaining true story of the author's seeking out of the Taramuhara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons to learn how they run into old age in sandles over harsh terrain injury free while dining on corn mush. :) In they end they even put on a 50 mile foot race between the Taramuhara and a few very tough American ultra marathon runners- I won't tell you who wins. :)
By reading this book and several other accounts of barefoot-style running, I decided to try a pair of Vibram Fivefingers footwear, which leave you feeling barefoot, but provide protection against cuts and nicks and small stuff you run into while truly barefoot. It takes some time for your muscles to get used to them, as we've spent our whole lives in shoes, but I love them so far. I haven't felt any of the knee and hip pain that was experiencing while running in the expensive running shoes I got fitted for and started out in. The only thing I've dealt with is an expected soreness in certain muscles, such as my calves, as they are worked harder barefoot, but that's just the body getting stronger, not injured. Sweet. If you try them, follow the Vibram link above to several tips in their barefoot running section so as to not go overboard with it at the beggining. As mentioned, your body needs to adjust, and it might not be for everyone. So far I dig it. I'll keep you posted.

Hiking around Makapuu Point in Oahu in my new Vibram Fivefingers KSOs:


Flight benefits have been good to the Jensen's for the past couple years. The latest trip happened last weekend: a quick getaway to the Island of Oahu in HI. It was our first time to Hawaii, and I can tell it wont be the last. November is supposedly a cold month in MN, so we thought we'd get out and enjoy some sun. In actuality, it ended up being 60 degrees and folks were climbing outside here, but I'm still glad we went. :) The weekend was spent hiking, eating, chilling on endless beaches, shopping (yeah, I actually did a little of that), and touring the island via a rented car. Two and a half days isn't anywhere enough time to see Oahu, but it was a start. It also got us riled up to see the other islands too. Oahu is pretty populated, so it would be great to put on a pack and hike around the other less inhabited islands sometime. We'll be going back.

Up above the Makapuu Point Light, where the Island of Molokai can be seen across the ocean (but not in this picture):

Somewhere on the North Shore of Oahu:

Near where Jurassic Park was filmed (and parts of Lost):

Waikiki as seen from the top of Diamond Head:

At Waikiki's Central Beach:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mobile again.

I'm happy to report I was able to handle another run this afternoon. It's been two weeks since my last run and subsequent period of pain and stiffness. From what I can piece together from all my friends who are runners, I just dove in to fast. I'm used to being out on a bike for hours at a time, and I'm able to repeat that several times a week. So running for twenty minutes left me feeling like I didn't finish exercising; I had so much gas left in the tank, but it was enough of a new activity to kill my joints and hear plenty of screaming from unhappy tendons and muscles. Last Sunday while visiting my folks in Minot, I tried going out for a small run to loosen up in the morning, but found I couldn't handle jogging ten feet due to all the joint discomfort. That's stiff. So I let this week pass to, with a little cycling to loosen up (plus teaching long days on my feet), and today I felt good enough to get back to it, but kept it easy. I only ran about a mile and a quarter, and walked another mile. My knees, ankles, and hips seem to have accepted it all right. So I'm glad I didn't hurt myself two weeks ago; I wasn't sure until the past couple days.

Another note from this week- I went to the Minneapolis showing of the Reel Rock Film Tour this past Thursday night. Incredible. Every time I catch a glimpse of what the world's "professional" climbers are up to, I am floored. Alex Honnold's soloing of Zion's Moonlight Buttress and Yosemite's Half Dome was a bit surreal. I really don't know what to think of it. The climbing world can't help watching in amazement and feel that he is truly a cut above the rest, yet at the same time recognize the absolute absurdity of it all. 1,100-2,000 feet of ropeless climbing on some of the world's most famed big walls is both a showing of the highest level of boldness and insanity. Achieve the goal and feel the purest and most epic climbing experience, but fail and leave life behind after a brief (or quite long), horrifying, fall. At least Dean Potter occasionally wears a parachute. I'm more than content in my well protected climbing experiences. It's already an passtime taking me to places that most do not see and experiencing thrills most wont. No reason to invite death in the mix.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Too early for pain and cold...

So apparently we are skipping fall in MN and going straight to winter. Three measurable snowfall accumulations in the first half of the month, and temps 15 degrees below average. I fear I may actually miss the fall colors on the North Shore for the second year in a row too. Fall is not turning out to be all I'd hoped for so far. Plus, I managed to upset my knees already in my recent running endeavors. I entered the hills far too early and have had to stay away from runs for a few days now to recover. It's amazing how fast your body can turn on you if it's not used to the abuse you're giving it. I can absolutely pummel myself in the majority of cycling ventures and recover extremely fast, but running has been a new game completely. I'm sticking with it though, with due rest periods of course as to not injure myself.
The good part in these semi-painful and cold sloppy days is that my Karate Monkey is rearing to go as it's been hanging on a hook most of the summer while the Trucker and Stumpjumper and Lemond were played with. It's messy bike time again. And I've got to get back on the commuter horse again, as I've been driving too much. I got caught up with other outdoor ventures that were taking up a lot of time, and didn't ride to work as much lately. My coworkers have been razzing me for riding in the butt of winter last year but driving when it's been relatively mild out this summer. Yeah, that's dumb. I better fix things and start riding again now that the snow is back. :)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rain and good deals

Well this weekend was supposed to be a backpacking weekend near Grand Marais, MN, along the Superior Hiking Trail with myself, Alison, and our friend Julia, who we've been trying to get out with for quite a while. We finally marked down the weekend and we're going to make it happen. But as nature would have it, it wasn't the weekend for us. MN has gone from summer to cold, wet, fall in a matter of days. We had a couple great 50 degree sunny days that definitely elevated my mood from the hot sticky days of summer. But in the past few days the rain came. And the wind came with it. The forecast for the weekend up north was highs in the high 40s, gusty winds at 40mph in some spots (trees crashing on the trail all over) and steady rain. So the trip got "weathered". I probably would have still gone, but didn't want to force my craziness on Alison and Julia, so we're hanging out at home this weekend.
It was worth being around last night. We headed out to REI to get a pair of shoes Alison wanted, and discovered that the "scratch and dent" sale from last weekend was still going with a few items left, and they were getting rid of those things at an additional 50% off. Sweet. We ended up getting a basecamp tent for $43 instead of the regular $400, and another bivy for $63 instead of $200. Nice. Smokin' deals on gear make me love the REI co-op. I tend to end up buying gear for adventures on the weekends that I'm not on adventures. :)
As for the rest of the weekend...not sure yet. Looks like the climbing gym and a run is on the menu for today. And yes, I said run. I've tried to pick up running in the past unsuccessfully, but Alison and I are giving it another go. I've got to get stronger in that realm for backpacking, and hopefully some mountaineering ventures sometime soon.
Anyhow, a rainy weekend cancelled a trip, but it seems to be going ok anyhow...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Headwaters 100 2009

This past weekend was the 2009 edition of the Headwaters 100 in Park Rapids, MN. It was my sixth year attending, so I've now become a "veteran" of the ride. Don't really need the route map anymore. But the ride is still almost as entertaining as it was the first time. I say almost, because the first time I rode it was the second time I'd ever attempted a century (the first time was a non-event ride where I didn't finish the full distance), and I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle it all. So there was an element of excitement, not knowing what to expect. But going into this year, not only have I completed many century's, but I'd ridden the Headwaters route 5 times successfully, and the same level of adventure isn't quite there anymore. But it's always still fun, and well worth the trip up to Itasca country. The reason this year was high on the fun-meter was that Alison came with for the first time. I had planned on doing the full century and finding someone to ride the 45 mile option with her. But as I couldn't find anyone, she was facing her longest road ride to date alone. Not something I wanted to have her do, so I offered to ride with her. She surprised me and said she'd just give the 75 mile loop a try instead! (There are 3 different loop options with differing distances, even though the 100 is the flagship ride). There's the spirit! And she was very successful, riding 77 miles with me and tackling her first cycling endurance event. And seeing as she did not train for it, we both can see the full century is well within next year's goals. Sweet. I'm proud of you babe!

The only camera I had with was my phone, so this is the only grainy photo I have as a memento, but it'll do:

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I was able to tame a bit of my aforementioned "mountain crabbiness" this past weekend by making a quick trip out to the Wasatch. The Paasch clan took me in for another great weekend of climbing and mountain biking.
Friday Kelly and I were both pretty tired, as we both were running off around 4 hours of sleep, but we decided to head up into Little Cottonwood Canyon and do some climbing. I'd never been up to the limestone above Alta, so we did a mostly sport line high up in the canyon. It felt so good to be in the Wasatch again. I miss the days where it was right out my back window. Maybe it will happen again someday and last.
I found the limestone area we were in to be easier per grade than the bottom of the canyon's granite hardman trad routes. It was nice to feel strong for a change. :)
Saturday brought mountain biking, and what I may be so bold as to label the best outdoor day of 2009 so far. Kelly was able to round up a full carbon Fuel 100 for me to ride for the day (thanks!) and we did part of the Wasatch Crest Trail, with a dip down into Millcreek Canyon and a short jaunt of the Great Western Trail for good measure. I was fully expecting to feel weak at altitude (around 10,000 feet at times) due to where I live, but the mountains and expensive bikes must have brought something out in me, because I was feeling stronger than most days at home at 800 feet. The beginning of our route included "Puke Hill", which by the name you can tell is not typically a comfortable climb. I'd walked this hill other times having been to the Crest, but this time I rode every inch of it. I almost cleaned it all without stopping, but the last 50 feet got me. Next time. I'm happy to have not walked any of it though! It went great.
With a "Puke Hill" motivational climb in my system, I was pretty jazzed to be in the mountains and feeling strong for the rest of the day, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's great to be in the world's great scenery with good friends.
And we almost made it out with no crashes for once, until the last 1/4 mile of trail, were unfortunately Julie washed out on her Enduro at speed. Bummer. Torn up knee, but no damage inside. Lucky. All in all a good day despite the wreck.
I'm going back to UT soon. And hopefully to live again someday, but we'll see what the responsible world requires of me.

Coming down from climbing in Little Cottonwood...

Actually feeling really great at the top of "Puke Hill"....

Final descent into Big Cottonwood Canyon....

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Banning State Park in MN is a park that I tend to drive right past. It's not that I haven't had the interest to see it, it is that it lies on the way from St Paul to the North Shore, and I'm usually headed all the way there. So on a boring Saturday a few weeks ago, I decided that since I didn't have the time to go all the way North due to obligations Sunday, I'd head to Banning and finally check it out.
The Kettle River seems to define the characteristics of the park, and is a popular place for river boaters (of the paddling kind, not the Grain Belt chuggin' pontoon fisherman kind- both found easily in MN). I hiked along the river for a round trip around 4 miles, and then set up my ENO hammock and took a little nap, as the bugs were not out in numbers. It was a relatively sleepy day, so this worked out well.
Overall I'd say that I'll most likely continue to make the North Shore my destination when traveling in MN, but Banning was worth checking out, and once owning a river kayak I'd probably end up there semi-frequently.

A couple kayakers at "Hells Gate" rapids- I think we've gone and over-named this one folks. :) Oddly enough, one of these guys looks strangely like my uncle Dave, and the other like Edward Abbey. Didn't know they knew each other. :)

Hammocks and MN Rivers go well together...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adam and Jamie's North Shore Visit

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I took my brother and his wife up to Lake Superior. Adam hadn't seen it since childhood, and it would be Jamie's first time, having spent her whole life in TX. The big lake is certainly something to see. We had a very short time frame (about 5 hours to spend in the area), so I made three quick goals to give them a fast North Shore experience: see one of the many waterfall areas along the rivers that feed to the lake, witness the climbing scene on Palisade Head, and have a good sit on one of the Superior beaches.

For the waterfall experience, we took a quick jaunt around Gooseberry Falls:

For the chilling out along a lake beach experience, I took them down to Crystal Cove (find it on your own, it's better that way... :)

At Palisade Head, we hung out at the top of Phantom Crack and Bluebells...routes I had the chance to climb earlier this summer.

Phantom Crack:

Looking down the Bluebells route:

Adam's ready to rope up.

Finish of Phantom Crack route:

Superior Hiking...

August has been disappearing quickly. The temps are getting less obnoxious; we are not having our Midwestern "muggy" days, and I'm happy to report that. I've found that I'm not as disgusting upon showing up for work on my bicycle, and that's nice for everyone. (I can easily clean up, but it's better when that's not a big project.) It's time to start shopping for a new crankset for my winter bike, as it's service will be called upon in the not too distant future.
The other thing happening with the approach of the fall season, is that I'm getting more excited to backpack. MN is not my number one pick as far as places to live and play, but we do have a fantastic distance hiking trail, as anyone who has followed this blog in the past is aware of. Alison and I went out for a day hike on the Superior Hiking Trail last weekend, and it's getting to that time of year where the place gets downright enjoyable. The rivers/lakes/ponds/etc. are still quite accessible as water sources. There's still several wild raspberry bushes supplying distractions to hiking in the form of snacking, and there are a very few select leaves that have decided to prematurely change colors, jumping the gun before all the others will do shortly. That time will be the best for backpacking on the Trail. There will be wonderful cool temps to hike in, and chilly air at night to curl up in a warm sleeping bag and listen to the woods. The night is longer- a length that allows for a little extended comfortable sleep, but not yet forcing you to be tent-bound and shivering for too many hours as the winter will do.
A couple of the following several weekends may be spent traveling to distant locales, but a couple will likely be spent on this wonderful Trail, a place that keeps my outdoor-obsessive mind occupied while in the Midwest.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Mountain Crabby"

I'm placing a title on something I often feel due to loving the West while living in the Midwest:
"Mountain Crabby".
I just came home from finishing teaching two weeks of back to back recurrent ground schools, which translates to being overworked for half the month, and not getting much sleep. The weekends nestled between weeks in the classroom are vital to keep a outdoor recreation addict like myself from reaching a foul mood.
It wasn't that last weekend wasn't enjoyable; I spent it with family that I hadn't seen in a while (some of you are no doubt reading this), and it was a great time to catch up. We were celebrating my cousin's wedding. And Sunday did involve a very quick drive up to the North Shore to show the area (what you can see in 5 hours from the highway) to my brother and his wife, who live in Texas. So there was a small glimpse into the outdoors, but not enough to recharge amidst all the recent long workdays.
I'm feeling now the grumpiness I get when it's been a while since I've been out West to play in the big stuff. It doesn't take long for me to reach this state of mind. I like MN and ND, but all who know me and have ever read this blog know that I need the mountains on a regular basis so as to not get grumpy. When you have a passion for something, separation from it results in cranky times.
I'd be fine, but I think it may be several more weeks until I can use the flight benefits that keep me pacified living in the Midwest, as they are my connection to the West. I know, complain, complain- most people aren't fortunate enough to have this kind of benefit, but it's harder to use than one would think. There are schedules, commitments, etc. that hold one back from using a weekend to get out, and then when you are free, travel involves either finding someone who lives in the area that you are headed to go cheap, or rental cars start to get expensive in a hurry. There's a lot to cancel weekend outing plans to the West.
So when things cancel multiple attempts to get out, that's when the "mountain crabbiness" sets in and I fuss over how much I miss the mountains. And once again, it's not that I am unlucky in my circumstances here at home (I do have a wonderful life), it is simply the depth of my enjoyment of the mountains that causes me to wish I was there.
I'm sure I'll end up on an impromptu trip in the direction of higher elevations before too many more weeks. For now I'll just need to attempt to set aside the "mountain crabbiness" and focus on what I have around me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer weekends.

The past few weekends have been fun. Last post covered climbing on the North Shore. The weekend following was scheduled to be a sort of dude-reunion from my college days, also on the North Shore, but it fell through at the last minute. But my friend Nate and I, who still wanted to go, did anyway, and got our wives to come with us, and it ended up being a great trip. We camped, ate, hiked, ate, swam, ate, hammocked, get it. Relaxing in the North woods. And that pattern actually started a couple days before that trip, as Alison and I were at her family's lake cabin in WI vacationing with her side of the family. There was even some kayaking done there. I want one. First a garage though, I suppose, as we are in a one bedroom apartment with six bikes right now. I'm not sorry. :)
This past weekend I headed out to Portland, OR to check out the OR Brewfest, a festival of craft beers, with a couple friends from my days in Minot, way back when. A hot day filled with beer sampling sure tires a guy out but I wasn't complaining. My favorite of the day was from Grand Teton Brewing- an ESB called Bitch Creek. I have to admit we tried it just because of the name, and it turned out to be the day's best. I hope I can find it in St. Paul, or better yet clone it at home.
This weekend, I can't decide between Salt Lake, the North Shore again, or actually staying at home, possibly to do a big road ride and catch up on things I haven't done in the midst of all my playing. In case you're wondering I have been working like crazy during the weekdays; I'm not that lucky. :) But pretty spoiled non the less.

Paddling on Big Bearskin Lake, WI...Alison is pointing to four otters that decided to swim up and grunt at us....

Lunchtime along the Temperance River....

Enjoying sunset in Grand Marais...

Cairns stacked at Artist's Point, Grand Marais, MN...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Roped in on the North Shore in July

With airline travel benefits, I have to admit that I've been neglecting the outdoor locales up north in my current state of residence.  It's cheaper for me to get on an airplane and head to the Wasatch Range or California than it is to drive to MN's North Shore of Lake Superior.  But this weekend I decided to finally get back up there, and did some climbing on Palisade Head and Shovel Point.  We did some North Shore trad classics- Danger High Voltage, Bluebells, Phantom Crack, and the several variations of Dance of the Sugar Plump Faeries (ranging from 5.7-5.10c).  It was great to get out.  Every time I visit the shores of Lake Superior I am impressed.  It is a different kind of awe than the one found in the vertical venues of the West, but it's still awe.  I would love to buy a sea kayak and travel the shorelines of the big lake someday.  And it reminds me that I have quite a bit of mile left to backpack on the Superior Hiking Trail.  And a bike tour along as much of the Lake as possible would also be entertaining.  Too much to do and to much money to earn during life.  I can see why people become dirtbag hippies that live in their cars.  :)  But the weekends away from the office keep me going in my more responsible life.  Sorry I don't have any actual climbing pix from the weekend.  There were only two of us, and belaying duties preclude photography.  All I have to offer is a mediocre shot of me setting up over Phantom Crack on Palisade Head, with Shovel Point seen in the distance.  Come visit me in MN and we'll go climbing!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Rough ending

Coming home from SLC last weekend, I walked up to the back of our apartment building not suspecting to see the brutal end of a puppy dog's life:

Life can be harsh.

SLC Weekend

Alison and I actually had a weekend off together last week, so we elected to visit our friends Kelly and Julie down in Salt Lake City.  It was a good time to get out, cuz the weather in STP was hot and humid.  SLC was just hot, but not bad at all.  There's mountains to head into there where the temps are cooler.  
We spent Saturday in Little Cottonwood Canyon, where we end up pretty much every time we go to UT, seeing as it's awesome.  Alison and I climbed Pentapitch, while Kelly and Julie climbed Neuromancer, just to the left of Pentapitch.  It was good trad leading for me after being in the gym so much, and it was Alison's first multi-pitch climb.  Even with the light grade, it was challenging for both of us mentally.  For Alison, it was the length of the climb, and for me it was the airy crux on lead, which involved the worst protection and most committing climbing on the route.  Nothing unsafe, just mentally taxing as a fall would be exciting.  
After climbing we had a great evening of chilling out and eating in Sugarhouse, the part of SLC that our friends live in.  I think it's the St Paul of UT, as parts of it remind me of here.  
Sunday was pretty relaxed, as we did church in the morning, then slacklined with a Jamba Juice visit till it was time to head to the airport and return to MN.  
Definitely a good weekend, and we didn't miss the humidity.  

Our butts hiking up to the Pentapitch area:

Little Cottonwood is always pretty:

Slacklining in Sugurhouse Park:

Finally learned to sit on the line:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

ND Bike Crossing Link

I've finally finished putting together an account of my bicycle crossing of North Dakota.  I put together a tour journal on  Rather than copy-pasting all the different portions onto this blog, I'm just supplying a link to the journal here:

Crossing My Home State

Thanks for being patient as it's taken me a while to write everything down in the midst of returning to work.  I hope you enjoy the account!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crazy mixed-surface Saturday ride...

I was antsy after a long work week (3 long work weeks really), and needed a long bike ride today.  I rode big last weekend on my Lemond, and managed to ride bigger considerably today on, oddly enough, my 29er.  It's not my big-miles bike, so it was the result of a completely non-planned, leave from the apartment and see what happens venture.  Good idea.  I rode to Grand Performance, a local shop first, cuz I needed a spare tube, then down along the Mississippi to Fort Snelling State Park.  From there, I crossed the Mendota bridge to the other side of the river to explore some gravel trail that I thought went a decent distance along the river.  It did.  I linked up with the MORC built river-bottoms singletrack in Bloomington, then on to hwy 169.  Rode up through Eden Prairie to the Kenilworth Trail, which is a rails to trails path.  It turns into the Greenway in Minneapolis, which took me back to St Paul via the West River Pky and the Lake Street/Marshall Bridge and down to Summit Ave.  Wow.  Didn't plan to go that huge, but it was worth it.  The route below shows 55ish miles, but that's a very short estimate as I couldn't possibly have tracked the whole route as the singletrack wound all over the place along the river.  As a result, I'm estimating the route with all it's meandering was closer to 63ish miles.  Considering the varied terrain and surfaces and being on fat tires, that's a pretty good day.  I'd place it equal to a moderate road century as far as effort.  So it was just what I needed to clear my engine from too much being in the office/classroom. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ND Tour Account

I'm still in the progress of writing an account of the ND bike crossing I recently completed.  It may not be up for a bit, as I'd like to take the time to do it right, and thus have a record worth keeping of a trip that was worth remembering.  Keep your eyes peeled for it and I hope not to disappoint.  
this is cool....

Sunday, June 07, 2009


ND bike crossing was a success.  I don't have time to blog the full story now, so I'll leave with at preview picture until I can sit down and write...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Here's the ND tour route, just the border to border ND portion (MN may be added later):

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trip and tick update...

I'm getting closer to ready for my bicycle trip across ND.  My travel arrangements are pretty much complete and my route is picked out.  I'm taking the Amtrak, which I realize is odd for an airline employee, but it will cost less than flying with my bike, and will take me to Williston, ND, which is much closer to the MT border than Minot, where I would have to bum a ride to get the rest of the way.  I'll ride west for just a bit to get to MT, then drop down near the north unit of Theodore Rosevelt National Park, then hook up with Hwy 200, which other than a detour near Lake Sakakawea, will take me across the state in pretty much a straight line.  Not what I'd originally intended, but that's because I'm going to attempt to cover some distance of MN now too.  It would be great to make it all the way back to St Paul, but that's a lofty mileage goal on a fully loaded bike with 8 days.  That would not be the relaxation approach, and I would like to do some of that, believe it or not.  
I should be building my new wheel in the next few days- as soon as the rim gets here.  I picked up the rest of my wheel-building tools today at REI.  I bit the bullet and purchased a professional wheel truing stand, a dishing gauge, and a spoke tension meter.  I'm set for building and maintaining wheels for quite some time.  I need a shop for my shop now.  :)  That could potentially happen sooner than later- Alison and I are working numbers right now and looking to possibly buy our first home.  It doesn't appear that with our current aviation market we'll be seeing any major changes in position for a while, so we'd like to be earning some equity and having more than a cramped little apartment for space.  We'll see what happens, we haven't decided on anything yet, but are getting more and more educated on the process for now.

On the mention of Lyme Disease from my last post- I may or may not have it.  Now, you may be thinking, why would you be heading out to the middle of the frontier prairie on a bike when you might have Lyme Disease, Ben?  Well, it's because I don't currently have any symptoms and my doctors says I have no restrictions.  The only symptom I did have after being bitten by a deer tick was the "bullseye of death", as I have jokingly started to call it- a target shaped rash around the bite site that typically points to Lyme Disease.  I was bitten while rock climbing on Mt. Diablo in CA, most likely during the visit I took to some tall grass to evacuate a meal used.  I felt the bite happen while driving through Berkeley that evening, but thought it was a pinched nerve or some form of upset muscle, since was on my inner thigh where my climbing harness had been in contact with quite a bit that day.  I was feeling very beat up from the days rock exercises, so I didn't think anything of the pain and soreness I was feeling.   A few short hours later I was able to look at my thigh, and found the deer tick buried pretty well.  I removed it (quite well I might add), and went to the doctor with said tick the next day after flying back to St Paul.  They gave me a one time antibiotic just in case at that point, and told me to come back with the addition of any symptoms.  Well, I already told you I got the rash, so that landed me in the clinic again and that time they gave me two more weeks of antibiotics, which I am finishing by this Thursday (which is good, because it's keep me from trying more than just a sip of my newest homebrew to come out- an Irish Red).  Anyhow, rash disappeared, and no new symptoms.  I don't think I have the disease, but I won't know for sure until another month when they can test my blood for it.  I guess it takes some time for it to show up.  Until told otherwise, I'm going to go about my business like nothing nasty and bug-based is flowing through my veins.  So that's the story.  I think the climbing may have even been worth it.  I had the chance to lead (poorly, but for the most part successfully) Amazing Face, a Bay Area classic sport route.  100 feet or so of crimpy sandstone face climbing.  Exposed for a one pitch climb, and it was good for me to do it on the sharp end.  That's always the biggest obstacle I have- the mental push to step out on a hard move above the last piece; to be ok with possibly falling a distance when the system and fall itself is safe.   I think the mental side to climbing is always harder than the physical.  It's why most people don't climb at all, I suppose.  
Anyhow, there should be documentation of the tour and such to come amidst my busy work schedule.  I always seem to find time to talk bikes and fun outside.  :)

Thursday, May 07, 2009


So when I don't post very often, it's caused by one of two things- either I have been experiencing uneventful times, or, like now, I've been freakin' busy.  Lots of things to catch up on, but I don't know that I have the time to share all tonight.  Here's the short of it- went to California again, climbed very hard there, possibly got Lyme Disease (verdict's still out, and up to a blood test in around 5 weeks), expanding my home bike shop to include all necessary wheel building tools (expensive), been working like mad, and it's getting closer to the ND bike tour (last week of May), and several other things.  Stay tuned for an actual discussion on those topics.   

Monday, April 20, 2009

LHT Goodness

I've done it before but I just need to rant a little more now about my Surly Long Haul Trucker.  Last night I was pretty worn out due to climbing this weekend, but I needed a few groceries.  So, despite the soreness I grabbed a couple panniers and threw a leg over the big bike.  The weather had been cold and rainy all day, but cleared off a bit to let a bit of a sunset through the clouds as I pedaled down the bike lane of Summit Ave towards Whole Foods.  Quite a few people were out enjoying the night.  It was one of those relaxing rides that reminds you that not every bike experience needs high excitement; that sometimes sitting atop a comfy Brooks on an upright steel touring bike on a crisp night hauling fresh fruit can lead you to a different mellow excitement.  More of a luxury than a rush.  Sometimes the 33 pound bike is more appropriate than the sub-20 pound fast machine.  I do like both though.  :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rock fix

I ended up climbing at Taylors Falls today with a new friend of mine who I met at Vertical Endeavors.  It was an impromptu decision last night at the gym due to the forecast being incredible after the long winter, as blogged earlier.  It was a good day of placing cams and pulling down on rock instead of plastic for a change.  I now only have one new cam which hasn't seen duty- the big #5 C4, which could have been used in an anchor I set today if I hadn't forgotten it in my pack below.  Dumb.  How long have I wanted that cam, and then I didn't use it.  I'm sure there will be more behemoth cracks in the future.  
I was able to better familiarize myself with Taylors today due to the leaves not being in; you can actually see the forest through the trees right now.  :)  So, routes I have not been able to locate before were found and climbed today.  Nice.  I also did a little scouting of the WI side of the river, and have a few routes on the to do list marked for over that way now.  There just needs to be more weekends and more climbing partners.  And preferable less wasps, too.  I had to back out of one lead today due to having no crack to place gear in that wasn't full of flying stingers.  
Big mileage on the road bike is also needed if I'm to keep in distance shape.  The MN Ironman century is next weekend, and I may partake.  I may be heading to CA though, so that's pending.  I'll most likely choose climbing out that way over a prairie suburban century, but we'll see.  I do need to log the miles in order to pull off something bigger later this summer.  It may be the summer of the double.  But don't be impressed now; it's just talk and dreaming at this point.  Many talk and dream and end as posers.  Few complete a 200 mile one day.  I have the dream, but we'll see if I have what it takes to pull it off the mental and physical suffering of it all.  
Tomorrow will have some riding in store I would imagine, despite rain in the forecast, as well as bottling an Irish Red brewed last month, so it should be a relaxing Sunday before starting in with another week of teaching buttons and checklists and policies.  Freedom comes in short sweet bursts.  

Friday, April 17, 2009


I think I am finally safe in saying that it's here.  Amen.  Winter can suck bad, and it's gone.  
Commuting via bicycle has been getting seriously pleasant after many months of hardship.  Although oddly enough I have done less of it lately, which is rather backwards.  I was sick for two weeks, and then I've been focusing on climbing lately, as well as wanting to ride my Lemond and Stumpjumper after work.  Had the serious mountain bike out last night for the first time at Battle Creek, and was impressed by a couple new sections of singletrack.  The park is still super random, being that the trails just branch off all over the place with no real flow to your ride, but it's worth riding once and a while, and it's close to home.  If MORC does some more connecting development to existing singletrack the place could get pretty nice.  I'll have to get on their forums and see if I can offer some help doing so.  While I live here I want more good riding to show up.  None of it will beat my old UT backdoor trails, but something is better than nothing.
Tonight will be climbing at the gym; not enough sunlight yet after work to get out to real rock.  If anyone is interested in climbing some trad this weekend outdoors let me know; I'd love to go.  I still have several new cams purchased over the winter that have not yet seen rock, which is of course being unacceptable now that the weather is nice.  Let's go climbing!
More later...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A past home...

I have been watching the news the past week as I've been laid up sick at home, and have been feeling thankful that we no longer live in the Red River "Valley".  The poor residents up there are experiencing the yearly apocalypse the region is known for, and it's been particularly ugly this time.  I'm sure you've seen the flooding on the news, as it's hit the national venues.  I've even seen people I went to college with during Katie Couric's nightly news.  I have no interest in living any additional years in an area where you can see record flooding combined with blizzard conditions.  Seriously.  The state closed I-29 because if you slide off the icy snowy road, you can end up submerged in 7 feet of water.  There are severe weather phenomena that can be associated with adventure and sometimes even some level of fun, but I see nonesuch experience in the flooding/freezing of an place where people are already tired of a long winter season.  Give them a break, nature.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


A couple other "bummers" eluded my memory when writing this mornings post.  I failed to mention that I've worn out both the rear rim on my LHT, and the crankset on my KM.  Both Surlys are hurtin'.  Life of a commuter.  The LHT rim, a Bontrager Maverick, is cracking at many eyelets, and should get replaced before my ND tour (which I'm thinking may happen late-May/early June).  The KM's crankset, a Race Face Evolve, is just not settling correctly.  I've had problems with it ever since buying the bike used last year.  It is a new-school 2 piece set up that relies on the appropriate amount of spacers to ensure that one, the bottom bracket bearings operate smoothly, and two, the crank arms are not loose.  I think the guy who had it before me did something stupid the first time he built it and wore down the crank splines, because nothing works to make it smooth now.  It is adjusted in 1mm spacer increments, and between 1mm, I either have significant play in the drive side crank arm, or I bind the bb bearings.  Not cool.  So I need to keep an eye out for a new crankset/bb setup while I continue to ride/destroy this one.  And the rim on the touring set-up; I'll have to do some research and decide on a beefier rim that can actually handle the touring/commuting the bike is designed for and either build it myself or have it done by one of the very skilled wheel-builders found at a couple different Twin Cities shops.  We'll see.  I'd like to stop wrecking expensive bike parts, but I know it wont stop.  It's the lifestyle.  And bike parts are cheaper than car parts. 

And a tour update- I've been pouring over the ND Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme, and just can't decide on a route so far, but I'm working on it.  The Badlands/National Grasslands region is stumping me, for three reasons.  First, I want to see as much as I can since it contains the most impressive scenery in the state.  Second, many of the roads are gravel and don't go anywhere.  :)  It's hard to find a long road to get through the area without taking a major highway.  And third, I need to make sure I have plans to either have somewhere to obtain necessary water, or simply plan to carry a ton of it, which I'd rather not do but will if I have to.  The regions water sources are notorious for clogging water filters due to being extremely silty/muddy.  Yum.  I'll keep you posted as the trip continues to formulate...
You may have already seen this on the Surly blog, but if not, it's worth a view:

Ups and downs

The past week and a half has been back and forth for me, with great spring moments and a couple of "bummers" mixed in.   I'll get the "bummers" out of the way first.  I'm home sick for the third time since Christmas.  I was teaching class yesterday, and my voice quit working, and my temperature started coming up.  I found another instructor to take over for me, and when I got home I went to sleep very uncomfortable with a 101 temperature and no voice.  But whatever, I'll get over it.  In a way it's nice to get a break from teaching, just not this way.  And the other bummer:  taxes.  This was the first year that Alison and I really made any money in our lives, so while I'm used to getting returns, we got to pay this year.  And not a small amount.  Bummer.  But again whatever, I'll get over it.  And I'm happy to support our country as long as our government uses my money wisely.  I can't say they always do, but I think it's going to get better.  
On to the good.  Spring, despite the past couple days has been showing up after many months of darkness, cold, and boredom.   I managed to get out on my road bike (first for 2009) this past weekend, twice, to cover about 65 miles, and took a long city exploration ride the sloppier but still nice weekend before last on the Karate Monkey.  The road rides were through the Highwood Hills area of St Paul and out to the St. Croix Washington County area.  The only bad part of it all was on the second ride, when I tried to explore a new route that came back through Woodbury, which ended up like most suburban bike rides- crappy.  Most who know me understand my distaste of most American suburbs.  They are generic, car-centered, cycling-unfriendly places to get bored.  How's that for an over-generalization.  :)  But they do suck to ride in.  
My city exploration ride on the Surly was from my apartment in STP to downtown MPLS along the Missississippi River.  It was very wet, as the snow melt made the bike paths a mixture of mud, water, and pavement.   I probably should have covered the Brooks, but it dried out.  Fun ride.  

The Surly on the Stone Arch Bridge, MPLS...

Now that's a soggy Brooks...whoops....

Looking out over the Mississippi...

Another fun moment of the past couple weeks was heading out with Alison to the Como Zoo here in STP.  The animals are also pumped for Spring.  The gorillas were out throwing snowballs- if you've never seen this in person it's time to go check it out.  :)  The wolves were out pacing the perimeter of their edge of the zoo cage watching the locals walking their little tiny edible puppies.  :)  And the African Hoofed Animals section had a comical Scandinavian variation to the entrance sign:

If you're Northern you'll get it.  :)

The last thing I have to comment on now is a curious new behavior of Mullet.  When we are gone, he's gotten into the habit of carrying one of Alison's slippers into the bathroom and setting it in the middle of our rug by the radiator.  Our theory is that he's using it as a pillow, because he's often lays in front of this heat source for his afternoon laziness.  We can only wonder though; we've never seen him carry it in person, but almost every day now we find a solitary slipper laying in the bathroom.  Just another tick on Mullet's odd behavior chart.  :) 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a shift.

I've owned and ridden a singlespeed bike for many years now, basically since the second year I was in college.  The only real exception was my brief time living in UT, because it was too painful to ride one gear there.  So it comes as no real surprise that I've just spent another winter commuting 34x19 in the snow and deep cold 18 miles a day (for the most part (minus 25 sucks)).  I've put my time in, and can call myself a veteran singlespeed rider.  But this past weekend I decided to make a shift, literally.  I geared my Karate Monkey, and it's now set up as a 1x9.  The long slow plods weren't doing it for me anymore, and I've decided for at least until summer, I'm going to leave this bike geared and set aside singlespeeding.  It was nice getting to work faster and not feeling the "pump" and fatigue after each commute.  Efficiency is not a bad thing, right?  And there wont be that much more maintenance.  If anything, I'll go through chains less often too.  I know, it's odd that I'd choose to switch when riding is only getting easier, but I'm just getting sick of the slowness.  Anyhow, the one speed thing will come back, but for now, I'm enjoying picking my cadence again after many many months of following the familiar strange draw of one-speeding I've often chosen.  

Friday, March 06, 2009

Dividends are here...

Every March we REI members get a little ansty because we know we're about to receive yearly dividends, which means free gear. Yes. Due to the fact that I use an REI Visa, my dividends the past couple years have been seriously fat, which of course makes me pee myself with excitment, knowing that it's time to get stuff I normally can't afford. :) This year among the list of "free" stuff, is some new cams. A number 5 Black Diamond C4 has been on my wish list for a while, as I need more big pro and it is so very expensive. I will protect up to a 5.85" crack, which is big and painful. BD makes a number 6 that will go to 7.68", but I'm not an off-width monster so I don't know that that will join my rack unless I suddently move to southern UT where that kind of drama is neccessary. :) You never know... The number 5 is huge enough for now, just look at it's wingspan next to another purchase of the day, a number 1 Metolius TCU, my current smallest camming unit:

Or use my laptop for reference....big.

Intrigued for now....face will be more stretched in a mixed combo of happiness and agony when placing in a real wide crack....

It does feel crazy to own a single piece of rock protection that equals the cost of a craigslist fixed gear bicycle though...puts the cost of trad climbing in perspective.