Sunday, June 8, 2008

Great Workout...Solo DBA ride ends in failure to "break on through..."

DBD workout ends in failure…The author invites others to accept the challenge.

In an effort to empathetically honor those brave soldiers as they made their intrepid trek across the barrens of our neighboring lands to the North (THE RED ASS 300); Saturday‘s ambitious goal was to get a HONDO+ in tough conditions. Because of family commitments, the given time constraint was a maximum of eight hours, with the self-imposed challenge being to “break on thru to the other side” from the southern aspect of the Munger-Shaw Road, which appears on several maps to end at some point a few miles past the tiny Hamlet of Taft. In contrast to these other geographical sources, my trusty Minnesota Gazetteer indicated that they were indeed two options in the form of “forest roads or trails” that would connect to either CR 49 or farther up to CR 4. So, with the ultimate plan being a big loop, the whole proposition rested on my ability to get through and then gain the Kelsey Brimson Road and then return home via the Rossini Road, CR 42, and then finish it on the old 61 highway. Essentially, I figured that if I could find a way using the forest roads, the loop would be well over a HONDO, maybe even 120 miles, with more than half of the course being on gravel or even unmaintained dirt. Therefore, I loaded up a lot of water, calories, and equipped my trusty Kelly with Kenda 35C cyclocross tires.

The initial hour or so was a boring straight shot (complete with a significant head wind) from my house just below East High School out to Pike Lake via the Martin Road. From Pike Lake, the course takes a series of hard lefts and rights following the Caribou Road to Industrial Road to straight north on Cty 15 crossing the Cloquet River and up to the junction of Cty 48 (which angles right) and the Shaw road, which quickly turns to gravel. Working hard against the wind, it took me another hour or so to get to this point. Also, I did stop on three different occasions to offer respite to wayward painted turtles that were apparently steadfast, even in the certainly of instantaneous death, to cross the road. I saw the devastated shells of several of their comrades who had not been so lucky in their quests to cross the road of death. Follow the gravel road for about a mile or so until the road forks; with one going slightly to the left and the other to the right. According to the Gazetteer (which I had along with me), the right fork seemed more sporting, so of course I went that way. The map indicates that this road will go for a very long way; I estimated that it was every bit of fifteen miles, and maybe twenty miles, with it terminating at CTY 4 and the Kelsey Brimson road. I pushed it at a good pace for seven-five minutes heading northeast on the road as it increasing grew more vague, rutted, and rocky until it essentially morphed into an ATV trail. Abruptly the road ended in a kind of swampy morass. Not one to give up the ship without a symbolic fight, I parked the bike on a small tree and hiked around for fifteen minutes trying to discern where the trail may start up again, but to no avail. The mosquitoes were ravenous, as were the ticks (I picked off six off my legs in just the short time I was off the trail), so I jumped back on the bike and headed back the way I had come.

Once back at the fork in the road, I met a young man unloading a burly ATV from his burly truck. He was from the nearby area and yet did not know the endpoint of the trail of which I had just negotiated; as he took a bold, long pull off his cig, he stated unapologetically “never been that far up that road…the huntin’ aint no good up thar” So it goes. In any event, since I was only about 3 and half hours into the adventure, I decided to head up the left leaning fork, still in the hope of getting through to at least Cty 48, so as to complete the loop. As alluded to earlier, this was the fork that from the map looked to be more user friendly and for the first ten miles this conclusion seemed to be spot on. Yet amazingly after the initial ten miles the road became increasingly sketchy, as I ascended a small hill and wove around a corner the road quickly deteriorated even more so to the point of being on par with a mountain bike course complete with freshly downed trees, (forcing lots of dismounts) and small, but substantial creeks flowing across the path. Finally, I could no longer discern any semblance of a trail, so with a heavy heart I turned to backtrack home…defeated…but hopeful to return and battle through. Perhaps this would be a project more conducive to winter travel as I am sure that snowmobiles frequent this trails after freeze up.

Feeding the Rat:
All in all it was a great training ride taking a total of nearly 8 hours (7:48) covering 107 miles, many of which were hard fought on tough terrain.


  1. I've found the Gazetteer is less than trusty, or accurate. I tried to navigate with it on my Saturday ride. Many an intersection and turn was different on the map than what I was seeing. There must be some source for an accurate map of the local byways?

  2. I love when roads just dissapear and then you stand there and scratch your head wondering what to do. My friend told me that the Gazeteers have not truly been updated in MANY years. Also I find it hard to print stuff off the internet.
    What do you guys think we should do??