Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Part V: Will this race recap ever end?

Part V: Creature in the night gives way to Adaptability, Redemption and Hope…Day Three delivers the needed miles!

Andy Dufresne: [in letter to Red] Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Day 3, like itz predecessors, presented itself as another beautiful one and once again a little before 5:00 a.m. Jeremy yelled at me to get going and so I got going! With little, if any, food left in our packs and a long way to anyplace to buy sustenance there was nothing holding us to that campsite! As we packed up to go, an early riser from a nearby tent, the only other occupant in the area, sauntered over to ask if we had heard that strange (and seemingly very close) barking noise in the early morning hours. I had indeed heard it, had yelled over to ascertain if Jer was hearing it, but he was fast-asleep, and even had caught the beast’s green eyes several times in the focused light of my headlamp as he boldly encircled our camp. The persistent, even aggressive, but decidedly hoarse bark, that continued for sometime, was such that I had never heard before, like a dog barking in spite of a severe sore throat, and given the size and low ground clearance of the animal (based on my quick and intermittent lighted views of his eyes) leads me to think that it may have been a disgruntled Right-wing badger?

I am happy to report that by Day 3; we were both really pleased with how well we seemed to be recovering after just a few hours of repose. Of course, we both felt generalized fatigue and localized discomforted in the nether regions, but our legs and more importantly, our cognitive motors seemed up to the task each and every morning. Jeremy’s ability to hit the ground sleeping is a most desirable trait for the enduro-cyclist (and alpinist), perhaps a hereditary characteristic that I unfortunately lack. I am the kind of guy that needs a significant amount of time to essentially unwind before falling asleep (a luxury that is not afforded one during these kinds of endeavors). After fighting it in my youth, I have come to accept the fact that I simply cannot fall asleep without a relatively long prelude…so it goes. Yet, I have, through experience, developed a very elemental coping mechanism, maybe even sort of a “yoga-like” technique (itz not yoga, but maybe itz on the right track?), where I can really really relax and then presumably rehabilitate and renew. As a young man, I use to lay there and stress out about not being able to get to sleep (a self-fulfilling anecdote), compounding my anxiety was the fact that the other guyz appeared to be sleeping. Now, resigned to the high probability of no sleep, I fully embrace the lack of movement, concentrate on deep, but easy breathing, and try to think positive thoughts. I no longer freak out or agonize about not sleeping, if sleeps comes thatz great, if not I try to relish the moments…I mean it really is great to be alive! My conclusion is that in the near term, especially for a few dayz and maybe for up to a week, one can get by on such a regime. Or at least it allows me to accept my fate.

My overall point being that perhaps our greatest attribute as a species is our ability to adapt to our environs. I remember reading an Outside magazine account of a regular guy’s effort in the classic Great Divide Race in which he maintained that if one could get through the first three dayz, he/she would have essentially passed that critical phase where many drop out. Presumably, the notion being that three dayz of exposure to the trials and tribulations of riding the Continental Divide was sufficient time for most in the race to adapt to the new reality, accept their new “paradigm,” and thus go on to complete the task. The idea to take from this is that if one can just “hang-in” long enough, for just a little bit longer, adaptability will often kick in and make the effort easier as the time progresses…In our case, the paradigm had shifted…and we were ready (and able) to push it hard to make the 90 hour completion goal.

We knew the morning would involve more sand, but the hope was that we would be out of it in just a few hours and we were right. At one point, mid-morning we even came upon a short segment on the course that was so sandy that even Joe had been forced to walk; our hearts soared for here before our eyes was evidence of his mortality! In that same section, we encountered impressive bear tracks.
To be out of the sand was sweet liberation!

TWMBT Cue Sheet #7 starts on Highway 10 and ends fifty-seven miles north on Highway 64; in between lies the town of Thorp, where we stopped for a delicious lunch at the downtown Dairy Bar Café. From Thorp to Highway 64 is mostly good riding. Yet, using our better judgment, we decided to detour around a minor aspect of the course because it clearly appeared to cross onto private property. Based upon a later audio-report via Dennis Grelk, who also felt that to proceed would be to invite controversy; our instincts seemed to have been confirmed. It is our contention that this part of the course will need to be modified for next year’s race due to the problems often associated with traversing private lands. As stated earlier, while we feel there will need to be a few changes made to the course (including and especially with regard to the Jackson County ATV Trails and also a road, farther north, that dead-ends at a river), overall it is a thing of beauty that clearly encompasses the dramatic and distinct geographical wonders of the Beer & Cheese State. In any event (see page 74 of the required DeLorme Wisconsin Atlas & Gazetteer, as the course bisects it), the route winds through beautiful, remote lands interspersed with neat farms, small enclaves with impressive old churches complete with divine steeples, and a notable Amish presence.

Highway 64 was the start of the Perkinstown ATV trail section and the source of our number one anxiety of the day, for we were concerned that it too would entail long sandy sections. Fortunately, the Clark county ATV trails immediately north of Highway 64 are in stark contrast to those in Jackson County. Instead of quick sand, we found fast flowing, and even thrilling double track! It was fun, the temperature was mild, and the breeze continued at our backs….we were pumped!!!

Perkinstown is essentially a bar. Collectively feeling the stirring palatable urges of optimism that comes with progress, we stopped only briefly to reload on water and eat a few barroom delicacies. I did take time to ingest a life-giving Leininkrugels Honeywiess…Onward we rode in good time, praising the wind for its charity…

A plan-of-action began to evolve that basically held that if we could get to within about 180 miles of the finish before taking a substantial bivy break, we could pull it off and be back in Duluth by early Tuesday morning, perhaps around 1:00 a.m. This possibility of success was fostered by the fact that both Jeremy and I are quite familiar with the areas north of Hayward and further northward to the Lake (via Highways 77, 63, oo, and 2, etc.). Plus I have intimate knowledge of the CAMBA trails and supplemental gravel fire-roads as well, for my parents during my childhood had a cabin on Spider Lake and since then I have spent considerable time riding the CAMBA trails. Jeremy, too, is knowledgeable and experienced in traveling the area. So we were on the verge of entering our home turf and we could feel the pull, the excitement, for the proverbial light at the end of tunnel had been glimpsed!

Details blur together when I attempt to search my mind for interesting or noteworthy specifics of the ride after Perkinstown and the ATV trails....just grinding it out hour after hour, thankful for good company, a tailwind, and moderate temps. As mentioned above, we did experience a few navigational issues and I do remember that we fell short of our goal of resting at the Black Lake campground. As the clock ticked past 1:00 a.m. our energy stores were on “empty” and we began in earnest to seek appropriate terra-firma to crash out for a few hours. Respite came with a cost, the bugs had found us!!! By my calculations, we have ridden more than 173 miles on this our third day out. Or to think about in a different light, just 172 miles stood between us and Lake Superior. I lay my head down to rest with the knowledge that we could do it!!! More to come…

Look forward to Part VI: Hallucinations, Floating on Ground Clouds, and eventual Victory & Salvation (courtesy of Rich Hendricks) @ Point Detour, Lake Superior…


  1. I so relate to your comments on "falling asleep" so well said. I have been learning to ride 'tired' for many years now.

  2. I just bought my Wisconsin whiporwill tag. Me and Pawlenty or going for our limit just after we go dove hunting.

  3. Your and your badgers. Are you sure it wasn't a skunk in a tree?