Monday, July 30, 2012

Updated book list...

Updated book list (Given my current situation with Team Giardia, I have the time…)

Note: the first three books on the list reflects my current interest in proving to myself (and more importantly, my daughter) that when a society blindly adopts any and all “technological innovation” that society is heading for catastrophe. Furthermore, the even greater tragedy is that in this 'post modern', interrelated world, this blind adoption has vast negative world-wide implications not only for humankind but for all living things.  The sad truth of the matter is that most of the time we simply accept new technology without any thoughtful discourse or qualitative analysis.  Even if you believe that a particular technological advance is counterproductive to the quality of ones life (or to society), the resounding conclusion is that once the device is available there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop its use. This seemingly inability of a society to control the "advancement" of any and all technology represents what Durkheim would surely call an "anomie." Essentially we have become slaves to our technology and we don't even realize strange.  For a very significant percentage of kids living in this country (and increasingly in many other countries as well) the majority of their waking hours is spent as passive spectators zoned into either a TV or computer screen. These people are either sleeping, or being entertained by a TV/computer...surely this cannot be a good thing, but...of course there is nothing we can do about it...itz just the way things are now...

In the Absence of the Scared: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry Mander.  This five star read was recommended to me by my old friend, Scotty Kylander-Johnson.  While it is dated having been written in the early 1990s, in my estimation it is spot on.  If you have not been to a high school or college campus in the last five to six years take the time to seek one out and walk around a bit. The first thing you will notice is that kids do not interact anymore, instead that are all tied into their own little cyber worlds. Mander saw it coming, even in the early 90s.  Basically these are two books in one. Book one is a general critique of our zombie-like obsession with technology and how we simply go along with what the mega-corporation market to us…Of course the military leads all technological advance…the art of killing is the most progressive followed by the art of extracting natural resources.  The second book applies Mender’s theories to the native cultures and what has happened to the modern tribes that have adopted TV into their homes. A chilling, but spot-on work.

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges.  Another great and shocking effort by Hedges. I saw him interviewed on PBS (Bill Moyer’s show) and immediately ordered his new book. The title says it all. He uses several aspects of our modern culture to make the point that the vast majority of us are living in tailor made fantasy worlds. The chapter, The illusion of Love provides too much raw, disconcerting info about the X-rated movie business and I found myself wondering if he had fallen victim to his own illusions. Overall its good stuff!!!

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.  As with Hedge’s book, I saw Haidt on the Bill Moyer’s show and was both impressed and captivated. I am only about forty pages into a three hundred page textbook-like read, but it is very interesting.  Haidt is much more hopeful than either Hedges or Mander. Basically he argues that the two political parties are duping us all.  He also maintains that we want to do the right thing, but group loyal always trumps logic, so we tend to go with the group even when it is counterproductive to our own lives…Case-in-point: The family guy that is working hard but barely making it and yet he still is against some form of universal healthcare. 

Andrew Jackson in the White House: American Lion by Jon Meacham. This book has been highly touted, winning the Pulitzer Prize, but I thought that it was pretty lame. It seems most of Jackson’s time in the White House was spent fighting with his in-laws and sticking it to the hapless Native Americans. I came away unimpressed with both Jackson and Meacham.

Inside of a Dog: What dogs see, smell, and know by Alexandra Horowitz. Horowitz makes a big deal in the introduction that we should be really really careful not to engage in “anthropomorphism”  (attribution of human characteristics to nonhumans) and then she spends the rest of the book doing anthropomorphism. I was pumped to read this book especially given our recent love affair with Loki (who was killed by a car a few months ago and now our new Man-puppy, Hondo), but I was disappointed.  Note: A better book that is really old (from the 1960s) but provides great practical insights into training a dog is Richard Wolter’s Family Dog.

The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazanizakis. This amazingly complex, historic, and important literary classic was given to me by Ari of the Slender Fungus.  I am through Chapter Seven and even though I am not yet one-third through it, I am both confused and humbled by the weight of the story. I will need to finish it and then re-read parts of it to make a comment that is worthy. For now, I can see why it’s publication caused such a stir in 1960, when it was first published. Wow!

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. This is an awesome re-telling of the life and times of George Mallory. Five stars and a Must READ for any aspiring DBDer…I have a signed copy from the author, Wade Davis! It was a gift to me from my heroes, Lindsay Gauld and Andy Lockery…I treasure this book…Go get this book and treasure it too!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Olympics are awesome! and I be learning a lot too...!!

Given my current situation, which requires a secure bathroom to be within about four seconds away from me at every moment of my daily life, I have wholeheartedly embraced the role of TV Olympic armchair spectator. So far I have learned several very important life lessons from being planted in front of the television. Lessons that I would like to pass on to my readers. Note: These lessons are listed in no particular order: 

For my money the best sport in the Olympics is without a doubt Women's Beach Volleyball. If you need further explanation, I cannot help you. 

I bet itz kinda weird hangin' out with Ali's wife. By the way, why was Muhammad Ali in the opening ceremony???

The nice people at Chevy are offering huge trucks for realistically low prices

The women volleyball players hug each other a lot! 

The nice people at Coca Cola have made it possible for most if not all of the Olympic athletes to achieve their dreams. Also, if you drink Coke, you should be very proud of yourself.

At first I thought that the Opening Ceremonies were super boring and contrived, but that one lady from THE VIEW liked it a lot, so now I do too.

The new Bat Man movie is the best movie ever made.

All the athletes eat at McDonald's.

The nice people at All State are super nice and they will never be mean to anyone. They love your family. 

Itz not a good thing to hop when you land your dismount, you need to "stick" your landing! 

The gymnastics coaches are weird. 

I know that I am suppose to care about swimming, and I am trying...but itz SOOO hard.  

Guyz that drive BMWs have really pretty girlfriends.

That one guy that is beating that other guy, you know the swimmer guy with the long torso (remember--got busted takin' a pull off of a bong), anyway the new guy is kinda hard to take...I like the old guy better. 

BP (pretty sure it aint, I mean I don't think itz the same company that trashed the Gulf Coast with zillions of gallons of crude oil) is super nice to all the athletes, even the ones that are missing legs and stuff. 

Coke is also nice to athletes that are missing limps. 

The best cereal company in the world is Kellogg. 

The folks at United Airlines brought all the athletes to London and all the athletes were smiling, even the ones in wheelchairs, and so were the guyz that load the luggage onto the jets. 

Even though Romney aint much of an athlete, he owns a horse that is...

Al Troutwig, at least I think itz Al,  is so cool and he knowz his Women's beach volleyball!

That little guy that wears the bandanna ( I think he does ice skating and sometimes beats the little Asian guyz) in the Winter Olympics, he really likes his Subway.

The men's waterpolo players wear really skimpy swimsuits. I am OK with the Women's Beach Volleyball uniforms cuz they are on the super HOT beach and all, but the guyz are indoors.  

NO BODY I mean, not a single person in the world, cares about Men's Beach Volleyball.

Marshall School needs more students to sign up...

My life and your life would be grim and dull if it were not for HP and even more so without Apple.

I better get me some insurance. So many cool people work for Nationwide. I really need to get many bad things can happen and I need them folks to keep me safe...those guyz really really care about me...

Not sure about what the cute Gecko is selling, but he sure is on the TV a lot. 

We all owe a lot to A T & T. 

There's a company that makes yogurt, and they all got together and made this huge screen in a big field and they are all watching the Olympics seems real nice. 

CITI has made many of the best athletes better and CITI don't ask fer nothin' in return. 

Chevy is super nice, especially to black people, so is All State.

Coke helps flood victims.

Most people are really stupid, except the boy that is good with the Apple I-products, he helps the stupid people, help me!

Walgreens is in your corner, no matter matter what they are there for you.

The parents of the guyz and girlz that do gymnastics are really weird.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nipigon Rider pays high price for honor...

In his Quixotic quest to regain honor lost, the controversial cyclist unofficially credited by the DBD with the first circumnavigation of the fabled Lake Mallory (previously referred to as Nipigon) has been stricken with the dreaded Giardia. To make matters worse, the cure is in many ways just as debilitating as the disease for the best way to kill these deviously ravenous little beasts is to hit them hard with many doses of Methronidazole.  When on this drug, the stricken one cannot drink any beverages using fermented barley, grain, and hops. A mere shell of a once proud man, Farrow wept inconsolable tears as they forced the pills down his gullet and then dragged him away...He was heard to faintly call out in a feeble voice, "the horror, the horror." So sad. (Source: DBD Chronicles)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pictures from Lake Nipigon Circumnavigation...Followed by an in-depth trip report.

A good example of what most of the roads were like...
Crossing Jackknife River
Crossing the flooded out section: the crux of the endeavor.
Example of where the going got tough...
First few meters on the way to making the connection between north and south roads.
Gravel improves towards northern end of Black Sturgeon Road.

Around Lake Nipigon on a bicycle...trip report

 It was in my youth that I was first introduced to the alpine-like majesty of the southern aspect of the Nipigon Lake area in the early 1980s to the late 1990s as an ice climber. Lake Nipigon is a huge lake that lies directly north of Lake Superior.  Boasting a total area of 1,872 square miles, it is remote, dotted with huge 200 foot and higher sheer vertical cliffs, hundreds of islands, and beautiful beaches. Groups of four, five, or even six of us, including Mike Conway, Pete Olson, Rocky Hardman, Randy Peterson, and Guy Evans would routinely (two or three or even four times a season) venture up to Orient Bay and stay for up to a week in a tiny albeit cozy cabin along the Nipigon River during the long frigid nights, whilst exploring and climbing the world-class ice falls during the short days. 
Heading out east across the top of Lake Nipigon

At least in my world, the mid 1980s represent a kind of Golden Age of ice climbing in the area as one could enjoy first ascents on even the most obvious lines.  Thunder Bay resident, Shawn Parent was the leading force back then and we often relied on his vast knowledge of the cliffs to explore new and unclimbed lines. Evans and Olson were ice maestros and thus it was great fun following them up sheer multi-pitches of vertical icefalls.  Filled with good cheer and manly, boisterous dialogue, the nights were spent huddled around a wood stove, drinking Canadian Ales and smoking Lucky Strike straights, eating meaty stews and chilies from cans and playing various card games. We were young, foolhardy, and seemingly invincible. The fact of the matter is without a doubt these winter forays into the remote cliffs that hem in the southern Nipigon basin represented some of the most wonderfully exciting times of my life and also cemented my interest in the area.  With the advent of offspring and the like, my life changed in a way that compelled me to adopt cycling in favor of the more reckless climbing lifestyle, but the great Lake Nipigon has never lost its appeal to me (nor has climbing); thus the genesis for the idea of riding my bike around the big lake. 

In preparing, I found to my glee, that the circumnavigation of the lake (which I had estimated to about 370 to 415 miles from my map sources) involved passage along several very remote, rarely used roads, and that along the top one could even expect to be confronted with a “blank spot” on the map.  An interesting website named, Adventure Rider—Ride the World (a site comprised of motivated motorcyclists that share a passion for exploring far-flung and remote routes on their cycles), included a trip report by a fellow from Thunder Bay, Ontario that had completed the circumnavigation in 2005 on one of those enduro-cycles.  Apart from his effort (which I believe comprised a group of four and involved a bold river crossing and some bush-whacking), I was unable to find any other information.  Given my recent tendency towards sub-honorable performances, my heart soared when I contemplated the potential of being the first to ride a bicycle around the lake.  Surely to complete such an adventure would put me back into the graces of the DBD leadership. 
In the winter, Orient Bay is full of "rad" ice routes....

In any event, armed with having studied the 2005 trip report and a series of well-done maps collectively branded: Northwestern Ontario: Backroad Mapbook.  I headed up the Northshore bound for Canada at approximately noon on Thursday, July 12, 2012.  I had decided to use the old and yet trusty Merlin equipped with a 1.8 Bontrager tire on the front and a 35 mm Schwalbe Marathon on the rear.  It was set-up using a rear rack and rear panniers, coupled with a Jandd frame pack and a set of Mountain Feed bags attached to the handlebars.  I also used the new extra-wide Salsa bottle holders that allowed me to carry two-2 quart jugs of water.  It worked fine, but if I were to do it again, I’d bring my Gunnar 29er (with a granny-gear) equipped with wider mtb tires as the gravel (and stone and dirt and sand) up there was very sketchy, especially on many of the long descents.  I did get three flats and had seemingly continuous problems with the rear panniers bouncing around.  Methinks the best set-up for routes like these would be to try and pack in a way that would eliminate the use of panniers.  In the future, this realization will be put to use when I take on the Great Divide. 
One of many rivers that empty into the great Lake Nipigon

In all, I’d estimate that of the actual 407 mile effort around the lake, about 280 miles were not paved, but instead consisted of a full array of road builds from good gravel to soft sand to hard packed dirt to rocks and many combinations. Regarding the 120 miles of asphalt, it was all very well maintained.  I will add that the route turned out to be most more hillier than anticipated.

Given the fact that it seemed to me that the toughest part of the circle would involve making the connection from the farthest point east (at the top of the lake) to a gravel road bearing south, it made sense to start in near Armstrong. That way I could try and make the passage through the “blank spot” on the first day out when I still had my wits about me. Thursday evening, I stayed at a very nice bed & breakfast (Wabakimi Wilderness B&B) located approximately six miles south of Armstrong.

Day #1: On Friday, July 13th @ 8:00 a.m. after a light breakfast and a pot of Alaskan-style coffee, I left the comfort and fine ambiance of the Wabakimi Wilderness Bed & Breakfast and rode the six miles north to Armstrong.  Armstrong is a little northern town that is a carbon copy of every other little northern town that I have experienced that lies at the end of some remote road.  Letz just say that there are not a lot of opportunities for “growth” in places like Armstrong.

Once through Armstrong, heading generally in an easterly fashion, I started along a rolling and meandering gravel road.  It was beautiful and had that “out-there” feel to it.  In fact for the first two dayz out from Armstrong or for some 200 miles I encountered one orange government truck (owned by the guy operating a grader that I had to deal with for a several miles).  As implied above the road was fine, even fast as it was hard-packed, until I came upon a section that was freshly graded.  The grading made the road very soft and squirrely, thus making progress very arduous, like riding in soft sand or on a snowmobile trail that has just been groomed.  I became distraught, as I was unsure if I could ride on such terrain for the entirety of the eastern segment, which was by my estimation, at least seventy miles long.  I struggled, zigzagging along for perhaps an hour until I came upon the actual grader.  As stated above, it was the guy that had passed me in the truck earlier in the day.  Thankfully he pulled over the huge, albeit antiquated machine and indicated that he would share a few words with me.  He was a younger looking Native guy from Armstrong. Based on our conversation I was able to ascertain that he was in-charge of the road.  That every working day, he would grade several miles of the road and then park the machine and head back home.  In the winter he plowed the snow or worked on the machinery.  He also indicated that I was unlikely to see anyone else, as there was currently no logging going on.  I selfishly asked him, “Are you gonna keep grading out this way?” as I pointed east. My heart soared when he responded with, “I’ll take a long break here and let you get out ahead of me…I bet itz easier riding on the old stuff, Eh”

As I happily progressed along, the road became very hilly, continuously narrower, and rougher. I often crossed little streams and rivers and then crossed over the impressive Jackfish River, which is the largest northern river that feeds Lake Nipigon. There was no evidence that anyone had been on these rivers, no pathways to the edges of the rivers, which made it difficult for me to refill my water jugs.  I was making pretty good time considering the load I was carrying and the lay of the land.  Basically I was averaging about ten miles an hour for the first six hours of the effort, which included the stops as well. Note: Overall my average speed was quite low, something like 8.5 mph. I humbly submit that this slow average is a testament more to the difficulty of the terrain rather than my lack of effort, but I am sure that a fitter man could go significantly faster.    

Once I had gained sixty or so miles out of Armstrong, I knew to start looking on the right-handed side of the road for signs of “unmaintained” roads (presumably old logging roads) that took southeasterly tracks. Given my research, I would know that I was heading on the right path if I encountered a medium sized lake that on my map was labeled as Lamaune Lake. From the map, redemption appeared to lay several miles (maybe six miles?) east-southeast of that lake.  Redemption, that is, in the form of a railroad track or a southerly road; for either would indicate that I was on course and that I had made the vital connection betwixt the east and the south roads.
Sheer cliffs that line the Black Sturgeon River...

From the map there appeared to be four possible alternatives, but as I rode along the road from Mile 60 onward, I saw nothing that looked at all probable. I started to worry, and yet without any real logic or rationale, I just kept pedaling on down the road and then sure enough the road eventually ended. It just stopped.  I chuckled to myself, thinking this must be what itz like to finally the reach the North or South Pole; there was nothing different about the end except that it was the end.   I turned around and started back, heading west, tasting the beginnings of that bitter pill of defeat.  Hoping that I had missed something, but also quite forlorn as I had been pretty attentive in looking always to the south for a path on the way in. A logging road, or at least a semblance of a trail that was once a logging road, heading south off the road was the key to my salvation, but I had seen nothing that looked like a doable route… Of course, riding back the other way always affords a different perspective and thus to my surprise I spied a recently traveled two-track trail that headed in a northeasterly direction off the road.  While the northerly path lead in the opposite direction that I needed to go, being desperate, I instinctively followed it. After just a very short distance (~one half mile) I came upon what turned out to be a small mining operation that was in the initial phase of taking core-samples in the immediate area.

There was a big steel gate (not unlike an Iowan cattle gate) that spanned the pathway. It contained a big chain, locking it in place, and was also well tied into a big high barred-wired fence surrounding this compound-like work and living space, (about half the size of a football field). Big threating signs were posted warning of “NO TRESPASSING: Violators will be prosecuted to the full…and fried in oil ”... Within the fenced-in yard set a couple of newer looking and neatly arranged white trailers, several fancy new ATVs, and a big fuel tank. Scanning the operation, I saw this older guy looking out of a window of the closest trailer. I must have looked strange to him; a weighty, aged man adorned in tattered green skin-tight cycling bibs mounted upon a bicycle. Suddenly feeling hideous, decrepit, and ashamed, I initially started to run away, but I was in dire straits, so against my better judgment, I climbed over the gate and walked over to the trailer...At first our interactions were weird, kind of awkward, but the guy was friendly and nice. I explained my situation and he responded with offering me a Coke, which I gladly accepted. He was an older Native guy from Armstrong, he knew the guy on the grader (small world!), and also knew the area to some extent. He told me that he was pretty sure that the trail I wanted to take to get to Lamaune Lake was near the 97-kilometer mark.  I asked him where we were and he informed me that we were on about the 110-kilometer mark. He actually described a creek that lay just a few feet beyond the “cut” that I needed to take to get to the lake.  He described the trail was as “a small two-wheeled path that had evergreens on either side of which formed a canopy over the trail.” This was very helpful information to me as it allowed me a secondary reference point rather than relying solely on my odometer, which was calibrated in miles.  Furthermore, he added a cautionary tale that “the path would most likely be harder to follow beyond the lake” because no one went beyond the lake, as he had heard that several bridges and culverts had been washed out over the years.  I asked if he felt that I could make it and he said, “You mind getting a little wet?” I said “No.” and then he said, “Then, sure why not, Eh?”
Would you trust this man with your children?

Even though it meant backtracking something like eight miles, my heart soared with optimism as I could visualize the creek as he described it. Plus I had a plan and a man needs a plan… In hindsight, this vital bit of information received from this kind man represents my sine qua non and thus the basis of my successful circumnavigation. The hinge factor swings in my favor! Had I not met him, I probably would have not found the trail. No trail and the effort fails. So it goes…

As I made ready to leave, packing up my map, and sluggin’ down the remainder of the Coke, I asked him, “Where are the rest of the guyz?” He replied, “Getting drunk in Thunder Bay, they left me here to keep an eye on the place…sure didn’t expect to see a guy on a bicycle!”  

Think “hinge-factor.” Confused? Read on… I found a faint, but obvious “two-wheeled” path, started down it, and was pumped when I found the going pretty easy.  In fact I was euphoric as it was great riding. Beautifully forested, the trail was rippin’ fast, with lots of fun curves, and yet there was absolutely no evidence to indicate that anyone else had been on it for many months, maybe even years.  I felt like I was the Lord of My Domain! No tire imprints of any kind, nothing but sweet double track. I made what I assumed to be Lamaune Lake in less than an hour.  But then the situation became much more complex and arduous for after leaving the lake and bearing southeast, the trail began to become very overgrown.

To complicate matters I encountered several forks in the trail and had to do my best at picking the right way based on the map, compass readings, and a couple of genuine prayers, all the while dealing with the pestilence that attacked me with no mercy, yet their numbers were thankfully not overwhelming.  The going continued to increase in difficulty, to the point where I had to hike-the-bike through dense over-growth. There were several points at which large pine trees had fallen across the path forcing me to push, pull, lift, and swear the bike over the obstacles. It is important to note that I always was able to discern the remnants of a path (had the path disappeared I would have not gone on), but after about thirty minutes of this rough going I pulled out a spool of bright pink marking tape and began to mark my progress every one-quarter mile with the idea being that if I hit a point that was impassable or if the trail petered out, I would be able to find my way back to the main road. I also resolved to give it a good try but that I would turn back after three hours if the situation did not improve. I set the timer on my watch and continued to fight my way through the brush. I had a pair of nice hiking shorts and shoes hooked onto the rack; I lost both, as they must have gotten pulled off when I was fighting the dense over growth.  The fact that I was nearly always heading in a southerly direction buoyed my resolve. Finally after about two hours of mostly pushing the bike through dense vegetation (I was able to ride on some of the higher up segments), I encountered a section of lowland trail, approximately 50 yards long, that had been flooded due to the work of a busy beaver, but upon closer inspection, I could see that the path continued beyond the floodplain.  I carried the bike across the flooded out portion and started up a notable incline. It was at this point that the trail started to improve.  I even come upon a kind of modern, albeit abandoned Alaskan-type homestead that included a couple of shacks and was littered with a couple wrecked trucks, snowmobiles, etc., and even an old school bus.  I remember thinking, “Who are these people? There must be a weird story behind all this” My life became much improved… My thinking being— “if they can get a school bus in here…”
I was Lord of My Domain! I owned this road!

The trail got better and better, soon I was riding again at a good pace, and then I saw the railroad crossing up ahead in the distance, down in a valley, and I knew definitively that I have made it through the blank spot on the map.  I felt very relieved and even a little bit impressed with myself, as I am not recognized amongst my peers as a competent navigator. Yet as I approached the railroad crossing I noticed big gates on either side that barred the crossing.  I was then confronted with a strange, or at least, unexpected sign that informed me that the crossing I was about to make was privately owned by Canadian National RR Company and that only permitted vehicles were allowed to cross.  Secure in my affiliation with the DBD Adventure Society, I unceremoniously detoured around both gates, and went along my merry way.  But the sign and gates represented a source of some trepidation on my part as they indicated, it would seem, that I was on the wrong road heading south.  I came to this conclusion because according to my map I should have come out onto the little Native village of Auden (still on the map, but probably uninhabited).  On reflection, in the comfort of my home with the map here in front of me, it seems that I most likely took a wrong fork in the path along the way. Surely during one of the really rough sections and thus ended up going further east, which had the effect of essentially causing me to cross the railroad tracks further east than Auden, on a private mining or logging road, thus most probably forcing me to cross the railroad track closer to Penequani.  Furthermore this crossing lead me to gain access to a road labeled Kinghorn on the map—A road that parallels the road that I had planned to take on the southerly track (Ombabika Rd). In any event, I was heading nearly straight southward on a good road.  I submit these road names and other rather specific directions to you, Dear Readers, in the hope that one of you will repeat this trip in the future for you will not be disappointed.

This first day effort was the most remote section of the whole route, as mentioned above; I saw only one vehicle and two people. This part of the trip was also by far the most difficult (both mentally and physically) and therefore represents the crux of the effort. It took me probably only about a total of three hours or so do deal with the really bad sections, but it was the unknown, coupled with the chance of getting lost in a remote area, that were the causes of my anxiety. I should note that I do believe a motorcycle could get through these sections, but there were two particular tree falls involving very large pines that would have required a lot of work to get a heavy motorcycle up and over them.  As for the flooded section, the water never reached higher on me that about mid-calf.  A competent guy on one of those BMW Enduro-bikes would be able to navigate through the two or three flooded sections as I found them.

Back on a good track and clearly heading south, I was imbued with optimism.  The bike felt lighter, the hills easier to climb, life was good.  My goal was to try and make 150 miles per day or ride 14 hours per day, which ever came first.  At this point in the effort, I had burned up a lot of the day and yet I was just getting to the hundred-mile mark.  I had started at 8:00 a.m. and so my plan was to go ‘till 10:00 p.m. It was far north in summer, so the sun stays out for a long time and so I knew that I could go far into the evening without the need for a light.  I had elected to not bring a stove, so really all I had to do was ride until I was really tired, then stop, and throw down my bivy set-up, eat some Pop-Tarts and sleep.  Around 9:50 p.m. I came upon a nice semi-flat granite shelf just a few feet off the road. Within minutes I had my little screened-in bivy up, my pad and sleeping bag set out, and all the gear arranged. The stars were brilliant, accentuated by millions of fireflies. I fell into a deep contented slumber…Life on the go is a simple, but good life.

Day #2: Saturday, July 14th @ 5:17 a.m. making use of my trusty pee-bottle, I then ate a couple more Pop Tarts supplemented with a few big hand-fulls of peanut M&Ms and I was ready to pack up and head out.  I was confident now that I could pull this thing off and my pace reflected a renewed sense of vigor.  I made good time during the morning hours even though I could tell that by mid-day it was gonna be roastin’ hot.  When I crossed the Onaman and then the Namewaminikan rivers I knew for certain that I was on track to reach the big east/west asphalt thoroughfare in only a short time.

It was slightly raining when I reached the Queen’s Highway 11, the major highway that runs east and west across the bottom of Ontario.   I took a right-hand turn and started heading in a westerly direction with easy riding as the rain had cooled things off, the pavement was good quality, plus I was benefiting from a significant tailwind.  I reached Beardmore around noon where I found a quaint little store that sold groceries so I was able to resupply my stash of Nut Goodie bars, but no Pop-tarts to be had.  While there was not a lot of traffic on the highway, many of the huge semi-trucks that I did encounter seemed to delight in playing a little game I began to refer to as “trying to touch my left elbow” with their passenger-side rearview mirrors going ninety miles-an-hour.  For my part of the game, I routinely presented them, in dramatic fashion, with the hand/finger gesture universally recognized as an American sign of intense displeasure.  After one seriously blatant effort performed by a guy in a big white semi and my subsequent gesture, the guy actually stopped the truck up ahead and waited for me, his door ajar, in what I interpreted as a challenge to my manhood.  Given my frame of mind, one of Kafkaesque fatalism, I gladly accepted and hastened my pace, in fact racing towards him. But alas just as I closed in, (perhaps he recognized that he was dealing with a crazy person) he slammed the door shut, pulled the truck out and sped away…Me heart soared as I smiled the smile of a triumphant Spartan Warrior! 

The rains had given way to a very hot, sunny day and the asphalt made me suffer the heat. I made Nipigon (pop. 1600) around 3:00 p.m. and made a fatal mistake. I stopped at a once proud Subway for a quick bite and then sauntered into a sporting goods store that was within the same building because I didn’t want to face the heat without a little more of a break.  You know the place, all kinds of misfortunate dead creatures tacked up on the wall, everywhere gun racks; big guns, little guns, rabbit guns, moose guns, and fat burly guyz standing around, hands in pockets, looking pissed off.  Again I felt naked in my little cycling shorts and sheepishly started to make for the door (as mentioned above my “in-town shorts” had been lost somewhere on the trail—Note: I get that I should not be walking around in public in skimpy cycling shorts! I get that…), but just as I was about to exit and continue on my merry way, the guy behind the counter queried in an amicable voice, “Where you heading in that thar outfit?”

“Well, I am on my bicycle, and I am gonna head up Black Sturgeon Road and then head up to Gull Bay and then Armstrong,” was my enthusiastic reply.

Almost in unison, all the guyz in the store, within earshot, chimed in that the Black Sturgeon Road was impassable, that it had not been in use since the logging industry fell on hard times, that recent heavy rains had washed out many parts of it, that the government had blown up all the bridges, that Al Qaeda had a base of operations there, that it was patrolled by zombies…The unanimous, dire predictions of what lay ahead for me if I went up that road greatly shook my confidence and weakened my resolve to take the most remote route possible. I know or at least I should know, from experience, that 99% of the time this kind of shoptalk is highly subjective and almost always inaccurate, but I was hot, fatigued, and a bit frazzled so I took their grim advice to heart.  In fact, not only did I abort my plan to try and push the route through following a tighter circle via Cameron Falls (Nipigon River) and then across to Fraser Lake, I was seriously not going to take the more established Black Sturgeon Rd. All these significant and costly revisions based solely on their information. And the detours would force me to ride an extra seventy or more miles on the hot, boring tarmac to the outskirts of Thunder Bay and the base of the main asphalt road (Highway 527) that leads almost straight north to Armstrong.  I even called my wife from a big truck stop to tell her that chances were slim that I would be back on Sunday night or very early Monday morning, as I would have to take a wider circle to get back to my car.

Think “hinge-factor, confused? Read on.” As luck would have it, just a few miles before the required turn-off, accessing the Black Sturgeon Rd, I came upon a pick-up truck hauling a small boat pulled over on the shoulder with a flat tire.  Two guyz were out working to change the tire. I asked them if they had any knowledge of the Black Sturgeon Rd and they conveyed to me that while it was true that the loggers were not using the road anymore and that it was washed-out in a few places; it would be possible for me to get through on my bike. Such is the free-swinging door of luck, what the gifted journalist, Erik Durschmied calls, The Hinge Factor! I believe in the Hinge Factor…Luck swings back and forth like on a rotating door…

The initial twenty or so miles of the Black Sturgeon Rd contained some of the worst “wash-board” gravel I have ever encountered. I actually considered turning around and heading back for the monotony of the asphalt, but just as I’d had my fill of being shakin’ up like a can of spray paint, the road began to improve.  It was getting on in the day (around 7:00 p.m. and I had already put in 120 miles so I was close to my fourteen hour ride limit), thus I began to look for a place to set up my bivy.  Near the northern most end of Black Sturgeon Lake, I saw an old hand-painted sign that read, Camp 1. It pointed down to a small trail, so I took it, as the thought of sleeping next to a big lake on a nice grassy knoll had great appeal to me.  Like all the other non-paved roads that I had traveled while circling this big lake, I had not seen a car or truck since the first couple miles out of Armstrong, so it was a shock for me to encounter three old pick-up trucks (two with trailers stuffed in the payloads) parked in what was an obvious camping spot just a few feet from a nice, cool looking lake. Several small motorboats were pulled up onto the grassy beach. A couple of elementary-aged girls and an older looking man were all seating in folding chairs next to a smoldering campfire. Nearby were several tents. Lotz of trash and beers cans lay strewn about the compound. A mangy looking black dog growled at me as I rode down into the site.  The theme song from “Deliverance” played in the background, it reached a crescendo as I stopped my bike (just kiddin’!)…Cognizant of this unlikely encounter and not knowing what to say, I mumbled out stupidly, “Are you guyz camping?”

The old man smiled and offered, “Yeah this is our fish camp.” He then kindly offered that I could camp there as well, but he added that, “Once the kids get back they will probably stay up pretty late.” “Oh,” I said, “Where are the kids?” In which he responded, “They went to get more beer.” The children snickered…I felt alone and alien.

I sincerely thanked him for the offer, but I was now a man on a mission and so I turned and regained the main road and continued several more miles up the road, until I spotted a nice little flat spot between two little Christmas trees…A perfect place to set-up my austere but comfortable sleeping arrangements. My odometer read 252 miles, which meant that I had ridden 135 miles that day. It had been a good effort given the heat and the rough road. My estimate was that I would need to achieve from 360 to 420 miles to make the full loop, so I went to sleep with the knowledge that if I had another good day on Sunday I should still be able to be back in Duluth sometime before 6:30 a.m. on Monday. That parameter was important because that was when my wife had to be back at work and so I wanted to be back so our daughter would not have to stay home alone.

Day #3, July 15th @ 5:53 a.m., loaded up on trail-mix, taking the extra effort to single out and savor the delicious chocolate-covered almonds, packed up, and headed out.  By midmorning, I was looking for one more major river crossing, a river named Poshkokagn, for I knew that once past that river I would be very close to the main highway that leads to Armstrong.  From the intersection of Black Sturgeon Road and Highway 527, I knew that it was about 90 miles to my car. 

As I grew nearer to the main road, that heads straight north to Armstrong, evidence of fresh logging was apparent as the road was in top shape indicating lotz of recent truck use. The pleasant scent of pine-tar provided a stark contrast to the expansive deforestation that now filled my panorama.  So it goes…

I gained the main road several miles south of Gull Bay.  I now knew that it was just a matter of grinding out the last hilly miles on the straight boring asphalt.  I made my endpoint around 8:00 p.m. It had been a big day with over 154 miles under my belt!

Basic accommodations along the trail...
I stopped by the Bed and Breakfast to let them know that I had returned, but no one was about, so I left them a “thank-you” note. I packed up the car and headed out towards Duluth, Minnesota…I was home at 3:00 a.m. with time to spare… It had been a great adventure! 

Monday, July 16, 2012


Note: Recent Wiki-Leaks capture from secretive DBD telegraph sent from the hinterlands of Ontario.

Lake Mallory is OURS!...stop…DBD stalwart completes first circumnavigation of the remote and huge inland lake formerly known as Lake Nipigon…stop…401 miles of mostly inhospitable terrain  ‘round the beast in three dayz and 46+ hours on the bike…stop...Over the top nearly killed him…stop…tales of true hardihood and determination…stop…Lady Luck was involved; as was what the Finns call SISU…stop…Farrow is badly worn, but elated…stop…Honor restored for the aged adventurist?…stop…full report, with conclusive photos, to follow in a few dayz…stop...