Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The question: What's the combination for a good gravel ride?

Four gravel loving fools
Six hours of sunshine
Seventy miles of dense pack limestone

That's me and doing just short of a rebuild in the lot. The day before I spend three hours trying to get things right and fail. I flat no more then 2 miles in. Blow the spare tube and get a replacement from Blake.

Yes, those are steel toe work boots. I switch to bike shoes. It's a good look on me, right?

 I'm the ring leader and just happy as hell to be on the rough.
 My buddy Pete joins me to experience the gravel.
 Blake is in the Heck with me. He's loving the solitude.
 Duane doesn't have a gravel bike but cowboys up and pushes the big tire.
 Pete's not to be trusted with sanity. He finds madness more to his liking.
 This is the first time they get to eat gravel. They love it. Low maintenance roads as soft as oatmeal cookies, not withstanding.

 Duane's killing it. He only took his lid off for this shot.
 We have a long way to go to make seventy miles.
 I really get gravel after this ride. It really is about friends just out to enjoy the day.
 Small gear problems but it makes you a better mechanic and better prepared for the longer rides.

 For those readers that have never seen a cue sheet. They look like this. Mileage on the left, turn graphic in the middle and road name on the right.
 Lunch or more accurately, Munch.
 Pre-dinner, Call it Dunch or Linner.
 Heath's Hill, Uffta.

 This is a $100 view. I don't know how to share the feeling. You just have to come down and ride a lot of dirt roads.

It's a form of freedom. Everyone has their share of highs and lows but when the sun is low and the shadows are long your mood is elevated for spending a long, somewhat hard, day riding the country side.

We end at 69.96 miles in 5 hours and a lot of change so call it, 6.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Maah Daah Hey

Blake is a good buddy of mine and he had a goal to ride the Maah Daah Hey and he asked me to roll with him and I was honored. Blake is one of the few guys I know that goes out and kills it for no reason but to suffer, just to suffer. The picture above is 11:20am at the start at Bennett Camp. We ride south 80+ miles to Medora and it shortens our lives. We have zero plans to return. To the right is a basic map. The trail north of Bennett is washed away and we are told it's unnavigable. That was hard to believe until we saw the good trail out of Bennett. It took an hour and a half to cover about 3 miles, maybe less.We turn south and grind the next 10.5 hours to Elkhorn camp where our camping gear was dropped off for us. We arrive just after 9pm and are very happy to be done and not have to find trail via head lamp.

The hole that Blake is looking into was part of the trail at one point but it's washed out and now bottoms out about 12 feet below. To the right is a normal segment of trail. It's a bench covered in mud from the heavy rains the day before. See my wheel? That's all clay. It's heavy and it destroys our will in about 4 hours of slogging.

We can't hide from the water but we'll get to that part in a little while. First we have to show some cows.

This is very nice trail but you never know what's around the corner and it brings trouble all the time.

These markers are every few 100 yards. Without them it would be impossible to follow the trail. As it was we lost it no less then 4 times. If this trail didn't see riders for a month, it would disappear.
NPS trail crews are trying to improve the trail but time and funding is limited. This is what's left of an improvement from a few years ago.

This is a petrified tree stump. Behind it is putrefied water. Remember the cows I talked about well those are hoof prints and that, um, ain't water.

If you think I was kidding, look at this photo below and tell me that's not cow piss? Oh! um, you have to walk in it. This is tiny and can be mostly avoided but they get big and I have a black right shoe to prove it.

20 miles in we get free cold well water at Magpie Camp. This is 6 hours in I think.
Big Oil (Drill Baby Drill) cut right into our trail but I will not get political about them drilling 100 feet to one side or the other. I'm sure they would have avoided the trail if they could. <or did it just to be evil>
This is Devils Pass. It looks cooler in person but it looks to be an old road. Crossing it on a bike is easy but you pay attention.
Blake crossing the last of the bridge.
This must be the flagship post. It's the only stainless steel trail marker we see.
I regret not opening the green box and signing in. I assume it's a trail log. At the time, we were trying to make time because we were barely making 5 mph and if you need to go 40 miles it's a long time without stops.
This is more nice trail. Much of it is a deep rut(s) and you have to ride in the dirt next to it or walk.

We are both surprised but this is the Little Missouri River and we have to cross it.

The black stuff is wood charcoal.
See the vein, that is the charcoal from an old fire.

Camp! Day 1 is over. This is Elkhorn camp, We are the only campers.

This little turtle is on every Maah trail post. We understand early that slow wins the race. How poetic.
We give in an push. No reason to kill yourself on hills if you have to walk bad sections of trail. We are happy to make 5 mph average. Out best speed, one mile took 7 minutes.

These cows block the gate. They are protecting 4 or 5 calves so we go around and jump the fence.
More water crossing. Yuck.

That's cow poo on Blake's bars. So when I say free range cow pee fills the low areas and poo flies... Believe me.

Blake scouts a narrow for crossing. We don't find one and post hole mud, muck, and poo.
If you read the Man Trip and remember the Gnome. This is his dog. He has a bone. The angle is better in person. I'm not happy with this photo but it's what I have. It looks like a dog laying on a rock with a bone under his front paw.

Lunch. This is mid way through day 2 and the trail is getting better. We are a wreck at this point.
See, I'm happy.
It's that turtle again! See how the post is cut to point down at the trail. It's very helpful. It always point to the trail you want at forks and other hard turns.
We are within 10 miles of the end. Views are getting better and we know we'll finish just before dark.

This is the ugly end. I thought it was be better but it's covered in horse poop so that's better, right?
The last mile to town.

Below is a small set of photos of the first meat processing plant in North Dakota (or something like that, read the sign). We stop because it's a nice sunny day, we have an hour or so to kill and when are we ever going to be back, yep! Never.

We make camp at an RV park's idea of a tent site. It starts raining so we lump up in the van-tastic with beers.
Sundown is dramatic.

Blake and I work out some numbers and figure we burned 10,500 calories in 2 days. We have a big dinner at Boots Bar & Grill and retire to the van for beer and second dinners. I have Dinty Moore, don't judge me. I was hungry. 

We drive home the next morning after shoving some groceries down our necks.

Adventure rides are hard, they suck, you rarely have fun but you rarely have time to think about the hell your living. It's common for me to wonder what I've done to myself. If the opportunity to make things harder presents itself, I double down. Some of my best memories are with my climbing buddy, Brad, and we barely made it out alive. I don't want to get that frightened anytime soon but to know it's getting serious puts me in a peak state that I find energizing.