Wednesday, April 24, 2013


{Auto} Gymkhana events are time and/or speed events in an automobile (borrowed from equestrian). These can feature obstacles such as cones, tires, and barrels. The driver must maneuver through a predetermined "track" performing many different driving techniques. What separates gymkhana from traditional autocross events is that the gymkhana requires drivers to perform reversals, 180 degree spins, 360 degree spins, parking boxes, figure 8s, and other advanced skills. Drifting is also encouraged where helpful or necessary. Essentially, a gymkhana is any event featuring a starting point, a finish line and some sort of "obstacle" to get through, around, or by, all within a certain time limit. 

Icekhana is gymkhana on a frozen lake; with the gymnastics we had on a ride to big island on Tonka it was {Fatbike} IceKhana. 

This spring is actually really great for me. The ice isn't melting and it's making a fantastic playground. I ask my buddy Josh to join me on a mixed adventure to try and ride fatbikes to the big island on Tonka. I made the trip earlier in the year and it was awesome. At that time the ice was thick and hard as stone. I used studded tires and leaned into the gears pushing the speed over 20 at times.

This weekend it was soft and we had to swim out to the ice sheet. I know the pressure ridge is going to be open and I expect a pond in the middle that will allow for a lot of swimming. 

We both don drysuits, PFDs (in our backpacks if it's warranted but they still float in a pack so it's like we have them on), and a heavy layer of fleece to hold the cold water at bay while we swim.

Onto the bikes for the first 1,000 feet. We hug shore and walk the deep parts. The first task is to get swimming and check the seals. Josh is starting to understand the brilliance of a drysuit.

I've been using one since 2003 so time has expunged my emotional memory of the first swim. I still remember my first ice dive pictured below. I'm waiting to go in and I'm so excited I don't know what to do.

On to the ice after the dry suits pass the test. We walk out about waist deep before we can belly-flop onto the ice and roll quickly way from the soggy edge. I say soggy because it's very clay like when it's rotten. The ice bends and slowly sinks before it breaks.

It's not long before I overheat and want to go swimming so I head right over to the nearest open water and crash through. Bust some ice, swim around, and encourage Josh to come in. He's a little freaked out.

After the controlled swim we have to pass open water of unknown depth. I cross first so I can feed information back to Josh to help even out the skill gaps between us. He's really freaked out but I keep asking if he's having a good time because I catch him laughing and smiling at times.

Once we are in the water we need to try and get out. When we jumped in we had no idea what the exit looked like or how far we would have to swim to get to the ice. It turned out we had to swim about 75 feet to water that was almost too deep to touch.

Josh is starting to enjoy it, if only a tiny bit.

It's not long before the summer sun makes mush of the ice. The top 5 inches turns to mush. The largest body of water sumps as the weight of the snow and water press the middle down and give the illusion that you're going to fall through. This happens over and over but I know there is lots of ice below me and even if there isn't, I get to cool off.

We make it to the island, hike a short time and then head back before the sun makes riding impossible  As it is, we flatten the tires and ride as if it's fresh snow. Walking would take way too long.

Back at the gap we swim across without much excitement.

The video below is a short clip of the swim across. Josh pushes his bike in and then enters for the swim. I try but, well, you'll see. I was filming and didn't have the control to push my bike in.

Once we are done with the ride we have a little time left to go boating. The rivers are already flowing too fast for a casual packraft out and back. We check a few spots and its roaring and full of foam. We check the maps and find a protected waterway close to Minneapolis for about an hour of boating.

I estimate the current at 3 or 4 knots so paddling upstream is hard if you can't stay out of the heavy current.

We find an old drain and it's a sure thing, we are going in.

It closes off within a few 100 feet.

We'll need to return for this one. With all the paint it's probably really interesting.

We started out swimming around a bridge then biking around to get to the ice. We zig zag around the bays crashing though the ice. Swim a circle around one island then bee line to the big island. Run around, back on the bike, retrace our route, inflate the rafts, enter a drain, pass under a train bridge and finish the IceKhana course in record time and on that first place finish good bye.

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