Any Excuse To Tour

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I think it's been at least two or three posts since I talked about the Tour Divide in this blog. Have you been following it this year? I'm rooting hard for Patrick Tsai. I passed him in the Almanzo 100 and he's currently sticking it out in last place.  It's very much one of those "if he can do it..." sort of things. 

Anyway, in addition to this year's race, a documentary about the 2008 running has also been released- Ride The Divide.  And hey, look at that- a showing in Marinette, WI on July 2nd. That's only 170 miles or so from my house! You know how this goes, right?  Yep. Load 'em up, it's touring time!  

This time, I did something I'm usually a little reluctant to do- invite others on one of my rides. Since it was a holiday weekend, I had a pretty structured route with camping spots already reserved. People would know exactly what they were getting in to. There was some interest, but in the end, only one taker- My teammate/perpetual arch nemesis, Pat. The guy always, always finishes just ahead of me by a few minutes in every race we ever do.  I think I managed to beat him in a cyclocross race once.  

Day 1: Askel to Iron Mountain, 108 miles

So I'm all into the bikepacking thing now and whatnot, but right from the get-go I was reminded how much fun it is to get rolling on a fully loaded touring bike.  Just something about all that momentum and the smooth, stable ride really appeals to me.  And with Pat and I pushing and pulling eachother along, we were just flying right out of the gate. Not even a little rain between Covington and Crystal Falls could slow us down.  I think our moving average was hovering just south of the 15mph per hour mark as we rolled into camp that night.  Cold beers were obtained and we were asleep in short order.  

Day 2: Iron Mountain to Marinette, 76 miles. 

This was supposed to be the easy day.  You know, knock out 70ish miles after the big hundred mile push and roll into town with plenty of time for bike maintenance, laundry, hot tub, beers, and dinner before the movie.  Maybe a nap too.  

Things actually went pretty well until maybe the last 20-25 miles when we hit a pretty fierce headwind. We'd rotate the lead every few minutes, but I was quickly getting the crap beaten out of me.  I was extremely dismayed when we finally did get to Marinette that the hot tub at the Super 8 was merely a myth intended to draw tired bicyclists away from more well appointed hotels.  Oh well. The AC worked and the shower was hot.  After a few beers at "The Railhouse" brewpub (Yay for Imperial Pilsner!) and a double order of perch (the Friday Fish Fry is a deeply rooted religious tradition in Wisconsin you best not ignore), I was much happier and looking forward to the movie that night.  

We arrived at the theatre a little early to meet Erik Mathy who was hosting the screening as part of his fundraising efforts in advance of entering the 2011 Tour Divide himself.  Erik is engaging speaker and very dedicated to his fight against cancer. If you can help him out in any way, I'm sure he and those he's trying to help would appreciate it. His blog is  

I don't need to say much about the movie here. If the subject is even remotely interesting to you, I'm guessing you'll probably see it anyway. Be warned, if you're currently someplace in the middle of the spectrum between "doing the tour divide" and "not doing the tour divide", this movie will do nothing but move you closer in the direction of the former. Non stop awesome scenery, interspersed with inspiring dialogue about the life changing aspects of the ride and the occasional emotional scene when somebody is faced with the prospect of quitting the race.  It was awesome.  More so on the big screen.  

And after the movie I won a kayak rental from CyclePath!  Little do they know how easy it would be to push me over the brink of kayak ownership....   

After one more beer (the gas station attendant was very much impressed with my sophisticated tastes as reflected in my choice of "Milwaukee's Best Ice" for a nightcap), it was lights out.

Day 3: Marinette to Crystal Falls, 106 miles

We started the day by taking revenge on the hotel for depriving us of a hot tub the night before with a full on touring bicyclist assault of the continental breakfast.  We left nothing but a wake of destruction and empty "Bear Claw" wrappers in our path.  

It was pretty hot out, but we had a great tailwind pushing us along and made good time. The highlight of the day was probably the Osprey nest on top of the cable tower. If that wasn't cool enough, dad was out hunting nearby and we got to watch him try to take out a crow.  Some really nice scenery while out riding today and I was digging out the camera more than I had the entire trip so far.

Finished the day at Bewabic State Park just west of Crystal Falls. Neat old CCC buildings, an awesome swimming lake, and a funky bar right across the street made this the best night of camping on the trip for me.  

Day 4: Crystal Falls to Askel, 76 miles

We decided to push hard today to make it back in time for 4th of July Festivities. We still had the tailwind working for us and also a thousand foot drop in elevation once we passed Covington. We were really hauling ass today.  Made it back to my house just as it started to cloud up and raindrops were falling as Pat pulled out of my driveway.  

Great trip. Riding with Pat really worked out well- teaming up together we can really crank out the miles plus he maintains just the right combination of preplanning and just taking it as it comes to put us on the same page for most of the day.  While riding by myself certainly has it's own appeal, touring with others is something I'd like to do more of.  

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