The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gravel Conspiracy, North Woods Adventure

Artists Point, Grand Marais MN
On the last day of registration, I submitted an email for my name to be thrown in the hat, for the North Woods Adventure. My wife gave me her blessing and with a couple clicks of the mouse I was in. The race/ride/tour laid out by Gravel Conspiracy was a three day stage covering 290 miles.The organizer,Super Man Extraordinaire, Josh Stamper rented a delivery truck and hauled our gear from stage-to-stage. For me, this was going to be a dream come true, or a nightmare, what happened over the next three days was a little of both.
Mr Stamper   M.C.

A little bit of rain.
The first day, Friday, was the easy one. We left the parking lot of Artists Point in Grand Marais a little after 1 pm. It was raining just a little bit, which didn't matter since we only had about 50 miles to do that day. The ride proved a little harder than I expected. We experienced several rain showers and a stiff headwind,the route also seemed to never stop climbing. The group I stayed with secured a room at the Bearskin Lodge, with a hot tub at our disposal, it seemed like cheating, but it sure was nice.
Lisa, Day 1

Mr Tri enjoying a book near the hearth.
Saturday would be our long day, at 125 miles I admit I was a little nervous. Having done Almonzo, Rag, Dirty B, Gentlemen's, and The Heck several times each, I know how f@#ked up I can get after 100 miles of gravel. I didn't sleep much the night before thinking about this.
Day 2, J-No 

No rain yet.
If Friday was having my dream come true, Saturday had nightmare moments. I rolled out with Tri, J-No, Ted Loosen, Dennis Grelk and Drew Scott*. Initially the sun was shining, but soon we were pedaling under dark clouds and the rain started. Grelk, Loosen and Scott* peeled away from us shortly before the rain came down at about mile 35. It was cold and the prospect of gutting it out in the rain for another 90 miles was not something I was looking forward to. Only a few miles later we ran into Ted and Dennis changing a flat. Ted was without a rain jacket so I gave him my vest. Fortunately the heavy rain didn't last long and we were at the checkpoint around mile 70. This is when I hit my dark,ugly, place, something I would describe as an Arrowhead 135 moment. I've gotten used to these, but don't like being there. I was really cold and tired, I wasn't bonking but the weight of the loaded down Fargo was staring to get to me after riding a much faster pace than I had planned for the beast. I'm thankful my buddies didn't leave me behind and encouraged/forced me to go on with them. It wasn't long before the sun was back out and things were looking up, for a while..........
Check point day 2, it was much colder than it looks in the pic

Spirits up, over half way and planning what is for dinner

Is this dude cool or what ?
We were having a great time riding, talking and joking, for the next 35-40 miles. Around 107miles our GPS navigation took us deep into the forest on an ATV trail, down an animal trail and into a bog. There was no trail or even a remnant of a trail. After about an hour of wandering around we decided to head back to the ATV trail and find a different route to HWY 1 and Ely.
On our way to getting lost in the bog

Where the hell is the trail?
On our way back out to the ATV two-track, we encountered most of the other racers who had caught up to us, stumbling through the woods looking for the mythical trail, much like we had been doing earlier. A couple times we were following their voices so we could get back to the original trail, and on to our new course. Once again, Ted, J-No, Tri, and myself along with Grelk were pedaling hard on or way to Ely, trying to beat the setting sun. We made it in before dark and headed straight to the Ely Steakhouse. We had no access to our dry clothing and gear on account of Mr Stamper being alerted to the route discrepancy, and heading out on the course with the delivery truck to make sure everyone made it out of the woods that evening. Drew Scott* was also with Josh, he finished the ride before anyone else and was assisting with the "rescue". Our group of five, enjoyed a good meal in cold, wet, stinky, cycling gear, I'm not sure the other guests enjoyed the smell. Our waitress assured us it was acceptable due to the proximity of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and all the fine folks emerging from the wild in a similar fashion. Our saving grace was the sauna at the Paddle Inn, which we had to ourselves, three stinky cyclists in chamois, it was a sight to behold. Just before 10pm we all got our gear and took showers before going to sleep. I was so tired that night I couldn't think about the 116 miles I would have to do the following day.  
The moss around the bike is so thick and soft I wanted to take a nap here.

Nothin' better than hanging out on the porch.

Getting more instructions before heading out. We were promised pizza.
Day three was awesome. I felt like shit that morning and would have loved a car ride back to Grand Marais. That would have been a HUGE mistake. Sunday's route was one of the best gravel rides I have ever done. Within a dozen miles the legs were feeling good, the sun was out and I was in the great company of Ted, J-No, Tri, and Yo-Eddie. Drew and Dennis were with us briefly but soon peeled away so they could duke it out on the gravel. Ted definitely could have gone with and given them a run for the money. He stuck with us and did more than his fair share of pulling at the front, Thank You.
2 bad-ass mo-fo's

a game of tether-ball anyone?

The first 50 miles to the truck/checkpoint went by very quickly. The remaining 65 miles took a little longer since we stopped for pictures, food, pee breaks, Mt Dew at the Trestle Inn, and a quick game of tether-ball. I was looking forward to the last seven miles of all downhill. I made sure I left a little in the tank so I could ramp it up and finish strong. We caught five riders on our high speed, down hill frenzy and finished the day with big smiles and large appetites.

This hill wasn't that hard, he's smiling.
Huge Thanks to Josh Stamper for putting together this incredible ride and your dad too for helping out. Thank you Cyclova XC, Salsa , A-Train Cycles, and Three Stars Cycles for sponsoring the event. Big Thanks to Ted for doing so much pulling and being a really cool guy with a good attitude, Charlie Tri for always having a joke and a good attitude, Jason Novak for being good company and a strong rider to lean on when the going gets tough. Ed Karow for being an all around good guy and having arms big enough to scare off all the guys at the bar that would have beat us up for being cyclists. Lisa for being super nice, tough as hell and always smiling. Dennis Grelk for strange stories of life in rural Iowa, and the recumbent craze. Drew Scott* for getting me hooked up with lodging for the weekend, and a great story teller with the inside track on everything bike related in the local scene, congrats on the WIN Drew ! Thanks to everyone else that I hung out with that made the long weekend memorable, Chris F, John K, Tyler, Robin, Kieth V, and the Cyclova dude who's name I forgot. Extra Super Thanks to my awesome wife and kids for letting me do what I do.      *Wilson*     

Left to right...Ted, D Rider, Yo-Eddie, J-No, Tri, Stamper


  1. Great post! Glad that you had a good time. Your axe body spray really was a morale booster! It was mentioned twice in the survey results. Cheers

  2. Heartbreak Hill is hard on a ss Pugsley:) I've heard about this little venture and have to say that it looks like a hell of a good time. I ride up there quite often and would love to see the route. I'm thinking of doing a gravel tour next summer:)

  3. My goal for next year is to get faster so I can keep up with you guys and not miss out on the tetherball!