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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gravel Conspiracy , Laurential Divide

At the last minute I chose to ride the Krampus, it/I did very well at keeping a good pace and was a joy to ride the whole weekend.....especially for what I had planned 
 A couple weeks back I headed to Minnesota's far north for the forth time in four weeks to participate in The Garvel Conspiracy's  Laurential Divide  race/ride. To say I was a little burned out on traveling is an understatement. It's not being away and in the moment that is hard, it's the unpacking and packing during the week that's a bitch. If I could, I'd just stay up there for an extended period with my wife and kids and play, but work, bills, and chores demand that I come home in between the fun.
rolling out of town

Flat, a bunch of us decided to wait for him to change it and take a little break
 September 2013 was the second running of the three day stage race that pivoted on the small town of Grand Marais Minnesota. Last year was such a great experience I knew I would be back for more if Mr Stamper was so inclined to host the event again. This year was a week earlier which can make a big difference in weather (cold) when you go that far north.  It was also the same weekend as the Chequamegon 40, which pales in comparison in difficulty, scenery, and solitude. Like last year the race started and ended in Grand Marais, but that would be the only thing that stayed the same. The routes were different and thankfully shorter at  52,85, and 62 miles as opposed to 47, 125,and 115 miles.
One of many overlooks on the way

  The first overnight was spent at the hotel/casino in Grand Portage. The second night was back in Grand Marais with most of the group staying at the municipal campground. Each night after the ride the whole group of 20 something gathered for dinner. Due to a broken pipe or something of the like, our first dinner was outside at the casino RV campground. Most of us were a little pissed after descended upon the restaurant, mouths drooling with visions of heaping plates of food filled from an endlessly supplied buffet line, only too see the RESTAURANT CLOSED sign. Plan "B", everyone go to the only other food source in town, and stock up on anything and everything for a gas station pot luck. This turned out to be one those times when we metaphorically made chicken soup out of chicken shit, it was perfect. We had every manor of junk food, 3-2 beer, energy drinks, steaks,carrots, hot dogs, and a nice camp fire.
Gas station pot-luck

Just my bike and shadow to keep me company the rest of day 2
 The next day was set for a nice 85 miler. I rode with the group for the first 10-12 miles and flatted. This is right where I wanted to be, alone. I like riding with old, new and potential friends but sometimes it's nice to be by yourself, undistracted, free from chatter, outside thoughts and gossip. I typically ride by myself, not by choice but situation, (family life... you take what's available). This solitude for me is about reflecting on life, rejuvenation, and letting my mind run free to plan and create new ideas I would like to accomplish. I not only cherish this time I need it or I get grumpy. Enough with all the deep thoughts shit....  At the point of the last rider passing me is where I took my detour from the written route. I was not going to complete the Gravel Conspiracy ride this year and I knew it from the start. I've been nursing a back injury/sciatica all summer, as a result I have not ridden any long rides and have done the shorter ones with a great deal of pain before, during, and after. When I signed up for the GC in May or whatever, I completely thought my back and leg would be good to go, I was wrong. Just a few days before the ride I could barely walk without shooting pain in my leg after I got done with a shake down ride. I really hate bailing on a free race when I know the guys putting them on bend over backwards to do so. After that ride I knew I would still head north and take the line but with plan "B" tucked neatly into my drop bag. In the back of Mr Stamper's truck, was a packraft headed for Grand Portage. The DETOUR will be covered later, but I did end up with 68 miles for the day and returned to Grand Marais long after the last rider was in. Strangely, my leg and back were a non-issue the day before and I was only feeling a little pain start to build towards the end of my ride the second day. I popped a few Advil for good measure and decided not to ride the next day at all for fear of sending my healing progress backward. That evening we all met up at the Gunflint Tavern for the most expensive (19$) burrito I've ever had the displeasure of waiting an hour and a half  for. I was in good company so it was a little easier to take.
sneak peak at The Detour

Lake Superior in site
 The next day was a little chilly at the start and I was feeling even better about my decision not to ride. After watching the group ride away I was off to my second detour of plan B. This one didn't go as well as the day before and I had to get back to GM to pick up my friend and car pool-ee by 2 pm. Before we headed home a few good-bye's and hand shakes were in order, as well as buying Mr Stamper lunch as a thank you and just because he's an overall good guy. Check this out for next year, as I know the gears are already turning for the planning and evolution of this great event.
Day 3, the group getting ready to go,  I decided to sit it out and take it easy