Friday, October 29, 2010

The Zombie Side of Sears

I love it when big companies take a little chance and have a sense of humor. Sear, which is a brand that I would consider to be quite conservative, pushed the boundaries a little by having some Halloween fun. Check out their zombie site!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Late Start

A shot from the recent Great Parks bike tour with some Photoshop post editing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Photo Caption Contest

I bought a pack of beef jerky recently. There was a little packet of something inside with this picture on it. What do you think they were trying to tell people? I think something about "don't feed this jerky to soul-less zombie children".

BikeTour 2010 - The Great Parks

Ever since my bike tour with Ben in 2007 I've been dieing to go on another tour - I can't believe it took 3 years to finally get out again. Greg, Fil, Mark, Ron, and I took the last two weeks of July off and headed out for Montana and Canada for what was truly an epic ride. The following is my account of the adventure.

5 guys. 10 days. 580 miles.

Day 1 - Home to King St. Station (15 miles)

Got off work early and started peddling to downtown. As soon as I left my driveway the old familiar sense of freedom and adventure I felt on the 2007 tour came rushing back. God I love touring on a bike! I got to the station right on time to meet my buddies and break our bikes down and box them up. We had practiced doing this the week before, so we had no problems. There were two issues that came up already, tho. One was that Ron had a bungee cord fall off and get sucked into his back wheel on the way to Marks house that day and it messed up his wheel. Mark managed to true it to a pretty good extent, but it was going to have to be fixed or replaced soon. The other concern was that the whole trip was dependant on making each checkpoint each day, and the first day (Day 2) was the most crucial. We had to get off the train as quick as possible and make it to a certain point in Glacier Park before the closed the road to bikes, so that we could make it to our camp site. So we were little concerned when our train showed up at King St. Station 4 hours late! Well the train finally showed up and we had these sweet little sleeper cabins. Ron did not - he had to sleep in his seat. These cabins, although small, were great for hanging out in. We had beers and played cards and watched the scenery. We also had a free dinner and breakfast, too!

Day 2 - White Fish to St. Mary (76 miles)

The train made up a little time overnight and we got in to Whitefish at a reasonable time, but we were thinking that it was too late to make it to our road closure in time and we realized we were going to either have to hitch a ride thru the road closure area or just get in to camp really late. Either way we weren't too concerned, we were just happy to be on vacation.

We got our bike boxes and re-assembled the bikes and loaded them up and hit the road. The weather was beautiful and I was feeling great having slept quite well on the train. We did have to stop after a while to do some maintenance on Ron's wheel. It was becoming more obvious that this was going to be a problem, but we couldn't find any bike shops that were open. So we pressed on. At Lake McDonald, they close the road to bikes from 11am - 4pm and we did not make it there in time, but luckily they had these shuttle buses that you could load bikes on to, so we were able to save a little bit of time and get a little closer to our destination. We got off on the other side of the lake and started our biggest climb of the trip.

Going to the Sun Road: This road is actually a national monument and this was it's 100 year anniversary. It is an amazing road that's carved into the side of the mountains with a nice steady grade that just keeps going up and up all day until you finally reach the top of Logan's Pass (6500 feet) and the Continental Divide (this is where all rivers in the US flow from). It was a fantastic climb with amazing views of glaciers and mountains and valleys and waterfalls and wild flowers and mountain goats. There was even one point towards the top where there was a mountain goat in the road in front of me, and two goats behind me. I had to just peddle slowly and patiently wait for my opportunity to pass. It was really a pretty amazing experience.

We all made it to the top eventually. Rested for a couple minutes. Then made our decent down to St. Mary's, where we had a big meal at a nice restaurant and made it to our camp site as the stars were coming out. A quick cold water bath in the sink of the bathrooms and off to bed.

Day 3 - St. Mary to Pincher Creek, Canada (75 miles)

After fueling up with a great family style breakfast and stocking up on lunch fixin's at the general store, we hit the open road and headed for Canada. Another beautiful day with rolling fields and creepy cows that would stare us down as we rode by.

Right after we passed thru the Canadian border, we figured we should find a good place to make some lunch. We decided to head to a campground that was just a few miles away and see if there was some tables or something we could eat at. As soon as we rolled in to the campgrounds, it started to rain and we found this amazing covered area with two tables and plenty of room for bikes. We fixed up our feast of PBJ sandwiches, trail mix, and summer sausage and let the rain come down. And it was really coming down.

After we finished eating and Mark was putting some more finishing touches on Ron's where, the rain really started coming down and the wind started blowing like crazy. We all had to put on every warm and water proof piece of clothing we had. Then the hail came. Hail the size of marbles! I had never seen anything like this before - it was awesome!

It took about 30 minutes for the rain and hail and wind to subside and we started our climb out of the campgrounds and up a big hill. This is when mother nature attacked again. This time... it was a mosquito ambush! Again, I had never seen anything like this before - it was insane! Each of us had about 200 mosquitoes on us - just swarming relentlessly and attacking right thru our clothes. We were swatting and smacking and shaking them off and trying to move quickly to get out of there and get up the hill to where it might level off so we could out run them, but then Mark gets a flat tire! Man down, man down! Greg is the only one who can find his mosquito repellent, so he gives himself a quick coating and then jumps off his bike and is running around like an Indy 500 pit crew. And all of us are panicking like we're on fire and Greg is trying frantically to extinguish the flames. Ron is swallowing mosquitoes every time he opens his mouth to call for help. Mark yells for us to save our selves and leave him behind - he'll fix the tire and meet us at the top. It's useless to convince him otherwise, so Greg gives him a last couple repellent blasts and we all take off as fast as we can up the hill. I sprint for a minute and feel like I must have lost most of them. As I catch up to Fil, I can see that his white jersey is peppered with little black blood suckers and as I get closer I see that in addition to the 50 or so on his back, he's got another 50 on each pannier just waiting their turn to feed. As soon as I tell him about his mosquito pandemic, I look back and down at my bags and I've got the same thing! So I swat the bags and sprint, then swat again and sprint. Finally, we get to the top of the hill and there's a nice stiff breeze that blows the mosquitoes and away. Greg and Fil, got hit bad and they have immediate reactions to the bites and start swelling up. Me and Ron are not so bad, just regular bite reactions. Mark eventually makes his way up to meet us and is a little bit up too, but is fine overall. A little shell shocked from the attack, and light headed from blood loss, we press on. It's sunny and beautiful again... well, at least for a little while.

Eventually, the sun disappears and the rain slowly comes back. It's getting late in the day and we're looking for dinner. The rain is getting a little heavier and I'm getting cold. It's hard to warm up, too, because the group is riding a little slow. Finally, we come across some sort of diner/general store. We park our bikes on the side and walk in the front door. It's dark and no body's there. But why is the front door open? We walk thru the grocery store and can hear voices as we make our way back. Turns our the they had lost power, so we find the back bar and grill area full of locals sitting around eating chips and drinking luke warm beers and coffee. They welcome us in and we warm our frozen hands on hot cups of coffee.

We get to talking w/ some of the locals and someone offers us a ride to the next town, which is our final destination. They can't fit all of us, tho so Mark and I leave our bags behind and take off on our own to rendezvous with them 20 miles away in Pincher creek. And when I say we took off, I mean WE TOOK OFF. We were each about 60-70 pounds lighter without our gear and fueled by the frustration of being cold and riding slowly thru the rain, and we were absolutely flying! We were taking turns pulling on the flats doing in between 25-30 mph. We were catching glimpses of our forthcoming superhuman bike power. Then at one point we were coming down a little hill, going 35 - 40 mph, me in front, and hit the bottom of the hill where there was a abrupt transition on to a little bridge. Mark still had his handle bar bag on and as he hit the bridge, it knocked his bag loose and launched it straight up and in front of his bike. He shouted some sort of exclamation and bunny hopped and cleared the handlebar bag. Thank God he had no panniers weighing him down and was clipped in to his pedals or else that could have turned out very differently. So we gathered our selves again and continued our dash in to town. We got there before the rest of our group, because unknown to us, the power had come back on and they were sitting around eating nachos and drinking beer! That night we forfeited our reserved camp site and check into a hotel. I took the longest, hottest shower of my entire 37 year life.

Day 4 - Pincher Creek to Fernie (77 miles)

We left Pincher Creek riding thru open fields with wind turbines. A little overcast, but eventually turning into sun. Making our way past old farms and getting closer to new mountains thru Crows Pass and crossing from Alberta into British Columbia, and right as it started to rain again, we came across the world's biggest truck and a visitor center which we could see shelter under. Thunder, lightening, and rain. We even saw lightening strike the hill next to us and a tree caught fire, but was quickly extinguished by the rain.

30 minutes later, it was sunny and warm again, and we rolled on to the Fernie Red Tree Lodge. This place was fan-fucking-tastic. The town is great and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. And the lodge was great! It had super friendly, a bike locker room, computer room w/ Internet, game room, TV/Movie theater room, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, communal kitchen.... this place was off tha hook! We hit the showers and walked next door to the Curry House. As we were waiting outside for our table, Mark and I set new personal best records for push ups. Mark with 55 and me with 104! I am contunually amazed at what my body can do... after riding 77 miles - 104 consecutive push ups, can you believe that?

After a delicious dinner and Bard's gluten-free beer, we soaked in the hot tub for a few and then went to bed. The delicious dinner, however, did not sit so well with my room mate Greg. Same with Mark. Both of them got bad diarrhea that night. Greg was up all night back and forth from the bed to the bathroom. By the time morning rolled around, he was wrecked. Poor guy.

Day 5 - Fernie to Wasa (74 miles)

We had a stellar breakfast at this little organic place, supplemented by some topical ointments and Imodium AD, then hit the road. Fil had his first flat tire, but fortunately had his pit crew (Mark) there to change it in record time and get him back up and running.

We had some really great back roads with no cars this day. That's my favorite type of riding - no cars.

Mark broke away from the pack and we let him go off as we took a more leisurely pace and pulled in to a little lake where we could wade out and cool off our legs as these little minnows (or whatever they were) nibbled at our toes.

When we arrived at Wasa, we set up camp and the camp, got some giant hamburger gut bombs from the diner, then the camp host showed me and Mark how to find underground water using coat hangers. I was told that I "have some strange energy".

Day 6 - Wasa to Fairmont Hot Springs (47 miles)

This was our leisure day. We rode thru some more beautiful country and had great weather - hot weather, in fact. We stopped again at another lake and jumped in.

We ended up arriving at the Fairmont Hot Springs by late afternoon. This place was really cool. It's the worlds largest odorless outdoor hot springs. They have multiple pools, both hot and cold. We had a couple beers, then hit the high dive. Mark took the Silver medal with his belly flops and Ron went home with the Gold thanks to his hand stand back flip.

Then we had a very nice meal at the fancy restaurant and went back to the condo to work on Ron's bent wheel some more. No, we still hadn't replaced this damn thing. Every shop we stopped at was either closed or our of business or was mountain bike only. But by this point his wheel was toast. It was like someone stomped on it. It wouldn't even turn.

Day 7 - Fairmont to Jaffray (90 miles)

I woke up to go eat breakfast and saw that both Ron and Fil were gone. They had hitched a ride to another town to go get a new wheel for Ron's bike. So Greg and Mark and I headed on w/out them with the plan of meeting up at a check point later in the day. It started out a really nice ride. We stopped for lunch and some of the best hamburgers ever. An hour or so after that, tho, we ended up riding into another thunder storm. There was lightening and thunder and we got completely soaked. It was like riding thru a car wash, we were just in survival mode, trying to get to the next destination in one piece.

When we did finally get there, we totally lucked out, because not only was there a general store, but there was an RV park in the back and they had hot showers and a laundry mat. I snuck in a shower, and then we all had some tea and cup-o-noodles, then we threw our gear in these giant dryers and we were as good as new. Ron and Fil had another story. So they did find eventually find a new wheel but finding a ride to meet up with us was a bit of a challenge. Nobody in their fancy SUVs w/ bike racks would stop to pick them up. They were getting a little desperate. So when Jeffy (or was it Swede?) stopped in his pickup and asked them, with a toothless grin, if they wanted a ride, they pretty much had no choice but to say yes. They threw their bikes in the back and hopped in the cab. The truck littered with beer cans, there's joints on the dash, this guy's chain smoking, and then informs them that "he just needs pick up his buddy real quick". So he pulls off and heads down a little dirt road. At this point their getting a little nervous and scenes from Deliverance is playing in their heads. Did I mention that Fil's black and Ron's Filipino? So they stop and pick up this other guy and now they have four full grown men crammed into the cab of this pickup truck. They stop for another case of Bud Light, and hit the road. Both Ron and Fil are feeling a little obligated to accept the beers that their new friends are offering them, so they drink one after the other. Everybody's drinking, even the driver, and throwing the empties in the back. Ron is strattling the shifter with his can between his legs getting slightly dented every time Jeffy has to shift.

So anyways, turns out these guys are salt of the Earth good guys and they drive our friends all the way to meet us. Ron and Fil both had about 6 or 7 beers by the time they arrived, and we still had another ~30 miles to go, too, so they were riding a little slow and a little crooked. We ended up getting to camp in the dark and found that all of the sites were full. Fortunately, tho, someone shared with us that it was OK to camp in a certain "No Camping" area as long as we left early enough, so we did.

Day 8 - Jaffray to Fortine (70 miles)

This day we crossed back over the border in the US and Montana. They're not joking when they call it big sky country. It is really amazing out there. Again we had some fantastic back roads with no cars.

We ended up getting to the campgrounds again to find that it was full. The camphost came out and we talked for a little bit. He was enjoying happy hour with some of his friends, Tom Collins in hand, and was fortunately in a pretty good mood. He showed us a place where we could camp and didn't even charge us. Turns out it was the best camp site on the whole damn lake. Plent of room, scenic overlook onto the water, fire pit, tables, beach... couldn't ask for anything more.

Day 9 - Fortine to Whitefish (40 miles)

I have to admit that I was a little bit tired of riding by this point. I think I was not alone. It was sort of all about just getting back to the train station.

We got there with plenty of time to spare. They even had a huge outdoor BBQ with live music to celebrate our return - it was perfect! We ate and drank a little, then made our way over to a health club where we could shower, swim a couple laps, and soak in the hot tub a little.

We had a great train ride back with free dinner and breakfast. If you've never done an overnight sleeper car on a train, I highly recommend it. They even have showers! Day 10 - King St. Station to Home (15 miles) We said our goodbyes at the station and I headed home. One of the really cool things about a bike tour is that your legs gain super human strength. On the way home, I was going 20-25 mph, fully loaded with gear screaming past dudes with their racing jerseys on their fancy carbon fiber bikes. They couldn't even draft off of me I was going so fast. This super human strength stuck around, too for good week or two. It has pretty much all worn off now, tho, and some of the memories of the trip are fading, too, but at least I've got a nice collection of 284 photos and videos to help remind me of this epic ride.