Thursday, October 13, 2011

End of the Lease

Well, it's only been three years that I've been hunting and two that I've been a member of the "Nimrod" hunting club of Oskosh. Part of the membership fee includes access to a very nice farm property that is adjoined by a marsh to the west, marsh/woods to the south, woods to the east and more public hunting land to the north. As the farmer is no longer allowing the club to utilize the property, sadly this will be the last year I will have access.

During the fall as time permits I will go out to my stand, on the corner of "goose island" to observe the wildlife and hopefully catch some images of something interesting.

My preferred method of transport out to the Bradley farm is my Suzuki V-Strom. My go anywhere, do anything, adventure touring motorcycle. I have a skid plate on the beast and some 70/30 tires on it so I'll take her out into the marsh hay fields as far as I dare before I make the on-foot excursion to the stand.

When she gets stuck, she makes a good job of it... AAA won't bail you out of a farm field I imagine, nor will a Hyundai Elantra.

What I really go out to do is spot for and observe the deer. It's pretty early in the season and quite warm so the deer just aren't alive. We're in pre-early-rut, whatever the hell that means, so the forest rats are largely absent from the landscape. A complete 180 from late-spring, early-summer when I couldn't stop seeing the darned things on mountain bike rides.

Luckily there is plenty of wildlife to observe. Often you can see owls, cranes, geese, hawks and other birds riding the wind in the area.

While there are just a ton of small birds and other flying creatures, the most abundant bird on the premises is the Sandhill. I was hungry at the time and couldn't help but wonder what these birds taste like. I have read, as they can be hunted outside of Wisconsin that their nickname is "flying ribeye". Being currently involved in a fight back from extinction and having a resemblance to the whooping crane makes being able to taste test the creature improbably. I suspect it will be quite some time before the animal resides on my dinner table, although I hear they can be hunted outside of Wisconsin.

While on my last trip, there was absolutely no action... from anything. It was all very quiet... through the lens of my camera though, I felt like I just fell down the hole into wonderland, peering through a 600mm lens at giant spiders, flies and grasshoppers.

In this photo I was trying to expose for the cranes crossing in front of the sun, which I had to wait a rather long time for. The small image does not do the photo justice, click on it for a better view. I think I did a pretty good job w/ the exposure since you can in fact see the cranes and the image is not at all "blown".

What is ultimately frustrating is that printing this photo made it look terrible. My Epson Artisan 710 just was not up to the chore. While it does an amazing job with pinks, greens, blues, and yellows,... reds and oranges are lost on it.

Really hoping to see some deer next time... need to get some hope for the upcoming season. I've never, in the 8 years that I've been trying, managed to capture a photo of a deer in the wild. I don't know why it's been so challenging.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chequamegon Fat Tire Weekend 2011 - The end of an era

I met Brett, one of my best friends, this year and perhaps for the last time in Eau Claire for the preamble to the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. For the past few years since he's been in Colorado, we've met in EC for a quick ride on some singletrack before we migrate to the great northwoods of Wisconsin to complete in what could be one of the most famous and long lived MTB races in Wisconsin.

These first few photo's are in Eau Claire as it is next to impossible to capture any photo's while competing in the event. Brett is quite a bit faster than he used to be and it is very difficult to keep up with him now a days. Recently, Brett had just completed the CTR or Colorado Trail Race, a 500 mile race down the CTR to Durango.

Entry to the FTF requires luck, patience, planning and $80. Your entry for the September event is due while snow is still on the ground. Many many people enter to participate, however somewhere around only 2200 receive the coveted postcard in the mail. All the others receive a cancelled check. Most if not all entrants are able to determine their status a few days after the drawing by verifying with their bank whether their check has cleared or not - if so, it is time to start planning on a trip to flannel and forestry country.

To give you an idea of what it looks like to watch roughly 2000 cyclists take off on a 40 mile bike excursion, play the clip. Note the leisure suit wearing tandem riders. This clip was shot by Brett's dad back in 2009.

My trip north consisted of a visit to the KOA, a very comfortable camping area, followed by the 40 mile event where I achieved a personal record with a 2:43 finish, followed up by a visit to Famous Dave's for a full rack of ribs and Octoberfest beer by the gallon.

The following day was supposed to be epic singletrack on the Rock Lake trail system. Mother Nature was on the rag so we had to settle for bar fare at the local tavern during the Packer victory march. The bar was an uncomfortable scene as we were the only non-locals in attendance. They were having a pot-luck for the game and we were essentially the only people that didn't bring food. Finally we ordered food when the kitchen was basically closed... at which point I thought the bar tender was going to run us out of the establishment.
At the conclusion of the game, we hightailed it right out of there.

We stayed at the AmericInn over night which was relatively nice. They had a waffle maker where you could make your own waffles for breakfast that we took full advantage of. Brett ate his with Peanut butter and syrup, twice. He said that it was the only way to eat waffles in a way that only he can, but I only took his word for it.

Once we left the hotel, we took a quick drive over to the trailhead just north of Rosies Field and took advantage of some very fast singletrack. We were doinking around on our respective SS Rigs and still managed a 9 mph moving speed over 20 miles. 60 mile mountain bike weekend makes for a happy person.
Since my son is getting to be "that age" I suspect that Chequamegon will either be a family event or an event I no longer attend. As it is during the school year, that will mean a late Friday drive north, and early race Saturday and a drive home either later that night or the next morning. That is a lot of resources to commit to riding on what amounts to a mix of ski and atv trail.
It sure was fun to see everyone though... not the end, just a new beginning.
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Agent Orange

Gander Mountain had a sale. On Orange. Just before hunting season. 75% off means that I WIN! Got myself a nice 3-in-1 camo blaze jacket and my son apparently got a sleeping bag.
The moment I brought it home he had to wear it. Shortly thereafter he decided he was going to wear it to bed. Seems like good stuff to me, that is for sure. At the end of the day, it should be a warm gun-deer
 season this year. I am ready to rock and I've got a new cub scout that is super excited to go deer hunting with his father.
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Biketastrophy 2011

A collection of shots from the weekend I spent with Aaron Roecker when we went out to Levis/Trow mounds for some epic mountain biking. The levis/trow was a unique experience for us since it is few and far between where you can find a trailhead in wisconsin where they have drive up camping. It is a really nicely put together park in that it is well taken care of however, it should be noted that there are no showers locally. Cold water showers under a faucet are not fun in the least. Enjoy the photo's.

While many of the shots I have are with the sun shining, the sky was mostly overcast and caught us in downpours a few times. It was during this trip that I switched chain lubes from Boeshield, a product that I've used consistantly for the past 2-4 years to Squirt (because it came for free) and ultimately to White Lightning Epic. Once I burn through the White Lightning I will either revert back to the quirt or move on towards Rock n Roll Extreme as I liked the squirt better than the Epic and have heard nothing but good things about the Rock n Roll Blue.

On a tangent.... Boeshield is a paraffin wax based lubricant that is applied (for me, application methods vary) via an aerosol container. The lube that I have had been around for a while so I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not but the performance was extremely poor. During the rain events that occurred while we were out a lot of trail debris, mud, sand, grit was kicked up into the drive. The Paraffin is not supposed to pick this up however the delivery media never seemed to dry/go away and it was holding onto the garbage. In tern, shifting performance suffered greatly on both Aaron and my bike, detracting significantly from the trip. Goodbye Boeshield. And there you have it, bike chain maintenance.

During one evening we ran into a guy named Dennis. Dennis was so slow. But he was also ripped. He was like the fasted laptop ever. With no battery.

The last night we were there some red-headed girl went out for a trail run with her pup. She'd left and a short time later her dog just happened to show up. We waited for a few minutes and no girl so we threw her dog in her pickup and left for our ride.

We'd gotten back to the car after about 2 hrs ride time to discover the little biscuit's truck still there. It was nearly dark out so we discussed what the course of action would be. A few minutes later we struck out in search. Aaron left as a pair with someone we'd met at the trail head and I'd struck out on my own. Being the most experienced night rider I felt pretty confident that I could handle anything that was thrown at me.
I took a hot lap around about a 5 mile section of ski trail towards the east while everyone else headed north. I made it back to learn that red had made it back not 5 minutes earlier. She was very apologetic but I didn't care... either way I got to ride my bike.

Mile after mile of trails that look exactly like this. Enough to keep you on your toes and always wanting more. Given better weather I am sure that we'd have gotten close to 80 miles on the extended weekend- we probably only managed half of that. None the less... it was very good.

During the trip we ran into this guy, I can't remember his name unfortunately. He had a bermise mountain dog puppy that was just too cute. We discovered that he'd arrived essentially a week early in preparation for Gnome fest the following weekend. This guy was a lot of fun to hang around with and was a very good judge of beer. He also let me ride on his pugsly, a bike I would really enjoy owning.

Lances First Camping Trip with Dad

This summer towards the end of August I felt like I needed some time away from work so I took some time off to go camping and "get away from it all". I got off of work on Friday but vacation didn't 'officially' begin until Monday morning because I didn't make camping reservations far enough in advance. Sunday afternoon I packed up the car with all the things we needed to stay happy, healthy and satisfied. Clearly by the picture below I was successful. The first thing out of the car, I can't remember, nor the second, but the third I know was the hammock. Once Lance discovered what exactly it was, both he and I knew that he'd found a new home.

While we were in the woods, fishing biking, hiking, swimming and eating whatever we wanted my cousin Ehren came out from Sheboygan for a visit - he got up on Wednesday and stayed overnight until Thursday before he had to leave. We spent a lot of time in the water tossing a football around. Wednesday night we had our first fire- the trip had seemed incomplete until then. Thurday we were pretty worn from the previous day (we hadn't gotten in the car at all, choosing to walk instead) and sat down to play some battleship to relax. We discovered at this time that Lance was not a natural strategist.

Not much to say about the dragonfly that had a deathwish except that the dragonfly had a deathwish. I'd never been divebombed by a dragonfly but this one seemed to be intent on hanging out with us. It was bent on being a distraction and a nuisance.
Friday brought Amanda and Max. It was interesting having the dog since we'd never camped with Max before. With the dog brought out the coons as well. While they weren't too keen on the cooler and some of our snacks, they were very interested in the dogs food.

Lance likes Yahtzee

Deciding he can fit in my First Ascent 70 litre backpack, lance wanted to go for a hike.
I remember when he was quite a bit smaller- hiking with a 50 lb. child on your back and a hyper dog on your arm is no easy task.
All told we were in the the woods from Monday through Sunday - honestly, it was a bit too long. I was "Lances Vacation" in that we did whatever he wanted, and keeping a ship-shape camp, making sure that he was fed and well taken care of took quite a bit more than I thought it would. All told it was really nice to get Amanda up on Friday for some help taking care of him and making sure that we could maximize activity and rest.
The Sunday drive home was an early one. We chose to leave as soon as we could in order to get our gear put away early on Sunday with enough time to recover before work began.
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"Goodbye Gary" Hifi

Part Rocker-Recliner, Part Rocket Ship.
Meet the "Goodbye Gary" Trek signature Hifi. A vanilla 29er it is not.
Out of the box you could tell this bike was interesting - It had retarded wheels that had to go, beach cruiser handlebars, a cramped cockpit, really crappy disc brakes and the shortest lived tires I've ever used in my life.
First to go was the 17* sweep, woodchipper handlebars, replaced with a far narrower set crank brothers cobalt carbon fibre bars. The bontrager whatever seatpost (rythem perhaps) was swapped out for a Thompson setback, the Bontrager wheels were replaced with a sturdier and lighter set of SunRingle wheels that were converted tubeless.
After a bit of a break-in period to get the feel for the handling this bike became nearly bliss to ride. It goes down-hill well though not quite as well as the Fuel EX 8 that it replaced however it flies up. It also carves up the singletrack which is what is really important to a midwest singletrack rider.
I still have some quibbles about the handling - mostly when I run into trees as it can understeer a bit, however that is clearly mostly me.
The replacements for the Racing Ralphs were a Bontrager XDX in the back and a Maxxis Aspen in the front. This combination worked extremely well on the bike and I was very very happy. After wearing out the XDX's sidewalls and the edge tread on the Aspens I replaced the rear with a Maxxis Ikon and the front with a Schwalbe Racing Ralph - both tires have sidewall protection as opposed to the featherweight racing editions and are set up tubeless. I like this set up slightly less than the XDX/Aspen setup but noticed that they handled decents on loose over hardpack better and also performed well in sand.
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5 Nights this summer

It was difficult to discern me from the nocturnal. Night riding mountain bikes (with decent lights) is some of the most fun I think anyone can have. It is easily the most (consistant) fun I've ever had on a bike. It is even more fun when you can do it with your friends.
With a headlight on the bars (flood) and another on your helmet (spot) you can ride nearly daylight fast through your own personal daylight tunnel. Lights can be anywhere from 50 lumens on up - but I definitely recommend at least 350 lumens on up if you want to ride with any kind of speed.
There are things you need to be concerned about and you have to be a little conservative, but I can tell you, Friday night (or any night) MTB rides are hard to beat.
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