Monday, January 28, 2013

Fishing the Frozen River while at the Frozen River Film Festival 2013!

Hands up!! Loaded Pike!
I have never really been an ice fisherman.  However I have also never really been given a good experience in it either.  While back at home Steve Briggs offered to take Tae and myself out for some "Tip Up" Pike fishing.

I immediately said yes.  I said yes because I like to spend time with Steve, but I also said yes because I know he is a good fisherman.  We headed out to Sam Gordy's slough.  A special place to both of us in its personal history.  Sam Gordy's was a place where as CC runners we had our funnest runs...the mud runs!  Super hard, super fun, super dirty.  Sam Gordy's was also the place where all the illegal parties went down...but that is another post.
Punching holes and placing bets

Secret sauce
Steves father was a hard core outdoorsman.  When I say hard core I mean HARD core.  He taught Steve a lot.  I know they had their hard times, but they certainly had a lot more of the good times.  Bob passed away a few years ago after a hard fight with cancer.

 I had to chuckle, when just before Steve placed his Tip Ups, he opened a small tin and tossed out some dust. I asked him what that was and he replied  "dad".

One in the bucket

We sat out there on the ice playing and talking for a few hours and eventually we got some hits.  The Miss is so full of fish that action is never too hard to come by.  There was an all out sprint to the Tip Up.  First one there gets to haul in the Fish!  I had forgotten about this rule and it was great to see the kids just tearing it up to get to the fish first.  True excitement for them!

Steve and his dad

Rori and Tae with the fish

Frozen River Film Festival visit 2013: The Pickwick Mill in winter

Living History in Pickwick, MN

The water wheel housing.  Still kicking after all these years
I was lucky enough to have grown up overlooking this mill.  I look back on it now and laugh, it is so midwestern, so Andy Griffin....however I realize how special it was and did even then.  I could stare history in the face, while also tying on a #2 Panther Martin Spinner.  We used to catch so many trout near this mill!  Now I always take the time to just visit it.  To walk around it and to photograph it.  A special place Pickwick, Minnesota....
Old school Graffiti on the Pickwick Mill
The water wheel 

Winona, MN River Culture: Skating the sloughs and sipping coffee at Fortunato's

Shooting through the sloughs

Tool of the trade
As I had mentioned before.  While home in Winona, I love to get out on the River.  In the past I have hauled out the Fat Bike, this time though I was able to hang with Marg and hit the Nordic Skates.  Skating on the Mississippi Backwaters is one of my favorite pastimes.  When we were kids we brought food, hot chocolate and blankets.  We would stake out the smoothest and best ice and just have a blast.  Skating in the sloughs is a mini exploration, you never know what or who you are going to see around the next corner!

Spooning skate turns!

Marg looking for exit to the Maze.
When we get done with skating I like to try and also catch up on what is going on locally.  When I was a kid there was NOT a place like Fortunata's.  However I am really, really glad that there is now!  My father took me to meet Joe on a bike ride last year and now I am a solid fan.  In fact, I am not sure I should even post this as I dont want to give up this secret too much!  For god sakes, Joe might even have to work a bit more if more people show up!

Fortunata's Coffee Shop.....cant you tell?

Come in!  Meet cool people, huddle by the hot stove!

Fortunata's is a place where I could spend a full day just shooting the little things on the walls and in the corners.  Joe and his customers sense of both politics and humor are right up my alley.

Do Not Hump

Typical picture at Fortunata's

This totally nails it

Frozen River Film Festival: A visit home, winter 2013

All access four year old
The past two years we have braved the roads and the weather to head south to my home place.  Winona, MN.  A place I miss, love and lament all at the same time.  This year was no exception.  The Frozen River Film Festival has become a rallying point for our winter visit and it does not disappoint.  The next bunch of posts all relate to this visit.  Not only do we go to the film festival, we also truly get on the FROZEN RIVER, the old Mississippi as well.

Marg and Tae in the new Winona History Center.  The yellow Canoe is the first Wenonah Canoe ever produced.

Art at Dibbs Cafe, Winona MN

Not only do I get to see some awesome films while being home, I also get to see old friends and hang with Family as well.  While I was visiting my grandmother, my Uncle Bob Shaw swung by with some of his metal work.  Amazing stuff, Bob is so humble about his work!  It is always inspiring to me to go home and to see the creative work my family does.  My Uncle and his wife are both highly creative, my mother and father as well.  Trips home, center you and bring you back to a fine point focus that I tend to let slip as I work and travel....maybe that is why I shot so much over the weekend!

Steel railing by Bob Shaw

Talking shop with Bob and his works of art

Winona is really making a solid comeback and it is great to see things like the film festival, the Rockwell Kent Festival, the Maritime Art Museum and the Shakespeare Festival all be so successful.  It shows in places like the Winona History Center and in the people we meet every year we come back.  A solid foundation of the arts is a sure way to help a city complete a positive transformation and Winona has now got that.  Outdoor Recreation is also a component of change as well and I think that is coming next for this Riverboat town....

Another Epic drive home:  Good thing I am a pro!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Too much by half: Ray's IMBA Membership Drive 2013

Matt Slager, Riding the Bull
Too much by half.  The story of my life.  If one more is recommended than two more must be possible right?

Thursday morning, kiss the kid goodbye, jump in the rig, point it south.  Thursday afternoon and night, preach MTB gospel and talk turkey.  Friday morning, up early visit with my parents, hit the river for an amazing two hour ride in one of the last wild places in Southern, Minnesota.  Last minute kiss on my grandmothers furrowed brow and back in the cage, hurtling towards Madison.  Mad-Town.  Stop in and visit with some up and comers, listen, hear, regurgitate.....

Quiet before the storm

Camrock Cafe and Sport

Game Face
Ray's.  The metamorphosis that I wish would occur all over America.  A Menards, gutted and turned into a den for adrenaline junkies.  Kids flying around like a Jettson's episode, middle aged folks tip toeing with old age and old aged folks flying towards freedom.  Chaos of the third level, filled with smiling faces and bruised elbows.  What a way to spend a Saturday!

My drive back to Duluth
Only three days absent and I have already packed in more activity then most people do in a week, and yet I feel like I have so much to do.  Saturday night, back riding in the belly of the beast.  Only this time the beast is being attacked by killer bees.  Milwaukee to Duluth.  Launch time at 7.30pm, expected re-entry at 2.45 am.  44 balmy degrees when I left Milwaukee, -3 when I landed on my driveway.  The resulting winds with a front like that is well......exciting.  Why? Why...Why drive 8 hours straight after working and riding a full day hot on the tail of two full days of working and travel.

Tae's first skates
Smiles, happiness, hugs and laughing.  Home.  A risky drive well worth it and a job well done.  Now to recover, to get ready, for the next round.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Doing my best Rockwell Kent: Riding the Sloughs of the Mississippi

Riding into a Rockwell Kent painting

On my way to Rays for our Midwest IMBA membership drive.  On the way I had to do a presentation in Lacrosse, WI.  It was nice as I was able to stay at my folks place, see my 96 year old grandmother and of course get a Fat Bike ride on the sloughs.  Winona has become such a cool place for the arts.  I noticed while I was here that they are having a Rockwell Kent Festival.  If you dont know Rockwell Kent, you should.  He actually lived in Winona for stint and also had his first showing here, so it is kind of cool to see what he saw and how that eventually entered his here is to Rockwell, the original art badass...

Tire Crampons


Monday, January 14, 2013

Fat Bike Bedlamites: Surviving boredom one day at a time!

Bedlamites for sure!

Well, the conditions that we have all been waiting for have finally arrived.  Albeit with one caveat.  Studded tires.  Game changers indeed.  After suffering an anemic snowpack, but artic temps we were given the coup de grace with a 2 inch rain followed by the return of sub zero temps.  Go figure.  All that said however, the added water and artic air have just strengthened the ice out there and because of that we able to ride some insanely cool stuff over the weekend.
Using an ice screw to check ice depth

Dont forget the ice ax, and the rope and the fisherman's friends.....
Before I wade into the post I wanted to put down a few words on the idea of safe ice travel.  I have seen some web posts out there recently with some shots of folks riding on some pretty sketchy ice and with some pretty crazy exposure, I have also heard folks grousing about how crazy ice travel is.

Because of that I thought I would put some basic tips out there on how to safely travel ice (knowing that I am certainly NO expert, just have managed to stay dry over the years!)

 Yeah, you can actually prepare and do this in a safe manner.  Safe as any other sport that incorporates risk anyway.  I personally feel very at ease on ice, as do my buddies.  That said, there are no givens on ice.  However when I was a backcountry skier there were no givens about avalanche, and when I have gone ice climbing there were no givens on free standing pillars of ice and when I have gone surfing or whitewater kayaking there were no givens in those sports either.  However there were ways to educate yourself and make informed decisions about risk.  There was also the ability to carry basic safety equipment and we are doing that in this regard as well.

Good safe choices always happen with as much information as possible.  So I actually start my winter season in the fall and I canoe and kayak all the lines I would love to ride once the ice is in.  I check water depths, currents and flow.  Then I monitor ice formations as they are created.  I keep track of consistent temps and warm ups.  I constantly push into the lines we will ride later, checking ice depth and formation.  The places that form earliest tend to be thickest once we can ride and of course the stuff that forms last is the thinnest and those spots are remembered as such throughout the season.  As spring comes and thawing occurs that knowledge allows me to keep on riding understanding where off limits will be first etc.

Monitoring ice formation is very similar to keeping tabs on snow pack.  Sometimes it is stable, sometimes it is not and varying temps and weather make varying changes to ice formations and depth and quality of ice.  However without the history and prior knowledge of the ice you cant make informed choices on when, if and where to travel on it.  This knowledge is not only needed for safety is also great to have so that you can push the fun factor the highest as well.

In the place I grew up, we were introduced to the ice at an early age.  We were taught to value it, not fear it.  

My grandfather and his river rat friends looked at ice formation on the Mississippi River not with trepidation but as an opportunity.  A chance to catch more fish and they realized that by knowing how to travel the ice safely they could access places that they would never go in the summer.  That same premise goes into riding fat bikes on frozen rivers.

Here is a great link to have.  It is about ice thickness and what depth can safely support you.  It makes some sense, however it can be tough to always follow these rules when you are traveling in the backcountry.

That said you can use basic decision making processes to create safe choices.  First off, on rivers never go far from shore and understand (because of your scouting) how deep it is next to shore.  Lakes tend to be a bit easier to suss out, the easiest being if your not comfortable, just keep an eye out for the ice fisherman and the cars!

Never make an exposed move unless you have the need or information to do so.  Once you have that info, what you choose to do with it is up to you.  Let your brain relapse back to that Ice Thickness chart.  5 plus brainer, you could ride an ATV over it.  Over two inches, your safe but being aware.  Two inches or less?  Your desperate and should only be making a move like that if you have no other choice....not going to say I have not done it...

IF you do have to make a crossing, do so only at the point that is least exposed.  Shallow spots, spots with the least current etc.  My crew use both an ice ax and ice screws to make our decisions.  The ice screw can be used to check depth quickly, the ax can be used to hammer on hollow ice to see if it is layers or truly to the water.  We can also use the screw to tie off with as we bring a 20 foot section of rope as well.  In really tight spots a person can rope up, grab the ax and either walk or ride across thus safely testing the crossing.  There is also the ability to tie off down stream if we are doing a shot or trying a challenging move, thus having a line to grab if things go bad.

I am no expert and realize that ice travel comes with risks, but there is no doubt that similar to backcountry avalanche awareness you can travel ice safely.  If anybody out there has more tips, then post them on the comment pages as again, more knowledge makes for more safety and more fun.

Eric Peterson, looking for the "Phat" line

Changing a flat in -6 windchill = no fun!
Winter conditions in Duluth after the rainstorm are pretty interesting (and depressing).  XC skiing is toast.  Running is scary at best.  In fact just walking on the trails is taking your life in your hands.  Winter cycling however is perfect....

On my way back from CO this week my good friend John Gaddo called and asked if I wanted to try out a pair of the new Dillinger Studded tires on the Mukluk.  This was before the rain and while I was interested I did not really believe I would need them.  Once the rain hit however, I am wondering how I could ever live without them.  I am riding with total un-abated freedom with these tires on.  Places you could barely stand up on, I am rocking at full speed.  Studded tires are game changers for sure.  Right now you could literally ride anywhere with studded tires, Fat bike or skinny.  However on a Fat Bike they are pretty special because you have lots of them plus the added width and low PSI.
Game changers


Dave Cizmas rocking "Boat Breaker"
In addition to the safety discussion it should also be added that the folks I ride with are amazing cyclists.  I am not personally riding much of what I am taking photos of.  Dave, Rudy and Eric are super solid riders and also super comfortable with their abilities.  If they think they can ride it, they can.  If they dont, they walk away no questions asked and no egos bruised.  Seems easy, but when your with the bros, you can get Bro Bra Fever and in these conditions that could be bad.  I trust these guys though, they are smart and at ease on the ice as well, a good combo and fun to shoot.

Rudy O'brien front side pancake hop.  

Rear view, pancake hop
This is the winter of the Fat Bike (at least so far) and because of that I am really looking forward to getting into some cool terrain and rides.  My mind boggles at the possibilities, now however it is the time to refine our safety techniques and figure out how to push ourselves in a way that allows us access to bigger endeavors.

Shaken not stirred....with ice.

Dave on the big wave

Rudy rolling Boat Breaker
We have taken it this far.  I am sure others have as well and I am waiting to start seeing and hearing more about other folks riding winter rivers.  We live in the land of water.  Minnesota and Wisconsin alone have thousands of waterways just looking for exploration.  So there is no doubt in my mind people are going to start venturing out on their ice to check them out.  Maybe some of my tips with help.......... hope so.  Stay safe out there!

Doot E doo....Matt Evingson rolling for home
Ice water build up!  All things were working though!