Monday, April 29, 2013

One week ago today: Winter Wonderland

Exhibit A: Snowflake catching apparatus

One week ago today.  We had nearly two plus feet of snow on the ground and we were getting a 15 inch dump.  Today it is going to be 65 and the snow is almost gone on South facing slopes and the rivers are raging...

Exhibit B:  Snowflake Catching Apparatus in use

Leaky waders: Trout Season 2013

Fished hard and put up wet
 SKIED into my favorite fishing spot this weekend.  That is a first.  I could have (and should have) done it much earlier but was not sure the ice was out yet.

It is on trips like this that I learn about how hard I am on gear.  If you take a look at my canoe it has some serious scratches on it (and its a year old). You handle my skis and the bases are literally scored and scarred, they look glaciated.

My fishing poles are shorter then when I bought them, because I had to replace the tips from busting them off on trees, bushes and car windows.  My bikes are no better off and certainly my camera gear has been pushed well within inches of its life and shows it.

Yup.  Not going to win any beauty contests on the gear side of things.  I used to have a buddy who was in a similar way, he would buy two Gore-Tex jackets when he had to update his rain gear.  A really cheap assed one and a really nice one.  He only wore the cheap assed one on trips, and the nice one at home or in town.  I asked him why, and he said because he KNOWS he is going to destroy the nice one on trips.  I like that.

Gear is made to be used and abused.

Well my waders are proof of all of the above.  Patched, sealed, patched again and taped.  They are begging to look like a quilting project.

After dealing with them on Sat, while wading in really, really cold water, made even colder by the snow melt I realized maybe they have had their day.  Might be time to start counting the shekels and looking for the Spring Specials....

Into the water

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bumbling Naked over a Perfect Landscape

The World is your bike path
 Last night we put a sick kid to bed.

Always stressful, I did not have the energy to get my cycling gear together before I myself went to the clouds.  On top of the sick kid, the weather orb said rain, sleet and snow over night so the chances of me rolling out for an early morning ride were slim.

However at 6am as the sun drove through the curtains I realized that the crust riding would be totally perfect.  I flopped out of bed, grabbed what gear I could scrounge in my half awake state and headed for the door.  Along the way I passed my camera bag and I paused.  It would be heavy, it would take time to load up, blah, blah blah.

For awhile now I have been trying to actually leave the camera behind.

Or at least carry a smaller one as it frees me up to concentrate on my activity and not my shooting.  The catch 22 of course is that I love both.  Today I opt for the small camera, despite the lack of battery and shove off thinking only of riding.

The crust was totally perfect.  I was able to ride through the deep woods as if I were on Cement.  I giggled like a three year old for 99 percent of the ride.  Eventually my loop took me back to the Thomson Res and even that ice was perfect.  Still thick and safe.

By now I was lamenting leaving my camera gear behind.  This was truly a special morning and the weather report is thankfully saying lots of warm weather from here on out, so this is most likely the last morning for this mayhem.

 I choke back the thought and concentrate on enjoying the conditions.

Half way back across the lake I stop near the Midway River to enjoy the sight.  The light is nearly perfect.  Clear with a slight haze making it a photographers dream.  The stellars and dendorites, sparkle like gems in the crust and the hoar frost gleams in the sun beams.  Perfect.  Now I am engrossed in the spectacle and almost in pain in not having my big rig.

 I snap a few shots and watch my little camera battery die.  I shrug it off.

I put one foot on the pedal and prepare to ride again when I decide for one more look and as I look up I see the biggest and most beautiful wolf stride mere feet away from me.

Out in the open lake, the rim light streaking across him, his breath steaming in the early morning air.  I am stunned, he is stunned and then he streaks off across the lake, a vapor trail in his wake.

I pedal home feeling Naked and unprepared...

Tuesdays Pow is Thursdays Cement

Monday, April 22, 2013

Phat lines and Friends 4/20/13: Duluth Ski history in the making......

Cheers to Ryan Zimny, John Morrison and Casey Krueger for stepping up!
Sometimes all things come together.  Sometimes the moon the sun and the stars all line up for something positive.

The late winter has been that for me.  While I hate the snow right now (I am stoked for dirt!) the amount, the type and the late spring weather have actually been a boon for hard core skiers.

Due to the floods in June 2012, we were witness to both the loss of some amazing terrain and the creation of even more.  However that terrain is only skiable if it has a lot of snow on it and a lot all at the same time.  Not something that usually happens in Minnesota.

As a former, recovering ski addict it has been impossible not for me to see these lines (as well as many I have been watching for nearly a decade) and get the shakes.  It has always been just that though, a fever dream.

In the last decade I have never seen enough snow at the right time to make these lines a reality.

That all changed this week.  Two 20 inch dumps of heavy wet snow covered these lines and then good cold temps at night and solid warm sun in the days has created a paradise I have not experienced in my time in Duluth.  Unfortunately with my arm still busted up I was not able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to, but I did get to get some great photos of some buddies skiing history....

420 Bowl

Ryan Z throwing hammers 
It was a two crew day.  In the AM Ryan Z came out and skied a couple of great lines and helped me get some killer images of the slides.  It was cool to have him on board as he lives just a few doors away and was able to visualize the opportunity as much as me.  He showed up an hour early for the tour.  I was a bit hung over from the evening out, but I tossed my stuff together and we had an awesome time.

Clear and cold 4/20/13 Morning

Pink Floyd skier on April 20th 2013
Clouds moving out...

Ryan Z getting jiggy and thinking about paddling all at the same time

After a quick trip to town and the Smelt Celebration I ripped back home in time to hook up with John Morrison and Casey Krueger.  I had to brow beat them stupid to get them to show up.  It was a nice warm, sunny 4/20/13 day!

They had their own parties to attend and lets face it, despite being super fun, these are relatively short shots.....

I realized however that this was a once in a decade event and I pestered them until they arrived.  I think they were happy once they did.

Casey Crushing "Ranger"

Naming "Trout Slayer"
The snow conditions had improved since Ryan and I had been there and the extreme west facing chutes even had soft, soft snow.

Every line was a first for all and thus the names started being bestowed.  Who knows if we will remember them once they are going to be skiable again?  Shit I might be 60 before it happens again, if ever...although they are saying 11 inches tonight!!!


J-Mo in the pixy sticks


Another round please...

Snow, tragedy and trees on the road in Southern Minnesota 2013

Old Miss

We are gnarled and torn

I had a crazy road trip last week.  It was a swing into Southern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The trip itself was not crazy, the tone and the mood of it was however.  I was stuck in the car listening intently to NPR and the Boston Marathon Tragedy.  When I say tragedy I mean the whole thing.  The poor folks and the suspected bombers.

I had nowhere to go.  I was just sitting there Marinating in the story.  I thought long and hard about the victims and how stupid it all was.  Then as the chase and the apprehension of the two boys that most likely perpetrated the crime I was forced to really think about them.

What I really started to think about was brothers and how much I love my brother.

Then I thought about what intense madness and love must have been involved to make them go out and bomb the marathon.  Then to listen as they were hunted down, to have your brother shot next to you, to be the worst person in the world at 19 and then to lay dying in a boat while the world watched and was pretty damn emotional stuff to thing about.  I also was touched as a parent.  No matter how horrible a crime these two committed they were somebodies kid and those kids got so steered wrong that it was hard not to lament all if it, all of the tragedy and the brutal stupidity of it all.

Meanwhile I was listening to an amazing weather report.  20 inches of snow predicted in my hood.  April 19th?  New records for snow broken, my wife and child stuck at the Airport....what a crazy damn week.

Visually all I could see were trees.  Everywhere I looked they seemed so tortured and so bleak.  Just sticks bearing witness to the human craziness.  After a while I had to stop and photograph them just to stay sane.

Ride Riding Hoods walk to Grandmas house

Bones of the earth
Eagles over tragedy

Eventually I reached Minneapolis and it was full on storming.  I set down at the Happy Gnome and was immediately set upon a very "interesting individual"  I was not sure what his game was, but whatever it was it was intense.  Despite his ever present jabbering I was able to drink a really good Rodenbach and have a good meal.

In the morning I woke to this....


Monday, April 15, 2013

Unwelcome Friend: Winters April Return to Northern Minnesota....

Nice day for a picnic
Pickem up truck stuck..Redneck shame.
Well, just when we thought we were on the right track we get our butts handed to us.  That is Duluth for you.  One minute your loving it like a long lost friend then the next your looking to toss it out the door and tell it to never come back....ever.

All that said, when you get handed snow...go skiing.  The crust has been amazing and that is a blessing I guess.  Good news is that I am in the last phase of healing and am able to just start getting on the bike and the skis.  No major aggression, but some exercise for sure.

Three inches of perfect fluff on concrete
Ryan Z getting low on the twitchy sticks
The world is groomed!
We received about 14 inches of snow on Thursday night.  Thank goodness Chris Godsey (Bless his soul) came out and helped me dig out.  My arm is getting better but shoveling dense snow is not yet approved as of yet.  Since Friday however we have received another 4 or 5 inches of snow on top of that.  You could not have better conditions for backcountry skiing around here.

The runs are short and lower angle for the most part, so the firm base allows more speed and lighter gear.  What a hoot.  I was also able to get in a nice Fat Bike Ride as the mornings have been firm.  So not ideal, but what the hell choice do we have?  The ice is still thick on the lakes but you can see it starting to rot......

River ice
Die, Frosty DIE....

Greenland from the Plane: Belgium trip 2013

Greenland from the plane

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Copper Harbor Conspiracy revealed!!! I need to clear my heart of the truth of why Copper Harbor is winning the Bell Built Grant........

Strange things happen in the mists of the Keweenaw Peninsula 

This my friends is no joke.

I am both embarrassed and ashamed to admit the treachery I have been involved with in order to promote Copper Harbor and MORC in the Bell Built Grant Contest.

 I have been getting disgruntled emails from contacts and colleagues as to how it could be possible that a club in a place like Copper Harbor, could be winning something as visible as the Bell Built Grant Contest.

They have been outraged!  Outraged and allegations have been slung and leveled and after so much pressure I have decided to fess up.

How could it be that a town of 88 people in the literal center of nowhere can be winning against such huge and blue blooded off road riding communities in places like OR and CO they want to know??

Well I have decided to get it out.  The awful truth.  To clear the blackness from my soul and scour myself so that when I die and they bury me in that great Flow Trail by the Lake that I am able to ascend clean as the new fallen snow into mountain bike heaven.

Alien Ray catchers
Alien intelligence folks.  That is the answer.

You see the special helmet above?  Well this is a special communication tool to other worlds. I feel unclean just showing it to you....

With this helmet Copper Harbor is able to speak to alien gods and just about anybody else they want to speak to.  Including that weird dude down on the corner that is always mumbling to himself (His name is Bob and he is a 650b rider by the way).

Norm, alien translator
Once the alien rays are gathered via the special helmet (called the "Helmis") they are taken to the man above at the Abby near Copper Harbor.  The messages are then translated and replies are given and advice and inside information is metered out.

No questions are off limits.  It has made us drunk with power.

However sometimes the answers can be a bit unclear and that is where the special black magic occurs.

That generally revolves around drinking special potions, dancing, burning things (many types of things) and riding bikes late at night.

Special bike voodoo dance to get out the Vote for the Bell Built Program.
Special Alien Translation dance
To witness the "dance" is a horrifying thing.

People speak in tongues.  You hear words like "De Za Beet" and "Ma Maki"  strange alien words.

Only the Shaman can wield the "Thunder Stick"
Reading the shell Augury revealed
Another special ceremony that we have utilized involves guns and beer.  This is an especially despicable one and something I am not proud of.

However in order to create world class riding, we the "Addicted"  will stop at is a terrible cycle and I dont wish it upon anybody (unless you like ripping it up!).

Oh the humanity, how could it have come to this?????

Regardless we have used this alien information to get out the vote, to stuff the ballot box full of yes votes.

I hate to say it but all that alien technology has produced trails that have a vice grip effect on getting peoples YES votes.

It literally controls their minds!

In a show of wanton solidarity we have also allowed MORC and Brown County to use our Alien technology, so the treachery is spread wider than I would care to whatever you do, please, please forgive us!



(Whatever it takes Bell Built ends Saturday April 13th )

JUST IN ADDITIONAL PROOF OF ALIENS IN COPPER HARBOR.  Luckily my esteemed partner in photographic crime reminded me a sultry afternoon spent reading the ancient alien is the evidence of that ugly, ugly day with Aaron LaRocque and Andrew Shandro...

Ancient pictures of the Alien ships

Picture of special Single track Bear, used in the making of single track, notice space lines across its body

LaRocque is so impacted by these images that he is trying to itch his brain...through his nose!

More proof of our supernatural strategy...note special device on hat similar to helmis.  Special Alien music is used to summon voters to the cause...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Race Day: Images of the Tour of Flanders 2013

Dawn breaks on the Hooligans
What a way to start a day
Breaking out the bikes
New Day Rising, New Day Rising!!!

That was the song in my head as my brother and I took our seats on the train from Zedeglem to Brugge.  

The sun was just cracking the horizon.

I had received a call from our contact with Trek that the car ride we were hoping for was not to be.

Well thats life.

He did say however that he could get us a VIP pass to sign in and start.  It was a tough decision.  I really wanted to take some good photographs of the race this day, but also realized that access is everything in good photography so I took the offer.

We arrived at Brugge just as the masses did.  It was a really cool site.  People just pouring out from all the streets and buildings, all headed for the main medieval square.  It felt like the Romans heading out to see the Gladiators and it made me realize how Spartacus got his nickname.

Within 2.2 seconds we landed in a group of Cycling Hooligans.  Not sure why I attract the crazies but I seem to have that knack.  Well as much as it has caused me strife in my life, it has also been the cause of great fun as well.

The things they have seen
We met up with Trek and snared a little yellow bracelet to get into the fenced off area where the team cars were parking.  With only one bracelet I walked back to the fence and slid it underneath so my brother could come in with me.

Must have been the general plan because although it was the VIP area, it was totally packed.  If there were 10,000 people outside the fence, there were 5,000 "VIPs" inside.  Wanting to support Trek (as they have been such huge supporters of IMBA) we walked over to the bus to see Cancellera and the rest of the team getting ready for the event.

The Beasts bike. Hayden's pulls during the race should be stuff of legends.
Go to the square!
The rubber that won two races
The excitement was palpable and the vibe was amazing.  It was really great to see just how rabid the fans are for cycling in Belgium.  It brought great clarity to me on a lot of questions I have had on the sport and why there is so much pressure for these racers to dope.

When you see the money, the fame and the power that surrounds these events, you also see the temptation and the pressure.

Unfortunately for Aran and I, that was about all we saw.  I got some nice shots, but the idea of shooting the race was a bust.

We were faced with sneak shots, 10 people back of the Trek team.

We re-grouped after walking about and decided that it was too much to take the train back to the car and try and drive to a spot on the course, maybe first thing in the AM but now it was too late, we had played our cards.

Have fun storming the castle!
To Oudenaarde!

Hats in hand we left the VIP area and wandered down to the square.

Where once again were engaged by the hooligans, only this time they started handing us beers, from a huge duffle bag they were hauling.  Perhaps they sensed our mood?  Not sure but I went immediately from thinking about shooting the race, to shooting what 99% of Belgians do around the race....head to the pub.

Come with us we take you to see the race!!!
Its in a pub, just down here.......
Not your beer snob crowd!
The Belgians react to Boonen's crash......."we will make more"
We clicked right away with this crew.

Must be the fact that we were all drinking Jupiler at 7.30 am!

The hooligans told us that they had a full pub crawl scheduled starting STAT and that we were invited. With all due officialdom as the oldest brother I humbly accepted.

The full crew ended up down a back alley in a small bar.  The waitress was walking around handing out free pastries and shots.

The crew put a hat out and collected 20 Euros a person and took the full pile to the bar and did one mass order effectively saying bring Julipers and shots until the money runs out.  Which they did.

The cheesy Euro-pop was blasting and the beer was flowing when the TV flashed on and the party immediately stopped.

It stopped because Boonen had crashed out.  It was an interesting moment, there was respect and calm for about 1.5 seconds before the cat calls and the excuses started flying.  As well as the money, as it seemed a lot of bets were happening.

I guess in Belgium, your a hero until your not.

Eventually things started getting a little too crazy for us.  Once the pants started dropping and the punches started flying, we decided it was time to look for some lunch.

WW2 Site Belgium
WW 1 Site Belgium (Yper)
WW2 Site Belgium, original Nazi Wire on the North Sea
While we ate lunch I sat and wondered at the history the race course would travel through.  Layers and layers of history.

History of a country that had seen more war than any one place should.

Starting with the medieval wars, to Napolean to WW1 and WW2.  It makes me wonder if those sad times, times that are still right there every day, are not something that steep the cycling culture there.  What an escape to watch these maniacs flying at ludicrous speeds through narrow towns over broken cobble streets, beer in hand while you slap your brothers on the back.

A peaceful ending