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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Satan, Santa, Milk Trucks, and a Rickety Ladder

When the weather gets cold, it's time to head for the warm depths of the underworld.
 One night in early winter our group of explorers visited four different sites. The exploration started immediately after work, when T-Roy and myself had some time to kill before the rest of the group met-up. We entered a run-of-the-mill drain and traveled up stream to a makeshift ladder extending approximately 15 feet to the continuation of it's course. It was constructed of two 2X2 rails with 1X2s for the rungs,each one fasted with a single nail extending no more than a half inch into the 2X2. There was no way either of us were climbing it, still we tried, backing down by the time we hit the third rung. With time running short we exited with a plan for a return trip and a proper ladder.

Osha approved 

Santa or Satan ?
  We met half of our group in Lavender Town and fueled up on burritos before connecting with our two guides for the evening. Our agenda was to explore Satan's and Santa's Cave. I had never been to either and was excited that my request, via, friend of a friend, back in the summer, was going to happen. Once inside I was beginning to question my enthusiasm, this cave was dirty. Not dirty like you would expect a cave, but dirty like fesses. There was an at-one-time enclosed sewage trough running through the first open room. This had a big hole smashed in it from which the sweet odor of gray water was enlightening the room. I poked my head in briefly and didn't really make out any turds, but like I said it was a quick look.
purple boot marks the way 

natural cave ?

  Moving on.... I 'm pretty sure the first part where we entered, was what is known as Santa's, the second section was Satan's proper, judging by pictures referenced in UE blogs and websites. This "cave" was just as dirty as the first, with the main tunnel having a very wet and soupy black floor. It didn't smell too bad, but I sure as hell wouldn't be eating any open faced turkey sandwiches down here. Off of the main tunnel were several branches running perpendicular. These branches looked much more like an actual cave, there was nothing man made about them. They were quite wet and muddy, which made me regret wearing less than the shittiest clothes I have. From our starting point the main tunnel pitched downward,as it did the black water got deeper. None of us were really in the mood for this type of adventure and it was agreed to turn back.  The main room, from which the cave gets it name, complete with a Satan's head effigy carved into the sandstone walls, evaded us on this night.

 The night was not over yet, we were just getting started. From Santa's we drove to Mahogany Town where our guides would show us the Milk Trucks. These caves/tunnels I was familiar with, but had never ventured deep enough to see the famed trucks half buried in sand. The system of tunnels were immense, occupying our time and holding our curiosity for a couple hours. Once we had seen enough we began to make our way back to the vehicles...the long way.

Going down 

  On the surface, our lack of motivation to climb a steep hill, and choice to walk a much longer and flatter route led us to one more surprise. I'll leave it at that and offer only a picture........ Happy exploring.
where are we anyway ?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Intended Purpose

Marginal ice
By now just about everybody and their brother, and sister, have a fat-bike. In my immediate area all the open land that no one used to ride is now quite common for the curious fat-biker. All the local trails get groomed in very quick, simply by the high volume of riders. Breaking trail or finding something new to ride is getting tough................. so we search.       

ArcFlash is the self designated ice thickness tester 

Best in Schow,The Mayor, ArcFlash, and Corky

First opening onto a lake

 Last Saturday we found just what we were looking for, an amazing route in an area our group had only been to once before. The first ride dubbed the Mayor's Ride was one of the most memorable in all my years on a bike. The outing on Saturday was of the same caliber. We started out on a four-wheeler trail that we had done some recon on the previous week. At that time the trail ended and we decided to bushwack around the area and see what we could find. We ended up building a fire cooking lunch and then headed home. By mid-week the three of us that had been on the ride were itching to get back out there with the rest of our crew.
Bikes don't shift too well like this

Wide open


Lunch time
We assembled five riders, all on fat-bikes, loaded with lunch items,water, and snacks... and for the most part, no time constraints. We got going early enough for a Saturday ride, hitting the trail at 10 am. We made two, partially frozen creek crossings right away, which set a good tone for adventure. When we got to where the trail had previously ended, we were delighted that it now kept going. It's not like we need a four-wheeler track to follow in the minimal snow, but it was fast and seemed to follow a route we would enjoy anyway. Initially the trail remained in the woods, but after a few more miles it got out onto a lake. From there it cut through long stands of cattails and onto other bodies of water and repeated the cycle several more times. After we emerged on a very large body of water, we had a grasp on where we were and started making our way to a lunch stop. Riding across most of the lake we settled on a calm,windless spot in the woods to build a fire and cook lunch.
Standard Imperial Fat-Bike Rider issued ultra-light weight everything utensil 

OK....nobody smile

All natural Halloween mask for next year


safety first
 Afterwards we set out for more exploring and eventually looped back to the lunch spot due to thin ice and open water. We had been out for about four hours at this point and began to head back. It was a bit of a slog in the final few miles as the exhaustion of playing all day was starting to come over us. The final challenges were the creek crossings, they were now deeper and not frozen. Soaking wet feet  or a detour didn't matter by now so we all rode through the axle deep water. We finished at 4pm, six hours before that we had no idea it would be such a memorable day.
AF up ahead testing ice thickness....If he falls in then we know it's not think enough

Water was way up


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tour Guide

 Recently I was asked by a couple guys if I would let them know when the next sewer tour was happening. Like any other ride.......they happen when someone wants to go. After a few phone calls over the following days we had a day picked and a small crew put together for a tour. Along for the ride were the usual suspects Vandy and Best in Schow, the new guys included Crash, Dusty, and legendary shop owner Peaches.
Fat-Bikes ready to ride

  The six of us met around 6 pm at an undisclosed parking lot and rode to another undisclosed location to begin the real part of the ride. Best in Schow and myself choose this particular drain because it had been about a year since we had been there, it has a tricky entrance, and it would be new for Vandy as well as the others. Getting in via hand-line over deep water went smoothly and soon we were headed upstream.

 Best in Schow led the way while I took a slower pace at the back keeping an eye out for any new artwork since our last visit. The artist's have been busy, there were lots of new "paintings" to see which makes it interesting every time I come back.  On our way up stream we all noticed a faint odor of spray paint, and at the entrance there was a new piece of webbing tied off in a manner that would ease someones exit. There were also wet tracks made in the dry concrete floor alongside the subterranean river in which we were following. Someone else was down there for sure.

  The main feature of this drain is the helix, being on bikes makes short work of the effort it takes to get there, another reason I like to go slow...the ride lasts longer. Once at the helix we descended the 170 + stairs to the top and continued on down the pipe. It eventually narrows to a height in which a bike no longer can be ridden...this is where we turn around. The air smells of petroleum of some sort and I don't really care to spend much time there anyway. Crawling further down the tube looks boring as well. We never did see the "artist", but did find his/her stash of spray paint cans, dust mask and nitrile gloves all neatly kept in a plastic bag down a side chute. We surmised they made a hasty exit to the surface via a nearby manhole, as the thundering sound of six fat-bikes,(some with studded tires) came closer. On our way out we stopped briefly at the bottom of the helix and enjoyed some Captains Wafers I bought at the dollar store.

  We contemplated hitting another drain but everyone rode so fast they were all soaked. Disappointed with the thought of the night being over so soon, I had them agree to further tours at a later date. The exit went without incident, no one fell in the water and everyone rode back to the vehicles with a smile.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let's Fight

Right now the Minnesota DNR has put out a weak plan for riding fat-bikes on state land. I would guess they have no concern or even knowledge of our desire to ride trials like the Arrowhead in the far north and Minnesota Valley Trail in the south metro. I know a lot of people from this state and around the world know about the Arrowhead 135, what will become of it if we don't speak up. Countless winter cyclist flock to the Minnesota Valley Trail from all over the Twin Cities metro....would you like this to go away?  Have you ever thought about a long trek up the Taconite trail to Ely, or hopping on the North Shore Trail for a Lake Superior sized adventure? ...that could be but an unfulfilled dream as well.   The Grant in Aid trails are officially off limits now, but that makes sense since the snowmobilers fought and paid for those. The many state trails on the other hand are paid for by you and me in the form of taxes. Every single one of them is open to bicycles and is clearly stated in the DNR's  A-Z trails list with a bicycle icon. Don't let them back pedal and remove us from these trails that are already open and belong to all of us tax payers.  Instead, send them an E-mail and let them know we want the trails open,  just as stated within their own website. The time to fight is NOW!!!!  
      Send your vision here -> 

This is what I sent's a little choppy but I was pissed when I wrote it

Hello, I'm a concerned Fat Bike rider, I'm a Minnesota resident of 40 years and a fat biker of 10 years. I would like to suggest you review your stance on the state appears that there is a grey area in whether or not they are open to riding , and as far as I'm concerned if I see a bike symbol at the trail head or on the website, I'm riding it. It is apparent that the Grant In Aid trails are off limits but the state trails listed on your DNR state trails list has a bike symbol for every last one of them, allowing bicycles on those trails. Here is a paragraph of uses on STATE trails from the DNR website   Most state trails are open to several non-motorized uses by people of all abilities: walking, biking, inline skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing. Some trails are also open to snowmobiling. Electric wheelchairs are permitted on all state trails. I understand that snowmobilers have worked hard to establish the GIA trails so I have no issue about staying clear of them. I am particularly concerned about not being able to ride state trails,that I fund as a taxpayer, specifically the Arrowhead, Taconite, Minnesota Valley, and the North Shore trails. I have spent countless hours riding these trails with no issues concerning safety or a conflict with other users. If they are truly off limits to all but snowmobiles and skiers then why is it they are used by hikers, snow shoers, and dog sleds in the winter...are you going to kick them out too? You talk about safety....isn't a walker or someone on snowshoes in danger on theses trails....oh please protect them by eliminating their access and save them from themselves. It would be a very underhanded act to all of the sudden close the state trails to fat-bikes that are already designated as multi-use, (including bicycles),just because you have no idea how to handle an expanding user group. If all you're after is to get your money grubbing government mitts on some more cash, then charge for a winter trail pass. I believe no rider, including myself, would mind chipping in for groomed trail access. Furthermore the list of trails approved  for riding is pretty weak, clearly, like many government agencies, you are out of touch with what people actually want. Does the Luce Line or Gateway ever really close? This leads people to believe your doing something when your not,accept maybe using them as a way to boost the perceived mileage.  Was it illegal to ride these well known bike paths before you made it OK?     In closing...... The snowmobile riders can keep their GIA trails that they fought for,  leave the state trails alone by keeping them open as multi-use, which everyone pays for with taxes, and if you feel so inclined to further raid the wallets of the people that pay your wages and have them buy a winter bicycle trail pass...go for it. 

My 2 cents      Thanks......D Rider      

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sandstone Ice Festival X

On Friday after work I drove north to Hinkley MN with my fat bike loaded with winter camping gear. This included my small canvas pyramid and my mini wood burning stove. I've been on a bit of a mission to prove this system's effectiveness at lightweight portability and the ability to keep me warm, so this would be another good test. From Hinkley I took the snow covered Munger Trail 12-13 miles to Robinson Park in Sandstone where the Sandstone Ice Festival was taking place. Although the festival is primarily about ice climbing it also was about winter camping and other winter activities, so I thought the fat-bike/hot tent would fit right in. My wife and kids couldn't go to the fest until Saturday anyway so it worked perfect for me to get a night out in the tent.    
Home Sweet Home

Yeah it's hot 

 You would think that it would be somewhat cold in mid December in northern Minnesota this time of year but it was very mild and didn't drop below freezing the entire time I was there. After arriving at Robinson Park I set up my tent and got my things situated before walking over to a nearby group huddled around a camp fire. I chatted with some people, shared some of my food and hung out until about 10 pm when I finally called it a night. I got a fire going in the tent and dried some gear mostly to justify bringing the extra weight. It was nice getting really warm before going to sleep.

Snowball fight 
 The next morning I awoke to warm temps and a hazy fog that would last the whole day. This would actually be a blessing, the ice was still good to climb and my wife and boys would not have to freeze their butts off while we all enjoyed a large portion of the day outside. Lynn signed up for the women's climbing clinic, and arrived about a half hour before the start time of 10am. While Lynn did her thing the boys and I had a snowball fight, drank hot chocolate and cider, talked with climbers and vendors, and explored the park. They quickly took to the remnant stacks of quarried stone that remained in the park from who knows how long ago. This occupied them for good portion of the day as they used the high ground for better snowball attacks from above and the many cave like pockets to avoid detection and dodge heavy fire from yours truly. By mid-day the boys were soaking wet and Lynn was done with her clinic. The boys retreated to the van for some snacks and heat.

Super mom

Women's clinic in action

The scene....hazy 

Although I brought all of my ice climbing gear I was not sure if I would be able to get any climbing in. There were lots of people and ropes hanging from every good line, the clinics taking up most of the really good, fat stuff. I brought a rope and all the gear to set something but didn't really have the time to break away from the boys. Without setting up my own line and sharing, I feel like a chump asking to get on someone else's rope. Alas, there was a short break in between the morning and afternoon clinics when I was able to seize an opportunity to do two routes.

Warm enough for shorts 

.I haven't climbed much in the last several years and have done even less ice but it sure felt good to get after it. Even better was getting G Man on the wall. Lynn's boots fit him and the axes don't have a size accept that mine are out-dated and are a bit long and heavy for him. I didn't think he would get all the way up but I wanted him to at least try it out, he made it about fifteen feet and was done, right as the climbers from the afternoon clinic moved in. Shortly after the climbing we packed up and grabbed a bite to eat at the local cafe. I  got a ride back to my van and returned to gather my camping gear and bike.

I had a fantastic time camping out, meeting some great people, and spending time with my family....we look forward to it next year.    Thank You  Sandstone Ice Festival X