Bailing bikes from the Bush

Andy and I were fortunate to escape from the trail this afternoon without broken hips or concussions.  Ice, ice, baby.  Ice that has been present for a couple of weeks had just received a faint dusting of dry snow, which lubricated the surface, hiding the worst ice flows and skidding one sideways on slopes.

Packing a saw and a small axe,  the was plan was to hit the snowmobile trail from here on High Street over to Moody Pond, where we’d clear any remaining blockage from trees that had bent or even fallen down due to the weight of the ice on the limbs.

It wasn’t very long until we were in trouble.  I am not going to publicize exactly what event occurred in the first two minutes of riding due to fear of significant others ( i.e. wives) likely scrutiny of this entry, and neither do Andy nor I give up on much of what we try to do, but we both were in total agreement we had to get off the trail.

We were riding fat bikes- me the Pugsley, and he his Farley.  We let almost all the air out of our tires to increase the contact patches.  The problem was his lack of studs on his tires.  I was able to grip the ice.  I couldn’t walk without slipping all over the place, but he couldn’t walk or ride. We actually tried to walk the bikes back up the big open field we were moving through but couldn’t get up.  Below us was more descent and then flatter, wooded conditions, which we aimed for.

It was no better on the flat.  After reaching the edges of his land, we cut through the woods and headed back through the field across from his farm.

Still, I was able to ride, and ride anywhere. My bike floated over the untracked snow, which was covered by that lubricated  ice shield that made walking very difficult.

I was instantly transported back to the 10,000+’ snow covered High Sierra, backpacking in California in 2010, where my booted feet were kicking steps through the ice in the hopes of surviving the traverse.

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Same thing here, with Andy tracking in my steps.  It took us 45 minutes to walk the little blip near the Start and Finish icons below.

Home to Searsmont and back

Home to Searsmont and back

We gathered our senses, congratulated ourselves on making it this far, and looked at our watches.  It was now 3:15 PM. We agreed to stay on back roads and put in some more miles before the riding would get crappy for the next two days, where above-freezing temperatures, and 1-2″ of rain would turn this rock hard surface to a quagmire.

It’s not easy riding the roads with 4 pounds of pressure in your tires, but we made it in before dark, and we agreed to ride again together some time soon and tackle those downed trees.   Maybe Sunday?

Bubbas Roll Through the 2014 Freeze

In Maine,  the past week has recorded the coldest temperatures in the past three years , where even on the coast, I’ve seen reports of -20 F.  Add wind chill and one ice and two snow storms and its positively wild and beautiful out.

The crazy cold have not stopped The Bubbas, who have kept up the tradition of mountain biking throughout the year, as they have done for the past two decades or so.  We rode twice this week, including New year’s morning.  It’s hard to believe that people not only look forward to riding on ice and snow, but that they do it.

I have a few tricks I use to keep myself warm when the temps hover in the single numbers, and they did during the day this week.

I wear electric socks, powered by D -cell batteries.  I switch to  platform pedals instead of clip-ins, and wear super-insulated LL Bean boots.  Layers of wool work, under windproof Patagonia tights on the bottom and a North Face fleece jacket on top-  but not too thick with the layering, as you do generate heat when the pedals start cranking.

My hands don’t take the cold well.  I have solved that problem by purchasing a pair of lime-green high-res Pogies from Stellar Bags, handmade in Minnesota, land of ice.

Stellar  Pogies

Stellar Pogies

The cordura covers are lined with thick fleece, allowing me to stay warm with a lighter pair of gloves. I have fresh pair of chemical hand warmers in my Camelback that I have put inside the pogies if my hands do get cold.

A hood on my Patagonia wool 3 base layer that comes up under my helmet keeps my head warm, with a big silk cowboy scarf  covering my lower face.  Ski goggles brighten up the contrast with all the snow and keep my upper face warm.

Here are some pics of the two rides:

Jason descending on  Trek Farley

Jason descending on Trek Farley

Stephanie smilin' and climbin'

Stephanie smilin’ and climbin’

Heading into the crystal palace

Heading into the crystal palace

Four fatbikes sported 45North studded tires

Four fatbikes sported 45North studded tires

Suzie ready to descend

Suzie ready to descend

Now what?

Now what?

Andy Hazen 's ( left)  first Bubba ride. Another Farley. Kevin and Craig Mac are here too. The Hawk was flying. Rigger doesn't miss many.

Andy Hazen ‘s ( left) first Bubba ride. Another Farley. Kevin and Craig Mac are here too. Rigger doesn’t miss many.

Bubbas regroup

Bubbas regroup

Looking forward to heading back to Warren, Maine tomorrow for another go at the fresh tracks.  Thanks go out to the snowmobilers  who pack the track for us!

Thanksgiving morning outdoors

My neighbor Andy and I now have a Thanksgiving tradition- an early morning bicycle ride of a couple of hours down and back through Lincolnville Center to Camden Hills State Park, where we have a few routes that we choose from. According to Andy, we did this same ride last year, when we went up Cameron Mountain and then down the back side to Youngstown Road. This time, I promised my wife I’d be ready to travel at 11 AM to my sister-in-law’s place for a family get-together, so we altered the route a bit and stuck to the multipurpose trail in the park.

Home to Camden Hills State Park and back


There are just two more days of deer hunting w/ rifle season, so I wore a high visibility vest and tied a hunter orange bandanna to the back of my helmet.
It was below freezing on the ground when we left at 8:45 AM, and there was some black ice on the pavement, so no brakes or quick turns for a while.
The following picture was taken on the “closed” Martin’s Corner gravel road. Andy told me that there was a snapping turtle that was living in this super-sized puddle this past summer, that once advanced on him as he was riding through there.

Andy Hazen and the Thanksgiving ice

I’m thankful today that I live here, surrounded by woods, rocks, hills, and ocean. I’m thankful I have a loving family, that I still have my health, and that I can walk right out my door on my bikes and ride, or walk to these incredible trails and hike.

TD’12 Race- Where’s Andy Hazen?

I DK, no one does.

It appears that Andy’s Spot device has not transmitted properly since 6/9/ AM ( yesterday), so we don’t know where he is right now.  You can’t call him, and he can’t call us right now, but we know that at last report, he was in the middle of the pack.

Updates and discussions about the race are on on the Bikepacking.com list serve that one can follow. TD’12 Race Discussion. <<–Click this link to get there, and view three pics from what looks like Elk Pass.  Andy had told me that he pushed his bike 4 miles through the snow on his ride up to Banff, so he is familiar with the whole route up through the US Border.

One pic reflects the fresh snow that fell there yesterday.

Morning on this year’s Tour Divide

Go Andy!

Andy’s going to reach Banff

At 5:30 PM, Saturday, local mountain time zone, I finally picked up a steady stream of GPS points off Andy’s Spot device. Thanks to Cal Latham, who is assisting Andy with digital supports, for listing the procedure for following Andy on Google Earth.
Here’s the process, from Cal:
“I have been tracking Andy on Google Earth. You need to have both the SPOT page and Google Earth up. In the tracking info on the left side of the Tracking page is his LAT/LON. Click on the Plus sign and it opens up with more info about date/time and his last co-ordinates. Highlight those co-ordinates, drag and drop them into the Search Bar of Google Earth, and it will show you just where he is. If you have the “Places” and “Photos” boxes checked on the lower left side of Earth, you will then see all these little photo symbols show up. There are several where Andy is riding now and you can then click on these and get a feeling of what the terrain is like.”
And here is what comes up right now. Looks like he’s somewhere about 40 miles out of Banff. He is right at the lower edge, center on the north shore of the lake. You can see Banff above, near the Transcanada.

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So if the race starts on June 8, what the heck is he going to do all day for the next week? Ideas?

How to Follow Andy ?

My most faithful blog reader, and hiking budddy Tenzing (AKA Clarkie) posted the question many are pondering today: “How can we keep up with Andy’s adventure now that you have left him?

My answer is that I am not sure. I will try and post any updates I get here on this blog, which automatically is set up to report to both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. There is also a website set up about Andy’s Ride that allows you to follow him, get more info about the Tour Divide, and make a pledge that will support the nonprofit Camden Rockport Animal Rescue League. Reader Bill Dickey forwarded a link to Andy’s Spot device which is currently tracking his progress.

I highly recommend that readers also watch the 2008 documentary Ride the Divide, an award-winning feature film about the world’s toughest mountain bike race, which traverses over 2700 miles along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The film weaves the story of three characters’ experiences with immense mountain beauty and small-town culture as they attempt to pedal from Banff, Canada to a small, dusty crossing on the Mexican border. Appleton Ridge’s own Stephen Gleasner completed the 2008 race and appears in the massed start in the film. The film is now available through Netflix, either as a stream (instant), or DVD in the mail. I have a copy at home if any of my friends or neighbors want to watch it. Call Marcia.

I just received a call from Andy this morning. I am relieved that he did call me, and will be able to in the future. I made sure to program my number in his contacts list on his cell phone, as he claims all the ones he put in there were erased.

Andy’s already altered his plan. Mike won’t be driving Andy to Rooseville. Instead, Andy will be packing up today and riding his fully-loaded bike those 60 miles, on an asphalt road, up to the Canada border. He’s restless, and is compelled to ride, as he has done almost daily for the past several years. It’s in his blood . He plans to either get a motel room, or camp at the end of the ride to Rooseville. I hope he takes the motel room, as he’s never done this on his own in the thirty years that I have know him, but should do OK. He will have to, sooner or later.

Motel arrangements by phone, and subsequent motels stays are a salvation to long-distance endurance athletes, at least they are for me, generally on a weekly basis. You use their land lines to connect, call manufactures about gear failures, fix or stitch up broken or torn items, connect with family, wash your clothes, repack food you buy in town, and generally hole up and lick your wounds, check maps, and prepare for what’s next. It can be scary, and I know what it is to be homesick, even as a grown man. Andy claims this was his original plan, and he’s one to stick to initial decisions. For example, I couldn’t convince him to change his clock to Mountain time for the duration of the trip ( a two hour change in time from Maine). So his clock will be two hours skewed from any other clock in the “real world” out there. He’s holding onto Maine time.

I’m hoping Andy will check in with me, as he does with his wife Judie, but phone contact will get tricky in Canada. Andy’s on a limited Verizon plan, where once you cross into Canada, exorbitant, insane, roaming charges kick in. I understand that if you call Verizon and let them know you are entering into Canada, and refrain from data usage ( texts, web access), for about $20 extra bucks you can use your cell phone, but I don’t thing Andy knows that, or even if he did, would have the patience to endure the rather lengthy and mostly unsatisfying customer services exchanges that seem to be the norm with them. When I was in Vancouver for three days in 2010, staying with Dusty at the end of my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, I used my cell phone sparingly, and was shocked beyond belief when I got home and opened the monthly bill to see that I was assessed an additional $690 in international roaming charges charges. So I advised him not to use that phone from tomorrow, or even today until he gets out of Canada, which may mean a couple of weeks until he returns into the US after the June 8 start of the Tour Divide.

In the meantime, he just bought a phone card, which will allow him to make calls on a land line at a reasonable rate. Sounds easy, but in reality it is not. Land lines are only in private homes and businesses, and they are in motels, and pay phones are a rare breed these days. The problem is Andy’s not used it yet, and there are things like an international codes for the US that has to be entered as part of the dialing sequence. Sometimes riding one’s bike, or hiking is the easiest part of these extended trips. I know it is true for me. I generally am terribly stressed out and get into all sorts of trouble when I go into a town after a week of hiking- not police trouble ( that’s another story) but losing-stuff trouble, like clothing, glasses, wallet, Passport, or debit cards, which I am embarrassed to say has happened to me. I can’t even think clearly enough to buy groceries in a big store and once even begged my hiking buddy General Lee to let me follow him and just buy what he bought.

You will be able to follow Andy’s progress on a daily basis after the race start on June 8 by going to the Leaderboard on the Tour Divide web site. For a taste of what he is facing in the next few days, go to the Leaderboard, then look on the right pane, and select Map Layers . Then check Snow Depths, and view the purple sections are still reporting snow on the route. I enlarged the Canad portion of the map and this is what Andy will encounter on his ride up to Banff. Looks pretty purple up there to me. Whether there will be much melting of these sections between now and after the start on June 8th is anyone’s guess, but after the snow melts there will likely be mud instead, which may not be much better .

Newspapers should also be covering portions of the ride. Just this morning, while eating breakfast in the Montana Cup I read in the Bozeman Chronicle that there is a 152,000 lightning-sparked wildfire burning in the Gila National Forest. More than 1,100 firefighters and nine helicopters are fighting it’s expansion. It is 0% contained, despite the millions of dollars that are being thrown at the fire in daily services. Although this year has a close to record low snow pack on the high mountains, persistent droughts and a “record breaking dry air mass” are fueling the fire. I don’t have a good map with me here, but I suspect that the proximity of the fire to both Silver City and Pie Town will force evacuations and possible closures in the area. Who knows what will happen by the time Andy reaches the area toward then end of his ride, but this is definitely not good. Thunderstorm season is upon us in the southern portion of the CDT, and more fires are likely, triggered by lightning. It is hard for easterners to conceive of this, but these wildfires are common in the windy, dry, desert areas. This particular fire is one that may break all records for that area of New Mexico, and soon.

Hope for rain on Andy’s parade? Sheesh! We may have to, but first there’s that snow ahead of him……

Every Person Needs a Quest

The featured attraction of this morning’s truck ride was viewing one of my favorite towns, Butte, from the highway. Flanked by the gaping maw of the Berkley Pit, the mountainside town looks uneven, slanted even, as it is perched on the side of a mountain.
By 11AM Andy was at the wheel making time on route 200 toward Whitefish when the thermometer dropped into the forties, the skies darkened, and cold rain dashed against the windshield. Lincoln was riding in the back seat of the pickup, and it rained hard enough that he opened the back window, and hauled all of Andy’s gear into the back seat.
At some point, we left I-90 and struck due north through increasingly wooded and sharply elevated mountains, stopping for a quick sandwich at Seely Lakes.
Some 7 hours later, we arrived at Whitefish, the final destination for the beer truck, some 60 miles south of the Canada border. Andy tracked down his childhood best friend, Mike Fitzgerald, who lives there.

20120529-224744.jpgAndy will be staying with Mike for two days. Andy shed another layer of protection and familiarity when he left the comfort of his beloved truck, handed over the keys, and said goodbye to his last Maine connection- me. I had to make our goodby quick. I started to tear up. I so much respect and support what he’s going to do. Andy’s been my neighbor and friend for 33 years, and I consider myself privileged to haven ridden bikes together and to have played my part in this most unique adventure.
I have come to believe that Andy’s plan on coming out here early is a masterful decision, one that is rooted in wisdom, shrewd tactics, and a brave heart. He’s going to be better acclimated to the increased altitude in the mountains, and will start the race on hundreds of miles of familiar terrain.
On May 31, Andy catches a ride from Mike, who will drive him to Rooseville, on the Canada border, when he peels off the last layer of safety and connection, clicks into his pedals, and faces a solo adventure of some 270 miles into wilderness Canada as he advances on an uncharted, likely snow-covered, trail to the Tour Divide’s start in Banff. None of the other 100 plus riders are adding additional
Miles on the course, but Andy is.
Andy’s representing High Street, Lincolnville, Maine, and all of New England when he pushes off at the start line on June 8 at high noon.

20120529-224924.jpgHe’s worked so hard and long to be ready, and a force bigger than we can understand is gathering within him to lift him along the 2,700 mile Continental Divide and bring him home.

1,100 miles today- road trip over

On the road this morning at 5 AM. We’ve turned over 1,100 miles today and are just about to finish in Livingston, MT.

20120527-174605.jpgThe logo on the beer mobile reminds us of how far we’ve come.
My biggest challenge last night was escaping the locked bathroom in our room at the Econolodge, in La Cross, WI. It was 3AM when I groped my way in to pee, and closed the door so that I wouldn’t wake up Andy when I flushed the toilet. Then I couldn’t get out! The inside doorknob spun around, and no amount of pushing, pulling, and cursing got that door open. Earlier, I had woken up Andy once already when I grabbed the wrong card off my nightstand last night, thinking it was my room key/card in a trip out to the truck. I thought to myself, what if I were alone in this room? I had no shoes on, so I would cut up my foot on the luan paneling of the door if I kicked my way out, and there was nothing in the room but a toilet and a tub, so I couldn’t pry the lock open. Ten minutes of my rattling and increasingly loud knocking got a pissed Andy out of bed.
“Now what, ” Andy grumbled when he released me from my toilet captivity. He tried from behind the closed door, and couldn’t get out either.
It was still dark out when we hit the drive-thru at McDonald’s. I gave Andy his first lesson on how to order from a drive-in window.

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After reaching the border, Wisconsin was easy.
But, South Dakota ground us down. Andy was in the driver’s seat and clicking the cruise control to 75 failed to remedy the mind- numbing highway hypnosis of I-90′s straight track west across brown and green farmlands that stretched to the horizon on either side.
Andy told me, “At home, I fuel up this truck once every two weeks. I will fuel up five times today . “
At 4:45 PM we crested an uphill in Wyoming at 5,340 feet elevation and had our first view of the Absaroka Range, with some peaks above 13,000 feet . We were silent, undoubtably feeling both majesty and fear as we took in the snow covered crests.
We can’t go over them, so I-90 veers right, heading north into our last and final state today, Montana.
We started riding at 5 AM and should end by 10 pm, soon. 17 hours on the road. Andy might have to do that some day soon, and more than once, on a bicycle!

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44 degrees and raining in Montana

Moving Andy 800 Miles Closer

20120526-202120.jpg800 more miles today for the Tundra beer transporter, on top of yesterday’s 644.
In Le Roy, NY we were dismayed and too early to view the Jell-O Museum.
Although it was Saturday, it still was bumper to bumper around Chicago through the middle of the day when it hit 90 degrees out. Andy’s keen on leaving the air conditioner off. He claims he can see the gas needle go down at 70 MPH, which is our speed routine- with the cruise control engaged. Andy told me today was the first and will be the only time he ever takes I-90 through Chicago. He was worked up while we suffered the worst of it, coaching me how to drive, and pleading with me not to get in an accident as little bizarre souped-up cars were jacking lanes and injecting terror into our veins. I was more than concerned that Andy’s giving the finger to one road- raged driver would result in retaliation. He needs to be ready to ride!
Right now, a high point- we just realized that we went through a time zone, so it is only 6 PM local time, instead of 7. It’s raining, but the bikes are dry in the truck bed.

20120526-201739.jpgWe just ate at a Chinese buffet. Andy sure doesn’t eat much and he seats slowly. That has to change if he’s going to make his 22 day goal.
I am desperate to watch the final game of the Celtics Philadelphia 76′ers , played at Boston Garden. Could be an adventure brewing for me in locating that game in La Crosse, WI if the Econolodge cable lineup is deficient. Andy is sitting in the driver’s seat,shaking his head.
“You are crazy. We need to have you in a good mood and up at 5 AM tomorrow. Just go to bed and look up the score in the morning.”.
A sidebar glimpse, we just passed – “Sparta, the bicycling capital of Wisconsin.

20120526-201914.jpg “Ben Bikin’” is the name given to a 32-foot-tall sculpture of a Gay Nineties cyclist atop an old high wheel contraption. Because Victorian-era bicycles were so tall anyway, this statue seems less impressive than it probably should. It was built by hometown fiberglass gurus F.A.S.T. Corp. to mark Sparta’s claim as Bicycling Capital of America.”
Celtics are ahead. There’s hope!

Day 2 Road Trip

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Made 644 miles on our first day yesterday.
Had to rely on the iPhone last night to secure a room. Don’t give me no crap about electronic tools. Friday night into the holiday weekend resulted in some full motels. The phone connected us to a Econolodge motel around Buffalo that was right near I-90, that I reserved from the Tundra.
Andy got his first lesson today on how to use a debit card in a gas pump. Tomorrow’s workshop will be “Andy faces an ATM machine”.
The pic above was taken at 5:25 this morning when Andy was exited to see a seagull from Maine that must have followed us out here. I’m pleased to learn that Andy is also an early riser. Team High Street up at daybreak to get ‘er dun!