Had a busy week last week. Again not much riding was accomplished but the intent was there. I made the mistake of planning my family vacation the same week I had training for work. I had to spend a few days in Peoria for training but my family was leaving for Hayward so I had to pack for two trips and drive up by myself! Anyways as in most cases my first thought was about riding bikes, then drinking beer, and finally how much underwear should I pack. I normally bring two bikes up north with me. One for roads and gravel and another for the singletrack. I really didn’t want to be responsible for two bikes at the hotel so I thought to myself why not bring the fargo. It has gears so you can ride it around the roads and it has mountain bike tires so you wont die on the dirt. I didn’t think about the last time I had brought that bike with me to Peoria….
Three years ago this September I lost my closest friend from the Marines to suicide. I had just finished coaching my sons football practice and was getting ready to drive out to Peoria for a similar work event. I noticed a missed call on my phone and thought it looked similar to my friend, Mike Mead. I thought hey maybe this is Fiance asking me to come out and tear up the town for his bachelor party or something. Instead I was greeted to the grim news of his passing. I couldn’t even talk I had no idea what to say. I said I had to go and hung up. I don’t remember much after that. The pain was unreal. I thought about canceling my trip but thought maybe a three hour ride in the car would be good for head. I made it to Rockford. I had sent out a few messages for other friends to call me so I could break the news to them. I bellied up to a bar and and started with the calls. The rest of a night is a blur but I managed to make it to Peoria a little after 1am. I had brought my Salsa Fargo with so I could do some riding in town and this turned out to be wise choice. I was in a fog the whole next day. I don’t even remember what class I was in or what I was going to do. I wanted to be with my family I wanted to be in Kentucky with Mike. I remember getting back to my room and there was my Fargo sitting there looking at me. Fuck it. I grabbed a couple beers from the fridge and decided to ride up this road to a local trail called Farmdale Reservoir. I didn’t realize that up the road was literally straight up a road out of the river valley. Like I always say there isn’t any better way to get rid of stress then to max out your heart rate on a bike. I really pushed it up and over those hills. Finally thought i would be able to enjoy a nice decent back into town and to the trail. Only problem was I had just put new brakes on the Fargo and they weren’t stopping me so well either. It was quite the ride but once I arrived at farmdale I knew I was meant to be there. The place is very unique. I managed to find some interesting singletrack and got lost, finally stumbling upon a few picnic tables. I decided to sit down and have a beer with my buddy. I sat there reminiscing and telling stories to the beer sitting across from me. I am sure the people riding by thought I was nuts but didn’t really care at the time. I don’t really know how long I sat there but the sun was starting to go down so I decided it was time to go only problem was I was really lost. I couldn’t figure out how to exit this loop and every turn i took I kept getting back on to the same dam trail haha. Finally I pulled over looked at my gps and realized the road was just on the other side of this grass. I bombed through some horse trail gunked up my gears with dead grass but got home! That ride probably saved me that trip. I rushed home after class the next day and my wife jumped in the car driving me to pick up my buddy at the airport and down to Lexington to pay respects to one of the finest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
Fast forward to last week and I was on the same road with the same bike and all the memories started to come back. I was feeling pretty depressed but thought riding that same trail to the picnic tables would help. I got to Farmdale after class Wednesday and quickly setup my bike. I jumped on the trail climbed up to the top of the reservoir for the obligatory picture of the giant mound of earth that makes of this fine piece of engineering. Two other cyclist were heading up the trail towards me so so I took another second to catch my breath. I dropped back in and went around the swithback onto the top of this hunk of dirt and my front tire hit a deep patch of sand. I wasn’t going very fast but it stopped my bike in its tracks and tossed me to the ground. I laughed as i picked up my bike to realize i had knocked my handlebars crooked. As I loosened my headset to fix the issue I noticed the top cap had cracked. It was some cheap plastic pos and I guess it cracked it when I tightened the bars last time. I tried as hard as I could to get it tight but there was a lot of play in my bearings and I couldn’t repair the top cap. I was pissed. I bailed out onto some double track, got lost, twice, but finally about 4 miles later got back to my car. I was pretty distraught at this point. I knew it was an easy fix and I probably had the part at home but I was 3 hours away and heading up north in a day to meet my family and ride my favorite dirt. I asked the guys next to my car, who were just heading out for a ride, if they knew a good bike shop. Little Ade’s seemed to be the place to go. However, I found out quickly it wasn’t just around the corner or maybe it as if you live in Peoria, but it was in a town 30 minutes away and the shop closed in 40. Lucky for me I got there just before closing and they were awesome about making sure I got it fixed up before I left. Thankful the bike community bailed me out on this one.
Friday after a fun, beer fueled night playing shuffle board with my boss I woke up at 6am ready to take my show on the road to the Chequamegon. I drove for about 8ish hours before finally arriving to my wonderful family waiting for me at our house on Windigo Lake. I really wanted to ride the trails but after seeing my family I decided to wait until Sunday to hit the dirt so we could sleep in and spend the day together. Proved to be a wise choice since Saturday was the only day the sun was out and we spent it floating on the river. Saturday night we decided to cap off the evening by cruising the lake in our 30 year old pontoon. We were about halfway home when the engine decide to just cut out. Lucky for us we were a few hundred yards from shore and there were a few docks with no boats. To top it off a lovely older couple was enjoying the day on the end the dock furthest from us. I spent what felt like an eternity giving them a show as I pretended to understand the workings of a 25hp Johnson Outboard. It had gas, the battery was charged, I guess im jumping in. They still hadn’t said a word to us as we drifted closer to their residence so I finally yelled “is it safe to jump in here? Its not too deep is it?” all I got was a nod and “should be good” haha. I swam over we got it docked and talked my oldest son down because he was sure we were going to be lost forever at sea or something. The couple turned out to be super nice and drove my wife back to our car and even arranged to tow us over to the boat launch in the morning to get the boat out and back to shop for repair. Only catch was we had to be there by 6am so they could get to church by 9. Guess no riding for me Sunday, I was ok with that I figured we had no plans Monday so I could make a day of it out on the trails.
Sunday morning I woke up to my mom banging around the kitchen so I put on my pants and grabbed my inflatable raft and paddle in case this guy forgot about us and I had to tow us. Nope, he didn’t forget. We pulled up and he was waiting for us and it turned out the launch was only around the bay from his house a minute or two by boat. I found out quickly though it wasn’t going to be that easy. His boat was also old and not working. About 5 minutes into tying the boats up his engine began to overheat. CRAP! what are we going to do now. The two boats were tied up so we figured give the electric troll a shot. It took a bit of figuring out but it looked like it as going to work. I gave him a push and he pulled out into the bay with my mom and the pontoon in tow. I jumped in the car and went to meet them at the landing. It was a really foggy morning and the sunrise was beautiful. I had to park on top of a hill so I sat there enjoying the red and purple sky as the fog rolled off the water. I wondered how long they would be and if they would actually make it. I also wondered if they got stuck how would I find out since I had no phone or anything to communicate. I kind of laughed since there was nothing I could really do but wait. Just then I started to see the outline of the pontoon break through the fog. Shit! they were close I needed to get down there haha. It was quite and adventure but we managed to get it the boat out and fixed and we made a couple new friends on the lake at the same time. The rest of the day was pretty busy. We went to wilderness walk with the kids and saw a tiger and some bears and a shit ton of deer. We got back to the house and I treated everyone to some bbq while I got my bike cleaned up and ready for a big morning. Later in the evening we had a fire the kids enjoyed some s’mores. There was a big meteor shower so we all made our way down to the dock to enjoy the night sky. It was amazing. Garrett, my oldest commented “it was amazing” and “just like a ride at Disney.” I love that kid. It was a very awesome moment to share with my family and it was amazing to see the sky without the light pollution we have locally. I fell asleep with a smile that night.
I woke up at 5am to a thunderstorm! I remember waking up saying, “well shit” and going back to bed. Cant really ride the trails when they are wet so I slept in and had a great breakfast with my family. I was pretty bummed about the weather. Especially since we were leaving early Tuesday morning. I knew the trails dried quickly so I prayed the rain would let up soon so I might have a chance to ride in the afternoon but it seemed like it was a lost cause. Oh well, time to enjoy my family some more. We all took the opportunity to just rest. I think everyone enjoyed a nap before lunch. With the rain not letting up we decided to go to town for pizza and a few beers. When we got to town I noticed it wasn’t as wet as by the house and the rain seemed to be ceasing. We got back to the house and everyone seemed to be ready to enjoy a nice food coma. I had earlier decided that I was going to wake up early Tuesday and try to squeeze a short ride in just because I couldn’t stand to go home without a ride, but decided that since it hand’t rained in a bit I was going to try for an evening ride. I lucked out. The trails were in perfect condition. I also discovered that the local bike club had built a pump track and skills park at the trail head in Hayward. I stayed off the pump track because it seemed a little wet still but loved having the opportunity to get used to riding the fargo over, around and on obstacles before hitting the trail. Once I warmed up I set off for a 9 mile loop around the hatchery creek trail. The bike felt so dialed in and I was smiling ear to ear. The bugs didn’t even so bad. I got back to my car just around seven and started to head home. I had called before leaving and nobody needed anything from town so I thought I was good but about a mile from the driveway my mom called informing me we forgot to get my oldest juice so I had to turn around. I wasn’t too upset since I was still riding the high of finally getting my dirt time in and grabbed some lemonade from the gas station just outside town. As I was riding back to the house a second time I noticed a small handmade sign taped to a traffic sign. I read it and had to pull over to take a picture. It simply read “worth it.” I laughed. It was true. All the stress, all the driving, all the little side adventures. Everything that week had been worth it to spend these few days up with my family. We all got to do something we had wanted to do for a while. We had so much fun and it was over and it was all “Worth It.”