Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leap Day Ride 2008

The Leap Day ride started out strong, but quickly thinned out. The night was a bit cold and breezy. It was only 17F when a handful of us left work. A few folks had ridden out nearly an hour earlier -- meaning they were very chilly by the time we arrived at the hill. We stayed about 30 minutes before deciding to push on. Over half the group bailed to go to a friend's house. Seth and I were headed to the SA for some food and firewood. Nick was headed toward home. Nate and Mark said they'd come by the fire later. It was time to get moving to warm up.

Seth and I cruised down Minnehaha Parkway to the convenience store at Cedar. The SA had polish sausages and dogs, as well as tornadoes (little rolled up tacos stuffed with mystery meat and process cheese food) on the grill. We parked our bikes and camped out in the store eating and warming our bones. With fire stoked in our bellies, we ventured out to load up.

Estimated weight: 100lbs. Three bundles of firewood, a 12-pack of Leinie's and my two panniers stuffed with clothes and other gear. By far the heaviest weight I've had on the Dummy, but it felt very solid. I learned my first loading lesson -- the cam strap I used to span from one wide loader to the other was too firmly tensioned and pressed the load into my brake caliper and derailleur. I had limited gears and a sticky brake. We only had about 3 miles to go, however, so I let it slide.

Seth and I rolled into the fire site and got things going right away. Thanks to Seth for springing for a Duraflame "cheater" log. Hey, it was cold and I wasn't out to practice any junior woodchuck skills, just make sure we got warm so we could focus on the task at hand -- drinking beer. About half an hour later Dave Gray rolled in with more wood. This was to be our group for the night. Everyone else went home and got warm -- the inertia of comfort took over from there, I suppose.

Between our two loads and a bit of found wood at the firepit, we had a decent stack of fuel. This allowed us to keep the fire going strong for several hours. We talked about what guys standing around a fire drinking beer normally talk about: feelings, mall shopping and our current diet plans. Seth needed some help accessorizing, so Dave pulled a handy belt from his rolling Surly emporium of utilitarian, yet fashionable, goods.

Behold! Surly junk strap, usage #83 -- the impromptu belt.

Our friends at the Sierra Club were kind enough to leave behind the remains of a dismantled crate labeled "Base Camp." None of us knew what the hell that meant. A fire pit within a major city park seemed hardly worthy of such a lofty moniker normally applied to thin-aired Asian plateaus. But we did know one thing -- that leftover crate made good firewood.

Some right wing conservatives would probably love to see the Sierra Club go up in flames. That wasn't our intent, but we had fun burning the panels of the crate and observing the dynamics of the fire as it first melted off the snow, then slowly burned a hole through the flat plywood panels.

Various bottled, flasky and miscellaneous treats were passed. The Sierra Club crate kept us entertained for a couple of hours between swapping stories of travels and adventures, memories of such distant times as high school and recollections of pinewood derbies and starting fires with flint and steel. The wood eventually ran out and although I had beer left it was freezing in the can. That's okay, since I still had to be able to safely ride home. We all threw our legs over the top tube a bit after 2am to roll on to warmer places.

On the climb out from the creek I noticed I wasn't wearing my helmet. I remembered exactly where it was on a rock back at the fire. I decided to ride back the next day to fetch it. I didn't want to reverse the upward progress I'd made on the snowy trail.

Smart choice. My helmet was still there and the day was glorious with bright sun and tolerable temps in the mid 20s. "8-CAMPFIRE AREA," as the plaque indicates, is a very cool place. There just aren't many spots within a major metro area where one can burn a legal outdoor fire on the ground.

Big Dummy illuminated by the bright late winter sun. I added the Nice Rack on Friday afternoon. I just didn't think the Dummy had enough cargo hauling options.

I'd have to say the Leap Day ride was a success. Sure, only 3 people signed on for the full gig, but we had good laughs, great conversation and a beautiful fire. All of that in a peaceful little urban hideaway, and none of us drove to get there. The riff-raff reemerge with the warmer temperatures. A 10 degree night on the last day in February was the perfect time to have the woods all to ourselves. That's another fine reason to love winter in Minnesota.


The Dude said...

I tried to find you fellas... rode around the area for 45 minutes, and then gave up.

Mark said I would have needed a guide, having just moved out here from the NYC area mid-last year... he was right.

Maybe next time.

-Me [Large Fella on a Bike]

mark said...

Yep, I was chilled after waiting around the S. Lyndale liq store for youins. After the hill I went for dinner, went home and drank beer in my hot bathtub. Next time don't dress like it's spring.