Last weekend, three Virtusans took on the final Tour of Hermann. Chuck and Jim bikepacked there Friday, rode Saturday, and then rode back home on Sunday.
You can check out Jim’s write-up of his Tour to the Tour of Hermann here.
I took the easy way out and drove to Hermann on Saturday morning before riding both days.
It was mostly a sufferfest, but I finally managed to ride all five loops, a goal that had eluded me to this point. Here’s my post about the race.
Check them out and maybe we’ll see you at the next gravel race!
Hearing all the war stories from LR100 2016 really got me interested in this race. The atmosphere, the beer, the food, the mud, the fun… These are all phrases I heard from my Team Virtus teammates after last years race. They convinced me that this was the race to try, so who was I to let them down?!?
I was on a deer stand hunting for the a turdypointer when registration took place. Luckily Jim Smith was gracious enough to sign me up. He also talked me into signing up for the fat bike division. My first thought were hell no and I think I even asked him if he was nuts. But after much discussion, it was decided that we would both enter into the fat bike division. After all, we have ridden our cross bikes 100 miles many times. Never before have we ridden that far on our fat bikes. Adventures needed to be pursued.
My training leading up to the race was less than stellar. A new baby at home, and 2 other very busy kids left me with little time to spend hours on my bike. That is no excuse though, and I have finished races before with less than stellar training. It is just a matter of will.
So race day came and I was at the start line. I will admit that my mind was definitely not right from the get go. I woke up and looked outside. Rain… Now the race director did say that some rain will do the roads some good. So there was that. I looked at the radar before departing for the start line and it looked “ok”. My mind debated a lot on what to wear. Being cold is not my forte. In fact I hate being cold. So I wore my winter tights, bibs, long sleeve base layer, team issued jersey, water resistant coat, shoe covers, half fingered gloves, full fingered gloves, lobster gloves, and head cover. I was still a little chilly, but feeling ok. I was afraid that I was overdressed, but after seeing others at the start line with more on than myself, my mind was more at ease.
The race rolled out on pavement and then turned to fast gravel. I was trying to keep Jim in sight without going to hard, but soon he was out of reach. Riders got strung out quickly and I settled into the groove.
The bike was handling very nicely and I was enjoying myself until…. Yes, the mud pit. I think this happened around mile 26 or 27. As I looked ahead I noticed that some were walking. But the gravel/dirt didn’t look any different. I thought I could ride it. That was a huge mistake. As I peddled into the tacky mud, my bike came to a grinding halt. No big deal I though. I’ll just push it up this hill. What I didn’t count on was my tires locking up because of mud buildup. No big deal I thought. I’ll just carry my bike up this hill. Wrong… My bike had turned into trot line weight and there was no way I was getting it on my shoulder. I scrapped the wheels off the best I could with my glove. Enough to at least hoist my bike for a bit. But then my lower back started killing me and I had to set my bike down. Son of a B@&$H! My second attempt ended like the first. In pain an more cursing. I though, “What am I going to do??!” I can’t push my bike because mud gets stuck to everything. I can’t carry my bike because it’s heavy and my back hurts.
Thoughts of warnings from my team mates rang through my head and now I understood. At my most low moment Chuck walked up behind me. He gave me a few pointers on how to carry my bike and what was working for him. He even carried my front tire for just a bit, but I finally told him to go on. He lifted my spirits some and somehow I figured out how to carry my bike for more then 10 ft. at a time and made it through the first hike-a-bike section.
Now that I was back on the bike, mud was being flung everywhere. My glasses were completely covered and I couldn’t see. Those had to come off and then the mud flew into my eyes. Then it started pouring rain. Great… This is when my hands and feet started to hurt. Moisture was seeping into my once dry socks and everything was getting soaked.
When I arrived at the 2nd hike-a-bike section there was a group of riders at the top of the hill. They were all just staring at what was to come and probably contemplating death. I rolled up to stop, only I could not clip out! Like a complete armature, I fell right into one of them. WTF!?!?! I hadn’t done that in what seems like years. I laid on the ground, embarrassed, cold, wet, and still clipped to my bike. The rider I fell into was very gracious as I apologized all over myself. He assured me there was no worries and even said he does that all the time. That made me feel somewhat better, but I was still completely embarrassed. I was very pissed after that. I said F@#K IT and decided to ride this section of hike-a-bike. To my surprise I could. As long as I stayed in the really soupy sections, I was getting through. This made me very happy. I rolled past Chuck, who was walking and he yelled something like “Go Robby Brown!” If I stopped I knew I was in trouble. Thank God I was on a fat bike. I made it all the way through this section.
Now comes more mud flinging. I had to stand while going downhill so I wouldn’t get all the mud in my face. Race they said…it’ll but fun they said… Miles ticked off and I started thinking about the 2nd half. That’s when the 3rd hike-a-bike section hit. Once again, I could ride the soupy sections which made me happy. But halfway up the last climb the soup was gone and I my tired can to another halt. S!#T!!!! I was forced to scrape off more mud and carry my lead weight, I mean my bike. I made it to the top and riders had found a hose. I waited my turn and sprayed my bike off just enough to get my chain back on.
I saddled up to the slop again. The next 15 miles or so was a blur. I remember riding through the cattle farm which was cool. I did see a stop, but I knew that once I stopped I might not start again, so I chose to skip it. I found out later that they had beer there. Damn… There was also a really good off road section and this reminded me a lot of Cedar Cross. There was a very fun downhill section with a hard left at the bottom. My cross bike handled this with ease.
Gravel/dirt/mud gave way to pavement and I rolled into the half way point around 1:30. Still time to go back out, but it wasn’t looking good. I found Janie and Emma and Janie said “Wow, you look like shit!” This is a word for word quote. I was shaking uncontrollably and was having a hard time talking. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, so I decided to call it quits.
Janie and Emma helped me get my helmet, gloves, and jacket off and I headed to the heated bathroom to get semi cleaned up. After changing and spraying off the bike enough to get it back on the rack we headed back to the start/finish line. Janie was gracious enough to help out and drop off a rider who was in a very bad place. He was cold and wet and in major need of assistance. Janie is a great person!
The shower never felt so good! I feel sorry for whoever had to clean our hotel because there was red dirt and mud everywhere. After the shower and a dip in the hot tub we headed back to the finish line to cheer on those who were crazy enough to finish and also cheer on and congratulate our teammate finishers. Congratulations to both Jim and Kate on their finishes. Amazing is all I can say.
This race is definitely it’s own animal. After finishing DK200 twice I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Boy how wrong I was. Will I return next year? I don’t have that answer yet. I would like to say yes, but I might be on a different bike. This was by far the hardest 52 miles I have every done on my bike. I really underestimated the hike-a-bike sections and my mind/heart was not really into it from the get go. I have to do a lot of soul searching before I am a 100% for this grueling event.
If ever there was a race tailor-made for Team Virtus, this was it. None of us had ever attempted Land Run before this year, yet it has instantly become one of our favorites, and it’s on our must-do list for next year. You should do it too. Yes YOU!
***Note: Chuck added some comments in green, Kate’s comments are in blue, Bob’s are in Red, and Travis apparently had nothing to add.***
Bob: This is bullshit. My comments have always been green.
The 2016 Land Run 100 in Stillwater, OK had it all: red, clay-like mud, whiskey, misty rain, gravel, beer, music, hike-a-bike, sunshine, wind, food trucks, seemingly never-ending rollers, and… Wait a minute… what’s that? A podium finish for a Virtusan? Perhaps. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Five Virtusans – Kate, Chuck, Travis, Bob, and I – and one FOV (Friend of Virtus) – Mickey – met up at various locations for the drive down to Stillwater. We stopped for some fine dining and some drinks.
I’m pretty sure Travis loved riding with Bob and me. We sang our faces off as we rocked some sweet jams on the way to OK. Bob and Travis seemed to be having a fart war while I, sadly, had no firepower which is completely unlike me.
We soon found ourselves at Iron Monk Brewery for registration, the pre-race meeting, and of course to buy a sweet-ass growler filled with delicious Land Run IPA. The race director, Bobby, gave a short speech from the heart, as did the course designer. And then the one and only Jay Petervary spoke briefly. The talks were short, sweet, and they actually got me pretty fired up. It was MUCH better than most pre-race meetings. The whole atmosphere was amazing. Seriously, it just felt good to be there.
Chuck: We bought the growlers to take home with us, but it is worth pointing out that the beers being served up at check-in were free!
We hung out for a bit, drinking the delicious Land Run IPA and chatting with friends. We visited District Bicycles and bought a few things, and then we headed back for some more delicious beer and live music. Speaking of live music, Bob had himself a little crush on the singer.
Bob: She totally wanted me, I could tell. We made eye contact and everything.
We finally dragged ourselves away from the party and headed back to the hotel to try to get a good night’s sleep. We Virtusans are pretty frugal, so sometimes the sleeping arrangements get a little cozy – sometimes too cozy if you ask Travis, but perfect if you ask Bob or me.
The next morning we ate a big ole continental breakfast, and we fought over the two bathrooms as we tried to empty our bowels as much as we could. Trust me, you don’t want to be carrying any excess shit when you’re about to ride 100 miles. Those poor toilets.
Chuck: And some of us were smart enough to go through the adjoining door to destroy the toilet in the Luke/Bob/Travis room instead of the Chuck/Kate/Mickey room.
We kitted up and made our way to the race start for our pre-race team photo:
And of course we had to take our trademark “Where’s everyone else?” photo:
The race was kicked off with a bang from a legit canon. I mean, that was some kind of boom! The roll-out of Stillwater was a bit cool and damp as a light mist fell, but our spirits were high. Kate had been training like a mad-woman, so she and Mickey were out of sight from the get go. The rest of us stuck together for the first 15 miles or so, if my memory serves me right. After that, I found myself on my own. Well, I wasn’t alone. There were lots of riders around me, but none of them were my teammates. But onward I rode.
And the roads were in great shape! I wasn’t sure what the hell everyone was talking about from last year’s race. I didn’t see any of this infamous mud. But then the roads changed, and we began to see the early carnage the clay-like muddy roads in this area of Oklahoma can dish out.
It wasn’t long before almost everyone was walking their bikes. Those that tempted fate by riding through the mud either ended up without their derailleurs intact or they had to keep pulling over to clear the mud from their bikes just to keep them rolling.
In some places, the mud was so thick and sticky that you couldn’t even roll your bike at all. Carrying the bike was the only option. There’s some technique involved in carrying your bike through mud, so if you plan on doing this race – which you definitely should – you might want to figure out what works best for you.
Kate: It turns out bike carrying is an area where you can put all kinds of time on faster riders.
Bob: I heard the first 3-4 miles of mud was from natural causes. The rest was formed by a deluge of roadie tears.
After several miles of hike-a-bike and climbing a set of stairs out of a kick-ass creek crossing where the race director was doling out encouragement, I found myself back on rideable gravel roads. And then – at around mile 40 – 45? – I found a most pleasant surprise: a keg in the ground, covered in ice.
After a few pulls from the keg, I hopped back on the bike to ride out on my own again. I was shocked at how many riders passed up the cold beer. But I knew my Virtus brethren behind me would enjoy this fine gift from the people behind the Land Run 100 as much as I did.
Chuck: Oh yeah, I stopped at the keg too!
Kate: Riding with Mickey I wasn’t allowed to, but I don’t like beer anyway.
Bob: I may have consumed more than my fair share..
I was feeling strong, and I’m pretty sure I had a shot at winning the whole thing. Remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned a possible podium finish for one of us? Well, that was ruined when this happened:
With my hope of winning crushed, it was nice to chat with our friends Lo and Alice on their tandem while we waited for the train to pass.
It wasn’t long after crossing those railroad tracks that I started to feel not so great. My energy was waning, and I felt a bit queasy. I ate a little more food and drank some more water and kept pedaling, but I was definitely wishing one of my teammates would turn up.
I rolled into the halfway checkpoint to the sound of some live music. The atmosphere at this checkpoint was great. There were food trucks there, and riders, support crews, family, and the burrito truck. The blessed burrito truck.
I took a few extra minutes to eat, drink and recover. I didn’t want to stay too long, though, so I gathered my things and was just getting ready to stand up when this guy rolled up:
I gladly waited a few extra minutes while Chuck refueled and filled up his water. Seeing Chuck, who was in very good spirits, was fantastic. I felt rejuvenated knowing we’d be riding together out of the checkpoint. I’m pretty sure Chuck’s jersey will never be the same, though.
Chuck: That jersey has been through the laundry so many times and still has pink stains. I like to think they are badges of honor.
We left the checkpoint together, and it wasn’t long before the clouds gave way to the sun as the temperature rose. It turned into a gorgeous day to ride bikes. The roads seemed to get even better too. I only remember one small stretch of a little mud, but the rest of the roads were in fine shape. And even though there are no huge climbs on this course, don’t be deceived. There is very little flat terrain. The never-ending rolling hills were killer during the second half of the race. I was so over them by mile 80, but we pressed on, knowing there was one more manned aid station somewhere ahead.
I think it was at around mile 85 to 9o when we rolled up on the aid station. And damn, it was the perfect aid station at the perfect time. There was a sign that said, “Whiskey, Women, and Beer” or something like that. As we stepped off our bikes, one fine volunteer asked if we wanted whiskey to which we replied, “Hell yes, we want some whiskey!” She seemed surprised and excited as she poured us each a cup. It turns out we were only the 4th and 5th people to actually drink any whiskey at this aid station. We assured her that there would be at least one more rider coming through that would gladly drink any whiskey he was offered. The crew working here were awesome. They were happy and super helpful. They even loaded us up with some candy bars and a beer for the road.
Kate: Nope, didn’t get to stop here, either, but at least the slave driver played domestique and stopped to get me an ice-cold Coke while I rode ahead.
Chuck and I begrudgingly left the oasis of the aid station and rode toward the finish line over what seemed like a thousand more rolling hills. But we knew we would finish at this point. And we knew there was beer waiting for us. And food trucks. So we rode with a thirst and a hunger like no other. Kate managed to snag a photo of Chuck and me shortly after we crossed the finish as the sun was about to vanish.
I’ve finished a lot of long races where the race director was nowhere to be seen. I’ve finished a lot of races where there is no beer left. I’ve finished a lot of races where the finish line has already been torn down. And you know what? That sucks. If anyone needs all that shit, it’s people like me who are out there all damn day, struggling just to finish. We NEED that beer and food and finish line and at least a handshake from the Race Director. We deserve it, damn it!
Bob: Preach, brother.
Well, as Chuck and I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Land Run 100, the RD Bobby was there waiting for us, screaming like a maniac. As we stepped off our bikes he gave us a big hug. And it wasn’t some bullshit, rah-rah, I’m-hugging-you-to-seem-cool kind of hug. It was a genuine fucking hug. That shit was real, and it was fucking great. I’m sure there are some a-holes out there who scoff at such a display of joy and affection. To them I say, piss off. Go ride somewhere else and leave this race to those of us who love it.
Chuck: Bobby is such a genuine and super high-energy guy. I really liked hanging around the finish chute watching him yelling and hugging finishers. You get the feeling that each and every rider is important to him, from first place all the way to DFL.
After some high-fives and hugs from Kate, who had long since finished, and Travis who pulled the plug around mile 60 – 65, we each grabbed a beer and went to change clothes. On our way over to our car, they were giving out awards. Chuck and I knew we sure as hell didn’t win anything, so we didn’t pay much attention to it. As we finished changing clothes, though, Kate walked up with a “slight” grin and some hard-earned hardware:
And this wasn’t a cupcake division. There were some badass ladies in her division, and she took second fucking place! Holy shit! Huge congrats to you, Kate. You trained your ass off, and it was well-deserved. Super proud of you.
Chuck: Definite highlight of the entire weekend! Congrats again Kage!
Kate: Seriously the only reason I placed was all the bike carrying you had to do. That said, it was super cool to place second in a division with more than two people, and the girl who was first in my division was also second overall for women.
We headed back to the party/finish line, and Chuck and I got some grub. Someone pointed out that the one food truck had a painting of me without my glasses on the side:
We ate, drank, passed much gas, and cracked wise. We just had a grand old time as we waited for Bob to finish. But the longer we waited, the more worried we became. We knew Bob didn’t have a light. And we knew he left his phone at the hotel. But he’s Bob effing Jenkins, and we knew he’d be fine. He’s the king of IWIO (It’ll Work Itself Out). And you know what? It did. He crossed the finish line to the same greeting from the RD Bobby as Chuck and I received.
We were obviously relieved to see Bob, and we were super-happy that he finished. His tale of the finish will put my little story to shame, so hopefully he will decide to share it with us (coming soon!). I know it involved rum, beer, getting lost, police, and a couple panicked directors/organizers. But in the end, Bob does what he does best. He Jenkinsed the shit out of that race.
The ride home involved a few naps. Bob and Kate clearly haven’t mastered my technique of avoiding nap time photos:
The ride home is often a ton of fun if you do it right, and we always do it right. And of course that means we stopped to eat lunch together:
And then some of us later stopped for dessert. Because when you pass the Uranus Fudge Factory, you pretty much have to stop.
As I mentioned before, this race was put right at the top of our Must-Do list for next year. And you know what? We’re already signed up for it, and there’s even more of us going. I hope you signed up too, because it’s already sold out. If you were dumb enough to miss registration, you should get on the waiting list for sure. I know I’m looking forward to another hug at the finish line. And maybe Kage will go for the number one spot next year.
Note: photo credits to Lori, Jessie, and Luke! This post was written by Chuck, and Luke has added commentary in Blue while Bob has added some commentary in Green.
What happens when three manly men from Team Virtus team up with Jessie from Orange Lederhosen for an adventure? An awesome weekend of bikepacking!
We had long planned a weekend adventure for the Nov 5th and 6th weekend, then things like jobs and conflicting plans starting making it look like a no-go.
Luckily some last minute changes brought it back to life. We threw together a quick route plan and with a healthy dose of IWWIO we all met at the Loutre Market early Saturday afternoon. We all filled up on Champs chicken and added to our already prodigious beer stash before finishing the final load-out of our bike packing rigs.
The loosely put together plan would have us ride gravel from the market (near the hwy 19 bridge to Hermann) to the Daniel Boone Conservation area, camp that night at one of the 10 primitive sites, then ride back in the morning via Massas Creek road.
We hit the KATY trail and stopped for a quick pic of our loaded rigs
Luke: I love the planning and tweaking of my rig for trips like this. Especially when I forget a bunch of stuff and have to rig up straps and attachment points with shit I have in the back of my van. Luckily, I have a bunch of shit in the floor and trunk of my van, so there’s plenty of stuff with which to improvise.
And then headed east on the KATY into a beautiful fall day
I obviously have some bikepack learning to do before I get into longer trips. The bike bags were really full, my backpack was bulging, and I don’t yet know what to do to lighten them up. No way could the stainless steel 64oz growler of Friendship Brewery Stout be left behind.
Luke: It’s always a learning process. We need to learn to start leaving some of the bulkier items behind to save space and weight. However, leaving the growler of delicious beer behind is never an option. Never. Ever.
I’ve begun to just accept the fact that my rig will always be heavy. Screw it.
I warned our eager group that there would be doing some climbing on the way to the campsite, but I’m not so sure they were happy with my day 1 route choice once we hit the hills.
Luke: Yeah. Chuck told us we had “some climbing” to do. But that was like saying Bob sorta kinda likes whiskey once in awhile – a serious understatement. Eff those damn climbs!
Those climbs were bullshit. BULLSHIT!!!
Once we got into the DB conservation area the hills leveled off and both sides of the road filled with tall trees of the forest area, we all started to feel good about the weekend ahead of us. We rode past several camp sites, finding them all full. With Missouri whitetail season starting in a couple of days, we suspected this was the last big scouting weekend. We were running out of options, but luckily we ended up snagging the very last site (IWWIO again!) on the far north end of the conservation area.
Luke: After the ridiculous climbing, riding along the top of that ridge was a blast. Beautiful, easy pedaling.
We had plenty of time before dark to get all our camp gear set up and firewood gathered for the night.
Let’s be honest…i look pretty damn sexy in this picture.
Luke: That reminds me… Have I ever told you about my NOLS course?
We even found enough time before dark to practice our Survival Situation Skills with my newly replaced knife (the last one broke while being thrown at dead trees).
After a little instruction, Jessie joined the elusive and exclusive ‘One-Spark Club’ by using flint and steel to start our evening fire with ONE SPARK.
Luke: Well done, Jessie!
Anyone that has been around a Team Virtus campfire knows it is only a matter of time before a chimney log is burning. This weekend was no exception, Bob found a great log not far from the campsite and it wasn’t long before it was blazing away and spouting jet-like flames out the top.
I held a little tid-bit of info from the group until after dark…..My awesome and beautiful wife had a photo-shoot Saturday afternoon not far from where we were camping. So it was a GREAT surprise for everyone when she showed up with deep dish pizza and a second growler of stout from Tin Mill brewery in Hermann.
Luke: Seriously. I can’t tell you how awesome the pizza and beer was. And the pizza was still hot and the beer was ice cold! In the middle of the woods while bikepacking! How freaking cool is that?! Big thanks to the always-amazing Lori.
That was so badass. She’s done that for us TWICE now. So delicious..i think I may have had too much and “fell asleep early”.
So with our bellies full of beer and pizza we all fell asleep near the fire. Lori and Jessie got a last picture of the three manly men before Jessie crawled in her tent and Lori headed for home.
Luke: One of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in the woods. I call the middle spot next time!
(to be continued in part 2….)
It was the Wednesday before 4th of July weekend when a coworker asked how I planned to spend the “3 day weekend”. Until that moment, I had no idea we were gonna be closed. Even better, I already had Thursday afternoon off. This was a golden opportunity to strike out into the unknown.
I’ve always wanted to bikepack Marble Creek, and now I had the opportunity. The ozarktrail.com website lists Marble Creek trail as “lightly used”… so hopefully I’d find some solitude. I loaded my gear, pointed the truck South and started ticking through the mental list of things I may have forgotten.
Printed maps and Compass: Wow, I can’t believe I forgot those….but I’m not turning around for that shit.
2-3 hours later, when I drove across the Marble Creek bridge entering the campground, I knew this was gonna be a good time.
The Ozark Trail (OT) Trailhead is across the street from the campground, so that gave me a relatively safe place to stash my truck. Normally I try to stealth-stash or hide my beautiful 2006 Chevy Colorado, but on this day I stayed legal…paid my money and left the truck. If the moss growing on the collection area was any indication, I didnt need to worry about a ton of people peeking in the windows. There was a warning posted about bears being in the area. Guess I better take the pepper spray..
Thanks to some bikehacks I learned on pedalingnowhere.com, my bike was loaded out with 90% of the weight spread across the handlebars and a rear seatbag. I had a few things in a backpack, but I was really only taking it along as a security blanket, “just in case.” I’ll go into my bike setup in a future post when I’ve got it completely ironed out, but for now let’s just say I’ve ‘almost’ got it figured out.
The trailhead was easy to find, and a hiker was coming out of the trail just as I was going in. Hopefully that meant there wouldn’t be any spiderwebs for a few miles. Awesome.
The planned route can be seen at this link and below. Basically, I was gonna ride about 9-10 miles to a glade overlooking Crane Lake. Once there, I’d set up camp and watch the sunset with my good friend Jim Beam. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward plan at the time.
Entering the trailhead, it was obvious that basically noone uses this trail. It definitely had a “Cedar Creek” feel to it, if you know what I mean.
About 30 feet into the trail, I began a long hike-a-bike which was an absolute beast. I thought it would never end, and pushing that heavy-ass bikpeacking rig was no picnic. There was a lot of loose rock and downed trees, but I was hopeful the conditions would improve as I got further into the ride.
It didnt take long to figure out this was going to be a hard-earned ride to see the sunset. I was never on the bike for more than a minute or 2 before I’d be lugging it over another woodpile or downed tree or some kind of bullshit. It was exhausting. The layout of the trail looked like it would be a blast to ride if it werent for all the litter.
But even with all the extra work, there’s something I love about being on a neglected trail. The thought that maybe noone else has been there for months or years, and it could be just as long before anyone is there again. After all, who would actually want to ride through this shit?
Eventually I got to a gravel crossing with enough cell signal to check the map on my phone. Signal was shitty so I took some screenshots and went on my way. The trail just never got better, and it was really kicking my ass. For such a short ride, this was one for the ages.
Finally, FINALLY, I came to the next road crossing. By the map, I was only about 3 miles from the glade. I was definitely going to miss sunset, but whatever. The “trail” became a fire road and suddenly I could ride. A short climb lead to a long, magical downhill and I was loving it. It felt good to finally be covering some ground. I began to notice the absence of OT trail markers, but like a fool I rode on. The fire road turned into a chunky, rutted-out shitbag of an atv trail. By now I was fairly certain I’d gone the wrong way, but just kept riding anyway, somehow convincing myself that the trail I was on would intersect the OT. So stupid.
At the very bottom, I popped out onto a nicely groomed gravel road. Crane Lake was to the West, so I turned right. By now it was completely dark, and I was almost out of reasons to give a single shit about seeing Crane Lake. A little while down the road, I ran into a MASSIVE pile of trees and brush covering the road, making it impassable.
I shoved my way through the treeline next to the road, (which sucked) and went around it. Coming out of the other side, I looked up and saw this:
Well shit…what now? The road turned past the gate and looked to be going North. I rolled the dice and followed it. Surely there was a trail crossing somewhere, right?
The road dropped down into what seemed like a flood zone of some kind. It dawned on me this was probably the overflow stream for Crane Lake. Everywhere I rode, there was between 3-6 inces of water over the road. Luckily it was solid underneath. The realization that I was lost and “deep in the shit” began to take hold. Then the road started climbing. And climbing and f*cking climbing, until I saw this:
**BTW, that’s a photo of a gate when it’s barely illuminated by a dying headlamp**
There comes a time when a man has to admit he’s failed. I mulled over my options and decided to go back to the first gate. The road had seemed flat there, and it was dry…which was the opposite of what I had to ride through *again* to get there.
I may have felt a little bit defeated, but that quickly faded as I set up camp. The beauty of bikepacking is the absence of urgency. Everything you need is strapped to your bike, so you can eat or sleep anytime you want. It was July and I’m obese, so I’d sweated through every piece of clothing on my body. It wasn’t hard to rig up a clothesline and hang my stuff., and I figured it didnt really matter if I was sitting around naked while cooking dinner…given the fact that I was completely lost in the middle of nowhere.
After the food was gone, I noticed a small amount of hot water left in the stove. Realizing I’d be a fool to waste it, I put it in a cup, dumped a Gu pack in there and topped it off with some Jim Beam. I’m not gonna say it was delicious, but it wasnt terrible either.
Then I crawled in the tent and spent the rest of the night trying to sleep.. with a knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other…suddenly convinced that every sound I heard was an approaching bear.
I made a point of waking up early since there was no telling how far off-course I’d gotten. The morning was vibrant and I felt pretty good. Standing bare-assed looking at my laundry line, I noticed something peculiar in the tree above.
Somewhere in southern missouri, there’s a guy with a game-camera on a remote gravel road. And now he’s got pictures of my fat naked ass setting up a tent and eating rehydrated sweet & sour pork. All I can say is I’m sorry and I didn’t know.
Heading out, I pushed back up the steep atv trail I’d descended the night before. It was a real bitch to be honest, and I’d become disenchanted with the shitty trails of Marble Creek. One highlight was arriving at the spot where I’d made my massive navigational blunder the night before:
But now I was on a hilltop and Google was with me once again. Google maps showed a *road* going North that wasn’t too far away. I went for it…and rode past it up a giant hill. Doubling back, I found the “road” which was clearly not a road, but a thorn infested corridor of pain through the weeds.
The alleged road was super sketchy and paved with grass and fallen rees. Google maps was clearly wrong. One might say that Google was really starting to piss me off with all its broken promises. I followed along, trying to follow the most northward path along the non-existent road.
This part was particularly challenging, but I was grateful it was mostly down hill:
Eventually I came to creek crossing.
Directly behind the creek was a mud bluff and a tall barb-wire fence. By then, I was moderate-to-severely pissed off. Looking back now, it was a really epic trip. But in that moment, I was just really annoyed with Google and their shitty “road” maps.
Eventually I decided that bushwacking boldly was my only option. Fences were jumped, and I may have trespassed a bit but I can’t be sure. After all, according to Google I was on the road.
When I finally made it back to the road, a bald eagle flew right over the road ahead of me. Totally badass.
Making my way into the campground, I had to stop for a “holy shit I made it” photo:
Back at the campground, it was time for my victory celebration. I found a nice spot along the creek and slid right into the water. After all the struggle from the “trails” and “roads,” the cold spring water felt amazing.
I’ll admit that during this ride, there was a significant amount of time that I just wasn’t enjoying myself. But now that I look back on all of it, (and all the shit I’m leaving out of this post), I realize this was a true adventure. I’ll definitely do this trip again. I hope to see that sunset, but I don’t know if it’ll match the joy I felt sitting in that cold water after such a hard overnighter.
Oh, and fuck you Google maps.