Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Toy for Christmas

Lots of kids get bikes for Christmas. It's almost an American tradition. This year, I gave myself a new bike for Christmas, and it is a blast!

In the previous post, I described how I have become enamored with "fat-bikes", like the Surly Pugsley I spent most of the fall season on. In late October at the Winter Camping Symposium in Sturgeon Lake, MN, I got to ride a Cogburn Outdoors CB4 for more than a cursory demo, and was more than impressed; I was sold. Despite having the same tires and front fork as the Pugsley, the Cogburn is a totally different animal. It's lighter, handles more crisply and is more responsive to the rider. It is actually designed for hunters, and comes in several different patterns of Realtree (tm) camouflage, as well as Forest Green. No, I did not get the green one. Like my Volcanic mountain bike, I went with white, sort of. My color choice was Realtree Snow camo. It is one sharp bike.

Next summer, in addition to a planned missions trip to the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, on which I will as on all missions trips ride Discovery, I am planning a trip back east to the western Adirondack Mountains. It was in the Old Forge area at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps in the summers of 1964 and '65, that the seeds were planted that led to my being a park ranger today. It was also the area where, in the early 1980s, I was a New York State licensed backcountry guide.

In August, it will be ten long years since I was home last. Ten years is too long. I am planning to come back to New York, take the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Thendara to Big Moose, then ride my new Cogburn fat-bike from Big Moose to Stillwater Reservoir, then from Stillwater to Inlet by way of Carter Station and Rondaxe Road, past (and visiting) Adirondack Woodcraft Camps. The second half of the trip will be from Inlet to Indian Lake via the Moose River Plains. I will have to get a non-resident fishing license and catch some trout. (The Moose River is where I learned to fish, 50 years ago.)

I will be traveling with some of my NY SAR and bike patrol friends and maybe my cousin's husband and son. It will be more than an adventure. It will be a Great Exploit!

Proceeding on,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Discovering the Joy Again

One weekend in September a friend of mine, who is a veteran bicycle tour leader, suggested that I take my Surly Pugsley fat-bike on my planned bikepacking trip instead of my mountain bike. I did, and it changed everything. With the exception of several events that took place in the weeks that followed that required my MTB, I was scarcely been off the Pugs when riding. I did a number of fall colors rides, explored some cool trails in a nearby state forest and even rode some volunteer trail patrol with a bike that I had previously relegated solely to winter use. Those rides became fuel for some overnight trips the following spring, and those photos become the illustrations that I hope will inspire you to go, and see what's out there. Initially, the fat-bike’s claim to fame was it’s ability to ride over snow and sand. But then somebody, or somebodies came to the realization that it could do so much more; that the fat-bike was indeed, the perfect off-pavement, backcountry expedition bicycle. I am now one of those somebodies, The fat-bike, in it's 60-plus brand names, is changing the face of backcountry travel, and like many others I have been swept up in their success. The fat-bike takes me back to when I first started riding a bike as a kid, and experience the sheer joy of riding again.

Proceeding on...
2WX - The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Beautiful Day After a Dark and Stormy Night

Originally, I had planned to camp out the night before, but we had heavy rain, thunder and lightning and hail. I have weathered storms like that in a tent before, but it really didn't fit into my plans for this trip. I got up early the next morning, and headed north to the trout lakes of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Crosby, MN. It was a beautiful day, cooler and dryer than recent weather had been, thanks to the cold front that came through with the storms. I was going to chase rainbows...and brookies.

Cuyuna, as it is known in the mountain biking community, is somewhat of a phenomena in the Minnesota State Park system. It was one of the very first "Ride Centers" designated by the IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and enjoys very high visitation from mountain bikers, as well as fishermen (and women) who ply it's many lakes in search of muskie, walleye, bass...and trout. But I wasn't there for the mountain biking this time. Don't get me wrong, I like riding at Cuyuna. It is one of the few places I can mountain bike anonymously, without the red jersey or the front plate of the bike patrol. or my DNR uniform. (Yes, I have and could still "patrol" there, and I always carry a first aid kit and other gear when riding, but I don't have to. Cuyuna has their own patrol, and a great system for dealing with emergencies.) Besides, I wasn't there to ride the MTB trails. I was there to fish, and ride Discovery to various spots I had chosen on a map of the Rec Area, and basically "get away from it all" for a day. I had my collapsable spinning rod and a box of lures, (My replacement collapsable fly rod would arrive on my doorstep while I was away.) and a 27-speed, GPS equipped tackle box to take me there.

I had chosen three lakes, one at each end of the park and one in the north middle section, all of which had been former iron ore pit mines years ago. (You can still see evidence of the mining on many of the MTB trails.) but are now prime fishing spots, and also popular with kayakers and SCUBA divers. The lakes on the ends were connected by the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail, and the Overburden Road, a red dirt, sand and clay road that goes into the lakes in the northern section.

Long and short of it, I didn't catch any trout or anything else. I had a couple nice looking brookies follow my lure at Yawkey Pit, and a couple light strikes, but no real takers. But that's okay. I rode almost 16 miles on my favorite bike, through and around some very pretty country, and in the backcountry, there was nobody out there but me. That is what I was really searching for. I am looking forward to doing it one more time before stream trout season closes in mid-September, and taking that new rod with me. That time I'll head into the "real" backcountry of the Chippewa National Forest. It will be wonderful.

One down side, I did lose one of my favorite lures. Oh well.

Proceeding on...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Small Matter of Gearing and Tires

It's been a while since I posted, because it has been a very busy summer. I am at the tail end of a two-week "vacation" which actually started the weekend before when Ellen and I took our granddaughters camping. During this time, we managed to eak out a three day camping trip together, and since I still have obligations to my STS clients, I also taught some classes at the usual places, and up at one client's cabin in the Chippewa National Forest, which brings me to the purpose of this post.

I took my Volcanic Vx7 mountain bike with me to Cass Lake; I always take a bike with me for outstate classes. After I was done teaching the first day I went for a ride on the Mi-Gi-Zi (Ojibwe for "eagle") Trail, which I had also done in May when I taught up there, riding Discovery, my Bianchi Volpe touring bike. 16.4 miles through tall pines and marked blowdown areas from a windstorm in 2012 and a basically level trail. No problem, no sweat, despite the relatively humid weather, at only two-tenths of a mile slower than on the Volpe. I figured I was good to go for the Tour de Pines Bike Ride that I had volunteered to provide medical support for on Saturday, since I would be in the area. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I should preface this by saying, the weekend before, while we were camping on the other side of the Chippewa, I had ridden the Vx7 on mountain bike trails and fire lanes, through a variety of terrain and elevation changes, and only once had to push the bike up a hill, mostly because I didn't change gears before I was climbing, and didn't want to risk breaking my chain by trying to shift on the climb.

Saturday at Itasca State Park dawned warm but not hot, and very humid. Tires inflated to road pressure, med-pack on the bike, I took off and immediately got left behind by even the slowest riders on road bikes and hybrids, which was initially okay because I was supposed to be doing sweep anyhow. The Wilderness Drive through the park's backcountry is a beautiful paved road lined with some of the oldest red and white pine in Minnesota, and many, many hills. That was where I had problems. It's also where I had two screaming descents that are the fastest I have ever taken the Volcanic, 30 and 32 MPH. (I have taken the Volpe faster, 42 MPH out on the Rez in 2010.) Therein you see the problem; the tires and gearing of my mountain bike are just not designed for climbing steep hills on pavement, and neither is this rider. Also, the bike itself is fairly heavy and so am I. I was fighting gearing, weight (mine and the bike's), severe humidity and tire drag with every climb. I ended up cutting a 9-mile loop off the 25-mile course, and headed in from the 13-mile mark. I was whipped.

As I told a couple of the event organizers, if I work the Tour de Pines again next year, it will be on road-geared Discovery. I was curious why, when I saw Volcanic's entry in the 2014 Tour Divide, a 2745-mile, self-supported mountain bike race from Banff, Alberta, Canada, to the US-Mexican border, sported Shimano gearing since Volcanic bikes normally have a SRAM drivetrain, like mine. Now I know, the reason is range. The Volpe and the Tour Divide Volcanic have basically the same gearing setup. I have ridden up the steep 4-mile climb from Ft. Randall Dam to the Casino and Pow-wow grounds on the Yankton Sioux Reservation. Slowly, but without having to stop. My next bike will have to enable me to do that too. So, when I am looking at a successor for Discovery, I will be looking very closely at the drivetrain, and tires that will work well on dirt, gravel and paved roads. Right now the Trek 920 and Salsa Fargo are the two leading choices.

Then there is the issue of my weight...

Proceeding on...
The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fully Loaded...

Every season brings it's challenges, and this year is shaping up to be no exception. A brutally cold winter has kept me indoors and away from snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dogsledding, and even the addition of a "fat-bike" (designed for winter riding) did not generate enough activity to keep my weight down and my stamina up. Like last year, one of our ministry partners will be taking the summer off, leaving me to wonder where we are going and what we are doing this year? Without a doubt, there are needs to be met, places and people who need the touch of Creator in their lives, and if He can use us in that, as the blog title says, we are "proceeding on..."

Often, I do not understand the reaction that the things that we do evokes from other Christians. For instance, the response to my introduction of "Birth of the Chosen One" at Lower Brule in December was very negative from some of the missionary pastors worked with, and their reaction was very hurtful, and very un-Christ-like towards some of our partners in ministering on the reservations. I have believed very strongly since my time in Petrozavodsk (1996-97) and Pastor Ellen's trip to Belarus two years before, that we cannot bring the Gospel to indigenous people if we infuse it with our Western culture. Missionaries are not God's gift to the people they are serving, they are servants. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many..." (Mark 10:45) For five centuries, we European-Americans have attempted to strip away the Indian's culture, language and pride, their regalia and music and replace it with something that "looks more like us". We believe that the First Nations Version will be an important and powerful tool in ministering to and discipling Native American and First Nations people, and for that reason we will continue to support Terry Wildman and his work, and use his next publication, “When the Great Spirit Walked Among Us” combining the four Gospels into one narrative, in our missions work.

And so, we are proceeding on. In preparation for this year's trips (yes, multiple) today I am taking the Volcanic mountain bike down off the skyhooks today and getting it tuned up for the season. The Bianchi, "Discovery" goes into the shop next week for it's annual physical and a new rear rack. We will be back on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in June for the fund-raising and prayer "Ride Across the Rez". We are also seriously considering invitations to minister through a church construction project on the Standing Rock Reservation and a teaching/discipling mission to the Cree First Nation Reserve in Canada with Global Ministries and Relief, the "action arm" of the missiology program I am involved in. And at least one of those trips will be self-supporting, "fully loaded" carrying all we need on board our bikes. As we found out in Russia in 1997 and on the Yankton Rez in 2012, being on a bike makes you much more open and approachable.

This is adventure. The adventure of missionary exploration. There is a voice that calls to us, that we cannot ignore, calling us to fulfill the great commission. Do you hear it? Will you pray for us, support us...ride with us? Our adventure can be your adventure too.

We are proceeding on...
Two-Wheeled Explorer 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Return to Lower Brule

 On July 22, 2011, in the face of 25 MPH winds and temperatures over 100 degrees, combined with my slow recovery from a traumatic brain injury the previous March, I was forced to end our planned 55-mile "Ride Across the Rez" on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation after only 9 (mostly downhill for the video camera) miles. I have not been back since then, but have felt a longing, a calling to return there. Creator is working on the Lower Brule and I believe we are to play a part in that. When Pastor Kc Kopaska of Native American Ministries asked if I was interested in helping with a Christmas outreach called "A Birthday Party for Jesus", I started praying about it. Then, our friend Terry Wildman of RainSong First Nations Music and Storytelling, announced that the first story from the First Nations Version of the Sacred Scriptures, a project we are supporting, would be a book aimed at children, called "Birth of the Chosen One", and it would be published in time for Christmas. That was all the confirmation I needed. I would return to Lower Brule for Christmas.

 I have two big boxes of clothing, mostly from the men's Gateway Group at our Northgate Church, and so far, two Christmas shoeboxes for children, and am looking for more. Pastor Kc is bringing more shoeboxes, and Christmas stockings filled with presents for Native kids of all ages. I am praying that God will fill up my Subaru with good gifts for the children on the Lower Brule Rez. We can use toys, games, candy and other fun things kids like. Place them in shoeboxes or Christmas stockings that are sorted by age and gender for kids from toddler to age 18. We can also use warm coats and other winter clothing in children's sizes. We would also love to have more copies of "Birth of the Chosen One" for the families of Lower Brule. This is a wonderful re-telling of the Nativity story, in a way that Native American people will find easy to relate to. The illustrations, also by an Indian artist, are simply beautiful. As says on the title page, "Listen to the Christmas story again for the first time." It will open the eyes of your heart. They can be purchased on Amazon, or directly from RainSong at First Nations Version: Birth of the Chosen One.

Next summer, my prayer is to come back to Lower Brule again, and finished the ride that nearly finished me in 2011. I will be blessed if you feel led to ride with me.

Proceeding on...
The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Technology and the Adventure of Missionary Exploration

I like gizmos as much as anyone (except maybe my son-in-law), but it is rare I find one that is a "must have". Take GPS units, for example; I have an older Delorme PN-20 GPS on my MTB, and a Garmin Edge 205 on Discovery, my Bianchi Volpe. Last week though, Garmin revealed something new in their Edge GPS line; It is called the Garmin Edge Touring, and it is made specifically for riders like me. In the words of Will Smith at the controls of the alien spaceship in “Independence Day”, "I gotta get me one of these!" ( But my techno-bent doesn’t end there. I also carry a cell phone, actually a "smartphone", and for those areas where it's not smart enough to find a cell signal, I carry a SPOT Tracker satellite notification system, mostly in case I get in trouble out of cell range, abut also so you folks back home can keep track of my progress on the adventure of missionary exploration. I am active on Facebook and Twitter, I occasionally write this blog, but the truth be told, I have always liked cycling because it is supposed to be simple. All this clutter de-simplifies things. I have a standing joke that some day some great Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) is going to knock all these gizmos off the grid, and probably knock the grid off as well, and the Amish are going to rule the world.

 In all honesty, I got into cycling through mountain biking, and remain to this day, more of a mountain biker than a "roadie". I like riding both my bikes, but I really enjoy riding the MTB, usually alone, which has gotten me into trouble a couple times, including last Friday. (That is also why I carry the SPOT. If I get in serious trouble, at the push of a button, I can call 911 from anywhere on the face of the planet.) But while the Volpe can take me far distances, the Volcanic (my newer mountain bike) can take me to the quiet places. As Terry Wildman of RainSong puts it in "Great Spirit Guide", the First Nations Version of the 23rd Psalm, "He gives me rest in fields of tender grass, and guides me near peaceful streams that refresh and strengthen me." If I  am seeking those peaceful streams, do I really need a cell phone, an all-telling GPS, a Kindle or I-Pad? (Yes, my wife does require I carry the SPOT when I am solo, regardless.) I have spent many peaceful hours in backcountry campsites on the shores of Trout Lake on the Chippewa, and Emerson Lake on the Chequamegon National Forests, or Cary Lake and Ensign Pond in the Adirondacks before I moved to Minnesota and got into cycling , reading the Journals of Lewis and Clark, tales of bear attacks, Dr. Larry Christenson's Ride the River, Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales or the Bible, all real books printed on real paper. This false dependence we have created on the things of technology, it really takes something away from the adventure. I miss that.  
Proceeding on...
Two-Wheeled Explorer