Saturday On The NCT
What a super Saturday of riding! Hooked up with local friend and (light years better than me) endurance racer Chris M. to ride a chunk of the North Country Trail.
The plan was to do an out and back ride from 9 Mile Bridge (up near the Lumberjack course for yinz that don't know) to the Marilla trail head using as much of the North Country Trail as we legally could. A nice hunk of the trail is off limits to bikes for some unknown reason, even though the reports I have got is that much of the closed section isn't even singletrack or anything "pristine" and is mostly two track or similar. But the hikers deem it so, so it is so (they are like the Judge Dredd of outdoor activities). OK, all bitching aside Chris mapped out a way for us to avoid those trails via snowmobile trails and dirt roads and still get us to some fine singletrack. Plus add in some miles. Nothing wrong with that.
I used the Ti El Mariachi for the ride. Seems like it's been forever since I had been on it, but in reality it was just since the nightmare of a race that was the Boyne Marathon. Felt good to be back on the EM and the trails and roads were were on were perfect for the it. Since that race I have flipped the stem to a positive rise and that seems to help my back pain a good bit. I enjoy the negative for handling, but figured what good is good handing if my back is killing me? I would also take advantage of it's two bottle cages using two full bottle of Carbo Rocket 333 and a 100 oz. CamelBak with water. I would also be hoping that we could find a pump at a trail head.
Soon as the ride started we were right into singletrack for about 6 miles. Then on to M55 for about a 1/2 mile or so to get to the forest roads that would help us avoid the above mentioned closed to mountain bikes part of the trail.
The dirt roads were dry and sandy and we got passed by more than our share of motocross folks out kicking up dust (at least they were out and not sitting on the couch!). The sand of the forest roads was nothing compared to some of the sand on the snowmobile trails though... Eeesh, it's like I gave up tire sucking Western PA mud for power sucking Michigan sand. The sand is easier to clean up, I will say that. LOL!
Earlier in the ride as Chris consulted the maps I noticed my Fizik saddle was broke. Uh oh. The rails were fine, but the hard plastic underneath was cracked in half. Still useable, but it did flex quite a bit. I wasn't real into the idea of the saddle flexing under my 200 pounds, but there was really nothing I could do about it. So I just tried to ride as smooth as I could, which is not easy when you're me.
The trails from 9 Mile Bridge to M55 were good, but the trails from just passed Dilling Rd. to Marilla were freaking amazing! Lots of climbing on perfect bench cut singletrack trails! They were some of the best trails I have ever been on and unlike anything I have ridden in Michigan so far. Nice sustained climbs, some roots to make it fun, and some sweet downhills. Just amazing singletrack.
We made pretty good time on the way out even with a few pauses to correct our direction and to consult the maps. On the way back we took a small diversion to get to get some pump water at a small campground. Thank God we did 'cause things were getting super hot, my water was about gone, and the 333 tasted like hot cooked Jello. It was also about this time that I started to notice that the 'ol chap down in the chamois was taking some abuse (hot dog vs. cheese grater sort of abuse). This was not good. Not good at all.
The heat was really kicking on the way back and I continue to pump out more sweat than any living human being. My kit and gloves were all soaking wet and I was saltier than Mr. Peanut. My power was fading and my chamois rubbed Little Ricky Ricardo was killing me. It seems bloody appendages and salty sweat don't play well together.
The climbs that were so fun bombing down were less than fun on the way back and up. Doable, just not all that fun. The only real bitch of a climb was a snowmobile trail that I had completely forgot about bombing down. I ended up having to walk that one a bit on the way back, clutching my junk the whole time.
Soon (I guess it was soon, seemed like a long time) we were back to the dirt roads and snow mobile trails. The heat was freaking kicking and amazingly I was about out of my second bladder of water. We had about 6 miles of singletrack to go on the other side of M55. I consulted with Chris about options it went sort of like this "Dude what are options here?" "Why?" "Well to be blunt we have 6 miles of singletrack, my dick is bleeding and I'm about out of water." "Oh shit, you're bleeding?, well let's just take the pavement, it's a little bit shorter and a lot easier." "Thank you from the front of my chamois!" OK, I didn't say the last bit, but I WAS thinking it.
So we took M55 to Udell Hills Rd. and back to the xB parked down by the river. That stretch of pavement was relentless! All I could think about was getting to the car, cooling off in the river then getting our asses to Rico's Roadhouse (makers of maybe the best burgers in the world!). While it was easier to pedal, it wasn't that much easier on the Little J-Man.
Getting in the river was one of my top 5 post ride experiences ever! The water was fresh and super cold. I sat there sort of letting my head float just above the water. I trout jumped to my right, a bright yellow finch sat to my left, the sky was pure blue and bright with sun above, my legs were sore from over 6:45 of riding 70 miles of singletrack, pavement, snowmobile trails and dirt roads and we were about to got eat some yummy food and beer. It was almost too good to be true ... life is good.
Once out and dried off we headed to Rico's Roadhouse. A Log Jammer Deluxe was eating and enjoyed with good conversation, and ice cold water and a pint of Bell's Oberon.
Back in PA, I used to live for the weekend rides in the mountain, and took great pleasure in showing friends around there. It was pretty cool to have Chris up here to show me around, map out a killer ride, and help me enjoy the amazing feeling of riding new trails, in new places, with new friends.