We walked in the doors to employees putting up the closed signs. "Water on the floor of the kitchen". We would later find out that the water was sewage back-up, and for the 3rd time this year alone. Can you imagine working in a restaurant where sewage regularly backs up onto your floor? We learned that the nearest other food option was 18 miles away. Everyone had just ridden to Grand Portage from Grand Marais with thoughts of buffet, all you can eat crab legs, ice cream etc.. What did we do?
We descended upon the 'trading post'/gas station like Vikings pillaging. Creating a potluck to be proud of despite the 3.2 beer. That is what the gravel conspiracy is all about.
For me it's also a race and a training camp. It marks the end of the heat and the beginning of fall. I knew it would be cool and that I wanted to use it as a goal to encourage me to pile on the suffery miles in the heat during the summer. As a chance to get some confidence back in my legs. To get a hint of some form that never quite shows even on the cooler days of the summer. This year I had not ridden nearly as much in August, nor had I ridden well in July and I wasn't sure what to expect. I'll be honest that more than one of the other riders had me worried. They had been piling up great results all summer while I snuck in rides after dark. My plan or strategy was to ride the first day very hard. I knew I could ride hard for 37 miles after the road first turned up off of highway 61, but had no idea how I would fare on the longer days. Riding those 37 miles hard was something that I could control.
Maybe it had been a little too long since I felt like I had control of anything riding my bike. It truly has been frustrating this summer. I remember having so much excitement over my form in spring but had completely lost any connection to that feeling by late June and felt like a different person altogether by August. I put my head down and rode those 37 miles with some rhythm and it was damn fun. The route climbed up and up away from the lake and then traversed beautiful terrain. The roads just windy and technical enough to keep me honest but always begging for more pedaling and less brakes. Those 37 miles took me about 1:57.
The next two stages were much the same. Long, long but wonderful climbs, seriously rugged roads strewn with rocks and puddles, some fast open gravel descents. Each stage following it's own way but generally fitting the pattern of a slow undulating climb to the midpoint far up and away from the lake and then a meandering back down. Time to get completely lost. I tried to explain to Josh what is so great about this. How it's even better than just riding alone because I don't have to think at the event. I just follow the purple line and lose everything else. No need to think about where to turn, where water might be next etc.. No need to worry about using too much energy and not finding food. Knowing just that I have to follow that line and that I can watch the miles count down and at the same time push my riding to so that when the miles say zero so do my legs.
The group was awesome. Everyone seemed to be loving the ride and hanging out together after each day's ride. Not much could have made it a better weekend.