Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Single Speed USA: If you weren't having fun, you were doing it wrong

Last Wednesday, we departed for a week-long adventure up to Copper Harbor, MI for Single Speed USA 2014.  What we hoped for was a damn good time... what we found was the most amazing trip of the year.

We started off with a road trip up to Seve's lil slice of heaven in Minong, WI.  Nestled atop a hill overlooking the Totagatic River with water so clear we could see the ridges of sand at the bottom and large fish as they swam by.  The peacefulness of the location was amplified by the laughter of friends that kept arriving, beers cracked open, and the sound of fresh fish frying on the skillet.
 Camping with the 29nSngl crue is the only way to travel!
 We hit the road the next morning after a tasty breakfast at Flap Jacks, then some interesting photo-opps while grocery shopping....

 We led out the caravan of 8 vehicles with Tim W. at the wheel, Hwood navigating, and me sleeping in the back with my belt.  Only 6 hours to go til we made it to our destination.  The skies were blue, the heat climbed, and the trees got more and more dense as we neared the U.P.

Before we left the land of cell coverage, we stopped in Houghton for some food and beers, making sure to leave our mark before we hit the end of the Earth.
Once there, our group split to go set up camp.  Jay, Tim and I shared a lil corner lot in the East Campground and were first to set up.  We jumped on our bikes and headed toward the gravel trail that connected all the campgrounds to town, in search of our 29nSngl buds.  Within 5 ft of jumping on the trail, my front wheel washed out in a gravel/rock turn and I ate $h!t hard.  I ripped open my right knee and elbow and just sat there... stunned, pissed, annoyed.. that side had just healed up from my crit crash in July!  So, I got back on the bike and we found our pals quickly.  The three of us did a short ride out thru a beautiful prairie that led to the trail section called "Downtown" and back for a light spin, then straight to the shower to scrub the &%$# dirt and gravel out of my limbs.  
We laid low that first night, knowing we still had to recover from the previous nite's 2:00am party scene and had much more to come.  We woke around 10:00 Friday morning and headed out for a ride to start checking out the trails which were new to us.  JR hooked us up with the most breath taking trail combo along 'Garden Brook' that we had to ride it twice.  On our return to the campsite, a bee flew into my helmet and I jerked the bars when I attempted to rip off my helmet.. over the bars, flipped into the thistle on my back.  Grrrrrrrrr

So Jay, Tim, Josh, and I found ourselves a sweet little grotto in Lake Superior to rinse off the dander and cool our sore muscles before race night.   Later that night, we headed into town for packet pick-up and the pre-party. Friends from all around were there and the Mpls contingency was strong.  With free beer flowing from the taps and a 16ft wooden teeter totter in the field, it was sure to get rowdy. The only trouble was, that teeter totter was the preliminary round to qualify for the title of SSUSA Champ.. the only way to retain my belt...

I was terrified by the chance of falling off and injuring myself thanks to the Hollywood Hex.. when he'd gone to the UK to defend his SS WORLD Champ title in 2001, he crashed his bike the night before the race and broke his collar bone.  He didn't get the chance to defend his title.  I'd already crashed twice and was a little on edge.

So, to make it easier on my vertigo, Hwood gathered up our THC, 29nSngl, and Twin Six friends to line the teeter totter and catch me if I fell.  "Hold my beer and watch this"... my alter ego "Boozy", donned in the SSUSA belt and "One Bad F'in B!tc#" bikini top, hopped on the rickety old bike and charged for the teeter totter.  I lost speed as I hit the lip of it, but had enough momentum to get to the apex and ride it down the other side!  I howled with my fist in the air once I cleared it, shaking from the adrenaline and excitement of my accomplishment for some 20 min. after.  WINNING!  The rest of the night was a blast with music from the Shindaggers, contests, more beer, and Spinner and I giving our final shouts to the crowd as the current champs.
Riding to the race with the belt in tow
The race/ride morning came fast, and we kitted up for the wild ride ahead of us.. 30+ miles, 3100+ feet of climbing, and the gnarliest trails I'd ever seen.  We started with a 'neutral' roll-out up and around a mine on paved to gravel roads for a few miles before entering the single track.  Still attached to the back of the lead group, I lost contact once we entered the single track and allowed a handful of riders to pass me by in sections I wasn't confident on.  Sections like Garden Brook and Bullwinkle flowed fast through large pines lined with thick ferns and mossy undergrowth.  Ones like Downtown, Paul's Plunge, and On the Edge tested my fortitude.  

And on top of the world, overlooking the Keweenah Mountain side, was a part of 'The Edge' that took my breath away... during the race, I just pulled off the trail and stopped to admire it.  Heck, I did that a lot.. who knows when I'll be back to Cappa Habba, so I might as well take it all in while I can, right?

With the climbing, rocks, and roots that were unrelenting, my back started to give up.  Maybe it was the previous 2 days worth of crashes but, whatever it was, I took my time getting to the finish and trying to take in the beauty and the lessons of the trail as I hunted for the finish.  Sore, tired, and slightly nauseous after the race, I met up with Jay at the finish, grabbed some cold beers, and began to gather our friends for a much needed retreat to our little 612 Grotto in the lake.

There was a mini 'reef' of rocks that nestled about a foot below the water, keeping the water warm and allowing us to sit and cool our aching backs and legs.  We brought music and a couple cases of beer, sharing trail stories and basking in the wonderful warmth of the exceptionally hot day.  It was the most spectacular chunk of time of the entire weekend.  Learning about friends, making new ones, and enjoying the silly childlike jokes of warm spots in the water and seaweed.

We lounged in the water until our white jersey/shorts tan lines of cyclists began to turn pink and made our way back to camp to ready ourselves for the evening's festivities and final contests.  Unfortunately, Jay and the boys had me convinced they wouldn't start without me since only me and one other woman completed the preliminary round... #famouslastwords.  For those who understand, "Jay-time" has been suspended until further notice.

As we rolled to the park, we saw Fiona riding away with the belt... we missed the derby...  I missed my chance to defend my title.  I was devastated and admittedly unconsolable for an easy 45 min.  It was gone, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

My husband and friends were near enough to try to make it better and somehow only Jorge was the one I'd accept a hug from.  As I tried to process my disappointment and find a way to pull myself out of my funk and not ruin the entire trip, I found a small circle of people starting a drinking game in the afternoon sun.  "Whatcha doin?"  We played a game where only your feet could touch the ground and you had to bend over and pick up an open bottle of whiskey with only your mouth, slam it, and put it back... things were about to get weird.

It wasn't just the "amazing healing power of beer" that helped turn the night around, as my favorite sticker says.. it was the healing power of friends, teammates, and the single speed community that helped wash the salt out of my wounded ego with cans of IPA and shots of jagermeister.  It was the reckless abandon of derbies and games that brought it all back to center... we were here to have fun. Period.

So we raised up our favorite beer coozies and put the F-U in FUN!
Yoga Drinking Games?  Try Down-Dog-Up-Dog-Tandem-Shots!

Once every challenge was bested, we kept having to take it to the next level.  I taught the crowd about butt-crack-primes by starting a derby around a handful of ladies and one young lad who had dollar bills sticking out of the back of their shorts.  

Once the money was gone, we took singles from the crowd and moved the primes into the derby, 612 Mafia style. I may have missed 'the' derby, but the ones we created got rowdy and awesome FAST!  One of the MC's even stopped us to say thanks for bringing the party to the next level.  Dollar Bill Derby = Worst Wedgie Ever!
What we didn't expect was the addition of ketchup to the games.. one guy was spraying us down in the derby with ketchup, making us look like 70's slasher film victims as we rounded the trees lap after lap.  When Tim took the ketchup as a shot, he scared an EMT half to death when he began throwing up a red liquid, but couldn't stop long enough to reassure her that it was just ketchup.

Some of the best photos to sum it up were all caught by one of my fave photogs, Todd Bauer, and the amount of Single Speed debauchery he caught was perfect!  Check out his gallery here.  From late night derbies, awesome beer from Blackrock Brewery (try the IPA!), to the broken teeter totter-picnic table feats of strength, it was a night full of smiles, cheers, and heckling.  For the final contest of the night, the Host City showdown came down to a bucket kick game, where two opponents sat atop a 5 gal. bucket, holding the hands of their opponent, while trying to kick the bucket out from under them.  Seve was the victor, taking the hosting rights once again to win it for Wisconsin!  Third year straight in the upper midwest.. 2015, here we come.

Drunk, exhausted, and trying to follow a straight line, we meandered back to camp to sleep it off before beginning our trek towards home... but first we had to shower off a crap-load of ketchup. #Ihateketchup

Sunday morning, we packed up camp when we woke up and took the scenic route along the lake on our way to Houghton, stopping at Jacobs Falls for a short hike and some beautiful scenery. 

We stopped at Kaleva in Houghton for breakfast and headed straight to Hayward, WI. for the night.  Luckily, we got on the road in time to catch a nice 2 hr ride on the Seeley Pass and some putt putt before settling in for a bonfire with Morgan and Matt.  It was a great way to spend our last night of vacation, filling each other in on all the madness one another had missed during the times we were separated.
We woke to rain in the morning and the campsites beginning to flood, so we packed up quickly and hit the road.  It was fun sitting with the boys, laughing about all the shenanigans and memories we'd made.  We all agreed it had been the best memories of the summer, heck.. the year!  Only 360+ days til we get to do it again.

In the contest of Most Fun Wins, we won with a vengence! 

Countin' down the days to SSUSA 2015, 
Kristy Kreme