Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Minnesota Fats


Took a quick trip up to Minnesota over the weekend, drove up on Friday and came back on Sunday, to ride Fat Bikes and hang out with the Swansons.


A little over a month ago when the trip was in the infancy stages of planning, it was cold as could be and there was snow everywhere in Omaha. As is usually the case it was even colder and snowier in Minneapolis, so the plan was to take the Fat Bike and ride some of the local MTB trails and the river bottoms while they were all snow covered. Nathan even managed to check out a Moonlander for the GF, this would be her first time on a Fat Bike and what a great bike to break your Fattie cherry on. I'm not sure she is adequately giddy enough in this picture, perhaps she was just over whelmed by all that rubber.


As the month turned into weeks, which turned into days, winter decided to exit a little early and all the snow decided to melt. Just days away from heading up to Minnesota, all of the trails in and around Minneapolis were closed, including the river bottoms, due to muddy conditions and it looked like we would be doing a more urban ride consisting of a tour of local breweries. In all actuality that didn't sound bad at all either, when life gives you hops you make beer right.


Not a bad view for an urban ride, more the skyline and less the back of Nathan's head but I suppose in it's own way some might find that a decent view as well.





If you've never been to Minneapolis, or you have been living under a rock and have never even heard of it, it's a big city; the greater Minneapolis area has a population of just under 7 million people. Being a big city I wasn't sure what to expect when we had to ride right into the heart of the downtown area to catch the light rail, as it turned out it was amazingly easy. There seemed to be bike lanes almost everywhere, even when there weren't it seemed to me that drivers at least were cognizant of bicycles and tried to give as much space as possible when we had to ride on streets without designated bike lanes. It was kind of refreshing to see that cars and bicycles can coexist on the same infrastructure, of course it was a Saturday morning and not a busy weekday also, so that might have played into the results as well. Regardless we made it to the light rail platform in one piece and just in time to catch the train. 


At the very last minute, the night before to be exact, it was reported on social media that the river bottoms trail was open and good to go for riding, so it was decided that we would take advantage of that bit of good news and ride them. I've ridden a light rail train a few times before, mainly in Seattle, but I had never brought a bicycle on with me let alone a Fat Bike. Maneuvering these beasts around inside the cars took more than a little finesse and skill, all the stares we got made me feel like I had suddenly grown a second head or something. If you're an introvert looking for a way to break out of your shell, buy a Fat Bike, the number of  people that will ask you about the bike will make sure that you have plenty of interaction with complete strangers.





The river bottoms did not disappoint, the initial downhill into the bottoms was pretty rad, if you didn't have to turn around and bike back up it, it would have been worth going down multiple times. Minneapolis has a plan in place to pave over the dirt trails in the river bottoms, I suspect in an effort to make it more accessible to everyone... it would be a shame to lose such a great natural place, perhaps not everyone needs access to everywhere if it means destroying the natural beauty of a place and replacing it with 10' wide concrete paths. Not to mention the up keep needed since the area is often under water as it is also the flood plain for the city.


Still no smile, she's gotta be smiling on the inside... you can't ride a bicycle with all that rubber, a bicycle that by it's very nature is a stupid idea to ride or own in a climate that doesn't have feet of snow almost year round but it just makes you grin from ear to ear because it's that much fun to ride. Is it possible that the Fat Bike bug doesn't bite everyone?


On the way back we stopped at the old Cedar Avenue bridge for a beer break, I don't normally drink beer but as they say when in Rome... plus Nathan broke out the good stuff so it didn't take too much arm twisting to convince me to have a cold one.


And that view... well okay, maybe not this one although it was a cool old bridge.


This view was a little bit better...


...but this one was pretty spectacular, it'd be hard to find a better view to ride a Fat Bike to and crack open a cold one.


Right Nathan... Nathan? Maybe he's just not that into swans.


Once we got done downing the Modus Hoperandi, had our fill of swans, old bridges and whatever Nathan was looking at; it was time to grab the bikes and head to Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar and then to Busters and A Baker's Wife. The Angry Catfish has some really awesome bicycles and accessories and A Baker's Wife right next door had amazing pastries and baked goods, the smells were enough to make you salivate just standing outside. I however, took exactly zero pictures of either of those places and the things they offered and instead only have this picture of the two cows outside the bakery. I guess the beer must have gone straight to my head or I secretly have a cow fetish I should really talk to someone about. Either way not a bad picture in and of itself, you'll just have to imagine what the inside of Angry Catfish and Baker's Wife looks like or take a trip up to see them yourself... sorry, dropped the ball on that one but a trip up would be well worth it.


We also grabbed lunch at Busters, this is their Jalapeno Burger with Chipotle Cream Cheese and it was fabulous.


It also started the downward spiral into decadence, like this very tasty Plead the 5th Imperial Stout from Dark Horse Brewing Co. out of Michigan. Followed by a Million Dollar Bar from A Baker's Wife... which I also didn't get a picture of, man I was off on this day.



After we left Busters it was onto Fulton Brewing for a Worthy Adversary, also an Imperial Stout but this one was of the Russian variety but equally as tasty.



Leaving Fulton Brewery we headed back to the Swansons to grab some dinner followed by Glam Doll Donuts for dessert. Loved the place and the donuts were absolutely scrumptious, this one is the Outlaw - lemon cream cheese, cherry icing & brown butter crumb topping - did I mention it was delicious?



Here are some other great local brews that we tried... with all the food, sweets and beer it's a good thing it was just a short trip or the bike wouldn't be the only thing referred to as Fat.


Scored a sweet Cycle Works jacket as well from Nathan, tried it on and it even fit... well before the weekend it did, not too sure now.


Unfortunately the jacket wasn't the only parting gift, Minnesota decided to make the ride home just a little bit more interesting. However, even with all the snow it was a fantastic weekend, the Swansons were gracious hosts and are all around great people, would love to explore more of what Minneapolis has to offer in a bit dryer and warmer weather. It was an awesome trip and just what we needed, a little get away... and we won't even go into the air mattress incident, totally feel bad about it but not sure what happened there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Face Down, Ass Up... That's The Way I Like My Duck


Since it was such a nice day on Saturday we decided to take a walk, yes I do know how to walk someimes, around Walnut Creek Lake. For being just on the edge of Omaha there is a surprising amount of wildlife around the lake.


Ran into a rather large Bull Snake, who was none to happy that he had to share the trail with us.


Saw a few muskrats, one swimming too far off to get a decent picture of and this one scrounging around in the spillway.



There were a quack load of ducks and geese, you could tell it was getting to be mating season as they were all starting to pair up. As we were watching them another pattern started to develop...


Ducks and geese face down, ass up... some were taking turns.


Others both at the same time...


And then there were the showoffs who seemed to be doing some sort of synchronized ballet while feeding, little feet still churning, going around in perfectly timed circles. Who understands ducks though, they are all just so daffy.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

SMNDFBR - The Warm Up

60° and sunny yesterday, you could not have asked for better weather and it was certainly a welcomed change after the frigid temps of the last few weeks, a perfect setting for the Saturday Morning No Drop Fat Bike Ride. 

While it wasn't quite 60° at 9 a.m. when we left Cycle Works it was one of those temps that are hard to dress for, too little and you'll likely be cold for half the ride, too much and you're too hot. Because of this we only made it to the beginning of the MoPac trail before the layers started to get stripped off and stowed in pack or pocket.

Given all of the ride options that were available on Saturday morning, I saw at least 4-5 on Facebook alone, I was super excited that there was a group of nine of us for the SMBDFBR. The plan was to ride out on the MoPac to 120th and then hit the gravel for 40+ miles. 

Walton Nebraska Co-Op. I still remember when I first moved to Nebraska in 1994 and was just getting back into cycling, Walton seemed so very far away... still miss the now defunct Walton Trail Company, was always a welcomed oasis after a few miles of dusty, grasshopper covered, crushed limestone trail on the way out and also a nice place to stop if you had opted for some serious miles and were on the way back into Lincoln. It's hard to believe it's been gone almost 10 years now. 

Walton was also the site of the first mechanical on the day, Brent broke a spoke on his front wheel but luckily it was a quick fix, using a multi-tool a quick snip of the spoke so that it could be pulled out of the hub and we were pushing on once again.

The fat bikes only numbered 3 on this ride, as is likely to happen as the weather gets nicer, so the three of us got used to this view during the ride. Those with svleter tires and swifter speeds pulled away after the re-groups, in Fairy Tales slow and stead wins the race... on group rides slow and steady doesn't necessarily "win" but it does keep you out of the bigger dust clouds of the pebble peloton. 

Not to mention, what we lacked in speed we more than made up for in both comfort and style points. 

In an impromptu straw pole (get it, cows... hay, straw...) 99 out of 100 cows prefer seeing fat bikes on gravel over cross bikes or mountain bikes. If any barn yard animal understands what it's like being linked with the word fat it's the lowly bovine, kindred spirits man, kindred spirits. 

All was smooth sailing after the Walton spoke incident until we got to Bennett Road, when I was planning the route I had hoped the short MMR stretch would be dry and for the most part it actually was.


The first quarter mile was dry, good, solid Nebraska dirt but as good as it was the last 200 yards was equally bad, hike a bike time. 


Jamie was a little braver than most of the rest of us and tried to ride the entire distance, the mud won on this day. Having had a similar experience on a MMR a few months ago I could definitely relate to how difficult it is to get the clay like mud off the bike, sometimes you just have to ride it off. This would be our second and last mechanical issue, the mud kept derailing the chain until we got it clean enough that it wouldn't skip off the front chain ring.

Even 8+ miles later as we rolled into Roca a lot of the mud was still trying to hang on, luckily all of the moving parts were pretty much clear. 


Unfortunately we arrived at the Roca Tavern about 20 minutes before it opened dashing anyone's hopes of a frosty cold one, so it was just a brief rest stop and some water refilling before pushing on. If you haven't been out to Roca lately the tavern has an organized ride that goes out there on Wednesdays and there is almost always a water jug/cooler attached to the outside of the building if you need to refill your bottles.


The original plan on paper when rolling out of Roca was to take 25th St. to Bennett Road and then out to S.W. 1st but after the mud earlier on Bennett Road we opted to skip any more MMR fun and just ride up 25th to Satillo and stop at the Shoemaker's gas station for something a little more refreshing than water. We even made a new friend in the parking lot, sweet dog and didn't even seem too mind all that much that he was stuck wearing the cone of shame. 


In the age of cell phones you don't see many of these around any more...


While it seemed in pretty good shape it had a decent layer of dust and grime on it, if E.T. has been calling home lately, he sure hasn't been using this particular pay phone. 


As I mentioned earlier it was a beautiful day... how nice of a day was it really? It was such a nice day that you just wanted to drive your already spotless Camaro through the car wash a second time just for the heck of it. Looking at the forecast there are days and days of sun shine and warmer temps in store for us, I for one would be perfectly okay if we had seen the last of the white stuff for the season.