Friday, September 25, 2015


I took a birthday trip up to Copper Harbor, seemingly the end of the Earth. People asked why I would go there to celebrate my birthday. Well..
To sleep under the stars and hear the world.

To listen to the water and watch the clouds march across the sky.

To sit and think without distractions.

To spend time with my best friend looking for adventure.

In other words: to be myself.


I Got Fat

While living in Ann Arbor I got hooked on biking. It's where I developed my passion for bike commuting, gravel riding, and mountain biking. However, the one type of biking that I never got into down there, due partly to a lack of riding space, was the fat bike. Oh, how I wanted to buy one to bound around on the single track in the summer and float through the snow in the Winter, but the chance just never came. Even when we would get a "bad" snow Hunter and I still took the crossbikes out on gravel roads.

Cut to 2015: we are in Marquette and after living through half a winter without being able to ride my bike it was time to solve that problem. Finally I had a real reason to pick up a fat bike.

After much consideration, of which budget is always pinnacle, I decided to try a bikes direct bike. I had read some horror stories written by people with super high expectations and no apparent ability to adjust their own bikes. There was a thread on MTBR and an article on PinkBike that really changed my mind. The article spoke highly of one of the "higher-end" fat bikes from bikes direct. More researching and poking around led me to cross my fingers and order the Motobecane Sturgis Bullet. It came with a Rock Shox Bluto and 2x10 drivetrain as nice little shiny additions. But what really sealed the deal was the Kinesis-built frame, through-axles, and Nova-tec hubs. I'm not claiming that these parts are top of the line, but they are far better than the components found on most of the bikes in the other tiers on bikes direct.

The bike shipped to my door, free of charge, in about 6 days. I tore out of work to unbox it as soon as it arrived. It came mostly assembled, however, I took the time to adjust, tighten, and properly lubricate all of the parts. (Take care of your things)

Once it was set up I took it for a shakedown spin on Marquette's South Trails of the NTN (Part of the Noque). The road getting to the trail shook my confidence a bit because the bike handled like a big fat cow compared to the cyclecross bike that I have been used to riding. I put 10 miles of twisty single-track consisting of deep berms, punchy climbs, and a few descents. I was impressed at how nimble this big cow is on the trail. I have put about 400 miles on it so far this Summer and I am very happy with the purchase.
My Fatty on one of the overlooks on the South Trails.

The welds are smooth and appear to be holding up to my abuse. All of the other components are functioning well as expected. I will be dedicating a future post to the Bluto fork. I am not ready to write about it yet because I have never ridden a fat bike without a suspension fork. That being said, the bike handles noticeably better on the descents and berms when the fork is not locked. I will be purchasing a rigid fork soon to compare the two.

The long-term forecast calls for the first measurable snowfall on October 11th. While I am quite doubtful of that date, I am nonetheless looking forward to snow. (I even bought a new kit to deal with the temps UP here).

Fatty readying herself for Down Dogger. It's a blast on this thing although it would probably be a lot more fun on a full-squish bike.

I watched the new Jurassic World movie and then took the bike out... this happened.

Border Grill delivery machine.

As you can see from the pictures I have some cheap flats on it right now. Upgrading those is a priority right now, looking for some flats that will also work for winter. I also plan on shortening the stem, upgrading the BB and cranks, and putting in some lightweight tubes. I will update on performance and durability as time progresses. For now, it's fun, it was affordable, and it is getting me outside more often and after all, isn't that why we ride bikes? Bike snobs need not reply.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Heritage Trail

I've signed up for the Iron Range Roll, a point to point fun race from Ishpeming to Marquette. It's my first sanctioned race of any kind. From what I have read, the race is all down hill; sixteen miles downhill. In preparation I have been riding it backwards (uphill) and then blasting the whole way back home.


 There will be no time to take pics like this during the race. I wonder if there are fish in there....

So much rock. Rock everywhere. I kinda wanna hit this on race day.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


While out riding tonight I was listening to TED Radio Hour. The theme was happiness: what it means; how to achieve it; and the science behind it. All of the speakers made insightful points. However, Monk, David Steindl-Rast made the biggest impression on me. He posited that we cannot and should not strive to be happy, rather we should strive to be grateful for for each and every moment and opportunity. (Hear David's talk here: David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take To Be Grateful? Thank you NPR).

That sentiment really resonated with me.

Be grateful for everything and every moment. Your gratefulness will birth happiness.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

I've found my human nature

When I was a Troll I regularly peeped Aaron Peterson's social media outlets. He does most of the Marquette area tourism work. His work also regularly makes its way into many of the magazines that find their way onto my coffee table. (

Seeing the UP through his lens pacified my desire for the serenity and adventure that is found up here. His newest piece, an ode to John Voelker's Testament of a Fisherman, is called "Testify." Testify brings all of the feels to me. I have watched it over and over since it came out in late April. It brings me to the water no matter where I am. Watching Testify will no doubt bring the delightfully musty smell of a riverbank and the smell of "Off" and sweat to mind. Peterson totally nails it.



Stripping for Lake Pike

The pike and walleye season opened up in the Upper Peninsula on Friday. I have been waiting for this season to open up since moving here. I have been reading old fishing reports and talking to locals every chance I get in order to hone in on a perfect spot to enter the season. Last weekend I prepped for this quasi-holiday by tying up some fist-sized fur fish. 

While in Traverse City I picked up some materials from The Northern Angler. The Northern Angler has an honest staff and a great selection; one of my favorite fly shops anywhere. They had 99% of what I needed, the rest I got from Orvis Streamside down the street.

When I woke up this morning fog was rolling in from Superior and the forecast called for an overcast morning with possible light showers. I strapped on the kayaks and we headed to the lake. 

The first hour brought much stripping and not a single fish. I was pretty discouraged; maybe I had the wrong bug, maybe the fish weren't hungry, maybe maybe maybe... The wind was also a dampening factor.

In an attempt to get out of the wind for a bit we holed up on the leeward side of rocky island. Seeing the remnants of last year's weeds and reeds I drew out some line. I found a beaver dam and cast toward some of the surrounding riprap and litter. The fourth or fifth strip following a rather ungraceful presentation resulted in a solid tug on the line. I set the hook and the little hammer-handle was ready to play.

I thought for sure this juvenile esox was a loner and that his bigger brothers would be in the deeper basins. Luckily, I was very very wrong. 

Chelsea loves pointing out my ridiculous hook up face. Priceless.

Kraken boils...

Up to this point I have not truly understood the need for a Boga Grip, however, after several close calls I definitely need.

Here's a nice thrash shot from one of the bigger pikes. He came up to the boat a few times and then dove back down. I need to rethink my GoPro POV for the kayak. I am thinking about engineering some sort of third-person style above boat view. Any ideas or plans would be greatly appreciated. I am not against making alterations to my deck to achieve a proper POV.

Yesterday I read the short piece in The Flyfish Journal about pike on the fly. That piece really resonated with me. The name of the author is escaping me at the moment, but he wrote very passionately about sight-fishing pike. I read the intro to Chelsea aloud. He described the intense rush of seeing the golden underside of their throat flash as they swipe at your fly. I have been the disappointed witness to that scene dozens of times. 

Running across that piece tomorrow was the perfect way to introduce Chelsea to the world of apex northwoods predators on the fly. After several fish, I switched bugs and put on one made from Icelandic sheep and craft fur; a pretty neutrally buoyant fly. I kept my strips short and fast. He was swimming about 10 inches below the water when we both saw the lightening-fast swipe and roll. I paused between quick strips and the fish again came out of nowhere and took the fly hard. (Check out this video for an awesome slo-mo pike strike on "Mike the Pike" lure: 11100306_862351750503543_599885733_n.mp4 )

I brought several 30" fish into the boat. Definitely the biggest pike that I have ever caught, but nowhere near trophy fish. Guess I will have to keep trying. 

The fog continued to sit on the lake as we paddled back to the launch.

We are very fortunate to live here, this is God's Country: what a wonderful place to spend a Sunday morning.

Next weekend: more teeth, bigger teeth, longer fights, more smiles and paddling.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Winter's Worth of Cross Country Skiing

The snow has only been gone for a few weeks, but I already miss it. I always get this feeling; Spring's coming doesn't fill me with the same sense of rebirth that others get. The ability to move around more easily is appreciated, however I don't long for the death of snow, never have.

This year Winter was much more pleasant than the past 4. Over the past few years I got into riding my commuter and cyclocross bike as much as possible. The weather patterns in South Eastern Michigan make it fairly easy to run semi-skinny tires year round. Our first week in Marquette I quickly found out that my semi-skinny tires wouldn't cut it up here. It works just fine to run down to the co-op for groceries but taking it anywhere that's not plowed or well-traversed is a poor idea. Next Winter I will have a fat bike and things will be a little different.

Luckily, Marquette has so many snowy-weather activities to make up for my lack of winter biking. In the late Fall I got Chelsea into cross-country skiing.

She isn't interested in going downhill and I am fine with that. We like to be able to get out away from people and quietly enjoy nature so xc skiing works really well for both of us. We picked up some wider touring-style models. The extra width is no bueno on groomed trails and track which is totally fine because we usually go places where we have to break the first tracks. 

So much solitude: miles of trails along the southern shore of Superior in Marquette County. So many areas that are difficult to access when the ground is bare open wide up when the snow comes. The woods are a blank canvass for you to write your story. Get out of your chair and do it.

Nice use of the ski pole bipod.

She's all smiles at Presque Isle. (Her first day on her new skis)

Chelsea loves breaking trail. I took her on one semi-groomed trail one time and she quickly determined that it was not her cup of tea.

My little fatties. The Marquette Backcountry skis are hybrid snowshoe-like contraptions that really allowed me to go almost anywhere this winter. Next year they are going to get some serious use! (They will also be getting a binding upgrade. More on that later)

Skiing during a blizzard.

More Marquette Backcountry skiing on a bluebird February afternoon. We were blessed with quite a few of these days.

When you live in an area that has so many months of Winter you need to either be super stoic and not say anything or get outside and enjoy each and every flake. We choose to do the latter. Next Winter I will be much more diligent posting daily trip reports complete with stories. This year we were all about getting out there and exploring.

If you are a Marquette or UP native and you have some secret spots that you would be willing to share please get a hold of me, I am always looking for new places.