Winter arrives with a convincing storm.

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After a weirdly, warm start to November a winter storm roared through the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota on Friday. Areas to the north and west of us received up to 2 feet of snow. In my neighborhood it was about 3 inches of snow. Amazing it even stuck considering we had the latest hard freeze since some time in the the late 1800’s.¬† Our first hard freeze corresponded with this storm. Without the normal freezes the ground isn’t frozen at all. This storm had high winds and lots of blowing snow and plunging temps. It was a very abrupt change. For those of us that love winter, all I can say is, “It’s about time.”

I’m not going to lie that I enjoyed the warm Fall. But I’m ready for winter. I had to go out for a ride and soak it in all. Snow and cold air. Love it!

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A change of scenery.

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Crossing the Richard I. Bong Bridge to Wisconsin.

Well, another crazy warm day for November. I can’t ever remember going for a bike ride in November and not having to wear gloves. The temps should be down near the freezing mark. Not complaining. I’m enjoying it. Snow will come soon enough.

Today I felt like a change of pace from the usual scenery. These days, since I do shorter rides than in the past, I don’t have the route options I had when I rode 40 and 50 milers on the weekends. To mix it up today I rode across the bridge to Wisconsin. I decided to visit the Superior Municipal Forest and ride the gravel road through it. I hadn’t been there since this Spring. Back then the road was closed. It had suffered a lot of damage during the Spring melt. Much of the road was washed away in places. In other places it was muddy and soft or badly eroded. Back then I remember thinking the fatbike would have been a better choice. Today I found the road open. New gravel in many places and nicely graded the entire distance. I only saw three cars while there. I really think it’s a place that even the locals don’t know about.

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I personally find it a bit of a magical place. With it’s old growth trees, waterways and inlets from the St Louis River, and a lack of visitors, it’s a surprise to find a place like this on the edge of a town like Superior, Wisconsin.

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Above is one of my favorite spots. The big old White Pine, the winding road along the inlet, and the hillsides of Minnesota in the distance.

I should visit this forest more often.

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A road to nowhere, with a bike lane, in the Billings Park neighborhood.

As soon as I snapped this picture my phone died. I had been tracking my ride up until this point. Here’s a link to the ride up until the phone died if you were curious where in the world this is.

Yesterday was mostly good.

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Late in the day sunshine on the St. Louis River.

Yesterday I promised myself I’d be productive. I had what felt like a million things on the to-do-list that I’ve been putting off because the weather has been so unseasonably fantastic. Susan and I did a lot of hiking the past two weekends. That was great. This weekend is a catch-up weekend for her class she is taking. It’s a class she needs to take to upgrade her Social Work license. That meant a weekend for me to get caught up on my stuff. I had a mental list. Of course a bike ride at some point in the day was at the top of the list. I got rolling in the morning with some updates to my products on my Salty Pedaler website. Still more to do there. If anyone is curious I added sweatshirts for my winter fatbike themed BICICLE design. I’m offering them in four colors on either a crewneck sweatshirt or a hooded pullover sweatshirt with a pouch pocket. Here’s a look at them:

After working on that I got stuck a bit. That happens to me. I find myself overwhelmed with the size of the to-do-list and end up not be able to get started on anything. It was starting to get late in the day. I started to cross things off my mental list. It finally came down to the bike ride was all I had time for. It was now or never. I almost didn’t get going on that. But I finally snapped out of the rut and convinced myself it would practically be a crime not to take advantage of this nice weather while we have it. The temps are still running 20 degrees above normal. I manged to get out for a 20 mile ride.

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The western end of Skyline Parkway at Magney Snively Park.

I had a nice surprise when I went to ride the gravel stretch of Skyline Parkway. It’s finally closed for winter. It typically closes from November 1st to April 1st. I happened to be out here on Wednesday and it hadn’t closed yet. I was happy to see it closed. It means no car traffic. It was a nice head clearing ride. In store for today is a repeat of yesterday. But hopefully I’ll skip the “getting stuck” part.

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A mid-week urban multi-terrain adventure.

Today it felt like I was waking to a Universe that drastically changed overnight. Yesterday was election day. Today people felt unsure about so many things in our country and the world. Regardless of who you voted for, this is a big gamble on our future together.

For me, I had the day off from my day job. When this happens I work on my eCommerce website I started. Today I was having a hard time focusing. I ended up just turning it all off. The media, I mean. After awhile I was able to calm my thoughts and get some work done.

We are in the middle of one of the warmest Novembers in recorded history. We’re seeing temps 20 and 30 degrees above average. We tied a record high temp last Friday and broke 100 year old records on Saturday and Sunday with 70F/21C degrees both days. Crazy warm for us. Today was all sunshine and 60F/16C degrees. So of course I took the afternoon to get in a bike ride. Today I chose to ride the Pugsley. I have been spotting some more new Duluth mtb trails along the Munger Trail at Mission Creek. My general idea was to head in that direction and check out the trails. The trails are located about 8 miles to the west of where I live. Leaving at 2:30 I thought for sure I’d be home before dark. So I didn’t take any lights. Later in the day I was having so much fun and enjoying the day I barely made it home before dark. Almost 3 hours later.

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It wasn’t intentional, but I realized just before the end of the ride that the route I took only included two miles of paved roads. The first and last mile. I rode 24 miles, 100% within the city limits of Duluth. Twenty-two of those miles was mixed terrain. It included multi-purpose recreational trails, old ATV trails (ATV use is now banned in the city), gravel roads, mtb singletrack trails, an abandoned parkway, abandoned rail corridor, and even a short hike-a-bike through the woods. I estimate I rode 5 miles of new, and new to me, beautiful singletrack trails. I never get lost, but today I was momentarily not sure exactly where I was at one point. That was how remote it felt. Once I left the paved roads in my neighborhood I maybe saw a dozen people at most. This is all within the city of Duluth. I love this place. Here’s a link to the route I took.

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Gravel on western Skyline Parkway.
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The best part about the leaves being gone is the all-day views when riding a ridge.
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Weird, green grass on November 9th.

This is a new section of mtb trails along the old Mission Creek Parkway. They must have put down some seeds for erosion control. It was growing like it was early Spring. This time of year the ground should be starting to freeze up and nothing should be alive. It was weird, weird, weird.

I loved the new Mission Creek trails. For several reasons. There’s lots of flowing “easy” trails. Not a lot of roots or rocks. The other reason is the remote feeling of the area. Mission Creek flows down through a deep ravine that is eroding away. But it’s heavily wooded. The new trails snake up and down through the ravine. It’s really masterful trail building. With the leaves off the trees you can see distant hillsides towering above the ravine. It almost feels like you’re in the mountains. Real mountain biking here in the Midwest.

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All that’s left of the old Mission Creek Parkway in places is this old ATV trail.

I don’t know all the history of the old Parkway. But I believe it was a parkway that ran through the ravine connecting the western end of Skyline Parkway to the Fond du Lac neighborhood. There are still about a half dozen or so deteriorating stone arch bridges along the route. It was at this point when I came across the parkway that I was momentarily turned around in my direction finding. I also was concerned about getting back home without lights before dark. I knew the parkway would take me out. So I left the trails and rode up the old parkway. It required two creeks crossings, but it was warm enough I wasn’t too concerned with getting a foot wet or falling in.

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A short hike-a-bike up to the DWP rail corridor.

After a few miles on the Munger State Trail I decided to bushwack my way up hill to the old abandoned DWP rail corridor. It runs parallel to the Munger and up the hill from it. It has a very cool tunnel cut through Ely’s Peak. I wouldn’t need to go through the tunnel today. I would be going in the opposite direction. Eventually this rail corridor will be improved and paved with crushed rock as part of the massive trail system being put in around Duluth. This is supposed to include the tunnel.

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The DWP rail corridor.
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The DWP rail corridor.
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The DWP rail corridor.
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Train trestle on the DWP rail corridor.

Crossing this train trestle always freaks me out. It crosses over a deep ravine. The cross beams are 3 or 4 inches apart and you can see down to the creek below. They are a bit rough to ride even on a fatbike. So I usually walk my bike over it. I get a bit of vertigo crossing it.

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A view over the edge of the trestle looking down into the ravine.

Not long after you cross the trestle you reach the ski slopes of Spirit Mountain. The DWP crosses right through the ski hills. I had a nice surprise when I reached the east side of the ski resort. More new mountain bikes trails! About one mile of new trail between the ski resort and the zoo. It is absolutely crazy how many miles of beautiful new single track was built this summer alone. A month ago I was casually thinking for the first time in my life I might like to have a mountain bike. Now I think it will happen once I have the money.

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New trails behind the zoo.

What started out as a little afternoon spin on my Pugsley turned into a mini-adventure right in my own backyard. It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off the political overload and stress I’ve been feeling from this election.

What happened when I stopped tracking my miles?

More fun. That’s what happened.

For years I’ve been setting mileage goals and tracking every mile ridden. It started back in 2002 when I sold my truck and decided to get around without a car. At first I walked and rode the bus a lot. I quickly started to add in bicycling into the mix. I had bicycled a lot when I was younger. As my renewed love for cycling took over I started riding more until that’s how I got everywhere not matter what the weather was like. I started tracking my miles out of curiosity. When I rode 3,200 miles in 2003, I set a goal to ride 4,000 in 2004. And so on. Until 2015 I never dropped below 4,000 miles and rode as much as 8,800 miles in 2007. It was a way to motivate myself. It helped with my training for some endurance events I had entered as well.

Some of the down side of riding so many miles was how my relationships took a back seat. Nothing tragic. Susan and I are both independent people that like to have time to ourselves. So I rode my bikes a lot and she did her things. Mainly gardening and her fiber arts.

As I age I’ve noticed a big change in my ability to recover from bicycling, hiking, etc. Physical pursuits, let’s say. In 2014 and 2015 I started to notice my five day a week bicycle commute was physically draining me. My weekend rides were getting shorter and on many weekends I was only biking one of the two days. In 2015 I gave myself permission to not ride when I didn’t feel 100%. It was also the first time in many years I didn’t set a mileage goal for the year. It felt liberating not to be tied to a goal. My rides changed. I felt better on the rides. I took shorter rides, but enjoyed them so much more. I rode 20 miles because that’s what I had the energy for rather then pushing myself to take a little bit longer way to keep my weekly average up.

I took a bigger step in 2016 by making the decision not to keep a cumulative total of miles ridden. It was very difficult to let go of that. The result of this decision? I’ve had one of my most enjoyable years in recent memory on the bike. I also realized how tired I was everyday in past years. I never had fresh legs. I was never at 100%…..or even 80%. My passion for riding hasn’t changed. But the enjoyment I get out of the riding has greatly increased.

The other positive is I’ve been spending more time with friends and with Susan. In the past 9 days Susan and I have been taking advantage of record warmth to do the one thing we do the most together, hiking. We’ve hiked in 6 State Parks in the last 9 days. That would have been¬† many missed miles if I were still keeping track. I’d be pushing myself to make up those missed miles over the rest of the month. And they wouldn’t have been particularly fun miles. I’ve also been taking advantage of the fantastic mountain biking trails being built near my house. A new style of riding for me. Since I’m really slow on a mountain bike, it would hurt my mileage totals if I were keeping track. I may never have explored this type of riding at all if I were concerned about my miles.

Here some pictures from my riding and non-riding pursuits since the last time I posted to this blog: