Monday, January 10, 2011

Bike packing failure.

Saturday I set off on an adventure this last Saturday by myself. Bike 4 hours, camp, bike back. The high temp looked to be just barely above 0 degrees, the low said to be -8. Most would say, "Charly you crazy gringo, why would you do that"? My motivation is several fold. One, I just like to push my experiences to the next level. This is how I got into endurance races, then freaky cold endurance races. Two, I would be lying if I didn't say this guy is a motivation as to what is possible. Three, I am dumb. Four, no one else could come or just plain would not come.

I would ride my fully loaded 9:ZERO:7. I packed everything I planned on for Arrowhead, plus a trunk rack with additional food and water. On the front of my bike was my new Santa brought -20 degree bag, prototype bivy, and sleeping pad. My homemade frame bag (thanks Mom for the help!) held my stove, fuel, wind pants, wind top, and thermal hoodie. The handlebar bag held variations of headgear, another thermal hoodie, wool gloves, and a map. Pogies would hold 5 flasks of gel that hold well from freezing(about 2000 calories), a large amount of Mike and Ikes (about 1200 calories), large PB cups (about 1200 calories), and overmitts. Inside the the seat bag was a tube, 3000 calories of peanut butter, and multi tool. And lastly the trunk held an insulated Nalgene, a bag of muffins, bag of turkey sausage, my wallet, keys, and heat packs. In my camelback I would carry 100 ounces of water and 50 ounces of energy drink (2,000 calories). My friend Juicy Peach had offered me his phone number several times in case of emergency. My Dad said the same, but reminded me he had to work at 4am. Becky would also help if needed, but with out child sleeping, it was not an ideal call to make.

Packed up, ready to go. Arrowhead will see a little different packing.

It was about 2 degrees for my departure. The planned stop was Rice Lake State Park near Owatonna; straight East. Within 5 minutes of hitting the trail I longed for more air pressure in the front. A quick stop revealed a nonworking pump and a tire that lost even more air from attaching the pump. Some disassembly/reassembly and all was good and I was moving forward again. The body felt fine, the legs felt very sluggish. There was just a sliver of a moon out, not a snowmobile in sight, and bright brilliant stars. The steep pitches and woods out to Oxbow were soon replaced with a trail that crossed field after field. Thankfully there was no wind, and my light can only travel so far so that I did not have to dwell on the fact I was simply riding through corn fields. The trail itself had a very hard base, but about an inch of snow we had received the past few days had been drifting on the trail, chewed up by the sleds, and then partially hardened. Only the tops of hills exposed the base and created a fast surface. This made the going slower than expected.

Only 15 minutes in and the frost is prevalent.

It was 12:30 and I was just short of my State Park, but I promised the wife I would call before 1am from inside the sleeping bag. A small band of trees with a 2 foot high drift was to be my shelter. The bag, bivy, and pad were quickly and efficiently set out. Water and food was placed in the bag. I hopped in, removed my outer layer and camelback, and called the wife to let her know I was fine. All that was left was to zip up the rest of the bag, eat, and sleep.

First off there was something going on with the bivy that I couldn't tell because of the dark and my vision was limited from my bag. I would find out later that the bivy seam had completely come undone and was now almost useless. Second the zipper was being really stubborn with only a foot left to zip. I tried this and that until finally the whole mechanism broke off. Yep, broke off. That meant my zipper opened to the cold fully down to my knees, at 12:45am, in sub zero temps, after a 4 hour slog through the snow. I would try to wrap myself up as much as possible, but bags like that are meant to be sealed together, not overlap, so the extra material was just not there. In the freezing cold, I tried several different positions and strategies to no avail. In my efforts I would lost focus on calorie replenishing. After an hour I decided that I could no longer freeze in the dark and I needed to figure out a plan B. Plan B did not include a call for help because I could still survive without having to wake others from their slumber.

Quickly I jumped out, threw on a thermal hoodie and reached for my outer jacket. Despite my efforts to keep it warm in the bag, my jacket was now a sweaty frozen solid pile of mess. So to would be my camelback hoses, also located in my sleeping bag. Note, I was in this same sleeping bag, suffering the same temps. So on went another thermal hoodie and my wind jacket and a packing I went. Quickly, I was pushing the bike back to the snowmobile trail not 100% on my plan just knowing I needed to be on the move. With only about 20 ounces of unfrozen water left I scrapped the idea of riding back, surely taking longer than the original 4 hours. The glow of Dodge Center could be seen about 5 miles South, so I headed in that direction to search for a gas station or bar to regroup at.

The lights from the Kwik Trip awning that covers the pumps is what I saw first when riding in. My ride had been slow, very slow. Although I was satisfactorily warm at this point, I was very tired and calorie deficient. I was glad to see sanctuary, but at the same time I was mentally prepared for the chance that I would have to ride back to Rochester unaided. Use to seeing weirdos at this time of night, the gas station attendant hardly gave me a second glance. It was 2:45 in them morning and I was laying out my frozen gear to thaw inside his store.

I was still determined to not wake up any of my bailouts. I started eating and drinking to get the recovery in high gear. After 15 minutes my body went into shut down mode. Lack of sleep, lack of calories, and exposure to cold had taken its toll. It was now 3am, and I realized my Dad was waking up for work. If not for this I would have slept/suffered in that Kwik Trip until needed and figured out my status later. But, my Dad was up and willing to bail me out, THANKS DAD!!

So my bike packing trip did not go as planned. Eventually I would like to try longer trips and wanted to start with smaller stuff like this. I found some stuff that does not work, stuff that does. Had the sleeping bag zipper not broken I am confident the end to this story would have been different. I will make adjustments as needed and surly my adventure at the Slurpee Summit this coming weekend will go better. What is the Slurpee Summit you ask? Just simply a similar adventure with friends in a much cooler location. Others are welcome to join, but requirements include proper gear and proper mental fortitude. The Summit is meant to create peace between the DBD and the XRC.

So how was your Saturday night?

BTW

10 comments:

rideonpurpose said...

thanks for posting this- good insight etc. into what can go wrong etc.

Anonymous said...

HUH? You mean you ARE human!?!?! Glad it was just an Owatonna trial run and not in the middle of BFE.

BobBlogBob said...

That is why I don't want to ride anywhere too far from a Kwik Trip. I also always said if I can't go to sleep some place comfortable... it isn't an event for me.

Brian D said...

I am going to do some bikepacking ... in the spring and summer! Doing it in the winter is crazy talk.

Good thing you didn't have any like minded people with you this time, or you might have had to have an awkward conversation with your wife as to why you were in a sleeping bag with another man...

Charly Tri said...

Drew- Yup.

Anonymous- Not sure where you got I was some kind of cyborg. My route was specifically made to keep towns and cell towers near by. Also, to further prove I am human I had to google search BFE.

Bob- Kwik Trip is great, and you are a wuss, but I ma not saying anything you didn't already know. Oh, and I miss you.

Brian D- I don't get it, why are you so homophobic. I bet you hate our president because of the color of his skin. You people sicken me. We are all human beings. If you prick us, do we not bleed? If a guy kisses us do we not kiss back? Wait, wait, scratch that last question.

BobBlogBob said...

You make me so HOT when you talk like that! I think I would have sat down at KT and asked to eat their birthday cake they have on display. Miss you more!!

J-No said...

This is not Charly's first overnight adventure. His first trip out to Eastwood he stayed out all night.

reverend dick said...

So wrong. I understand the impulse, especially if you get to snuggle up to sweaty fellows and hang out in bars/convenience stores...it's just nicer to do it when it's warm.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Very instructive. My favorite way to gain experience is through other people's mistakes. Remember, it's never an adventure until something goes wrong.

And since you asked, that particular Saturday night was spent snug in my bed after a very successful bike swap and some sweet lake riding on the Ruby Red Fatbike. Sounds like not nearly as much fun as yours.

Ben F said...

Thanks for the insight. I enjoyed the story and laughs. nice...

Here is another silly list of things that can go wrong packing wise...

http://www.tourcompanyreviews.com/holiday-tips-top-5---packing-rules-for-travel-plans