Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bonus Christmas Ride

I trust the trickle of blog perusers are enjoying their Christmas break. I am. Had another chance to ride or ski this morning before Christmas celebrations with my wife's side. They are pretty laid back. I packed bike and headed out to Hamilton, Michigan with the family. My in-laws still live next door to the house Cathy and I built out in the middle of nowhere. I figured after yesterday's rain and deep overnight freeze, any XC skiing was out of the question. Roads were thick with black ice. Nothing studded tires can't handle. It looked like I'd be riding icy back roads.

Sometimes seemingly bad conditions stack up in your favor. A few miles from the house, I was in the Allegan State Forest on a rutted, totally icy gravel road. Conditions were a little too dicy to hold a steady tempo pace. Then I noticed a snowmobile trail crossing. Could it be set up enough already to support knobby tires? I checked it out.

Amazingly, things were crunchy but completely set up. Tempo pace effort netted 8-10mph most of the time. This was perfect. After riding fire road and ATV trail through the woods for a few miles, I popped out in a corn field. The marked snowmobile route continued across the vast openness. Even though the trail fanned out to 20-30ft wide in places, it was still packed enough to support me. I rode for another 10+ miles in open farm land, at times not able to see any houses in the gentle rolling terrain. I spent the first 34 years of my life living in this county, and now I was seeing places I never saw before. This was just too cool. After a while I had no idea where I was. How often can you mountain bike through expansive corn fields with horizon to horizon views? Wish I had packed the camera.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and I had to start heading back. I bet there are hundreds of miles of marked, rideable snowmobile trails here. I suspect after the heavy rains Friday and Saturday, I'll have another opportunity to explore this network when it freezes again.

I encountered a few small groups of snowmobilers on the trail. I got some interesting looks, and they were all cordial. I bet not many folks ride out here in redneckville during winter. The lighting was very flat with overcast. Often I could not see the ruts created by the snow machines. Nearly took a header a couple times. I saw on the news that so far this month, west Michigan has received less than 8hrs of sunlight. That's the Michigan I remember. The big lake is responsible for this. I had hoped to ride the beach this morning, but webcams showed the shoreline is already piled high with ice.

Friday was supposed to be a sledding day with the kids. Forecast looks bleak with rain starting Friday morning, going up to high of 57 and more than an inch of rain on Saturday. There are already flood warnings in places. Bowling is our backup plan. I'm confident once this weather moves through, I'll be covered one way or another. There may be some snow on the back side of the system up north and I could ski. It will get cold again, and that should make the snow machine trails rock hard and a hoot to ride. And of course, the roads will probably be ok after they drain. Multi-discipline combined with flexibility has considerable value. Riding and skiing complement each other beautifully.

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