In the July/August 2013 issue of FFJournal, my first cover story was published.
It’s about the metalwork involved with the Costa Concordia shipwreck salvage.
Click the photo or link here: Salvaging a Shipwreck.
People always ask me how many bikes I have. Right now, it’s the bare minimum I’m supposed to, if I’m keeping score by the Velominati’s “Rules” (see #12). So, three. When I follow that answer with something like, “Well, one of them is my touring bike,” I get all nostalgic and guilty because I haven’t put in the miles on that sucker that I should. I’ve logged a few thousand miles on my Long Haul Trucker, on everything from rando-style road rides to a month-long hump down the Pacific Coast.
But here in Chicago, it’s tough. I’ve taken her down the lakefront to work, hauled an astonishing amount of groceries, and of course, plenty of beer. Sad to say I’ve not had the time to get out of dodge and pitch a tent. In between job, traveling, road races and jam-packed weekends, it hasn’t happened. Being an adult is overrated sometimes.
Yet, there is hope. It’s called the bike overnight. Or out-and-back. Or bike camping. Or my favorite, the Sub 24-hour Tour (S24O). Been telling myself I’d do it all summer, yet somehow I got hung up on my own planning. Before I knew it, August rolled around and I hadn’t put much thought into it. So I just started telling people, “Yeah, I’m doing it this weekend. Overnighter.” Telling people your plans sometimes forces you to realize them.
So, this past weekend, I did it. I rolled out Friday around 3PM with George, setting our sights for Illinois Beach State Park. It’s about 50 miles north of Chicago, as far north as you can get in Illinois before you’re in Wisconsin. It occupies a couple miles of waterfront on Lake Michigan, including beaches, camping and stunning view of a power plant. But it’s doable, and I wanted to be on the lake.
We followed our usual way out of town through Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette and Highland Park. The Skokie Valley Path shot us into Lake Forest, and from there we reeled in the road through Chicago’s far north ‘burbs. Had to bushwhack around some construction in Waukegan, smooth riding besides that. We arrived at camp, but not before a last-mile beer run.
View S24O to Illinois Beach State Park in a larger map. (Tried to get this to embed, but I’m learning the ropes here. Bear with me.)
Packing for an overnight shan’t be complicated. George told me it only took him five minutes to pack. My crap, on the other hand, had to be dug up from a toolbox, bike clothing drawers, basement storage, and a big Tupperware I put random bike stuff in. Gear tends to diffuse when you haven’t used it in years, and moved it around three times.
On both days of riding, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. A couple days before, I called IBSP to reserve a campsite because I figured it’s one of the only places to camp between Chicago and Milwaukee, and it’d be sure to fill up. I was right.
When we arrived, the ladies at the kiosk told us the place was booked. No problem, we whipped out our reservation receipt. But to no avail, they said whoever made the reservation did it wrong and that it was actually booked before we called. I looked at George. The ladies watched the color drain from my face, paused, then burst out laughing—giving us a hard time. Not bad, ladies, not bad. They said we were an easy kill because we rode in on bikes.
The site was close to the water, although it was heard and not seen. There was a good mix of tents, RVs, and those big-ass transformer bus camper things; luckily we didn’t hear any generators kick on. We got some looks as we rolled into camp around 6PM, as if to say—”Look, der, honey. They gots their camping gear on the bike!”—but the couple we met in the site next to us had done the ride up before, too, as well as some other tours. There was a guy in a pickup truck towing a trailer full of firewood, making the rounds for the campground, sort of like the ice cream truck.
I got my tent set up, bereft of one stake.
On whim, I brought along this red MSR sand stake for beach camping. My uncle gave this to me, like, ten years ago for Christmas. Maybe longer. And I’ve never used it, but always liked the idea of having it around for, I don’t know, using it to pierce the heart of a dragon should I ever be attacked in the wilderness. It finally validated its existence among my camping gear. (Thanks, Uncle Bob!):
While setting up my tent, I unfurled what I thought was my sleeping bag. Turns out, it was my Mont Bell down jacket from the winter. I grabbed the wrong stuff sack. My *sleeping bag was hanging in its storage bag at home. I had stuffed the jacket into my Western Mountaineering sack because I lost the Mont Bell one. Whoops. I ended up sleeping with it wrapped around my legs. It was warm enough that I didn’t need much up top. The hoody sufficed:
With camp set up, we took a dip in the lake. There were a handful of others in the water, mostly people shrieking at the temperature. And cold it was. George and I made it a contest of manhood to see how far we could walk in before having to give up and dunk in. Water was probably in the mid 60s, brisk yet refreshing (what do you expect? It’s a melted glacier), not nearly as dirty as the water around Chicago’s beaches. The blinking power plant in the distance wasn’t reassuring, but hey, I felt clean. We took a dip the following morning after coffee:
You know how it is when you camp with a buddy. You work through a 12-pack together, canvass every topic that a campfire conversation is possible of accommodating, blow off steam, laugh about the stressful crap that you just rode away from, stir the flames, and pass out.
The next day, after our swim we broke down camp and rolled out, generally following the same way back except for a detour around Waukegan’s construction, via McAree Road: http://runkeeper.com/user/nwrighteous/route/2472409
We had a light tailwind, and it turns out the route was gradually downhill. So we burned off miles at a steady clip, holding 19-21 mph on the Skokie Valley Path southbound, no problem, thinking we might catch up with our team’s Saturday morning training ride (we didn’t). But not before getting caught by the longest freight train ever:
More reports to follow. Shooting for Starved Rock State Park next.
I’ll leave you with this.Read More
Since I worked at two bike shops, I’ve always been a devoted reader of Drunkcyclist.com.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t advocate (completely) what it sounds like. Rather it captures the tone of sarcasm, irreverence, and skewering of, well, the things that are easy to skewer about cycling culture in a blog. Think Vice, but for cycling. They also talk about beer.
I had to the chance to do some words for them about Barry-Roubaix, a gravel road race in Michigan.Read More
In November, I went to Las Vegas for Fabtech 2012, the biggest metal fabrication tradeshow where you can watch sparks fly.
Took a field trip to visit Rick Dale of Rick’s Restorations, the shop featured on History’s “American Restoration.” I lugged the HD camera with me and shot some video to supplement the September FFJournal cover story on them.
Always a welcome change to dust off the ol’ camera skills and shoot some footage.
h/t to Matt LaFleur for his editing and insight.Read More
Two months into 2012 already, I’m gradually getting back on the writing horse on the side. (And updating the site.) Credit for motivation where it’s due: Monthly Write Club bouts, and fellow writer and compadre Jess Mlinaric, who keeps the wheels turning at Urbnexplorer.com.
Indieball.com posted my review of Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory. There are top-notch music reviews there of groups that might be off your radar, Cloud Nothings’ growing popularity notwithstanding.Read More