Thursday, August 22, 2013

SSUSA '13 - Part I


This is a little late in posting, but I'm on vacation this week, so I've been pre-occupied with doing a lot of nothing productive. And besides, I knew this would turn out to be a long one, so I've been putting it off. Anyway, I figured tonight was perfect, so I'm sitting here with a big bottle of Ommegang Witte and throwing together some thoughts on one of the best biking weekends I've ever had.

The Journey Ain't The Destination

The big difference between this year and last year for SSUSA for me was that I didn't make the trip alone. Joanna made the trip with me this year, and as it turns out she was way more important to the event than I will ever be, but more on that later. We had an early flight on Thursday morning, and since I was checking my bike, we decided it was a good idea to arrive extra early. So we were out the door by 4:00 and reached the airport well before sunrise. Philly Int'l may be the shittiest airport in the country in just about every way imaginable. The lines at check-in and security were both ridiculous (even for 5 a.m.) and Philly's security? Yeah, not so much. (On the way back, when we went through security at Midway, they pulled my backpack for a check and discovered that I had a Leatherman knife/tool in my bag. I had forgotten to take it out after the last time I used the bag for a hike. You'd think a four inch blade would have been something that they noticed on the first security check-in, right? Not in Philly.)

Anyway, we made it through security unscathed and I even saw them loading my bike on the plane from the terminal, so I had every reason to believe that it would be in Chicago at the same time I was! The flight itself was smooth and quick, and even the five hour drive from Chicago to Winona was relatively easy (just a bit of a slow-down on Route 90 in Illinois, where apparently it's acceptable to restrict one lane for construction for over 60 miles ...)

Coming into Chicago ...
We got to Minnesota around around 4:00 or so and checked in to our hotel. My first order of business was to put my bike back together. And, once again, it went without a hitch. I had the whole thing ride-ready in about ten minutes (I'd been worried about how it would go without a stand to work with, but it really wasn't an issue.)

Unloaded, back in one piece and ready to roll ...
After the bike was ready to go, we took a short trip into town to look around - Winona is a pretty cool little town.

Friday, the plan was to get out ride int he morning and then - well, just hang out until the pre-party. Joanna headed into town to check out a few places she'd looked up before we left, and I rode up to the Holzinger Lodge to ride some of the local trails.

The first part of the trail ran along the ridge above the cemetery

Fast and flowy singletrack

Bluff overlooks ...

... on both sides of the ridge.

Around the switchback that would bring us back to the finish ...

Minnesota has some awesome single track ...

The top of the bluff above Holzinger Lodge ...
The verdict? Minnesota is awesome. I rode about 20 miles on Friday morning, and encountered a little bit of everything -- smooth flowy singletrack, fast open double-track, and even some rocky sections that  could easily be mistaken for east coast's best. The ridge views and the twisty tight sections were all pure fun. Yeah, there was a lot of climbing, but that was all good.

I headed back to the hotel with a smile on my face and then just hung out with Joanna and waited for the pre-party at Gabby's.

We headed over to the bar around 6:30 and picked up my registration, and this was when Joanna got involved ...

Earlier in the week, Duff from 29nsngl had posted a request for volunteers and Joanna replied. She mentioned that she was an EMT and they replied immediately -- seems one of the descents we'd be riding was pretty hairy and they liked the idea of stationing someone with some medical training at the bottom. And so, once we go to the bar, Joanna introduced herself and got the scoop on what they had in mind. And just like that, SSUSA was as much Joanna's day as mine, and that was awesome (only one of us, though, was uniquely qualified to be there ... and for the record, I don't mean me.)

The pre-party at Gabby's was fun and laid-back ...
We hung out for a little while and then headed back. And by then, I was sure that whatever else the 29nsngl guys had in store for us the next day, it as going to be a pretty awesome trip.

Up next ... "Race" day!

1 comment:

  1. Yup, that stretch of I90 sucked. That was the longest construction area I've ever seen. Sorry I missed y'all out there. It was crazy

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