The Outside.
 

Welcome to The Journal

The Journal is the space to Go Out and Play with Wild Rock

 
 
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I was walking with my head down when the dirt ended. It was raining. Not torrential, soaking rain, but the kind of rain that’s more like wet air; constant, light, and misty. Impenetrable. Cold. Eight degrees is lovely in the sun, or even just when your clothes are dry, but wet it feels like your bones are frozen.

I stopped when the footpath led directly into the ice. Under my feet was orange sand scattered with chunks of obsidian while ahead of me blue ice topped with a few inches of snow ran perpendicular to the path I walked.  It seemed to go on forever.

The map had warned me that the path crossed a little finger of the glacier, but what had looked small under my pen looked insurmountable in real life. Everything had looked smaller on the map. The scale couldn't be comprehended from a folded piece of topographic paper. The only small thing in this place turned out to be me and I found myself slapped in the face with my lack of experience.

I was a total hack job.

As it turns out, filling a backpack with camping gear and dehydrated food then flying to a frigid, treeless country to hike its backcountry does not make you ready for it. I guess that’s partly what I went for; to be confronted with this moment of raw insecurity; to figure my way out of whatever mess I got into so that I’d feel more capable in other parts of my life. So there I was, standing in my Gore-Tex leather boots with my Osprey pack filled to the brim with all the right things, not knowing how to move forward. I was freezing my ass off.

 

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If I couldn’t find the path on the ice, what was I going to do? This question pressed uncomfortably at my mind but at least it was a distraction from my blistered, swollen feet. In this moment I knew that I was facing six or seven more days of this pain; of this indecision. I begrudged every gram of weight in my pack.

This was hypothetically only two kilometers from the camp I was aiming for, but it would be a lot further if a glacial excursion left me lost in Icelandic backcountry.

How will you feel if you walk all the way back?

Good point, me, but how will I feel if I get lost and die of hypothermia?

Pretty stupid.

Whose idea was this?

As I stepped onto the ice, my internal voices continued to argue, and I kept walking. I could pick out some footprints here, or a shallow depression there, and once in a while even a gloriously tall wooden trail marker in the snow. It turned out I didn’t need orienteering mastery.

A few hundred meters in, I looked back. The air was like a blanket of water and I couldn’t see past the snow through the fog.  Walking through a sea of frosted grey and white while the ground faded into the air where they met was a wild sensation. 360 degrees of wet nothing.

I have never felt so alone or, frankly, been so alone. 

So I cried. Obviously.

I released the straps on my bag and dropped it into the snow and just stood there crying. Don’t get me wrong; this was at a time in my life when I had a few things to cry about. But this wasn’t entirely about those things. It was more a kind of emptying.

Because The Outside lets you do that: feel whatever you want and stand there pouring it out with no humans around to react. The Outside is utterly indifferent.

To call it indifferent sounds negative, but indifference does two things: it forces us to take total, sole responsibility for what we feel, and at the same time allows us to feel anything. We don’t have to justify it out there.

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At home this time of year, light fades, temperatures drop, and fatigue and sadness creep in. I don’t want to go outside. Hiking, climbing, and riding my bike all sound less appealing than eating, reading, and watching movies.

So I do them for the indifference. I do them so that I’m outside where I have to, and get to feel what I’m feeling – illogical or unreasonable as those feelings seem.

Then I go home and tell myself to remember how good I feel so that I can talk myself into it again tomorrow.

On that particular walk, home wasn’t in the cards. The only card I had to play was that of forward movement; the next camp; my tent. The sun came out for about 6 hours that week. Nothing dried and there was nowhere to hang it anyway. I had blisters on 6 toes and one of my nails came out, but I didn’t get swept away in any of the glacial rivers.

That hike was filled with more beauty and more physical misery than any week since. It sucked. Seriously.

 But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wish that special kind of misery on all of the people I love because of how much it made me - and let me - feel.

I wish it on you.

[T]

 

 

Tori is our resident adventurer here at Wild Rock. From Icelandic adventures to climbing in deserts to weekends spent in hammocks. Live vicariously through her in The Journal!

 
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Why We Love Gravel.
 

WHY WE LOVE GRAVEL

The Journal is the space to Go Out and Play with Wild Rock

 
 Kieran. Gravel. A match made in Groad Heaven.

Kieran. Gravel. A match made in Groad Heaven.

Gravel, Hardpack, Dirt, Chip Seal, Rail Trail, Groad- whatever you want to call it - riding a bike off the pavement opens you up to a whole new world of that many never thought was a  possible on a bike. Riding gravel has been a long-time favourite of ours here at Wild Rock - here is why we love it so much.

 

Quiet Roads

The reality of cycling for many of us means we are competing for real estate with cars, trucks, buses, scooters - a world of mechanized monsters that can be downright scary at times. The beauty of venturing off the beaten path of our tried and true paved routes is that quite often the vehicle traffic (save for some farm equipment) is much lower. Part of the fun of many gravel rides is actually counting the number of cars you see. I doubt it will hit double digits.

 

More Adventure

Typically we ride the routes we know and are comfortable with. But often this leads to rides becoming, well a bit stagnant (how many trips have you made up River Road?). As soon as you point your wheels down a dirt road that sense of adventure stirs up inside you. There is something just plain fun about riding a bike on gravel, and we love the break from those sometimes monotonous rides and routes we have hammered along too many times. Gravel roads open you up to new rides, great views, and quite often destinations you didn't even know existed.

 

Better Rewards

This one isn't backed by any measure of science. Gravel riding offers some pretty unique challenges, sometimes those hills are a little bit tougher, you need to pay more attention to the road that lies ahead, and it takes a little bit more umph to turn those pedals. Hey, that's all part of what we love about it. At the end of a good gravel ride that cold can of Coke, double scoop of Kawartha Dairy ice cream, or the pint of Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion is just a little bit better. No science, but I will let you make your own conclusion on this one.

 

Really Good Stories

Looking to jazz up your Instagram feed? Need better stories for Monday mornings at the office? Well how about riding your road bike on dirt - "that's crazy!", "you did what?!?", "there was a porcupine?!?" - see you can thank gravel riding for that. The road less travelled has always told a better tale, why not write a new story on what you can do on a bike. We love gravel and hope you take the leap and give it a go, or if you happen to be a regular gravel grinder - ride it more and bring a friend.

 

Check back for more as Gravel Week continues at Wild Rock. Be sure to check out our Gravel Bike Sale. See ya on the dirt! [J]

 
 Absolute Perfection.

Absolute Perfection.

 

Jamie is our Athletic Department Manager, trend seeker, and digital dude. He is always up for talking about the latest gear, proper sock height, and Trappist beers from Belgium. He also loves drifting his gravel bike on loose corners.

 
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The Grass is all Green.
 

When it Gets Tough, Well.....

The Journal is the space to Go Out and Play with Wild Rock

 
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This time it was decisive.  What remained of the lead group at Almanzo 100 was rolling away from me and though I was calling out for more cowbell my legs were just not responding.  And so, I was on my own. 

This was not the first time that I had been dropped by this group.  Oh no, not the first, but it would prove to be the last.  I was on my onesie and it was going to be like that for many miles to come. 

Now the funny thing is, I like people.  Really, I do.  I even like riding bikes with them.  But the Almanzo is kind of a race and I guess I have a “thing” about racing.  This “thing” told me to keep putting pressure on my pedals …as much pressure as I could muster for as long as I could muster it.  And so, I kept pedaling.

Somewhere behind me people were having more fun than me.  Although I knew that with absolute certainty, I kept pedaling.  Deep gravel, relentless kicker climbs, headwinds, crosswinds …but never, seemingly, a tailwind.  Although I was starting to come unraveled I also started to see things in a different way than I might have done in a group.  Filtered through a haze of effort I actually saw the huge skies, the narrow river valleys, the woman shoveling shit with her three-legged dog by her side and even the plumes of dust rising from unseen roads off in the distance.  By the time another rider caught up to me I had been on my own for almost 50 miles.  By the time another caught up to me I think I had come to some to an understanding of what the Almanzo is really all about.

 

 

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I often find myself questioning my decisions; wondering why my competitive instinct kicks in (which, by the way, it does exclusively on a bike).  Maybe it would have been better if I had just sat up and waited for some of the truly fantastic people who I knew were just behind me, for example.  Maybe I should have just put on a baggy jersey and not started in the front row.  Maybe, maybe, maybe …maybe the grass would have been greener on the other side.

We all have different stories.  Some of us came to Minnesota to ride, some of us to race, and some of us just to be with friends.  Riding bikes …no, not just riding bikes, but believing deeply about the importance of riding bikes, is the thing that binds us together.   That and taking the road less traveled.  The road less traveled has led me to the best experiences of my life. This time it led me to Spring Valley for the Almanzo 100 and for that I am thankful.  The (gravel) road less traveled helped me come to the simple realization that grass is green and that the best road is the road you are riding right now.

[K]

 

 

Kieran is one of our co-pilots here at Wild Rock. In addition to being super fast on a bike, Kieran is an encyclopedia on all things that get your endorphins pumping. You can access this info by bringing him an Americano.

 
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Daycations. Yep that's Right, Daycations.
 

Making the most of it.

The Journal is the space to Go Out and Play with Wild Rock

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I spend quite a bit of time guiding cycling trips in Europe.  As our clients are on holiday, the days there have a flow.  A casual start time is typically followed by a leisurely coffee stop.  A few more km’s usually signals time for a nice lunch followed by a couple more hours on the bike.  More often than not rides finish up at the hotel bar before we all get cleaned up for dinner. 

Then we come back to our beloved hometown and fall into the pattern of squeezing rides into the few hours we can carve out of our busy days.  This habit drives my lovely partner crazy so a few years ago we committed to taking our European holiday theme and living it out as well as we can here at home.  These all-day rides are about embracing and truly experiencing what is close to home rather than taking it for granted. 

So, this is the first of our …I don’t have a name yet …maybe we can call them Cycling Daycations. 

Plan to start your morning at the Silver Bean Café overlooking the Otonabee River in the heart of town.  You may be tempted to eat more but I would suggest a coffee and a scone or muffin, which are both delicious, as you can expect 2nd breakfast just up the road in Lakefield. 

Going north my suggested route detours off River Road to take in one of my favourite little gravel roads in the whole county.  Short and sweet, Hickey Rd is well worth the few extra minutes as it really has a timeless beauty to it.  Besides, you might need to build up a little more appetite before stopping in at the Nutty Bean in Lakefield for a classic Café Breakfast. 

With a full belly, take the back way out of Lakefield on your way up to the Lantern Grill on Stoney Lake.  A light lunch up on the terrace is a fantastic way to get yourselves into a cottage country frame of mind.  If you are not feeling up to lunch just yet then the bakery downstairs is the place to grab a drink and some baked goodness. 

 

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The way home takes riders through Warsaw and Douro on the way back to Peterborough.  More importantly, the ride finishes up rolling right past the Ashburnham Alehouse.  These folks know a thing or two putting great food and drink in front of hungry cyclists.  So, if it is early doing yourself a favour and stop by for a drink.  If, however, you have spent this day the way Dee and I did you will be rolling by close enough to dinner time that you can justify sitting down to another meal. 

The ride is “only 80km” but if you do this right it will take you all day.  Trust me, you will thank me for this advice! [K]

 

 

Kieran is one of our co-pilots here at Wild Rock. In addition to being super fast on a bike, Kieran is an encyclopedia on all things that get your endorphins pumping. You can access this info by bringing him an Americano.