I hope you and your families are staying positive during these strange times. Stay safe, be thoughtful, and know we are all in this together.
The 2020 Grumpy Grind Adventure Ride is officially cancelled. The reasons why are obvious. It's simply the responsible and respectful thing to do. As I perceive the mandated shelter rules now being instated in our states and local communities, I feel lucky to know that activities such as cycling are something I can still do. Mind you I will be riding solo, but that isn't a huge stretch for me, being that I'm one of my favorite people to ride with. I say that with a sense of humor, but also with a slight bit of truth. One of my favorite parts of any gravel event is when the larger packs split up and when smaller packs form. And then as a rider of a single speed bike, it is inevitable that I get caught riding solo for long stretches. I enjoy these variances of my riding company, or lack of. It's all part of the experience.
I hope you and your families are staying positive during these strange times. Stay safe, be thoughtful, and know we are all in this together.
It was almost 60 degrees in Sterling today, the warmest it's been since Christmas, and it was a beautiful day for a ride. I actually left the house early while it was still in the 30's so I could hit some gravel roads before they might become sloppy later on. I was shocked by how nice and compact the majority of the roads were. My memories of early gravel rides being so sloppy last spring left me hesitant to even ride gravel yet, but today it was definitely worth my while. The south winds were pretty stiff, but that just goes with the territory of warmer air coming our way in late winter.
For people who wonder why I didn't decide to post my event earlier, like maybe 4 months earlier, I'll just say that I really didn't know if I would host one again. This was partially due to last years ride only being attended by 3 riders (due to crazy bad weather), and also due to a very hectic spring schedule with my kids being involved in weekend sports. So I apologize to those who I couldn't give a straight answer to and kind of strung out with a non-answer.
One of the main things that got me excited about this years ride is the new start/finish venue at Blue Goose Run. It's a pretty cool location in the country that once had a restaurant, a corn maze, and a gift shop. Now it only hosts special events, like weddings and special occasion parties. The owners for some reason found the gravel adventure ride concept interesting and have been extremely accommodating. The facility is certainly off the beaten path (as the Grumpy Grind has been before), but it's well worth the drive. They have even been so kind as to allow riders to camp out the night before on the property for no extra charge. It's great to know there are people in the world who just "get it" and don't necessarily expect something extra for being kind. So far Blue Goose has been a perfect match for this event. And the name Blue Goose sounds cool too!
Participants of the Grumpy Grind typically have the option of purchasing an event t-shirt, and finishers of the event receive a finishers glass or mug. Even though the lousy weather thwarted riders from coming, and resulted in having no finishers, I still pre-acquired a whole lot of merchandise for the participants I anticipated coming.
So what to do with all this "stuff"? Well, after talking with Aaron Smith, one of the riders who did come to this years ride, I came up with an idea. Aaron works at West Town Bikes in Chicago. He works at the shop and also helps with an after school youth program that helps get kids on bikes and do other fun bike related activities. What I would like to do is offer up these items for sale, with all of the funds acquired from the sale going towards helping the youth cycling program he is involved with. You can click on the link for more information about the West Town Bikes Youth Program.
T-shirts are Gildan 100% Cotton.
S-XL available. Unisex sizing.
Color: Ice Grey with black graphics.
Cost: $10 each plus $5 shipping.
(if you buy more than one it will still only be $5 shipping).
12 oz Whiskey Tumbler with full color GG7 logo.
Cost: $12 each (1 glass) plus $5 shipping (shipping will remain $5 if you buy more than one)
Non-refundable, unless it breaks, and then I'll send you another.
Buy the combo:
1 Glass and 1 t-shirt as a combo for $25, shipping included.
How to order?
Okay, I'm keeping it honest and simple and a little old school. If you'd like to make a purchase, first you need to contact me via the contact page stating what you'd like, quantities, t-shirt sizes, etc. I will then reply to you telling you if I have the proper size or quantities in stock. In this reply I will give you my mailing address where you can send cash or check to. Then you will need to reply to me with your address so I can mail the items out. Sorry, I'm not going to hassle with PayPal or other means of electronic payment. I'm sure there are some skeptics out there wondering if I'll be truthful about this whole thing. All I can say is that if you know me, than you know my word is true.
Thank you for considering helping me clear out these items from my warehouse (garage) and donating to a worthy cause.
The 7th riding of the Grumpy Grind took place last Saturday. For this years ride the mileage got amped up to 140 miles. The result of this longer distance was a much smaller preregistered field of riders. But the mileage ended up playing second fiddle to the the real nemesis of the day... the weather! The forecast for Saturday called for a high of 43 degrees, with rain, freezing rain, and snow projected. I know if I was a rider, I probably wouldn't have shown up for a ride on a day like this, so I wasn't optimistic about anybody showing up to ride in such horrific conditions.
Cancelling the ride probably seemed like a logical choice, but I know that gravel riders are a special breed, and I just wasn't willing to pull the plug on the event. My registration crew arrived bright and early at Keggers prepared to greet anyone crazy enough to tackle the distance and the opposing weather. And three riders did end up showing up. Geoffrey Harding and Aaron Smith, both previous Grumpy Grind participants, drove in from Chicago to ride. Local rider Jim McPherson, also chose to test his mettle against the distance and the elements. I honestly didn't think anybody would show up, so three riders exceeded my expected number of participants.
The beginning temperature of the ride was 41 degrees, with steady rain falling. It was the kind of weather that could be dangerous for riders if they couldn't maintain their body heat. Hypothermia at some point could be an issue. With this in mind I decided to sneak ahead to different points of the course to keep an eye on the riders, and to make sure they made the correct turns at a few unmarked intersections. Fifteen miles into the ride the temperatures dropped to 38 degrees and freezing rain was coming down. When the riders passed by at this point, their voices were optimistic, but their cheeks were bright ride from being pelted by the ice.
At an intersection around mile 20, Jim stopped to talk to me and explained that his gloves were already soaked through and he was pretty sure there was no way to get warmth back in his hands if he continued on. He was fortunate to only live about 8 miles from that point of the course, so he made the smart decision and decided to call it a day.
I waited in anticipation for Aaron and Geoffrey at another intersection at around mile 28. At this point, my car temperature gauge read 33 degrees and giant snowflakes were dumping from the sky. It was beautiful to see, but not beautiful conditions to ride in. After waiting for what seemed like a reasonable amount of time, I decided to turn my car around and go back to check on the riders. But first I had to get out and scrape snow and ice off my car windows. It had snowed that much in a short amount of time!
After backtracking, I ran into the two riders a couple of miles back. They were shivering and miserable looking. They had decided to pull the plug on the ride and were trying to figure out the quickest route back to warm civilization. I felt bad that I was only in my little car, without bike racks, so I couldn't just throw them in and get them back to town. But I did lead them to a Casey's General Store that was about 5 miles down the road in Milledgeville. The Grumpy Grind 7 officially came to an end at this point. No finishers, but nobody lost or hurt either. Mother Nature had won this years ride.
As I rider I understand that the weather can always be the "X" factor in any cycling event. It is frustrating to put time and energy into an event without having the event play out, but that is the risk that always goes into any cycling event. And with the weather being what it was, I'm just glad nobody put their body in any physical harm by choosing to ride beyond what was safe in such conditions.
Without doing much advertising or trying to become frivolous, the Grumpy Grind has grown to have a very positive reputation through mainly word of mouth and repeat riders from the past. This year I once again had t-shirts and glasses created to hand out to finishers. Rather than handing these unused items out as X-mas, birthday, and wedding gifts to all my friends, I would like to offer these items for sale to help go toward a good cause that is cycling related. I have some ideas that are in the works for this, so please check back in a couple of days to see pictures of the swag that you can purchase, and read about the good cause that your donations will be going towards.
Tomorrow's weather looks less than hospitable for riding 140 miles of gravel. Several riders have already sent me apologetic emails telling me they are not coming. I'm not begrudging and I totally understand. I am a rider too. If you are one of those who is choosing to come and ride still, please know I will be at registration bright and early prepared to send you off with cue cards and best wishes. Please also be prepared with proper clothing and such for harsh weather conditions. Do not take unnecessary risks and find yourself in a state of hypothermia stranded in the middle of nowhere. You will still be responsible for yourself.
There will be no make-up date for this ride. For those who are choosing not to come, but would still like to come to the area and still challenge yourself to ride the route, I will post a cue card link at a later date. I will also make mugs and t-shirts available to purchase for a small fee plus shipping (they're kind of cool I think). I'll figure out a reasonable price for that sometime after the event.
That's all for now. Maybe I'll see some of you tomorrow?
Creating a safe and challenging event is always my goal for the Grumpy Grind. There are only a couple of days left until the 7th Grumpy Grind takes place, so I'm going to post a large amount of last minute thoughts that will hopefully lay any questions you have to rest.
Essentials to Bring:
Helmet, Odometer, Headlight, Taillight, Phone, Riding Shoes, Waterproof bag to hold cue cards (only a zip-loc baggy will be provided for the 4"x5" cue cards).
Check the Weather Forecast:
The current weather forecast for Saturday looks pretty miserable with rain showers. Cyclist are typically fair weather friends. Maybe riders will show up, or maybe they won't. But I'll still be here prepared to put on a ride. If it does rain, please ride safe and don't put yourself in a situation where hypothermia could become an issue. You are responsible for yourself, so please make smart decisions.
Registration will take place from 7-7:45. Riders will pick up cue cards here and sign an event waiver. Registration will take place inside of Kegger's Tap House. Participants will need to park in the grass parking area, NOT in the paved parking area directly by the building. Extra t-shirts will be available at registration for a $10 donation.
Cue Cards and Navigation:
Please read posts prior to this regarding all the details of how to read the cue cards. There will be a set of cue cards for the first 70 miles, and then another set of cue cards given out at the checkpoint for the second 70 miles. You will need to reset your odometer at the checkpoint. Please note that the mileage on cue cards can sometimes gradually become off. Maybe this is due to wrong turns, or the veering off the road due to natures calling, or whatever, but just use your common sense math skills and navigation to figure out the difference is in your mileage and you will be just fine.
There are several roads on the course where there is no signage posted. If this is the case, the cue card will note that the road is "unmarked". I will also have put a post with pink ribbon on it on the Right side of the road at the corner where you are turning. This does not always mean you will turn right (follow your cues), but it does indicate you are at a specified unmarked corner. Sometimes other landmarks such as "after bridge" will be noted on the cue sheet. Use common sense and you will be fine.
During the Ride:
Please ride on the right side of the road at all times and be safe. Don't take risks on steep downhills or rutted sections. It's just not worth the risk.
Riders must reach the 70 mile checkpoint by 2:30. My volunteers will be abandoning their post at this time and you will not be able to receive your cue cards for the second half of the ride if you don't meet this deadline. The 70 mile checkpoint is in Pearl City. I don't usually reveal this information, but due to the length of this ride, and the impending weather forecast, I feel it would only be responsible for me to reveal this location. I'm not telling you where it is in Pearl City, but it's a small town and you can find it easily. If you do choose to end your ride here, the Brew and Chew is a good spot to grab a bite to eat. There is also a BP Gas station across the street from the checkpoint for riders to grab snacks or a sub sandwich. There will be no provisions of any kind provided for riders at the checkpoint.
I will provide my phone number at registration for riders to call if they are not able to finish. Please politely text or call this number and leave your name so I know that you won't be expected to finish. If you are a DNF, please remember that neither myself or my crew will be coming to get you. You are completely responsible for yourself on this ride.
You need to finish by 10:00 to be considered an official finisher. My crew will likely be packing up at this time to head home (unless they are feeling festive!). Finishers will receive an official finishers whiskey glass. Please check in with my "finishing crew" at the tent outside of Keggers to let us know you are finished. If weather is bad, my finishing crew will be inside waiting to check you off their list as a finisher.
Keggers has a very tasty meal and beverage selection. Food stops being served at 10:00 and the establishment closes at 1 a.m. Its worth finishing early enough to enjoy what they have to offer.
I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday, rain or shine. Please email me if you have any questions.
I had the day off so I spent a good chunk of my morning doing a final course recon. I felt pretty confident my numbers and turns were all spot on, but I always like to double check myself. I've had riders get lost in the past, but always because of poor navigation, not faulty cue cards. I also like to double check that no bridges have suddenly come under construction or some other unexpected "course malfunction" might change the course route. But it was a beautiful morning for a drive and the roads were all in order. It is worth mentioning that there was one spot in a remote area where there was signage for the road being closed, but it clearly wasn't, and the sign just hadn't been removed yet.
Here are some things you can expect from the course and you should make a mental note of:
*Road conditions are dry right now. I expect them to be about the same next Saturday.
*There are all types of gravel on this course. Some is nicely packed, some small and loose, some medium sized and loose, and there is one half mile section that has giant baseball sized gravel, seriously! I think that section is called rock, not gravel.
*There are some occasional loose pockets of gravel in sections where a complete washout must have been filled. Be careful with these, especially when going downhill.
*It is 70.4 miles to the first checkpoint. There are about 6 miles of paved roads prior to the first checkpoint.
*It is 69.2 miles back to the start after the first checkpoint. About 18 of these miles are paved, but they will be scenic, remote, and challenging enough that you won't feel like you are missing the gravel.
*Be careful during the first 15 miles after the checkpoint. This section is wild. It's filled with "aggressive gravel", along with screaming downhills and agonizing uphills. I can't say enough about being cautious as you ride this section. It's also one of the more beautiful sections of the course.
This years course is composed of sections from years past, plus a few new areas to help tie them together. 140 miles will definitely be a challenge. I expect the field number to be smaller than ever, and I expect the finishing totals to be even smaller yet. It will take about a 12 mph average for riders to finish by 8:00 in the evening. I would highly recommend riders be prepared with lights in the event that they finish in the dark.
It is my hope that all who start are challenging themselves with the goal of finishing. But if you know you can't, and some of you already know this, please be prepared with a pit crew/person to come get you. You are responsible for yourself. I will not be coming to get you if you need a ride, and there is no sag support. So please come prepared. This is rural Illinois and an Uber driver is not going to be close by!
Lastly, there have been a few emails and postcards asking about shirts. Only one person actually pre-ordered a shirt by the designated deadline. But there will be extras available for a $10 donation. I will not reserve these for anyone, it will be a first come first serve situation.
The GG7 is less than a week away. I'm getting excited. Hopefully you are too!
It's been a busy couple of weeks of being a soccer dad, track coach, teacher, blah, blah, blah. A good bike ride puts most things in perspective. And sometimes being busy with all those things in life makes me appreciate cycling all that much more. Hopefully those of you reading this are getting some time ride so that you are prepared to come enjoy a great route I've put together for you at this years Grumpy Grind. If you've come to my ride before, you know that it's going to have a good vibe and it's going to be challenging. I'm not going to apologize for making any part of the course to difficult, with hills or big chunks of gravel, or too easy during a 10 mile segment of pavement. All I can say is that if you like to ride and want a delicious day of riding, the Grumpy Grind will suit your needs.
Many of the riders coming to ride the GG7 have come before and they know the basics of how I organize things, but there are new riders coming this year too, so I feel like I should go over some of the event basics. So here we go with "stuff" that riders should know prior to the event.
*You are completely responsible for yourself during this ride. I will not be coming to pick you up if you need assistance.
*Registration is from 7-7:45 Saturday morning.
*Waivers must be turned in at the registration check-in on the morning of the ride. Cue cards will not be given out until you sign an event waiver.
*Cue cards for the first 70 miles will be handed out at registration. They are not waterproof, nor are they printed with waterproof ink, but they will come in a zip-loc baggy.
*The ride will start promptly at 8:00.
*Cue cards for the second 70 miles will be issued at the checkpoint that riders are required to stop and check in at.
*Cue card information is the same as in the past. Please check out the April 15, 2018 post for information about what a cue card for this event looks like.
*Riders must reach the 70 mile checkpoint by 2:30. My checkpoint crew will be leaving their post at 2:30. If you don't reach the checkpoint on time you will DNF and probably want to find a ride home.
*There is a gas station with sandwiches, water, snacks, etc. for you to take advantage of across the street from the check point. This is the only point on the course where you will go through a town and have direct access to food and water.
*There will be no food and water provided at the checkpoint. Come prepared!
*The second half of the ride is also 70 miles. If you feel you don't have the legs to make it back, this would be a place to call your support crew to come and get you.
*Riders should come prepared with headlights and taillights. There is a strong chance that you might finish at dusk or in the dark.
*Check in at the "Finish" tent when arriving back at the start/finish area. *The first 50 finishers will receive an official finishers glass.
*Riders must finish before 10 pm to be considered an official finisher. The "Finish" tent will be packing up and closing at this time.
For those interested in camping, I'm still waiting to hear back from a local campground about whether or not they will be open yet on the weekend of April 27th. I'll post something as soon as I find out.
T-shirts are still likely going to happen, but only one person has expressed interest so far. So we'll see how that goes. They might be available for $10, or they might be free? We'll just see what happens.
If you have any questions, please contact me directly. I'm looking forward to another great Grumpy Grind two weeks from now!
C.OG. 100 Upate
Yesterday I participated in the C.O.G. 100 Iowa Gravel Single Speed ride over in Grinnell, Iowa, hosted by Guitar Ted. I've done plenty of century rides, but this one was like non other. The rural gravel roads in Iowa were soft from spring time freeze/thaws, and even more soft from rains the evening before the ride. This made for some of the messiest gravel conditions I have ever intentionally ridden. The northwest winds in the 20mph range throughout the day only heightened the challenge of completing course within a 10 hour window (to be an "official" finisher). It was hard for me to imagine not being able to ride an 11 mph average to complete such an event, but the soft gravel and windy conditions took me to task. I ended up finishing with 15 minutes to spare. The entire day was a grind. The highlight of the ride was simply finishing.
I'm pleased to say that the roads in Illinois are in much better condition than those I experienced riding in Iowa yesterday. There are still some sections that being repaired from the rainy washouts we experienced in early March, but everything should be fine by the time the Grumpy Grind rolls around. The county road commissioners don't tend to lay down huge "chunky monkey" gravel rocks for repairs around our area. And the gravel seems to pack down well from being ridden on by local traffic. There is almost always a ride-able "sweet spot" on Illinois gravel.
Riding a hundred mile gravel ride yesterday made me reflect a little more on the challenge of riding 140 miles that I have imposed on those coming to ride this years Grumpy Grind route. With that in mind, here are my latest thoughts to share with those coming to ride.
* The start time for the GG7 will 8 a.m. sharp. This should allow most riders to finish before nightfall, but it will imperative that all riders should show up prepared with a headlight and taillight just in case they finish at dusk or in the dark.
* Keggers, the bar and grill where the start/finish is located, stops serving food at 10 p.m. on the weekend, so hopefully everyone will be finished by then and can enjoy some of their offerings. They have a pretty great menu. A 10 mph average should make that a doable time to finish.
* For those interested in tent camping or motor home camping, there is a campground about 1.5 miles from the starting location that I'm working with on allowing some early spring camping to be done at. I'll update that information when I get a confirmation on availability.
* As is tradition, the first 50 finishers will receive an official finishers whiskey tumbler.
* T-shirts with this years "Grateful Egg Skull" logo are in the works. They will be available for $10. Send me an email with a size to reserve one to be picked up on the day of the event. There may be a few extra made avialable, but I can only guarantee ones to those who contact me prior to April 15th (Tax Day!).
Twenty-three brave people have pre-registered so far, and I'm sure the numbers will steadily grow as the time grows near. Weekly updates will continue to be given up until April 27th.
A few more postcard entries have come in this week, leading me to believe that enthusiasm for this years Grumpy Grind is growing. I'm happy to see some familiar names from past years, like "Bionic" Bob Anderson, back on the rider list. Seeing familiar faces each year at certain rides I do is all part of what makes the bike community special. For those who have ridden the Grumpy Grind before, my format for cues and allowing the event to have a grass roots vibe is all kind of old hat. For those who are new to this event, I'll try to answer some of your questions/concerns about the event over the next couple of posts I make. For this post I'm just going to lay out some of the basics of what this year's ride will be like.
-The route this year is 140 miles. It could end up being a little over or under that mileage depending on my final route choice, but it will be very close to that length.
-The route will only be given out on the morning of the ride. Upon registration, riders will receive cue cards to navigate. No GPS files will be available to download for this event. Sorry, that's just how I choose to operate.
-Approximately 85% of the roads are gravel. I wish that percentage was higher, but the darn road commissioners keep paving a little bit more each year. The biggest portion of road riding will be a 10 mile section around mile 90. These are still great riding roads with some formidable hills, so this section will likely not be seen as an easy gift to riders.
-There will be one checkpoint along the course around mile 80. Riders will be required to stop here to check in with my volunteers. At this point they will also receive a second set of cue cards that will direct them "home". This will allow them to zero out and reset their computers to help them stay spot on with mileage.
-The course takes riders through only one town. This will also happen around mile 80. There is a gas station here where riders can use a bathroom and stock up on supplies. There is also a small bar and grill in this town where riders are welcome to stop for lunch if that is how they want to spend their time. The Grumpy Grind provides no restrooms, water or food anywhere on the course. Riders will need to be completely self sufficient.
-There is another small bar and grill around mile 90 (in the middle of nowhere) that riders are welcome to take a break at.
-The start and finish is at a bar and grill called Keggers, which is on the outskirts of Sterling. They have a delicious menu and a variety of drinks available for riders to give patronage too.
More general information will be provided in the next post. Keep those postcard entries coming!
Rider of bikes, teacher of art, husband of a beautiful wife, and father of two awesome boys.