The Last Month…

Wow, it’s been a MONTH since I posted on this damn thing!  It’s been a hectic, insanely fast 30 days, that’s for sure!  I’ll give you the rundown, starting with the CSF&O route I attempted.

The CSF&O – The last time I posted, I was preparing to take on a ~550 mile gravel course I mapped out in January.  One word – Mud.  Wheel/soul/life-sucking mud.  I rode 141 miles the first day, all the way to Newton.  I knew a pretty big storm was coming, so I got a hotel room, and it started raining hard as soon as I got inside. WHEW!  Dodged that bullet!  I woke up the next morning, got 4-5 miles outside of town, and hit mud.  Hike-a-bike mud.  It would have been 40+ miles of hike-a-bike.  I tried to find a bypass, but ended up getting a couple of flats and using up both of my spare tubes.  I finally got to Hillsboro, grabbed a hotel room, and bam, more rain.  That night I debated whether to continue up an asphalt road  to Abilene, and then over to Manhattan for more bike tubes, or just head home.  I had read that there was a bike shop in Hillsboro, so I waited until 10am, and found out that it was no longer in business.  Crap.  No tubes.  I ended up riding back to Emporia, but managed to still have a good high-mileage week.  After I got back to Emporia, I snagged another 20 miles with the Thursday Night Ride gang, then Friday I rode about 45 miles to Eskridge, camped out at Ryan Dudley’s house, and rode in the Maisie’s Ride 80 mile gravel grinder, against a 35-mph wind!   Great week, regardless of some pretty major plan changes.

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There’s some pics for the week!

After that, it was back to work, and between Wolf Creek and the Kansas National Guard, I’ve been going pretty hard.  Another set-back was my Uncle passed away yesterday.  We found out he was sick in the hospital, and was in the ICU.  He hung on for about a week longer than the doctors said he would, but finally found his peace Monday.  I have to give my cousin’s some major props, because they’ve had set-back after set-back, not to mention some major family drama, and have persevered.  They’re tough folk, though, and it was great to see them again!

The Tour Divide – My Tour Divide Race starts in 9 days.  I’m racing the Tour Divide in 9 *^&$ing days.  Holy shit.  Wow.  Ok, haha, I’m done.  It’s mind-blowing how fast the time went.  For those of you who haven’t been following along, it’s a 2,745 mile mountain bike race from Banff, Alberta to the US/Mexico border at Antelope Wells, NM.

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I’m hoping to complete the race in 24 days.  My preparation is just about complete.  I’ll pack the bike up Friday, and I head out Tuesday evening for the Wichita Airport, and fly out (really freaking) early Wednesday.  I would like to have a day or two to spend in Banff, but that’s not going to happen.  The official Grand Depart is Friday morning, but in order to maximize vacation time I’m starting on Thursday.  I plan to leave Banff at 9am Thursday.  You’ll be able to keep tabs on the race at home via my SPOT GPS tracker here at trackleaders.com.  You can check out my personal profile here.   There’s a couple other resources for the Divide Race; one being bikepacking.net, where there has been a 2013 race discussion going on since December of 2011.  There will also be a discussion thread once the race kicks off.  The other is a facebook group called Endurance Rides and Bike Packing.  Originally a well-thought out and meaningful discussion concerning bikepacking, ultra-mountain bike races, and the like; it has since devolved into a raucous flame-war of  shake-weight debates, happy socks, and who can come up with the scariest bear picture.

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This one wins.

All joking aside, it’s been a great asset for not just planning, but also quasi-meeting other racers.  They’re awesome people, and I can’t wait to meet them in person and get this party started!

***EDIT ALERT!!!***  I forgot about the rider call-ins!  Riders can call in to give updates to MTBCast.  This is actually a great way for riders to keep friends and family up-to-date on how the race is going for them.

All the major prep-work is done (I hope).  I sent four resupply boxes to various towns along the route with emergency repair supplies. The maps and GPS tracks are loaded in my GPS and phone.  Cue sheets and town information spreadsheets are in my phone.  The equipment list is ready for when I pack.  I found a ride from Antelope Wells to El Paso, TX.  All I need to do now is get on a plane, get to Canada, and start pedaling.  I’m really pumped to get this adventure started!

Ok, I’m gonna end this thing, but I’ll try to update this blog as I can along the route, along with my twitter (slater_m_d1) and my Facebook page.

I’ll see you down the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route!

Matt

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Well, Here Goes Nothing.

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I think REI just threw up in my living room.

Ok, folks, here it is.  562.62 miles of Kansas gravel.  The show starts Tuesday at 8am (central – for all you foreigner blog-stalkers). Good news: You now have a front row view courtesy of my SPOT tracker.

https://spotwalla.com/embed.php?id=68ac51870d452223a&width=600&height=600&scale=on&zoom=default&refresh=no

Ok, so it won’t embed, but click that link, and you should be all set.  If not, go here:  https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=68ac51870d452223a

I’m getting really excited about the trip.  It’s going to be the perfect test-run for the divide, plus it’s supposed to rain Wed and Thursday too, so that should make things a little more exciting.

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I have been getting a lot of people ask what all I’m carrying, so I made a little video for you.  I’m sure it’s boring as all get out, but I’m in it, so hopefully that helps ebb the pain.  Mostly I made the video for my Tour Divide attempt, but I’m taking almost the exact same gear with me on this little soire, too.  Here you go:

If anyone has any great ideas or suggestions on gear stuff, by all means, I’d love to hear them.  Ok, I gotta get some sleep.  Tuesday’s gonna be here before I know it, haha.

See you down the road,

Matt

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Nuclear Power: Clean, Green Energy, Right? Not So Much…

I’m probably going to be arrested and locked away in one of those FEMA camps for posting this, but the public deserves the TRUTH!

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Background: Nuclear power is generated by a controlled chain reaction of uranium atoms which gives off a vast amount of heat as a byproduct of said chain reaction.  This heat is used to boil water which generates steam, which in turn is used to move a turbine generator which provides safe, clean, affordable electricity to the masses, right?

WRONG!

This is a fallacy and a cover-up going to the highest levels of government.  The truth of the matter is that humans aren’t smart enough to figure out how to split atoms.  The way uranium works is very simple.  It sucks the happiness out of people.  The power companies have harnessed this ability, and use it to generate electricity.  The reason it is encased in such a large concrete dome is simple.  If uranium is left unprotected, it will instantaneously suck the happiness out of everyone around, simultaneously.  What happens when that occurs?

Not necessarily a good thing to happen when you’re trying to generate electricity.  The good news is, with enough concrete, lead, and steel shielding, uranium sucks the happiness out of people in a slow, deliberate, controlled manner.  Another way to help minimize this is to put the plant in a location not so close to a large population center (say, in the middle of Kansas).  This way, power companies can limit the happiness suck to the people of their choosing.  These people are usually referred to as “employees.”

Employees of nuclear generating plants are told that their jobs are of the utmost importance, and are made to believe that the plant, nay, the world, will cease to function in their absence.  This is a complete fallacy.  The only reason they are at that plant is to have the happiness sucked from them.  They are given some menial task to perform (say, security, for example, or Control Room Supervisor), but really, the power company only hired them because they showed an inordinate amount of happiness in their interview.

Now, once the happiness levels of employees has a reached a low-point, power production starts to be negatively affected.  The power company has two options at this point.  One, it could fire all employees and get new ones (a timely process, to be sure).  Two, it can cease power production completely for a couple of months, bring in thousands of temporary employees to have the happiness sucked out of, and recharge the uranium.  So far, option two has been the de facto choice of every nuclear plant in the US.  It’s even called refueling (outage for short).

Now, at this point you must think I’m crazy.  That may be the case, but the above is the complete truth, and I’ll further prove it to you.  When employees leave the plant, everyone has to go through a “radiation” detector to make sure no “radioactive” particles will be exposed to the general public.  In actuality, what those detectors are looking for is remnants of happiness.  If you have any excess happiness when you go to leave, the detector will go off, and you will have to wait at the plant until all extra happiness is gone, and the detector clears you.  Only THEN are you allowed to leave.

Why is there such a big emphasis on safety?  Simple.  Accidents and injuries decrease happiness.  Why can’t you bring alcohol to work? Simple again.  Alcohol is a depressant.  Can’t have that, now can we?  Can’t bring guns and explosives either.  Why?  Both of those have the ability to decrease happiness among employees (plus can also damage plant equipment, which is SUPER-expensive).  Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants, so HELP YOURSELF!  Here, we’ll even buy you coffee, just be sure to smile!  

Now the truth is out there.  Do with this information what you will, but know the TRUTH!

Editors note: the above is complete satire.  I don’t mind my job, and truth be told the only real gripe I have about it is the schedule (we’ll say we have an “odd” schedule and leave it at that).  The pay and benefits are great, and so are about 30% of the people I work with (I KID I KID!).  

I’m going to go ride my bike.  Gotta get that happiness back up again!

I’ll see you down the road,

Matt

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Conspiracy Theories

I’m deviating from course on this blog a little with this one, but I’m pissed off.

I’m pissed off that someone took an awesome international event and used it for whatever reason to further whatever agenda.  I’m more pissed off, however, at all the conspiracy theories that are popping up.  I understand not trusting the government, I truly do.  I think there ARE some questions that need real answers; the three at the top of my mind being Benghazi, foreign spending, and the National Debt.  I do not, however, believe that government agents planted a bomb at a marathon in Boston, nor did they stage/fake/set-up the Newtown, Conn. shooting.  They also didn’t blow up the World Trade Center, fake the moon landing, assassinate President Kennedy, bomb Pearl Harbor, blow up the USS Maine, shell Fort Sumter, engineer Hurricane Sandy, sleep with Monica Lewinsky, or any other idiotic idea that’s out there.  

My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved in this tragic event.  I canNOT possibly fathom having something like that happen when you finish a marathon.  That’s supposed to be one of the highlights of your life, especially since it went off around the 4-hr mark (4:09:44).  This is when the “new-b’s” finish, not the professional/fast/experienced runners.  This is the mid-pack; the people who work full-time jobs and wanted to challenge themselves.  They went into this race not to win because they knew they wouldn’t, but they just wanted to finish.  They did it for themselves, and I can relate, because these are my people.  I’ve never ran a marathon, but if I did, I would probably finish around the 4-hr mark.

The people who say the government is behind this, or knew about it, or whatever, not only piss me off to no end, but truly take away from the families in mourning.  Yes, a bad event happened.  As of this writing, no one is in custody, no one has taken responsibility (including right-wing fanatics, as you dicks at CNN said).  What is truly remarkable was the outpouring of humanity directly after the bombs went off.  Runners continuing on to local hospitals to donate blood, people sharing cell phones so others could call loved ones, the police and MA Natl. Guardsmen running towards the explosion, the workers in the first-aid tent, the list goes on and on.

For someone to say, however, that this was caused by some rogue government department to further an agenda on gun control or whatever other idiocy you can come up with, takes away from the true sacrifice of all these people.  I know some people want there to be a deeper meaning behind this, and other national tragedies, but it was the work of some nut case(s), and that’s it.  Whether he was home-grown or international, it was a crazy terrorist, period.

Again, no one has been arrested here, but both of the explosions were in metal trash cans, which directed most of the blast straight up.  An explosion is like electricity.  The blast is going to take the path of least resistance, and in this case that was straight out the top of the trash can.  Had that bomb NOT been in a trash-can, the number of casualties would have skyrocketed. Of course some blast also went out the sides, but the bomb was on ground level, which is why so many wounded were especially leg, ankle, and feet injuries.  I’m sorry, this isn’t the work of the government.  This is a crazy individual, or individuals who wanted, for whatever reason, to make a point.  Or not, who knows.  Same with Newtown, Conn, and every other tragedy in the past.

There are also videos on youtube (I’m not even going to link them) showing how Sandy Hook never happened and the government made the whole thing up so it can take away guns and control every aspect of your life forever and ever and ever.  Yeah, well, maybe it was a truly insane person on psychotropic drugs who should have been locked up in a mental institution but wasn’t and who stole his mother’s assault rifle and murdered her with it along with 25 teachers and children.  

Generally things are a lot more simple than most people want them to be.  9-11 “truthers” fall into this same category.  If you remember, the George Bush administration blew up the twin towers, the Pentagon (I STILL haven’t figured that one out yet), and wrecked a plane in rural Pennsylvania so that he could declare martial law and take over the US and eventually the WORLD mwahahahahaha!  Or maybe it was 9 brainwashed muslim terrorists on a sacred suicide mission from Allah, we’ll never know.  Except that we do, because George Bush never declared martial law, and Usama Bin Laden, you know, the guy who planned the attack, flat out told us it was 9 brainwashed muslims on a mission from Allah.  The Kennedy assassination.  We all know the CIA killed Kennedy, and used Lee Harvey Oswald as a scape goat, right?  Because Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t a die-hard communist who got kicked out of the Marines and defected to the Soviet Union, married a Russian, got bored, returned to the US, tried to kill an anti-communist retired Major General, and failing that, assassinated the sitting US President.  Except Lee Harvey Oswald did every one of those things.  Alone.  As far as the moon landing being faked, here’s Buzz Aldrin’s answer:

I think that pretty much sums it up.  

In conclusion, there definitely ARE serious questions that need to be asked of the US government, ALL branches of it and on both sides of the aisle.  Blaming them for murdering a bunch of school-children, or setting off a bomb at a marathon where half a million people congregate to push a political idea that’s already dead in the water anyways, is going way too far.  I guess I’ve heard it from too many people that the government is coming to take over, and this and that, blah blah blah bullshit.  Mourn those who’ve been hurt, but please keep your political babble (on both sides) to yourself.

I’ll see you down the road (if the government lets you, that is),

Matt

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Two Months and Ten Hours

Well, I survived outage.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and, although I didn’t get as much workouts in as planned, my base fitness is still pretty good.  Since then, I’ve been on the bike every day I’ve had off except for one.  Mileage is increasing and the body weight is decreasing.  Funny how that happens, haha.  I did a physical for the Army about three weeks ago, and everything seems to check out.  My resting heart rate was 48 (the lowest it’s been since I was 18 btw), blood work showed no signs of any problem, and my thyroid levels were all perfectly normal.  They were really low last year at my work physical, so I was a little worried, but everything is good.  I still need to drop about 5-7 pounds, but that will come off easily in the next couple of weeks, especially with the help of Matt’s Secret Go-Go Juice:

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That’s kale, spinach, cucumbers, ginger root, and carrots.  Hell yeah.  I’m telling you that the stuff works miracles.  I can’t begin to explain how much better you feel after a couple of days with some juice mixed in.  Allergies are improved, sinuses clear out, energy levels go through the roof, and I can’t prove it, but I think it cures dandruff.  If you haven’t already, check out the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  It’s on Netflix.

The last of the gear for my Divide run is trickling in.  All I’m waiting on is my Mountain Laurel Designs bivy and an ultralight backpack from ZPacks.  Other than that, everything seems to be coming together nicely.  I’m really looking forward to my trial run on the CSF&O that I mapped out in January.  Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll be going it alone, but given the short notice, timeframe, and start date; that was to be expected.  I’m using that to really help bolster my fitness not only for the Tour Divide, but also for the Dirty Kanza.  I honestly don’t expect to finish the DK this year, but it will be a great race to end on and start my taper (taper = not doing shit for two weeks).  If I start to feel something hurt more so than normal, or something on the bike doesn’t sound right, etc, I’m dropping.  It’s not worth it to sacrifice a Divide attempt in order to finish the DK.  

One last note about the Dirty Kanza and I’ll move on.  I sent the link for the CSF&O 550 to Guitar Ted and asked him to post it to Gravel Grinder News, which he did (and THANK YOU for that, sir!). When he posted it, he referred to the route as “the real dirty kanza.”  I’m sure he meant nothing by it, and probably meant “the realLY dirty kanza,” and I’m sure it was in jest either way.  Evidently this caused a little (and understandable) friction with the DK organizers.  This route and race have nothing to do with the DK.  The DK is a great event for Emporia, and I hope it remains for many years to come, and continues to grow.  This route isn’t intended in any way to compete with that.  If anything, I’d rather see it be a week-long touring route for folks looking to get out of the cities and ride some serious gravel.  The race portion is more of a personal challenge than a race.  I do want to say best of luck to everyone riding the DK, DK Light, 50mi, and 25 mi races.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the racers here on June 1st!

Ok, before this turns into a best-selling book guaranteed to sell tens of copies, I’m gonna get off of here.  Besides, I have a ride to do tomorrow.

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I’ll see you down the (muddy) road,

Matt

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The FireFly

**Personal note:  Outage is almost over, God be praised.  We have five more working days, and then we get back to our “normal” schedule.  It can’t come soon enough, plus I have a three-day break next week, which will be amazing.

Ok, on with the blog.  The FireFly.  No, I’m not talking about the best science fiction television show ever created, ever,

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although I might have to do a post on that sometime.  What I’m talking about is the US Army’s firefly.

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It’s a small emergency IR strobe that clicks in a 9v battery that could be seen with night vision.  What’s that have to do with anything?  Everything.  I’ll tell you.  I’ve always been somewhat of a gear junkie.  The newest, latest, lightest gizmo, gadget, tent, sleeping bag, etc, and I wanted to know all I could.  What I never really thought about much was actually using the damn thing.  Ohh, I did a few quick overnight back/bikepacking trips, but nothing that really amounted to much.  To be honest, I was more concerned about gear, base weights, packability, etc than I was using the stuff as a tool to aid in actually getting outside.

Back to the firefly.  In our run-up to Afghanistan at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, we were issued these fireflies.  More than any other piece of equipment that was issued, I thought about this one.  My main thought behind this was that if I ever had to use it, feces had hit the rotating oscillator, and probably with some considerable force.   Everything else we were issued would likely be used either in day to day operations, or in training, or whatever.  The firefly didn’t require any training; just play and play, so to speak.  All the different scenarios in which it would be used kept going through my head – using 5-6 of them to mark a MEDEVAC helicopter LZ (and who would be the jackass that didn’t have it with them), using it to mark targets for a gunship or attack aircraft a la Blackhawk Down, marking a disabled vehicle, using it in room clearing ops, or God forbid, some sort of POW incident.  Nothing ever happened where I needed it, though, but the thought was always with me.  How am I going to use this.

After I got back, that thought has always stuck with me anytime I get any new equipment.  When I picked up my new bike from the shop after they built it up, I unloaded it and set it in the living room (my bikes live inside, judge me).  I sat down and thought about all the different places I was going to use it.  The Dirty Kanza, for sure.  Colorado, California, and ultimately, the Tour Divide.  I was planning on doing that clear back in December of 2011, I just didn’t tell the folks at High Gear, our local bike shop, about the whole Divide thing.  This goes for almost everything.  My Steri-pen, tent, bivy, etc.  Everything I got, especially recently for the divide, I think about all the different scenarios I’m going to be using it.  Will this thing fail on me in the middle of the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming 300 miles from anywhere?  What’s it going to look like when I finish the race?  I feel this sea-change in my thought process has actually really helped me to get out more.  Instead of trying to get the best stuff, now I’m far more concerned with actually getting out there and using it.

My first big outdoors trip of the year, thanks to outage being extended a week and us getting screwed out of seven days off, is going to be in May (but I’m not bitter!!).  I’m going to be time trialling the CSF&O route.  This is going to be my big shakedown ride for the Tour Divide.  All my equipment is going with me.  Right now, I’m at the point where I have almost complete confidence in all my gear.  That’s a great feeling, because that’s just a lot less to worry about, but I do want to put everything through it’s paces.  I’m not sure if anyone will be riding with me, which kind of sucks, because I feel I would push myself harder to go faster if there were.  I know the timing is bad, and it was short notice, but hopefully next year we can get some people up here to race ride this friggin thing!  Irregardless, I’m really excited to do it, but nervous, because I don’t want to break anything major, or seriously injure myself before the Divide race.  Same goes for the Dirty Kanza.  I’ve talked to a few people about it, and the odds of me finishing that thing this year are pretty low.  If I feel a knee start to go, something on the bike about to go, or whatever, I’m done.  It’s a great race for the area, and brings a LOT of REALLY strong riders together, but I’m not about to sacrifice a Divide attempt to complete the DK.

Speaking of the route, I had a GREAT response from the biking community!  There were a LOT of people who reposted the link for the CSF&O, and generated a LOT of interest!  Special thanks goes out to Eric the Adventure Monkey, Guitar Ted and his Gravel Grinder News, Kansas Cyclist, the bikepacking.net and MTBR forum folks, and anyone else I may have missed, thank you!!  Again, hopefully next year we can get the word out sooner, and get some people up here for what I think is a REALLY amazing gravel route.  But I’m biased.  Seriously, thanks again!

Ok, I’m going to get ready for my last 62.5 hour work week (hey it’s better than the 75 hour one last week!), so…

I’ll see you down the road,

Matt

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May 7th – Go Time.

We’re racing riding the CSF&O  on May 7th, at 9am in front of the Granada Theater in Emporia Kansas.  Rain, shine, sleet, hail, snow, wind, tornado, or heat.  Yes, we could have any one or combination of, any of these.  It’s early May in Kansas.  May 7th will be the sixth anniversary of the tornado that leveled Greensburg and brought 10+ inches of rain to a large stretch of central Kansas.  Last year it had already hit 90 by this time, but three years ago, there was frost on the ground.  Plan for everything.

Here’s how it’ll go down.  There will be a rider’s meeting at 8:15pm Monday May 6th, at Town Royal in the back.  I’ll go over the route, weather, rules, etc, but it would be best to study it beforehand/get familiar with your GPS.  I know this is short notice, but I’m riding it regardless, so I thought I’d invite anyone else who may want to go.  I also realize I’m starting on a Tuesday, but that’s what I have off, haha.

Rules:  Tour Divide Rules apply.  See the link for details.

1.  Racers Riders must ride 100% of the route.  You may leave the route in any direction, but  if you leave, you must return to the route at the place you left and resume.

2.  This is a self-supported ride.  No outside assistance is allowed.  The caveat to this is you may repair, refuel, and resupply at commercial establishments that are available to anyone else riding.  Also, you are allowed trail magic, but don’t expect it.  I doubt if anyone along the route knows about this.  That being said, don’t piss off the locals.  IE- you can’t stop for the night at your Auntie Em’s house for the night, unless it’s a Bed & Breakfast that would be available to any other rider.

3.  Assisting other riders is allowed for emergencies only.  Riders are not to help other riders with navigation, racing riding strategies, etc.  If a rider needs a tube, a pump, medical assistance, or any other real emergency, then other riders are not only allowed, but must, give aid if possible.  Again, this is only for emergencies.

4.  No trespassing.  The route is all on public roads.  The land on either side of the road most likely is privately owned.  Publicly owned land in Kansas accounts for .92% of all land.  The rest is private.  Most of it is marked, but some isn’t.  If you’re unsure, it’s best to assume it’s private land.

Mandatory Equipment:  State-issued ID (DL, passport, etc), Red Blinky, Front White Light

Suggested Equipment:  GPS(!!), spare tubeS, patch kit, pump, CO2 inflator,  more water than you think you’ll need, water filter.

If you have any other questions, comment on here or ask it at the rider’s meeting.  Guitar Ted has some great tips for riding gravel here.  Please read through this.

If anyone is interested in doing this, please leave a message on here, or shoot me an email at slater_m_d@yahoo.com.  I think this route will be a good shakedown for the Tour Divide, if nothing else, at least letting you test gear, and getting your kit squared away. It’s 563 miles of gravel and dirt.  It’s not flat.  There’s 26,000 ft of climbing.  Most of it will be like the Dirty Kanza.  The good news:  if we get some rain, early May in Kansas will be one of the absolute best times to be riding, as far as the Flinthills are concerned.  The grass will be 2-3 inches tall, and everything should be the most brilliant shade of green you’ve ever seen.  You really have to see it to believe it.

I’ll see you down the road (on May 7th!)

Matt

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