Monday, December 14, 2009

Thill weight loss plan

Yesterday, shortly after a noontime lunch, I loaded up the Pugstigator with my minimalist camping equipment (Thermarest pad and a vintage Slumberjack cold-weather sleeping bag) and hit the road.
camping bike

I crossed the Mendota Bridge, the bike lane of which appears to have been plowed, following two racer-type ladies tootling along cautiously on cyclocross bikes. When they saw me, one asked if I was training for the Arrowhead 135. Nope, just camping! (I don't train for anything)

I hit the woods and was disappointed, but not surprised, to find the trail pocked up with human, dog, and wildlife footprints and cross-country ski tracks, which made the going rather difficult. I reduced my tire pressure, which seemed to help me roll over the slippery, squishy, uneven surface. Still I found myself pushing as much as I was pedaling. Farther along, I saw the tire tracks of 2 or 3 bikes, at least one of which was a fellow fat-tire bike. The bike tracks seemed to follow the edge of the trail, where the snow was still smooth and untrammeled. Following this lead, I tried to stick to sections of undisturbed snow, which was much easier, in general.

At some point, there was a truck track in the snow, and I made good time following one of the wheel ruts. But that eventually came to an end, but by the time it did, I was on a part of the trail that wasn't as heavily traveled, and riding the soft snow was easy, if slow.

I had a location in mind for camping, but given the snow conditions, my destination seemed too ambitious, so I kept an eye open for alternate campsites. Eventually I settled on a marshy edge of a lake/pond, and set up camp.
campsite

I got on my wireless internet device to email my wife to let her know that I was safely in my sleeping bag, and even plotted out a GPS-map so she would know where I was in case of emergency. Then, for grins, I checked the weather. It was about 12F at 4:30 PM, and the expected overnight low was 7F. Then I noticed for the first time that we were under a winter weather warning, with 2-5" of snow in the overnight forecast. Huh? Where did that come from? Hmmm, this should be fun.

I put my boots, water bottles, and extra clothes inside the foot of my sleeping bag, and crawled inside. Since it was so early, I didn't go right to sleep, and within a few hours, I heard the tell-tale rustling of snowflakes hitting the nylon outer-shell of my sleeping bag. I was fairly warm and comfortable, and I went to sleep at some point. I woke up around 3 AM when I moved and some fallen snow that had piled near the opening of my sleeping bag fell into my face. I reconfigured and dozed off again. I woke up for good around 6 AM (still pretty dark) and peeked outside to see the bike buried in snow. I decided to stay in the bag for another hour.

I made quick work out of getting dressed and loading up my gear, but when I got back on the trail, I found the extra snow made it mostly unrideable.
deep snow

At some point, I decided to avoid the snowy trail ahead and to get up on an overpassing freeway bridge, where I knew there was a bike path that would be cleared of snow, hopefully. It turned out that the bike path had not been cleared, and that, in fact, it was now the final resting place of all the snow and debris that had been plowed off the freeway. It was basically a foot-deep morass of half-frozen pie-dough. It was completely unrideable, and barely even pushable. I made about 100 feet of difficult progress before I reconsidered my plan. It occurred to me that if I turned around and pushed in the other direction, I would sooner come to a road that would be plowed, and then a light-rail station. I turned around, and pushed through this nasty snow waste for ~1.5 miles before I got to a plowed road I could ride. The snow plow debris was exhausting and frustrating in itself, but it was made worse by the auto exhaust, which I smelled/tasted strongly with every breath. By the end of this segment, I was coughing frequently. At some point, I saw a large deer down by the river. I stabilized myself against the bridge railing, extended the camera's zoom lens all the way out, and tried my best to steady my arms/hands, which were trembling from the exertion of pushing the heavy bike. It turned out better than expected.
big buck

Shortly thereafter, I made it to a paved road, and rode directly to the train station. I paid my $1.75 and headed toward home. Some guys on the train took a break from discussing interior decorating to comment on my large front tire. I, of course, went into technical details about the Pugstification, and their eyes glazed over...

By the time I got home, peeled off the sweaty clothes, and made breakfast, I realized that I hadn't eaten a bite in 22 hours. I've been gorging myself all day, and I'm still 5 lbs lighter than I was yesterday morning.

14 comments:

Joe said...

AWESOME!!!!

moonshiner said...

amazing how with the correct audience and a scintillating narrative a foolhardy and poorly thought out plan can take on heroic pageantry. c'mon this wasn't the wilderness, it was 5 miles from yr house in the river bottoms and homeless people camp out there all the time in less protection than you had...glad you had fun, and of course i'm jealous, i'd try it but i haven't had a sleeeping bag in years and not without a vapor barrier oversack(trash bag or tarp)

Jim Thill said...

M'shiner: yes this location is close to home for me, and that's the point. One need not plan a complicated trip to get out into some nature and have some mini-adventure.

Fool-hardy? I actually have fairly extensive experience camping in cold weather, including numerous weekend trips and a couple excursions that lasted up to a week or so, in much more remote areas, and in much worse weather. For a city slicker like yourself, this would have presented serious risks, but for a Yoopanese-American like me, no worries.

Anonymous said...

Moonshiner, stop being harsh and get back to guzzling the ripple in yer brown paper bag. I for one find Jim's willingness to confront the cold and snow all alone quite laudable. I'm jealous, even.

Shaun said...

An interesting little adventure. Thanks for sharing it!

Pete said...

Sounds like a fun adventure!! I'm surprised the trail was so tough to ride, how low did you go with the tire pressure?

cindy said...

Jim had you coaxed me onto that ride, I would have either died or killed you...not sure in which order :)

moonshiner said...

did i say jealous, yes i did...i find that adventure close to home is the best adventure, no need to get all pissy...'city slicker' my ass, i hail from parts east and north as well, i laugh at the cold and find solo trips in below zero temp to be invigorating,.... i'm just saying that i can't go them without the approval of my wife. how did you get the okay(other than by being a big whiner)?

Jim Thill said...

My wife doesn't seem to mind me being gone for some reason.

Jim Thill said...

Pete: I don't have an accurate measure of tire pressure. Guessing 14 in front and 35 in back? Maybe I should pack a floor pump and a gauge sometime to experiment. Definitely seemed like the skinnier back tire was the problem.

jim_h said...

This could become a whole new kind of bicycle touring - sort of a combination of Rick Steves and Red Green.

MplsMTB said...

A low-pressure, handheld gauge is a fat bike owner's best friend! Try letting more air out next time. I'm +220 lbs and I usually run less than 10psi in the Endo up front, and between 15-20 psi in the 2.7" tire in the back.

doug peterson said...

My guess is your body had to burn a LOT of calories to keep you warm thru that adventure. Camping in the snow; sheesh, next thing you guys will figure out a way to go fishing when the lake's frozen.

dougP

Blogger said...

New Diet Taps into Pioneering Plan to Help Dieters Lose 12-23 Pounds in Just 21 Days!