Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Urban Growler paint-out! Painting With a Pint night #1.

I had a great time the other night crashing the patio of Urban Growler in St. Paul. It was a good trial run of my new tripod based easel setup, and also a good test of the theory that I can make a product good enough to sell on the spot. Needless to say, someone got a really cool birthday gift for $99.

Did I mention it was a ton of fun? 


Apparently I had at least one fan...
The owner was pretty stoked to watch me paint. She even bought me a beer.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New stuff.

This is happening... more to follow.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Alexander 2013 Recap.
So much gravel!

I think the best thing about gravel racing is that every race has stories, and every rider has a different story. The races are usually memorable based on what went wrong, rather than what went right. And it’s those stories that make it worth taking the start line again and again. So it goes without saying that The Alexander, being almost four times the length of the Almanzo 100, deserves having a long-winded story told. I’m sure despite following the same cues, every rider took a very different path to the finish, so to speak. This was my path.


I chose to ride the Alexander in early January. I wanted to be part of something new, completely adventurous, and - honestly - altogether absurd sounding. I began racing gravel in 2011, with a failed attempt at Almanzo that year, but made up for that defeat with a dusty, painful, and ultimately very fulfilling 2012: Ragnarok, Almanzo, The Dirty Benjamin, Heck of the North, and the Dirt Bag. I was figuring out how to ride and learning the limits of my body. I also went on my first bike tour in 2012, riding approximately 380 miles over one week. I enjoyed the change of pace from racing, and thought that the Alexander would provide similar experience (albeit with much less sleep).

I also chose to ride it knowing I wouldn’t be alone. My friend and frequent riding partner Jonas Nygard was also up for the challenge. Additionally, my neighbor, Andy Tetmeyer, was planning on riding it. I knew that seeing some familiar faces at the start line would make the whole thing a bit less intimidating.

I didn't really train for the miles of the Alexander. My longest ride this year, Ragnarok, was 9 hours. Having never spent 12+ hours riding, let alone 24+, I had no idea how my body would respond to a 40-50 hour, 380+ mile event. My only real prep was the Dickie Scramble two weeks earlier, where I rode my Cross-Check in it’s Alexander configuration for the first time (Fenders, rear rack, new saddle since I still hadn't found a great one). After finishing the 8.5 hour race without any pain and still feeling strong, I was optimistic about my chances of finishing the Alexander. I knew the ‘smart’ thing to do to prepare for something like the Alexander was to fit 200-300 miles into a weekend. But that sounded like ‘training’... and ‘training’ is boring. So much for me ever being a great bike racer, eh?


I met Jonas and Andy at 7 pm at the Spring Valley Inn and Suites for the pre-race meeting with Chris. The crowd was a bit smaller than I anticipated, based on the initial sign ups. It seemed as though people had traveled from quite a few different places to be part of it. The big message Chris delivered was this: Nobody is making you do this, or do it in any particular fashion. You can start at 5:00, you can start at noon, or you can choose not to start. You can sleep during the ride, or you can keep riding. You can bring what you want, finish when you want, and ride as fast as you want. He also noted, with some disappointment,  that he hadn’t personally ridden the course. We were to be the first.

After dinner at the A&W, Jonas and I split a 6-pack of a beer and got to know some of the other racers. People had come from all over to try this thing. Some hadn’t done much training, one had just finished Trans Iowa. All sorts of people. Andy, Jonas and I retired early, got the bikes ready, and hoped for a dry start at 5:00am.


I didn't sleep well. I had a pillow, but was on the floor of the hotel room (having forgotten my sleeping pad). Excitement and nervousness also kept me awake. It started raining heavily around 3:00AM, and was still raining when our alarm went off at 4:15. As much as we wanted to be part of the proper rollout, we elected to wait until 7:00 to see if conditions improved. Starting in the dark, in heavy rain, didn’t seem like the best way to begin a 400ish mile ride. Unfortunately, conditions didn’t improve. We departed at 7:20 in cold, moderately heavy rain. It was not the warm and pleasant rain that I had hoped for.

Preston. Jonas is impressing the ladies with his mustache.
The first 40 miles were largely uneventful, and also familiar for Andy and I. It was my fourth time riding to Preston; second time doing it in the rain. My gearing felt good - 34 x 30 low gear - and my fenders were delightful to have. However, my front derailleur decided to stop working after 20 miles of muck, and thus began the rather frustrating process of having to kick my chain down to the small ring before every hill (or, the worse but nevertheless frequently exercised option of hammering up hills in 50x30). The roads were wet but not particularly slow; the rain was more of a psychological burden than anything.

My feet were warm enough, but the cold rain left my knees a bit achy in Preston. We stopped for a bit in the supermarket and picked up snacks for the next 24 miles. The rain finally stopped as we left Preston, to much rejoicing.

The water crossing at mile 43 wasn't as bad as I had expected. My feet never really got cold; the muddy walk-up was worse than the crossing itself. The next 24 miles to Harmony were quite uneventful, although I did nearly wipe out on a loose and twisty downhill. It was my only near-crash of the entire ride.

Somewhere on State Line Road.
In Harmony we went to the Quick Trip for food. I rocked a spicy chicken sandwich and some beef jerky, both of which served me well. There were at least four other riders there, most or all of which had started at 5:00 AM and decided to rest a bit in Preston, allowing us to catch up. Everyone was glad the rain had stopped.

The segment from Harmony to Mabel featured some less than stellar gravel - it seemed to always be either chunky or soft - and some very boring travel down State Line Road. The road, appropriately following the Minnesota/Iowa border, doesn’t really excite. It really put the ‘grind’ in ‘gravel grinding’. We probably went a bit too hard, trying to make up time for the slow first 40 miles and the two hour delay before starting.

It has a dial tone!
It felt good to arrive at Mabel at mile 80. The sun was beginning to show itself, and immediate entertainment was found in the form of a functioning telephone booth. This was a totally necessary photo op. Lunch #2 was had at a cafe, the name of which escapes me but the server’s name - Sunshine - was quite unforgettable. One mushroom Swiss burger and a few onion rings later, we were about to hit the road when we ran into a few other racers. One arrived in a Jeep, having withdrawn earlier in the day. The other,  Patrick Tsai showed up asking if anybody had extra cues. Apparently his Garmin had stopped working. He ran to the bank with Jonas’ sheets and had copies made. Teamwork, it’s a glorious thing. While waiting on Patrick to finish making copies, I noticed that one of my front brake pads was worn to almost nothing. It looked good earlier in the week, but apparently 40 miles of rainy gravel downhills combined with excessive braking had done some serious damage. I decided to monitor it, but knew it wasn’t safe to ride through the Wisconsin segment with a waiting-to-fail front brake.

Irish Hollow Road
When we arrived in Eitzen 23 miles later, I decided to swap front and rear pads. I figured I didn’t want to be swapping brake pads at night, nor did I want to have the condition of my front brake on my mind when we were riding hills in the dark in Wisconsin. Soup and soda was consumed at a supper club we hadn’t anticipated finding. Also, for the record, when soup is $2.00 for a cup and $2.25 for a bowl, and you’ve still got 300 miles to ride, get the bowl.

We departed Eitzen on pavement and soon turned right onto Irish Hollow Road. This is where, in my opinion, the course gets beautiful. Suddenly you’re not in farmland anymore. You’ve reached the river bluffs, and the scenery is amazing (assuming the sun is still up). The sun set as we climbed cedar hill road, quite the monster of a climb. The bats came out in force, and soon we found ourselves in the town of Lansing at mile 127.

Andy was having a bit of knee pain, and my feet were stinging from foolishly keeping my shoe covers on all day. My socks had never dried out after the rain, and the soles of my feet were looking and feeling terrible. We decided to challenge our stomachs with more onion rings and, brilliantly, all you can eat fried cod. We also enjoyed our first beer of the ride, something which seemed necessary in light of the 70+ miles we still wanted to ride that night. Andy had a hotel room reserved in McGregor, and as it was almost 10:30 when we left Lansing, arrival at the hotel before 4:00 AM seemed unlikely.
Sunset on Cedar Hill Road

Once you cross into Wisconsin, you begin to see pavement more frequently. At this hour of the day, that was a pleasant surprise. I was frustrated by having the knowing the scenery would have been beautiful if only I had been able to see it. The night riding was calm, the hills large, and the conversation pleasant for quite a while. The minimum maintenance headlamp descent from the People’s Republic of Turkey Run was highly memorable. Shortly afterwards, we missed a turn somewhere, and had to take a slightly different path to Mount Sterling.


It was 1:30 AM when we reached Mount Sterling. We ran into three others outside of a closed bar, and continued on a block or two until we saw Patrick getting into his sleeping bag at a picnic shelter. It was getting very cold and very, very windy. We decided to sleep on the picnic tables for an hour. I quickly realized that my emergency blanket was minimally useful, but at least it blocked the wind. Andy later commented that I sounded like a giant bag of potato chips being rustled. However, everyone was so exhausted that I doubt the noise was a major issue. When we left, I was shivering uncontrollably. I was in a very dark place for the first time of the ride. We started moving and warmth slowly returned to my body.

I was incredibly relieved when we arrived in Prairie Du Chien, and shortly thereafter McGregor. The sky was getting light, it was 5:00 AM when we checked into the motel in McGregor. A shower and bed were truly amazing pleasures. The pull out couch didn’t have any sheets, so Jonas decided to just get his own room. Checkout was 11:00AM, so we agreed to wake up at 10:30.

After a brief bit of sleep, Jonas walked into the room, dressed to ride, and wondered why we were still asleep. It was 8:30. Riding 200 miles on minimal rest does odd things to the brain, apparently. Jonas was somewhat apologetic, but ultimately the early start was probably a good thing as it was looking to be a very hot and sunny day. We slept for a few more minutes, then began to get our bikes ready to hit the hills out of McGregor and begin the Iowa segment of ride.

Jonas returned to our room to say he was going to get a head start on the hills. I was a bit skeptical, as Andy and I certainly weren’t going to hammer up any hills today. Still, he was adamant, and decided to take a 20 minute head start. Andy and I grabbed breakfast, coffee, and snacks at the Quick Trip before riding out of town and up a long but paved hill. My knees felt sore; some Ibuprofen was quickly consumed. Fortunately, my knee pain went away by the time
we were halfway up the climb. Martin Rudnick, who we hadn’t seen since Thursday night, caught up with us at the top of the climb. We rode together for quite a ways, although his 1x10 gearing (32 x 11 high gear) meant he had to work awfully hard to keep up on the flats. We never actually ran into Jonas. I would find out after the race that he took the wrong hill out of McGregor and rode 8 miles in the wrong direction.

En-route to Decorah. It was quite hot.
The riding just after McGregor is phenomenal. The hills and valleys are gorgeous with fast downhills and seriously good climbs. At mile 210 the road turns into a B-road with a fantastically sketchy downhill and a really challenging uphill that was highly reminiscent of Heath’s hill from the Ragnarok course. I’d hate to ride that road at night. I don’t even know how Chris rode that in his truck.

The heat was pretty severe by noon. Martin had fallen behind on the flats somewhere; it was just Andy and I to pace each other for 40ish miles to Decorah. Water was getting low, and I had flashbacks to the 2012 Almanzo where I cramped like never before. I was forcing myself to drink much more than my stomach was comfortable with. We passed a church and a house which was setting up for a graduation party, and they kindly filled my bottles. That kindness was, unfortunately, in high contrast to the douchebaggery of the lawn crew at the church who decided it would be fun to blow grass clippings over two tired cyclists at point blank as though they weren’t even there.

Big thanks to Decorah Bicycles!
I flatted the moment we arrived in Decorah - my first and only flat of the ride. It was 4:00PM and we were 270 miles into the ride. Andy didn’t know I had flatted, and rode on. I changed it quickly, but was wondering if we’d connect at all in Decorah or if I’d be leaving town alone. Fortunately, he was waiting for me at Decorah Bicycles, since I had previously committed to replacing by brake pads any bike shop on the route. The shop was awesome, and the mechanic not only installed new pads but also adjusted my fender and tried to fix my front derailleur. Apparently, however, it was the derailleur from hell and my Frankenbike was mechanically nonsensical and thus somewhat unfixable. Oh well, that’s how I roll.

Since I had been saying for 270 miles that if we passed a Pizza Ranch we had to get buffet, we were more or less committed to Pizza Ranch on the way out of town. I knew I was dehydrated, and tried to drink as much fluid as possible; it was impossible to both consume the calories I needed and the liquid at the same time. As we sat in Pizza Ranch -- which I had previously referred to as the home of ‘Cowboy Jesus’ -- we saw Martin ride by outside. We met up with him at the gas station by the climb out of town, and were once again a trio. I had seven bottles of water on me, as I wasn’t sure if we would find water for the last 110 miles. It turns out I could have taken three bottles, as there would be three places to fill up before the finish.

We're stopping? Time to get online!
Ten miles out of town is where my knee pain began. I only felt it while standing, and it felt more like a cramp than anything else. Stopping to drink water seemed to help, but over the next 30 miles it became increasingly obvious that my right knee was going to become a major issue. There was a bar open in Burr Oak, mile 290,  where Andy and I filled water bottles, only to be harassed by one of the locals who accused me of being a freeloader and thanked me for “not coming back” as I left the bar. Ouch! If I could have stomached a beer at that point, it would have happened... that said, future riders should probably note that Barney’s Bar & Grill isn’t very lycra friendly.

Over the next 40 miles, my knee pain became more severe. At first I realized that I standing up to
Sunset. Day two.
hammer over rollers was making it worse, so I began to sit as much as possible. Soon after nightfall I could no longer push with my right foot without pain, so I began to try to chase Martin and Andy primarily using my left foot. Keeping up on the hills was getting really, really hard, as I could only pull up with right foot. I began to wonder if I should have put new cleats in before the race...

At mile 325 I was in a world of pain, but we had finally reached the bar on the Royal course. Knowing we were actually on the Royal course was encouraging, but having almost 60 miles to ride still sounded horrible with one leg. Multiple beers were consumed. I also got sick of carrying around a large summer sausage and a huge block of cheese for the last 40 hours, and decided it was time to slice it  open (and, to a lesser extent, force it on my riding companions). It was delicious.

I hoped that having a short break would alleviate some pain. It didn’t. For the next 8 miles, Andy and Martin had to suffer through listening to my occasional screams of pain and gasps of heavy effort trying to keep up on hills. I kept getting gaped and was having trouble holding a line through all of the pain.

At the top of a hill, they were both waiting for me and there was a very awkward moment of silence when I caught up. I acknowledged that I couldn't go on that night, and had to find ditch to try and sleep the pain off in. Previously I could bend my knee but not push down on it; now I couldn't even flex it without pain. Andy gave me his far more substantial emergency blanket/tarp, and I crawled into the ditch in front of some farm property not far from where we had stopped. My knee was in such pain that once I was in the ditch, I couldn't climb out to get my bike. Martin had to carry it down for me. I used a piece of gravel to scratch up my cue card at the next turn, since I didn't expect to remember it in the morning. I wished them good luck, wrapped myself in the tarp, and instantly fell asleep. It was 1:30 AM. I was at mile 333 of 382.


Sunday morning, before sunrise.
Gravel racing always seems to send me to dark and scary corners of the soul. This situation was the darkest place I had been yet, both literally and figuratively. I had traveled 330 miles, and knew that if I woke up and my knee hadn't improved, I'd be calling for a ride back to Spring Valley. At this point, I cared only about finishing - not in what style, or how long it took.

I slept for at least an hour, maybe two, and lied there for another hour, occasionally seeing lightning in the distance as the sky began to brighten. The cold eventually kept me awake; I later realized that I had neglected to even zip up my rain jacket. Just before 5:00 AM, not wanting to have a run in with the property owner or get rained on while already cold, I decided to try my luck pedaling.

Things seemed tolerable. I could flex my knee again, and started to very slowly pedal towards the
The Almanzo course at sunrise is gorgeous.
finish. The sun was beginning to rise, and it wasn't raining yet - though I could still see lightning on the horizon. I avoided pushing down with my right leg, and pedaled primarily with my left. I could still pull up with my right, which helped me up some hills, but I decided it would be wisest to walk most hills until I was a bit closer to the finish. My speed was heinously slow, but sunrise was gorgeous. I just focused on making forward progress and seeing the Almanzo course in an entirely new light.

Thunder and rain hit about one mile before Forestville state park. I hoped to find some shelter, and pulled up under the kiosk just before the closed bridge. At that moment, a camper and his wife pulled into the parking lot and told me about the picnic shelter just 100 feet away on the other side of the path. Admittedly, it was quite a bit better than standing under a kiosk. In fact, after spending the night in a ditch, sitting on a dry picnic bench while it rained outside felt downright magical.

Another pair of campers, who had also come to the shelter to escape the rain, were making coffee and offered me a mug.

‘Coffee?’ … ‘Yes please’.
It was raining. There was a fire. I was happy.
‘Cream?’ … ‘Yes please’.
‘Banana chips?’ … ‘Wow, sure!’.
‘Cereal?’ … ‘Seriously?’

They lectured me on the basics of birding and the incredible diversity of warblers in the area. A fire was made, and I spent the next hour drinking coffee and sitting in front of the fire as the rain continued to fall. It was somehow quite surreal to have arrived at this shelter at just the moment the rain began; had I been five minutes faster I would have pressed on in the rain and missed out on what somehow became one of the highlights of the ride.

When the rain stopped and I felt suitably warm, I emptied all but three bottles of water and began the climb out of the park. I chose to walk it, not yet feeling confident enough in my knee to pressure it. I had flashbacks to 2012, when I was forced to dismount and walk the same hill due to excessive cramping. The pattern was repeated in a mile. More slow walking. It was going to be a very slow 35 miles to the finish.

The wind picked up and my speed was often less than 10 mph. I began to dismount and walk up small rollers, as my knee pain was increasing ever so gradually. Standing to pedal was still not an option, and had not been an option for the last 90 miles.

Somewhere around this time I had the insight to check my saddle height, and sure enough it had dropped very slightly over the course of the ride. I believe that my seatpost slipping, combined with the compression of my new saddle, was the cause of my knee pain. Raising the saddle helped slightly, but this far into the race it was almost pointless. Lessons for the future...

Showing off my jumbo beef steak.
I stopped in Cherry Grove to use the soda machine which I had passed by without thinking many times before. A lady saw me and pulled up in her minivan, thinking I was a racer from Saturday that was lost and needed help. Her daughter was quick to tell me that the soda machine didn't take quarters. She was right. Smart girl. I thanked them, and they wished me luck as I headed off into the strong crosswinds in the direction of the upcoming water crossing. Memories of 2012 flashed through my head. I passed the spot where my teammates and I had taken a nap at the side of the windswept road, and soon thereafter I rounded the corner where I had, in last year's race, searched the road for the connecting link of a my friends broken track chain (we never found it).

I saw the Almanzo tape just before Orion road, and decided to follow it, having been informed via Facebook that the water crossing was dangerous. I was glad to not have to wade through a river or do the climb on the other side. Wind and exhaustion were challenging enough.

The sun came out at mile 90, and I was faced with my final challenge of the ride: Oriole Road. I've never had to walk this hill, and my goal ahead of the Alexander - aside from finishing - was to ride Oriole.  I ascended it at a comically slow pace, nearly grinding to a halt many times and weaving up it in switchbacks with some sneaky one-legged hammering. It got quite a bit easier when I realized I was still in the middle of my cassette rather than my 30t cog. I think I yelled something rather obscene at the moment of that realization. But I made it to the top... and the same held true for the hill at mile 95. I credit the one legged climbing of those hills with wrecking my left knee, to absolutely no surprise.

The final few miles were sunny with a ridiculous headwind. I got rather emotional when I hit the
I've never been so happy to see my car.
pavement, one mile from the finish. Having a few people at the finish line to greet me was both unexpected and delightful. It was sunny, warm, and I could finally stop pedaling. I can't imagine a better way to finish. My total time was 53 hours.

On the drive home I realized why I had decided to ride it in the first place. On a bike I can almost always rely on my physical strength to see me through bad situations. But the Alexander left me feeling crippled; I no longer had that crutch to lean against. The last seven hours of the ride were an exercise in focus and determination; it was a grand test of spirit. I was unsure of my ability to finish until Spring Valley was only 20 miles away. Riding endurance events like these allow the strength of the spirit to shine through when the body fails. That’s a rare, albeit highly unpleasant experience. It’s an experience I’m grateful to have had. In hindsight, being forced to spend those last few hours in a ditch and finish the ride solo was the best thing that could have happened.

My thanks go out to Chris Skogen and all the volunteers that make Almanzo possible, and to Andy, Jonas, and Martin for being such fun riding partners and helping me stay optimistic and focused in what was, from start to finish, a really monumental adventure. I'd also like to thank Decorah Bicycles for the mechanical help, and all the mystery people who offered me food, water, or just checked to make sure I was safe and not lost.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Random post title.

In the interest of not being a complete stranger, I wanted to log my progress on this rather large commissioned piece. The magenta underpainting is acrylic. The shift to green is at the request of the client.

The challenge is figuring out how to reconcile multiple color requests. My color vision (which is admittedly arbitrary and rather meaningless) doesn't agree with the room colors, which are highly contrasting with the client's favorite color/colors. Which makes the whole project an interesting challenge.

But hey - I'm a colorist, if nothing else. I've got this shit ... (Somehow).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A long silence...

... comes to an end.

I've been lazy about blogging lately, and correspondingly lazy in the studio lately. Thats not to say I haven't accomplished anything - I just haven't tortured myself quite like I did with the monster still life from the 9th layer of Hell.

I've divided my time between two paintings, one old and one new, and have finally settled on the new one as my primary focus. It's a still life of found objects, and it keeps growing in size. And complexity. I love composing this way.

To get the blog up to date, I'll post all the work im progress shots so far. It took about two weeks to get interested in this painting, which only happened after starting to resolve the many lighting issues. The solution? 50/50 fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mmmmmm... more light.

So I added some early morning direct sunlight. Unfortunatey, I haven't been able to make it onto the studio at 9am for quite a while, so the addition was mostly an invention. I think its a step in th right direction; but I would have greatly preferred to have been working from life in this instance. I'll let the public be the judge.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Painting a paintbrush.

How lame is that? I think I would have rather impaled myself with it. Also, the working title of this painting is 'Primarily Bullshit'. Get it?