Saturday, March 12, 2011

Death March on Ghost Roads: XXC Magazine Article Preview

I feel like I’m trying to solve that childhood math brain teaser, only train A is my teammate and I traveling 5 miles of pavement and 5 miles of gravel and train B is us traveling 4 miles of gravel and 3 miles of singletrack with two creek crossings.  Which one will reach Callahan Cemetery first?  That problem and dozens like it have burnt up more emails, Facebook posts, and text messages in the past two weeks than two teenage girls trying to pick out outfits for the Lady Gaga concert.  Today, the day before the Sub 9 Death March in Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest, at least we’re certain that we’ll be wearing mountain bike shoes and our hot spandex shorts.      

Since there isn’t a set course and the object is to reach all the mandatory check points and get to the finish in the quickest time, the variables are mind numbing: gravel, time bonus checkpoints, pavement, singletrack, shortcuts, swollen creeks, a firetower climb, slippery mud, crosswinds, the ever present chance of mistaking a hunting trail for an official trail and the drama of which checkpoints will be mandatory.  The last two weeks of planning, while a great distraction from work and team building exercise, have been nearly maddening.  Thank goodness we met at the Rusty Bucket over a beer.  My BioWheels/Reece-Campbell Racing teammates and I probably revised our route once every two days.  Maybe after two weeks my eyes are catching up to my master's age, but I swear there are roads or trails that appear to go through from point A to point B on Google Maps, but at a second glance they disappear in the middle of nowhere.  It very well could be a death march. 

Read More In the Next Issue of XXC Magazine
Back before this part of Hoosier National Forest was an area of recreation and conservation, before the Army Corps of Engineers built the dams and lakes, this was family farm and logging country.  The stones in the cemetery, lined up by name and some dating to the early 1800’s, are testament to that.  The stones in Robertson Cemetery have quite a few Robertson’s, same with Todd Cemetery.  When your grandparents were young, there were farms and farm roads, logging camps and logging roads here.  Eventually, however, the land was used up of its riches.  The farmers and loggers moved on to richer soils and older trees.  About that time, the government began purchasing parcels.  The rivers were dammed, the town of Elkinsville evacuated, and the lakes and park born.  Consequently, in the last 50 or 60 years, like the modern day ghost town of Elkinsville, some of those old farm and logging roads have simply been retaken by nature.  Internet mapping hasn’t been so quick to notice the ghost roads.  Suddenly your GPS isn’t so reliable. 

It's 8:45am and we're awaiting the announcement of the other two mandatory checkpoints.

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