Ride report of Crusher225EX, May 23-24, 2020
The rules of engagement were simple: execute the pre-ride following race protocol
- Carry everything on the recommended gear list.
- Take selfies at seven predetermined checkpoints.
- Begin at “official” race start time (6:00am).
- Finish under 36 hours.
4:30am Driving to Forestville
As I’m rolling toward Forestville, my phone lights up. Text message: “Start easy, enjoy the cruise, and don’t chase pain … it will find you. Avoid digging deep, until it’s time to dig deep, then dig DEEP. Thinking of you brother, do hard things.” – Rob
Copy that, chief. I drive on.
5:00am Forestville parking lot
I didn’t have much to do but wait. Much of the past two months were spent preparing for 6:00am. Everything was ready the night before. I went through a few gear checks, had an ERG bar, and enjoyed a cup of coffee.
Honestly, at this point, I just wanted to get on with it already.
6:00am Mile 0–30
The first seven miles took 2.5 hours. No, that is not a typo. Keep in mind this was a recon ride, speed not being a priority as much as making solid assessments of the route and uncovering potential route issues. Yet, y’all best come prepared ’cause we start sorting the interested from the committed right outta da gate. Mile marker number one: carry your bike up and down a 400-foot vertical wall of granite. It’s HOB at its absolute finest. Things loosen up around mile marker four, and you might actually ride your bike for the first time since Forestville. Expect a bit of single track mixed with gravel and two-tracks. We filtered water around mile marker seven out of a creek. Not long after the creek crossing, you’ll ride some gravel, an abandoned railroad bed, and single track before popping out to 550 for a bit. When you jump off 550 back into “gravel” (Gold Mine Road), the route climbs steadily about 400 feet from mile marker 10 to 19 and then descends the same 400 feet back down to 550. Wilson Creek Truck Trail begins at mile marker 25.5 leading up to 510 around mile marker 31. We encountered HOB through here off and on and enjoyed a bit of bushwhacking. Expect major water hazards and a lot of climbing all the way to 510.
To quote Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” That sums up the first 30 miles.
OK. So the first 30 were pretty rough. You should definitely visit the magical spigot between mile markers 32 and 33. It may rejuvenate you if you can find it. Watch on your left: It’s a piece of PVC sticking out of a rock wall by a pallet. You’ll have smooth sailing from mile 31 up to mile marker 36.5, where you’ll take a left and cruise pavement for a few miles before jumping back into gravel at mile marker 38.9 (Northwestern Road). Note: FROM THIS POINT FORWARD THE COURSE BECOMES INCREASINGLY REMOTE. As you roll from mile marker 38.9 to mile marker 51.4 you’ll pass several options for filtering water, pass through Dodge City, experience unexpected “support” (reference photo), and feel the “road” becoming increasingly narrower. Keep your eyes peeled for side-by-sides and motorbikes – we saw several. Get ready to climb at mile marker 51.4 for about three-miles, where you will meet Ford Road and possibly experience some of the worst sand I’ve seen this year. You’ll follow this potentially barren wasteland to mile marker 55.5, where you’ll connect with Triple A.
Your beaten and battered soul should rebound a bit here as you leave Northwestern Road and the beach behind you. We had multiple options to stop and filter water between this point and mile marker 70 (Mt. Arvon). We hit a couple of water hazards, and possibly a few side-by-sides, but it was otherwise pretty quiet. You’ll get a decent climb in here followed by a fun descent before you finally tackle Michigan’s highest point beginning around mile marker 68. NOTE: The bugs out here were NUTS. If you stopped, you were swarmed by enough black flies to carry you away. Hope it’s better in July.
You’ll get to breathe a bit for the next 40 miles. Miles 69 to 84 are generally downhill, though I do recall some HOB and bushwhacking for a bit along the Slate River. Enjoy the bugs.
After the HOB you can settle in for a good bit. Roland Lake Road was particularly pleasant and un-enhanced. We caught some pavement for a bit on Skanee Road out past Big Eric’s Bridge (mile marker 91) before jumping back onto some bumpy enhanced gravel. Watch for side-by-sides in here too as we saw a few. If you follow our Strava track, you’ll see Eric Road connects you back to Northwestern Road. It was somewhere after this transition that road conditions improved again, leaving the side-by-sides behind. From here to mouth of the Huron River it was a pleasant ride. Busting out to the lake was incredible. We used a raft to cross the mouth due to cold and highwater. By July you’ll be able to follow the sandbars a bit to get around to the other side. If you have folks following you and offering support they can drive to a campground at the mouth. It took us about 15 hours to get there, and we managed to cross before dark. I would highly suggest making this crossing in daylight.
We left the Huron after dark (spent about an hour there). The ride from here to L’Anse is paved. Enjoy it as it is the only reprieve you will have on this journey – and there’s plenty of pain waiting for you ahead. We made good time into L’Anse arriving around 1:00am. We experienced a moment that was both funny and sad – when Torrey rolled up to the Subway and found it closed. I can’t recall exactly what he said, but I will never forget the level of dejection I felt in that moment. I was worried that lost sub might be enough to put him down for the count, but he would press on.
This is a great time to consider what time you plan to start your little adventure. We started at 6:00am, and when we rolled into L’Anse everything was closed. Mind you, this was a recon ride – and we were rolling with a six-man crew that was regrouping and sticking together. We were also taking a lot of pictures and generally not in a hurry. Under a more race-orientated timeline, I think we could have made it into L’Anse while businesses were still open, but not everyone will. Ponder your start times. You could start at midnight, as long as you don’t mind doing the first four miles in the dark. If you choose to do so, bring really bright lights. There’s gonna be a fair bit of strategy involved in some of your decisions.
Climb, climb, climb for the next 15 or so miles. The roads are lightly enhanced and remote as all get out. There were multiple opportunities to stop and filter water if needed.
We rode through the night arriving at the McCormick Outhouse (mile marker 170) at roughly 5:00am. You’ll follow the Peshekee Grade (Huron Bay Road) to Dishno Road and hang a left at mile marker 175. More miles and miles of climbing, but the views are great and the road is pretty damn good. About mile marker 198 you get onto the paved shoulder of Triple and have a brief reprieve before jumping back into sandy two-track a couple miles down the road – just before the Yellow Dog River crossing. Note: The river crossing is full of large baby-head-size boulders and rocks. It’s very passable but use caution. July to October water levels should be knee high or lower. Once across you will climb up and away from the river, entering into “The Mulligan.” I’m not sharing pictures. You deserve to witness this for yourself.
If there is a section of the adventure that remains under construction – this is it. It might change, and if it does so will the mile markers from this point forward. Leaving “The Mulligan,” you’ll jump out onto the Mulligan Plains: one of the most unique and special places in the U.P. I hope you pass through as we did in the daylight – the view and “feeling” are something special. Leaving the plains, you’ll enter what we refer to as the Yooper Desert, or Red Road. I think it’s about eight miles long. It’ll feel like 20. Ha ha. We got lucky Sunday; it was fast. I’ll admit, I laughed out loud as we chugged along thinking to myself, “It won’t be this nice for those poor bastards in July.” Ha ha. You’ll jump outta the sands of Red Road at mile marker 220. Enjoy a very brief reprieve.
At mile marker 220, you leave 510 and jump into the snowmo trail. For many of you, it will be a soul-crushing experience. Just when you think “it’s all downhill from here,” we managed to find more wet, chunky, mind-numbing climbs: one after another. There are some big hills in dem der woods! It’s the Crusher – battle to the bitter end!