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Spring is just around the corner.

Bummer (don't worry - I'm not giving up quite yet - and neither is winter as it's snowing now).

BUT, since it's coming, I may as well deal with it. I went out in the last few days and grabbed a few local caches that are considered "winter friendly".

I grabbed Bridge Over Miller Creek yesterday on the way to work. It's a quick micro about 50' from the road (which you can park on). Got me back into the groove I think...

After work I headed out to the Zoo to get Eagles, Emus, and Roos, although I didn't figure I'd find it (since canpaddle was there and said the coordinates were well inside the Zoo fence), but I figured I'd try anyway (and no, I didn't find it).

The coordinates got corrected this morning (and the cache got found multiple times), so I went over there after work today (worked an earlier shift), grabbed that cache, then went on to three other ones in the Woodland/Hartley area:

Fortess of Solitude (I think it's supposed to be Fortress) - a quick micro that isn't really winter friendly although I didn't have any problems.

Pi Day Cache in Hartley - a multi cache requiring some simple (for a sixth grader, not me) math, both before you get to the cache site as well as out in the woods.

The Root Cellar, a cache in Hartley at the root cellar on the old estate.

The snow was just starting to come down when I did the first cache, and by the time I started the Pi Day Cache it was just past sunset and coming down pretty hard.

Now I feel inspired to do more caching. Hmm.....



March 1: Ride From Finland, MN To the End Of the Gunflint Trail




Took a ride on Saturday with Jamie from Finland (we parked near where the Rec Center used to be on #7) up to the end of the Gunflint Trail, then down into Grand Marais for dinner, then back to Finland. This was certainly one of the better rides I've been on in terms of scenery.

The trail from Finland to Devil Track Lake was excellent - freshly groomed and in places we were the second track on the trail for the morning. We were quite surprised by the total lack of people we saw all day, especially in the morning. We were the only ones parked in Finland when we left the parking lot (at 9:15am), and saw only a handful of sleds between there and Devil Track Lake.

Once we got to the cutoff for the "X" Expressway Trail, we opted to continue up the North Shore Trail to the "G" Trail, then go to the end of the Gunflint Trail, then come back on the "X" Trail.

I was fairly unimpressed with the Gunflint Trails in general - they were poorly groomed, icy, and very poorly marked for corners and such (mostly true north of Trail Center). We found numerous corners where we crested a hill and found the trail took a hard right or left, without notice (and on an icy corner). The trails (especially the "G" trail) is also VERY twisting - there are not very many straight sections but lots and lots of tight corners.

As I said earlier, the scenery up the Gunflint was amazing. I've been to Trail Center a few times in the past, although that's as far as I've ever been up the Gunflint. I'd like to return here during the warmer weather to check out some of the many hiking trails in the area (I think the fall would be the best). You can look at some of the pics here. There are a number of overlooks, and even a few spots where you're in a field but can see for many miles. Even when you're in some of the valleys you're amazed - the area is fun to be in - much of which you would never see from your car.

Talked a little with the DNR officer when we got to the end of the trail at Sag Lake - he was out checking for trail stickers and such. I always figured that there would be SOMETHING at the end of the trail - a lodge or something maybe to eat at. Instead there was a parking lot and a sign on Sag Lake outlining the rules to proceed to Canada. Sort of a disappointing ending to the trail.

After that we headed back to Grand Marais and had lunch/dinner at My Sister's Place, which is a favorite of mine (although the meal didn't quite sit right with Jamie or myself, so I'm not sure how much of a favorite they will be - we'll find out on the next trip).

The ride would have ended in a perfect ride from a mechanical standpoint if it weren't for the last 10 feet.. The wear rod on my left ski was apparently loose (the nuts must have backed off over time), so when the ski went up to go on the trailer the wear rod separated from the ski, went through the tail light of the trailer, bent into a funny shape (there's a picture of that), and then bucked the sled about a third off the trailer. The only thing I could do at that point was laugh.

All in all, a very good ride, although very tiring. Glad it wasn't part of a 300-mile day. That's coming up in just a couple of weeks....

Total trip mileage: 264
Total year mileage: 1638



Unrefunded Gas Tax and the MRR




There's a real threat currently going through the Minnesota State Legislature.

There is a group called MRR (Minnesotans for Responsible Recreation) which wants to do away with the unrefunded gas tax, which pays for grooming, maintenance, and expansion of the snowmobile trail system (along with other motorized sports). The unrefunded gas tax is calculated to be that portion of the gas tax that goes into non-highway vehicles, thus it's a tax paid on gas by people that don't use that gas while traveling the state's highway system.

The MRR, which claims to be promoting responsible recreation, is actually pushing non-motorized recreation while trying to ban motorized recreation (why else would a group that is pushing recreation be attempting to repeal laws that put the unrefunded gas tax into the state highway fund instead of the recreation fund where it belongs?).

There is a bill in the MN legislature now (SF3087) that will repeal snowmobilers (and other motorized sport users) access to the unrefunded gas tax.

I urge you to contact your state representatives. You can easily look them up here:

http://geo.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/districts/start.html

This is a real threat to snowmobiling - without this funding snowmobiling in the state would be drastically different.

Currently approximately $14.2 million is appropriated annually from the snowmobile account for the development, maintenance and operation of the state snowmobile system. $8.4 million is used to run the grant programs to the clubs. An additional $5.8 million is appropriated to the DNR for enforcement, state trails and management of the snowmobile account. These numbers are from the MnUSA Snowmobile Club website (http://www.mnsnowmobiler.org). Minnesota's snowmobile trail system is the backbone of winter tourism in the state. With a present grant-in-aid trail budget of $8.4 million going to the clubs to build and maintain approximately 90% of the trails, a conservative $200 million is generated in tourism dollars. A recently completed economic impact study reports the snowmobile effect on Minnesota includes 8,000 jobs with wages and salaries of $245 million; $529 million in gross state product; $1 billion in gross receipts/sales and $56 million in state and local tax revenues. Snowmobiling is an important industry to Minnesota and adequate funding is necessary to provide the trails.



February 23: Ride From Jamie's to the Dixie Star




Met up with Jamie and his family at 6pm and we all headed up to Dixie's north of Two Harbors on Hwy 2 for dinner (actually I think they already ate, so it was more like a snack for them - dinner for me). Trail conditions on the way up were fair - the trail had some bumps but was in remarkable shape for a Saturday evening. We maintained a good 25-30 mph 'family' pace, and got up there around 8:15 including a couple of generous breaks.

I've been to Dixie's before, most recently about a month ago, but I don't believe I've ever been inside. Pat swears that we had a pop there once although I think he's confused about that. I was impressed with the inside - I expected to see a run-down dirty bar with bar food, but instead saw a establishment that was fairly well maintained, nice woodwork and some paintings, and a decent menu. I ended up getting a Hawaiian pizza, a personal favorite of mine. At first I was told that they didn't have the pineapple, so I settled for pepperoni, although she came back a couple of minutes later and said that it turns out that they purchased the pineapple earlier in the day, so I was set. Pizza was not bad - loaded fairly well with cheese for sure.

As an added bonus, they now have a 24 hour gas pump, selling both normal (87) octane and the premium non-oxygenated stuff. To top it off, the regular gas was 10 cents cheaper than Duluth gas stations in Duluth (and I'm told 4 cents cheaper than Two Harbors gas stations). Having a pump in that area that is only a few miles off the main trail (Dixie's is 4 miles off the North Shore State Trail) will be an added benefit for all snowmobilers in the area. The trip into the town of Two Harbors is long and not usually worth the trip if you need gas unless you're really on "E".

At 86 miles round trip, this will probably be another favorite destination for evening rides, like the Pequaywan.

Total trip mileage: 86
Total year mileage: 1374



February 23: Ride From Home Around Area Lakes




Took a short spin in the early afternoon after fixing up my machine to make sure that it was trail-worthy. I left home and went over to Fish Lake to see just how many people were at the vintage rally there. I was surprised by what I saw (I heard it was the biggest turnout ever). In addition to those parked on the ice, the road was clogged with vehicles.


I also headed over to watch Megan race in front of the Hi-Banks, although I got a call from DLHCacher who was having sled problems on Island Lake, so I ended up helping him out and never did get to see Megan race.

I was warned about the DNR clocking people on Island Lake near the ice ridges on the west side, so I made sure to watch my speed and wave when I saw them.

After helping DLH out and getting him on his way I headed home so I could make it to a BARC meeting in time. 24 short miles for the afternoon, although now I know things are working properly (for the moment anyway). As an added bonus, I now have a working speedometer/odometer again!

Total trip mileage: 24
Total year mileage: 1288



Movie: World Trade Center




Ok, so I don't normally do movie reviews. In fact, this would be a first. But don't get your hopes up - it's not really a movie review. :)

I watched World Trade Center today - it's a movie that is centered around two Port Authority police officers that were trapped near an elevator shaft when the tower collapsed. It talks about their time underground (one was about 20' down in the rubble, the other closer to 40'), the effects on their families, and their rescue.

Until I popped it in the DVD player I thought the movie was a documentary. Turns out it falls somewhere between documentary and drama. It's played out more as a drama but apparently follows the real-life story.

Although the acting isn't Grammy-worthy, the story is what makes this movie worth watching.



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