Dirt Burger 2012 – Right in the Witch’s Mouth!

Dirt Burger happens in Decorah, IA somewhere around early June and this was the 4th installment of a laid-back event that celebrates mountain bikes, sleeping under a bridge, bonfires and adult beverages. As you will see in the accompanying photos fat-bikes figured prominently in the event!

If you’ve been to a previous Dirt Burger you will know that it is a pretty loosely organized event with the prevailing mood of those gathered largely determining the timing of the “events”. Said events include drinking adult beverages, riding mountain bikes, food of some sort, Bucketball, music, fire, sleep (maybe), repeat.

The usual cast of Decorah regulars including quasihost Sov, Spinner, O’gara, Benji, Chewy, Deke, Gunnar and The Captain were all on hand at various times to make sure that those from the outer reaches (Milwaukee, Lincoln, Rochester, Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids and other far-flung towns) had a clue as to what to do and where to do it. Local knowledge is a good thing in this case as we never lacked for something to do. Here is how it went down this year to the best of my recollection (dubious at best).

I traveled from Milwaukee to Decorah with PWC, Colin Ford, for the 4-hour drive on Friday afternoon. We discussed music, beer and other things may be best left unsaid in polite company arriving at the Twin Springs Bridge about 7PM to a somber welcome from Sov. “Events been cancelled, sorry” he said. Fortunately, the beer had already been bought and Colin was good enough to bring a couple of cases of Lakefront Brewery’s finest from Milwaukee so we decided to hang about a bit.

Fast forward 30 minutes or so and O’gara arrived with news of a buried pig up near the Pug Pit. Seems some help was needed up there and, as a few others had begun to arrive, we bucked up and rode up the road to the trail entrance for “Public Television” and rode in a couple hundred yards to the Pug Pit. Seems O’gara and his crew had something special planned for vittles. It really was a buried pig, in a pit, with coals! All 140 pounds of a WHOLE pig! One Pig Roast Decorah-style coming up. While waiting for the pig to finish with the help of more FIRE, we did the usual, talked schmack and had a few beers.

Pit opened and ready to remove the pig
Burlap gone now goes the chicken wire and foil
Carving up a tasty pig
Spinner the Vampire in the still hot pig pit

Since I can’t describe how good that pig was I’ll just say that we hung around the Pug Pit until well past midnight but the night wasn’t over yet. Our original plan was to go to the Haymarket to see a band but the 3 police cars out front veered us towards T-Bock’s for a brew before closing and it was back to the bridge for a bonfire and more conversing, possibly a brew or two may have been consumed.

Outside T-Bock's

7AM comes awfully early but that is the time the birds, tractors and sun see fit to wake us up. Fortunately, the Haymarket opens early for Breakfast with cheap food, a Bloody Mary and none of Decorah’s finest. So, that is where we went.

Breakfast at Haymarket

With nearly 20-miles of some of the best singletrack mountain bike trails in the Midwest it only seems fitting that we should at least go for a ride. O’gara led the assembled riders up into Palasadies, through some new additions and back down before heading to Van Peenen, past the Pug Pit strangely quiet in the daylight, and up to the Pines, Freds’s and the Luge before heading back to camp central for the forming of a plan for the next event on the calendar. The Bucketball World Championship.

Spinner on a new part of the "Log Jam" trail
They have imaginative transportation in Decorah
Haulin' drinks to Bucketball

Bucketball is a largely an unknown sport but with the coming years it is destined to break out of the shadows and DOMINATE. What is it you ask? Sov explains it like this “imagine bike polo without mallets or skinny jeans, and a 5 gallon pickle bucket in place of the ball and you’re on the right track.” Rules are almost nonexistent, form a team based on the number of participants, bash the bucket with any part of your bike, don’t put your foot down or you have to go around and have fun! I photographed it. People were indeed having fun. It looked painful at times. Don’t bring a bike you don’t want scuffed to your next Bucket Ball event.

Here are some pictures, you’ll probably get the idea. By the way, the trophy doesn’t go to the “winners” it goes to the third place team so there is some strategy involved. Probably best to just attend an event sometime. You’ll figure it out.

The Bucket
Bucketball action
Bucketball action
Bucketball action
Bucketball action
Bucketball Trophy Winners, Chewey, Chelsea and Brian

With the Bucketball Championship decided we rode over to McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita for a fund raiser to benefit Decorah Human Powered Trails (DHPT), listen to Bluegrass from Beet Root Stew, eat chicken and drink some tasty beverages.

Beet Root Stew playing the Bluegrass

DHPT is the steward of the great trails in the bluffs surrounding Decorah and their work over the years has made this small, Iowa town a must-visit for any mountain biker worth his or her salt. Do it, you won’t be disappointed. If you get there and don’t know where to go, stop in at Oneota River Cycles and have Deke point you in the right direction.

The find raiser for DHPT drew some great prizes for the raffle including, but not limited to:

  • A 1×1 frame donated by Surly
  • Deke from Oneota River Cycles donated a wheelset for the 1×1
  • Jamie Harper, the Banjo player from Beet Root Stew, donated some cycling-inspired art, made from recycled hollow-core doors and recycled paint
  • There were other prizes. I didn’t win any of them.
Jamie, the banjo player, donated bike-inspired art to the raffle

After the music and fund raiser we went back to camp for more fire. Pretty much the same as the last night but possibly bigger, hotter and definitely with more bikes jumping over or riding through. I didn’t quite make it to the end of the night but I do remember being lulled to sleep but the musical stylings of Sov and his banjo. And the rest partied on!


Sunday morning, same 7AM wake up birds. Most folks busied themselves breaking camp and getting ready to head out but not before a breakfast at T-Bock’s. More conversation and good times. A bit less on the adult beverages.

Breakfast at T-Bock's

Sunday also coincided with the Decorah Open Streets event. Though what it really meant was that they closed the main drag to autos. Nice of them to clear out a spot for an impromptu Street Derby before everyone went their separate ways.

Street Derby

Before Colin and I split we rode over to Luther College with Gunnar for 9 holes of disc golf to finish off the weekend.

If you can make it next year, and have the means, I highly recommend it. It is so choice! Bring a fat-bike!

About Greg Smith 1127 Articles
Greg Smith, known to many site visitors as Sven Hammer, founded Fat-bike.com in 2011 and the site quickly became the #1 online community for all things Fat. You can currently find Greg outfitting Everyday Cycles; a Milwaukee, WI retailer of gear for fatbikers, adventure cyclists and urban assault riders.