Visiting Levis-Trow felt like a homecoming or sorts for my wife and I last weekend. We left our pack of wild dogs at home and traveled northwest to attend the third running of Yeti-Fest (formerly called the Sweaty Yeti). We were joined by several of our old ride tribe from our days serving time down in the suburbs of Chicago. We’ve always thought of our ride group as more of a family at Levis!….Sweet, sweet, Levis! has been our tribe’s council grounds for nearly 30 years. Yeti-Fest carries the DNA from old school mountain bike races that go all the way back to the 1980’s, like the Buzzard Buster. WEMS 12 hour endurance racing – the Wisconsin State Singlespeed Championships – Pedros Fest and the burning man of the mid-west – GnomeFest all echo from the pine plantations, up to the top of the mounds, all of the way out to goat dance. The man that started it all those years ago is Steve Meurett. He started making mountain bike trails with just a lawn mower. Steve is sort of a northwoods renaissance man, that I’m lucky to have befriended, quite a long time ago. Steve caught fat-bike fever at GnomeFest a few years ago and fat-bikes have reignited his passion for hosting events. Yeti-Fest has more of a Winter Festival flavor, with no serious race aftertaste and that’s just the way Steve likes it!
The weekend started with an Event at Sand Creek Brewing in Black River Falls on Friday Evening. Our last hour of the drive up was appropriately accomplished in whiteout conditions and delivered us to the brewery’s cozy tasting room, at the height of ‘happy hour’! We applied our ample thirsts to pints of Sand Creek’s delicious craft brewed beer and were soon joined by our amigos from the “I” States. We finished off the night at a real old time Wisconsin Supper Club. Many of Sand Creek’s Golden Ales gave their lives to insure we were properly carbo loaded for Saturday’s Race?
The next morning we rolled into the race venue about 45 minutes before the start and were both surprised and delighted to see that the lot was almost full! There was a few inches of fresh snow that Steve and had groomed into a fat-bike playground and some snow showers still lingered with temps in the single digits. Our plan was to get some riding in and take some pictures to share with you all. Bethany started her day by taking Steve’s daughter Tenley on her first fat-bike ride. They returned and Tenley had the fat-bike grin that comes along with everyone’s first fat-bike ride. We sampled more of Sand Creek’s great beer and snapped shots of racers, negotiating the course for the duration of the race. We even managed to get in some riding!
After the race ended we all took shelter in the Chalet, where a pot-luck feast had been simmering in crock pots and hot plates for the last couple of hours. The keg was sledded into the chalet and the winners were awarded their prizes, along with generous amounts of schwag doled out to everyone in a raffle.
These truly grass roots events are going to more and more rare as fat-bikes grow in popularity in the coming years. Maybe it’s because I was part of the first fat-bike races in Wisconsin, that I long for days like these to remain, but change and growth are inevitable with something as fun as fat-bikes. This style fat-bike race has already changed a bit to accommodate more serious racers, but not to the extent that it takes away from the festival atmosphere that is very close to my heart. After the awards ceremonies were over, several of our old ride tribe took to the trails and enjoyed one last ride for the day. We were able to ride a section of the course backwards and then roam Levis’s groomed fat-bike trails like kids again and that’s what will always keep me coming back for more! I hope that you all get the opportunity to get together with old friends and play bikes like we did at Yeti-Fest. It’s truly one of life’s treasures!
Click on any photo in the gallery to view it larger.
Steve Meurett’s Story about the race – http://on-theedge.blogspot.com