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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

SILENT SPORTS: Exercising the Upper Midwest

Pardon me if I'm a little winded―I've just been reading Silent Sports, an interesting new addition to the newsstand. The magazine is devoted to aerobic sports in the Upper Midwest: bicycling, running, paddling, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking and a few things I didn't know were sports (more about them later). The geographic areas covered are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, northern Illinois and northeast Iowa, though a lot of the well-written articles in the pages of Silent Sports will be of interest to participants in these kinds of activities around the country. The magazine starts out a recent issue with an editorial noting with glee that the $286 billion five-year transportation bill signed into law a few months ago by President Bush contains a great deal of funding for hiking and other recreational trails, $120 million alone for trails in the district of one powerful Minnesota congressman. "The bill," writes editor Joel Patenaude, "is good for highway builders but surprisingly also a boon for biking and hiking visionaries. The latter category of spending is what the tax protesting, sedentary crowd considers 'pork.' To the rest of us, it's an overdue but sound investment in the health of Americans. It's anti-pork pork, if you will―money meant to encourage us to exercise and trim the pork we'd otherwise carry around with us." One thing that's clear very early in this issue of Silent Sports is that these non-sedentary guys and girls get exercised whenever they perceive a threat to their turf from the non-silent sports. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are one example: an article decries Wisconsin state funds going to support the ATV industry, and another attacks a proposal in Michigan to allow disabled seniors to use ATVs anywhere on state-owned land. There's also a warning of a move in Wisconsin to expand hunting in state parks. Jeff Rennicke, author of ten books, writes elegantly and despairingly of a recent cigarette boat race (they're very loud, very big and very fast) around the otherwise serene Apostle Islands in western Lake Superior, which he notes with alarm was called the "First Annual Apostle Islands Poker Run" (the 50 participating boat drivers had to pick up playing cards at various points in the race to prove they had reached them). Silent Sports is filled with articles on trails in the region, especially scenic hiking trails and trails built on abandoned railroad lines; apparently the Upper Midwest is doing very well in the trails department. Editor Patenaude contributes an amusing account of his participation in the first marathon race run around Grand Island, located a half-mile from Michigan's Upper Peninsula in Lake Superior. Despite it being a July 30 event, he was urged to bring a fleece jacket (the weather is unpredictable) and to wear bells (to let the bears know he was coming). While he didn't see any bears, just their scat, "the bell was worth having if only to annoy my brother-in-law and running partner." I found an article on the art of "cyclocross," which involves a bicycle race where there are barriers and impassable hills that you have to carry your bicycle over and past; getting on and off the bicycle quickly is essential to success. Then there's roller skiing, which you do on paved trails and which involves skis with small air-filled tires front and back. Europe has an established roller ski race circuit, and a lot of snow skiers use roller skis in the fall to get in shape. I liked some of author Walter Meanwell's "roller skiing reminders," such as: "There are two kinds of roller skiers: those who have fallen and those who will… Take a phone: if you do fall but are still conscious, you can make a call from the ditch... If you choose to wave to motorists, use all five fingers." The back dozen pages of the 100-page issue contain many, many small-type listings of events throughout the region organized by sport. Silent Sports is published monthly in Waupaca, WI, and an annual subscription is $18.00 from the publisher; you can get a sample copy from us for $2.59.


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