The second annual Gravel Pizza Overnighter was full of brilliant colors, cold downpours, and a wonderful evening at Wedges Creek after the rain finally let up. We enjoyed music in the barn, delicious pizza, and cool fall evenings around the campfire. Here is a recap of the event and gallery of photos.
Friday Color Ride & Josh's Campfire Apple Crisp
Pulling into our camp, I was surprised how colorful the fall was. Last year we did Gravel Pizza this exact same weekend and the colors had just barely started changing colors. This year the colors were brilliant and in full transition. The overhanging storm clouds gave the the forest deep shadows and warm reds, yellows, and oranges.
We gathered together underneath a pine tree to meet everyone, talk about the Friday plan, and roll out for the social ride. Our route was about 20 miles and ended at Boondock's bar for drinks and apps. The clouds made the nighttime feel like it set in early. We pushed through a few miles of alternating sand and gravel before breaking onto one of my favorite sections of Eau Claire County gravel. The occasional logging opened up some wide fall colorscapes and inviting views.
We hung out at Boondocks while the rain pounded the rooftop and a campfire felt completely off the table. We waited through constant on/off rain until finally dashing back to our tents.
Lucky for us there was a pavilion so we just moved the fire pit right next to rooftop, made a blazing fire, and enjoyed some homemade tinfoil warm apple crisp and melting ice cream together under the dryness of the pavilion.
Saturday Storms, A Short Break, Then More Storms.
Waking up to pouring rain wasn't exactly the way I imagined starting the main ride. Originally the weather predicted it drying out around 9am but now it was a solid block of rain until at least mid afternoon.
Still, cars full of bikes kept showing up ready to take on whatever conditions the day would dish out and despite the dismal forecast, 35 people came in for the group rollout. My wife Nicole, our great friend Molly, and a few friends from my hometown of Eau Claire joined so it was nice having close friends to ride with knowing it'd be a rainy day out there.
My favorite part is the group rollout. I love meeting everyone, hearing stories of what brought everyone together and beginning the gravel fellowship that we'd all build on during the weekend.
The ride included two planned stops, The Stockyard for cheese curds and AKA Lakeside for a beverage. Riding into the Stockyard, the rain gave us a proper beating. The wind was powerful and the gravel was sticky. We even opted to ride a longer route around one section of gravel just to keep our wheels moving a little faster than the mushy gravel.
Everyone congregated at The Stockyard and my fingers were numb. I ordered a cup of hot water just to try to re-gain feeling in my digits and stop shivering.
This was a big turning point in the ride.
We opted to bike back to our vehicle on paved roads so that we could get out of the cold rain and trace the route making sure everyone was okay. Many others got shuttled back to their vehicles as well while a few handfuls of people pushed onwards.
We met up with everyone at Wedges Creek and it was so good to dry out and here everyone's stories of the rain ride.
Burning the Evening Away at Wedges Creek
Getting to Wedges Creek felt like it made the downpour worth it. People took showers, ordered their free welcome drink and settled in for the evening with hot pizza. It was great having a cozy revamped barn with drinks, pizza, music, and giant fire right outside the door for settling in for the evening with everyone.
We sat around tables eating pizza and listening to the Sliced Bread Jug Band make a ruckus. Bikers continued to trickle in throughout the evening and it was fun hearing their stories. Tenters set up tents and others rented tiny cabins for the night.
Before tucking into the truck bed where I'd be sleeping, I slipped out for a few night photos. The cool fall air felt healing and the quiet wind in the pines made for a beautiful lullaby. Even though the day didn't have the best circumstances, I went to bed full of joy for the people I got to meet, the challenge we shared, and having my wife there for the adventure.
Farm Breakfast & Riding Back to the Start
Once again, the rain woke me up on Sunday morning. I snoozed a few more minutes before throwing on a rain coat and walking over to the barn for the farm breakfast where everyone was congregating. There were tons of eggs, sausage, and hash browns and I mashed it all together into a big pile on my plate.
Riders packed up wet tents and deliberated about biking back or looking for a ride. A handful of people took a slow morning eating breakfast and then started out on bikes when it looked like the rain might be done for the day.
My wife rode back solo while I stayed at Wedges Creek to make sure everything wrapped up and I drove the course checking on everyone.
I climbed on top of my CRV at the very end of the long straightaway marking the route conclusion to grab photos of people finishing their adventure. High fives, a few more photos, and we cleaned up and said goodbye to the Gravel Pizza Overnighter.
Next Year: Gravel Pizza Festival?
We're already cooking up plans for next year with ideas to make it a basecamp event with multiple distance options, two nights of camping at Wedges Creek, and more fall adventure ideas to explore together. What will be the same and what will be different? What other activities might be included? Will it still be in September?
We'll share more details as it develops. Announcements always go Patrons first then email subscribers so make sure to join us on Patreon and subscribe to our email list to get updated.
Goodnight, Gravel Pizza.