This American Birkebeiner is a huge deal, if you've not heard of it.
By end of day Saturday, the little city of Hayward -- a hamlet of 2,500 -- will have seen 10,700 skiers pass through the downtown. And we'll see another 20,000 family and friends of skiers descend on to cheer them on, have beer and bratwurst and celebrate. (A few of us residents might join them.)
I took photos for nearly three hours today as the beginning of the open-course skiers crested a temporary bridge and skied three city blocks after traversing tens of kilos (it depends on where one starts during the open course).
This temporary bridge -- you can see in some of the photos -- is called the International Bridge and festooned with country flags representing the home countries of the athletes. That was put up Monday with the delicacy of a card house -- amazing to watch. The bridge and Main Street are then lathered with pristine snow that is scraped off the local graveyard and then groomed for the races. I'm sure those buried support the effort.
Complete strangers cheered on athletes along with the initial visitors who arrived early. It's tradition for people to bring cowbells to cheer on the skiers -- yes, the more cowbell the better.
The region was supposed to be covered in our first foot snow only to be greeted by a second, complimentary foot tonight and Thursday but the snowstorm split in two, nailing those north and south.
Jesus must like the American Birkebeiner.
The temperature hit a lovely high of 24 degrees -- luxurious this time of the year in the Wisconsin northwoods -- and the sun shined down. The occasional gust might force you to turn and face away but it's as nothing to us.
After a while, frozen, I turned into the warmth of Anglers Bar & Grill to have the special of the day: grilled cheese and a bowl of tomato soup for $10.75. Lunch served as the epitome of a warming sustenance.
On the downside? My right knee is angry about my choices and I'm walking around like Fred Sanford. The bottoms of my feet ache like angry pancakes.
These things, too, shall pass.
If you think of it, seek me out on Venmo to give daddy a little sugar at @Rich-Jackson-15.
Peace on to the Ukraine and peace and winter delights unto you my brothers and sisters.
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