Zen On Dirt


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Why I think blogs are narcissistic, self-centered, and awesome

So, I made a snarky comment on this blog the other day. I generally subscribe to the policy of “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” before writing anything, but this one slipped past the filter. It wasn’t particularly kind, and it wasn’t particularly necessary.

 

Anyhow, WorldTrekker (Whoever they are, but I have a pretty good idea) left a comment calling me and this blog selfish and narcissistic. Which, given that the inherent nature of blogs is selfish and narcissistic, is fine. The whole points of blogs/FaceBook/Instagram/Twitter/Social Media is “Look at cool stuff I’m doing.”

 

And I, for one, don’t think that’s a bad thing.

 

Howard Thurman said:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

 

My commenter, WorldTrekker, went on to ask why I didn’t do something to benefit humanity.

 

I’m trying.

 

I think humanity is stuck in a rut of lacking inspiration to do big things because society tells us not to. We’re supposed to go to school, graduate from college, go to grad school or alternately start working jobs so that we can pay off the student debt that we’ve accumulated. We’re supposed to buy stuff with Best Buy credit cards and have the latest and greatest smart phone so that we can have a spiffy new keyboard. And we’re supposed to keep working to pay for all these things that we maybe don’t need.

 

A study once showed that in America, we’d rather work the same number of hours and get paid more than to keep our current salaries and work fewer hours. In Europe, the opposite was found.

 

A new study, highlighted over at Semi-Rad claimed that we get more joy from spending money on experiences rather than things. That one left me scratching my head, Why did we need a study to know that?

 

My goal: Show, through example, that our current system is flawed. We’re putting the emphasis on the wrong things.  That maybe, we don’t have to subscribe to the norm.

 

I nearly went the path of finishing a PhD, of going into academia, teaching, research. I seriously thought about getting a teaching license and changing the world that way after grad school didn’t work out.

 

A lot of those views changed with a conversation with Mara Abbott a few years ago. She’d just returned to professional cycling with a laser-lock goal on winning the Olympics in 2016 in Rio. She’d contemplated quitting cycling and going back to school because she viewed racing as selfish and wasteful. But then she decided that if she could use cycling as a platform to spread awareness about things she cared about, then it could be used for the good of humanity.

 

I admired the idea. Plus, she said, there’s something amazing to trying to be the best in the world at something.

 

I look to the people who I admire, the people who I follow, and most of them don’t contribute to society in a traditional sense. But they make people question the norm. Why can’t I work for six months and then travel for six months like Gypsy by Trade. Why can’t I ride around the world on a Pugsley like Dirt Dot Kurt. Why can’t I find some record that hasn’t been broken/attempted since the 1950’s and ride to and climb all the 14’ers self supported like Justin Simoni.

 

I want my life to ask the questions: Why don’t we do what we want and find a way to make it work?

 

If your passion is teaching, teach. If you love telling stories, write. If you love putting things together, be an engineer. If you love cooking, become a chef. If medicine and healing fascinates you, go to med school.

 

A steady paycheck is the biggest obstacle in the way of a good adventure.

 

So is it completely egotistical to think I can change the world through my blog by talking about alternate ways to live life?

 

If I can convince even one person to take a trip and see something new, then I’ll take my self-centered and narcissistic lifestyle and call it good.

 

And for my snarky comment, it probably didn’t need to be said and I’m sorry for not editing it out.


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To race or not to race, an endlessly fascinating question

I was wandering the Saturday morning farmers’ market the few days ago with a friend, catching up on all the things that had happened since our last coffee get together nearly a year and a half ago. We were talking about me leaving Crested Butte and everything that went along with that, and she said something along the lines of: One of the things that you’re good at is making a logical decision and then fully believing in it.

And generally, that’s a very true statement. When something isn’t working for me, I feel like I’m really good at laying out the facts and deciding if the issues can be remedied or compromised on, or if it’s time to walk away.

Thus far, I don’t regret any of the things I’ve walked away from.

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But I’m struggling with walking away from racing.

On one hand, I really have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish, and more, tons more.

On the other hand, I had to walk away not on my own terms. After this summer, I’m thinking with a fair amount of certainty, my health issues from last fall had little to do with the actual act of racing long distances. Having it be not entirely not my decision has haunted me at times.

Scott and I spent a good bit of time on the CDT talking about racing. I fluctuated wildly between ‘I’m done racing. I’ve checked enough boxes. There’s nothing left that really inspires me to train’ to ‘Maybe I’ll train for a run at the Kokopelli’ or
‘someone needs to do the Triple Crown gracefully’ or, most recently, ‘If Justin did his CO 14’ers duathlon in 34.5 days, I wonder how fast I could do it.’

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On the CDT, I’d spend days making lists of pros and cons of each idea (we pedaled a lot, there was a lot of time to think). Training for Koko would be a devoted winter of training for short stuff, which would kill ‘fun’ riding, but it sure would be fun to get skinny and fast again, and I’ve yet to have a clean run on that route, but the route pretty much is terrible and it’s really not bikepacking. Triple Crown…I’ve seen it all, but the challenge would be to see how fast sustainable would be, could I keep my head together riding routes all summer that I already knew? Would my body hold up? But it would kill the entire summer and most likely most of the rest of the calendar year and there’s not much in terms of exploration going on there.

I’d love the idea of doing the events, but the leadup and recovery from each squashed any real ambition before we got anywhere near Waterton.

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And then the 14’ers challenge. Combine bikepacking with mountain climbing. I’d have to learn new skills, like, umm, running downhill. I’d have to get over my fear of exposure to do Capitol and the Bells. Little Bear sounds downright sketch as do the traverses between Crestone and Crestone Needle. But it’d be new terrain, I’d spend the summer climbing mountains instead of riding bikes every day. I have this romantic image of running free across ridgelines…probably the same way that people who race the Divide have an image of being swept down smooth dirt roads with the wind at their back.

But I’d be forced to learn new skills. I’d be forced to stretch personal comfort zones. I’d see new places. And committing to a project like that is the best way to make sure goals like that are achieved.

But it would be a month+ of solid effort. It would be 2+ months of recover. It would be a lot of dirt road riding and climbing 14’ers with hoards of people, neither of which I like. So why am I drawn to it?

Can’t I just go find long ridgelines to run and not be in a hurry and take pictures?

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Sometimes I feel like I need to just say: I’m done racing. Put it out there on the Internets to make it official. Make going back not even an option. Accept that I’ve squeezed every last ounce of personal growth and challenge out of racing my bike and that it’s time to move on. Time to find a new form of art.

As Jefe put it: Maybe it’s time to stop racing through life and time to slow down and enjoy it. (I’m paraphrasing on that one.)

And I decide I’m going to declare done…but then I see Jill’s report on the Tor de Geants and think, Gee whiz…that looks neat. I wonder if I could hike 200 miles?

In the end, I find my complete indecision about what to do fascinating and I’m pretty stoked that I don’t actually have to make a decision about any of it tonight.


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Thinking about “adventure”

“Is the word ‘adventure’ becoming cliche?” was a question posed on The Facebook by Drunk Cyclist Chris the other morning. He got all sorts of replies, some of them serious, some of them not.

I replied, “It’s a state of mind. Duh.”

I wanted to reply something along the lines of “only if it’s preceded by the word ‘epic’,” but I restrained myself. I hate the word epic.

Epic’d, yes. Epic, no.

But it did get me thinking: What is an adventure?

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I’ve been having a hard time thinking about blogging again, like I’m out of practice writing about anything besides what happened on the CDT, which was a trip that I consider an adventure. What could I possibly write about that could compare to that?

Today I sat in front of my computer and made money. I cuddled with my 16 year old dog who still thinks she’s three and tries to attack any other dog we see on our walk. I took a two hour nap instead of doing something active. I ate leftover flourless chocolate cake from my dad’s birthday. I tried to convince Scott that it was still warm enough in Idaho to do the ACA’s hot springs route before going back to Tucson.

But really, I’m of the mindset that adventure can happen in every day life if you let it. I’m also of the mindset of saying yes to as many opportunities as I can, so when I got a text from Kay at 8:45 pm saying, “We’re riding Ned tomorrow, want me to pick you up?” I replied yes, even though I knew I was in no shape to be riding, let alone riding with a whole gaggle of fast girls.

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But I’m glad I went, as it turned into an unintentional mini-adventure complements of running low on time, running into some unhappy land owners, flat tires, and hills that kicked my ass.

I got home absolutely wrecked, but not for a second regretted going. Riding with girls is fun and I miss it. Recovery is for people who can’t think of anything fun to do.

So if I were to call it an adventure, would I be being cliche?

I guess I’ve been called worse things, so I’m going to keep calling every day of this amazing life an adventure. Because it is. It really is.


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All good things must come to an end…

“So how are you guys going to rejoin real life?” was the question.

We had cofee/ice cream with Justin Simoni this morning and he wanted to know. He’s also coming off what I consider the bad-ass feat of the summer, knocking several days off the FKT for the self-supported, non-motorized Colorado 14’ers tour. He’s got crazy eyes and crazy ideas. I dig it.

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Those beards…

“You’re pretty much looking at real life,” we joked as we lounged in the sun at Amante, watching the Boulder road riding parade go in and out with their espressos.

Joking aside, it did sort of beg the question: What is real life for us? And did we ever really leave it during our 1/3 of a calendar year on the trail.

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Hiker/biker trash in East Glacier

Neither of us stopped working. We reduced working, for sure, but I still wrote. Scott still programed. We still kept up on the happenings on Facebook.

Even when we’re deep into a 6-month lease in Tucson, we still wake up, eat breakfast, stare at computer screens for a bit, and then go ride bikes. Sometimes, we sit in front of our computers more. Sometimes we ride more. But really, it’s the same basic equation that we followed on the CDT as well.

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Snowplow finished hiking, yogi’d a free bike in East Glacier, downloaded a GPX of the Norther Tier ACA route, and was headed to Seattle to meet his girlfriend to go touristing in Vancouver. The Mongoose it totally going to make it.

I think that this trip drove home the point that home can be pretty much anywhere. On the trail. On a road trip. In the middle of the winter in Tucson.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty cool. (Full disclaimer: if I don’t have to stay in another cheap hotel room for a while, I won’t complain.)

We woke up to our final epilogue morning on the trip in East Glacier, headed over to the Whistlestop Cafe for huckleberry stuffed french toast, and then rolled down the road to the rental car office. The mountains of Glacier glistened in the distance, covered in snow, beckoning.

“We have to go home,” I told them. “We’ll be back, I promise.”

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The 13 hour drive went smoothly in the Chevy Impala. It was sad pointing away from the mountains and rolling along the wide open plains of eastern Montana.

Trip over.

Really over.

Not just, CDT-proper over. Or US and into Canada over. Or hike over. Or get back to East Glacier over.

Just over.

Sad. I was sad.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the steep hike-a-bikes, the cold feet, the numb hands, the terrible food, and the grandeur of the experience takes over.

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That’s a lot of tents

I’ll write more eventually about the trip. Thoughts on gear. Thoughts on the trail. Thoughts on food. Thoughts on the experience. Thoughts on the nearly 80 thru-hikers we met. But I think it’s still all too fuzzy and incomprehensible right now.

So for now, I’ll just think about decompressing at my parents’ house in Boulder for a few more days before pondering a cross CO roadtrip on our way to Salt Lake. Then maybe St George, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Flagstaff.

Real life. Yes. This is real life.


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CDT Day 112 – To the finish!

We finished today!!!!

I’m tired.

Whew.

We woke up to an alarm this morning, which is always a bummer. Loaded our bikes, headed over to breakfast, ate some delicious french toast, and coasted over to the trail head, locking our bikes together next to a pole.

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And we hiked. The trail climbed (of course it did, it’s the CDT, sort of) and was covered in a sheet of ice, perfect for us hiking in bike shoes. We moved as fast as we could through the ice, which turned to snow, which turned to dirt, and then back to snow.

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It ended up being a 5.8 km hike out to the border, taking us right around two hours.

We did a happy dance at the border marker and took a bunch of pictures.

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We sat down for a snack and soon heard voices coming from the other direction. Hikers!

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Beaker, Wolverine, Snowplow, Northern Strider were just finishing their hike, three of them their Triple Crown. They were pretty stoked. We took their pictures, they took ours.

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When I couldn’t feel my feet any more (bike shoes aren’t exactly meant for tromping around in the snow), we took off, back towards Waterton. To get the core temperatures back up, we ran as much as we could through the melting snow, a decision I’m sure we’re going to regret when we can’t walk tomorrow, but it was totally worth it at the time.

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We treated ourselves to lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel, but didn’t splurge for the $30 afternoon tea, even though they had a harp player playing.

We took a shuttle up to the border, they let us back into the US of A and we waited for the next shuttle to come, the one that said we couldn’t take bikes when we called to make reservations.

“Sure, we can totally fit the bikes in the back,” said the driver.

“Awesome!”

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He took us, Beaker, and Chili and Pepper who’d finished at Chief Mountain, all the way back to East Glacier where we’re currently stuck without a rental car…they say Monday, but to call back in the morning.

We may end up taking a train to Whitefish tomorrow night if there’s no rental car and trying to rent from there.

Definitely ready to get home…


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CDT Day 111 – CANADA!

Scott was talking to his parents on the phone last night. I overheard, “So, what’s your plan from here?”

Scott answered, “We’re going to wake up tomorrow, the sun’s going to come out, the roads are going to dry out, and we’re going to ride to Waterton.”

Sometimes plans just work out superbly.

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I was the first to succumb to having to pee in the morning and peered out the bathroom window. “I see blue!” I said excitedly. “It’s a tiny patch, but it’s definitely blue!”

The snow had stopped, the clouds were clearing, it was going to be a beautiful day of bike riding, if a bit cold.

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Breakfast. Discover that the shuttle from the border to East Glacier wouldn’t take bikes, decide that was an issue for another day. Pack. Roll out.

It was four miles to the turn off towards Waterton. The snow was melting fast, massive chunks dropping off the still green aspens. No one was ready for winter yet! From there, 14 miles of mostly climbing towards Chief Mountain Pass. The views were off the hook. The cows provided endless entertainment. We could see south for miles into the imposing peaks of Glacier. Spires, rocks, huge, huge peaks.

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The border crossing went easily and we were magically transported into an otherworldly land. The peaks got twice as big, twice as dramatic, and stretched out in every direction.

We made it to Canada!

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18 more miles brought us to Waterton proper. We spent the whole approach to the park marveling at the giant peaks. I’ve never finished a trip in such a spectacular place.

Arriving at 3, we debated trying to knock the hike out in the afternoon, but we would have been rushing, and anyhow, we were hungry. Instead, we booked our shuttle to the border (thank you Canadian shuttles for taking bikes!), checked into our motel room (the heater cranks!), and went out for lunch.

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We decided it would be a good idea to see where our trail tomorrow started in order to decide whether to ride or walk to it in the morning. We wandered along the lake’s edge, eyes turned upwards to the imposing peaks, eventually finding the trailhead.

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We’re riding, we decided as we barely made it back to our room. Walking without the support of a bike may prove to be difficult. 8 miles roundtrip…this could be the hardest part of the trip.

It hasn’t really sunk in that for all practical purposes, we’re done. We pulled this thing off. 4 months to the day.

Wow.

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Tomorrow, we go there.


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CDT Day 109 &110 – Snow delay in Babb and thoughts on What’s Next?

We’re holed up in Babb. It’s blizzarding out, as in accumulation, minimal visibility, snow going sideways, snow falling off roofs, and bitterly cold temperatures. Ok, the last one’s an exaggeration, but it is cold out.

We rode 5.9 miles yesterday after waking up in our cabin in the middle of nowhere, and without any food, were forced to ride in the snow up to Babb, population 50, on a good day, where we checked into another motel room, but not before getting breakfast at the Glacier’s Edge Cafe.

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We ride paved roads to get our bikes muddy.

It’s been a chill two days, it would have been perfect for reflecting on the trip as a whole, as we only have 39 paved miles left to pedal and a short hike south to the border. Instead, we’ve watched bad movies for hours on end, including: She’s the Man, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Big Daddy, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Star Trek, and Montana Sky. I think A Beautiful Mind is on tap for tonight.

But this forced stop has been interesting. Mid-trip, I would have welcomed the rest. We came into here with 12 days of continuous riding with the only reasonable day being from Lincoln to Ovando. We initially sat in the cafe wondering if we should just suck it up and pedal the last miles (it wasn’t snowing at the time), but when the sleepies started to hit, we decided: We’re tired. We want to see Waterton in its full glory, not just in a white out, and we didn’t want to turn the end of this trip into a death march. That was the goal from the beginning – minimize death marching.

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But it was hard to accept that rest was good so close to the end. I keep feeling like I’m ready to get the trip done with and move on to what’s next.

What’s next?

That’s a loaded question. I don’t know. I know the immediate plan of getting back to civilization, renting a car, driving south via Bozeman to visit friends, making it to Boulder in time for my dad’s birthday, picking up my car in Boulder, head to Salt Lake to visit Scott’s family and new niece, and then slowly make our way back to Tucson for the winter.

That I know.

We’ve talked a good bit about What next. It seems to be a question that I want answered immediately. I change my mind every hour. What I have discovered with my What next circles is that my default is always “I’ll train for something and race it.” It’s a safe option. I know I can bikepack real-fast-like. Training gives structure. Training gives purpose. Racing well brings positive feedback.

But racing also shuts down a lot of other possibilities. it would have shut down my Death Valley tour this spring, as well as our AZT tour, and my hilarious Coconino 250-ish trip, Camp Tucson probably would have been out as well as drinking margaritas during our Girls Trip to Moab.

This trip wouldn’t have happened. This trip was a direct result of my “I don’t want to race anymore” crisis over New Years, and the result I wouldn’t trade it for any number of bikepacking race wins.

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I don’t know what’s next, but the goal is forward, not backwards. Touring South America? Van life? Get a real job and buy a house? (Ok, that last one was a joke.)

I think for now I’m going to sit with not knowing and do my best to be okay with it. I’m going to let this amazing string of bike trips (seriously, I’ve been going pretty non-stop since March 1) sink in a little bit and allow the experiences to settle.

And then when I get bored in three weeks, I’ll start pestering Scott about buying a Sprinter van for next summer. Anyone selling one?

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