Monday, April 4, 2016

The Deafening Noise

During the past couple of weeks, many times this question has crept into the darkness just before I close my eyes and fall asleep. I thrive on blunt, raw and difficult questions that slap me alongside the head, so I have been welcoming and subsequently wrestling with this for a while.

I remember a girl who just simply loved everything about being outside and feeling her heart, lungs and legs make a bike go in a forward direction. A girl who was in every sense of the word--a trail rat. Any trail that was open and legal to ride--the longer the better--was my own exhilarating adventure. An exhilarating adventure in every sense of the word. I didn't give a fuck who knew I was going to go ride it, that I was riding it or that I had ridden it. The noise of the world was relatively silent.

Or, more accurately, I had very little desire to listen,

I did not inundate myself daily looking at the same pictures and posts, reading the same scripted shit, the same complaints, the same six adjectives used to describe every weekend with friends, the sagas of every physical ailment, the incessant arguing and smug opinions....and on and on. I did not find myself shaking my head and lowering my face into my palm for my "friends" who hashtag 26 times after their posts. I had no desire to block people who were just too fake. I did not feel an ugly and growing disdain for the marketing (and mass promoting) of each new, amazing, 'best ever' product that came out. I did not have trouble turning down the volume and ignoring it all. I was not overwhelmed, frustrated and numb.

I stared at the ceiling last night thinking about how to write about New Zealand amidst this deafening noise. I am struggling to find a reason to even share it. I want to write in a way that is poignant, engaging and funny. One moment I want to tell of my quirks, strengths, emotions, passions and interactions and the next I have myself convinced it is a waste of time and effort. Why does it matter when it will just become part of the noise? A noise that all sounds the same anymore.....

So, yeah, I am struggling a bit as I return to our homogeneous, noisy culture. I spend too much time berating myself for not being better at silencing it and am grasping for my proverbial earplugs.

I need to not just remember, but reconnect with who I was.

My brain (and I suspect yours as well) is not designed to handle an onslaught of surface level, fleeting quips of information on a nonstop basis. The effects of this onslaught are taking a toll. You see it and I see it. If you don't....wake up!

I am hunting for my earplugs, because the noise is just going to increase and is definitely not going away. I am calling myself out to "turn the quiet up and the noise down" in a sustainable way.

Then I will have something to SAY....not share.

The Rermarkables from Coronet Peak Rd...Queenstown, NZ Photo credit Tom Harris

Friday, January 22, 2016

This is Jill

A cyclist and friend, whom I deeply respect, left this in my inbox last night:

There are few other words that could mean more to me. It encourages me in so many ways.

Being called brave is the ultimate compliment. Living this way has been an evolving dance for me, can be misunderstood and very difficult. It is so uplifting when someone else sees, from afar, who I am.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mr. Misunderstood

"Hey there weird kid in your high-top shoes, sitting in the back of the class, I was (am) just like you, always left out, never fit in, owning the path that you're walking in..."

When I first met you, I was told you were weird.

Looking back, now over five years ago, I cherish more than ever, your weirdness.

It's why we can play cuss-word Scrabble and drink whiskey giggling like third graders at the words we create. Why we can talk three times a day about farting or hours about big things or not talk for a week. Why we can ride fat bikes down the train tracks at 2am, go on treasure hunts in the Sonoran desert, wild rides on snowy roads in South Dakota, solve the worlds' problems on top of a mountain, in a backcountry hut, at J.Bo's, in a hot springs, or between episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

Our similar, "never fit in" qualities cement our friendship. Our differences challenge us to keep searching for understanding and growth.

You are the one who wipes up the puddle of Jill when she falls flat on her face. You listen patiently to my trivial babbling about work, my funny (and not-so-funny) anecdotes, my "stupid/unfeeling/why did I date him" boyfriend ramblings and my crazy ideas that may or may not work.

I look into your life and marvel at a heart that is so big and so true. I know the way you were raised and where you come from and am so thankful that we crossed paths and sifted through all the awkward and weird. You inspire me with your patience and kindness and loyalty. These genuine qualities are rare. You quietly embody these qualities. Most just talk about them.

Your quiet nature is too much for most to understand. It was, admittedly, for me when I first met you. I felt awkward and at times confused. But we kept riding bikes and hanging out. We kept feeding quarters into the jukebox at dive bars. You wanted to listen about big bikepacking dreams and I wanted to talk about it. You always provided the pragmatic and logical piece that grounded me. I shoved you in the unsafe, untried, kinda scary direction you naturally gravitate toward.

You never quit being my friend when I wasn't the most pleasant friend. You listened to emotional boring girl-shit that I trust no female to talk to about. And you remember it to help me navigate through rough waters in the future. You made a diaper for my old dog when I was gone chasing miles on my bike. Who would do that for a friend? You did. Quietly, patiently.

Just like everything else you do.

The world needs more friends like you, Mr. Misunderstood. More souls like you. More of your qualities. Ah, but you are the quiet, soft-spoken, slightly awkward one that doesn't complain, whine, make waves or share much of his life. Often you are overlooked....misunderstood....and generally ignored by the masses.

Their loss. Let the dumbasses be dumbasses. Let them continue to blissfully float along in their selfish bubble. If they can't get past the outside, they do not deserve the treasures that lie within.You mean the world to us weirdo freaks who love you. You are strong, capable and talented and your perceived social insecurities are (truthfully) your most beautiful attributes.

I could not have lived the life I have lived in the past 5 years without your friendship. We have in the past and still sometimes do annoy the piss out of each other, but its called being a human.YOU have taught me so much and we have had enough laughs and adventures (crazy, epic, big and small) to fill a book--a book we will continue to fill and one I will cherish my whole life. Thank you. My gratitude knows no limits for all the things you have done for your fellow weirdo.

Keep on keepin' on. Your Mrs. Misunderstood is out there. Headed your way, my friend. Soon.

Right now "they are standing in line, chasing the buzz til the next big things and already was, and hell if they know what they are trying to find, if it ain't that same-old been done kind..."

Next up: Finding my SMILE again in Costa Rica.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Revival....

"I feel like we were left with a cliffhanger and are waiting for the next season's episodes to start up again..."

Those words, from an (unbeknownst-to-me at the time) blog follower and his wife, came completely out of the blue late one night just a few weeks ago. Ok, I have to admit I was about ready to let this blog go. Not due to a lack of "epic" by any means. Just due to the fact that I found myself unmotivated and, honestly, struggling to convince myself I had a reason for sharing. I had a fantastic year filled with bikes, mountains, horses, new friends and adventures in Durango, but the desire to blog about it never really caught ahold of me.

I wasn't pursuing any crazy dreams or riding a bazillion miles taking pictures of it all. Truth be told, I worked my ass off this year. But, slowly in the midst of it, I met a collection of the best friends I have ever known. We rode horses and bikes. We ran trails. We went fishing. We drank whiskey around many a campfire. We made cilantro avocado margaritas. We howled at the moon and danced under the stars in the rain. We climbed to high peaks. We dressed up like fools and sang at the top of our lungs. We rode above 10k' every weekend this fall to see the colors. We smiled. We laughed. God damn, we laughed a lot this year. Maybe I was satisfied being filled with gratitude and appreciation for it all and savoring it in a very low-key way or just too lazy?

Maybe both?

So anyway, our conversation continued and we chatted bikes, adventure and our mutual friends from Back of the Pack Racing. Hearing their kind words of appreciation for my sharing my passion was very inspiring and made me stop and realize for a moment that maybe some were actually still interested in my writing. And maybe sharing the inner workings of my brain and its efforts to understand and navigate  my existence was a good thing? It actually does inspire, motivate and cause some to take action or "live vicariously through..."

 Ok, so with that in mind, let's get updated quickly:

The last post was a cry out for help with a sad situation with my brother. Writing is cathartic and sometimes the words need to bleed out. Without saying too much, I am overjoyed at the fact that he finally did make it home to where our family lives and a new start is looking very possible and real. He has chosen to not speak to me, and maybe never will again. If that is what I must lose for him to regain his life--I will take the blow a million times over. And a million more if my little brother gets to be his passionate, talented and true self again.

 Now....where to start? Highlight reel in pictures? Chronological rundown of a crazy, awesome year? Work backwards from today as I sit and watch the white gold fall out of the sky?

Uhhhh, lets do a highlight reel of all the episodes in 2015:
(in a Morgan Freeman-style announcer voice of course)

I had to say goodbye to my oldest, dearest and most loyal friend of nearly 14 years. I packed my car with all my worldly possessions and cried all the way to Durango, Colorado. Crocodile tears flooded my steering wheel and I drove virtually nonstop. Happy memories of a part of my life I was able to share with her eventually took over. I was headed home. A home I should have never left in 2012. But we all make decisions we think are right at the time. This time it was the decision to pursue a relationship that was just not destined to work. But how do we know? Never one to sit and wonder "what-if", I gave it a whirl. It crashed and burned. But damage is not permanent, the wounds heal and in the end, each is truly a better person without the other. Anger, pain and sorrow fade. Good memories live in our hearts and the hope for the other's happiness minus oneself lives on stronger than any horrid words said. Some things are not meant to be. And we finally see and accept it. And set ourselves free to grow and thrive separately in ways that were not possible together...

I came back to where I feel and have always felt an authentic peace--the San Juans. I rolled into town on January 2, 2015, fed quarters into a six minute shower in the laundrymat on North Main, tried to fix my hair, put on some clean jeans and barely made my job interview in time because I had to take a nap in Salt Lake City. I got the job, checked into a shithole motel that was cheap and began to scour Craigslist for a place to live. I was the happiest I had been in a year. I was done with Denver, done wasting my life sitting in traffic and done with being always in a mad rush of unfulfillment. I was home. I had my bikes. I was in Durango.
Nowhere else do I look at the horizon and not flinch from the twinge of needing something more or hear the faint whisper of something unfulfilled. The San Juans are where I am still and silent. I am truly an alien anywhere else.
I found frozen waterfalls, a mare named Belle, a mare named Storm, rivers full of fish, a town on fire for bikes, a soul sister, a renewed obsession with cowboy boots, a world full of beautiful freaks into which I comfortably fit, a cute boy and a world full of color above 10k'....and this doesn't even scratch the surface of all the adventuring, laughing, loving, lounging, working, storytelling, exploring and just being rather than doing in 2015, but here are a trillion and one words and moments (in no particular order) represented by pictures.
Consider it my hodge-podge of cut and paste attempt to update a bit. My words are ready to come out again. I bought a big plane ticket back in September for some adventuring coming up in 2016.
Thanks to those who read and follow and understand the have given new life to this blog.



So there you have it. Nowhere near a complete representation of 2015 in pics, but a crash course so future writing will make sense. Now that all of that is out of the way, I can write.
 Up next: "Mr. Misunderstood"-- A post about the most beautiful, deep and passionate soul I have ever known (and coincidentally, my best human friend)


Monday, August 31, 2015

Hope Rising

Stand Tall

Dear God,

Please open his heart to hope and life again. Release him from his shame and self-hatred, let him see the powerful and innate courage he holds inside to be willing to change.

Help him release a past he remembers only filled with sharp pain, deep anger and constant disappointment. Open his eyes again to the things he loves and the remarkable man he is and always has been.

Remind him of the mountains and the snow he loves. Help him know how much we all love him and miss him.

You are running this show, God, not me. Open my ears to know what to do and say. Its been a long time. You answered all our prayers.

Dont let me screw this up.....I am shaking with anticipation and insomnia prevails, yet inside I feel the warm light of hope, healing and love for my brother will shine through the darkness. Please let him see it, feel it and take comfort in knowing he is loved and not judged. Let his ears be open and his heart willing and calm....

We all want our brother, son, grandson, nephew, cousin Steve back. Only you can do that. And I have absolutely no doubt you me what to do today, God.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Want to Wonder

Dear Scatman,

You are about to begin your quest for your third crown. All day, I have been thinking about what I want to say in this send off letter to you. I could go many ways with it, but I decided to let my heart do the talking (like that is a big shocker) because that is the language you understand. And that is why I am your biggest fan. You hear the hearts of others and you listen to your own. You are a dreamer and an explorer with a touch of nomadic fire that has not been extinguished by naysayers or perceived societal expectations.

But, before I dive in, let it be known:

I don't speak in hashtags. Any time and effort muddling through all the utter bullshit behind the pound sign is "wasting my life." Not even going to pay attention to them.

I will never look at your Instagram, your Flickr, your [insert whatever thing is now cool to use here].

I am going to block you on Facebook so I don't see the posts from this hike. (I will soon FINALLY conquer my on and off again usage by reclaiming my old brain, axing the addiction to "sharing" life and walk away from THAT waste of time once and for all.) But until then....sigh.

I fully recognize that you are a master of clever, daily social media usage and it has brought many sponsorships, connections, opened many doors and has landed you some really cool gear AND bikes, but I honestly do not really care.

Uh, what a bitch. Who would say that?

I say it because I care more about this journey you are about to undertake and learning how it will change you, inspire you and make you the man you want to become. I WANT to wonder what you are experiencing and I WANT to hear it on the phone in your funny Boston accent when you get service along the way. I want to hear the elation, the exhaustion, the confidence, the uncertainty, the highs and the lows in the tone of your human voice. I want to see the expressions on your face when I join you for parts of Colorado, Montana and Canada and hear the words that come to your lips when you become one of the few human beings who have completed the AT, the PCT and the CDT on foot. To pollute something of that magnitude by an inundation of postings, arm's length selfies, clever captions and pictures is a shame.

Scatman, you are one of the most true, loyal and courageous people I have ever met. You are also extremely logical, smart and organized. Follow your wanderlust, bask in the bliss of this adventure, take some chances out there, listen to the stories the cashiers and waitresses will tell you about their hikes, skinny dip in the coldest river in Montana, make snow angels in the San Juans and embrace the pain you will feel at some point everyday.

Then tell me about it in words. Not posts. I see those every day to the point they mean next to nothing anymore....

I want to see your eyes sparkle. I want to hear of your awakenings, your growth, your struggles, your boredom, your triumphs, your pain, and mostly what your heart has to say about it all.

Go get this, Craig. I want to see that third crown sitting on your mess of grey hair at Waterton.

I want you to do on your feet what I did not do on my bike last year. I do not want your heart to have to experience that ache. So, on the days that you are tired and hungry and it rained all night and it just straight fucking blows out there, think about all the stories I want to hear when you finish....and get your skinny butt moving north!

Be safe, strong and slightly crazy on your journey from Crazy Cook to Waterton. This is yours.

-Your biggest fan

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


I have been watching my AZT 750 record being dismantled by Alice Drobna, whom I have never met and only briefly saw just north of Rawlins this past summer on the Tour Divide. She is cruising through my very favorite part of Arizona right now. She looks to be camped in Washington Park and will be pushing up to the Mogollon Rim tomorrow. Word is the Highline Trail is in much better shape, but that doesn't matter. Every mile of the Arizona Trail is tough. Damn tough.

And, oh how I am smiling.

Smiling to see this Oregon girl getting it done.

Smiling because as I watch her dot move, I can see every tree, turn, rock and viewpoint she is passing. These memories I can recall in vivid and precise detail. I remember my thoughts, the smells, the sounds. the aches, the hunger and the true joy and peace I felt everyday no matter how hard it was.

Smiling because I will never have to wonder or talk about or use anyone else's experience to guess what it would be like.

Smiling at the memory of the lifelong friends I met in the miles she just covered today and the miles she is going to cover tomorrow.

Smiling because I now have another bikepacking hero besides Jefe.

Go, Alice, Go. Get up the Rim!!