Adventures in life and photography out West

Archive for November, 2012

So Thankful

I started listing things on my personal Facebook page for which I was, and am, grateful. It’s not an easy habit to stay in, as I have a difficult time with any new habit. In this season of gratitude, this column offers an easy way to get back into a good habit.
I am simply thankful for bicycles. Since I was eight-years-old, bicycles have been freedom, to me. Freedom from worry, from conflict, from boredom. It has grown since I have grown. I am thankful for bicycles because they give me freedom from most medical problems. People who know me will be quick to point out my harrowing crash stories, but crashes are still rare. In exchange for the occasional crash, scrape, one single broken bone and many scars, I have a lot of great stories. I have no chronic medical problems. I am on no prescription medicine of any kind. I am as fit as I have ever been and I’m able to swim with my 11-year-old daughter as a result of being in this kind of shape.

I have more than one friend who has been diagnosed with some disease related to a sedentary lifestyle, enlarged hearts, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, this sort of thing. Mid 40s is way too young for these issues. Thanks to bicycles, I do not have them, and for this, I am thankful.

I am thankful to my father for instilling an active lifestyle in me. That made the last paragraph possible. He also bought my first bike for me. When I got older, the two of us cannibalized a pair of bike to make one good bike.

In an odd, backhanded sort of way, I am thankful that my misspent late teens resulted in not having a car. This would lead me to my first bicycle purchase. In 1989, I bought a year-old Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike. At the time, it was mid-range at $600. I would ride that bike all over; to school, to work, to visit friends and girlfriends, and when I made some upgrades and moved to Colorado in 1995, I rode it in a few races.

I am thankful for the outdoor-loving culture of the Centennial State. The culture pulled me into several different riding styles. After upgrading bikes in 1996, I spent the next two years racing cross country, downhill and even a few duel slalom races. I was never great, but I enjoyed it.

I’m thankful for a particular roommate of mine when I lived in Golden. This guy took me to Moab my first time. He also regularly whipped me racing. He gave me a target, a goal, and the knowledge of some of the best mountain biking terrain on earth.

I’m thankful that the depth and breadth of the cycling culture on the Front Range knows no bounds. When I started having difficulties with mountain biking, I was able to pick up other disciplines. I bought a cyclo-cross bike, originally as a commuter. It allowed me to enjoy my commute from southwest Denver to downtown. The drive made my cranky and no fun. When I started to ride it, things improved.

I am thankful for all of the roads both here in Northern Colorado, and throughout the state. I am thankful for traditional road bikes. When I started to get into the mountain bike scene, the term “Roadie” was one of derision. Now, I enjoy it all. Along those lines, I’m thankful for triathlons and the special sort of suffering they offer.

I am thankful for the many magazines I have subscribed to over the years. Some I read for the technology, some for advice, and at least one, Bike, for the pictures. I still receive four different bike related magazines. I get everybody’s favorite, “Bicycling”. I get the local favorite, “Velo”, formerly “VeloNews”. I receive “Trathlete” and when I want the heart and soul sort of articles, I will swing by Macdonald Books and pick up “pelotone”.

I am thankful, most of all, to my family, who tolerate this lifestyle, this habit that they don’t always understand. They put up with the occasional expensive purchase, the penchant for flashy, tight spandex and retro wool. I think Kendra actually likes that I am much, much more likely to pick up an exotic bike then hit on an exotic woman. This lifestyle is better for my marriage, in that way.

I am thankful most of all for my wife, who kisses me even after I’ve been riding for several hours, helps clean my wounds, puts up with racing broadcasts in the summer and cycling documentaries in the winter. She has even tried multiple times to enjoy riding, herself, though, my devotion to the sports remains a mystery to her. I am thankful for her support, whether training, racing, touring or fund-raising. She is the best thing to ever happen to this bike geak, and for that, I am thankful.

Have fun, be safe. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Fit to help

The holiday season is just beginning to ramp up. For many, including myself, it consists of the opposing forces of wonderful holiday food and trying to stay in reasonable shape in the off-season. As I am reminded, year after year, it doesn’t have to be that hard. The giving season offers ample opportunity to keep fitness and stay in the holiday mood.
On Sunday, Nov. 18, Boulder Cycle Sport will sponsor Cranksgiving Boulder, a charity ride with a twist. Show up at the Boulder Cycle Sport south location, 629 S. Broadway with your bike, any bike, and $20 by noon. Participants will be given a checklist and will ride to grocery store “check points” and buy an item or two, then on to the next. The race winner will be the first rider to get back to the bike shop with all his or her groceries. The food will be donated.

Prizes will also be awarded for best costume and oldest ridable bike. Bring $20, a bike, a helmet and a lock and be ready for fun.

The event not only gathers much-needed food for those less fortunate, but also shines a positive light on the local cycling community. If this sounds good, sign up at the link found on the shop’s website:

Closer to home, the CrossFit Estes Park community is organizing and sweating for one of its own. This Saturday, Nov. 17, the box at 1755, Spur 66, just past the Rock Inn, will host a fund-raiser for local CrossFitter, artist and all-round great guy, Joel York.

A few years back, York, who’s only 35, was diagnosed with cancer. While doctors caught it in plenty of time, hospital visits and treatment get expensive. The fund-raiser will help defray the costs.

Bring whatever you can for a donation. Whatever money the event raises will be matched by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, so be generous.

York is an upbeat, humble and energetic member of the community who has lived in Estes Park for nearly 20 years. He is not only an artist, but also an instructor for CrossFit Estes Park. While his technique seems nearly flawless to most, he is fond of saying, “It’s all a stupid game,” and “I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

The fund-raiser will, of course, consist of a workout that gym owner Eric Adams describes as “easily scalable.” The idea is to make it so that anyone at any fitness level can participate. It’s much more about supporting Joel than showing off fitness and you don’t have to belong to CrossFit Estes Park to participate. The gym will open at 6 a.m. and remain open until 4 p.m. Group workouts are planned for 6, 7 and 10:30 a.m., as well as 2:30 that afternoon.

Even if you are not able to workout, come down to donate, then cheer the athletes on. It’s a great event for a great community member. I’m a bit biased, I’ll admit. I’ve worked out and played hockey with Joel for much of the last 12 years. He has a great attitude, especially when he’s making a skill I’m no good at look easy. The least I can do is show up and sweat a little for him. I encourage you to do the same.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going fund-raising.

Look for joy

Walt Hester | Trail Gazette
Sore, tired and elated to finish, the author celebrates with 2,000 other riders at the end of Ride the Rockies at the O’Dell Brewery in Fort Collins. In cycling, the rainbow stripes signify the world champion, and that is how a rider feels upon completing the six-day, 400-plus-mile ride across the Colorado Rockies.

I didn’t write a column for my paper this week. We ran out of time. I was looking for something to write, just to make sure I had a post this week when I got a little bad news.

A young woman I met when I first moved to Estes Park seemed to have lost all hope and ended her own life. She was only 28.

I met Meghan when she was still in high school. I had worked for my paper for about a year and a half when I photographed her and her teammates setting their school’s record in the 400 yard freestyle relay at the Colorado State Girls swim meet. She even earned a swimming scholarship, but had to give it up after opting not to have surgery on her shoulders. I was not too close with the girl, but things seemed to go a bit south from that point.

She and her mother lived down the street from my family. When she started studying massage, I was happy to offer my beat-up muscles for the betterment of her education.

She married pretty young, after a bit of a scandal, but remained married and had several beautiful children. Though she always had a bit of melancholy about her. I don’t know if this eventually led to her ending her own life, but it certainly makes me think.

First thing I did when I found out was hug my own daughter, make sure she knew she can talk to her parents at any time, no matter what. Then, like anyone, I tried to make sense of it. I suppose it’s nothing I am supposed to figure out.

I can make sure I look for my joy. I have to make sure my daughter and wife do the same. What makes us most happy? My bike, my family and photography do this for me. I have to make sure I talk to the people I love. Never loose hope.

That’s huge for me. I don’t know what led Meghan. I don’t know why she lost hope. I just have to make sure that I and those I love don’t head that way. Life is not always easy, doesn’t always turn out the way we planned or hoped, but what can we make of it? That is what will keep me going.

I may not have hoped and planned to be a small-town photographer, but there is joy in this. My child’s classmates light up when I walk into her school. People occasionally come out of shops to compliment my work. People ask about my family. There is a great deal of happiness in it.

Never give up. Never loose hope. Talk to someone. Find something that brings you joy.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

My riding buddies and I at the Trail Ridge Store this summer. I’m second in from the left.

Reading into it

I can’t really fall right to sleep. Sometimes I try, and there are always exceptions, like a particularly brutal ride, but often, I have to read myself to sleep. Luckily, cycling has produced a lot of materiel for writers.
In light of recent developments, one book that stands out is “Lance Armstrong’s War” by Daniel Coyle. I’ve recommended this book in the past, as it gives great insight into the “Boss” of pro cycling. Better than Armstrong’s autobiographies, which all give the well-honed message the now-disgraced rider wanted the world to see, Coyle’s book hints at a driven, almost obsessed champion, right in line with many of the cycling personalities of the past. It shows not just Lance, but the people and world he ruled over.

Another of those personalities who still casts a shadow over the sport is five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault. The French cycling hero swore his allegiance to teammate and American Greg LaMond for the 1986 Tour de France. The Frenchman then began relentless attacks against the field and his own teammate. Hinault’s attacks and LeMond’s reactions made for what is widely considered the greatest Tour ever. This is the story of Richard Moore’s book, “Slaying the Badger.” It’s next on my list.

On Feb. 14, 2004, an Italian hotel worker knocked on a door, hoping to talk to cycling hero and former Tour and Giro champion, Marco Pantani. What he found was the disgraced climber dead on the floor from a cocaine overdose. “The Death of Marco Pantani” by cycling writer Matt Rendell, chronicles the troubled history of one of cycling’s Angles of the Mountains. It begins at Il Pirata’s end and pieces together a life that seemed destined for a pre-mature ending.

Finally, again, in line with current cycling events, “Blazing Saddles, the Cruel and Unusual Story of the Tour de France”, also written by Matt Rendell. Rendell covers the odd, laughable and sometimes disdainful stories of cheating in the great race. From catching a train in the second Tour, to elimination for “Outside Help” to the account of Floyd Landis and hints of what would eventually come to light about Lance.

These are just a few such reads. Some actually keep me up more than help me sleep. All are worth the time.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going reading.