Monday, November 29, 2010


What a week in Arizona. I’ll let some pictures do the talking here for a moment.

Trip highlights? An awesome feast and leftovers for miles. Great times with family and friends. New dirt! - Slim Shady, Highline, Pigtail, and Hangover. Someone is a builder out there in a big way, and Sedona just keeps getting better.

Bonus highlight? Guitar Hero. Rental houses have interesting perks sometimes.

Yellow, yellow, Green, red. WHAMMY BAR!

Probably the worst part of the trip - how fast it flew by. The way that vacation time has begun to accelerate for me is a little alarming. 11 days away is just not enough somehow. I am spoiled rotten.

On a related, more somber note - it's three years ago this week that Evel Knievel died at his home in Florida, suffering and finally wrecked by diabetes and the lung disease, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He was 69 when he died, and he left behind forty busted bones as the pioneer of motorcycle daredevil entertainment along with record books full of dangerous hucks that he barely survived.

Evel, he was a wild one.

Interestingly enough, Mike Janelle died that same week in 2007. You might not know Mike's name - he was a fit, 40 year-old bike racer, and he passed away while sleeping after Thanksgiving dinner at his home in Vail. Mike was a health nut, an amazing racer, and a role model. Evel outlived him by 29 years.

Looking back on it now, their passing in the same week under such radically different circumstances gave the world a collective pause, the sort of stutter I made all week in Arizona when I was explaining something to Danny O and I would suddenly realize that I didn't know what I was talking about. That seems to happen a lot now.

Moreover, being in Arizona last week I came to realize something about the life-philosophy that you can't help but inherit a little when you're there: you always think you have time. It’s just how the West makes you feel. Maybe it’s the open spaces, the sense of infinity you get when you look from here to the mountains to the sky and back. Maybe it’s the endorphins, just drugs in your veins.

Another slightly low point of the trip - someone once thought that two lanes of traffic through Oak Creek Village between I-15 and Sedona would be enough, probably the same way that Evel Knievel calculated the width of the Snake River from an airplane, or how we, as humans, think we understand the breadth of being alive. Traffic crawls there now, every day, 365 days per year. They've put in about 100 roundabouts, though, to speed things up. Interesting.

So yeah, Mike Janelle. He was amazing. You can dig more about him here:

For me, I met Mike Janelle exactly once, after a race in Winter Park where he’d passed me on a long, steep climb going up beside Tipperary Creek. I was 23, new to racing, and he streaked by me on an inside turn with a big smile and a “good work, man.” He appeared to be going about 100 miles per hour. I crossed the line about an hour behind him and sought him out - “how do you go that fast?” I wanted to know. He laughed and talked with me for an hour about riding, racing, Colorado, swimming holes, nachos, anything.

He didn’t give two shits about how fast he was. He was, in a word, exuberant. Someday, I told myself on my drive home, I’d like to be able to ride a bike like that. So in 2002, I set about learning to do it the way Mike recommended – “just ride as much as you can.” I rode to work, rode home, rode singletrack loops through the mountains from my house in Boulder. In Mike, I had something I wanted to emulate, a kind of reckless speed that had always seemed to work for him that didn’t always work for me. I crashed a lot. I built scars and calluses to document the effort. But I got faster.

The day I found out Evel Knievel died, I was driving a slow interstate mile down I-25 in Denver in recalcitrant traffic, humming something from the Rolling Stones, and thinking about Mike Janelle. The radio reported that Evel had passed away, and I realized that he'd outlived Mike by 29 years and 3 days. I was physically jarred by that. The sun set, horns sounded, and traffic crawled. It occurred to me that life, like forward motion, is not a measurement, not the flow of traffic, or the span of a great chasm. It’s an estimate, and sometimes it’s wrong.

In June 1966, Evel came up short on a big jump, hung his rear wheel on the top of a cargo van parked at the end of 12 cars in Missoula, and he wound up broken in a hospital for days. He recovered, and on New Years Eve 1967, he shorted his carefully planned fountain jump in front of Caesar’s in Vegas, put himself in a Coma for nearly a month.
But he awoke, and at the pinnacle moment of his career, September 1974 over the Snake River, Evel’s rocket-powered motorcycle prematurely deployed an emergency parachute and drifted dangerously back across the river. He crashed hard, just feet from the water on the same side of the canyon where he started, but he was unharmed.

I wonder about it now - what did Evel Knievel think that day when he took off to jump the Snake River? Not the first thing, not that easy affirmation we all make, “Yeah, I can stick that.” I mean after that. What did Evel say to himself just as he took to flight, in the act of trying to huck an entire canyon, hanging between life and death?

Speed up, he probably wished. If anyone in the history of the human species has ever had a good feel for the benefits of inertia, it was Evel.

Conversely, and yet inextricably linked by their deaths, Mike Janelle won the Bicycle Race Across America 3 times. He won the 24 hours of Moab twice. He represented the USA at Marathon Worlds in 2005, and he rode a stiff aluminum hardtail to the brink of safety and sometimes a little farther. When you watched him ride, it was like speed for him was some kind of an accident, like somehow his ability was the serendipitous result of something else he hadn’t planned on – like maybe he’d forgotten to eat donuts for breakfast, or he’d just been too lazy to brake.

But having worked for years to get a little speed myself, I now see the effort that it took. Mike Janelle worked his ass off to get that fast. So what did he say to his wife and son before he went to sleep on Thanksgiving night in 2007 and never woke up?

Slow down, I imagine him saying, these days are going by much too fast. But really that’s just me. The distance from the top to the bottom is deadly, but much shorter than we sometimes think.

Long way around to my point; Arizona kicked ass, but get out and rally this week anyway, boys and girls. And SAVOR it. You never really know. It's almost December, getting Arctic cold around here. Maybe there too, wherever there is, where Evel and Mike get to ride around waiting for us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

well, well, well.

First, let's go straight to the mailbag; seems I got some questions about Ken Tank and the ride we put together on Sunday.

Is Ken Tank really 55? How did the ride turn out?
Good question. He's actually 287. He just looks 55. But he rides like a 19 year old.
Seriously, he was big-ring sticking it to us all the livelong day.

Did anyone vomit on Sunday?
Another good question, especially if you're familiar with previous Ken Tank epics. Technically, we had a vomit-free day, but there was attrition from start to finish. Dudes peeling off the back, trying to miss a turn, generally dropping like one of those Lance Armstrong charity rides where Lance goes out and beats everybody senseless and finishes by himself. Speaking of the finish, the final climb up Reas Ford when the man of honor could smell the finish line was like a drag race, with me just hanging on by a toenail. In other words, good times. The only real disappointments were that we didn't get shot at or mauled by half-wild dogs. And I didn't manage to snap any pictures to document just how amazing the day was, but we were moving too damn fast for any of that.

Let' s move on. Who's riding?

1) Night ride tonight. Private land. Earallysville and points northward. Be forewarned, we got over an inch of rain, so it's sloppy and choppy. But by 9 PM that should be working itself out.
2) Turkey Day ride - That's November 25th. 10 AM here at the farm. CAMBC and CRC have the knowledge on that. I just work here.
3) Arizona.

Last, but certainly not least, my bride killed it at the Richmond Marathon on Saturday. I won't give you the blow-by-blow race report with all the details, but I will give you this picture of her leaving some dudes in the dust around mile 21. Big finish on that course; if you're into downhill sprints with about 10,000 people yelling your name. Two thumbs up.

To show my proper amazement, I forgot her $80 Patagonia gloves on the side of the road around mile 7. There's a bum somewhere with some seriously fast, warm hands right now.

That's what it is and what I've got for now. Probably will skip next week's post due to the insane amount of action to be had in Arizona, Jackson, but day 1 of December we'll get back to it with some gory road rash photos, tall tales of clogged toilets, etc. So you've got that to look forward to.

Stay tucked. Keep drafting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ken Tank Turns 287.

GIGANTIC photo, circa 2008, back when Ken Tank was a young man

To celebrate Ken turning 55, we're riding on Sunday. Here's the skinny

1) Start in Earallysville, 11 AM. The man of the hour himself could be a little late, in which case we'll watch Danny Flow ride wheelies around until he falls and breaks his arm. So hopefully he's not too late.
2) Hit up the not-so-famous Danny O singletrack, a short ride down the road.
3) back onto pavement, some gravel, evading fast-moving feral pets, and end up at BlueRidgeSchool.
4) Cunningham to lead us fearlessly up the steepest trail ever to grace private land. And back.
5) grab some food and water, then head east.
to follow:
an open ford to crossing
private land with questionable access and some fence jumping
super sweet local goods
More fence jumping
A rally down the not-so-famous bleak house action, jackson
A slightly grueling climb back up Reas Ford Rd to Earallysvillistan.

Total time? 5 hours. Perhaps less. pack a lunch.

Ken Tank - you are an amazing teammate. I give you the gift of cramps. Congratulations on becoming a senior citizen.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall lingers

Two things you can say about this Fall we've had, it's hanging around as long as possible, and it's going out like a champ.

I don't remember another fall with better riding weather. Great temps, good dirt, and the season itself has stretched out since back in late August when the leaves started changing from the drought. Given that Fall is, hands down, the best season, I think every Fall should last about 5 months - and this one in particular is welcome to hang out until about Easter.

On that note, Riding. It's hard to say no right now. That sense of "drop everything and get on the dirt because you'll miss this in January" is pervasive, sort of like how kayakers get in the Spring when their passion - the fulcrum that their whole year hinges on - is HERE NOW and it only lasts for a few weeks. I'm told kiteboarders, surfers, and the like get the same sensation when the wind and the waves are up.

So, to the point then, how 'bout Sunday? I've got a route in mind that requires a sense of adventure, a little tolerance for maladjusted feral pets, and maybe some blaze orange. And the payoff? Aside from awesome weather, changing fall colors, and joyful banter, I'll throw in a big pot of venison chili at the finish.

5+ hours, sometime before noonish, Rallysville. Pack a lunch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Some revisions to the world as I know it:

1) The governing body of the Blue Ridge Cyclocross Cup decided that the series is completed, wrapped up, game over, at the precise moment that Queen City took second and the Foof was relegated to the back of the bus. Finals, cancelled, due to a lack of fitness. I'd move to file a complaint, but let's be honest, facing Queen City and Rocktown on their turf, down 30 points, and more than likely too lazy to race on a Sunday in November anyway, we are dead to rights. So in case you were planning on it (you weren't), don't show up on Sunday for finals. Let's move on.

2) Fall is sorta sliding away now, and the population of Rallysville must ease back into base training, muddy gravel road rides, and the kind of weather that makes you want to put your head down and climb something tall a few times. Oh hell yes, it's early for that, but it's coming. Find yourself a hardtail.

3) Rumors, and other unsubstantiated unsubstantialness abound. They're all true. And wouldn't you know it, the world keeps on spinning anyway.

These and other news stories, at 11. Keep it in the red, and stay tuned.