May 26, 2010

back to basics.

This is going to sound funny, but I want to go camping. Sure, I live in a van, and certainly spend a lot of time outside. But, I assure you, the kind of camping we're doing is very different from the camping that many will be doing this Memorial Day weekend. Let me explain.

For one, we are rarely at a picturesque, serene creekside site in the mountains. We do our share of urban camping, and by this I mean we RV Park it. Not romantic and usually not beautiful, but when you don't have a house, you need amenities. Internet, power, laundry, shower: these resorts have everything we need. I used to drive by these types of places and shudder at the thought of 'camping' at one of them, with their concrete pads, hookups and views of neighboring behemoth RVs. Now, I'm a regular, right alongside the Snowbirds, satellite dishes, and Fluffy the lap dog. Even scarier, there are times I want a behemoth of my very own.

We almost always need to be near a town. Bike shops need to be visited, work has to get done. Errands to be run, conference calls to be made. It's real life. As footloose and fancy-free as it seems, the same nitty gritty still applies to what we're doing on the road, arguably to a greater extent than it does for house dwellers.

This is because roaming the West requires a lot of planning. Logistics: where to camp, where to eat, which coffee shop to park myself in for the day. Where to do laundry, grocery shop, make copies, mail something. I'm becoming a specialist at finding good spots to loiter, and Yelp and Google Maps are my most loyal travel buddies.

I'm also becoming a pro-packer. Loading and unloading, constantly organizing. It takes about three seconds for the 'house' to be a mess once you've cleaned--but the upside is that it only takes about 15 minutes to clean everything, including the fridge.

I want to set up a tent and sleep on the ground. Turn off the glowing rectangles and stare only at bright stars and the flicker of campfire flames, without a worry in the world. Wade in a cold creek, sit on a mountaintop and take in the view. To get a good tree fix.

In the beginning, I thought that what I would crave as a respite from van living would be a hotel stay, with plush robes and a spa. A bit of civilization and all of it's comforts. But because we log many hours behind the wheel, hitting the streets, and on the go, go, go, I long for the solitude and simplicity of an old-fashioned camping trip.

It may be time for a vacation!

May 24, 2010

Words come, words go.

Sometimes this blank screen is too much to take. Sip of wine, maybe the words will flow. I want to bathe in words, to soak in inspiration long enough to write it down. From adjectives to adverbs, nouns to verbs, there are infinite ways to tell the story. Then, why is it so difficult sometimes?

Because we don't always hear the words as they come and go. The trick is to catch them, mid-flight and put them to work, but recognizing the good, helpful ones isn't always so easy. The wine helps, sometimes. Just as when you're learning a foreign language—a drink or two, and you're suddenly fluent. A matter of perception.

There's always a story, locked up deep inside, or lying in wait on the surface. Stories, stories everywhere—but am I listening? Every moment is a potential plot, every person a character to be developed, every detail important in some way.

I like to think back to other times when I wanted to tell a story, but couldn't find the words. What did I do, how did I handle it? The act of writing whatever comes to mind is sometimes enough. Other times, I write in a poetic format, snippets of thought, related or not. These ramblings are fun to read later because they often make no sense at all, but there's usually a good deal of emotion behind them.

Still other times, I run the other way and do something else--a strategy that is far too easy to employ. I'm working on that, because when I'm running from a blank page, I'm probably running from other things in life.

There. That's better. Write, and you'll feel like writing.

May 15, 2010

Places, pit stops, and people along the way.

With all this talk about here and there, you might be wondering where exactly I'm referring to. It's a long list -- so long, in fact, that I can scarcely believe we've been able to cover so much ground.

We've toured a good chunk of California, starting with the Southern Sierra and Kernville, where Bionicon USA is located. The Kern River Valley a spectacular place, and for Southern Cali, way off the beaten path. It's an outdoor mecca, with world-class kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and whatever else you want to do outside. It's like Hood River, but with better winter weather. Highlights: Kern River Brewing Company, Keyesville Classic, and the Cannell Trail. I also love the people there - we've made quite a few good friends there in a short period of time. I like that.

Somehow, and not surprisingly, we've managed to completely avoid LA and stay on the periphery. So far, we've completely circumnavigated the city, to get to other places. Our first event was the CORBA Fat Tire Fest in late October, just north of LA at Castaic Lake. We were travel-lagged and exhausted, but managed to have a good time and spread the Bionicon gospel.

From there, we decided we wanted beach, so we went to Ventura county, and ended up in the Santa Monica mountains, with the beach just across the 101. A beach with internet, mind you. Trails left from our campsite, so we found it difficult to extract ourselves from this ideal setting.

From Ventura, we made our way north to San Luis Obispo. What a place! It's in my top five of the trip so far. The town is ultra cool, has plenty good food, bike-friendly and surrounded by trails. Need I say more?

Back to the Kern, then on to San Diego--specifically, Encinitas. We've been there three times, which should say it all. Highlights: SD Beer Week with KRBC and the Giddens, San Elijo State Beach, Bull Tacos, Seaside Market, and hanging out with the Fonniers for a few days (can you say Bloody Marys?). More highlights: Bike Demos at North of the Border in SD, midnight swim on Christmas Eve, surfing on Christmas.

Boulder City and Bootleg Canyon, oh my. We've been there twice, for races and demos. The riding there is incredible--technical and intimidating, because everything is sharp. Sharp rock with sandpaper grit and unforgiving spiny plants that don't make for soft landings. Highlights: Bart coming for an impromptu visit, Ginger trail (yikes!), skills area near parking lot, and bighorn sheep. Seeing skydivers - that was fun too!

Kernville for New Year's Eve. Kept it real by riding the Whiskey Flat trail at midnight on the Blue Moon NYE. It was freezing cold, but a little vodka and some toffee took care of that. Additional highlights: 'training' rides with Allison on the Boulder Trail - sick!, and cross-fit with the Giddens - brutal!

I can't believe I almost forgot that we went 'home' for 2 weeks. We drove north to Bend to set up a new dealer, then on to Hood River for a week. What I remember most about that trip was a whirlwind of socializing, squeezing in time with just about all of our friends, and a lot of work on the newly acquired Keyesville Classic MTB race. Those race planning weeks are a blur--I don't think I got on the bike more than once per week, and spent more hours than I'd like to admit in front of the computer.

Heading south, we stayed in Corvallis for a night, then onto Sacramento where we found this super funky motel, reno'd to a mid-century modern. We spent a day with WTB in Marin County, and they showed us some of their local trails. We poached their parking lot, and the next day, crossed the Golden Gate and explored San Fran on our Urban bikes, which was amazing! I could have done with a few more days of that, especially checking out all the food.

At some point around this time, we headed East to Sedona, land of red rocks and sweet trails. After several good rides, we made our way to Tempe, land of the best croissants outside of France, and burly South Mountain trails. Highlights: Hangover trail, rainy demo at Bike and Bean, Essence Bakery, and Gabe's scary pool-lapping-pump track.

March brought us three weeks of grueling work and the Keyesville Classic--the details of which I will share in a later post. After the Classic, we made our way to Fontana for my first-ever downhill race. Ryan and I represented on the Bionicons, snagging 3rds in our classes. Then, we went back to Sedona, then Phoenix for the Squealer, and on to Tucson for the Lemon Drop the day after. Highlights: Finishing the Squealer (barely), the Retreat at Helm's house--pool, hot tub, and good food, and Ryan finally seeing the light and buying a Mac.

April was chock-a-block with events like Sea Otter, a demo day in Marin County and the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. We had a few days respite at the Diller property in Santa Cruz (thanks again Dave and Alli!), just in time to celebrate my birthday. The day itself was dreary and gross, but we countered that with an RV beach cruise with Dave and Laurel (fellow road buddies!) of Joshua Tree Products and a drink at every beach. Highlights: Camping with Dee and James at the Otter, Fairfax in Marin County and a kickin' yoga class, GREAT Puerto Rican food in Marin, and Fruita (just in general).

That leads us to now. We spent a few days in Moab last week, and decided to return after a quick trip back to Fruita. Highlights: great riding with Joe, Chris, Mic, Gravity Dropper Wayne, and Avid Wayne, the Hot Tomato in Fruita and our cursedly messy table (many spills, including a whole pizza!), a sunrise ride on Horsethief, and many rides with Jackie and Dante. So many new friends - we've met so many wonderful people along the way, truly the highlight of this journey!

The adventure continues!

May 9, 2010

The Space Between.

Here, there and everywhere. To and fro, back and forth. Point A to Point B. Unpack, re-pack...pack, pack, pack. It's not always easy to keep a level head. There's always somewhere to go, somewhere to be and lots of things to see.

It's not always easy to see the forest for the trees. I get so caught up in getting to the destination that I forget to enjoy the journey -- and that's a shame because when you're traveling all over tarnation, that adds up to a lot to miss out on. Like the beauty of the red rock desert, sprinkled with patches of green and splotches of blooming color. Or the snow-capped peaks illuminated by a setting sun. Taking time to talk to a stranger on the street, finding time for myself during a hectic week.

I'm a process person - not just in the sense of creating, but I need time to process what's going on around me, or I start losing my place and how I fit in. Some days, it might mean taking a step back, observing and listening. Others call for time all alone, on a trail, by a river, on a yoga mat, away from people and gadgets. Sometimes, I just need to make a meal in silence, and enjoy the monotony of chopping, slicing and dicing. And still others, I just need to write.

That's where I've been going wrong. I miss writing, and on this adventure, I've kind of lost myself a little along the way. Some days, I hardly know myself, and to be honest, I kind of miss hanging out with me. It's been too easy to get caught up in the travel to enjoy and process my journey. I also need to talk about it, and I've been neglecting this space and the opportunity to share.

This week in Moab, I'm going to geek out with my laptop, my yoga mat and probably the campstove. I need to catch up and check in with myself. I'll be on the bike plenty, but I'll also be paying attention to other things, too.